This weekend at the Richmond International Raceway Pastrana won’t be sitting in the grandstands watching others race, waving the green flag to start the Sprint Cup Series race or talking about when he plans to be behind the wheel.
No, Friday night Pastrana will finally make his long awaited Nationwide Series debut. Driving the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota and thanks to an alliance with RAB Racing, he’ll be locked into the event.
“We’re really excited,” said Pastrana last week. “We had a lot of support coming into NASCAR through Samsung, Boost Mobile, KMC and a lot of other sponsors that were from motocross background and had kind of planned on exiting the stage of motocross with the freestyle X-Games and switching over full-time to NASCAR,
“Unfortunately, everyone pretty much knows with the ankle, I was unable to compete last year. So we started the whole process over again with Matt Crafton [served as a driver coach for Pastrana] and were really fortunate that the sponsors – Samsung, Boost Mobile and KMC – have stuck with me and agreed to do the same amount of races they agreed to do last year which is huge for me.
“And pretty much a second chance to do the best we can. Starting with Richmond, which is close to my house, and race as we did last year, and the K&N Series, and we also will do it this year on the Thursday before the Nationwide debut, it’s a really good place to start.”
Back in late 2010 Pastrana and Michael Waltrip Racing announced a partnership and the formation of Pastrana-Waltrip Racing. The deal would put Pastrana in seven NNS races in 2011 and then move to 20 this season.
But a broken ankle during the X-Games in July of 2011 when Pastrana attempted a corked 720, right before his scheduled NNS debut. The injury forced the X-Games gold medalist to put his plans on hold and the waiting game began.
Pastrana had hoped to make his debut in March at Phoenix but it was again pushed back as he continued to heal. Now though, he’s ready to go and put to good use all the learning and studying he’s done from the sidelines the last year.
“For me, the biggest thing is trying to get out there,” said Pastrana on his long awaited debut. “It’s good that the interest has done away a little bit for me. It allows me to come in and focus on racing. But at the same time, it’s still NASCAR is 24/7 with everything else.
“All I want to do is drive my car and be in the car. We’ve gone across a lot of media, and frankly, I’m tired of talking about it, I know the media’s tired of talking about it. And all the drivers are like, geez are you getting out here or not?
“That ankle was horrible. But I’m finally getting started. I won’t know a lot of answers until I’m getting in the cars. So looking forward to this race.”
How many races Pastrana runs this season is still to be determined. He still needs to be approved at certain tracks, but there’s no denying that he’s ready to race as much as he can.
And don’t count on his ankle holding him back, saying that he’s been doing physical therapy and that while the ankle isn’t 100 percent for walking he’s 100 percent for driving. No worries for racing he says.
Which is why on Friday night he plans to be as aggressive as he can. While he doesn’t want to crash or make a fool of himself, Pastrana doesn’t hide the fact that his goal is to finish on the lead lap.
“If I end up crashing in the first quarter of the race, (A) I didn’t learn anything this round and (B) all the critics that have been saying I’m going to crash out all the time are going to be right,” Pastrana said.
“So that first round is going to be even more stress going into the next one. I just hope I don’t hit a wall, don’t hit anybody else, don’t make anybody upset and hopefully we can end up on a lead lap and I think it will be a really strong goal for me.”