Memo Gidley got the call he has been waiting a long time for. It came
from Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team Manager Mike Hull. We can hear it
now "Memo, Nicolas Minassian is out, you're in. Can you come in
for a seat fitting, we want you to drive for us."
We bet Memo got off the phone,
hopped in his Toyota pickup, and got to 7777 Woodland Drive before Mike
could put the phone back on the hook.
All kidding aside, although he
never seems to get too excited, he sounded happier tonight when we spoke to
him via telephone, than he has in a long time. Memo lives in
California, but during the summer months he stays with a friend in Indianapolis
so he can be close to the teams and close to a lot of races. When we
first called him tonight, his friend answered the phone and said, I came
home today and I saw a Ganassi Racing shirt hanging up and Memo's racing
gear packed and ready to go. "I knew something was up," he
We finally caught up to Memo
just getting back from driving his go-kart in Camden, Indiana, about 2-hours
north of Indy, something he does almost daily to keep in shape.
We asked him if this was perhaps
the best opportunity he had yet. In typical Memo the-professional
Gidley style, he was reluctant to come right out and say what he had to
already be thinking. He's truly thankful for the opportunity the
previous team owners gave him. But after a little prodding he
admitted, "yes, based on the teams previous winning record, this is
perhaps my best opportunity, but I'm also more experienced now, so that's
going to help too."
Week in and week out Memo Gidley
is at the race track talking, listening, watching....and hoping for that big
break. While other drivers try to land rides from long distance, Memo
did it with results, perseverance, and desire. Nobody pays for him to
go to all the races. He pays himself, because he wants to be
there. He wants to be seen. He wants to be known. And he
wants the team owners to know he has the desire to make it.
Two things impress us most about
Gidley, 1) his ability to get into a race car and be quick right away.
We saw that when he drove for the Players team, and again when he jumped
into John Della Penna's ride. The results were almost immediate. 2) He
never gets down and doesn't carry a chip on his shoulder. In the past
it always seems one thing or another did not go right and Memo was back out
on the street looking for another ride. As a driver that has to be
frustrating, perhaps demoralizing. But not to Memo, at least he never
From Derrick Walker to Dale
Coyne, to Players Forsythe to Della Penna, he either lost his ride because
the teams regular driver was coming back from an injury or the team ran into
financial hardship. His latest disappointment came at Indy. On
the final day, just hours before qualifying was over, Memo got a call from
Tom Kelly, owner of Kelly Racing. He was going to put Memo in one of
polesitter Scott Sharps backup cars, and give him a last minute shot at
qualifying for the Indy 500.
takes a lunch break next to his #61 car at Indy
In the Kelly Racing backup car getting ready for a last minute
While all the other drivers had
been practicing all month in their cars, Gidley failed to get the hopelessly
underfunded #61 CURE sponsored machine up to a speed good enough to make the
field. Rather than go home and sulk, Memo persevered. He sat on
the sidelines, waiting, hoping. Then, as it always seems to be with
Memo, he was thrust into a pressure cooker situation with the eyes of the
world watching. And he almost pulled off the
With barely a handful of laps in
the car, he ran the Kelly machine as fast as it would go with the setups
that were on it, flat out, wide open, just brushing the wall, Memo gave it
everything that car had on that day. But in the end he came up short
by mere fractions of a second. If only he had one full day of
practice, he might have qualified for the 85th running of the Indy
500. Who knows, with how well Kelly Racing's others cars were running,
Gidley might have made it a CART 1 thru 7 sweep instead of 1 thru 6 at Indy.
But that was Indy. Now
it's Portland, and the dawn of a new day. We asked Memo if he ever
drove a Champ Car at Portland. He said, "I drove there in 1999
for Walker Racing, and I'll be driving the track in my mind over and over
between now and then." When asked how he will do with no practice
time in the car he said, the new rules will help me a little, Friday is an
all-day practice session so I should get plenty of laps in."
As for setup, he said his
teammate, rookie Bruno Junqueira, doesn't have any experience at Portland,
"so we'll probably rely on the teams previous setups to start and then,
hopefully, my experience will come into play as the team refines the cars
throughout the weekend."
Gidley's last Champ car race was
at Fontana, some 6 months ago. Will that affect you in any way?
"It shouldn't, I feel I'm in the best shape of my life, both physically
and mentally." Memo has already had his seat fitting with the
Ganassi Team. He's ready, and so is the team.
Our hats off to the Ganassi team
for giving a very good American driver, perhaps the ride of his life, and to
Memo Gidley, for being a true professional. Despite all the previous
disappointments, he never got down, never gave up, and never had a chip on
his shoulder because things didn't work out. He's a role model for
every young American driver who wants to make it to the big
Results, perseverance and
desire. Memo Gidley wouldn't have it any other way.
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