Zach Osborne has been racing at Muddy Creek since he was six years old.
BLOUNTVILLE — It is the perfect time for Zach Osborne to come back home.
Fresh off his first podium finish in the AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series, the Abingdon, Va., rider was back at his home track of Muddy Creek Raceway on Thursday to practice for this weekend’s Built Ford Tough Tennessee Nationals.
Osborne, 23, has been racing at Muddy Creek since he was six years old, starting on a 50cc bike. He said this weekend’s race, the first in the Southeast in 15 years, is a big deal for him personally and the whole Tri-Cities region.
“To have a national here in the Southeast, here at Muddy Creek is pretty big for me and for the area as well,” Osborne said. “It’s been a deserving place for a long time, but they needed a revamp. Now that they have a national, they’ve done so. To have a national here, to be with the team I’m on, everything just clicks together.”
After competing in Europe most of the last six seasons where he was a British MX2 National Champion, Osborne is living in South Carolina and racing for the GEICO Honda team in the Lucas Oil Series. He was third at the last race in Denver, second in the final moto where he outran former world champions Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin from the powerful KTM team. Now, he comes to a track where there is a great deal of familarity, although he downplayed the notion of added pressure.
“It’s pressure every weekend,” he said. “We’re racing at a high level in a big sport with a lot of money. There’s not extra pressure other than the internal pressure I put on myself. It’s cool for me to have this race and for my family and friends to be able to come out.”
Osborne wants to duplicate the effort of his Honda teammate Eli Tomac, a Colorado native who won the Denver event. Although happy for his teammate, Osborne was celebrating his own success, getting on the podium in just his second motocross race since 2007.
“It was great to get on the podium, my first one in America,” Osborne said. “Obviously, I want to carry that momentum into this weekend and do it again.”
There are some different strategies racing in America as opposed to Europe, where he finished fourth and eighth in the MX World Championships. Osborne said longer motos, a longer travel schedule and adjusting to the different cultures make it more diffrent than one could imagine. A race in Russia meant a road trip of over 12 hours from Moscow. As with his travels, coming back to race in the states took longer than expected, but Osborne feels confident his career is on the right track.
“It’s been a little bit of a drag to get going,” he said. “But now that I’ve been in Europe and made some headway, and now I’m on a great team in America, it’s definitely turned around for me and I’m on the way up.”
He also has a local example of someone who persevered and became competitive at a later age. Not that 23 is old by any means, but Osborne looked to Johnson City rider Mike Brown as someone still winning races in his 40s.
“Brownie is one of the most successful guys in our sport ever, and a really solid guy,” Osborne said. “He’s a great role moel. I’ve been around him since I was a little kid and have always been around him. It’s awesome to see him doing so good. He’s definitely a warrior, and still loves it like a kid. Hopefully, I can have close to the career he’s had.”
For now, he is taking it one step at a time. Osborne, who won six Mega Series titles at the local level, sees plenty of reason to be optimistic this weekend at his home track. In many ways, however, it’s not the same track with so much work being done to host the national event.
“The track has changed a lot,” he said. “I think it looks great and they’ve done a good job bringing in good dirt and a great track builder to make it happen.”
The track isn’t the only thing rebuilt. In the years since he last visited Muddy Creek, Osborne has transformed from a teenager learning the ropes to one fully dedicated to being the best in his sport. That means taking care of mind and body with a vigorious workout routine.
“I’m training, riding, doing cardio, just a mix of everything,” he said. “I like to say motocross is a three-dimensional sport, a lot more than just riding. You can’t ride every day, so you have to have a weird mix and have a lot of things go together.”