DC reflects on Memo Gidley and his "edge"

Memo Gidley injured, such a bummer. I really like the boy. He's on the edge, but not in a bad way (at least, in how I interpret his "edge," that is). Memo takes the checkers at the end of Saturday morning's pre-race warm-up session for the Long...

Memo Gidley injured, such a bummer. I really like the boy. He's on the edge, but not in a bad way (at least, in how I interpret his "edge," that is).

Memo takes the checkers at the end of Saturday morning's pre-race warm-up session for the Long Beach Grand Prix, Rolex Series Edition (only seven-hours, 15 minutes to go before the race).

Just like any race car driver worth his salt - and with 1.09-miles to go before taking a left into the Rolex Series paddock found just before Turn 10 - Memo charges down the front stretch and barrels into the driver's right, Turn-1 tire wall.

Of course, in the wake of such an incident quite a bit of, shall we say, "inexact" information flows. Some see a detonating engine as the proximate cause. Others say it was a tire gone down. Another says it was left-rear suspension failure. Still others insist Elvis, replete in his best white Las Vegas cape and gawd-awful, chrome-plated sunglasses (with little cut-out holes, also used by chassis-builders to lighten the load), jumped on the track and started singing "Hound Dog," thereby diverting Memo's attention at a crucial moment.

Well, it was a little bit of all of the above - excepting the Elvis account, even though thousands later insisted "It was him!" after having sworn they also saw his show the evening previous.

With a flying saucer acting as his limo.

Pieced together and later surmised that day by officials, Memo was roaring down the front stretch, hits his brakes, and a pin holding together the left-rear brake caliper, et al, snaps because it hadn't been fully seated (it amazes me the number of people who don't even care to grasp physics. It surprises me that some are found in racing crews).

This leads to a toe-bone's connected to the foot-bone kinda thing, snapping or severing a brake line while also cutting the left-rear tire. Whilst he still had some brakes, Memo is all over them, briefly smoking the two opposite-corner tires still making contact (right-rear and left-front, which had a big-time, deep flat-spot seen with my own eyes).

Realizing that to be a fast-fading option, Memo (and I love this part) starts grabbing gears, thus blowing the engine in a futile effort to stop (notice I didn't say 'slow') the car. That Memo looked to slow the car mechanically demonstrates his sense of presence - in a split-second situation. Incredible!

Aiming for the tires, Memo hits them. The problem is, according to Butch Leitzinger, "... is that they work fine until a certain speed threshold is exceeded, whereupon the car - instead of more or less pushing the tires around until everything stops - catches their compressed energy and rebounds, like a spring, repelling the car."

Having no film as yet surfacing to provide the exact wreck-end sequence this is where eye-witness observers have the story taking two slightly divergent paths, but ending with the same essential result.

Memo either flips a total 360-degrees (that would not be a "180" which most people fail to use when describing a course reversal) or pirouettes on his nose and ultimately lands diametric (no, not "diametrically opposite," which is like saying "opposite-opposite") to his original direction of travel.

What isn't in dispute is that he came down in such a manner - either on all four corners nearly simultaneously; or, front of car, first, followed by the car's rear sometime later - to injure a couple of vertebrae because of the awkward landing that sent a shock wave right through Memo's seat, into his tailbone and on up through the rest of the spine. It's the type of crash/injury car designers and safety engineers have yet to counter.

So, we'll be missing Memo for an estimated three months. I believe he was integral - as I also believe has Michael McDowell - to the Finlay Playboy/Uniden No. 19 Ford-Crawford's success, which I figured to be the most likely team to give Ford power its first overall Rolex Series race win. (Nope, Messrs. David Empringham, Scott Maxwell and David Brabham took the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona DP class win in the Multimatic, not the overall race win.)

And the above serves to remind me of something I'd forgotten before sitting down to pound this out.

When inquiring in the Rolex Series Paddock at the LBGP of his injury with a simple, "How's Memo" - not asking "How did it happen" or "Would you agree Pampers might've been a piece of apparel he should've worn" that day - the cross looks, interpreted variously as "You go to hell" or "What the hell do you care" or "Your sense of morbidity confounds" cast my way from one of Memo's closest co-drivers and his significant other, kinda griped me.

Yep, I'm a motorsports writer. But, in a chicken or egg kinda question, who makes the race car driver famous? Himself, or the media who reports that race car driver's fabulous feats to a potential worldwide audience reaching far beyond whoever may have attended any one given race.

Yep, I've once (that would be "one" in the past tense for those of you from Pocatello) said something along the lines of "One needs to learn how not to engage in brain farts in order to finish and win a race" but, for gosh sakes, such is a common sense proposition.

Perhaps not so needless to say: had no one demonstrated that propensity, then "brain fart" wouldn't have ever been mentioned. More so, never, ever was such stated in a mean-spirited sense and, furthermore, when one adds the totality of positives I've written and stated versus the one "brain-fart" negative, it should be clear that this writer wasn't jumping on someone else's case for the sheer sport of it.

Though others might've matched this motorsports lover, no one else had cheered any more heartily for that certain co-driver's success when he briefly flirted with ChampCar, all the while fearing and lamenting that the Rolex Series would lose one very talented driver. No one.

Furthermore, I was interviewing his co-driver, Memo, and giving him positive "ink" on his newfound sportscar career long before others.

I really like Memo. He's one of the best. And it was with genuine concern - nothing more - that I wished to know Memo's condition.

And, despite the above sour note, I hope Memo comes out of this deal nary worse for the wear, even though he now reclines with the type of injuries I've suffered since five-years of age. But as a person who's since undergone five spinal surgeries, I know it won't necessarily be easy to rebound. Yet, if anyone can, Memo can.


Written exclusively for Motorsports.com by DC Williams

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers David Brabham , Memo Gidley , Scott Maxwell , Michael McDowell , David Empringham
Teams Williams