Travis Pastrana locked into field for Nationwide debut

Nick Bromberg

Michael Waltrip Racing and RAB Racing announced an alliance on Tuesday that would ensure that motocross and X-Games star Travis Pastrana would be guaranteed a spot into the field for his Nationwide Series debut at Richmond on April 27.

Pastrana was supposed to make his debut last year at Indianapolis, but a broken foot and ankle in an X-Games crash put his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race on hold.

The alliance means that the No. 09 of RAB Racing will now be the No. 99 and will be driven by Pastrana and sponsored by Boost Mobile in all seven of his scheduled Nationwide Series races, and, according to Michael Waltrip, by other MWR drivers in any other races they so choose. RAB Racing had fielded the No. 09 for Kenny Wallace and had been searching for funding. Last week at Texas, Ryan Truex, younger brother of MWR Cup driver Martin Truex Jr., was in the car with sponsorship.

It's a deal that benefits both parties significantly. Pastrana doesn't have to qualify on time for the races he's in, and RAB Racing will have more equipment, less sponsorship to search for and more exposure thanks to Pastrana's presence. It's similar to the agreement that Stewart-Haas and Tommy Baldwin reached before the 20112 season to (hopefully) guarantee Danica Patrick's starting position in the No. 10 for her Cup races in 2012 and for the beginning of the 2013 season. In the Stewart-Haas and Baldwin arrangement, Patrick is in 10 Cup races in SHR equipment, while David Reutimann is in the No. 10 in TBR equipment for the other 26.

Yet, the agreement to give Patrick a locked in starting spot drew much criticism. This deal, so far, hasn't generated near the reaction and scrutiny. It's not an apples to apples comparison — the Patrick deal involved the owner's points of Baldwin's No. 36, and the equipment deals that each team has limited the true "alliance" aspect — but at the basic level, they are both the same thing: a team with a highly marketable driver and considerable resources partnering with a smaller one in need of said resources to guarantee that marketable driver's grid position. If you're against one, don't you have to be against the other?