BGB Motorsports Loses Crewmember
November 29, 2008 | 12:43 P.M. EST
Known by everyone as "Memo," he attended a concert Tuesday night with his brother at the Honda Pavilion in Anaheim, Calif.. Concert goers were greeted with heavy rains when they left the pavilion and it was a scramble for everyone to get to their cars. Gomez had trouble finding parking and was forced to park his car across Katella Avenue, on the east side of the Santa Ana riverbed. Since he and his brother arrived in separate cars, Memo left the concert and ran across one side of Katella Avenue. Upon doing so, he arrived at the first of two concrete dividers that separate the east and westbound lanes of traffic on Katella.
While some of this in conjecture, it's assumed that Gomez hopped up on the first barrier no differently than he did during any of the hundreds of pit stops that he participated in during his time as a professional racing pit crew member. Unbeknownst to him however, there wasn't a sidewalk like the ones typically found in between most surface street dividers.
While the rest is unclear, it's most likely that he lost his footing in the wet conditions and fell 30 feet below onto a bike path that runs alongside the Santa Ana riverbed. He was rushed to the hospital to treat a broken neck injury but was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The incorrectly written article indicated that witnesses reported that Gomez tried to climb up and jump across the 10 foot span separating the two dividers, but anyone that knew him knows that he would have never tried something that careless.
"This is a tragic accident, and unfortunately an accident," said BGB Motorsports team manager John Teece. "It was raining and Memo's vision was probably impaired as a result. He didn't have the greatest vision to begin with and if he was wearing his glasses that day, it was probably even more hampered by the rains. The photos show the perspective of a mistake than any of us could have made. Among thousands of concert goers and amidst a downpour, to any of us it would have looked like there would be some sort of concrete walkway in between the two dividers, and the height and angle of everything made the gap look a lot smaller than it was, but there's no way he tried to jump across the span.
"Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Memo's brothers and sisters, mother Rosa and longtime girlfriend Diana," Teece added. "He loved his family and his mother very much and he and his girlfriend were going to spend a long life together."
Gomez was a BGB Motorsports team member since early 2007. He worked fulltime at Stuttgart Performance in Costa Mesa, Calif., as a Porsche technician, lending his weekends and spare time to help BGB's racing operation during their busy 11-race weekend schedule. He was also an amateur driver who won the only championship he ever had the time or money to contest. He worked an arrangement to provide technical support in exchange for driving a friend's car in NASA's 944 spec class in Southern California, a class for equally prepared 944 Porsches.
Gomez's foray into professional motorsports began when his employer at Stuttgart, Geoff Escalette, ran in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 in 2003 and 2004. In 2005 they stopped racing to focus on their expanding retail and service business, catering to Orange County's many Porsche owners.
More than just a crew member, Gomez was a racer. It's what he was most passionate about. When Escalette first started racing he was coached by Craig Stanton and Hugh Plumb when he raced in the Rolex Series, so Gomez approached BGB in 2007 about working with the team, since Craig and Hugh were driving together and Gomez got excited about going racing again with friends.
In 2007 Stuttgart Performance was kind enough to provide shop space for BGB during its West Coast layover and its existing fulltime team members had a chance to work with Gomez, and they liked him immediately. He fit in and the choice to bring him on as a weekend warrior was an easy one. His devotion to BGB went even further, as he would fly to Daytona and work in the shop whenever needed.
Even though Gomez still worked for Stuttgart Performance, his devotion to BGB and time spent on the road with the team last year actually jeopardized his fulltime job. Realizing his value as an employee however, when the racing season ended, he was brought back by Stuttgart, but this time as a consultant so he could have the flexibility to go racing with BGB again in 2008. Gomez was able to achieve things like this because of the relationship he formed with Escalette. It wasn't a typical employee/employer work relationship; he touched everyone in that way and they were always trying to help him.
"Earlier this year I asked our driver Jon Miller to fill in for me and contribute a Grand-Am KONI Challenge Journal entry and he wrote about how spending enough time on the road with your team members, allows you to forge great friendships with people," Tecce said. "That was Memo. They got to be friends, just as he was friends with everyone else he ever worked alongside. He came to the track with a smile and never with a negative attitude, showing that he was just happy to be doing that which he loved the most. No matter how hard we worked him, he never complained. Having met in 2005, we became friends and then great friends and superstitious roommates, as our rooming combinations guaranteed Craig Stanton, Hugh Plumb, Tim Traver and Jon Miller multiple wins and podiums. Every time we raced in Daytona, he opted out of the free hotel room in exchange for his spot on my couch or in my spare bedroom, just to hang out and spend time together. Sometimes one of us slept on the floor of the hotel room, just to keep the superstition alive.
"For every Thanksgiving to come, this holiday will have a different meaning for me and the entire BGB family," Tecce concluded. "If anything, it's showed us that no one promises us tomorrow and that we should live every day as if it were our last. Everyone on our team is devastated and beside themselves. Last night Craig Stanton and I chatted about how the thought of going racing right now without Memo puts a terrible feeling in our stomachs and removes all of the wind from the sails. But Craig went on to say that it's what Memo would have wanted. And he's right, because that was Memo. It was everyone else first, and then him second. For right now though our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during their terrible loss."
Team photographer Margie Gerard really enjoyed working and spending time with Gomez and she was kind enough to gather some photos for a slide show of some great pictures of him, in our remembrance of his time spent with us. To view the photos, visit http://picasaweb.google.com/margiephotos38/REMEMBERINGOURMEMO?authkey=h3yQL6Ex2kU.
For Gomez's family, friends and acquaintances in the Southern California area, there will be a viewing and rosary this Sunday Nov. 30 at St. Thomas More Catholic Church at 2510 S. Freemont Avenue in Alhambra, Calif. at 6 p.m. There will be a funeral mass the next day at 10 a.m. at the church with a burial at the Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, Calif. Flowers should be sent to the church.