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Death Hits Daytona Once Again : Auto racing: Rodney Orr becomes second driver in four days to die in crash at speedway.

February 15, 1994|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For the second time in four days, a Winston Cup stock car driver was killed in a single-car accident at Daytona International Speedway.

Rodney Orr, 31, of Panama City, Fla., who had never before attempted to qualify for a Winston Cup race, was killed Monday when his family-owned Ford Thunderbird hit the wall on the driver's side as it came out of the second turn during a morning practice session.

The crash occurred as many drivers were preparing to leave the track and fly to Hueytown, Ala., to attend funeral services later in the day for veteran driver Neil Bonnett, who was killed last Friday in a shockingly similar accident.

Orr appeared to lose control as the car came through Turn 2. The back end came around in a typical spin situation, but when the car dropped down on the apron, Orr apparently attempted to correct the problem. Instead, the car flipped on its side and shot up the embankment into the wall.

The initial impact came at the top of the windshield area. Observers said Orr probably was killed instantly, although he was taken to Halifax Medical Center, where he was declared dead at 10:06 a.m. EST.

The circumstances closely paralleled Bonnett's fourth-turn crash Friday and another accident Thursday that left ARCA driver Andy Farr hospitalized with a broken sternum and a bruised heart. All three accidents involved drivers who had either little or no recent experience on the high-banked superspeedway at Daytona.

Orr had never driven a Winston Cup car until last month; Farr had never driven at Daytona in any kind of car, and Bonnett, although he had been in 362 Winston Cup races, had not raced at Daytona since 1990, when tire compounds and aerodynamic equipment were different.

After winning the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series for four-cylinder stock cars last year, Orr was attempting to make a big jump into the eight-cylinder Cup cars, by passing the intermediate Busch Grand National class. Goody's Dash cars run at about 155 m.p.h., about 35 to 40 miles slower than the Daytona 500 cars.

Orr and his father bought a new Thunderbird in the off-season and had veteran engine builder Ernie Elliott prepare a motor for the car.

"I'd like to go out there and try to look good and run it professional and attract a major sponsor," Orr told the Palm Coast News-Tribune on Friday. "I would just like to get some experience. I just want to make the (starting) field."

Although he was one of only seven drivers to better 190 m.p.h. during preseason testing at Daytona, Orr did not attempt to qualify Saturday when another rookie, Loy Allen Jr., won the pole with a speed of 190.158 m.p.h.

Orr was preparing to take his qualifying run later Monday when he crashed.

Orr's Goody's car was sponsored by Bobby Brooks' Exxon station in Robbinsville, N.C., where Orr was raised.

Orr's family moved to Panama City, north of Daytona Beach, two years ago, where Orr did most of his racing at Volusia Speedway in nearby Barberville.

The deaths of Bonnett and Orr were the first in Winston Cup racing since August of 1991, when J.D. McDuffie died from injuries in a crash at Watkins Glen, N.Y. The last previous stock car racing fatality on the Daytona track was that of Joe Booher, in last year's Daytona Dash.

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