It’s been a lot of fun, just getting into the car and getting to really meet and drive with some of the guys.
TRAVIS PASTRANA, Pastrana-Waltrip Racing
What has your experience been like so far in NASCAR? “It’s been a lot of fun, just getting into the car and getting to really meet and drive with some of the guys. Michael (Waltrip) has just been awesome as well as Matt Crafton, who has been kind of a driver coach. Coming from the Truck side to just really help out and doing a lot of the spotting for me. It was my third race on the K&N Series. I did the K&N East-West Shootout in Irwindale. Felt like we drove the worst there. Just kind of drove around, but we ended up sixth which was our best finish so far. Learned something every lap for sure. I definitely had a tough go yesterday trying to jump from car to car. I have a lot of respect -- always did -- but have a lot more for guys like Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin and all of those guys that can jump from one car to the other because it was very difficult for me. We qualified very far back in the K&N Series, but we were able to work our way up a little bit and had a little brush with the wall and ended up with a flat tire. It was a rough end of the day.”
What are you learning about the big-pack, side-by-side racing? “It’s definitely huge. I didn’t really think of the aero game as far as the aerodynamics and the wind. When I come in on the inside and you’d go to make the same move if you were right up next to a car on the outside your car wouldn’t turn and you would just both go up and vice versa. You’d go to pass someone on the outside -- I found that when I was on the outside of someone they didn’t turn and unfortunately we’d go straight to the outside wall. Definitely lesson learned on that one. I’m sure I’ll probably make that mistake again, but hopefully I will at least come into it knowing what a possibility it is there. Also, just learning that when you get in with a big group it was tough. We were the middle car and there was a car in front of me and a car behind me, a car beside me and two-wide all the way through and just kind of got fixated on the cars that were directly in front of me and to the side and wasn’t really paying attention to the braking points as much. Kind of just started following them around the race track as opposed to trying to drive myself and make something happen. Learned a lot. I think qualifying way back -- we qualified 29th and I was very disappointed, but it was good because it gave me an opportunity to be the faster car in that area and to be able to try to move up and learn how to pass these guys.”
Can you compare the effort you are putting into NASCAR with one of the stunts that you’ve done? “I’d say for me the double back flip might be the one I’m known the most for with the freestyle motocross. That was actually a four-year process. People never really see that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, coming in here I’m going to have that four-year process in front of a lot of people -- a lot of eyes. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Although I feel like we have great experience in racing coming from the motocross and good experience in a car coming from Rally, it really doesn’t matter what you are coming from. This is a new series and these guys are the best at what they do. It’s definitely been a huge challenge. I’ve learned more than I thought. I’ve learned more than I thought there was to know and I haven’t even chipped the iceberg. It’s going to be a very long process, but I’m really looking forward to it. And, with Michael (Waltrip) a guy that had done so many races before his first win and really understands that this is not an easy sport, but if you really stick with it I think that’s what we are in for. We’re in to figure out how to drive this car and that’s the goal.”
Do you think NASCAR will be more difficult than the double back flip? “Racing is always more difficult than any single trick, because with the trick you only have the variable of yourself and whatever machinery you’re working with. With racing, you can say you’re going to do something, you can say you’re going to win, you can set a New Years resolution, but basically it comes down to what everyone else is doing too because you’re not the only one that’s training hard or you’re not the only one that is studying film. That’s learning every single race. It’s going to be very difficult.”
We’re in to figure out how to drive this car and that’s the goal.
How do the skills you’ve acquired on two wheels cross over to four wheels? “I think everything is about finding the balance. That’s just my personal experience. No matter what I’ve driven or what I’ve ridden or even anything that you do is finding the balance of the motorcycle, the car. Skydiving and finding the balance of your body and gymnastics. It’s all very relevant to trying to find the balance of the car to make the car go faster. The toughest part about NASCAR is that there’s so many guys that are so close that something very, very small makes a huge difference.”
Have you talked to Juan Pablo Montoya or Sam Hornish about the transition of going from open wheel to a stock car? “Yeah, I talked to (Juan Pablo) Montoya a little bit, but not too much. Their transition was a little different coming from pavement to pavement where as I’m coming from mostly a dirt background. Definitely think that there’s a lot that I can learn from everybody out there. Carl Edwards going over to the Race of Champions with him, and just Jimmie Johnson, he’s been a friend for quite some time. Jimmie coming from the off-road as well way back when he was with the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series and doing some of the Baja stuff and whatnot and also growing up as a motocross racer. I think for the most part that it’s talking to guys like Ricky Carmichael and stuff that have more of a direct route and seeing how well -- Ricky, everyone is like he’ll never make it and this and that. The last couple races in the truck he’s been very competitive. That’s just kind of the determination of him and not having a lot of experience in cars before he even started. It’s been a four or five year road for him. I know that it’s going to take a lot of time and definitely talking to those guys helps. At the same time, it’s getting that experience. I could tell you how I want to go around that track and I could tell you everything -- well not everything, but I can tell you a lot of stuff that I’m doing wrong right off-hand. But, it’s the difference between knowing what you’re doing wrong and actually being able to adapt it and do it right.”
