Two-plus years and 8 surgeries later, Memo Gidley still hopes to race again

(Getty Images)

It’s been more than two years since a horrific crash during the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona left Memo Gidley with a broken back and extensive injuries to his left arm and left leg.

Gidley has gone through eight surgeries since then, including two last week to implant spinal stimulators to help him with lingering pain issues he continues to go through.

Gidley shared the experience in the latest post on his own blog. To read about what he’s gone through dating back to his crash is fascinating, especially if you go back in his blog archives from the first entry he posted after his terrible wreck.

“Trust me, I am not addicted to having surgeries,” Gidley quipped in his most recent blog post. “It sounds bad – and it is – but the goal is to get back to doing many of the things I love to do, and doing these things with my friends and family. I also really appreciate everybody’s continued support.”

Gidley had spinal fusion surgery last November and continues to recover. It’s the second time he’s undergone a spinal fusion. And while the surgery, like the others, helped somewhat, the pain issue has continued.

Ergo, the implantation of the spinal stimulators, which Gidley has high hopes for in diminishing the “unmerciful nerve pain” he said he suffers from.

“I have tried dozens of treatments over the last year and a half to potentially help break-up my scar tissue to reduce the pain,” Gidley wrote in his blog. “I mean dozens – from DO holistic and energy treatments, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, watching my diet, pills, hyperbaric treatments, cryotherapy and many more. … This all takes time as every treatment requires a certain number of sessions. None have really worked for me, yet.”

Gidley had surgery last Tuesday to implant a temporary spinal stimulator for a two-day trial to see if he could tolerate it. Three days later, a permanent stimulator was inserted into his back.

“To describe what a spinal stimulator does is fairly simple,” Gidley wrote. “It is attached to your spinal cord but higher up from where the “real” pain is coming from. Imagine the size of a small band-aide but with electrodes attached to it. This is then attached via a wire to a controller box which is about the size of an Oreo cookie. The controller box, which has a battery in it, is then implanted into the fat of your glute (butt).

“The spinal stim sends its own signals and the hope is that these fill up your nerve pathway so that the “real” pain signal is blocked from getting to your brain.  What you feel with a spinal stim is a vibration which is much easier to deal with. And then you can set it (wirelessly) as light or as strong as you want/need it to cover up the ‘real’ sharp pain.”

Gidley then asks “was all this worth it? Is the pain less?”

Thankfully, the spinal stimulator appears to be working, although its full effects won’t come for another several weeks.

“As of now, I have felt some improvements, which is great,” Gidley wrote. “My pain is not 100% gone…but is less than what it was. The controller box is fully programmable so that the device specialist can tailor it to my pain, which will happen again in a couple of weeks.

“So, now I am trying to get back to doing what I do so that I can really feel where the improvements are.”

Even though he can’t race himself, Gidley has been coaching, serving as a boat captain in the San Francisco Bay area and working on his own boat, “Basic Instinct.”

“I am in a rush, as always, to get back to being stronger because the stronger I am the more I can do,” Gidley said. “I will continue to work hard to move my body back through my 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, and then finally GET BACK to my 40’s where I belong.

“I still have a lot of goals and desires in my life that have been hard or nearly impossible to do during the last two years. I am not asking for pity from readers, I am just hoping my story helps those that are facing things that are seemingly impossible, but less than what I have dealt with.”

Click here to read Gidley’s latest blog entry. It hurts just to read all that he’s gone through in two-plus years, but it’s also heartwarming and inspiring to hear him say:

“I dream of the day that you all get an email from me that says ‘I am back driving’ and looking for a ride!  I do believe it will happen.

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”