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Patrick Dempsey builds buzz before Grand Prix race

On Facebook and Twitter, reactions to the news were a steady mix of "Yum!" and "Wow!" A couple of "Whooo-hoooo!"s were added for good measure.

Even Baltimore's mayor made sure she asked the first question at a Friday afternoon news conference for the Grand Prix of Baltimore.

This was the reception in Baltimore for Patrick Dempsey, a competitive driver of the No. 27 Porsche in Saturday's American Le Mans Series race who also happens to be a Golden Globe-nominated actor on the ABC series "Grey's Anatomy."

His arrival in Baltimore on Friday morning generated a level of buzz rare for the race through downtown Baltimore, now in its third year.

"All of a sudden, there's a whole lot of women in office buildings around Baltimore that are race fans today," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "He's major star power. When you have these types of races, it's about creating the buzz. He creates buzz for men and women."

The social-media reaction to the 47-year-old "Grey's Anatomy" star — whose character is so desirable he's nicknamed "McDreamy" — has been enthusiastic and, many times, without shame. Even after 196 episodes (and counting) as Dr. Derek Shepherd, Dempsey remains a stop-what-you're-doing attraction for "Grey's" fans and admirers of the male form.

"The Grand Prix has always had my curiosity," wrote Kimberly Majerowicz on Facebook. "NOW it has my ATTENTION!"

"Oh my, now I do want to go," wrote Amy Bowen.

At Friday afternoon's news conference, Dempsey focused on Saturday's race, scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m.

The mayor asked how he was enjoying Baltimore. "It's really beautiful," Dempsey said before adding that he appreciated the Inner Harbor's feeling of history. But mostly, he fielded questions about racing the Grand Prix course.

"The car feels really good for the most part," he said. "Started with a little bit of under-steering coming in and then with the high-speed stuff, [it was] over-steer coming out, so you have to be really careful and patient through there."

In terms of promotion, Dempsey seems to have done the Grand Prix a favor. Tim Mayer, general manager of the event, says the inclusion of Dempsey shines a spotlight on a sport not everyone has connected with.

"To have somebody who's got his recognition and his name really adds to the credibility of racing for people for whom it's not their first passion," Mayer said.

Some in attendance Friday were more passionate about Dempsey than they were about the action on the track.

Two best friends from Dundalk — Elese Severe, 32, and Beckie Severe, 43 — asked their husbands, Grand Prix volunteers, to "scope out" where Dempsey would be.

("Call it stalking if you will," Elese said facetiously.)

As luck and their husbands' reconnaissance would have it, Elese, Beckie and Beckie's 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, were able to meet the actor by the Le Mans paddock before his practice session. Their day was made.

"We're still basking in the glow from meeting Patrick Dempsey," Elese said. "We just love, love, love him."

Their appreciation for Dempsey goes beyond his movie-star looks and approachable attitude. The women all agreed part of Dempsey's charm is his dedication to the sport.

"When you hear him talk about it, you can tell he's definitely in it for the love of racing and not just added fame," Beckie said.

Racing is a passion for Dempsey, who is the focus of a four-part documentary, "Patrick Dempsey: Racing Le Mans," on Discovery's Velocity network. (The next episode airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday.)

Mayer, a friend of Dempsey's "for an awful long time," said Dempsey takes racing as seriously as his peers driving alongside him.

"He's an incredibly grounded person and wants to be known within the paddock as a professional racecar driver. And he truly is. He's learned his craft," Mayer said.

Daniel Cook, 34, moved to Baltimore four months ago, and said he wasn't familiar with the Grand Prix. The raucous roar of the engines got his attention Friday morning, but the news of Dempsey's driving kept him interested.

"I woke up this morning, heard the cars and decided to come see what it was all about," Cook said. "I just heard that Dempsey was racing. I love that guy."

wesley.case@baltsun.com


Baltimore Grand Prix 2013 news from The Baltimore Sun


Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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