Motocross superstar Travis Pastrana was set to make his NASCAR debut this past weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in a Nationwide Series race, but following a crash at X Games 17 in which he broke his right foot and ankle, his plans are on hold.
Pastrana is slated to drive the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota Camry for seven races as a part of Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, however, Pastrana’s injury has put his entrance into NASCAR in jeopardy. There are no immediate plans for when Pastrana might debut, but it’s possible that he could miss the entire season.
Regardless, Pastrana will eventually try his hand at NASCAR, whether it be this year or next. Although Pastrana has no previous experience in stock car racing, he has had a great deal of success in rally cars, winning Rally America National Series Championship on four occasions.
Of course rally racing and stock car racing are completely different animals, so it remains to be seen whether Pastrana’s success as a driver will translate. Here are 10 bold predictions for Travis Pastrana’s eventual foray into NASCAR.
While neither Pastrana nor his camp have come out and said that Pastrana would miss any races in addition to his previously scheduled debut, one has to believe that Pastrana will have trouble making it back any time soon. Outside of Indy, Pastrana was expected to compete in six other Nationwide races this season.
However, the next isn’t until Richmond on Sept. 9, meaning he will have over a month to heal. With a broken right foot and ankle, his ability to drive could be severely compromised, though. Considering the fact that the right foot is the pedal foot, there will be a lot of stress applied to it. I do think Pastrana will make his debut this season, but I’m guessing it won’t be until Nov. 5 at Texas. This will also allow him to race at Phoenix and Homestead to close out the season.
I won’t pretend to know anything about Pastrana’s personality, but regardless of how great of a person he may be, I get the feeling that the regular Nationwide drivers aren’t anticipating his debut with great excitement. For one, when side-show acts like Pastrana make an appearance, it takes the focus off of the true drivers. Guys like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier are trying to make a name for themselves but will likely be overshadowed by Pastrana.
Also, a lot of the drivers may view NASCAR as Pastrana’s thrill ride du jour. Pastrana could very well be fully committed to becoming a great NASCAR driver, but with so many other things on his plate (motocross, supercross, rally cars), it could be perceived that he’s just looking for some quick publicity. No matter what his intentions are, though, I wouldn’t expect the other drivers to go out of their way to help him.
Seeing as Pastrana has never driven a stock car, it’s extremely difficult to predict how he might fare. I get the feeling that Pastrana thinks driving a stock car will come naturally, but I think he’ll be in for a rude awakening. His mastery of all other things with engines really means nothing because the level of competition in NASCAR is at a completely different level.
There are a lot of factors at work in a NASCAR race, some of which Pastrana will be able to control, and some of which he won’t. The motorsports in which Pastrana has previous experience in have a lot to do with taking chances. While there’s a place for that in NASCAR, he’ll have to learn to be patient and let things come to him. I think he might be a little antsy in his first few races, and he could very well pay for it in the form of a DNF or a generally poor finish.
Travis Pastrana is fairly untraditional when it comes to NASCAR drivers, so while the hardcore fans may not exactly embrace him, there is a good chance that NASCAR will gain a new group of fans because of him. Pastrana’s current fans are generally X Games fans and they tend to be a little on the younger side. I’m not sure how good NASCAR is at attracting young fans, but I would assume that most NASCAR fans are on the older side.
Pastrana’s entrance into the world of NASCAR could help the sport latch onto the always valued age demographic of 18 to 25. Because of that, Pastrana has the potential to become a cash cow for NASCAR. It’s difficult to say whether he will truly be able to change the culture of NASCAR fans alone, but he should have some effect. With the current NASCAR demographic generally aging, a youth infusion in terms of fans could really help the sport rebound.
One of the most important and underrated skills needed to be a successful NASCAR driver is to stay on the track for the entire duration of the race. It may sound like a simple enough thing to do, but too many times inexperienced drivers get involved in wrecks due either to impatience or an inability to sufficiently react to what is going on around them.
