Put a guy who has made a living doing death-defying stunts on motorcycles and rally cars into a six-figure dollar NASCAR stock car for the very first time with a championship team and tell him to get up to speed – and oh yeah, don’t wreck it.
More often than not, thoughts of that scenario end with a racecar being loaded up in a shopping bag.
But, while motocross champion-turned-world class rally racer Travis Pastrana did make his first-ever laps in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East on Monday and Tuesday at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), there were not harrowing stories of cheating the Grim Reaper. There were no out of control stunts filmed to make teenagers bust out laughing for MTV. Instead, the star of “Nitro Circus” was all business as he made his first foray into NASCAR without a hitch.
“The first two days went absolutely great,” said Pastrana, who tested a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Championship winning car previously piloted by two-time East titlist Ryan Truex. “I’ve had a lot of time different cars and raced some different things, but I just didn’t know what the baseline was going to be. But, I’m very happy with things. The team was awesome and we had a great setup for a starting point. It was just really a lot of fun getting out there and getting a feel of the car. I picked it up pretty quick on time. I worked with a few different people out here to help coach me to figure out how to get more speed through the corners and not to do what we do in motocross and in rally - charge the corners too hard.
“I definitely had fun and didn’t crash either day, so I guess that’s a start.”
Pastrana will have to compete in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and/or West on several occasions before he can be approved to compete in the Nationwide Series with his newly-formed Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team. He will get his first crack at NASCAR racing at the Toyota All-Star Showdown on January 28th and 29th at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (CA), a race broadcast live on SPEED.
With a loyal fanbase from his previous stints in various forms of motorsports and a live television audience wondering if an “extreme sports” hero can cut it in NASCAR, Pastrana knows he has his work cut out for him come the Showdown and beyond.
“I felt like out times (in the test) were really good, but having said that, I’ve never been in a race with 42 other cars. So there’s going to be a huge learning experience. In rally, it’s just you on the track. Honestly I had the most struggle trying to do the qualifying laps. More than likely I’ll struggle on getting the racing, but I have great people around me and I’ll continually try and not crash out, continually get the laps that I need and just work on getting used to this and working from there.
"I think if I keep making progress, this team is doing everything possible to make it as easy as possible to do as good as I possibly can. Every driver out there wants to win, but it’s going to take time and I realize that.”
While NASCAR has seen many people from outside the stock car world try to come in and try to make a splash in recent years, some with more success than others, Pastrana is not looking to this move as strictly for financial or marketing gain. He made plenty of money over the years that this was not something he needed to put food on the table.
He’s doing it because he wants the challenge, which is something not all NASCAR newcomers can say.
“I think if you’re really passionate about something, you can find a way to make it happen. In my 27 years, I’ve been able to chase a lot of different dreams. Whenever I feel like I’ve done as much as I can do in a sport or be as successful as I want to, my passion kind of weans a little bit. For me, it’s always about trying to find that passion and wake up every morning thinking about nothing else other than what it’s going to take to get to the top of that sport.
“I think this is the biggest challenge I’ve ever had and it’s going to take a lot of time, but I’m willing to put the time in.”