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DALLAS Team owner Bob Stallings has been in auto racing a long time, but five weeks ago he witnessed a crash involving his driver, Memo Gidley, that took his breath away.

'We all thought he was dead. I was just shocked that anybody could survive the crash,' Stallings said from his office at Gainsco in Dallas, where he is the company's chairman.

The crash happened during the first three hours of the 24 hours of Daytona on January 25. 'He's such a fighter,' Stallings added. 'He's a tremendous athlete, and has a very strong constitution.'

After the crash, Stallings kept trying to contact his driver, but with no success.

'I kept calling him, saying, 'Memo, Memo, get out of the car!' because the car was on fire for a minute, and [crew engineer] John Ward just said, 'Bob, I think this is really bad.''

Gidley suffered so many injuries it's hard to list them all. Of most concern were his head injuries. Stallings said his driver was traveling at 114 mph at the time of the crash.

Although his driver survived, last week Stallings decided to shutdown operations down until next year.

'My whole team was in shock for two or three days,' Stallings said. 'I could tell their heart wasn't really going to be in it for the balance of the season, and I just felt like all of us would be better off relaxing and trying to get to get over what happened and really focus on Memo's recovery, because to me, that's much more important than anything.'

The No. 99 Red Dragon is one of the most iconic cars in the United Sports Car Championship series, and is Dallas-owned.

The team garage will remain in Lewisville as Gidley undergoes extensive rehabilitation in California. While he rehabs, the family is declining all interviews.

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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