IRL: Indy 500: Memo Gidley sails through rookie test

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 10, 2000 -- Race driver Memo Gidley spent his early years living on a sailboat and his adult years sailing through life as a race driver. But it would be hard to find anything in his career that he...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 10, 2000 -- Race driver Memo Gidley spent his early years living on a sailboat and his adult years sailing through life as a race driver. But it would be hard to find anything in his career that he sailed through quicker than what he accomplished Monday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He aced the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program barely 14 hours after he found a team that would give him an opportunity to take it. Actually, Gidley completed the entire 40-lap test, plus 21 practice laps, in little more than an hour. And Gidley's experience on ovals was virtually zilch. "I've been trying to get on an oval," said Gidley, a California native. "I' m starting on the biggest one there is." Actually, Gidley, 29, raced on ovals at Milwaukee and St. Louis in Formula Atlantic. But last year when he competed in 10 CART races for Walker Racing and Payton-Coyne, all were on road courses. Gidley came to Indianapolis last Wednesday seeking a ride for the Rookie Orientation Program, but it wasn't until 10:30 p.m. Sunday night that he reached an agreement with Team Pelfrey. On Monday morning, Gidley was in the garage helping team manager Gilbert Lage adjust the pedals to fit his leg length. "You must pay attention," Lage said. "This is first time anyone has done the rookie test for me so quick. He knows right away what he's talking about and how to drive a race car." Gidley, from San Rafael, Calif., started racing in motocross and then saw his first CART race at Laguna Seca, Calif., in 1992. With no financial backing, he enrolled in the Mechanics Training Program at the Jim Russell School, also at Laguna Seca. He worked in the school's shop and was allowed to compete in the USAC Russell Championship Series. He won the pole and the race in his first start. Gidley worked his way up through the ranks, racing karts, Can-Am, Formula Ford, Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic. On June 20, 1999, he made his CART debut at Portland, Ore., and drove from 25th to 15th. His second race at Cleveland saw him score his first championships points with an 11th. He also drove in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta and won the SKUSA North American 125 Shifter Kart Championship in Las Vegas. He kicked off his 2000 season driving in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Gidley called the Indianapolis Motor Speedway "pretty awesome." He said he thought he was going fast when he warmed up at 135 mph and soon discovered how much faster it was to go 210. He also quickly learned that Turn 1 is totally different from Turn 3. "There is a lot for me to learn," he said. "I've been on pins and needles all week," Gidley said. "I didn't have to practice at every speed, I just went on to the next one. For me, it was real natural." Gidley, who said his car felt comfortable from the time he climbed into it, will use the same machine to try to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500 next month. He wants to make it so badly that he is willing to participate in the mechanical preparation as well as drive. The team is short-handed on personnel. "I'll be down there with the wrenches," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes."

-IRLNS/IMS-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley