Last February, Mitchell Oldenburg suffered an injury to his knee when he suffered a partial tear in his ACL and tore his meniscus while practicing prior to the San Diego Supercross. Oldenburg sat out the sixth round and continued to work on rehabbing his knee, then once the supercross championship had gone on pause, the Texan had more time to recover. He competed in the final three 250SX West Region rounds of the season before undergoing knee surgery immediately after. He pushed through therapy sessions and off-the bike training in order to return healthy as fast as possible, even though the Penrite Honda team did not compete in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. But even without the team racing Pro Motocross, it had several off-season hurdles to overcome, as did most teams in COVID-19 times. Team owner Yarrive Konsky still wanted to race in some capacity and Oldenburg was down as well, as you’ll read below. He continued to put in the work and communicate with Konsky, and on Christmas Eve, the team announced it would continue with a new sponsor: Muc-Off.
Racer X: We have not heard from you for a while. You normally pop up sometimes in Australia. That’s not happening. But you’re good to go. You’re locked in. You’re ready.
Mitchell Oldenburg: Yeah. We’re ready to go. I moved back to Texas in February, so kind of laying low out of the California dirt bike scene. Focusing on myself and enjoying my time there with my family.
We always think of you as a Texas guy, but you were California-based for a while.
Yup. I moved out here in 2015 when I got the call from TLD. I was out here for about five years. Being with Muc-Off Honda now it kind of gave me the freedom to move back home and that’s kind of where I’ve always wanted to be. It’s just home to me. I’ve got a lot of family there, and my wife’s family is from there. So, I just love being back in Texas.
And you’ve got your own track there and stuff?
Yup. Got my own track. Kind of. Everybody owns it, but I kind of have access. I can kind of do whatever I want to the track. We’ve got access to the water truck and the equipment and all that. So, it’s actually really good. It’s been a lot of fun.
Give me a little Texas gossip. I’m wondering. There have not been any rumors that I have heard of teams buying tracks or renting tracks in Texas to have a place to test after Houston 1, for example. Have you heard anything? Is anyone negotiating, bartering?
No. I haven’t heard anything. It kind of sucks. The track I have is right across the Oklahoma border, so technically if you leave the state you have to get re-COVID[-19] tested. So, I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to go up there and ride. It’s way too far from Houston anyway. There’s obviously local tracks and outdoor tracks around the Houston area to ride. But I don’t know of many supercross tracks in Houston, to be honest with you. It’s kind of slim pickings around there. It’s not your typical California where you’ve got three or four public tracks. They’re all private tracks.
I just thought Texas, there’s always money. People have big stuff. I’m like, there’s probably two supercross tracks that we haven’t heard of around Houston. Not necessarily?
I’m not sure about Houston. I’m in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but there was three or four supercross tracks around where I’m from. But we don’t have the riders that they have in California. There’s probably only five or six of us total the ride supercross in Texas. So, everything is private and you’ve kind of got to know somebody to get out there.
So a team like Kawasaki has not called anybody, as far as you know?
As far as I know, not at all.
I'm surprised. You’ve raced for a long time. There’s always a chance of the freak out after the first race. I thought my bike was good, but it’s not. I’m asking everybody. Are you worried about that? Or do you feel like you’re dialed? Is that a problem?
No. I try to kind of avoid the freak out because it happens every year. Everyone freaks out and always second-guesses your training and your bike and your setup and all this. It’s one race, at the end of the day. There’s eight more for us to go in the Lites class. I just try not to think about it too much, good or bad. We just take it for what it is and make adjustments as we go. As far as myself and how I feel, I feel the best I have in years. Just happy with where I’m at in life and really enjoying everything about it. Trying to enjoy the process and just take it for what it is. I don’t know how many years left I have in this. I’m just trying to not overlook it and really enjoy what I’m doing and enjoy it with my family.
Sounds a little bit like the same stuff I hear from JB [Justin Brayton]. I don’t know if that comes from him or just a coincidence, but he’s big on that enjoy this ride and don’t look back and be like, I got to ride dirt bikes for a living and I hated it.
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s having a kid or just kind of the situations I’ve been in the past few years. You get a new perspective. I kind of always say, it’s just dirt bikes. We’re a bunch of rednecks on dirt bikes with dirt… A lot of people look at us like we’re idiots. It’s just dirt bikes at the end of the day. There’s a lot more to life. Just trying to enjoy it and be thankful for the position I’m in and kind of keep the negative away and just look forward to the rest of life, because dirt bikes is such a small part of our lives.
Look, generally anyone rides better when they’re thinking that way.