How has this experience changed your perspective on NASCAR? “I think it has kind of changed the perspective a little bit. Especially when Ricky (Carmichael) came in -- like I said before. It wasn’t on a lot of radars of the action sports community. And, now that you see a lot of people kind of watching -- giving it a little bit. Everyone knows that to be at the top of any sport is very difficult. But, you watch these guys that you know that are very coordinated, can kind of do whatever -- (Ricky) Carmichael, (Brian) Deegan -- they jump into anything -- a gokart and they’ll be the fastest at that track on that given day. It’s very eye-opening to a lot of the guys to see. It did take the ‘GOAT’ -- the greatest of all time -- so long to get there. I was actually thinking it was probably going to take longer. It’s just a matter of putting the time in and the effort in, and that’s not a guarantee you’re going to make it. I know we have a long road ahead of us. Hopefully, you’ll see a lot more of the action sports guys bringing some of the outside sponsors and the outside industry, as well as the reputation or action sports, and really sticking with it. That's the thing. If we all come in and we’re like ‘We can’t do it.’ We jump out and that really doesn’t do a lot of good for anybody. If we’re coming in and saying okay now with all these guys coming in it’s kind of a battle amongst ourselves. I don’t want to get beat by (Brian) Deegan. I definitely don’t want to get beat by (Ricky) Carmichael. And these guys are the people -- there are more guys that are going to come in and going to say the same thing and this is what is going to motivate us to try to get up further and further and give us all something to shoot for. ”
I want to make it to the top and if as long as we are still making progress -- we can keep the sponsorship.
Do you have a timeline for your NASCAR career? “Timeline is going to be -- it’s not something that I’m setting goals. If we’re making progress -- we’re on our timeline. Whether that’s two years, five years or 15 years. I want to make it to the top and if as long as we are still making progress -- we can keep the sponsorship. With Michael (Waltrip) it's been just amazing -- the whole team has really rallied and we’re all really pumped. It’s always easier when you have something that’s new and interesting. You’re like, ‘What’s going to happen.’ There’s going to be ups and downs and yesterday was definitely a down for sure, but it was a huge learning experience. You know, you step off the track and you are very disappointed. You’re like, ‘I wanted to have this finish, I wanted to have this result.’ But, in the end, this first year for me is a learning year. I need to figure out where I need to go. I need to figure out -- wherever we are -- that’s our starting point. Obviously, every race our hopes are just come in and go that way easy. That’s not going to be the case.”
How has the fan reaction been? “It was really mixed at first. Anyone that says they wouldn’t try it given an opportunity, they’re lying to your face. For the motocross industry, everyone’s like, ‘Oh what -- everyone just switching to roll cages or this and that.’ The more guys that are switching the more they’re realizing -- I mean what do you do at 30-years-old and you’re not going to be competitive in motocross. There are exceptions like John Dowd. For the most part, there’s physical abuse on your body. These are the most competitive people in the world. Any sport. If you’re at the top of the spot -- you live, you eat, you breathe, you sleep your sport. There are guys that have been at the top that know what it’s like to be at the top. They need that in their life. There’s nothing else that really compares to the sport of NASCAR as far as competition. So no matter what you’ve accomplished. This is where you want to go. And the crowd, whether they understand that initially or not -- that’s why you’re seeing some many action sports stars come in. That’s why you’re seeing so many guys that want to be a part of NASCAR from all over, from all other genres, because it is the most competitive sport in the world and they want to try their hand at that -- not because it’s easy. Not because they think they can make money. Most of them are coming already with bank accounts that will allow them to sit at home and do nothing. They’re coming because it’s the best competition in the world and they want to be a part of it. At least that’s why I’m over here.”
What are you planning for the X-Games best trick competition and for your debut at Lucas Oil Raceway? “Best trick I’ve pretty much decided it’s either going to be this one trick or nothing. I could probably do a variation of a double back flip and definitely be in the medals -- if not the gold medal position. But, for me, freestyle’s always been about innovation. This year has definitely been tough with the ‘Nitro Circus’ -- we’re filming a 3D movie with that. We’re doing a ‘Nitro Circus’ live tour. Still doing the freestyle. So, it’s been tough to get as much time as I would like and I know Michael (Waltrip) and a lot of the guys at (Michael) Waltrip (Racing) would like me in the car, but we knew this coming in. So, for me, the big focus until August is to make sure I got this trick to where I could land it and I could land it healthy enough to be able to compete the rest of the season in NASCAR and not have any liabilities there. Basically, it’s a ‘720’ -- it’s two full rotations. Basically, a ‘Rodeo 720’ if you were to be on snowboards. Fortunately it’s on a motorcycle. It’s a lot heavier and more difficult.”
-source: toyota motorsports