Just about every year, a new crop of racers graduate to the professional ranks, and while some are fortunate enough to obtain factory rides, most racers are forced to continue their careers racing as privateers with only the hope of a chance at a factory ride. Mitchell Oldenburg was one of those privateers that dreamed of being under a factory rig one day, so when he was given the opportunity to fill-in/tryout for TLD/KTM throughout the 2015 outdoor season “Freckle” wasted no time in showcasing what he was capable of accomplishing with the right equipment. This year, Oldenburg returned to TLD with a SX only contract that lead to a week-to-week basis for each outdoor round, and after several career best finishes throughout the season the team presented Oldenburg with a full-time contract for 2017. Oldenburg is officially living his dream of being a factory racer, and he’s taking full advantage of tis opportunity. We caught up with the new number 28 last week to discuss 2017, and his journey in racing up to this point in his career.
Today is a pretty unique day for a few KTM riders. Talk about what’s going on today…
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. We’re out here at Milestone riding on a privately rented Supercross track thanks to KTM. KTM was kind enough to rent out the SX track for their Orange Brigade amateur riders so they could better prepare for MEC. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to come ride with everyone today, as well as help out when and where I could with these guys. I’ve spent a little more time on Supercross tracks than they have, so I have a few years of experience to share with them.
You have some recent news that’s very exciting for yourself regarding 2017. Talk about the good news…
Yeah, I was given the opportunity to ride for TLD/Red Bull/GoPro/KTM again for 2017! I’m really excited for next year, as I’ve got a good, solid year under my belt now along with a guaranteed ride for the entire year. There isn’t as much pressure on myself now, and I feel that I’ll finally be able to put in the work knowing that there’s always next weekend if I have a bad race. I think having that peace of mind is going to help me out a lot. We’re getting in a good off-season with Tyla Rattray and the crew, so I’m looking to come out swinging come Anaheim One.
You’ve had somewhat of a busy off-season with the MXGP at Glen Helen and with this weekend’s Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Will you be doing any more off-season races? Maybe something overseas?
I don’t think so. I just needed to do the GP at Glen Helen. After that, I just went home for a few weeks, and I got to visit my family for a nice little vacation, and obviously now I’m back here in Southern California preparing for Straight Rhythm. After that, it’s boot camp just about all the way till Christmas. Right around that time is when we’ll find out what coasts we’ll be lining up for. This goes without saying, but whoever is ready come Anaheim One will line up for the West Coast series. I’m just going to do the best I can to be prepared, and no matter what coast I’m racing on, I’m hoping to be fighting for podiums and wins.
As you said, after signing a deal for 2017 a tremendous weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Can we expect to see a new Mitchell Oldenburg now that you have all of this time to focus on your program?
Yeah, I think so. There were a couple of races last year where I was in a good position feeling that I could do better if I pushed a little harder, but it backfired and I ended up on the ground. I think next year I’ll be able to come into the season much more relaxed because I have a full year under my belt now along with hopefully a good off-season of riding and training. It’s time to come out swinging, and it’s time to get it done! I don’t have too many years left in the 250 class, so I have to make it happen sooner or later.
You were given the opportunity to essentially fill-in and tryout for the team at the beginning of outdoors in 2015. They ultimately held on to you throughout 2016 and will continue to do so next year. Do you think you’re living the dream coming from your beginning as a privateer?
Yeah, absolutely! This is exactly where I’ve always wanted to be; riding for a factory team. This isn’t just a job to me because I’ve wanted this ever since I was a little kid. I’ve always had that mentality of wanting to be the best at whatever I do, and that goes for motocross especially. I think experiencing the privateer lifestyle was pivotal for me because I was able to learn a lot doing everything on my own. I had to figure out everything by myself, but I think I got to that point where I needed that next step. I needed a group of people around me that could tell me what I was doing wrong and when in order for me to progress. I think I got as far as I could on my own. When you get to this level of racing it’s no joke! These people spend millions of dollars on you to go out there and win, and if you’re not winning then you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. You have to look at it like that because when I was doing it on my own I was happy each weekend because I knew in my heart that I gave it everything I had. If I did good, great. If I did bad, well then there’s next weekend. There are so many people putting everything they have into this, so for you to hang back in slack off is disrespectful in my opinion. I think I really needed that structure and that group of people that could help me out in every aspect. I’ve always had the work ethic, I just think I lacked a structured program, and now that I have that around me I feel the sky is the limit.
Many professional riders these days haven’t really experienced the privateer lifestyle, as some graduated to the pro ranks with factory rides. Not that a factory ride is handed to anyone, but you especially had to work for it coming from a privateer effort. That has to be a good feeling knowing that you did all of that on your own…
Yeah, it’s absolutely a great feeling, but by no means are we settling down anytime soon. Like I said, this is what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid, so I will do whatever needs to be done to succeed. I still have a lot of work to do along with a lot of improvements. Looking back to 2015, not very many people are given the opportunity that I was given, and I will be forever grateful for that, but at the same time this is something that I want more than anyone else. I feel that I’m deserving of all of this, and I’m not going to waste anyone’s time or money. I’m going to keep plugging away, and there will be no slowing down. I’ll get where I want to be eventually, it’s just going to take some time. I have to remember to keep my patience though, because once you start getting ahead of yourself that’s one bad things happen.
You have a new number for 2017, and it just so happens to be pretty special to you. Tell us about the number’s significance…
Yeah, my number for next year is 28. That was actually my dad’s number when he was growing up, so I was really excited about that. Not only that, but it was also Tyla’s number, as well (laughs). I feel that there’s been a lot of good luck behind this number because Jessy (Nelson) won Anaheim One with it, so I’m feeling good about it, and hopefully that luck continues on with me. Plus, it’s about time somebody cool got that number (laughs).