Let me say one thing right off the bat. There are actors who pretend to be racecar drivers, and then there are racecar drivers who think they are actors. There are a few actors, who were and are real true-to-life racecar drivers, and I have had the pleasure of knowing three of them: Steve McQueen, James Garner and Paul Newman. There has never been any question regarding their skill in the mind of those who raced against them. Now, I am adding a fourth name to that illustrious list.
Patrick Dempsey is a racer! I had heard about some of his exploits in the Le Mans series, and the 24-hours of Daytona, etc. I even heard about him racing in the Baja 1000. But, one learns more about a racer by watching him in action, not through rumors, publicity releases, etc. So, I followed him this past weekend, beginning Friday evening when he arrived for the Drivers Meeting for the General Tire Mint 400 Presented by Polaris and during the race itself on Saturday. He arrived at the drivers meeting without an entourage, signed a few photographs, and stayed through the entire meeting. I was introduced to him, we chatted briefly, and the main questions he asked me was about Garner and Steve. Right away I thought here is a cool guy.
Saturday morning, I arrived at the main pit for Zero One Odyssey Racing,who had four or five cars in the race. The two cars I was interested in were being driven by Dempsey, and the second car by three fabulous ladies from Hollywood: Melissa Eickhoff, Pilar Lastra, and Patti Hughes-Mayer. They would be in Event One, which consists of Limited Classes. The two cars would hit the start line at 6:00 a.m., running three 92-mile laps. The girls arrived first at about 5 a.m., and Patrick arrived a few minutes later, along with his driving partner, Andy Lally (a well-known Porsche racer from Europe). Dempsey would drive the first and third laps, while each girl would drive one lap.
Patrick reported that he blew a tire midway through the first lap, changed it quickly, and finished the lap with a respectable time of 2:27:30, with the girls not too far behind at 2:34:33. Lally’s lap time was 2:23:09 (he incurred a flat also), with the girls turning in a 2:42:50 lap. The girls were trailing Dempsey by 27minutes. Patrick got back in the car for the third lap, and Eickhoff climbed in for the girl’s final lap. Now, an explanation, as to the track conditions by this time — To put it bluntly, it was pretty well beaten up. The ruts were deeper, the silt beds were wider and worse, and, in general, the 92-miles were terrible. But the race was on! Dempsey crossed the finish line with a time of 02:21:13, 12 minutes ahead of Eickhoff, who drove an amazing last lap of 02:16:22, making up nearly 15 minutes on Patrick. By this time, Dempsey, had racked up 184 miles on the roughest, dirtiest, meanest off-road race in America and finished—that is a feat in itself, considering that only 43 percent of the cars that started, finished their required laps.
I watched Patrick carefully as he climbed from the racecar after pulling into the pits, and turned it over to Lally. Without any hesitation, he leaped from the car, got immediately with his co-driver and described some of the pit-falls awaiting him out there. He then took off his helmet, walked around the racecar, as fuel was being dumped into the fuel tank, and made sure the tires looked good. Lally left the pits fast, just as the girl’s car pulled into their pit with Patti Mayer driving. Patrick and Mayer talked to Pilar before she jumped into the car for the second lap.
The way Dempsey handled himself during the drivers meeting, the race, and after, showed me a lot. He is truly a man who loves to go fast and is a competitor of the caliber of James, Steve and Paul. I just wished I could be out there in a racecar, and racing against him like I used to do. But, alas, the heart doctor has said “No!”
Oh, yes, the race. It was one of the best events I have had the honor of being associated with in many, many years. Matt Martelli and his brother, Josh and Matt’s right hand guy, Kilian Hamlin and all of Mad Media, are to be congratulated for a hard job well done! There was the historic parade down the Las Vegas Strip, the Pit Crew Challenge, the parties of all parties on the Strip and Downtown, and the great competition between 257 racecars. Best in the Desert, under the direction of Casey Folks, ran a perfect race. Some drivers were penalized for various infractions—but the great part about this, no one bitched for more than a minute or two!
Bryce Menzies (25) of Las Vegas, and his co-rider, Peter Mortensen, drove his Ford powered Red Bull sponsored Trick Truck, covering the four laps in a total time of 6:19:59, to take first place in class 1400, and overall honors. Right behind, in second place, were Mark Weyhrich and Ryan Williams, in another Ford with a time of 6:28:17. Third overall went to Las Vegan Rob MacCachren and Steven Sourapas, driving a Ford in the time of 6:34:41.
Mel Larson and this writer, Norm Johnson, were honored during the Drivers Meeting with the presentation of the “Legends and Heroes of the Mint 400” award. The Martelli’s presented us with specially engraved Oakley Diamond Titanium watches. Wow, that was a moment this writer will never forget. Thanks again to every driver who ever put on a helmet in the Mint 400. Mel and I wouldn’t have been given this honor, had it not been for the guys and gals who entered those first years, and those who followed. Thank You All.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
The lineup for the new weekly, “Las Vegas Rocks Variety Show” hosted by, Tony Sacca, will feature Esteban and Teresa Joy, “The Phat Pack,” comedian Anthony Padillo, and The Gregg Peterson Band in the Shimmer Cabaret at the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on Friday, April 5 at 4 p.m.
Famed guitarist Esteban, and his violinist daughter Teresa Joy, are currently appearing weekly in the Shimmer Cabaret. “The Phat Pack” starring Bruce Ewing, Ted Keegan, and Randal Keith, who met while performing in “Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular,” are headlining their own show at the The Plaza Hotel & Casino downtown. Padillo currently performs in “Comedy After Dark” in the Shimmer Cabaret at the LVH. For the first show, The Gregg Peterson Band will be the guest house band, which will change weekly, allowing the show to highlight the amazing musicians in the community. The hour-long show will be taped with a live audience every Friday, and air the following day locally at 3:00 p.m. on Vegas TV Cable 14, as well as regionally, and via the Internet. The show is free and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis, with the doors opening at 3:30 p.m. However, if you would like a guaranteed reserve seat call 364-8668. Audiences will receive a $10 free play coupon (for new player club sign-ups) and a BOGO drink offer, to be used during Happy Hour in the Tempo Bar following the show each week.
A limited number of tickets are still available for Genevieve’s Tribute to Billie Holiday this Friday, March 29, at the Sun City MacDonald Ranch Community Center. Originally trained as an opera singer, Genevieve has become a Las Vegas fixture, winning the 2012 BMA Jazz Vocalist of the Year Award. In 2012, she performed as a soloist twice at California’s Crystal Cathedral founded by Rev. Robert Schuller.
Holiday’s life was memorialized in the movie “Lady Sings the Blues.” Holiday, who died in 1959, remains a jazz and blues icon. A sampling of her great songs include: “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “You’d Be So Easy to Love,” “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” “Stormy Weather,” and “My Man.” The Sun City MacDonald Ranch community center is located at 2020 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Henderson, just a few blocks east of Green Valley Parkway. Tickets for Friday’s 7:00 PM performance are $15.00, available by calling (702) 889-1435.
Well, gang, that’s about it for yet another week.