ELKHART LAKE - When you've spent your life jumping out of airplanes sans parachute, base jumping in the Grand Canyon, and doing double back flips on a motorcycle, driving in circles could seem quite mundane. That's not the case according to action sports star turned NASCAR Nationwide series driver Travis Pastrana.
"If you saw the seat from my seat you're not getting bored. We're banging off of people, bouncing off of walls, and just trying to get it to the finish so it's been pretty exciting," Pastrana said.
Getting to the finish has been an issue at times for Pastrana. He's been unable to finish the race to due wrecks in three of his last five Nationwide races, including this past weekend at Iowa. Learning to bring the car in safely and doing so as fast as possible is all part of the learning curve.
"To get within three seconds of the top guys in the world's not hard," Pastrana said. "Every tenth after that gets more difficult. So we're within we're within two tenths but I have a feeling those two tenths are going to be extremely difficult to find. We're 99 percent there but that last percent is the difference between first and last."
As a member of the Roush Racing team Pastrana has teammates like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse to share information with during testing sessions. Pastrana said he's relied heavily on Edwards. The old seats from Edwards' car actually end up in Pastrana's car, so occasionally Edwards will jump behind the wheel of Pastrana's ride.
"When we go to a test he'll just jump into my car and feel right at home," Pastrana said. "I can get the telemetry off his car. We went to BIR (Bristol International Raceway) a couple of weeks ago just to test and I felt like I was going pretty good. I was pretty competitive with the other times and Carl jumps into my car and is two tenths quicker. I'm like whoa but I see it right there on paper. He's out breaking me. That's where he's making the time or this is where he's doing it. To know where the other guys is better allows me to be a better race car driver and to come to these tracks for the first time and hopefully and be competitive."
Even with a history of being a daredevil Pastrani said the faith that top NASCAR drivers show in their car has him amazed. He recalled a conversation with Trevor Bayne during one practice session.
"I said I don't understand man I can't go any faster." Were all four wheels drifting or just two, Bayne said to Pastrana. "I was like just two. He's like oh there you go you got the setup all wrong. You're kidding me. Every lap you have all four tires drifting around every corner. He goes if you want to win you do."
Pastrana said he's always relied on a willingness to do what others either can't or won't to differentiate himself from his competitors. That's no longer the case though according to Pastrana.
"In NASCAR I have to beat them on talent. I can't beat them on anything other than my dedication to telling the team what I need out of the car, knowing what I need out of the car, and being just a little more perfect than everyone else."
To that end Pastrana has been prepping hard for his first ever road race, the Johnsonville 200 which will be held June 22nd at Road America. He's run countless laps on the simulator, watched film, and this past week made a trip to the course in Elkhart Lake.
He left his initial session impressed. "Definitely cool to get out there and just get a feel for hills and just exactly how fast and tight it is because I tell ya what going down the front stretch in real life is definitely faster than you'll ever get on TV or the radio."
After countless broken bones and with a body no longer in mint condition thanks to numerous crashes throughout the various incarnations of his career Pastrana knows that his stuntman days may be numbered. He thinks NASCAR could be the long term career move that would provide him the rush of competition while also being relatively safer. To make sure NASCAR is even an option though, he understands he has to provide results.
"If I'm crashing the car all the time or I don't show that glimpse of brilliance every now and then to lead some laps, to be battling for the win. I think if I can do that this year, that's a success. I'm still naively optimistic about the road courses so I'm looking forward to coming here to Road America," Pastrana said during his testing session.
The effervescent Pastrana also explained why he continues to compete, even after passing nearly ever test put forth for him.
If I still have that big smile on my face and I'm ready to go out there and race (every morning) and compete against the best in the world then everything I've done is just a building block for everything I'm going to do. Every time I'm sore I get to think of a great story that goes with it so it's not so bad," Pastrana said with an ear-to-ear grin.
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