CHAMPCAR/CART: Memo Gidley interview 2001-07-03

An interview with Memo Gidley T.E. McHale: Good afternoon to everyone and welcome to the CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom, and thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Memo...

An interview with Memo Gidley

T.E. McHale: Good afternoon to everyone and welcome to the CART Media Teleconference Presented by WorldCom, and thanks to all of you for taking the time to be with us today. Our guest this afternoon is driver Memo Gidley of Target Chip Ganassi Racing who registered his first podium finish in a runner-up effort in Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar at Burke Lakefront Airport. Good afternoon, Memo, and thank for being with us today.

Memo Gidley: Thank you.

T.E. McHale: Memo Gidley, the driver of the Number 12 Target Toyota Lola recorded Sunday's finish, only his second start for Target Chip Ganassi racing after replacing Nicolas Minassian prior to the Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway. It was the 24th start of Memo's CART career, dating to his 1999 debut at Portland for Walker Racing. Thanks to leading a race-high 65 of 100 laps, Memo moves from 28th to 15th in the FedEx Series Championship and heading into Round 10, July 15 Molson Indy at Toronto's Exhibition Place, he has 17 championship points.

The Molson Indy, Round 10 of the FedEx Championship Series will be televised live by ESPN on Sunday July 15, beginning at 1:00 PM Eastern time. With that, we'll begin taking questions.

One of the things I didn't get to ask you in Cleveland was, was it just experience that made your comfort level higher in the car between Portland and Cleveland?

Memo Gidley:  It's a little bit more, you know, experience, for
sure.  I think by the end, by a couple of practice sessions in Portland, I
felt pretty comfortable driving-wise in the car.  But.

I think that the biggest thing, for sure, is getting -- was us, as a team, getting the car more suited to my driving style, and, you know, the setup that we ended up with was much different than Bruno's who was going very quick, as well. But it really kind of takes that, to allow you to be real natural and flow in the car, and that's how we did it.

Could I get to you briefly recount how this whole deal with Chip came about?

Memo Gidley: From before Portland? Yeah, I was actually just in the gym, and it was Monday afternoon and I came out Monday evening, and there was a message on my cell phone that said: "This is Mike Hull from Target Chip Ganassi and give me a call as soon as possible." I gave him a call right back and he said, "We're interested in seeing if you're available or interested in driving at Portland." Of course, I answered right away. He said, "Well, we'd like to meet with you." And he said, "If you could come buy by the shop tomorrow morning at 8:30."

I knew I had my gear in the back, because if this was going to happen, I would have get in the car and get adjusted right away, so it all became about pretty quick. In about ten minutes we shook hands, and before you knew it, I was in a shop sitting in a car and getting things adjusted for me.

The Portland experience, which must have been pretty disappointing, without any testing or anything, not great qualifying, was there any sort of sense at that time like this is the opportunity of a lifetime, it's gone away, it's spoiled?

Memo Gidley: Not really. I was actually pretty relaxed going into Portland. It was a real -- especially the way CART has the practice format now, you can come in and get a considerable amount of time, at least a couple of hours before you can hand in the qualifying. I got a lot of good practice out there.

Yeah, I would have liked to qualify better, but if you put it into perspective, you know, I had like three hours in the car, and I had not driven for eight months, compared to guys who were in all season, doing the testing and everything else. For me, there was not anything more I could do to prepare myself at that point, and what was going to happen was going to happen and it was really out of my control. As you know, I worked very hard at it, and it's not like I'm not prepared.

So, it was a shame for me that probably the biggest disappointment was being taken out because I just wanted to do the laps, and I knew that progressively I would get quicker each lap. Especially in the rain, I would make not a lot of mistakes and I thought I would be able to climb my way up in the field. I think just the loss of track time was disappointing there, but otherwise, everything else was great at Portland.

Are you secure for the rest of the season or is it a race-by-race basis?

Memo Gidley: It's still sort of race-to-race, which is what it is, but I have a real good feeling around here. I really like being around Chip. We get along well. We see eye-to-eye pretty well along with the rest of the team; everybody is chilling. Regardless of a contract or any sort of long-term thing, it is going to work out or it is not going to work out; and right now, it is working out.

