October 30, 2000, Fontana California: American driver Memo Gidley suffered a blown engine on lap 79 of the Marlboro 500 at Fontana this morning, completing an incredible season filled with highs, lows, and constant change. Gidley was running...
October 30, 2000, Fontana California: American driver Memo Gidley suffered a blown engine on lap 79 of the Marlboro 500 at Fontana this morning, completing an incredible season filled with highs, lows, and constant change. Gidley was running on the lead lap and clocking competitive lap times in the first quarter of the race, and the team was steadily improving the car with each pit stop. The race was unfolding according to the team's gameplan, until a plume of smoke emerged from the rear of the car.
The 2000 season was Gidley's second year in CART, and in both seasons the young driver started the year without a full-time ride. Gidley made his Champ Car debut in 1999 as a substitute for injured driver Naoki Hattori at Walker Racing, and has competed in 22 races for four teams over the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Gidley's effort at Fontana this weekend completes his longest stretch with a single team, running in nine events with Della Penna Motorsports. Gidley's tenure as pilot of the DPM #10 DirecTV Toyota-Reynard Firestone produced a string of four consecutive points-paying finishes, providing him with valuable oval racing and engineering experience and a career-best finish of 6th at Road America.
Gidley heads to the off-season continuing his search for a full-time ride for 2001. Meanwhile, the Della Penna team has announced a "regrouping" following the end of their engine lease with Toyota. Today's race thus marks the possible end of an era between Gidley and his intrepid pit crew, which he named the "Red Menace" after conducting an online survey of fans in July.
On the Red Menace: "They have done a great job. I am totally impressed: I've had a reliable car the whole time, and every one of them has been very supportive. They've all become very close friends of mine. I hope to work with each of them in some capacity down the road, and wish John Della Penna and every member of the crew some great victories in the years ahead.
On his growth as a driver: "Last season all ten CART events I ran were on road and street courses, and so I was really excited to have the opportunity to run some ovals this season. After competing at Rio, Motegi, Michigan, Chicago, St. Louis and Fontana, I feel very comfortable on the ovals and am so much more prepared heading into next season.
On his plans for next season: "It's all up in the air. I've had several teams express interest in what I'm doing. Some teams have second cars that are partially sponsored, and may still need a driver. If it takes me six months to get back into a car, so be it, but I'll be training and karting and preparing throughout the off-season, ready to spring into action as I always have been."
On his fans: "Last season nobody really knew who I was, they didn't know where I was from or anything about my career. Now people know all about my life story and the struggles I've had, and with each event, more and more people come up and tell me they support me and relate to me. I wish we could have one day where there's no racing and I could just talk with fans all day."