Move over Danica Patrick, another NASCAR rookie trying to adjust to the learning curve of high-powered oval racing could soon be on your heels: Travis Pastrana of motocross and X Games fame is a full-time stock car racer.
The former motorcycle daredevil, who had a fun run racing rally cars, qualified fourth Friday for the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Pastrana, 29, will drive full time for Roush Racing in the second-tier series after running in five Nationwide races last year. It's been as much of an adjustment period for his fans as it has for himself.
“I’ve never caught more flak for doing something in my entire life,” Pastrana said. “With my fans, at least most of them have followed over, or are checking it out. Either way, if I can do well there’s going to be those eyes. It’s going to take some time. Definitely there’s going to be some I-told-you-so’s at the beginning, but I’m here with the Roush team and I plan on being a champion.”
Team owner Jack Roush, who became familiar with Pastrana through defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, understands that his newest star has a past full of glory, but that doesn't always translate to success in stock cars.
“Travis has been able to do everything that he wanted to do,” Roush said. “He's never been unsuccessful at anything. [But] I feel like the stock-car racing challenge will be bigger than anything he's had.”
Pastrana understands the importance of the moment.
“This is probably the most nervous I’ve been since I turned pro in motocross,” he said. “For the first time in a long time I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Pastrana is no stranger to Daytona, though.
"My first supercross win was on the infield here at Daytona,” he said. “Daytona Speedweeks and Daytona Bikeweek have been two of my favorite events for as long as I can remember. Having the opportunity to race here in a NASCAR event is truly a dream come true.”