Mike Ogren is the American invader in Canada’s Nissan Micra Cup racing series.
Born and raised in Florida and currently living in the state of Michigan, he’s the only American driver racing this season and one of two international drivers competing – Britain’s Jake Exton, who now lives in Canada, being the other.
Ogren’s a rookie driver this year. He’s spent decades racing in amateur leagues and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), but decided 2018 was the year to make the jump to something new.
“I heard about this series internally by working as an engineer for Nissan. It sounded like a really cool thing to do,” Ogren said in an interview with OnPitRoad.com. “I reached out to some contacts within the organization to try and learn more.”
“I live in Michigan so the driving or travel distance is not so bad compared to any other entry-level or pro series. I’ve been racing SCCA and other amateur-type stuff for a while. I’ve been trying to find a way to jump into pro weekends or some sort of similar path.”
A challenge for any race car driver is finding the funding to compete. Sponsorship can be hard to acquire, but Ogren found his in an unorthodox way. He was watching a NASCAR XFINITY Series race and noticed Ryan Sieg’s sponsor, Lombard Bros. Gaming.
Sieg’s sponsor, which has since hopped on board for additional races, is a highly popular racing YouTube channel.
“We’ve been trying to put together the season racing in the Micra Cup and financing it the best we could ourselves,” Ogren said. “Of course, I’ve been doing pretty endless sponsor outreach trying to find some support for the season and trying to find anyone that’d be interested in helping.
“I saw the sponsor on Ryan Sieg’s car and reached out to the Lombard Bros. Gaming team and we started a conversation. We both kind of liked what the other had to say and it went from there. They’ve been super generous and really supportive of everything so far. I’m really happy to have them on board as a sponsor this season.”
One of the biggest challenges for Ogren is competing on brand new tracks.
The Micra Cup races 12 times a year on four different tracks across Ontario and Quebec. He’s never raced on any of the circuits, including this weekend’s beast, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“The season test was at [Circuit] ICAR Mirabel, which is very small and very different from it sounds like all the tracks on the schedule. The driving style and setup is very different versus CTMP, Calabogie [Motorsport Park] and the rest of the tracks on the schedule. The learning curve is going to be steep, but getting laps in the car itself should be helpful towards that challenge,” he said.
The rookie driver is also racing against several veteran drivers with plenty of experience in the series. Drivers like Olivier Bedard, who won the series’ first race of the season on Saturday, Kevin King, Normand Boyer and Valérie Limoges are common threats to win each outing. Ogren’s trying to add his name to that list.
“I’ve been trying to stay away from committing to a “numbers-type” goal, but basically we wouldn’t be doing if this I didn’t think we could be pretty competitive in it,” he said.
“I’d love be able to fight for a championship but a lot of these guys that are out there have been racing in the series for three years and they’re really fast, surprise surprise, right? I have a lot of respect from them and I’m trying to learn from all the fast guys and girls in the field. My ultimate goal is to try and fight for a championship, whether or not that comes to pass this season or next season.”
Mike Ogren and the rest of the Nissan Micra Cup field will hit the track at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for their second race of the season today at 3:10 p.m. The race can be seen live in its entirety on the Nissan Micra Cup Facebook page.