KITTLESON TAKES EMOTIONAL WIN USING ADVICE FROM HIS MENTOR by Matt Kentfield
Pete Orr’s Memory Drives Travis to Dominating Victory
Just like he did for several seasons in ASA, Pete Orr helped Travis Kittleson succeed on Saturday night. The only difference is that Orr did it from above this time.
When the smoke cleared, it was all Travis Kittleson on Saturday night. (51 Photo)
Since coming up two laps short on winning the Pete Orr Memorial 100 last year, Kittleson has been focused on winning the race named for his former crew chief and mentor. When his car began vibrating late in the race, Kittleson was worried that he was not going to be able to satisfy his dream of winning the Orr Memorial once again. With a little help from Orr, Kittleson was finally able to seal the deal Saturday night as he dominated the final 70 laps en route to the race win and the 2006 Speedweeks Super Late Model Championship.
“I can’t put into words what it means to win this race,” said Kittleson. “I don’t mean to sound cliché or anything but he was a neat guy. He was sometimes grumpy but he was really straightforward. He just knew what he was talking about when it came to racing. He had been there, done that, and seen it and he was able to relay that to everyone else.”
When Kittleson and Orr worked together, they built a relationship that Kittleson still looks back on as one of the most influential in his racing career. The bond that the two shared was echoed by Orr’s wife Terry, who was one of the first people in victory lane to congratulate Kittleson on winning Pete’s race.
“It’s nice to have someone win it that it really means a lot to,” said Orr. They worked closely together with a lot of long hours at the shop. Travis credits a lot of the things he’s done in racing to what Pete taught him. That really means a lot. It makes it special for us because we know that those two had a special bond.”
Kittleson’s white, black, and red car is a tribute to Orr. Orr made the #30 famous in Florida Late Model circles, and that’s why when Kittleson carried the #30 in last year’s Pete Orr Memorial 100 and came up just short on the victory, he regrouped for this year’s race and wanted to get the job done. That’s why he wasn’t going to beat himself this year. Kittleson was going to race hard but smart, a philosophy that Orr instilled in him years ago.
“He told me all the time that if you’re going to be stupid, you better be tough,” said Kittleson. “I remember one time in the shop and I was drilling something and I drilled into my finger and he told me that and that saying has kind of stuck in my head ever since. He always had cool things like that to say at the right time.
“He was really family oriented. If you could see him and his wife talking it was like school age kids in love. It’s like he had the perfect life except that he never had the shot he deserved in racing. I had the opportunity to race with him and work with him. We worked together for a few seasons and I learned so much from him.”
Kittleson (#88) passes Landon Cassill (#7) for the race lead and the points title. (Jim DuPont Photo)
If Orr ever told Kittleson how to drive with a car that was about ready to break, Kittleson certainly paid attention. Late in the race Saturday night the car was vibrating heavily in the rear end, leaving the driver wondering if he was once again going to have the race slip from his grasp.
“Whatever was vibrating in the drivetrain was about to break,” said Kittleson. “I wanted to win this race so bad and I just saw it going away with that vibration. I never thought in a million years that we’d be running away from those guys at the end. That’s our backup motor in the car plus with the vibration I didn’t think we could pull it off.”
Kittleson had to win the race in order to keep his championship hopes alive. He entered Saturday night’s finale second in points behind Landon Cassill. When Cassill lost several laps on pit road with a throttle problem, the door to the title was opened for Kittleson. After he was forced to miss Friday’s feature with a blown motor in qualifying that could not be replaced in time for the race. He was put in a situation where he had to win the race and Cassill had to have problems. Both happened Saturday, handing the title to Kittleson.
“I didn’t think about the championship until I was out there and somebody brought me both trophies.” I was like, man, we won the championship. Cool!”
Every once and a while a racer has one of those years, and maybe for me it’s just this week, that you can’t do anything wrong. It’s like you go out in practice and you’re the fastest car. Then you qualify on the pole and win the race leading every lap. That’s how we did it this year. There’s people out there looking at their stopwatches and a lot of them are out there accusing us of cheating left and right. They can tear my car down all they want and they’re not going to find a damn thing wrong with it.”
No one’s going to find a damn thing wrong with having Kittleson win the Pete Orr Memorial 100, either.
NIGHT NINE NOTES: SLM
MECHANICAL ISSUES COST CASSILL THE CROWN
Landon Cassill looked to be the breakout star of 2006’s Speedweeks. He had aligned himself nicely to take the Super Late Model championship with a solid run Saturday night, but for the second race in a row a throttle issue left the young Iowan several laps down to the leaders and just a handful of points short on the title.
“We had a throttle linkage problem last night and we had the same problem tonight,” said Cassill. “I don’t know exactly what happened; we’ll just have to look at it when we get back to the shop. I know I’ll replace every single throttle linkage in every car I own.”
