CHAMPCAR/CART: Rio Memo Gidley preview

American driver Memo Gidley heads to the Rio 200 prepared for a weekend of firsts: his first trip to South America, his first CART event on an oval track, and the Friday debut of his stylish new website Making his second...

American driver Memo Gidley heads to the Rio 200 prepared for a weekend of firsts: his first trip to South America, his first CART event on an oval track, and the Friday debut of his stylish new website

Making his second start in the #32 Players Ford-Reynard-Firestone substituting for injured driver Patrick Carpentier, Gidley is thrilled to have his oval debut take place in Brazil, "a country that has a real love and passion for motorsports. I think it's going to be a neat experience, competing in front of a crowd that has an historic bond with their racing and their racecar drivers."

Asked on Monday about his preparations for his first oval race piloting an eight-hundred horsepower rocket-ship, Gidley explained, "well, I've been around ovals in Toyota Atlantics. Acutally, I won my last two oval events in that series back in May of 1998. I know the feeling I want out of the car, so for me the way to prepare is to make sure that I am physically ready and mentally focused."

Gidley had an opportunity to hone his oval skills just a few weeks ago, during his April 10th rookie test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Impressing the old-timers on pit road, the young driver passed the four-stage rookie test in a mere 71 minutes, and set fast lap of the morning rookie session at 214 miles per hour.

Just five days later, Gidley set a personal best in his budding CART career, qualifying tenth at the Long Beach Grand Prix, ahead of Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, and Dario Franchitti, who comprise three out of the five members of CART's inaugural 1999 All Star Team. The April 16th race started off with a thrill, as Gidley worked his way up the field to lead his first career lap in CART. Unfortunately, an equipment malfunction during Gidley's initial pitstop prevented fuel from flowing into his car, and he ran out of gas on his first lap coming out of the pit.

Since the Long Beach Grand Prix, Gidley has been keeping his reflexes sharp through three days of karting with his friends at chassis manufacturer Track-Magic. "What I love about karting is that you can drive all day long, stating at nine in the morning and running until seven at night if you want to. I prefer karting when there is an open test of top drivers, so you can measure yourself against the competition. That's what I was doing on Monday, at a test in Reno where top national karters were preparing for a major upcoming SKUSA event."

Gidley also made a quick two-day trip to Indianapolis, to spend some time with his new Players crew. "The first night I was there, it was neat to see that when the clock hit five people kept right on working. Each member of the Players team stayed until his particular job was completed. The team has the same kind of dedication and love for racing that I do, where it doesn't really feel like work because you enjoy it."

Referring to his Players crew, Gidley recounts, "they thought it was strange to see me wax my helmet, because they had never seen a driver do that before. Apparently CART drivers use their helmet for a few races and then buy a new one. Unfortunately , I've only had three helmets in my entire life, so I try to treat them well and hang onto them as long as possible."

'I feel great," summed up the eager racer. "I've been waiting for a chance to show what I can do on an oval, and I'm looking forward to turning some heads come Sunday."

Memo Gidley facts:
Born: La Paz, Mexico on September 29, 1969
Raised: San Rafael, California
Residence: Novato, California

Marital Status: Single
Material Possessions: Pickup Truck, Cell Phone, Helmet, Driving Suit

Years in CART: 2
Starts in CART: 11 (4 with Walker Racing, 6 with Dale Coyne Racing)
-All 11 were road and street courses

Top CART Starting Position: 10th at Long Beach, April 16, 2000
Top CART Finish:11th at Cleveland, July 27, 1999

Last Two Oval Starts: (Memo won both)
-Toyota Atlantics May 22, 1998 at Gateway
-Toyota Atlantics May 30, 1998 Milwaukee

Most Recent Victory:
-1999 SKUSA Nationals 125cc Shifter Kart Championship

Fastest Lap: 214 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, April 10th, 2000
-set fastest Rookie time of morning session
-passed Rookie Test in 71 minutes

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Dale Coyne
Teams Dale Coyne Racing