CHAMPCAR/CART: Gidley, Della Penna return to NoCal roots at Laguna seca

American driver Memo Gidley and his Argentine owner John Della Penna are having a joint homecoming at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend. Both men began their driving careers in Northern California and enjoyed some of their earliest victories ...

American driver Memo Gidley and his Argentine owner John Della Penna are having a joint homecoming at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend. Both men began their driving careers in Northern California and enjoyed some of their earliest victories right here at Laguna Seca.

Gidley, who grew up on a sailboat anchored off Sausalito, drove his first race cars at Laguna Seca as a mechanic at the Jim Russell Driving School. Approximately a decade earlier, Della Penna started his race team in Northern California, and competed at Laguna Seca as a driver in Atlantics and Formula Fords at both club and national levels.

"It feels really good to be back home," exclaimed Gidley. "A lot of friends, family, and go-kart buddies are here at the track, so it's going to be a really nice weekend." A group of Gidley's hard-core fans camping near Turn 5 are displaying several large banners, including one reading "Memo Gidley, American Hero."

Gidley and Della Penna celebrated their joint homecoming at the Laguna Gala charity event last evening, where Della Penna purchased a motorized bike for his wife Cindy, and Gidley gave the entire party an in-tent demonstration of the bike's capabilities. "Memo decided to show off the horsepower, and took a lap inside the tent. People were going nuts and applauding, they love the guy," reported Della Penna.

Memo and the Della Penna Team spend Friday attacking the traditional Laguna problem of excessive understeer. Explains Gidley, "On this track there are a lot of long-duration corners, so you have to get the front end to work well. It's normal to have a car that understeers, and the person who dials that out the most will likely be the fastest."

According to Della Penna, "we're paying the price of not testing here [during CART's open test last month,] but we tried a lot of different setups today and have zeroed in on the one we're going to be fine tuning the rest of the weekend. As usual, we should have a great come-from-behind in the race [laughs.]"

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley