Travis Pastrana, a driver known world-wide for his exploits in motocross, the X Games, so-called “action” sports and ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumping, has begun what he says will be a difficult transition to NASCAR.
Pastrana ran test laps at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida Monday and Tuesday, driving a NASCAR-style stock car for the first time as he prepares for a schedule that has him running seven Nationwide races for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing in 2011.
It’s a brand new world, but Pastrana, 27, said Tuesday his first experience was a positive one.
“I definitely had fun, and I didn’t crash,” Pastrana said. “I guess that’s a start. It was absolutely awesome. The first step was an absolute blast.”
Pastrana drove a K&N Pro Series East car in the test and logged about 350 laps on the .48-mile track.
Pastrana’s NASCAR schedule for next season has not been finalized. He said Tuesday he will continue to participate in other motorsports while he works with a learning curve in Nationwide cars. He’s expected to run 20 Nationwide races in 2012.
“My first day was fairly consistent, and our times were really good,” he said. “Having said that, I’ve never been in a race with 42 other cars. There’s going to be a huge learning experience. More than likely, I’ll struggle for a bit. With any luck, we’ll be able to work as a team and try to not crash out and get the laps that I need. We’ll work up from wherever the first baseline is.”
Pastrana has had much success in an assortment of racing endeavors and has built a large fan base of action-sports-oriented fans. His hope and that of team owner Michael Waltrip is that many of those fans will follow him into NASCAR.
“I don’t expect to change the world, but I think it’s a good fit,” he said. “The fan base of action sports understands how awesome it is to be pitted against the best drivers. NASCAR is where the best go. That’s something any competitive individual can relate to.
“For me, it’s all about waking up every morning with passion. I’ve always been one to switch things maybe before I needed to or before other people thought it was wise. But I think if you’re really passionate about something you’ll find a way to make it happen.
“In my 27 years, I’ve been able to chase a lot of dreams. I’ve been able to wake up every morning thinking about nothing else other than getting to the top of whatever sport I’m in.
“People are going to expect a lot, but it’s not going to come right off the bat.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.