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."