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January 17, 2023

23XI Racing taps Travis Pastrana for Daytona 500 bid

Travis Pastrana gets ready for an exhibition run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2022.
Vince Mignott
MB Media, Getty Images

23XI Racing announced Tuesday that the organization has added action-sports star Travis Pastrana to its driver roster for the season-opening Daytona 500.

The 23XI group teased the news last Friday through its social-media channels, and The Athletic reported hours later that the agreement was in place. Tuesday, the Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin-owned team rolled out its official plans for Pastrana to drive the No. 67 Black Rifle Coffee Company Toyota in stock-car racing’s biggest event – a deal that took root when Pastrana reached out with the initial idea.

RELATED: Daytona Speedweeks schedule | Full 2023 schedule

Should he qualify for the 40-car field, the Feb. 19 running of The Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) would mark Pastrana’s NASCAR Cup Series debut. The effort will be in a third 23XI entry alongside the No. 23 Toyota of Bubba Wallace and the No. 45 Camry for Tyler Reddick. Veteran Eric Phillips will be the No. 67 team’s crew chief, and Jason Hedlesky will assist as Pastrana’s spotter.

“With any luck, I’ll earn some respect in the battles and to be able to qualify and I can help the rest of my teammates to do the best they can,” said Pastrana, who noted his work with 23XI veteran Kurt Busch as part of his orientation. “And shoot, man, if we can have a good car and get a little bit of luck, I’d love to be up near the front, but I’ll take whatever I can get but I’m definitely not going to take the risk of ruining anyone else’s day to get there. For me, this is about being a part of the event.”

Pastrana, 39, most recently competed in NASCAR in 2020, driving in a pair of Craftsman Truck Series events for Niece Motorsports. He also progressed through NASCAR’s ladder system to an eventual full-season ride in the 2013 Xfinity Series with team owner Jack Roush.

That 33-race stint in his brightly colored No. 60 Ford produced one pole position (at Talladega), four top-10 finishes and Pastrana’s most extensive experience in stock cars. He has a total of 42 Xfinity Series starts, five appearances in the Truck Series and 11 starts in what is now known as the ARCA Menards Series East.

Pastrana recalled those days as “some of the greatest years of my life,” but acknowledged that his first phase in NASCAR coincided with starting a family and running a business with his Nitro Circus group, which didn’t allow him to invest as much time and work into shaping his stock-car skill. But he also recalled fondly bringing in a new audience and how much he learned from his first go-round.

“I got hook, line and sinker just trying to figure out how to drive NASCAR, and realized I didn’t know a lot about pavement, didn’t know a lot about rear-wheel drive and knew pretty much nothing about drafting,” Pastrana said of his first foray into the stock-car world. “But you know, had a lot of fun over a couple years and never made it to my goal. So kind of ran out of funding, had to reprioritize my life, got back on the top of rally and off road. Have some great sponsors with me right now and realize I’m not getting any younger.

“Right now, I feel like we have a great opportunity to take the sponsors and friends that I have, and with a new up-and-coming team with 23XI, they’re looking for a little bit of exposure and they have great backing with Toyota, it’s a phenomenal vehicle. They’ve done well in restrictor-plate races and kind of everything came together. And with the opportunity to kind of drive under a Michael Jordan-funded team, I said, ‘you know, let’s reach out. What’s the worst they can say?’ And, you know, everything kind of came together.”

Pastrana is best known for his endeavors in multiple action sports, where he has been a regular medal winner in the X Games on two wheels and four. His background is rooted in motocross and rally racing events and stunts, but he has also competed in stadium super trucks, monster trucks and sports cars; Pastrana shared a GT-class Ferrari with Michael Waltrip and others in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2012.

His history with the track included regular family gatherings to watch the “Great American Race,” but he also notched his first Supercross win at Daytona as a 16-year-old. His crossover appeal across multiple motorsports formats has worked both ways, as he’s invited NASCAR stars Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott into the rallycross world and brought Austin Cindric to tap back into those roots.

The No. 67 has been out of the Cup Series car number rotation since 2002, when Boris Said campaigned the number for two road-course events. The No. 199 that Pastrana has sported in other racing competitions was ruled out for his Daytona effort, but the No. 67 was for one, available, and two, a nod toward motocross legend Robbie Reynard, who rode with the plate number at points of his career.

Pastrana adds his name to an already intriguing short list of drivers with open, non-chartered teams hoping to reach the Daytona 500 starting grid through pole qualifying (Feb. 15) or the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races (Feb. 16). Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will attempt to make the field and his first start since 2020 with the newly re-branded Legacy Motor Club and its No. 84 Chevrolet.

The 40-car field will be made up of 36 chartered teams and four “open” entries without charters. Of those four, two will earn starting berths based on their qualifying speeds, and the other two will clinch starting spots through the twin 150-mile Duel qualifying races.

Pastrana said he’s aware of the mixed reaction that his Daytona effort has sparked from various racing communities, but noted that he was adamant that he wanted to earn his way into the field, rather than purchasing his way into a chartered ride. “If I don’t belong in that field, if I can’t make it through with a good car, then you know what, I don’t want to take a spot from anybody,” he said.

Tuesday’s announcement was step one in making his Daytona dream a reality. His on-track initiation into the Cup Series with qualifying and the 150-milers is barely a month away.

“I’ll definitely be prepared,” Pastrana said. “I’ll do the most homework that I can. I’ve got a great team, and they’re gonna help me every step of the way. … You know, like Kurt said, you’ve got to limit the mistakes. So if you can come out here, if you can do your job, if you can drive the way I think I can drive, and then everyone else hopes I can drive, not be a hindrance, we can do it, because we’re gonna have a great car to do it, and a great team to do it with.”