What was the biggest setup difference between Portland and what you had in Cleveland?

Memo Gidley: Quite a bit different because of the amount of grip that you have there. We threw on a couple different setups, just trying to get us -- for me, not only for my engineers, but get a sense of what I wanted, but me to get a sense of what I wanted out of the Lola. I had not driven one in a long time. The first race I did in a champ car was two years ago, so I was not aware of setups and changes at that time. I was coming in a bit of a rookie at this track. The biggest changes to go to Cleveland, we started with a similar car in Cleveland, and it really wasn't that good for me on Friday. We made a lot of changes, and you know come Saturday, we were pretty good. I think I ended up 12th quickest in practice overall, and 4/10ths off the quickest time. So I think that's a good accomplishment and good achievement for myself and the team.

Going into qualifying I thought I would get myself in the Top-10 regardless of any weather difficulties. I was really just fine-tuning my car to myself and so I could drive it really naturally.

One thing that I haven't really heard is can you take us through your last lap in Cleveland? Was there any point where you were close enough to maybe -- really, other than right at the last chicane to really put pressure on Dario?

Memo Gidley: For sure. I'm sure that his guys were on his radio telling him that he has to save fuel, but Gidley was coming. I'm sure he was fully aware that I was closing on him. The pressure was there regardless of whether he could see me or not the beginning of the lap. They all knew the pressure was going to be there some time touring that last lap. He saw me at that time when he was in back of -- when Michael was in between us, and I closed up on us then and he saw that I was there and I made a mistake trying to get around Michael and kind of had to change my line a little bit because he was on the track; so I lost a lot of time. But it was close.

You know, I came around the last lap and I knew that he was -- he was quite a ways ahead, but I really, you know, for a split second, it was like, well, second place, that's not too bad, but really only last for about a split second and then I wanted to -- I wanted to see if I could run him down because I knew the more pressure I put on him, just like everybody else, the more pressure you put on him, the more likely they are going to make a mistake, and all I needed was one. At the end, the finish line, being 3/10ths back, all I needed was one mistake from him and I would have been there. He was in my sight coming down the second to last straightaway before the chicane and I thought I might be able to just get him, but it didn't quite work out.

Did you have any shot in the chicane?

Memo Gidley: When I came to the last chicane, he was still about 30 yards ahead of me. For a second I thought I would just go straight through the grass, but then I realized you can't gain position through the chicanes. Other than that, I figure that I would have to put pressure on him and hope that he would drop a wheel off the track or lose momentum, and then I would be able to get him.

Are you still living rent-free in Indy?

Memo Gidley: Yeah, you got on open room for me? Oh, okay. I always check, you know, because I never know; I might get thrown out at any time. So I try to keep my options open. I live with a friend of mine, Jeff Kichen (ph). He works in a sort of the electronics industry out here. I've lived with him the last three years. When I come out to Indy, he's like my rooms sponsor, I guess you could say.

Was it strange feeling to be in the lead?

Memo Gidley: Yeah, it was kind of a strange situation for me, because I had never really been, you know, obviously like that, just being in the lead lap like that. So it was kind of like after the first round of pit stops, I thought: "This is pretty good, I'm still in the lead." And I wasn't really sure how it was going to work out, but I really felt comfortable in the car and I did think that I was going to win it.

You know, I was surprised -- I remember the last pit stop I came out I was 14th and everybody started coming in and I worked my way back up and I was sort of thinking I was going to be back in first again, but I knew if was going to be tight. So I just kind of kept driving as hard as I could. I really did. I really sort of settled into the mind frame that basically this could be the race that I was going to win.

You did well in the airport road course. It seemed like there was a lot more passing that goes on than at the typical road course. Would you like to see one or two more of those on the schedule?