Yeah, exactly. It’s hard as a racer not to get down on bad results and stuff like that but coming home to a wife and kids and family and stuff, it just opens your eyes to a new perspective. I used to think if dirt bikes doesn’t happen, then that’s the end of my life. What am I going to do? I don’t know anything else. Just kind of looking at it as it is only dirt bikes has kind of helped me out a lot. Trying to figure out just this summer what’s going to happen, what is the next step and having some back-up plans in place just in case dirt bikes doesn’t work out. It just kind of made me feel a little bit better about the position I’m in and just trying to enjoy every bit of it.
You didn’t get to race in Australia, because no one did. So, we didn’t hear from you for a while. You actually had your knee worked on and stuff like that. What have the last couple months been like?
I got my knee fixed the Monday after the last Salt Lake City race. Flew out to San Jose. Got it fixed by Dr. Ting. Really just kind of made a game out of it, honestly. Just wanted to get as healthy as I could as fast as I could, just to see what I could do. I worked with some really cool physical therapists in the Fort Worth area. We just had fun with it. My doctor kind of gave them the freedom to push me as hard as we could. The therapy sessions were not fun. I was almost in tears every time. But I knew I had to do that to get to where I was. I got released to ride my dirt bike at 12 weeks, which is pretty crazy for a knee recovery. Then I just kind of eased into it from there. I didn’t have anything to be back for, so I just kind of rode once or twice a week just for fun. Get my feet wet and get back in the swing of things. I really enjoyed the off-the-bike training, the cycling, the gym, the therapy, all that stuff. I’ve kind of always said with injuries, getting healthy is the easy part. It’s the mental stuff that really takes a toll on you. So, I tried to just have some fun with it and make a game out of it. I really enjoyed my recovery, actually. It’s kind of crazy to say. It was a fun summer.
When was it green light, full on supercross track time?
Since we got kind of a later start to the season this year, I started November 1. I usually like to start in October. That was another thing. Moving back to Texas I didn’t really take into consideration weather. So that was kind of stressful at times. I don’t think I ever checked my weather app when I was out here in California because it’s the same every day. So just kind of plan it with the weather and off-the-bike training and stuff like that. I would say November 1 we got pretty much full on, and I’ve been hitting it hard ever since.
The team. It seemed like you rode for it last year. They were going to be good. But behind the scenes, I’ve heard that every team has hurdles. So, did you know the whole time you were good, or how did that work?
It’s all kind of up in the air. COVID[-19] kind of screwed a lot of people, and especially our sport. It’s so small that it’s hard to pull sponsors, so to get Muc-Off in this year is huge. It’s pretty cool to think about that we brought in a sponsor that really is kind of unknown to the sport into such a small sport and they’re full on to help us out. It’s pretty cool. I really didn’t know what was going to happen until right around November 1. Kind of got a late start. Yarrive [Konsky], our team owner, I was on the phone with him quite a bit. He was like, “I don’t know what we’re doing. We’re racing, I just don’t know to what extent. I don’t know what we can do,” and so on. I was like, “Just get me on a bike and the rest will fall into place, and if it doesn’t at least we tried.” So, everything kind of came together, I want to say a couple weeks before the announcement. The announcement was Christmas Eve. So early December is when we really got the green light. It’s kind of been full on since. Our bike is amazing this year. Pretty close to last year. A lot of good improvements. Twisted Development, Jamie [Ellis], doing our motors and they’re strong. Then we also have really good help with KYB. So, I’m stoked on the bike. Kind of being back in Texas there’s a lot of unknown. I’m not really riding with people. I don’t know if what I’m doing is working. Then I came out to California this week and I’m pretty confident what I’ve been doing is working. So, feeling good, feeling ready. Just got to go make it happen now.
You’re not feeling behind the eight ball or anything.
No, not at all. I’ve been pulling my hair out the last month because I just don’t know. I don’t know where I’m at. I think I’m doing everything I can and think I’m doing everything right, but until you get around people you really don’t know. I’ve had a couple days in California just fine tuning some suspension. I’m so happy with my bike right now. I really think we’re in a good spot. I don’t see why we can’t be up front and fighting for wins and doing the best we can.
We know your top-end speed is right up there with anyone in the class. So really, what limit do you even have on your results? Do you really think podiums, wins, I can be there?
Yeah, absolutely. I don’t work as hard as I do to go there and get fifths. I’ve gotten close. I’ve gotten a couple seconds, a couple thirds, things like that, heat race wins. I really just want to get a race win just to say I did it. It would just be a huge weight off the shoulders, and I could be done racing and feel accomplished. So that’s kind of always been my goal, just to win a race. Obviously, we’re there to do the best we can. Like I said, I don’t work as hard as I do to get fifth. So, we’ll just go there and see what happens. I’ve done everything I can. There’s really nothing more I feel I can do. So here we come.