Pastrana rolls with the punches
After X Games wreck, action sports star has a gift for wife, focuses on next races
He didn't even stop to say hello. It was early on Monday morning, less than 18 hours after his hopes for a 12th X Games gold medal were crushed and Travis Pastrana had just driven 90 miles north of downtown Los Angeles to the high desert.
He blew by the gathering awaiting his arrival and slipped through the open gate to get some track time. After sliding his red Dodge Charger around Willow Springs' quarter-mile Walt James Stadium oval for a few laps Pastrana, was satisfied. It was more seat time than he got in the previous afternoon's RallyCross event.
But he didn't leave X Games wrap parties early and rise at dawn to test cars; he was here because his wife, Lyn-z Adams Hawkins Pastrana, was taking delivery of her first street bike, a custom Roland Sands Design Harley-Davidson street tracker, a bike build documented by Velocity's "Café Racer."
When Pastrana walked alongside his wife toward the motorcycle for the first time his patented smile was spread wide and masked all indications that the biggest week of his year had just ended abruptly. Even though he was still miffed at Andy Scott for forcing him into the wall and out of the competition he only blamed racing. As if the day before hadn't been tough enough, Pastrana got a reprimand from his mother, Debbie, for his un-Travis like reaction that was caught on live television moments after the heat race crash.
"I always forget there are in-car cameras in there," Pastrana said. "I was just talking with the team. I was like, 'what the hell just happened?' I braked in a normal braking spot and all of a sudden we picked up 40 mph and I'm into the wall. So I was just venting. My mom was upset. She said, 'You cussed on TV!' I was like, 'Well, I just ruined one of my biggest events of the year!'"
After ninth- and 15th-place finishes in the first two stops of the Global RallyCross series, Pastrana said the team was well prepared for X Games. They had spent the week before testing at California Speedway, and qualifying at X Games had gone well [second overall]. On the starting line for heat No. 4 he sat at pole and he loved his chances. Pastrana said the 58-year-old Scotsman had almost been talking strategy with him before the race saying 'let's be really clean through this, top two transfer.' After the event, Scott-Eklund Racing released the following statement:
"I didn't get the best start, but then picked up momentum, and as we entered the first corner Travis braked earlier than I expected, and I ran into the back of him," Scott said. "It was purely a racing incident, but nevertheless not the way I wanted to start my X Games campaign."
'It's not foam pit hell'
Travis Pastrana has grown up at the X Games. He's among the youngest of all gold medalists and he has done most of that winning aboard a motorcycle. For the first time since he started competing at XG in 1999 -- except for 2002 when an injury prevented him from competing -- he arrived with no plans to appear in a single Moto X event. This year it felt foreign to arrive in Los Angles not feeling hurt, tired and sore.
"Yes, that's what training and preparation feel like to me," Pastrana said of the endless hours he has spent engineering tricks over the past 15 years. Preparing for a car race just wasn't the same. "To be almost well-rested and overfed coming in and healthy, I didn't feel like I'd been putting in the work but really in the car I've been sitting down a lot, driving. It's just not the same type of work. It's not foam pit hell."
In 2007 he competed in only Rally Car and Moto X Racing -- no Freestyle or Best Trick -- and he was immediately accused of retiring. Three years later he won the Moto X Freestyle and Speed & Style competitions. Pastrana shrugs off the notion that just because he didn't bring his Suzuki to X Games this year must mean he's done riding. He wouldn't even call this a transition period.
"I've been focusing on these cars for what, six years? It just so happens there was some motorcycle stuff in there and there always will be. It's just that right now my ankle is shot. I can't even do a toe raise let alone fit it in a boot."
Even if Pastrana never gets back on a bike at X Games, he can't be accused of not chasing his passions. In the summer of 2001 he was successfully defending his AMA 125cc Motocross championship but the second half of the season was mired in crashes and concussions. He still showed up at X Games and won a third consecutive gold medal and was crucified in the MX press for his extra-curricular activities. One letter to the editor from an issue of Motocross Action now hangs framed in the training room of his Maryland home. A particular line gives him inspiration:
"Travis Pastrana has finally managed to promote himself from factory rider to village idiot."