Memo Gidley: I think the track layout and the idea is really good. I think I would like to see, as far as how the track sort of changed over to a racetrack, I like the curving instead of tires and cones which are kind of like -- when they get hit, they come out and if they get moved you start going into the dirt and it spreads dirt around the track and it is just sort of an inconsistent way to do it. I think you could easily stake down to plastic curbs which interlock together and make the track more of like a racetrack and not a parking lot track.

As far as the racing, the layout is great. Obviously, there's a lot of passing and it's wide open and people can see it from the grandstands. It's very challenging for a drive standpoint because you can't see anything. It's like being on the desert. You really -- everything looks so flat, but when you kind of get into the groove around there, really, you are driving by feel and it's really fun. I actually really like the bumps, too. A lot of people complain about the bumps, but the bumps throw an element in there that you are really working the car a lot and there's not a whole lot of areas to rest around the track. But overall, I think it is a great track.

Most airports have wide runways, so I would assume that other airports would give you a wide track surface. Would that help in multiple racing lines and enhance the overtaking possibilities?

Memo Gidley: I think that as far as multiple lines and turns, it doesn't really do that because, really, there's really only going to be one pass line, and I think on a temporary circuit, especially like an airport circuit, the rubber, the line rips up where everybody runs even more so than some of the other tracks. It will be very simply off-line. As far as the entry into the corner, the entries are wide open, and yeah, that makes for great passing because you can really make up a lot of time going straight down to the corner, but then you know you'll lose 20 miles an hour in the corner and get repassed pretty easily. So it's really sort of a game of give and take, and you can't take too much because you are going to lose a lot on the exit.

I think the best tracks for passing are the ones where there's a lot of combination corners; and Cleveland has that, where there's a right, a left and a right, because you can kind of block on one turn if you make a mistake. But if there's two turns in succession like that, you can't really gather it up. You are more than likely going to get passed and make a mistake.

After running with the team at Cleveland, obviously, you had a lot of confidence going in, but what does that do for your confidence now?

Memo Gidley: It does a lot. It is great to finally -- just to continue the progress of communicating with your engineers and the people that are working on the car, because that really -- everybody has that confidence in everybody's ability, to really make it a winning effort and you kind of have to have that. I think after Cleveland where we ran so well and as a team, we really gelled and we really worked together and I think they understand more about what I need in the car and I understand more about what to say and how to communicate those needs to them. So it was just a great sort of gelling experience, and it's just a great team to be around.

Talk about the circuit at Molson Indy?

Memo Gidley: That's a nice track. I was there again two years ago when I was racing for Walker. Also I raced Atlantics there for two years before that. It's a great track because it has a nice, long straightaway where you can get a good draft coming on to it, and it has a tight corner at the end which means the breaking zone is really long so you can attempt to pass somebody there. It's a track that has, unlike a lot of street courses that are sort of short and maybe some of them have similar type corners, 90-degree, this has got some fast sweepers, as some elevation changes, tight corners, big corners, it really kind of mixes it up. I think it makes it good for passing and good for racing.

You still driving your truck?

Memo Gidley: I was like James Bond this weekend; I was in the Ganassi plane. Unfortunately, I broke the truck streak, but that's a good thing.

You know, it's the things that go along with the racing. It makes it much more convenient, and it's fun, but also it allows to -- it gives you more time to work at what you're doing. You get back home sooner. You get up earlier. You get to the gym earlier; you workout. It just allows you to do your job a little bit better. I like it more from that standpoint.

Going into Toronto, other than what you were describing about the track, how are you going to prepare for, this moving from the wide open Cleveland track to very tight, unforgiving walls --

Memo Gidley: I'm basically going to just try and remember when I was there last and maybe look over some videotape and go over setups from when I was there before and try to get into my mind into that mode. I think the street courses are always -- I always really like running on the street courses because the walls really don't forgive you for making mistakes as much as some of the other tracks where you can drop a wheel off the road or do something like that. From a passing standpoint and a racing standpoint, I don't think it gets much better than street courses. I'm just going to try and get into that sort of mind set.

Does Chip have a simulation of Toronto that you can try out?

Memo Gidley: No, not really. I know there's video games that do that, but I've never really -- never really done that. I'll probably just go drive my go-cart like normal and just try and think about it and sort of play it in my mind. I was.

