So it's official: Travis Pastrana is coming to NASCAR, with plans to run seven Nationwide Series races next season under the banner of his own newly formed team: Pastrana-Waltrip Racing.
Pastrana, the action sports star who has a legion of followers in an attractive demographic for NASCAR (young males), will get cars from Michael Waltrip Racing and get backing from Toyota (no sponsor was announced yet).
Those who have followed Pastrana's career know how huge this could be for NASCAR; the coveted X Games crowd could help revitalize a sport with an aging fan base – and one that has been searching for any boost.
For those who aren't familiar with Pastrana, all you have to do is look at these stats to understand his popularity: Pastrana has 1.6 million "likes" on his Facebook page (more than double the number for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and more than 64,000 followers on Twitter (a total that exceeds that of every Sprint Cup driver except for Juan Pablo Montoya).
But will this be Danica Patrick, Part II?
Patrick had a tremendous amount of hype about her arrival in NASCAR, but has been a major disappointment (no top-20 finishes in 11 starts).
One possible reason is Patrick jumped straight into the Nationwide Series without running a full ARCA or K&N East schedule, which seems to have hurt her results and steepened her learning curve. In the Nationwide Series, learning on the job has proven to be extremely difficult.
Pastrana is one of the most talented drivers you'll find anywhere, and a tremendously interesting personality – but he has little (if any) oval racing experience. Jumping into the Nationwide Series as Patrick did doesn't seem to be the wisest move.
The old "A-B-C" model (ARCA, Busch – now Nationwide – and then Cup racing) was a better ladder for new drivers than heading straight into the second-highest level of stock-car racing in the world, against drivers who have been racing ovals for their entire lives.Seeing Pastrana in NASCAR will undoubtedly be exciting, but unless he gets some more stock-car racing experience first, he'll be running in the back with Patrick.
Here's a video of his announcement: