He was a star in his own right even before attempting to work his way up the ranks of America’s largest stock car auto racing sport. Nearly everyone under the age of 35 knows the name Travis Pastrana. He’s won medals at the X-Games, performed crazy and often dangerous stunts with the likes of the Nitro Circus and won titles in Rally Car and motocross racing.
All of that however wasn’t enough for the 29 year old Maryland native. A few years ago Pastrana headed to Florida on a whim almost to compete in a Silver Crown race featuring NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. Pastrana’s attitude towards NASCAR at the time can be evidenced by the t-shirt he wore that evening; emblazoned in a font and style similar to that used on the official NASCAR logo was the word ‘Boring’. Pastrana spent most the race towards the back of the field. But the sport of auto racing had started to get into his head. He began to chart a course towards someday racing in NASCAR.
In 2011 Pastrana made his NASCAR debut at the Toyota All Start Showdown in California. He was scheduled to make his debut in the Nationwide series later that year, but injuries suffered at the X-Games delayed that first race. His debut finally came in April of 2012. He went on to compete in 8 races race in the K&N Pro Series for Michael Waltrip Racing and 8 races in the Nationwide Series for RAB Racing. His best finish a 13 at Indy. But it was his last Nationwide race in 2012 that showed Pastrana where his future may lie. Pastrana finished a respectable 17, racing for Roush-Fenway Racing’s number 60 Ford.
Still Pastrana felt he had yet to really become immersed in NASCAR. After that race with Roush, at Richmond last September, Pastrana knew he had been recovering from the ankle he shattered at the X-Games and his first foray into the world of NASCAR was stunted somewhat. During the off season Pastrana and Roush came to a deal that will see him compete in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide series for the entire season; in other words he is all in.
Despite his shortened season last year, Pastrana said he did learn some things.
“Patience,” Pastrana said during the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Those first couple of laps I took with a race car, I dented in some part of a car that affected the handling. That surprised me every time – ‘That little dent right there is the reason we don’t have downforce on the front?!’ From action sports from where everything is adrenaline to (a sport where I have to have) patience. You have to get there. You have to make it in a good position to take that green-white checker – that last 20 or 30 laps.
That t-shirt making fun of NASCAR he wore at that first race turned out to be far from the truth.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Aren’t you bored out there?’ “Pastrana said. “I’m like,’ I’m white-knuckle grip out there. I got tendonitis in my right elbow with my first Nationwide race!’”
“It was just hanging on for dear life,” he added. “You’ve got to relax because honestly I’m sliding the whole time and that’s what you don’t see on TV is that. Man if you’re not right on the edge you’re getting crushed and if you are a little over the edge you’re burning your tires off and you’re going to be crushed a couple of laps in. So it’s been a frustrating challenge but also something that I just like wake up every night thinking of racing cars and I think anything you are that passionate about you got to give a shot.”
The friends he left behind in action sports have given him some good natured ribbing about his move, but according to Pastrana his fans will be right there with him.
“I’ve never caught more flack for doing something in my entire life,” he said. “But what’s really interesting is; you know Ricky Carmichael kind of paved the way and a lot of his fans some followed, some didn’t. With my fans a lot of them actually did follow over and are at least are checking it out.”
“If I can do well I think there’s going to be those eyes at least on the screens,” Pastrana added. “It’s going to take some time and definitely some ‘I told you so’s’ at the beginning but I’m here with the Roush team and I plan on being a champion here. “
While he may be ready for NASCAR, is NASCAR ready for the flamboyant Travis Pastrana? If his media appearance at the media tour is any indication, Pastrana won’t be just another driver. While the rest of the Roush drivers appeared in matching dark suits and gray shirts, Pastrana made his entrance wearing a purple plaid jacket, the familiar Red Bull hat on his head and sneakers.
“Well they said wear a suit. And this is the only suit I own so I gave it a go,” Pastrana said jokingly. “Eventually I might come around to the black suit… but I like my purple plaid.”
While he may be far from the vanilla drivers prevalent in NASCAR, the commitment Pastrana has to the sport was evident in his first phone call with Jack Roush. Pastrana said he wanted to be with Roush-Fenway and simply called the shop looking for the team owner. After going through a few people, he finally got his wish. And it was that first phone call the sealed the deal for Roush and Pastrana.
“(Jack) said what are you planning on doing in five years?” Pastrana said. “I said ‘well’, he said ‘no well’, what are you planning on doing? I said ‘I plan on racing NASCAR’ and he said ‘you plan on racing or you plan on winning?’ I said ‘sir, I plan on winning’. He said ‘alright then we can talk’. So obviously if it was a short term thing Jack wouldn’t even have considered it and the same with me. “
Now Pastrana and Roush are committed to run the full Nationwide season. Pastrana said he’s certainly ready to get things started now that the deal is done.
“This isn’t a team you go to or a place you go to, to see if you want to do it,” he said. “That’s what the last couple of years were for me and I’m in.”
As for what he will do in 2013 to bring new fans and his old ones into the sport, Pastrana become serious and answered that question very directly.
“I’m going to try to win.”
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2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Day 1
NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Day 2
NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway Day 3
NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Day 4
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