I was wondering, you've raced in so many other series, are there any CART circuits this season on which you have not raced?

Memo Gidley: The only ones that I haven't raced, I think that we've already passed, which one is Milwaukee and the other one is Nazareth, as far as like in a champ car. I think all the rest of them at some point over the last two years, I've raced on it at some time or another.

You said you were on a race-to-race basis. That means that you'll be at the next race and you're not scheduled for anything further; you just decide after each race that you are going to the next one?

Memo Gidley: More or less. I think it's just the way things are going, it's obviously very good, but, you know, we just kind of I think as a group, just play it race-to-race. Really, in the back of our minds, we are preparing for the long term.

What is your experience in SCCA?

Memo Gidley: Not too much. When I was coming up I didn't have the money to do -- fund my racing in SCCA. So it was never really an option. As you know, I worked as a mechanic for a school and that's how I started and after that I got into Pro racing through sponsors and things like that. So I don't have any experience in SCCA other than being around Sears Point, other than being around people that have raced there.

Talk a little bit more about how you think you would have fared overall both Saturday and Sunday had the second group gotten the normal qualifying sessions they wanted to expect?

Memo Gidley: I think that probably, you know, I always think I'm going to qualify in the Top-10, just based on where we were if everybody got a chance. I think after the first qualifying run, I was second on a first set of tires. When I put a second set of tires on, I didn't quite get the opportunity with a clear track with the right tires, so I was not able to improve my time. I think probably would have ended up around 12th, maybe 11th, 12th, right around there overall, and I think that would not have been really a problem. I think it's obviously easier to start up front, but, you know, still we would have had a strong car.

And you think you it would not have been a problem getting to the front on race day?

Memo Gidley: I would not say it wouldn't have been a problem. It would have been a lot harder, for sure, but I think we had a really good car and pit stops were excellent. Just like a lot of the other guys that were up there like Bryan Herta -- well, he started the front, but Dario and even who ever else was up there, Kenny Brack was running fast for a while. People were going fast, basically, all throughout the grid and it just depended on how well thought out your strategy was.

You mentioned you had a number of close calls out there, not just when you were closing on Michael. Can you elaborate?

Memo Gidley: Not really close calls, but, you now, you just -- the track out there is a little bit unforgiving because of the bumps, and if you are a little sideways and you hit a bump wrong and just basically reacts pretty quickly sometimes. So I never really thought I was going to -- thought it was going to be -- exempt for the hairpin a couple times, gets sideways once behind Michael trying to avoid him, it was all controlled.

Now since Sunday, have any of the other team owners -- you're still on a race-to-race basis with Chip. Have they expressed any interest in you for next year or even this year?

Memo Gidley: Yeah, you know, it's like I know most all the other team owners, and I haven't really talked to anybody.

Tell us about the left foot braking setup and how much advantage did that play as far as CART setup?

Memo Gidley: Well, it's not really -- you know, basically drivers, all the drivers out there either drive what's called right-foot braking, which is they use their right foot for the brake and throttle; or left foot brake, which is what you do in go-carts where your left foot is for the brake and right is for the throttle. Guys win -- everybody who has won has a different -- either done that differently. There's not a pattern as to which one is better.

But I've always left-foot braked until just about since I started driving and especially coming from the go-carts. It's just a little different requirement for setup. You tend to be a little bit more aggressive on the brakes and on the turn in, and you need a car that's pretty stable in the back end, and that reacts pretty quickly. That's pretty much the main difference.

Last year you said in a TV interview that it was sometimes uncomfortable for you to be in the paddock and the pit area during race day and lobbying yourself. Did that change when this season started prior to you getting the Target race?

Memo Gidley: No, it's still the same. If you would have met me eight years ago before I got into racing, I was very, very shy. Still, by my nature; I'm really shy. Sort of in the inside. And I think there's sort of the outgoing part where I'm not afraid to talk people and not afraid to basically be out there wandering around with nothing to do. It's just something that's more learned, and also something that I've realized goes along with not so much being nice, but just being out there and not having a ride and applying yourself for something that's required to get a ride.

