On April 27 Travis Pastrana is headed to the Richmond International Speedway for his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut. After dominating motocross and rallying for years, Pastrana is now making the unbelievable transition into NASCAR. Travis has won numerous X Games Gold Medals and performed life-risking stunts on Nitro Circus, but presently the pressure is mounting as Travis revs up for his first prime time Nationwide Series race on ESPN2. The legendary motorsports competitor was the first to land a double backflip on a dirt bike, and even leapt from an airplane without a parachute. Now, the stakes for Travis are as high as they've ever been as he looks to command his spot amongst the best drivers in the world.
Complex recently spoke with Pastrana to discuss his upcoming Nationwide Series debut and transition into NASCAR. Here's what the record-breaking athlete had to say.
Your transition from motocross to rallying was impressive, but now it's NASCAR. Do you feel like your previous experiences have helped prepare you for the new pressures that come with racing NASCAR?
Without a doubt, racing anything is beneficial. Knowing how everything works, being able to find lines. In motocross and rally, I had dirt to dirt. I knew how to read lines, I knew how to look for traction. But, I had to basically learn everything about cars. I've driven my whole life, raced Go-Carts, but this is something really new. I had to listen to the co-driver, and really trust him, and trust the team. I moved from just one mechanic (in motocross) to rally where we had three. With NASCAR, there's probably like 40-50 guys that touch my car before I can even get in it. Just learning how to communicate and listen to the spotter and understand what he's saying. We're sort of starting from the bottom of the barrel, but I do think my other previous races are beneficial. Maybe not exactly comparable, but definitely beneficial.
"THIS IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT I'VE EVER TAKEN ON."
You'll be making your NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Richmond on April 27. After just a few K&N Pro Series starts, how are you feeling about your first Nationwide appearance?
We have our work cut out for us. It's been exciting. By the end of the day, I can usually get up there and run lap times as fast as anybody. I know we can do this. It's all about communication. We've got a great team with Michael Waltrip Racing working together with RAB Racing, my crew chief has been with us for the past year and a half, plus my cousin in the pit crew, so there's been a lot of familiar faces. I'm in the Toyota #99 so my goal is to stay in the lead lap.
How important is it for you to come out strong for your first Nationwide Series debut? Is there any added pressure or expectations you've placed on yourself?
I think it's great making my debut so close to home. I have over 100 tickets for immediate friends and family. But, being so close to home and this being my first race, there's a lot of expectations. Being realistic about this, I know I can drive a car, I know I have great car control and I've be successful in the car, and I know I will get there, but we're talking the difference between 3/10 of a second and challenging for the lead. Realistically for me, we want to qualify as best we can and not crash out the first race.
Have your friends and family been supportive about your transition into NASCAR?
Yes and no. Close family and the people that care for my health have been very excited (Laughs). I don't think too many people move to a sport where you go three-wide at 200 mph. The fans have been a little less than enthusiastic coming from the actions sports world, but I don't think they've seen enough NASCAR races to understand how competitive it is and how much fun it is. You're always pushing, sliding, bumping, banging. It's a good time. For me, this is the biggest challenge that I've ever taken on, and it's going to take time.
Have you had a chance to speak to any of the veterans you'll be racing against? Did they have any advice for you?
I've had so much help form the NASCAR community. I have some longtime friends like Jimmy Johnson, new friends like Michael Waltrip and Matt Crafton. Coming from a different sport, I've had so much more support from not only sponsors, but also other drivers that are excited to see me come in. They've definitely gone out of there way to help me and that's been really cool.
Do you feel like anyone will be gunning for you a little bit?
I know there's a lot of people who want to help me, but, if they're behind me, I know they're thinking "There's no way I'm getting beat by him." It's like Danica Patrick. It doesn't matter how good of a driver she is, everyone is like "I'm not getting beat by a girl, I'm not getting beat her." You've got to earn your respect out there. We made it through the first couple of races without crashing, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Finally, how's the ankle?
The ankle is great for the car. No excuses. I'm ready to race.
* Catch Travis Pastrana on Friday, April 27 at 7pm on ESPN2 for his Nationwide Series debut.