Travis Pastrana – Taking another step
Darlington Raceway is a challenge for the most seasoned of stock car drivers, so when the second race on Travis Pastrana’s Nationwide career was slated for the Lady in Black many people thought it would be a true challenge for the new driver. While there were several challenges during the night that ultimately saw the rookie go two laps down in the race, he battled back and finished on the lead lap in 17th place. It wasn’t an earth shattering win, but it was definitely a victory in the eyes of everyone involved with his No. 99 team.
The green flag flew with Pastrana at the tail end of the field thanks to his “unapproved adjustments” after qualifying. By lap 20 he was up to 28th and the field was strung out which presented his first opportunity to experience an aero push. Interestingly he said the car was so tight that he didn’t really feel a difference when he got close to another car. He was lapped shortly after that and was given the opportunity to study Denny Hamlin’s line for a few laps as he stayed close to the leader. The caution flag flew on lap 36, which allowed everyone to pit. The No. 99 crew brought Pastrana down and put on four fresh tires, filled him full of fuel and made a track bar and wedge adjustment. He restarted the race in the 41st position.
“We started out last thanks to hitting the wall during qualifying,” Pastrana said. “Having to do maintenance to the car we took it all of the way to the back and started last, worked all of the way up and finished on the lead lap at the end. To finish top 20, if you’d told me that position and lead lap before the race started, I’d have paid $100,000, maybe more, just to get that time out there. I was a little disappointed in our speed at the beginning. Tried talking to the crew to figure out what we needed to do. I think, honestly, they knew what they were doing. If I’d have gotten what I wanted I would have been in the wall a long time before the end of the race.”
The race returned to green flag conditions on lap 41 but only made it to lap 47 before the caution flew again, which afforded Pastrana a chance to get the lucky dog and get back on the lead lap. Even though he’d only run six laps, he came back in and they raised the track bar again to continue to free him up. The race went back to green and, as Pastrana attempted to pass a car in front of him he realized exactly what “aero push” felt like. His spotter worked with him on driving a quarter lane lower to get some air on the nose and it immediately paid dividends. Coming through turns one and two, Pastrana dropped slightly lower than the car in front of him and was able to turn the car, keeping it under the slower car in front and getting the bite off of the corner to make the pass down the back straight. While dropping down below the line of the cars in front of him was giving him more ability to turn, on lap 82 he went a little too far. Pastrana came on the radio and said he dropped all four tires onto the flat in the corner and “scared the hell” out of himself.
“This place looks really, REALLY, narrow.” Pastrana added with a grin. “The funny thing is, if you miss the line, like in practice, there’s a white line down there getting in. By the race, the white line is completely gone, and rubbered over just black. When you’re in the midst of everyone, two and three wide getting into the corner that only one car fits into, you couldn’t see it anyway. So you really have no idea how the car is going to be handling, push, tight, loose or whatever, because depending on which side of the line you’re on the car will behave differently.“
Green flag pit stops took place in the range of laps 90-102, with the No. 99 coming in on the 99th lap. The team changed tires and added fuel while making another wedge adjustment. As he left the pits Pastrana once again issued a heartfelt thank you to his crew for all of their efforts. The race continued green until lap 128 when Kurt Busch cut down a tire on the front straight to bring out a caution. Pastrana was two laps down and his crew chief, Scott Zipadelli, took the chance on taking the wave around rather than pitting for tires. The strategy paid off when Brendan Gaughan hit the wall in turn three and brought out another caution on lap 138.
“Fresh tires we were good for about five laps,” Pastrana observed. “Just a little tight, as they wore out, it just got tighter and tighter and tighter. By 20 laps into the run we were totally shot. They knew what they were doing. As much as I complained and I would like to do better, I’m very happy with this result, I’m happy I got to run all of the laps and I would not have had the chance to do that if I had been as loose as I wanted to be.”
Pastrana was then the only car a lap down so the team brought him in for tires with the belief there would be one more caution. The gamble paid off when Joey Logano turned Elliott Sadler in front of the field on the restart and the crash brought out the final caution of the night. Pastrana was the lucky dog, drove around and rejoined the field as the last car on the lead lap. The green-white-checkered finish let Pastrana get around Kasey Kahne, who had received damage in the accident with Sadler, and come home in the 17th position.
“I hope we get back here really soon,” Pastrana said with a grin. “I got my racing stripe. I don’t want too many more but I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to come. I tell you what, it was a lot of fun out there. We’ve got sponsorship for next week too so we’ll do another Nationwide before Charlotte. I’m just happy. I just want to be racing man. I’m learning every race, we’ll see what happens.”
Pastrana will be back on the track in Iowa next weekend before heading to Charlotte. When he is in Charlotte he’ll be competing in two races. Not only will he be in the Nationwide race on Saturday, he’ll also be competing in the Global Rallycross event the same day. Pastrana’s talents from both Rally and Stock Car racing will be on display for the world to see as he takes to the track for a full day of racing. One thing is for certain, Pastrana is very serious about stock car racing and his talents continue to shine through more and more with each event he runs.
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