Travis Pastrana's first venture in NASCAR can be deemed a success. He finished the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in sixth place on Saturday night. He started the race in 20th and ran into only one little scrape through the 225 laps of the Showdown, that puts the top drivers from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series Racer Travis Pastrana
Travis Pastrada finished 6th at the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
The race was filled with crashes and red flagged three times. Pastrana was almost collected in one of those crashes, but he maneuvered his way through the carnage with minimal damage to his right-side door and front fender.
He had to make an unscheduled pit stop to fix the front fender and keep it from rubbing on the front right tire on his car. Aside from that, Pastrana had an incident-free race and made up several spots in the final 25 laps.
There were two more red flag caution periods in the final 25 laps of the race. Pastrana avoided trouble in both of those and brought his car to the checkered flag in one piece.
He made modest strides throughout the weekend, between his first practice laps and qualifying on Friday to the race on Saturday night. He even gave his reputation a boost by meeting with fans in the stands after the race, which ended near midnight.
Pastrana made a huge improvement between his first practice session and his second for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
He went from 17th fastest in the first practice session to seventh fastest in the final one.
When he made his qualifying run, Pastrana posted the fifth fastest time. He was in the mix of the first half of the 45 drivers who made qualifying runs for the Showdown.
When the last driver qualified for the race, Pastrana was the 20th quickest. He wasn't as fast as the top drivers who race regularly in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East, but his time was respectable for a driver making his NASCAR debut.
"I didn't expect to be on top," said Pastrana, who was driving the No. 99 Toyota for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing in the Showdown. "I just hope we're not a road block."
Pastrana embraced the underdog role all weekend at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, site of the All Star Showdown. He downplayed his talent as a race car driver and emphasized his inexperience in NASCAR and racing stock cars.
"I definitely just need seat time, as much seat time as possible," Pastrana said. "I feel really comfortable in the car, but there's a huge difference between driving and racing. In motocross I was always better at racing, but I had experience. I started racing when I was 4 years old. That's all I've ever known - racing every weekend."
He had plenty of help preparing for the Showdown. Michael Waltrip was able to provide Pastrana with tips and strategies during test sessions. Matt Crafton, who raced late models at Irwindale earlier in his career and is a veteran of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, was been at the track and working with Pastrana as spotter and driving coach.
"Honestly, our lap times have been fairly good here," Pastrana said. "For me to get all the laps, the position on this race isn't so crucial. You want to do as good as possible. I'm just pumped to be out here and get as many laps as possible."
The car he's driving is a good one too. It's one of the cars Ryan Truex drove to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship last year. Pastrana said it's been a little bit of an adjustment in the new car.
"When I do what I'm supposed to do, the car works amazing," Pastrana said.
After the Showdown, Pastrana will return to his freestyle motocross ventures, touring with his Nitro Circus show and preparing for X Games in Los Angeles in July. He will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Indianapolis in July.
Before the Showdown, Pastrana said his first goal was to qualify for the race. He accomplished that.
"It's good to be not completely sucking at this point," Pastrana said.
"I feel pretty comfortable in the Toyota. Racing with Waltrip, they've lined me up with some great guys. I feel like I couldn't ask for a better system. If I need a change, they'll help me out and make it better, no matter what."
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