I mentioned the Peter Dempsey to Belardi Auto Racing news briefly in my recap article Friday, but felt it perhaps warranted a bit more explanation as precisely why I'm so thrilled about this Firestone Indy Lights signing. Believe me, this is great news--not only for Dempsey and that team, but for the projected competition level in Lights next year.
There are some drivers considered "hard-luck" because they just miss glory on the track through uncanny mishaps or poor timing. Other drivers are "hard-luck" because their career is derailed by politics, lack of funds, and other circumstances that have little to do with their actual talent. Dempsey fits firmly in the latter category. Don't believe me? Let's go through just the last few years of 26 year-old Irishman's career:
2009: A year after finishing 3rd in the Star Mazda standings, Dempsey has a breakout type of year in the series, winning 5 of 13 races, grabbing 6 podiums, and starting on the pole 5 more times to boot. However, in the season's final race, he was hit by other drivers twice, and improbably lost the crown to the even more improbably-named Adam Christodoulou. Peter Dempsey would lose that title by a mere 12-point margin.
2010: Despite his excellent 2009 season, Dempsey finds himself without a ride when the season begins. He manages a single ALMS and some brief Formula Ford action, but otherwise, it's a quiet year.
2011: Jumps to Indy Lights. Begins the season brilliantly, with a pair of podiums for O2 Racing Technology. However, he is able to race less than half a season with the team before the O2 team withdrew and was suspended until 2013 due to a very public falling out over rules enforcement and a potential boycott in Lights. Dempsey found himself without a ride, but would manage to secure five Lights races with Andretti Autosport, which would include two podiums and a P5.
2012: Dempsey begins the season without a ride. He gets two races with Younessi Racing before being very publicly thrown under the bus by that team. He would again sign on with another team--Belardi Auto Racing, where he managed three Top 5 finishes and demonstrated plenty of promise in the last five contests of the season.
Do you begin to see why one could reasonably feel that Dempsey hasn't really had the most stable of careers in the past few seasons? I personally believe he will respond well to the consistency of a single, full-year ride, and that's going to reap rewards for Belardi on track. Belardi has been a greatly improving Mazda Road to Indy operation, and this signing helps that development right along.
That's just a little insight into the hard-luck recent career of Peter Dempsey, and why last week's news is indeed welcome.