Those who knew him best will tell you the whole story. What Pete Orr did as a driver, a family man and as a friend to the Florida short track racing community will never be forgotten. Orr was one of the best before cancer took him from us in 2002. Now his legacy continues on with this Saturday’s Pete Orr Memorial / Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna Speedway.
Most knew Orr for his on-track success. Championships at Speedweeks, Orange Blossom wins, the Cracker 200 and Florida Triple Crowns, you name it and he won it.
The success didn’t come without struggle early on.
“I raced with Pete and there were years where he struggled,” said David Rogers, a longtime Florida Super Late Model veteran. “He always did the best with what he had. Somehow he always made it go fast. When he got hooked up with Russell that was a good combination.”
That combination with David Russell crafted both into top-notch racers and champions.
“Pete was a great friend and we were real tight with the family,” said David Russell, who was a teammate with Orr for many seasons. “Every time we race at new Smyrna for his memorial event it’s sad, but we want to represent him with a win like we have done in the past. It’s a really a special night and I am glad they keep doing that every year.”
In the past it has led to victories for the Russell team with David’s son Tim in 2011 and an unknown driver to the asphalt world in 2012 when Kyle Larson won in his first Super Late Model start at the Pete Orr Memorial. The magic just seems to roll on with the name and success.
“Larson only tested one day and they said he was going to be the next Jeff Gordon and I believed that after working with him that night,” added Russell. “That was a great moment that and my son winning this race too. It was special when it comes in that race.”
Another friend to Orr was Freddie Query. Query, a longtime driver-turned-crew chief, won the Pete Orr Sportsmanship award before the 2013 edition of the Pete Orr Memorial and then guided his driver Kyle Benjamin to the race win. It was a special night as Orr had helped Query a time or two when he was a driver and Orr served as a crew chief.
“Pete was always there and he gave 110-percent,” said Russell.
One event where that showed so well was the Orange Blossom 100, which was then held at Orlando Speedworld. Orr won the race four times including three times in a row. His final triumph was in 2000. After Orr’s passing in 2002, the race would be re-branded with Orr’s name.
“Pete is one of those guys that even though he is gone, he is still here. That’s a good thing,” said Rogers. “When you leave a name and people still want to talk about you and it’s all good then that means a lot. That was Pete.”