With Pastrana’s background of risk taking, it stands to reason that he is a prime candidate to pile up some DNFs. Rather than just being happy with a good finish and taking what the rest of the field gives him, I get the impression that Pastrana has a Ricky Bobby-esque “If you ain’t first, you’re last” mentality. That may be completely off base, but if he wants to be successful in NASCAR, he needs to keep his car intact and refrain from taking unnecessary risks.
While Pastrana’s eventual debut will certainly draw some added media attention, it will be but a blip compared to the coverage Danica Patrick received when she first started competing on the Nationwide Series. When it comes to Pastrana, he may be the best in his sport of choice at the moment, but something like motocross is nothing more than a niche sport. Thus, the general population doesn’t care about him too much.
Danica, on the other hand, has competed in what was once the premier racing league in America, the IRL. Also, the fact that she’s an attractive woman who achieved some success at a high level of auto racing (winning a race in Japan, winning Rookie of the Year, leading laps at Indy) naturally makes her a media sweetheart. Again, Pastrana will prompt some added coverage, but it will generally be business as usual when he debuts unlike Danica who basically stole the show.
It may seem obvious to the more dedicated NASCAR fans that Pastrana won’t just show up and dominate, but I think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations when stars from other forms of racing debut in NASCAR. Even if Pastrana is a natural, the chances of him taking the Nationwide Series by storm are slim. His rally car background may help a bit, but there are too many differences to ignore.
Rallying takes place on rough terrain and uses road-legal cars. It really has no relation to stock car racing other than the fact that you’re driving a car. With that said, Pastrana really has no experience and he’ll have to take some lumps as he’ll be debuting on NASCAR’s second-best circuit. If Pastrana is willing to gain some much-needed experience and realize that he won’t be the best right away, he has a chance to excel at some point. If not, NASCAR may not be for him.
Generally speaking, X Games competitors are natural-born thrill seekers. With that said, I think Travis Pastrana is just looking to try something that he never has before. He has already conquered motocross and rally racing, so he’s more than likely just looking for a new challenge. As great as that is, I highly doubt that Pastrana is planning to make a long-term commitment.
If he is immediately great, perhaps he will be willing to stick around, but I don’t see that happening. If he struggles, I just don’t see him staying and attempting to hone his craft, though. If NASCAR doesn’t work out for him, nothing is stopping Pastrana from just moving on to the next sport. As good as it would be for NASCAR if he succeeds, I have doubts about his true motives.
The bulk of NASCAR’s fan base resides in the South, and they’re very particular about the drivers that they approve of. Although Pastrana was born and raised in Maryland, he is of Puerto Rican descent and he possesses that California, laid-back attitude. This isn’t something that goes over too well with NASCAR’s core fan base, and it’s the main reason why guys like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are generally hated.
Being the villain isn’t something that Pastrana is used to as he is exceedingly popular as an extreme sports competitor. He’ll probably have to take on that role in NASCAR, though, and it remains to be seen how he’ll handle it. If he embraces it he could become a huge success, but if he is too thin-skinned and allows it to bother him, it could really stunt his development. Pastrana will surely have his own group of fans, but it simply won’t compare to the popularity he is used to.
Call me a cynic, but I just don’t see NASCAR greatness in Travis Pastrana’s future. He may very well have all the talent in the world, but I really question whether he actually wants to be great. I think Pastrana’s foray into NASCAR has as much to do with garnering publicity to create interest in his other ventures as anything. With that said, I only see him sticking around for a year or two before going back to doing what he does best full time.
As non-NASCAR celebrity of sorts, Pastrana will have a great burden of unrealistic expectations placed upon his shoulders. The media as well as casual NASCAR fans will expect him to be great from the get go. The reality is, however, that he has no racing experience that can measure up to what it’s like to compete in NASCAR. I think Pastrana will really struggle to register good finishes, and ultimately he’ll come to the conclusion that NASCAR isn’t for him.