Travis Pastrana's final NASCAR race of the season was on pace to be his best until he made a mistake in the closing laps on Saturday night at Atlanta, hitting the wall with 26 laps to go.
The incident derailed what had been the best drive of his career since coming to the Nationwide Series at the start of the season, and he even led the first laps of his NASCAR career – the result of staying out under caution as the leaders pitted on lap 119.
But Pastrana's position wasn't entirely the result of a fluke. The X Games star had managed to stay on the lead lap for the majority of the first half of the race, even as Kevin Harvick had lapped over half the field. Pastrana had looked more than competitive in the early going.
Pastrana, who recently starred in the Nitro Circus 3D movie, admitted he was excited and nervous leading his first laps on a restart, describing it as a "really cool feeling."
Though he was swallowed up by the cars behind him on the lap 127 restart – most of them on fresher tires – it taught him a valuable lesson in tire management in his transition to NASCAR. Pastrana's older tires did not stick as well as those with fresher rubber and Pastrana rode up the banking in Turn 4 and pancaked the outside retaining wall.
He drove his car to pit road, received repairs and finished the race in 26th, 22 laps down.
"I learned that you can't keep running that pace on tires that have an extra 20 laps on them, especially at this track on those tires, but we were," Pastrana said. "We could do it for a few laps. It's just a matter of it going to bite you eventually, you need to start back in the corner, and I paid the price for it."
Atlanta was the final race of his planned eight-race Nationwide Series schedule this season.