He endured the flak when freestyle motocross took priority over Supercross and he's taking a similar beating for putting his emphasis on car racing instead of freestyle motocross.
"I'm just so fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living and most of the guys kind of get it. I'm sure if I switch again there will be a hard time there. My goal is to be successful in what I do and try to have fun with life."
What you see is what you getThe positive moment was brief but Blair Stopnik actually thought it wasn't that bad; then Pastrana's car was brought back into the pits and that's when the team manager of Pastrana Racing knew the day was done. Dart 1, as the team refers to the blue 2013 No. 199 Dodge Dart, would not attend the last chance qualifying race.
They were also quietly hoping the identical Dart 2 car, driven by Bryce Menzies, left X Games with little to no damage. The New Hampshire GRC race was less than two weeks away and it was clear that Dart 1 was in such bad shape that it would not be making that trip either. Once the car was stripped and inspected, Stopnik estimated the repair bill at $50,000.
"It was almost a total loss but luckily we have extremely good mechanics," Stopnik said six days after the crash. "The whole front of the frame rails were bent completely to a 45 degree angle." The engine, which was new, remained in good shape but the wiring was shipped to England, the gearbox was cracked, both sub frames were gone, pipes, fenders and engine mounts were destroyed. That's the short list.
"He ran into the wall with the entire weight of another car already touching him," Stopnik said. "Once we got it back it was so much worse than we thought."
Stopnik is proud of what the team has accomplished with a first-year car. He shares his main driver's focus with Waltrip Racing and he's impressed with Pastrana in and out of the car.
"He doesn't care about things that aren't functional," Stopnik said of Pastrana's ability to prioritize. "He's a pure racer. He just asks, 'Are the cars fast?' It is nice to know that. We can just focus on having the fastest car possible. He's the most dedicated athlete by far."
Pastrana has one of the most diverse racing schedules in all of motorsports -- a mix of NASCAR Nationwide, K&N Pro Series and Global RallyCross. With six races run in K&N he has one top five. His average finish in Nationwide is 22nd after four events. Outside the cars Stopnik is equally impressed with how TP handles the pressure of a demanding schedule that includes a forthcoming movie, media days, sponsor obligations, testing for two other series, endless travel, a wife and, no matter how busy he is, time for his fans.
"He's exactly what you think he is," Stopnik said. "You think he's a good guy when you see him on TV and that is really what he is like. He's transparent."
Quick-change artistThis weekend is the F.W. Webb 200 at Loudon, N.H., and Travis will spend three hours in his No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota before changing suit and helmet to compete in round 4 of the GRC. That green flag is one hour after the Nationwide checkered flag. It's his second double feature in his first full year of oval racing.
"I'm doing better than I expected and not as good as I'd hoped, if that makes sense," Pastrana said in self-evaluation of stock car racing.
Stopnik wants Pastrana to do well in the other series but he has a big enough job managing a rally team. He is impressed with the tight turnaround his driver is able to make. In May in Charlotte, N.C., he remembers standing outside the race hauler with the blue rally suit and helmet yelling, 'we need to go!' as Pastrana shoved some food and fluid into his mouth.
"It helps if he comes off a good [Nationwide] run," Stopnik said. "Then you're positive and rolling into the next event."
Today, Travis is definitely in a good mood. His wife can't stop smiling. It infects him as well. An informal discussion with a friend one year ago about building Lyn-z a motorcycle had become a 1200cc purple plaid, mono-shocked growling street tracker, three times the displacement of his own street bike. The build, and this day, will be featured on national television -- just like Pastrana's life. Tomorrow is another media day, interviews for "Nitro Circus The Movie 3D" that hits theaters Aug. 8.
Always smiling. Always giving. That's Travis.
Keep it here for everything you need to know about the 2012 Global RallyCross Championship.