TRAVIS PASTRANA, No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota Camry, RAB Racing
How is your first day at Darlington? "Never really been scared in NASCAR until today, for sure. Everyone says every track you go to, 'Oh, this is the hardest track or this is this or this is different or challenging,' but never before have I been that scared that far along. It's definitely faster than it looks on TV and you have so much room to the inside, but there's only one line. You have to hit -- especially turn one -- you have to hit the inside, it slides all the way to the top no matter how slow or fast you go, so you might as well hold it pinned and see what happens. I kept lifting right at the end and they said, 'Well, the good drivers around here will hold it pinned,' so I did that and I spun a 720 down the backstretch and was able to keep it off the walls and realized maybe I'm not a good driver yet. We'll learn on that."
Was this the scariest moment you have had in sports? "No. Well, most scared I've been in a vehicle -- in anything with a roll cage, for sure. With rally, there's certain times that there's 100-foot cliffs or trees or snow or fog or whatever and that's scary, but this you know what's coming up and the fact that it is still scary is quite overwhelming. What you're looking at right now, I just barely tapped the wall. Most of the guys -- I watched Jimmie Johnson on the second lap get into the wall pretty hard and you're like, 'These are the best drivers pretty much in the world and they're hitting the wall and that's with nobody else on the track.'
What made you want to compete in NASCAR? "It seemed like a good idea at the time. Honestly, I know I can drive a car. I know I have good car control. We've been successful in cars and motorcycles and this is the most-competitive sport that I believe we have a shot at. It's going to take some time."
What are you goals for this weekend? "Well, the goal will be that they don't go by pretty fast. We'll try to do the best we can and my goal is to stay on the lead lap, which would mean that no one would be coming by us. Whether that goal is attainable or not, we will have to decide. When my spotter says, 'Hey, leaders coming behind,' then we will figure that out where to go, but for me the biggest thing is just to try to figure out how to -- I mean, the start of Richmond (International Raceway) we started out 25th, which I thought, 'Oh, we didn't qualify that well,' and I dropped to 35th in the first two laps. These guys, it's like sharks in the water. When they smell blood if you mess up a little bit, you're going back huge. If you run too wide here, you might get around that guy, but three other guys are going to come by you because you didn't get the drive off the corner. Everyone is like, 'It's going to take time. This track takes experience,' and we don't have any, so it's going to take some time."
What's your remaining NASCAR schedule like? "This is the fastest track that I have raced on -- ever raced. It's pretty neat for me. Definitely looking forward to running the K&N Series (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) -- it has been a lot of fun and definitely learning a lot at every race, even just with the fans and the tires just trying to -- not the fans like people in the stands, but fans like which ones you turn on to cool down which tires with tire blowers and stuff and just learning how to adjust the brake bias. There's a lot of things you can do as a driver that you can manipulate a car that's a good car or bad car. And to this point, I have just been working with the team and trying to tell those guys what I need to do to go faster. Now, they're telling me what I need to do in the car to make up for what we have. Just learning experience, so I'm trying to get on faster and faster tracks as we graduate from NASCAR and hopefully can finish this without too big a racing stripe and get the car around to the finish line."
How do you overcome fear? "That's a great question -- I'll tell you after the race. It's good. I really think we can go out there and I can overcome fear as well as anyone else, but it's just a matter of trying to do it in a safe manner -- do it in a way that we're going to be able to finish this race, so that's the toughest part is not just saying, 'Okay, I'm going to do this,' but saying, 'Alright, I'm going to do this and I'm not going to take anyone else or myself out in the process."
How do you feel about being 18th in practice today? "Honestly, 18th is way better than we had expected, as far as position, but we're still further off on times. The top-five cars are significantly quicker, if that makes any sense. This track has -- almost every other track I have raced, everyone has been really, really tight. This track because of the fear factor, because the line you have to be so spot on, everything has to be right. It takes guts. That first turn, you slide all the way up to the wall. You come in, you lift for a second, you pin it and just pray -- just hope it's going to work and hit that line right. I think that's what's going to be a huge separator and this one I've got to work a lot more with my spotter to figure out when we can drop back in line and when to take the last chances. A lot to learn. I definitely had no idea -- the iRacing simulator shows it, but it doesn't show how scary it is and it's going to be a learning experience"
How did you deal with the tires today? "Tires were good. We flat-spotted four really quick doing a spin, but was able to not hit the wall. Honestly, the tires feel really good lap two, three, four, five -- you feel like Superman out there. Then it just gets worse and worse and worse. You go from really loose at the beginning of the run to really tight at the end of the run. Talking to Mark Martin, he's like, 'No track on the circuit will you start out so free and end up so tight.' If you start out perfect, you're done at the end. If you start out too loose then you're going to crash before you get a chance for the perfect tires. The team is really good and they've pretty much told me, they said, 'Look, this is what you feel, but this is what you're going to run because this is what works.' I've got a good, experienced team and I'm going to listen to them."
How do you work with your team? "It's a team effort and that starts -- if you're just doing it on the weekends, that's not going to work. We have a great team, we have a great crew. Scott Zipadelli as a crew chief working together with Mike Greci, who was on the Michael Waltrip Racing team. All these different teams and all these different drivers -- Denny Hamlin really helped me out at Richmond. Mark Martin really helped me out here. All the drivers are coming in. Matt Crafton helps out everywhere. He got in the car today a little bit just to make sure what I was feeling. In Richmond, I was telling them all one thing and then when I got my line right, we went all the way back to exactly where we started at the end of practice. Matt jumped in at the beginning of this one to make sure we don't do that again. We'll start working in the right direction."
Why did you cut your hair? "I know, I was supposed to wait until I won something, but my wife said it was either divorce or cut hair. She wasn't too optimistic about my winning in the near future. A lot of confidence."