Travis Pastrana rang in 2010 with a record-breaking jump in his rally car at Red Bull: New Year. No Limits, and now he's set to test new limits in NASCAR.
As it turned out, the 269-foot airborne escapade from Pine Street Pier in Long Beach, California, to a barge anchored in the port’s harbor also set another envelope-pushing adventure in motion.
That’s because Blake Bechtel, a partner in Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), was one of the thousands who showed up last New Year’s Eve to witness Pastrana add almost 100 feet to the existing rally car flight record of 171 feet, set by Ken Block in November 2006.
Soon after the Long Beach performance, Bechtel had Michael Waltrip Racing investigating the possibility of getting the rally star into a NASCAR Nationwide cockpit.
“Blake got to talking about the possibility of Travis coming over to NASCAR and what that might look like,” Michael Waltrip explains. “Blake's a young cat – he's 28 years old – and he loves the action sports world and he loves what Travis has accomplished over there. And he got the opportunity to talk to Travis and made this happen.”
"This is going to be awesome… let's do this." –Travis Pastrana
After a few months of discussions, the MWR deal announced earlier this month will see Pastrana run seven Nationwide races in 2011 before expanding his slate of events to 20 in 2012. So, a lifelong dream of competing in NASCAR is about to become a reality for Pastrana, who made his mark in the X Games and scored championships in supercross, freestyle motocross and rally driving.
How does Pastrana feel about the prospect of getting into a Nationwide car? “This is going to be awesome,” he succinctly insists. “Let’s do this.”
The team will be called Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, which will run Toyotas built in the MWR shop in Cornelius, North Carolina.
Waltrip feels Pastrana’s arrival is huge for NASCAR, since he will help target a demographic that the NASCAR world has been struggling with lately.
“We believe that this is a big deal for the whole sport, and so when it all happened, there were a lot of silent 'high-fives' and 'thank yous' at the shop and around. We obviously looked forward to this day when we could tell the world about it,” Waltrip says.
“I've had so many texts from young boys and girls, and kids that I know and haven't even talked to lately, that have said, 'Hey man, that's so fun that Travis is coming to NASCAR.’ Not only is it great for the fanbase, but it's also a portal: We're going to use this car as a portal for other action stars or sports stars to come over and try NASCAR.”
"Travis wants to test and work really hard at getting up to speed." –Michael Waltrip
To help get Pastrana up to speed, the team may have him run some K&N Pro Series West races in 2011 before his Nationwide debut sometime towards the middle of next year. The K&N Series is a good place to gain stockcar experience, something that helped rising Red Bull star Cole Whitt as he worked towards his maiden Nationwide start, which happened earlier this month in Phoenix, Arizona. Whitt finished 15th in his Nationwide debut and followed that with a 17th in Miami, Florida on Saturday.
While Pastrana is accustomed to the spotlight, the team also want to get him into a Nationwide car in private ‘Tuesdays with Travis’ tests. On these days away from prying eyes, Pastrana will work with and without other drivers on track to help him get used to NASCAR racing, free of any added pressure created by the world watching his every move.
“Hopefully, he can make all of his mistakes and learn all the lessons that he has to learn, and get up to speed where we can be very comfortable, when he runs his first Nationwide race or his first Truck race, that he is in a position to be competitive,” Waltrip insists.
“He wants to test and work really hard at getting up to speed. That's going to be our ‘Tuesdays with Travis’ plan.”