Pastrana: Daytona 500 "one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done”
Action sports star Travis Pastrana says his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500 was "one of the most exciting" experiences of his life as he came home 11th.
Making his return to Daytona for the first time since he contested the 2013 Xfinity series, the 11-time X-Games gold medalist and founder of the Nitro Circus started his week on a high note by locking himself into the race on qualifying speed.
That meant Pastrana could afford to spend the qualifying Duels races getting used to how his 23XI Racing Toyota car performed in the draft, but still got a piece of a crash that broke out ahead of him and so began NASCAR's crown jewel event from 40th on the grid.
Pastrana took a cautious approach for most of the event, leading two laps during a cycle of green-flag pit stops but was otherwise unseen until he appeared at the back end of the top-ten in the closing stages.
It looked like the multiple X Games gold medal-winner might even come away with a top-five finish in the chaos, but one awkward push on the white flag lap sent him sideways down the track. A massive crash ensued which ended the race, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. declared the winner.
Pastrana however regained control of his car and made it back to the line, still nearly claiming a top-ten and only missing out on top rookie plaudits by one position to Riley Herbst in tenth.
The 39-year-old entered the race with "no expectations" and said to be in contention for a top-five finish at the end "exceeded all my expectations".
“These are the best drivers in the world," he said. "I’m not a great rear-wheel driver, I’m not a great pavement driver. Restrictor plate racing is a little different.
"We had a great team with this 23XI Toyota team, and it was an honour to be on the track with these guys. It was amazing that we were able to put it in the top 20. I’m proud of everyone involved and so thankful to be here."
Travis Pastrana, 23XI Racing, Black Rifle Coffee Toyota Camry
Photo by: Gavin Baker / NKP / Motorsport Images
Reflecting on "one of the greatest if not the greatest weeks or couple of weeks of my life", Pastrana admitted he was "mentally and physically completely drained" having also finished 13th in Friday night's Truck race.
“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week," he admitted. "I am mentally and physically completely drained.
"Even the Truck race, my heart rate was 170 in a three-wide pack. 182 was my high. That’s just on adrenaline.
"So, anyone that says NASCAR is boring, they’re full of crap. They’ve definitely never been in a car because this was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done."
Pastrana declared that his Cup Series debut is likely to be his one and only attempt at the Daytona 500, but said he wouldn't rule out more Truck Series appearances with Niece Motorsports, having competed with the team sporadically in recent years.
"One and done," he declared. "Now if Cody (Efaw) from Niece Motorsports calls me up and says, ‘Hey, what are you doing this weekend?’ I’ll jump in, but I’m not good enough to be the best at this sport with my skill set.
"The amount of time that this would take right now and I’m trying to slow down.
"The reason I’m here right now is because I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been as a driver. We’ve been winning championships on the dirt, and I just wanted to experience the whole Daytona Speedweeks."
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