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Action sports superstar Travis Pastrana finally made his long-awaited NASCAR Nationwide Series debut on Friday night, finishing 22nd at Richmond International Raceway.
A pit road speeding penalty thwarted his shot at a top-15 finish, but he ran a respectable race other than that.
Here's what Pastrana and those close to his racing efforts had to say about his first NASCAR start.
Travis Pastrana, driver:
I had three goals when I started. One was finish the race. Two was to finish on the lead lap. So I did the first goal and didn't do the second goal.
My third goal was – I bet Ross Cathy, my friend from Chick-fil-A – that I'd donate some money to charity...if Danica (finished higher). I knew that was a long-shot bet, but we were so close to her at the end.
I had to go through the pit twice (due to a speeding penalty). I got on the gas at the end when I thought
it was the end (of pit road). I was like, 'Yeah!' Then I got out and I was like, 'Ahh, it was the yellow line, not the white one.' I was so stewed – just getting antsy at the pit. That was my first green-flag pit though. It was pretty cool.
Matt Crafton, Pastrana's driving coach and Camping World Truck Series driver:
He's learning every time he comes out. It's just amazing what he learns. I mean, he should have finished 15th to 17th if he didn't have the pit road speeding penalty. This was his second time ever on a radial tire and his seventh time ever in a stock car. So his progress is really amazing to me.
I wouldn't be here wasting my Friday night if I didn't believe in the guy. I didn't know if he was going to be one of those guys just coming in to do it just because he could, but you're never going to find a guy more determined than this guy.
God, he wants it. He calls me and talks to me quite a bit about it, and what to expect and what to learn. That's what makes me want to help him that much more.
Robby Benton, RAB Racing team owner and Pastrana's spotter:
I think the biggest thing we needed to do tonight was compare him relative (to someone with more experience). This being his first race, he exceeded all my expectations. Once we could get into a run and he found a rhythm, he had lap times that were good enough to run solidly in the top 15. He ran the last 10 or 12 laps in front of Kasey Kahne, who finished 10th.
I think he learned a lot tonight. If we could come back tomorrow, push re-do and do it all over again, he'd be much better for it.
Lyn-Z Pastrana, Pastrana's wife:
(Pastrana's mullet) is growing on me, actually. I kind of like it. I'm going to Australia on tour (she's a professional skateboarder) for three weeks, so it has time to grow out while I'm gone. They all thought I would disapprove (of the idea), but when I approved, they were like, 'Oh, shoot. Now he really has to do it.'
I thought he did great (in the race). To me, the best thing he could do was to finish the race and get the first one over with and just learn from it.
If you only saw the group of 40 (friends) in the stands. A bunch of the Maryland friends came out in a Red Bull party bus, and they were in the stands looking very much like Travis with the mullets.
But there are some (friends) like, 'What are you doing in NASCAR? Aren't you bored?' I thought I would be, but after the first race in Irwindale...I got way more into it.
Remember the "Pastranathon?" Or at least what was supposed to be the Pastranathon?
Last July, action sports superstar Travis Pastrana planned to pull double duty by participating in both the X Games in Los Angeles and the NASCAR Nationwide Series in Indianapolis – two deliciously cross-promoted ESPN events that would perhaps move some of Pastrana's young male fans to watch NASCAR for the first times in their lives.
But in an instant, those plans were destroyed. Pastrana's hard crash during the X Games spoiled his planned NASCAR debut, and he was out for the season. Now, nine months later, Pastrana will finally make his first Nationwide start – what he called "the biggest event of my life" – on Friday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Pastrana has the star power, the right attitude and the tools to succeed in the sport, provided he stays committed to it. So is he really in for the long haul?
"Anyone who has ever been to the top of any sport knows how much work it takes to get there," he said Thursday. "I'm willing to put in that work."
The 28-year-old Maryland native acknowledged any NASCAR success is "not going to be overnight," and in reality will be extremely difficult. His cousin, who will be a member of Pastrana's pit crew, will "be closer to the best tire carrier than I am to the best racer."
Pastrana completely understands he will not be finishing in the top 15 of the Nationwide Series race on Friday night or anytime soon. But with his K&N East Series schedule (he'll race one of those events tonight) giving him a chance to learn and make mistakes, at least he'll continue to get experience.
"A goal for me for this first (Nationwide) race – a goal that would be very, very difficult to reach – would be to stay on the lead lap," he said. "That's where we're coming in and starting. And even if we don't, that'll be our goal coming in for the next weekend. I've got to finish every lap of every race I can."
But the newlywed driver hopes success comes sooner than later – as does his wife, skateboarder Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins. Pastrana let NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson shave his hair into a mullet as part of this must-watch video, and Pastrana is vowing to keep the redneck-style haircut until he wins a race of some kind.
"I'm thinking to keep my marriage, I might have to go to a go-kart track this weekend," he joked.
Pastrana's legion of fans has had a "completely mixed reaction," he said, to his arrival in NASCAR. And the action sports industry he loves has "ridiculed" him for the move.
Pastrana believes that's just because they don't understand NASCAR yet. For example: He brought 10 friends to Daytona in February, and "they gave me flak the whole way down."
But they quickly changed their minds about the sport, though.
"Since that first car came by on that first green-flag lap, every single one of those guys is hooked," he said. "Every single one of those guys is going to be here (at Richmond), and they're bringing more people. It's a matter of just coming out and experiencing it."
He estimates 100 friends and family members will be in attendance at Richmond this weekend – many of them with mullets to salute his NASCAR debut.
The hard part, though, will be keeping fans interested in his progress if he struggles. If he pulls off that feat, it might just be the daredevil's best trick yet.
