Recently, on our “Perfect Timing” column on Forbes.com, Roberta Naas wrote about her encounter during the Indy 500 with actor-turned-racer Patrick Dempsey. Here, we bring you an excerpt from that story, which you can read in its entirety here.
Dempsey, a brand ambassador for TAG Heuer, was on site with the brand at the Indy 500, and took the time to give us an exclusive interview. Dempsey, known for his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy, was right in his element at the Indy 500. While Formula 1 races are not his thing (yet), he has co-owned his own race team (Dempsey/Proton Racing) for nearly a decade and, more recently, opted to turn more full time to racing — becoming a serious racer in the FIA World Endurance Championship 2015 races (FIA WEC).
He had missed some racing action last season, while he remained on the “set” on the west coast to finish filming the final scenes of Season 11 of Grey’s Anatomy, wherein his character was killed off in – ironically enough – a car crash, and then reappeared in the last episode in the form a flashback.
Dempsey shared his thoughts with us on racing, and explained how a boy growing up in rural Maine became the actor and racecar enthusiast he is today.
“I wanted to ski race when I was a boy, so I started riding a unicycle for balance. Then, one day during power outage, a shop teacher of mine taught me to juggle. Later, a vaudeville scout came to town and… asked if I wanted to be part of their act. I guess you could say I ran away with the circus and off I went to New York,” says the 49-year-old Dempsey.
Dempsey went from being a heart throb in hollywood to being a serious racer with his own team over the past decade. Now, racing is paramount to him. “I find it challenging and satisfying; it is like a dream come true to be able to race with the best of them,” says Dempsey.
Dempsey, like Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, is one of just a handful of Hollywood heartthrobs turned Motor Maestro. Is the pressure on for Dempsey to carry that actor/racer cross? His answer, like his demeanor, is smooth. “I know there are a few of us who have gone down this road. I want to live up to the expectations.”
So, how does time play a role in Dempsey’s always-moving world?
“Time is critical in all aspects of life. On the track it is about how fast you drive when you bank for a corner and fractions of a second are vital. Having as much seat time as possible in that car is what prepares you for the next race, the next minute. In life, you have to live in the moment. You can’t dwell on the past or the present. Time is very symbolic and precious.”
When we talked watches, he was also enthusiastic about the TAG Heuer watch he was wearing: a vintage Monaco that he had purchased himself long before he was a brand ambassador. This watch is the model that Steve McQueen wore in his 1971 film, Le Mans, which quickly propelled the timepiece to stardom, too.