Over the years, the late Pete Loretto Jr. captured many personal racing memories for those in the local racing community by making and presenting to them homemade collages. Loretto spent hours gathering articles and pictures from various racing publications of individual racing personalities and then affixing those items to poster boards.
It was a real feather in one's cap to get one of Loretto's collages. On that poster board individuals could gaze at their own racing careers. Loretto's life was very much a collage itself as he was a father, husband, family man, retired highway supervisor, veteran firefighter, emergency disaster coordinator, race official of various roles, racing radio show personality and in general one of the biggest race fans this area has ever known.
Loretto's wide-ranging participation in the sport has resulted in two race tribute nights, one on asphalt and another on dirt, to honor Loretto of New Oregon, who died last October at age 71 after a decade-long battle with cancer. Spearheaded by Loretto's daughter Melissa with assistance from Pete's wife Sharon the first of the two tributes will be Saturday with the running of the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour Pete Loretto 75 at Lake Erie Speedway. The second tribute will feature the dirt track Super Late Models in the Pete Loretto 30, July 3 at Little Valley Speedway.
"After my dad passed just the thought of knowing that he wasn't going to be at the races anymore, I thought what better way to do something than to have a memorial race for him," Melissa said. "He loved the dirt Late Models and the asphalt Modifieds so it ended up perfect that we were able to have one of each.
"He loved the asphalt Mods, especially when he was involved with the late Richie Evans, and my dad would follow them wherever they went, mostly Oswego, Lancaster, Holland and Perry (now Wyoming County International Speedway). He mostly went to the asphalt tracks now and then when it didn't interfere with the dirt schedules.
"He was involved in all aspects of local racing and I don't know where it is but he had a list of the hundreds and hundreds of race tracks that he went to all across the country. I wish I could find it."
As one might expect, it is through her father that Melissa became a race fan.
"There's pictures of when I was little at Stafford (Conn.), and all the Modifieds were there and it was a family vacation," Melissa said. "We hit a couple tracks while we were on vacation and I went often when I was little. I don't remember a lot of it but the pictures prove I was there. My mom on the other hand went many years ago to Holland, but that only lasted a couple years and then she was like, 'You go have your fun because this doesn't interest me.'"
Melissa says that Sharon is very much involved with the planning of the two upcoming memorials.
"My mom said that I could do whatever I wanted and whatever I thought in regard to the memorials and she said, 'Whatever I can do to help let me know and I'll do it,'" Melissa said. "It all just came together.""
Along with his love of racing Loretto was a long-time firemen in the Langford-New Oregon Fire Company.
"He was a chief in some capacity for over 30 years and was in the department much longer then that," Melissa said. "He was also the disaster coordinator for this whole area. He had six fire companies under his watch. Even after he had the cancer he would go to the races or the emergency calls at the fire company right up to when he could no longer do it, even when he was sick.
"He didn't get to as many races the last two years as I know he wanted as he was getting sicker but he went for as long as he was able to get there."
Loretto's legacy will live on, especially through his collages, which he made enthusiastically. In his final years the collage-making took on added importance as a form of therapy while he battled his health issues.
"When Dad started not feeling good and couldn't go to the races, he would have everything sorted and he would just start putting them together and when he was feeling better he would take them along with him to whatever track and hand them out to the people that they belonged to," Melissa said. "He really got enjoyment out of making those for people. It was a way for him to feel like he was still involved in racing, especially when he wasn't able to go to the races."
This Saturday's 6 p.m. program at Lake Erie will also include the Lancaster Speedway and Dragway Street Stocks, NYPA TQ Midget Racing Series, U.S. Legend Cars and the Midwest Compacts.
David "Slow Ride" Scott doubled his pleasure this past Saturday at Busti's Stateline Speedway when the popular veteran captured the feature races in both the Super Late Model 25 headliner as well as the Paula Southwell Memorial for the E-Mods.
The Pro Mod Shootout drag racing event, rain-postponed this past Tuesday at Lancaster, has been rescheduled for Sept. 12.