Action sports superstar Travis Pastrana is in the midst of developing his car racing career, and this weekend races in a Ferrari 458 with Michael Waltrip, Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He's done rallying in America and was slated to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut last season before crushing his ankle at the X Games. While Pastrana is a megastar to most of the sporting world, he's merely a rookie at Daytona and in sports car racing. RACER web editor Tony DiZinno caught up with Pastrana during the AF Waltrip's team driver change practice to see how he is taking to this experience.
R: Where does sports car racing fit in on your “cool list” among all the things you've done?
TP: It's so much fun! The funny thing is, if you're asked that you could choose just one thing, I'd be like, “Well, I'd like to not have to choose!” You definitely have to have a focus here, but what's really cool about endurance racing is that you almost always seem to get one celebrity, one gentleman driver and maybe two professionals. There's so many different groups of people here, and you know the top teams will go all-pro 100 percent of the time. This has been a lot of fun so far, and ranks pretty high.
R: How's the chemistry with your co-drivers?
TP: It's awesome and great to be talking with them. Rui has helped with advice and how to handle the other cars. You have to be so careful with the Daytona Prototypes passing. A lot of times you can see one car, but you really want to make sure that the car doesn't drop to the inside and another one following them comes through without you seeing them.
R: So much of your career has been about fighting through pain. Going into this weekend, how are you feeling now about your ankle injury, and what's your comfort level in the car?
TP: My comfort level is really good. One of the major problems, though, is that we have two drivers that are really small and the other two are so tall. It's not like you're in and secure to your own seat. The seat is a little big for me, because Michael's a little bit bigger. But the ankle feels really good. And the Ferrari is one of the smoothest cars you can ever drive. There's no real problems with the ankle, we'll see how it goes for 24 hours.
R: For this one-off, how do you see this experience possibly translating into further sports car appearances down the road, schedules pending?
TP: You're always looking for opportunities to drive anything, and you can't say no to driving at Daytona, A, and in a Ferrari. When Rob came and said, “Do you want to it,” you don't even flinch – you just do it.
R: One thing bandied about a bit last year was you doing the IndyCar one-off at Las Vegas. We know that was a “move the needle” type thing, but how serious were you about it, and would you entertain the thought of a one-off there in the future?
TP: Honestly, it was another one of those deals where if I had the opportunity, I couldn't turn it down. But like I told everybody, “I won't say no until I feel like I can't be safe on the track.” Obviously, what happened showed the inherent danger. The key was, I would have had to have got in the car and felt confident and competent, where I wouldn't be last, and then I would have loved to have tried it. Now though, it's not a huge thing. It would be fun, sure, but it's not something long term. Considering I'm trying to get established in NASCAR, that's the immediate focus.