This week’s Fronstretch debate question: Travis Pastrana will return to NASCAR competition later this season, as he will run the No. 45 Chevrolet Silverado for Niece Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 30.
Will Pastrana’s comeback be good for the sport, or will it ultimately have a negative/no positive impact?
Not So Niece
I respect the hell out of what Travis Pastrana is doing in attempting a comeback in NASCAR (albeit on a small scale), but I don’t think it’ll have nearly any impact on the sport.
Let’s face the facts: Pastrana is going to be mired back in the pack, around 20th, place and probably won’t run well all weekend. In 42 starts throughout his XFINITY Series career, he earned only four top-10 finishes. In the Truck Series, he has limited experience, to say the least. He only has one start and finished 14th for NTS Motorsports, which is now defunct. However, that race did occur at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, so at least he has some experience in a truck at LVMS.
Niece Motorsports is an entirely new organization in NASCAR, too. They’re scheduled to run a part-time schedule in 2017 with T.J. Bell as their main driver, but haven’t even qualified for all the races. They missed the show at The World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway, and finished 17th and 24th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, respectively. I know this is a new team, but you’d think Pastrana would want to know he’d be in a car capable of running inside the top 10, as all the other cars capable of winning are occupied.
Plus, when he joined Roush Fenway Racing in 2012 on a part-time basis (ran nine of 33 races), they were coming off the heels of an XFINITY Series championship with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. And the year after he left, RFR was back in Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Chris Buescher hoisting the hardware and winning a championship. Before Pastrana, they were winning championships. After Pastrana, ditto. During Pastrana, no one at Roush was winning a championship. Heck, they weren’t even winning, with top fives and top 10s being seldom thing. Teams spread data and information like wildfire. In reality, having the No. 99 of Pastrana in the organization for that time period hindered the development of what was a championship-caliber race team. It won’t help Niece Motorsports getting off the ground, either.
Plus, this move has the potential to hurt his reputation. In his first NASCAR stint in 2012-2013, his reputation wasn’t hurt whatsoever. People around the world, motorsports enthusiasts as well as casual observers, know Pastrana as the X-Games medalist who knows how to get it done on dirt and on two wheels. If this is it for him, he’ll go down in NASCAR history as somebody who tried and brought new eyeballs to the sport (which is always a good thing), but only for an short period of time and someone who was ultimately a failure. When Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen tried his hand at NASCAR, it was a disaster in every sense of the word. His background wasn’t in stock cars and was being outrun by guys that were C or D list names. “The Iceman” didn’t have what it takes, and it might be time to realize that Pastrana just might not either.
He also could be taking up a spot for another driver who’s been working their behind off to just get a shot in NASCAR. There are hundreds of drivers running their local short tracks that have aspirations of taking a green flag in a NASCAR-sanctioned race. Pastrana has already accomplished so much and has tried his hand at NASCAR, and it didn’t go too well.
Look, any time a race car driver from my home state of Maryland tries to make it big, of course I’m going to root for them to succeed. But to be blunt, I don’t see how Pastrana does in this specific situation. Maybe in a different one, but this one, pardon the pun, won’t end “niecely” for TP.
– Davey Segal
Come back, Travis. Bring your excitement with you
I am excited to see Travis Pastrana come back to NASCAR, and I hope that he comes back for more than just this one-race deal with Niece Motorsports.
Pastrana is a superstar and one of the greatest athletes of all time. He has demonstrated time and time again that if you hand him anything with two or more wheels, then he can make something spectacular happen.
The action sports legend has won championships in AMA Motorcross and AMA Supercross, as well as four straight Rally America titles. Pastrana has an astounding eight gold medals that he won at the X Games and he has even won a race in the Global RallyCross Championship.
Essentially, Pastrana has succeeded in everything he has ever done, except for NASCAR, the one blemish on an otherwise perfect resume. Given the competitor and the perfectionist that Pastrana is, I would be willing to bet that it haunts him, and is why he should and must come back and try again.
The fact is that he has already failed at NASCAR, so trying again could not possible hurt him anymore.
I believe that Pastrana’s failure the first time was not due to a lack of talent in stock cars, but rather a lack of experience. He only drove a handful of races in the K&N Pro Series before making the jump to the XFINITY Series. If he got some more experience then he could probably be fairly competitive.
The thing is that Pastrana cannot just run the race at Las Vegas every couple of years and expect to be competitive. He needs to commit to the series and form chemistry with Niece Motorsports to get anything going.
I know that Niece’s No. 45 is not a truck that can win races, but it is a brand new team. With the sponsors that Pastrana will attract, the team will have more money to throw around to get better.
The most important reason that Pastrana should return to NASCAR is because he seemed to have so much fun in the car. If you ever listened to his in-car radio then you know this to be true.
I remember when he raced at Daytona International Speedway, he drove straight through one of the Big Ones without damage. While he was driving through the wreck, and overtop of the spotter telling Pastrana where to go, you could hear how much of a thrill it was for him. When Pastrana emerged from the wreck unscathed, there was nothing but pure joy in his voice.
Pastrana, a guy who has flipped dirt bikes hundreds of feet off of the ground, was able to seek and find new thrills in NASCAR that he had not experienced before.
The fact that he has so much fun in the car and that you can easily tell are the exact reasons why Pastrana should be in NASCAR. There are so many cookie-cutter, sponsor-driven personalities in the sport now that he’s a breath of fresh air. He has been the star of two television shows and a movie, and of course he has an engaging personality.
The Camping World Truck Series will greatly benefit from Pastrana’s presence, especially given NASCAR’s current lack of fans crisis. The guy probably has more Facebook and Twitter followers than the rest of the CWTS drivers combined.
I know that when Pastrana raced in the XFINITY Series in 2012 and 2013, there were people that were not NASCAR fans that watched just to see what Pastrana would do. When Pastrana made his XFINITY Series debut at Richmond International Raceway in 2012, I had a good friend of mine that knew nothing about NASCAR tell me that he wanted to watch that race with me just because he was a fan of Pastrana’s.
A lot of people will say that Pastrana is too old for NASCAR now, as he is 33. I agree that he is probably too old to make it in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but he is certainly not too old for the Truck Series, which has yielded tons of success for older drivers. Of the 22 championships awarded during the history of the Truck Series, only four have been won by drivers under the age of 30. Pastrana will be one of the young guys out there compared to current stars of the series Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters.
I do not expect Pastrana to be all that competitive in the race this season at Las Vegas, and it will be a waste of time if it stays as only a one-race deal, but I am excited to see him back in the sport and sincerely hope that it is the first of many starts for the action sports legend.
– Michael Massie