Gidley: Have seat will race

Memo Gidley will race Della Penna Motorsports' Reynard-Toyota in this weekend's CART Michigan 500. The American -- rapidly assuming Roberto Moreno's recently discarded "Supersub" tag - is sitting in for the team's regular driver, Argentine rookie Norberto Fontana who has stepped down due to his limited oval experience, and none at a Superspeedway

Gidley: Have seat will race

Gidley, who is a graduate of the Toyota Atlantic Championship Series, will make his 14th Champ Car start this weekend after contesting races for Walker Racing, Payton Coyne and Player's/Forsythe Racing over the last two years. Andy Hallbery caught up with the young American in the Michigan paddock.


I knew there was some interest but basically it came together last Tuesday after Toronto. There must be something about Tuesdays and getting rides I guess, that was what happened with Players earlier this year. I knew there was some interest from Della Penna, because I'd been around the team at all of the races and some of the test days. But I didn't know about the drive until this week.

Yeah! It's just been the way it's always been. All the CART rides I've had it's just been jump in and go, so for me I haven't had the luxury of testing. Maybe I do better this way! Who knows? I feel comfortable, I know the guys who work on the car, and I've been to the race shop so I have confidence that they are going to do a good job and the car will be put together well. I'll just do my job out there on the track.

Well I already had a seat because I've driven the Reynard this year with Players, so that just slotted straight in. And I tested with Della Penna at Mid-Ohio in June for a few laps so the pedal adjustments are small, and we moved the steering up a bit. That's about it. It doesn't take too long, and everything feels good when I get in, it all feels comfortable. Another thing is to make sure that the radio that is fitted to my helmet works with the set-up that they use. The biggest thing is learning the sequence that everybody in the team goes through, and how they do it. I mean you're trying to learn, test and race all in one weekend. So you just must make sure that everything is in order.

It's so hard to tell in racing... For me this chance is great because it's another track that I'm racing on that I've never been on before. So it's experience, and when I come back next year, hopefully I'll have been on most of the tracks. Hopefully I can spark some interest from people and get everybody motivated, get a good result and hopefully bring some sponsorship to the team. Who knows? If something works out, it's a good group. But you never know what's going to turn out.

Yes, definitely. I live in Indianapolis now, I go to all the races and all the testing, even if I'm not racing. That's my focus. If I hadn't have done the races that I did last year in CART and the races I did this year then I'd look at other areas just to try and keep in there. But I've got a lot of momentum going and there's a lot of interest, it's what I want to do. I want to make it happen in CART.

Yeah! I tried! I was just out there walking around and a team owner put me in for my rookie test - it literally happened overnight. I came down the next day and was fitting myself to the car. It was just amazing for me because we came in so late, we were only just in time to get my rookie test... Part of our deal was that I would try and qualify a '99 car, just to turn some heads, or whatever. I was already committed to running the 500 before the Players deal came along [replacing the injured Patrick Carpentier], and I made sure I could still do that, because I have a reputation to keep up with, and I didn't want to go against my word. We had a very small budget for Indy, and basically there was just one guy working on my car until the final week before the event. It was a really small group, but it was fun, because a lot of people pulled together. People were sending us cheques in the mail! Amazing, 100 bucks here, 200 bucks there, 20 bucks... Whatever. For me it was a really good feeling. Although I didn't make the field, it was going to be tough in that car anyway. But it was a great experience.

I'm very competitive, so I want to run at the front and it's a little tougher on the ovals because you really have to have a good set-up on the car. There's only so much you can do. On a street course or a road course you can jump in and hustle the car along a little to make up some time. But on an oval the car has to be right to go fast. It's such a small difference between getting it right and getting it wrong, that maybe we'll get it right and run at the front . You just never know what could happen... But I want to run at the front!

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