DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Memo Gidley’s accident in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona left him with significant nerve pain and a long road to recovery before resuming regular traveling, or resuming his day job as a driver.
But he took his biggest step yet on the road back to Daytona today, with his first trip back to Daytona International Speedway as a guest of IMSA on Thursday.
Gidley sustained the accident in 2014, when he hit Matteo Malucelli’s Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia. Gidley was driving a GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP and needed to be cut out from the car by rescue workers in order to be extricated.
That began a long, painful recovery process where the first year was extraordinarily difficult, the second year better but still featuring some nerve pain, and now the third year his best yet – and the closest he has been to 100 percent at the moment.
“It’s been three years since the accident, and I’d say two years of hell before last year was significantly better,” Gidley told assembled reporters in Daytona.
Gidley then ran through a laundry list of people to thank, notably Jim France and the France family, for their support in the process.
“I want to say thank you to Jim France. I knew he was a heckuva guy before this accident, because he’d always stop and chat,” Gidley explained.
“But what he did for myself after the accident, visits in the hospital, support for my wife, mom and team. It starts from the top and works itself down from everyone in IMSA from there.”
Gidley had primarily focused on California for any traveling the last couple years. After he was released from Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, he flew home to California, but said the trip home was a struggle.
His only visits to race tracks prior to Daytona this week were at Sonoma Raceway, when he visited his friends and colleagues in the Verizon IndyCar Series community.
“The only reason I went there is because it was local,” Gidley said. “The first time I went there, a year after the accident, I was driving over reflectors and it hurt. I always had to lie down and I’d needed to go to the medical center. The second year I was much more mobile, and saw my IndyCar friends. This is the first time I’ve been healed and come to a track, and that’s why I’m out here.”
Gidley called the condensed version of his recovery “gnarly,” noting how much time he spent on his stomach needing to eat while laying face down. The cumulative effort following the surgeries – the last of which for his back took place roughly a year ago – along with things such as acupuncture, Chinese herbal treatment and cryotherapy, helped move Gidley forward.
“The nerve pain was horrible at first,” he said. “Now, I don’t feel much of anything from the pain standpoint. Two years ago, I wouldn’t be sitting here. A year ago, I could, but it’d be very painful.
“I’m always about living large and living for the moment.”
Gidley is a race car driver through and through though. He’s spent a lot of time in his go-kart, which is the only race car he’s been able to drive because his FIA license needs to be renewed.
The journey to get back to a car is what is motivating him though, and what has got him through the process.
“(Getting back) is definitely all worth it. I want to get back into the race car,” he said.
“I got strong, got healed and got happy. The nerve pain isn’t fully gone, but I’m back to working on a daily basis.”