FITZPATRICK CLOSES OUT SPEEDWEEKS WITH DISAPPOINTMENT
J.R. Fitzpatrick had a mechanical problem that put him out of the Pete Orr Memorial 100, but he will be making the long trip back to Canada having learned a lot and turned many heads after several good runs during Speedweeks.
“100 laps here is like a sprint race for me at home. Then we made a little bit of contact with the 7 when he broke, but it was no big deal. I let Kittleson go and figured I’d catch him later. Man, he was fast though. Then, we ended up breaking a header.”
“I’d never driven this car before. All through this week has been a help. I learned a lot and we’ll be coming down next year for sure.”
BARNES TAKES OVER BOONE’S RIDE AND NABS SECOND
If Chuck Barnes had his way, he would’ve liked the Pete Orr Memorial 100 to have been about 10 laps longer. Barnes took over the seat in the #59 that Greg Boone had seen mixed results in during this year’s Speedweeks on Saturday night.
Cassill may be frustrated about letting the championship get away, but he now knows what he has to do in order to finish his work next year.
“We had a lot of dumb stuff happen and go on that could have made this night obsolete and we could have had the championship. It is just too bad. We’ll just have to try harder next time and make sure we are more organized.
“One thing we have to look at though is if we can’t lose like a champion, then we don’t deserve to be a champion. This is just all part of learning and keeping my head on straight. If you would have told me a week and a half ago that I would have been battling with Travis Kittleson for the World Series championship, I would have told you you were crazy.”
Landon Cassill (#7), racing JR Fitzpatrick (#8), led early but fell out with mechanical problems. (51 Photo)
Kittleson poses with members of the Pete Orr family in Victory Lane. (51 Photo)
Chuck Barnes Jr. added his name with tape to the top of Greg Boone's car. (51 Photo)
“I just came down to work with Greg Boone,” said Barnes. “He had some good runs but he couldn’t get the finish he was looking for. So he asked if I wanted to drive it after the first practice this morning. I told him he had a good hot rod here.”
Barnes was Kittleson’s closest competitor, as he hunted Kittleson down after a lengthy battle with Jay Middleton for second.
“We fell in a good spot off the get go. I was going to stay where I was, but guys started getting squirrelly, so I got to the front. We got behind Jay (Middleton) and he really slowed the corner speed down, where I couldn’t get off the corner. I didn’t want to move him. I waited until he got a little loose, then I got into him just a tad bit. That is all it took.”
That allowed Barnes to set his sights on Kittleson for the lead. He closed up from about 10 car lengths back to three behind the leader over the final 10 laps but couldn’t get to Kittleson’s bumper.
“Man, I wanted another caution there. I might have actually put a bumper to Kittleson for the win. Kittleson had a great call all week. I was watching him dominate. I was getting jealous. I wanted to be the guy dominating.”
ANDERSON BOUNCES BACK
Wayne Anderson may have gotten off to a flying start during Speedweeks, but a fiery crash and mechanical problems had him struggling later in the week. Anderson skipped Friday night’s feature but returned to New Smyrna Saturday to finish an impressive fourth.
“Thursday night put me out of the points chase so I thought there was no need to come out here and possibly tear up the car for tonight’s race,” said Anderson about not coming to the track on Friday. “We put ourselves in a deep hole tonight because we had carburetor problems in qualifying. We got up to fourth, but that is all we could do. We ran out of tires.”
Overall, Anderson considers his Smyrna experience this year as a mediocre one.
“I usually win a couple during Speedweeks. I basically had a top five car this year and that’s it. I would give myself a C. Just about average."
MIDDLETON TAKES PODIUM FINISH
While most of the Super Late Model drivers in the Pete Orr Memorial 100 had been competing at New Smyrna since Speedweeks opened, Jay Middleton decided to just show up for the final event and the third place finish was a solid one for it being his first time at the track this year.
“I am satisfied with my race,” said Middleton. “It is really not bad. I finished pretty far up there for being my first night here. These other guys have been working on their stuff all week long. It was pretty tight out here. It is usually not tight out here. I ran
Jay Middleton (#74) could only hold off Chuck Barnes Jr. (#59) for so long. (51 Photo)
out of brakes and that made my tight condition even worse. The tires held up and the shocks held up. That is good; we finally didn’t have a problem with that.”
The strong run and the relatively clean racing had Middleton packing his #74 up with a smile on his face, even though he lost second late in the race to Barnes.
“All in all, it was a good race. There were a lot of good drivers out there and I was surprised how clean it was. There were only about two cars that maybe wrecked. It was pretty clean out there. Chuck got around me. He got into me a bit, but I didn’t lose any more spots, so it was all good. I don’t have a problem with that. He was really patient with me. He had the better car and got by us.”