Yesterday Travis Pastrana, competitor on motorbikes and in rally cars and fearless stuntman, announced, in some style, that he intends running a seven race programme in 2011 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series as an owner-driver for the newly formed Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team.
Pastrana has won National championships in 125cc Motocross, 125cc Supercross, is a four-time winner of the Rally America title and is probably best known for his exploits in the X-Games. There he was the first person to perform a 360° backflip on a bike and nine years later the first to make a 720° backflip – that is turning over two complete rotations in the air and landing safely on his wheels. The X-Games had been running for nearly five years before anybody could beat him.
As well as his rallying success Pastrana has also driven in the 2006 Race of Champions in Stade de France, Paris, representing the United States of America and two months ago set the record for the fastest ascent of Mount Washington in a car. He has also jumped out of an aeroplane without a parachute and, in a carefully pre-planned manoeuvre, linked up with another jumper, attached himself to his harness and ended with a tandem ride back to earth. In January this year he drove a rally car off a pier at Long Beach harbour on to a floating barge, setting a new world distance record for ramp-to-ramp jumps.
In short, Travis Pastrana is a man who loves to challenge himself further and further. Tell him something can’t be done and that will be a trigger to make it happen.
Along the way he has suffered a colossal number of injuries, too many for him to remember them all, hence his gradual move towards cars. As he says, you can still drive a car with a broken wrist or ankle! Really?
In all his biking exploits he has been steadfastly loyal to Suzuki motorcycles and in his rallying career has always driven Subaru cars. His chosen car for his NASCAR racing, and presumably his deep loyalty, is Toyota.
There is no doubt that Pastrana will bring a large, new and young audience to NASCAR, especially the X-Games generation. That can be no bad thing. But you have to hope they realise that many people with more experience at racing than Pastrana have tried to make the transition, Juan Pablo Montoya, winner in Formula One and Indy Cars, Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick, both Indy Car winners, and have not had the seemingly natural and easy success that Pastrana has experienced before. NASCAR is more complicated and technical than casual observation would have you think and is seldom a path to instant glory.
Nevertheless Pastrana could well be a bright – and brash – breath of fresh air for NASCAR racing and deserves to be welcomed for that reason alone.
To get a taste of Travis Pastrana you could do a lot worse than go to www.pastranawaltrip.com and click on the link to the video clip or type “Travis Pastrana Nascar” into youtube. It’s as funny and bright as you could hope for – I just love all the reminders on the car, “Don’t go right!”