And so the great Travis Pastrana NASCAR Experience begins.
Pastrana tested a stock car for the first time at New Smyrna, Fla. earlier this week, rolling a K&N Pro Series East car through its paces. Pastrana plans to make seven Nationwide starts in 2011, and could make his NASCAR debut at the Toyota All-Star Showdown in California. (If he does, he won't be going against chump competition; last year's winner was a fella by the name of Joey Logano.)
"This is the biggest challenge that I've ever had," Pastrana said Tuesday in a teleconference. "It’s going to take a lot of time. I’m willing to put the time in ... There’s going to come a time when I need to focus on this more and that time is quickly approaching. I’m not taking it easy this first year, but to kind of understand and get a background of the entire sport."
Pastrana is aligning with Michael Waltrip Racing to form Pastrana Waltrip Racing, not a bad jump. He ran about 350 laps in the testing, which included veteran observers and crew members helping him understand the nuances of the car.
Pastrana, of course, is hailed as the latest would-be fan draw to NASCAR; like Danica Patrick, he brings star power without proven stock car talent. But even though Patrick had a miserable time on the track, she seemed willing to push farther and learn more as the year went on; if Pastrana exhibits the same kind of humility and willingness to learn, he'll find fans willing to embrace him.
Will the drivers? We'll see. Pastrana related an anecdote from the recent Race of Champions, where he won two of his three events but teammate Carl Edwards lost all three of his.
"I was giving him crap," Pastrana said. "And he goes, 'When I’m lapping you for the third time in your first Nationwide race, I’m going to put you in the wall.' He was joking, but that was pretty much the best advice he gave me: don’t expect to be running up front for a while." That, and when Carl Edwards tells you he's going to put you into a wall, it's a good idea to pay attention.