Travis Pastrana spun and wrecked his car with three laps remaining, ending what was otherwise a promising day for the action sports star in his first NASCAR points race – a K&N West Series race at Phoenix.
Pastrana, who is trying NASCAR for the first time this season, had kept his nose clean for most of the day and seemed poised for a top-10 finish until another car got loose underneath him and spun late in the race. Then, trying to be aggressive at the end, Pastrana overdrove the car and wrecked on his own, finishing 25th.
It was his second NASCAR event, but his first points-paying race. He also raced in January's Toyota All-Star Showdown.
Pastrana said the Phoenix result "kinda sucks," but said he "definitely learned a lot in both races."
"When we got sixth at Irwindale (in the All-Star Showdown), I felt like we were a 15th-place driver," he said. "Here, getting 25th, I felt like we were a sixth-place driver."
Pastrana noted during the race he was giving up too many positions on the restarts, which was a result of him being a "sally" (his term for a wuss).
The team then joked about him being a "sally" for the remainder of the race.
"That's going to haunt me," he said with a chuckle. "It's a fine line. Every time I thought I had more speed than the guy in front of me, I got passed. Really, I think it's just about being aggressive, but knowing when you can back off a little bit."
Thursday's race was just another small step in what Pastrana knows will be a long road to respectability in NASCAR. The ultimate goal, he said, is to make it to one of the top series like Nationwide or Sprint Cup and hear "people say that I can drive."
"He's not just motocross, he can come over here and not be a nuisance on the track," Pastrana said he hopes people will someday say of him. "I think every driver out here thinks he can be the best, and that's why we're all here. And I just really want to go to the most competitive sport in the world – where all the top drivers in the U.S. go. I want to put myself against them and see how I fare."
To get there, Pastrana says he's dedicated to NASCAR – at least as dedicated as he can be at the moment. This year, he's juggling NASCAR with his existing sponsor commitments in other forms of racing.
At 6 a.m. Friday, for example, he'll be driving his rally car in Missouri. Then he'll go to Australia the following week – after just returning from New Zealand a few days ago.
After this year, though, his schedule will free him up to focus entirely on NASCAR.
"This year is going to be difficult, but it is what I want to do," he said. "I will be at every opportunity to test, every opportunity to get into a car. I need to be here.
"People (might) say I'm not focused enough, but every night I dream about winning some races. I dream about NASCAR. And hopefully in the next two years, that is going to show through."
Pastrana said he's ready for the expectations – both good and bad. He knows some people will expect him to be competitive right away based on his reputation; he knows others will expect him to fail.
"After two or three races, people might go, 'Aw, this guy sucks!'" he said. "Or the opposite. They're like, 'Just because you did (motocross and rally cars), don't think you can just come in here with all this sponsorship or whatever and just be instantly good at this sport. You're going to fail and you're just going to be miserable.'"
Count race winner Greg Pursley among the group impressed by Pastrana on Thursday. He said for Pastrana's first time, "he actually surprised me."
"He's catching on pretty fast," Pursley said. "He'll do just fine. He's a smart guy – I look forward to seeing him do great things in this series."
"Crashing doesn't hurt quite as bad (in a car)," he said with a laugh.