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


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

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead

Tomac Supercross Houston
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.

In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list