For extreme sports star Travis Pastrana, running in the draft at Daytona was an eye-opening moment.
Travis Pastrana has a well-deserved reputation for being a daredevil, so it takes something monumental for him to lose his breath and give him pause.
Once such moment occurred in last week's season-opening race for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Daytona International Speedway, where Pastrana was running in large pack of cars with speeds in excess of 180 mph.
"It was just a complete, wild cluster," Pastrana said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. "We went into the first turn on the first lap and all of a sudden I turn in and it had always worked before, but in the pack the downforce was off the car, so I turned in and I was in the third row up on top and nothing happened.
"I missed the wall by about an inch at 200 miles an hour. I'm like, ‘Holy cow!'"
Smartly, Pastrana decided to collect himself and fall towards the rear of the field where he could log laps and get more acclimated to running a stock car in heavy traffic.
But as you would expect from someone who has shown a knack for going fast very quickly in a variety of disciplines, it took Pastrana little time to figure out how to use the draft to his advantage. And as the laps clicked by there was Pastrana in his psychedelic-looking No. 60 Ford up near the front.
Though, he would slide back to finish 10th, it was an impressive Daytona debut for the action sports star as he embarks on his first full season in Nationwide.
A different kind of challenge awaits him this weekend as he attempts to tackle the flat, one-mile Phoenix oval where speeds are far slower than they were at Daytona. Accordingly, Pastrana is adjusting his expectations for the weekend and the challenges the Arizona track offers.
"I was talking to all the other drivers and they said it's a really slick course, so you need to kind of have that seat-of-the-pants feel," he said. "Which I feel very good about driving cars and controlling stuff that's sideways, but I'm still getting used to that, ‘yeah, OK, it's about to break loose.
"I'd imagine this is gonna be one of my tougher tracks."
However, just as he did at Daytona, Pastrana has steadily improved every time he's turned a lap. He went from being 20th overall in first practice to 17th in final practice and subsequently clocked in the 12th-fastest time in qualifying.
"My goal is to be in the top 10," Pastrana said. "Whether that's realistic or not I'm not sure, but if we're running second on the last lap, I'm going for the win. We're not happy until we win, but if we could get around a 10th-place finish here this weekend, we'll be good."
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