RICHMOND, Va. — Travis Pastrana insists he’s not in this on a lark.
The X Games and motocross star is set to make his Nationwide Series debut Friday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Pastrana was supposed to make his debut last summer at Indianapolis, but he broke his right ankle two days before.
“It’s been since that race … I’ve been thinking about getting in here and starting the Nationwide and seeing what’s going on,” he said Friday at RIR, where he was going to run in a K&N Series race Thursday night. “It has been a long road of, ‘Hey, how you going to do? When you going to race?’ … We’re going to go out here and I finally get a chance to have some fun tomorrow.
“I’m really pumped.”
Pastrana, the winner of 11 X Games gold medals, has no illusions of instant success in NASCAR, admitting one of his biggest fears is making a green-flag pit stop, which would be the first of his career. Accordingly, he’s starting with modest goals.
“A goal for me for this first race, a goal that would be very, very difficult to reach, would be to stay on the lead lap, and that’s where we’re coming in, that’s where we’re starting,” Pastrana said. “Even if we don’t, that’s the goal for the next weekend.
“I’ve got to make every lap of these races. I’ve got to get as much experience as I can.”
Pastrana’s schedule includes seven races, with his next stop in two weeks at Darlington.
Wherever he turns up, other drivers are inclined to be welcoming.
“He’s going to be a welcome sight to the Nationwide Series,” Denny Hamlin said. “I think he’s kind of a breath of fresh air type guy. He’s outgoing. He’s obviously not afraid to take chances and I know personally through talking with him that he’s been waiting to run for a long time and just he’s been fighting to get his leg good enough to where he could do it.”
Jimmie Johnson said it might take Pastrana time to adapt to racing on four wheels, but that he already brings something to the sport.
“He’s an amazing guy with a huge fan base, and it’s going to be good for NASCAR,” Johnson said.
And good for Pastrana, especially if he can show that he belongs.
“As a racer, I’ve always felt like a racer,” Pastrana said. “I know I’ve gone to ‘Nitro Circus’ and done X-Games and everything, which is a show and you have to be able to have fun with it, but I figured you know what, I’m going to go out, I’m going to try my hardest and there’s going to be a lot of people that understand what you’re doing and there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t,” he said.
“It looks like fun and games on the outside, but everyone that has ever been to the top of any sport knows how much work it takes to get there, and I’m willing to put in that work, and it’s not going to be overnight.”