Travis Pastrana (left), with Tony Stewart and Ricky Carmichael during driver introductions at Eldora Speedway earlier this year, will run a limited Nationwide Series schedule in 2011.
Travis Pastrana, a fearless athlete known for going fast, began the process of learning how to go fast in a stock car this week.
Pastrana turned his first laps in a stock car Monday and Tuesday as he tested a K&N Pro Series East car at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.
The supercross, freestyle motocross and Rally star plans to compete in seven Nationwide races in 2011 and hopes to make his NASCAR debut in an East car by qualifying for the Toyota All-Star Showdown next month at Irwindale, Calif.
“This is the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had,” Pastrana said in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. “It’s going to take a lot of time. I’m willing to put the time in.
“There’s going to come a time when I need to focus on this more and that time is quickly approaching. I’m not taking it easy this first year, but to kind of understand and get a background of the entire sport.”
The 27-year-old Pastrana has partnered with Michael Waltrip Racing to form Pastrana Waltrip Racing. He said once he gets through his X games and his MTV “Nitro Circus” commitments this winter, he will focus on his NASCAR venture.
“It’s all about waking up every morning with a passion. … If you’re really passionate about something, you can find a way to make it happen,” Pastrana said. “In my 27 years, I’ve been able to chase a lot of different dreams.
“Whenever I’ve done as much as I can do in that sport or [become] as successful as I want to, my passion leaves a little bit. For me, it’s always about trying to find that passion.”
During the test two-day test, Pastrana turned about 350 laps under the guidance of Nationwide Series crew chief Jerry Baxter and driver coach Matt Crafton.
Pastrana said it would be difficult coming in with a high profile because of his past success in other forms of motorsports.
“Initially, you have high expectations,” he said. “When you come from a sport where you’re winning, it’s very difficult to accept not winning. It’s the greatest asset as well as the greatest problem.
“When I was in motocross, I won right away in the 125 [cc] class and then I had a lot of trouble adapting to the bigger 250 motorcycle. Freestyle [with motorcycles] went pretty well from the very beginning, but Rally, it took me a long time to figure that out.”
Pastrana knows he has a huge learning curve ahead.
“Yesterday was really my first day to even set a baseline,” Pastrana said. “I was fairly consistent. I felt like our times were really good. But having said that, I’ve never been in a race with 42 other cars.
“There’s going to be a huge learning experience. … I had the most trouble trying to do the qualifying laps right off the bat. More than likely, I’ll struggle for a bit at the front at the beginning of the race and with any luck, we’ll be able to work as a team and try to continually not crash out, continually get the laps I need.”
Pastrana said he was braking later than he needed to and then braking harder than he needed during the test.
“It’s just kind of time [I need] and learning how to slow down to go faster,” Pastrana said.
Pastrana recently competed in the Race of Champions in Germany, winning two of his three races while Carl Edwards lost all of his three during the Nations Cup portion of the event in which the two were teammates.
“I was giving him crap,” Pastrana said. “And he goes, ‘When I’m lapping you for the third time in your first Nationwide race, I’m going to put you in the wall.’
“He was joking, but that was pretty much the best advice he gave me – don’t expect to be running up front for a while.”
Pastrana, a Red Bull athlete, knows Brian Vickers and also is friends with Jimmie Johnson.
“They’re all pretty convinced that I’m going to hit a lot of walls and it’s going to be a rough learning curve,” Pastrana said. “But everyone’s really behind me and trying to help as much as they can.
“I’m optimistic to think I can do this. … It is going to be rough, no doubt about it, and there will be a time, probably shortly after my first race, where everyone is saying, ‘He’s not going to make it’ but I believe in myself and believe in my team.”
So what are the goals for the first year?
“My main goal is not look like an idiot this year and hopefully next year we can come in with a better game plan and really start doing well,” Pastrana said. “That’s obviously optimistic, that’s obviously what everyone’s goal is that is racing – it’s to win. We’ll hopefully get there eventually. It’s not going to be quick, but I think we’ve got a good plan.”