The Langley Speedway has always played a key role in Larry Olson’s life.
And his work there — as a driver, flag person and as part of the Langley Speedway Historical Society — has earned Olson a place in the Greater Vancouver Motorsport Pioneers Society hall of fame.
The 67-year-old Olson will be honoured on Sunday at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver.
He is joined in the induction class by Aldergrove’s Leslie and Kevin Skinner, who are going in the category of sports car and road racing, as well as Tom Berrow and Al Prendergast, who raced at Langley Speedway.
Altogether, there will be 15 individuals and groups honoured at the ceremony.
When he initially found out he had been selected a few weeks ago, Olson said he was caught by surprise.
“I was shocked, I was elated, I was tongue-tied,” he described.
“This is a huge honour.”
“The impact of this, I am still absorbing it,” Olson added.
But the fact he is being inducted should come as little surprise given Olson’s long involvement in motor sports.
Before he could even legally drive — Olson figures he was 12 or 13 when he used to drive his father’s milk truck and tractors on the family farm — cars and driving fascinated him.
By the time he was 18, he was a member of the Victoria Rim Riders Car Club, racing a 1932 Ford roadster, and just two years later, he was president of the club.
Moving to the Lower Mainland, Olson soon became a regular at the Langley Speedway.
First, he was part of the pit crew for John Bettles’ stock car at the Speedway, and then after a year of that, driving his own car, the #117 early/late car.
That proved to be a shrewd decision as in 1968, Olson was named the B.C. Track Racing Association rookie of the year.
But while his heart would have liked to have stayed in driving, financing his own car as an independent became too much so Olson switched to working for the Langley Speedway. He worked his way up from corner man to assistant starter and then in June 1969, the track’s official starter, a role he held for eight years and in excess of 9,000 races.
Whether it was the first race or the last, it was always an exhilarating feeling.
“Standing on the race track when the super stocks (cars) are coming straight at you, you feel that pounding of the motor and you can hear the noise, and you know the excitement that they are going to come straight at you and you get out of the way when you drop the green flag, it is real buzz,” he described.
Part of what made his time so memorable at the speedway was the people he worked for and with.
As for on-track memories, one in particular stood out.
Olson was forced to black flag two drivers for rough driving and after stopping them at the finish line, one of the drivers, Johnny Rothwell, bolted out of his car, grabbed a broom from the pit area and jumped on the hood of Jim McMillan’s car and began wailing away.
Olson returned to his roots in 2006 when he joined the Langley Speedway Historical Society, serving as the events co-ordinator.
“I could see a big gap in promoting Langley Speedway and getting it exposure,” he explained.
Prior to that, Olson had done some work at car shows.
He would meet people who had family members that competed at the Langley Speedway, but had since passed away.
“It made me realize how precious life is, so I thought I have to do this with a vengeance now to preserve those memories and preserve the Speedway and this is the best way to do it,” he said.
That is why Olson can ben seen parading around Langley wearing his striped official’s shirt and why he is referred to as ‘Mr. Langley Speedway.’