July 30, 2000, Chicago Illinois: Substitute driver Memo Gidley finished tenth in the Target Grand Prix, his second consecutive top ten finish for Della Penna Motorsports. The Chicago race was Gidley's fifth Champ Car event this year, and...
July 30, 2000, Chicago Illinois: Substitute driver Memo Gidley finished tenth in the Target Grand Prix, his second consecutive top ten finish for Della Penna Motorsports. The Chicago race was Gidley's fifth Champ Car event this year, and he now has a record of three top-ten finishes and two mechanical DNF's.
Gidley's eventful day was filled with odd coincidences and ironies. Firstly, Gidley started 20th and finished 10th in both today's race and last Sunday's Michigan 500. Then there was his wheel-to-wheel combat in turn one with Gualter Salles, a battle between the only two substitute drivers in the race. Gidley dived to the inside, his two left wheels below the white line, and ran into the orange Dale Coyne-owned car as Salles drifted inside. Gidley got the better end of the skirmish, skidding to a stop in the middle of the track, as the car owned by one of his 1999 employers shattered against the wall.
Salles emerged from the car unhurt, and two laps later Gidley received a pull-start from the CART safety crew. "I made a mistake," explained Gidley after the race. "We were ahead of Gualter coming into the pits, but he made a tires-only stop and emerged ahead of me. I got a run on him on the restart. That's the problem here in Chicago: when a guy comes all the way inside to block you, you have to go down there too. Now your braking markers and references are all wrong. So Gualter hit the brakes, and I wasn't prepared to brake at that moment. I was too close to him, and ended up hitting him. It was my fault, but if he had held onto his line I would have gotten around him."
After his pit-board man conduced a visual inspection of the front wing, Gidley was cleared to continue without the need for an unscheduled pit stop. Gidley settled in behind race leader Kenny Brack, and ran competitive lap times with the leaders throughout the race, steadily gaining positions through attrition. More wheel to wheel action was in store for Gidley on lap 174, when he and his ex-teammate Alex Tagliani pitted at the same time. Both drivers were two laps down, and whoever emerged from pit exit first would assume eleventh position.
Gidley's Della Penna crew finished their work first, and as he rolled down pit lane under the speed-limiter, Tagliani staged a massive burnout and dragged alongside Gidley towards pit exit. The crowd cheered the unexpected yellow-flag racing action, and CART officials made a judgement call that Tagliani should be awarded the position.
"I was ahead of him at the blend line, and I was ahead by a wheel or two coming onto the track, but somehow they gave it to him," reports Gidley. "After that I wanted to pass him real bad. I was faster than him but couldn't get around him. It would have made my day to pass him."
Gidley ran out the rest of the race filling Tagliani' mirrors, and finished tenth. Gidley got an unexpected opportunities to celebrate on the podium, playing himself as the third-place finisher in a cameo for the upcoming Sylvester Stallone movie. Gidley's next appearances, in racing and the cinema, are as yet unannounced.
"You never know what tomorrow brings," muses Gidley. "I really like the people at Della Penna Motorsports. I learned a lot about driving the ovals in these last two races. Although we didn't win, you know it's gonna happen. We were running very competitive lap times here and in Michigan, and for us that's the biggest gauge. Even when you're two laps down, it's no good to be slow. You have to run competitive lap times so that it meant something to be out there."