CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach; Memo Gidley subs for Patrick Carpentier

Synergistic lightning strikes in the strangest places. Ample evidence of this came yesterday afternoon in the form of an announcement that Lynx Racing graduate Memo Gidley will substitute for injured Player's/ Forsythe driver Patrick ...

Synergistic lightning strikes in the strangest places. Ample evidence of this came yesterday afternoon in the form of an announcement that Lynx Racing graduate Memo Gidley will substitute for injured Player's/ Forsythe driver Patrick Carpentier (also a Lynx Racing graduate) at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend. Carpentier injured his wrist in an accident at his home in Las Vegas, and has been operated on by CART's Chief Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Terry Trammell, in Indianapolis. He is expected to be out for at least two events. "I'm extremely disappointed to find myself on the sidelines after starting the season on such a strong note with a fifth-place finish at Homestead, said Carpentier. "I feel bad for all the guys on the team who have worked so hard to get us to this point, but this latest setback will only increase my resolve to help make Team Player's a championship contender when I come back." Neil Micklewright, Vice President of Operations at Team Player's, did not hesitate to call upon Gidley after learning the extent of Carpentier's injury. "You hate to lose one of your drivers this early in the season, but we need to keep the momentum from Homestead going and we feel that Memo is best suited for the job," said Micklewright. "As you can imagine, we have a lot of things to do in preparation for the weekend, but I am sure that everybody at Team Player's is up to the task." Driving for Lynx, Patrick Carpentier won the Toyota Atlantic championship, open-wheel racing's equivalent of triple-A baseball, in 1996. In the process, he broke every record in the book, winning nine of 12 races, eight of them in a row from the pole. He defeated several much more experienced European drivers in a test at Sebring and was signed for the 1997 CART season by the Bettenhausen/ Alumax team, where he won CART's 'Rookie of the Year' award. Carpentier, a native of Quebec, signed to drive for the Player's/Forsythe team in 1998. After Carpentier graduated from the Lynx Atlantic team in 1996, Memo Gidley was the one selected to fill his seat. Driving for Lynx in the 1997-1998 seasons, Gidley won five races, including three of the first four in 1998. One of those races was the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which Gidley won on an ice-slick track in a pouring rainstorm. Early in the 1999 season, Gidley got his CART break substituting for the injured Naoki Hattori at Walker Racing, and then finished out the season with Payton-Coyne, running in a total of 10 CART races, finishing in the points several times. "It's kind of strange because I replaced Patrick at Lynx Racing after he won the Atlantic Championship in 1996, and while this situation is totally different, I know that Patrick will be equally supportive and root for me and his Team Player's crew," said Gidley. While he was driving for Lynx, in between the 1997 and 1998 Atlantic seasons, Gidley won the Reno Grand Prix in a GT America stock car. And during his impromptu 1999 CART season, he also drove for the Panoz factory team in the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. Gidley also raced with the Johanssen-Matthews team in a Reynard/Judd at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Left with a good reputation and the backing of the U.S. motorsports press after the 1999 season, Gidley still had nothing definite in the works for 2000. He tested so impressively with the Qvale/Mangusta Tommy Bahama team in Trans-Am that he was offered the ride. Gidley, however was so sure of his calling as an open-wheel driver that he declined the offer in order to wait for another chance with a CART team… an opportunity that presented itself last week in the form of yet another injured Japanese driver on the Walker Racing team. Gidley had an 'all-but-done' deal but was aced out at the last minute by Forsythe Racing driver Bryan Herta. "If I could only tell you the kind of roller-coaster I've been on this week," says Gidley. "It's going to be a real relief to get into a car and be able to focus on the job at hand for a couple of hours." Gidley, the son of a commercial fisherman, was born in La Paz, Mexico and raised on a fishing boat called the "Yo-Ho-Ho," commuting back and forth between the fishing grounds of Mexico and the fishing community of Sausalito in Northern California. He started winning young and often, competing successfully in sailboats, bicycles, motocross motorcycles, Can-Am cars, Hooter's Cup, U.S. F2000, Barber Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic. So determined was he to drive racing cars for a living, that the penniless Gidley enrolled in the Mechanic's Training program at the Jim Russell School at Laguna Seca Raceway. While there, he worked on the school's race cars during the day and delivered Domino's pizzas at night so he could race on the weekends. To this day, he goes back every year to deliver a speech at the school to young mechanic/drivers following in his footsteps. That determination was reflected again this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Gidley arrived, hat in hand, going from garage to garage begging team owners for the chance to take his rookie test in their car. Dale Pelfrey, owner of Team Pelfrey, finally agreed, and Gidley responded with one of the most unique rookie tests in Speedway history -- deal was done at 10:30 the night before; he had 21 laps of practice the following day, then went directly into the 40-lap rookie test. In just over and hour he worked through all four phases of the test and recorded a speed in his final segment of 214.338 mph… this despite the fact that his last oval track race was in a Lynx Atlantic car at Milwaukee in 1998 -- a race he won. "I got to Indy on Tuesday and started trying to get my rookie test done with no money," said Gidley. "I went to all the teams trying to get something going, but most of them told me it would cost between twenty and fifty-thousand dollars. I don't have that kind of money, and so it wasn't until 10:30 Sunday night that Dale Pelfrey said 'Yeah, I'll put you out on the track no problem, be there at 7 a.m. tomorrow. I hope you can bring some guys with you to work on the car, because we're shorthanded.' This is my kind of guy, because I'm willing to work on the car, sleep on the floor of the shop, do whatever it takes to make it happen," "Memo is one of the hardest-working, most deserving drivers we've ever had on the Lynx team," says team co-owner Peggy Haas. "We're grateful to Dale Pelfry, and to Gerry Forsythe for giving Memo this chance and keeping it 'all in the family.' Of course we're sorry that Patrick had to suffer this unfortunate accident, but we're certain that he'll be back in the car and back on form soon. In the meantime, this is a great opportunity for Memo to show what he can do driving for a top team." Following in the footsteps of Carpentier, Barron and Gidley are current Lynx Racing CART Toyota Atlantic drivers David Rutledge and Mike Conte, both third-year Atlantic drivers. Rutledge, 21, of Vancouver, B.C. was associated with the Player's/ Forsythe Atlantic team last year and Conte, now in his second year with Lynx, scored eight top-10 finishes. Like Gidley, Rutledge was a karting champion and worked as a mechanic/driver at the Bridgestone Racing School in Canada on his way up the ladder. Conte, 31, of Seattle, Washington, took a different route, majoring in philosophy at the University of Chicago before becoming a software designer for Microsoft and helping to create Windows 95 and Internet Explorer. Conte started racing just five years ago and also drives a Porsche in the GT class at endurance races such as the 24 hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. He finished on the podium at Sebring in 1999, and led the GT class at this year's 24 Hours of Daytona before dropping back with an engine problem in the final hour. Lynx Racing, now in it's 10th year, is the most unique and successful driver development program in open-wheel racing today, and the only such organization owned by women, Peggy Haas and Jackie Doty. Lynx graduates include CART FedEx drivers Patrick Carpentier (Bettenhausen-Alumax/Player's-Forsythe), Alex Barron (Dan Gurney's All-American Racers/Marlboro Team Penske) and Memo Gidley (Walker Racing/Payton-Coyne).

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Bryan Herta , David Rutledge , Alex Barron , Dan Gurney , Naoki Hattori
Teams Team Penske