In 1999, after two strong years in Formula Atlantic, Gidley made his IndyCar debut after winning a shootout to replace the injured Naoki Hattori at Walker Racing. When Hattori returned to reclaim his ride, Gidley began haunting the CART paddock in search of other opportunities.
“I would position myself on one access road to the pits,” he explains. “Then, 10 or 15 minutes before the session began, once all the team owners and team managers were on pit boxes and pit stands, I would walk the pit lane since they were facing that direction and could see I was there. I traveled around not only with my race gear but also my race seat.”
Gidley raced for two teams on a fill-in basis in 1999, then two more in 2000. The next year, he was hired – on a race-by-race basis – by Chip Ganassi to replace the fired Nicolas Minassian. In his second race for Ganassi, he was about to overtake fuel-saving leader Dario Franchitti at Cleveland when the chequered flag came out. But despite another second-place and a third podium later in the season, Gidley again found himself on the outside looking in for 2002.
Gidley went through three years of rehabilitation after Daytona crash
He eventually found a home in sports cars, notably notching a win with Michael McDowell in Mexico in a Daytona Prototype in 2005. In 2014, he began the year in a Chevrolet Corvette DP at the Rolex 24. Accelerating out of the International Horseshoe, flat in fourth gear, he pulled out to avoid a swerving GT car – and cannoned at 130 mph into the back of a Ferrari 458 that had virtually stopped on the track with a mechanical issue.
Gidley was knocked out by the crash. Later, pumped up on painkillers, he told friends he would see them at Sebring for the next race. In fact, he didn’t make it home from the hospital for nearly two months. Even after all the broken bones healed – 11 of them, plus a crushed heel – the nerve pain in his back was so excruciating that he had to eat meals lying on his stomach on a massage table.
In 2017, Gidley returned to the racetrack in a Porsche 911 GT3 R, and he ran an LMP3 car in IMSA the next year. Although he’s won several races in club-level events, his twin victories at Sebring earlier this month were his first in front-line competition since 2005. And they’ve whetted his appetite for an admittedly unlikely return to pro racing.
Gidley is chasing more victories after double win at Sebring
“You never know what’s around the corner,” he says. “Do I think I am as fast as I was in my 40s? Maybe not. As fast as I was in my 30s? Probably not. As fast as I was in my 20s? Definitely not! But I will absolutely still go after my passion and give it everything I have to be successful, and the goal is to win races!”
Sounds like a promising prologue for Act IV.