Originally published 03/06/2013 on Chunk.ie
Only a sports fan with their head firmly implanted in the sand won’t have heard of Peter Dempsey. In case you are one of those, Peter won the Firestone Indy Freedom 100 race at Indianapolis on the 22nd of May this year by 0.0026 seconds! Peter is obviously a very busy man, but we here at CHUNK.ie were lucky enough to grab a few minutes of his precious time.
Hi Peter, many thanks for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to do this Q&A.
First off, many congratulations on your first win in the Indy Lights series. The finish was, well it was spectacular. You just don’t get that type of finish in F1!
You’re a Meath man, Meath is not exactly known for having a great history in the Firestone Indy Lights series. I know you competed in the Formula Ford series for a few years and also have an America Le Mans race under your belt, but how did the move to Indy Lights come about?
I came over to the USA in 2008 after competing in Formula Fords with my dad’s team, Cliff Dempsey Racing, for several years. I didn’t have the funding to progress to the next level of racing in Europe, but I saw an opportunity over in America in the Star Mazda Championship series (now the Pro Mazda Championship). The Pro Mazda Championship is part of the Mazda Road to Indy program which offers scholarships to the series champions to progress to the next level and eventually make it to the IZOD IndyCar series. I competed in Star Mazda for two years, and then I made the move up into the Firestone Indy Lights Series which was the next natural step in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. I started competing in the Firestone Indy Lights series in 2011, but 2013 is my first opportunity to compete in a full season with Belardi Auto Racing.
Many Irish readers will not really know the difference between Indy Lights and IndyCar. Is it fair to say that Indy Lights is a development series for IndyCar or is that doing it an injustice? Do you see your future in Indycar or have you a longing for F1?
Yes, the Firestone Indy Lights is a development series for the IZOD IndyCar Series, but it’s also important to note that the level of talent that has come through the series over the past six seasons or so has been outstanding. The majority of the Firestone Indy Lights championship winners have gone on to be successful IndyCar drivers, so it’s really a stepping stone into the IndyCar series. My aim is to be a successful IndyCar driver as well and have a racing career in the USA, but if an opportunity to be in F1 arrives, I would certainly consider it.
You have a couple of weeks before the Milwaukee Mile. I would imagine the plan is to go out and win again. Milwaukee, like many in America, is an oval track, how do you plan out a race? There are no obvious overtaking points, no particular areas where cars have to slow down due to a chicane… Is it simply a case of putting the foot down, staying out of trouble and making sure you are in the right place to pounce to take the win?
Of course, the plan is always to go out and win! Oval racing is definitely not as simple as it may seem. The Milwaukee mile is completely different than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is only a mile long versus the 2.5-mile oval at Indy, so we run a high downforce package. The cars won’t have as good of a top speed, but they will have a lot of grip which makes the track very challenging. It’s always difficult to pass on ovals, so you have to work with team to make sure the car is capable of passing. The Milwaukee Mile is one of toughest ovals of the year because it has very low banking and tight corners, so the driver can really make a big difference as well as the car.
From an outsider’s perspective, you lead a life that many young men would love to have. You get to drive fast cars, travel the world and are no doubt surrounded by models at all times. Try not to shatter my illusion too much, but what’s a day in the life of Peter Dempsey like? Do you have to watch what you eat and drink? Get to bed early? Spend endless hours on the track and in the gym?
Motorsport is not as glamorous as one would think! It’s a tough lifestyle. All the traveling can get tiring. It is the sport that I love, though, and I’m willing to make sacrifices to compete in motorsport because it is the one thing that really fulfills my life. You do have to be careful what you eat and drink because it’s important to be in good physical condition. I try to work out at least once a day to stay physically prepared. It’s also important to make sure I am mentally focused inside and outside of the car. A typical day for me is get up, eat some breakfast, catch up on emails, head to the gym, eat lunch, answer more emails, do some media stuff, then maybe go for a run. When I do have spare time, I like to play a bit of golf or do some iRacing, and it’s always fun to fit in as much go karting as possible to help make me race ready!
So much of your life is spent travelling at vomit inducing speeds, how do you manage to relax?? Is it easy for you to switch off after a day at the track? Do you go home and turn on Metallica and fall asleep listening to them?
I wouldn’t say it’s easy to switch off after a day at the track. I am pretty much switched on all weekend from arriving on a Thursday until Sunday night after the race. This is my job, so I am fully focused throughout the weekend. I tend to have an overactive mind and struggle to get to sleep because I am so mentally focused on race and every possible scenario that could play out. It’s not until probably the Monday or Tuesday after the race weekend that I can really switch off – until it’s time to head off to another race!
You’re clocking up the hits on YouTube this week. One video of your win at the Firestone Freedom 100 has over 770,000 hits in less than a week. You are a bona fide YouTube sensation! Obviously tech plays a big role in racing, but in your personal life, are you a bit of a computer geek or are you a technophobe?
I wouldn’t say I’m a computer geek, but I do like technology! I love my iPad, iPhone, and pretty much any cool new gadget out there. One thing I am pretty big on is social media. I understand what an important part it can be of an athlete’s career in 2013, so I’m very active on my social media channels and love to interact with my fans.
Best of luck with the rest of the season Peter. In the space of a week, you have went from being a name only some were aware of to one of our new sporting heroes! That’s a lot to live up to, but here at CHUNK.ie, we’ve no doubt you’ll have no problem handling the fame!
If you like to keep up to date with all Peter is up to, you can follow him on Twitter @PeterDempsey, LIKE him on Facebook, check out his YouTube account and finally, why not take a look at his website. He wasn’t lying when he said he was active on social media channels!