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Get ready race fans because come February, things could get extreme.
Celebrated as one of the all-time great heroes in extreme sports, the seemingly immortal Travis Pastrana, who’s known for leaving fans and pundits alike utterly gobsmacked by his insane, stunt-oriented escapades, plans to put his driving skills to the ultimate test as he seeks to fulfill an “opportunity of a lifetime” by qualifying next month for NASCAR’s fabled Daytona 500.
Though the 39-year-old X-Games superstar is perfectly comfortable soaring through the air as he and his 200-pound dirt bike execute a flawless double backflip over a rally car, jumping in behind the wheel of the Next Gen car and burning rubber on the Daytona International Speedway – one of the fastest tracks in the entire Cup Series circuit – at nearly 200 miles per hour requires a completely different driving acumen. Despite the challenges that lie ahead for him in qualifying for the race, Pastrana, per usual, isn’t backing down from this fight.
"Would any red-blooded or redneck American or whatever you want to call it – whatever I am – have the opportunity to do this?” he challenged. “We've taken years of success and other forms of racing, brought it all together and will try to put our best foot forward."
Despite living primarily in the realm of eye-popping feats, stock car racing isn’t completely foreign to the Nitro Circus star. In 2010, Pastrana accomplished his long-time goal of performing his inaugural NASCAR test run at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. Additionally, he has 42 Xfinity starts and five truck starts
"Definitely had fun," exclaimed the 11-time X Games champion after his debut run. "And didn't crash either day, so, I guess that's a start."
Since Pastrana has no guaranteed entry into the race, he will vie for one of the four open spots available in the 40-car field when he pilots a third car for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing during the qualifiers. That said, he has some momentum on his side. He’s already secured vital sponsorship from Black Rifle Coffee, and he’ll have veteran NASCAR crew chief Eric Philips in his ear to support him in the effort.
“We were just honored for [Travis] to choose us to build up this endeavor and knock off this bucket list item for him," revealed Hamlin. "He's been in NASCAR before and has been a NASCAR fan for a long time. For us as a race team, we'd like to get our feet wet and work on our third team and work on the personnel for that.”
Like most passion projects, the path to fulfilling one’s dreams is rarely easy, and Pastrana’s goal is no different. After single-lap results are tallied on Feb. 15, the field of open drivers will be split into two qualifying races the following day. The driver who wins each qualifier will then earn a coveted spot in the Daytona 500 while the remaining drivers with the top two speeds from single-lap qualifying will also garner a spot in the race.
Fans rooting for Pastrana should know that this year’s Daytona 500 qualifiers will be packed to the gills with superb talent, the likes of which include seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson for Legacy Motor Club, Austin Hill from Beard Motorsports and Zane Smith from Front Row Motorsports. Other potential foes trading paint with Pastrana could include drivers from Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing, NY Racing, Kaulig Racing and Team Hezeberg, but none of that matters to Pastrana. It’s the experience that matters the most.
"It's what racers do, we want to challenge ourselves," explained Pastrana said. "I'll be stoked if I can qualify, but even if I can't, to be a part of the Great American race, bringing great sponsors with me, you know, getting a great car from the 23XI team and having a shot to just see what it's like. F--- it let's go."
"Win, lose or draw, it's going to be exciting,” continued Pastrana. “And for me, it's not really about what everyone's saying or thinking. It's an opportunity of a lifetime.”
“We're going to have fun, and I just really, really hope we can make it and not cause any issues. I believe I'm good enough to driver to do that."
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