PIR is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and fan Larry Ogburn has been there every step of the way

0 Comments

To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, Phoenix International Raceway has a commemorative “Memory Lane” display, highlighting many of the track’s most memorable moments of the last five decades.

But one of the most unique aspects of PIR’s 50th anniversary isn’t on display. Rather, it’s sitting in the grandstands, a living, breathing testimonial to both the racetrack and its fan base.

It’s there you’ll find Larry Ogburn, who is celebrating his own 50th anniversary this year of coming to the one-mile track just outside of Phoenix.

Having turned 63 on Thursday, Ogburn was just 12 years old when he, his older brother Jim, his father Lawrence and uncle Joe all came to PIR for its opening in March 1964. They watched as the legendary A.J. Foyt outdueled Parnelli Jones to take the first checkered flag in PIR history – and Larry has been going there ever since.

If there was ever a walking, talking encyclopedia of PIR history, Ogburn is it. While he’s missed a few races along the way, Ogburn has made it a point to make a pilgrimage to PIR at least once or twice a year, sometimes more.

“My wife and I were walking around the track last year and we saw all these banners put up abut PIR’s 50th anniversary in 2014,” Ogburn told MST. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been coming here 50 years.’

“It just became so natural for me to go to these races, from the time I rode with my father and his brother in the backseat of my mother’s 1957 Ford to the first PIR race, up to now. I didn’t even realize until last year that I’d been going there so many times, I really didn’t.

“It’s just natural, all these years, just to get up on a Sunday morning and go to a race and enjoy it.”

As far as Ogburn and racetrack officials know, Ogburn is the only fan with the track record – no pun intended – that Ogburn has of coming to PIR for all kinds of races, from NASCAR to USAC to IndyCar.

“I’m pretty proud of this,” Ogburn said. “My father actually started going to races at the old State Fairgrounds back in the 1950s, so Phoenix has a lot of history for me.

“Plus, my birthday is November 6, so I’ve been celebrating my birthday for 50 years at PIR, as well. How cool is that?”

Over the years, Ogburn has played witness to some of the greatest names in motorsports. The names roll off his tongue in rapid-fire succession: Foyt (Ogburn’s favorite driver), Jones, Eddie Sachs, Mark Donoghue, the Bettenhausens (Gary, Merle and Tony Jr.), Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, the Unsers (Al, Bobby and Al Jr.), Peter Revson, Richard Petty, Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick.

“Just name who they are and I’ve seen every one,” Ogburn said. “I’ve been so blessed to go there and be able to see so many famous drivers. It’s a Who’s Who of who has raced at PIR.”

And Ogburn hasn’t just witnessed racing from the stands. He’s also been able to meet dozens of racers over the years. At this year’s March race, when he showed IndyCar great Tom Sneva a program from the first-ever race at PIR, Sneva was so impressed that he spent 15 minutes just talking racing with Ogburn.

“My DNA is all over this place,” Ogburn said of PIR. “Back when I was young, you could pretty much stand next to the walls as the cars would go by, just inches away.

“I’ve been in the infield, I’ve been on the mountain that overlooks the track. I’ve been everywhere around that track.”

Ogburn has a photographic memory that can immediately recall dates, races and events that took place that he can recall and make it seem like they were only yesterday.

“I don’t carry a camera, my camera is in my head,” Ogburn laughed.

As one might expect, the Kingman, Arizona resident has a vast collection of souvenirs and memorabilia that he’s collected over the years. So much so, that several items in PIR’s Memory Lane are on loan from Ogburn.

Speaking of memories, the recollections Ogburn has of all his visits to PIR are countless.

“But one sticks out to me like it was yesterday,” Ogburn said. “I grew up in Southern California watching AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, all these famous drivers.

“The next thing you know, I go to PIR for its first race on March 22, 1964, I’m 12 years old and sitting on the pole is Parnelli Jones in the 98 Agajanian (Indy) car, and AJ Foyt in the famous Sheraton-Thompson Special roadster that he won the race with.

“That sticks out like it was yesterday. Then, we go back in November, and Jones and Foyt were again on the front row, this time with rear-engine cars. The next thing you know, Lloyd Ruby wins the race, and the rest is history. There are so, so many stories like that that I can recall as if they just happened yesterday.”

For close to 30 years, Ogburn and his father were fixtures together at PIR. The elder Ogburn, now 89, still lives in Southern California, but stopped going to the races about 20 years ago.

Still, his son – who is pulling for Carl Edwards to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at PIR – has definitely continued the family tradition.

It’s a tradition that the younger Ogburn hopes to continue for many more years to come.

“I didn’t think about it until my oldest grandson, Kyle, he’s 22, told me recently, ‘Grandpa, you’ve only got another 25 years and you’ll be going (to PIR) for 75 years. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?’

“I’m just a regular guy that worked hard, wrenched (served as a mechanic) for a little bit, drove a truck and for the last 12 years of my career, I worked in the wildland fire industry, supporting air tankers (who fight forest fires),” Ogburn said. “I’m now retired, disabled with severe COPD.

“Sure, I could very easily sit here on the couch, watch TV, watch qualifying with the channel changer, but no, I don’t. It’s just not the same to actually being there at the track, at PIR. That’s where I belong, where I want to be.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
0 Comments

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III