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NASCAR's New Dare Devil: Travis Pastrana
  • April 26, 2012 : 10:04
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If you’re a fan of all things fast, dangerous, airborne, and motorized, you’re sure to be in the know when it comes to motocross and stunt star Travis Pastrana. Not yet thirty, this dare devil of motorsports has made a name for himself as a competitor who refuses to back down, even if it means a couple dozen broken bones at a time.

From going freestyle on dirt bikes to leaping rally cars, Pastrana’s got plenty of edge. When he’s not performing stunts across the globe on his MTV show Nitro Circus, he’s can be found going head-to-head with the pros in Daytona, tearing up the competition on the X-Games, or playing with Monster Trucks.

After a massive foot injury at the X-Games kept him back from crossing over into NASCAR last year, Travis has been hard at work preparing for his Nationwide Series debut taking place tomorrow in Richmond, Virginia.

Travis got a few minutes to chat with us about getting prepped for race day, the meticulous art of driving fast, and what keeps him testing the limit.

Playboy.com: So you have your first Nationwide NASCAR debut coming up in Richmond in 10 days. Excited for this?

Pastrana: Couldn’t be more excited, a little nervous! Looking forward to getting this, well, I shouldn’t say out of the way [laughs], but I’m looking forward to finding out where our base is and start working from there.

Playboy.com: Hold on a second, did Travis Pastrana just admit to nerves?

Pastrana: [Laughs] Nah, but people have pretty high expectations and pulling out (Talladega Nights’) Ricky Bobby quotes and all that. I feel I can definitely run the pace; we’ve been doing a lot of testing and stuff. But really, I’m not about to pull another Days of Thunder, but tires? I burn them, I burn them right off trying to overdrive the car, and you can do a few laps on that, but then you start dropping back like a ton of bricks.

Playboy.com: Your foot injury last year kept you from fully competing in Nationwide until now. Do you think you’re better prepared than you would have been coming straight off of the X-Games?

Pastrana: I mean, it sucked; but in hindsight I learned a lot about the sport and actually became a pretty big fan. Went to a lot of races, I met a lot of mechanics, a lot of pit crews, and just really learned the sport. I know now a little bit more when the coaches or spotters are saying something, I know what it means. Flying to my first race on the redeye I’d be tired and worn out; ] I would’ve liked to have had a shot. You learn a lot more on the track than sitting at home watching ESPN.

Playboy.com: You’ve been doing rally and off-road racing for years now, what’s the appeal of getting on an oval track instead? Wouldn’t you find it fairly boring?

Pastrana: Driving’s driving, racing’s racing. But it’s competitive! I’ve never been in a sport where there’s a seconds difference between first and fifth. Literally there were eight guys in my last race that qualified within three-hundredth of a second, like, you got to be…seriously! [Laughs] It’s kind of frustrating. Like in motocross, you want to win? You go out there and hold it wide open, you close your eyes and go through the bumps, and hope you make it through to the other end and you might make up two seconds if you do. This is a different experience, but it’s hard!

Playboy.com: Will you still be competing in any non-NASCAR events this year? Or are you moving on?

Pastrana: NASCAR has occupied almost all of my life but we’re going to do the Global RallyCross. All the Europeans are saying they’re going to kick the American’s asses, so I’m really looking forward to trying to prove them wrong this year. The GRC Championships are coming to the United States so for a lot of the races, like in Charlotte we’ll do the Nationwide race, and when that’s done they’ll set up a course that has ramp jumps, over, under, gaps for rally cars. I think anything that is driving, is going to help anything driving. I just need to stay off the dirt bikes, because if I get hurt again… [laughs]

Playboy.com: You’ve had a fair share of injuries, has there been a point where you’ve felt “enough is enough” and thought about giving your body a break?

Pastrana: Not really. It’s funny, every time I’ve gotten hurt I’m just really bummed that I can’t go out and try it again. For me, it’s just about going out there and making the best choices you can; to keep having fun and live your life.

Playboy.com: Do you have a dream race you’d like to take part in down the road?

Pastrana: I think the biggest one for me would be the Daytona 500 Cup series. You’ve got to go out there, and it’s the one race of the year that’s kind of a crap shoot. Obviously the better drivers are up front, but it’s kind of dumb luck on that one. It is probably the best chance someone who’s not quite as good has to win [laughs].

Playboy.com: You’ve got some pretty hardcore fans who love your extreme stuff. Why should they tune in to watch you in NASCAR?

Pastrana: To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had criticism like I have from any sport, to any other sport. Racing freestyle I caught a little bit, like in X-Games, “you do a double back flip and you know, jump out of an airplane without a parachute to now you’re turning left and going around in circles?” What they don’t realize is that you’re turning left at 200 plus miles an hour, banging off other people. If you come out on the outside of someone on the corner and go just a little bit too far, it takes all the wind off their right rear corner and shoots them straight into a wall. So hopefully some of the guys will come over, and hopefully we’ll make some new fans along the way.

Playboy.com: What advice can you give to fans who want to follow in your path?

Pastrana: That’s a scary proposition [laughs]. For me it has never been about “you shouldn’t have done that or that.” So if you really love what you do, that’s the only way that this stuff is worth it because there’s no amount of money on earth that’s worth your life.

Make sure to catch Travis’ Nationwide debut tomorrow night at 7PM ET on ESPN2, then the Sprint Cup Saturday at 7PM ET on FOX.

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