Much has been made of NASCAR's inability to cultivate young, personable stars. Whether it be due to a lack of funding by either the driver or the team, or a youngster's poor performance, the amount of young talent making their way into the higher levels of NASCAR has dwindled quickly.
Of course, falling television ratings and attendance numbers have caused great concern and rightfully so. It's hoped that budding feuds such as the Jeff Gordon-Jeff Burton saga last weekend at Texas will spark interest into the sport, but only time will tell.
However, interest into the sport may increase soon due to the impending arrival of arguably one of the most talented athletes/drivers today.
Thursday, Travis Pastrana—known for his exploits on dirt bikes and in rally cars—announced that he would form Pastrana-Waltrip Racing with Michael Waltrip Racing.
According to a press release on the Pastrana-Waltrip site, the nine-time X-Games gold medalist will compete in a Toyota for seven races in the Nationwide Series next season with a 20-race schedule in 2012.
The YouTube video attached to this article also seems to suggest that Pastrana's NASCAR effort will be supported by Red Bull and DC Shoes—two of his personal sponsors.
There's little doubt that Pastrana is one of the most well-known names in sports when it comes to younger demographics. In addition to being a focal point of X-Games coverage, he was a co-host of MTV's "Nitro Circus," a spinoff of the infamous "Jackass" series.
If Pastrana can bring even half of the audience that follows his motocross and rally careers (which will run concurrently with his NASCAR schedule), the sport will be open to a new audience with new sponsorship opportunities.
Additionally, it seems possible that even the smallest of successes for Pastrana could rub off on struggling drivers in the Nationwide Series with new sponsors introduced to their efforts.
Will he become another Danica Patrick? That is a question to be answered in the next couple of seasons.
Thoughts? Comment below.
Ryan Papaserge is a junior Journalism/Mass Communication student at St. Bonaventure University and a writing intern at Bleacher Report.