News & Media


Injury scuttles Pastrana's Nationwide debut

July 29, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a plan too good to turn down: Have Travis Pastrana make his NASCAR national-series debut in Indianapolis during one of the sport's biggest weekends, just days after wowing the X Games with another daredevil trick.

Gravity, though, had other ideas. Pastrana's first Nationwide Series race is now on hold after the extreme sports star broke his right foot and ankle in a crash during the X Games on Thursday night in Los Angeles, the driver's Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team has confirmed. Pastrana's No. 99 car was withdrawn from Saturday night's event at Lucas Oil Raceway, and the transporter headed back to the shop in North Carolina.

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Pastrana will now need surgery to repair the damage, which came during his second attempt at landing a 720-degree rotation on his motorcycle -- a trick he called "the toilet paper roll." Team co-owner Michael Waltrip hopes his partner will be recovered in time to debut at Richmond, the second of what had been seven scheduled Nationwide Series attempts this season.

"We knew there was a risk, but when you say the name Travis Pastrana, what's the first thing you think? Risk," Waltrip said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "That's how he lives. It was a chance to do something that was going to be so beneficial for our sponsor ... and for the sport. To have so many people tuned in to what Travis was doing, coming from the X Games to NASCAR, and all the eyeballs that was going to cast upon our sport, it was too good to pass up. Now, we understood he might get hurt. Now, I want to tell you, I'm na ve. When I think of Travis Pastrana, I think of Superman, and I just assumed it would all be OK."

After Pastrana crashed hard on his second attempt to land the double-rotation trick in the Moto X competition, it quickly became clear all wasn't OK. Pastrana pounded the dirt-covered floor of the Staples Center with his fist, and had to be helped from the arena. X-rays taken soon afterward confirmed the damage. The injury was a clear disappointment to an industry that had anticipated the national-series debut of the crossover star, who is an 11-time X Games gold medalist as well as an accomplished rally racer and motorcyclist.

"With Pastrana, the whole reason people are interested is because he does that sort of thing," said Kenny Francis, crew chief at Red Bull Racing, a team that has a little experience with daredevil activities. "He's a good athlete, and he gets out on the edge. You get out on the edge, you're going to fall sometimes and get hurt. It's unfortunate that's probably going to delay his NASCAR debut ... but at the same time, that's what makes him interesting."

Pastrana is no stranger to injuries; he's broken numerous bones, suffered multiple concussions, and has had surgery more than a dozen times on his knees alone. The event in which he was hurt Thursday is an ESPN-created extreme sports festival. "It's not a surprise to me he was going to try something very difficult," said Rich Feinberg, vice president for motorsports at the network. "That's who he is and why I think he has the respect of so many fans. With that comes risk for the rest of the weekend."

And the alteration of carefully laid plans. Waltrip said he received an email Thursday night from Pastrana in which the driver said he was "devastated," but also committed to eventually putting the injuries behind him and moving forward in his NASCAR career. Pastrana had competed in a handful of lower-level races to get ready for Saturday night's planned Nationwide debut, including four starts on NASCAR's K&N Pro Series and one late model event at Lucas Oil Raceway.

"He was prepared," Waltrip said. "He just couldn't quite land the jump."

Pastrana knew going into Thursday night that his X Games trick would be difficult.

"In four years of doing this, you would think I would have enough talent or enough intelligence to either quit or to have it dialed [in]," Pastrana said in a chat with NASCAR.COM on Tuesday. "Right now, [I'm] about 8 for 10. Eight out of 10 is pretty good, and I'm like, 'That's probably the best odds I'm ever going to get out of this trick.' The problem is if I get No. 9 or 10, I'm probably not making it to Indianapolis."

Waltrip said it was the decision of car sponsor Boost Mobile to pull the No. 99 car for Saturday rather than use another driver. Now he waits on Pastrana to have surgery, and to see if the action-sports star recovers in time to make his next scheduled Nationwide Series attempt at Richmond in September.

"If it isn't Richmond, we'll move it back to when it's appropriate," Waltrip said. "But if you could read this email I got last night ... I wanted to cry, because he was so beat up and down over not his foot being broke, but the fans that were looking so much forward to it, breaking their hearts."