"I'm going to figure out how to get to the top of this sport, and that's where I want to go," he said. "... It doesn't matter how big of a fan base you have – if you suck, nobody is going to follow you after awhile."
Travis Pastrana will miss the remainder of the 2011 NASCAR season after surgery Wednesday night to repair the broken foot and ankle he sustained in the X Games.
Pastrana is expected to make a full recovery from his injury, but will spend the first month after the surgery with his right foot immobilized in traction. He'll be unable to apply any weight to his leg for another month after that.
As such, Pastrana's Nationwide Series season is over before it started. Pastrana was scheduled to run seven Nationwide races with his debut at Indianapolis. But he crashed at the X Games the night before the race.
"To give my ankle and foot time to heal properly, we have decided to wait until 2012 to make my NASCAR debut," Pastrana said in a statement released by the team. "I probably could have been ready for the final couple of races in 2011, but it just makes more sense to start fresh in 2012.
"We are already starting to talk about testing and what I need to do to prepare for next season. My sincere apologies go out to my NASCAR team, fans and sponsors for this delay. Thanks for all of the support. This will be a fun ride –eventually."
This is purely speculation, but it would make sense for Pastrana to make his Nationwide Series debut at Phoenix International Raceway – the second event of the 2012 season.
Throwing Pastrana to the wolves at Daytona with the two-car draft wouldn't seem to be a recipe for success, even though that's what Danica Patrick did.
Pastrana at least ran the K&N Series race at Phoenix earlier this year, and although the track is being reconfigured, some familiarity might offer a better opportunity for a debut.
This was supposed to be a grand weekend for Travis Pastrana, ESPN and NASCAR. The action sports star was to pull off his long-planned "Pastranathon," going back and forth from the X Games in Los Angeles to Indianapolis for his highly anticipated NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
Instead, this weekend has turned into one of incredible disappointment.
Pastrana crashed his bike during Thursday night's X Games Moto X Best Trick competition and Pastrana broke both his leg and foot, according to an ESPN.com report. The injury will require surgery, thus canceling his attempt to run the Nationwide Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
The lack of Pastrana's presence in the Nationwide race is a huge letdown for NASCAR and ESPN. The entire reason Pastrana was making his NASCAR national series debut this weekend was to provide a way to cross-promote NASCAR to the X Games demographic, and vice versa.
NASCAR and ESPN would like nothing more than for Pastrana's 18-24-year-old fans to tune in and give stock car racing a try. The Pastranathon would have made that an easy transition.
Now, it's over before it really even started. Pastrana has to be tremendously disappointed on a personal level.
Though he has six more Nationwide starts scheduled for the fall, it's unclear when Pastrana will recover and make his debut. With an injury like the one he sustained on Friday night, it might be awhile.
Travis Pastrana was slowly making progress in his second official NASCAR start, racing into the top 20 as friends and family looked on Thursday night at Richmond International Raceway.
But a rookie mistake late in the K&N Series race resulted in contact with the wall, and Pastrana ultimately finished 33rd. The race was won by Darrell Wallace Jr.
Pastrana, the action sports megastar, is beginning his career in NASCAR's lower-tier series in preparation for his Nationwide Series debut in July. He ran a respectable race but crashed late in his first official NASCAR start at Phoenix.
"That's why I'm here – for experience," he said after the Richmond race, walking through the garage. "Any time we can make an improvement, we're doing something in the right direction. I'm definitely disappointed in the finish and where we started from, but halfway through the race our lap times weren't that far off the (leader). I just gotta figure out how to get up there."
Pastrana, who jumped into a Late Model immediately after the K&N Series race to get more experience, said he made the pivotal mistake when he found himself "just kind of fixated on the driver in front of me."
He'd moved up to 18th at the time and was receiving high praise from his spotter and driver coach, Camping World Truck Series veteran Matt Crafton.
"When he went to the wall, I went an inch further and went into it and got the front tire (in the wall)," Pastrana said, somewhat sheepishly.
Pastrana said he struggled more than at Phoenix, which he called part of the learning process. He has discovered there's a lot more to each racetrack than he expected.
"They're all different – every turn of every track," he said. "Even on tracks (where the turns) look identical."
His confidence, though, is slowly improving.
"I definitely feel a lot better leaving this race than I did coming in," he said. "I'm leaving disappointed, but I'm getting some time out there. So that's good."
Travis Pastrana had just finished a disappointing 25th after crashing at the end of his first NASCAR points-paying race, and said he wasn't particularly happy with the result.
But when a group of fans yelled, "HEY TRAVIS! WOOO!" from the stands, he turned around and waved at them from pit road.
"I'll be up there in a couple minutes!" he called out pleasantly.
Sure enough, just as he had done after the Toyota All-Star Showdown in January, he finished his media interviews and hopped the pit road retaining wall, walked across the track and went up the steps into the stands.
A group of 20 or so fans quickly gathered at the opening in the fence under the flag stand, and Pastrana greeted them by saying, "Hey, what's up guys?"
For the next 15 minutes or so, he posed for pictures, signed autographs and answered questions about his race. He gave an unsolicited hug to one woman who said she was a big fan, and offered his trademark thumbs-up in every picture.
After the requests for autographs and photos dwindled, he pointed his green Sharpie at the group as if to say, "You good?" and looked around to double-check he had greeted everyone who came to see him.
When there were no more takers, he told the fans, "Thanks everyone for coming out today," shook a few hands and walked back across the track.
Above: Travis Pastrana went into the stands to greet fans after the K&N West Series race at Phoenix (Photo / Jeff Gluck, SB Nation)
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."
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