Commentary

Pastrana still seeking thrills

Updated: July 31, 2013, 9:09 PM ET
By Brant James | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Travis Pastrana was calling to the front of his Nationwide Series hauler, trying to direct his wife, Lyn-Z, to the place where the Red Bull hat that actually fit was located, when the subject of his high-profile BASE jumping excursion arose.

Team owner Jack Roush had supposedly quashed three of his drivers' hopes of accompanying the freestyle motocrosser/rallyist/action sports star-turned-NASCAR driver, but the story was "overblown," Pastrana said.

"Carl [Edwards] decided it wasn't in his best interests," Pastrana said. "Ricky [Stenhouse Jr.] had a press obligation and Billy Johnson said, 'Hey, if no one else is going, I'm going to get fired if I go out, so you're on your own.' "

Pity. It was only a 486-foot drop off the I.B. Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, which is believed to be the only permanent structure in the United States legal for BASE jumping year-round without a permit.

[+] EnlargeTravis Pastrana
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesTravis Pastrana has a lot on his plate this week.

"It may be safer if it was higher, actually," Pastrana pondered.

Safer? Higher? Jumping off stuff?

Lyn-Z, prominently pregnant and due, as Pastrana said in the common habit of race car drivers, "Atlanta weekend," strode past with the properly fitting lid and quipped to the reporter, "You're BASE jumping. Parachute!" As in, "Lighten up."

A professional skateboarder, she married one of the most popular action stars in the history of such endeavors with an understanding of what he does and why. For everyone else, there are the questions of whether or not jumping off things will seem like such a great idea when he gazes for the first time into his daughter's eyes.

"I guess you can't answer that question until it happens, but definitely for me it's a scary thought for me to have that responsibility," he said. "But at the same time, I think whatever you're passionate about, you've got to follow it. People ask if I will let my daughter do what I do and I say you'll have to ask what she's passionate about.

"I couldn't ask for anything more for her than to wake up every morning with a big smile on her face, whether it's dangerous or hard or whatever. If anything, I want her to see what I do, I enjoy."

Such are the complications of a busy and supremely interesting existence. Complications abound with Pastrana, from the crumpled Roush Fenway sticker covering the Ford logo on his team shirt -- he drives a Dodge Dart in Global Rally Cross -- to the balance he must strike between his new NASCAR career and the foothold he hopes to retain in the action sports realm as he, at age 29, slowly egresses from it.

"You'll see my riding a lot," said Pastrana, whose Nationwide debut was postponed nearly a year after he shattered his ankle and foot trying to land a 720-degree flip and spin in the Moto X Best Trick final at X Games 17 in 2011. "Definitely freestyle with one-off tricks, stuff like that, like what Danny Way kind of does. A lot of the older guys. I see so much I kind of want to do and try but it mostly involves ramps and helping the Nitro Circus guys out. I'll be the tester but I'm definitely not necessarily going to be the guy who goes out in competition.

"That's what I always loved. I was never the guy who took somebody else's trick and made it better. I was the guy who liked to do a trick nobody else had ever done. That was where the challenge came from. If X Games ever goes gymnastics where there's a set routine, no kid is going to watch. The sport will die."

Many athletes' contracts contain stipulations forbidding certain activities considered dangerous by ownership, but Pastrana came to RFR with more freedom, he said, because the calculated yet titillating exploits that made him an international star are crucial to his NASCAR future.

"Jack says he doesn't really want to change who I am or what made me who I am," Pastrana said. "But he goes, by the same deal, 'There's 50 people every week that are directly involved with your car. If you don't show up, those people don't have jobs.'

"He says, 'Look, I don't know enough about those sports and what you've done to know what I can tell you you can and can't do. And what it's going to take to help with sponsorship and X Games, you do all this stuff.' Nitro Circus is all big parts of why I am able to come over and race NASCAR. Definitely Nationwide is my priority but that stuff is part of my life still."

Which brings Pastrana to another crossover weekend as he contests the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) around his entry in the X Games Los Angeles RallyCross event. Pastrana is coming off a 10th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday that gave him four top-10s this season.

For a competitor accustomed to a busy schedule and numerous scene and vehicle changes, this weekend won't be anything he can't acclimate to, Pastrana said. He spent the weekend of the Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway contesting two off-road truck races, albeit at the same venue.

Pastrana, an 11-time X Games gold medalist and four-time Rally America champion, finished seventh at Brazil and Loudon, N.H., in Global RallyCross this season.

''For me it's a really big deal to do well there. It's where I came from," Pastrana said of rally and the X Games. "I love that stuff."

Brant James

Contributor, espnW.com
Brant James has covered the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, a World Series and Stanley Cup for the big hometown daily, an NCAA tournament and a Super Bowl. He's walked to the paddock with Kentucky Derby horses before post, ridden to the top of Mount Washington with Travis Pastrana and landed on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. He once induced Danica Patrick into a dance number from Moulin Rouge by saying the word "Switzerland." It's been pretty interesting so far.

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