So I've had to overcome that. It's not a lot of fun to be out there, other than you get to see everybody, but you definitely feel like you're on the outside. You want to be in there working on the car, figuring out how to go faster and you want to be racing and you don't want to be walking around.

Would you elaborate on what you meant by "payback" after the race at Cleveland?

Memo Gidley: What did I say?

I forget -- they asked you where you held up and you said, "well, there's more racing this season and payback's coming."

Memo Gidley: (Laughs). It's one of those things. A lot of excitement going on right there and I didn't quite mean it like that.

Basically what I meant is I've been in the other situation, too. I've been there when everybody is telling Gidley to get out of the way because he's holding up people or whatever. And, you know, it all goes around, what comes around and I just didn't think that really I was blocked. Everyone did a really good job of getting out of the way. It's just racing. I didn't mean anything bad about that.

You said you were a little surprised that you were not physically sore, would you explain how your regimen helped you in this regard?

Memo Gidley: Well, it's hurting for sure. Big help to keep you sharp, keep you in shape. I try and -- like when I go-carting, I try and really punish myself as much as possible, which means I run really long runs, which is something you normally don't do in go-carting because you're always trying to go faster and fine tune. I run long runs, come in, take small breaks. I wear a special helmet that weighs three or four times the normal helmet, which physically makes it harder. I try and make it harder for myself because when I get that champ car, it's harder -- (inaudible) -- physical. But also along with that, my workout regimen that goes along with that is pretty demanding.

But you never really know. You go into a race like Portland where there's a lot of grip and G-forces and you just -- you prepare as much as you can, but you never really know if you're going to be prepared enough.

How many times a week do you go ahead and get in your go-cart?

Memo Gidley: Oh, I go out all the time. Normally, throughout the year when -- I've been to just about every race and usually it's a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday trip and so I'm around Indianapolis Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. So I'll go to at least -- once or twice a week, along with the normal other stuff, working out, riding my bicycle, etc.

Was your original strategy to run full rich in the race?

Memo Gidley: Yeah, our strategy -- one is if I could blitz my people and make passes and get out in front and run fast, then, yeah we were going to run. We were not full rich a lot of times, we were just in that area, we were trying to get close to two miles a gal so we were just dancing around that area, so that was the first strategy to get in front, pull away and fill up the margin, and if that didn't happen for whatever reason then we were going to think about fuel conservation. But I was really happy that it worked out the first way because that makes it a lot fun.

Did you have the fastest lap in the race, also?

Memo Gidley: I'm not sure.

The last quick one, pit stop practice, you talk about your go-cart experience, but how do you practice your pit stops?

Memo Gidley: Yeah, exactly. (Laughs).

There's only so much that you can practice, and the part of driving the champ car is the part where you cannot practice. But I try to be out there and really absorb it as much as possible. I think I'm one of the few drivers that's out there in the morning starting pit stop practice and sitting in the car, I think that's very important -- I'll try not to tell my competitors that. It's like I just try and -- you know, I think that in racing, especially nowadays in champ car racing, the grids are so tight that it is all about details. And little details doesn't seem like it makes a difference, but if you get 100 of those details right, it might be a 10th of a second and that's five or six spots on the track. I just try to get all of those details and be a part of all that.

I saw Dario and he said to tell you to "make sure that you are getting paid."

Memo Gidley: Maybe he will give me a percentage of his salary.

You'll have to talk to CSS Management or something.

Memo Gidley: I'll do that. (Laughs).

T.E. McHale: Thanks, and just to answer the earlier question, Memo did not have the fastest lap of the race; that went to Roberto Moreno who was the defending champion until Sunday.

With that we will wrap up for the afternoon. Thanks for joining us and best of luck in the upcoming Molson Indy and the rest of the FedEx Championship Series season.

Memo Gidley: Thank you very much. We'll see you guys all up there. I appreciate your support.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Nicolas Minassian , Roberto Moreno , Bryan Herta , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Mike Hull
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing