X Games star has had an up-and-down adjustment as he tries to transform his success to NASCAR racing
JOLIET, Ill. -- The rough-and-tumble nature of Travis Pastrana’s first full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has taken some toll on the action sports star, but he still believes he’s making the grade.
And the season is getting better than a passing grade, to boot.
“Honestly, I grade it a C-plus, because I still have really great backing from Roush Fenway,” Pastrana said Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. “(Team owner) Jack Roush is always smiling, which is good. I did not (fore)see a lot of smiles out of him this year so I’m really excited.”
Pastrana enters Sunday’s STP 300 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) ranked 14th in the points standings as the Nationwide season makes its annual summer turn into the season’s second half. He’s had glimmers of promise in the first 17 races with three front-row starts, including his first Coors Light Pole Award at Talladega in May, but he’s also been sidelined early by four crashes, not all of his making.
Pastrana realizes it’s also early in the game, just 26 races into his young Nationwide career. But the man who has thus far made his name with motorcycle stunts and jumping out of airplanes is also aware that his fervent fan base and action-sports sponsors are accustomed to seeing him victorious.
“It’s just a different world,” Pastrana said. “I have sponsors who are waiting to see how I do. They want to see a win. They want to see performance. They know they can count on me in X Games so even if we don’t win, we’ll be up front battling and put on a show. In NASCAR, I haven’t proven that yet. I haven’t proven that I can be the guy that they can rely on. They can back (me) for a race, but for an entire season, I’m really looking for a long-term sponsor, someone that kind of fits.
“Eventually, you need to just make do and get to the races, but luckily I’m still in position where I can have a lot of fun and do a lot of other stuff, but I just want to be doing NASCAR. The other stuff’s fun, I enjoy it, and quite frankly, it gets pretty depressing when you want to win every weekend and you want to do well, but the harder you try, the slower you go. The more effort you put in, the more crashes you get into. It’s been a really tough year.”
Pastrana hasn’t doubted his team’s equipment or his willingness to learn, but the quartet of crash-related DNFs has slowed his progress. Regardless of fault, all four wrecks have gone in the record books as finishes outside of the top 30, numbers Pastrana hopes will improve with experience.
“It’s something that, in motocross, I was always able to be in the right place at the right time, since I’d done it since I was four years old,” he said. “Here, I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Yet Pastrana may have reason for optimism after last year’s performance at the Illinois track. Though he finished a middle-of-the-road 17th place, the finish marked a drastic improvement over his 1.5-mile track debut two months earlier at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he brought out two caution flags before winding up 24th.
“We started off extremely slow. Just wanted to make sure I didn’t spin,” Pastrana said. “I think I spun four times in Charlotte and just didn’t know what to expect at a mile and a half and the aerodynamic game, but by the end of the race, we were running top-10 times. This was actually my favorite mile and a half -- this, and Atlanta -- from last year, so I’m really excited to come back here.”
What hasn’t changed for Pastrana is his pursuit of the adrenaline rush, which he’s found in learning the stock-car ropes, racing in off-road truck and rallycross events, and two-wheeled motocross exploits.
Pastrana’s love of extreme sports hasn’t waned even though his participation in NASCAR has increased. Yet his attempts to involve his Roush Fenway Racing teammates in his action-filled world haven’t gone over so well.
“Carl Edwards said he wanted to go BASE jumping, so I lined it up and (Ricky) Stenhouse (Jr.) said ‘Yeah, I’ll come out!’ ” Pastrana said. “I guess someone in the office got a hold of them the day before I went because I was at the BASE jump place all by myself. I assume (Roush) is OK with me doing it, but he doesn’t want me dragging the rest of the crew into that shenanigans.”