CONCORD, N.C. — Travis Pastrana loved trying to compete in NASCAR. He just couldn’t make the transition quick enough to keep throwing money at a stock car racing career.
So after a full season of Xfinity Series racing in 2013, he decided to return to his action-sports-star roots on off-road motorcycles and his Nitro Circus shows.
He neither stopped thinking about NASCAR, nor could he shake the demons of failing at anything. He competed in a Camping World Truck Series race in 2015 and will do at least one race in 2017. He wants to do more and wouldn’t rule out a return as he tested Tuesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I’ve been able to kind of figure most racing things out and be competitive,” Pastrana said. “Every day, at some point, I think ‘Why couldn’t I figure NASCAR out? What do I need to do?’
“I haven’t had the time to do it right. … I know what it takes to get to the top of the sport.”
Pastrana, who has 17 X Games medals, will drive for Niece Motorsports, which has many of its crewmen from Roush Fenway and other teams with whom Pastrana has raced. His buddies encouraged him to make some calls so he could go race this year, and he put together sponsorship for the Sept. 30 race at Las Vegas from Wienerschnitzel, Black Rifle Coffee Company, SilencerCo and the Palms. He is toying with the idea of also racing earlier in September at Chicagoland Speedway, pending sponsorship.
Despite a rough career in NASCAR where he struggled in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, had his 2011 Xfinity debut delayed by a broken ankle and foot and finished 14th in the standings in his only full-time Xfinity season, Pastrana never soured on NASCAR.
“NASCAR has been challenging because I made a career and a living out of taking risks that no one else was willing to take,” Pastrana said. “I never cared about motorcycle setup — I just go out there and I ride — your body is the setup. … In NASCAR, it comes down to what you know about the truck.
“I’ve been working a lot learning about the truck, watching more. When I came to NASCAR, I didn’t watch a lot of NASCAR. I thought it was a cool sport. But now, since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the sport. Not to say I’m going to be great by any means, but I feel like I’ve got a much better appreciation and understanding of what it takes.”
Pastrana has devoted more time recently to competing in rally racing, where he can focus on the six-race rally racing season of the new American Rally Association. He also has spent considerable time racing go-karts to try to figure out how to race on asphalt.
Of course, he has his Nitro Circus platform where Pastrana and his friends continue to thrill fans with various stunts.
“I’m still doing Nitro, and that still is a big priority, but as that slows down as I get older — at least the riding part — I have more opportunity to get to go-kart tracks, to go out there and really do some pavement work,” Pastrana said. “Nitro is to a point now where it not only is a lot of fun, but we’ve been able to build the brand to where it’s my day job. It’s an awesome day job.
“I get to travel with my friends and have some great sponsors. They sponsor [me in] rally as well because I prove I can go out and win at rally. This [at NASCAR] is something that I’m going to have to figure out from the ground up. … I’d like to figure this stuff out because I haven’t figured it out, and it bugs me.”
He has no X Games plans with his focus on the Nitro World Games.
“I’m getting old,” said Pastrana, 33. “I love building new ramps, making safer landings, helping [to] try to progress the sport. As far as me? I don’t want to be hurt as much as I used to be.”
What’s left? An attempt to conquer the NASCAR world, at least for another race. He certainly remembers the key lesson of having to work within the confines of his equipment and making sure he doesn’t burn his tires up throughout a race.
“I was hoping my other sports would translate better,” Pastrana said. “They didn’t. … I’m always like, ‘I’m not winning, so let’s keep pushing until we get there.’ And that doesn’t always make time [on the track].”