Travis Pastrana, driver of the #67 Black Rifle Espresso Toyota, (L) and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #84 Carvana Chevrolet, speak on the grid throughout qualifying for the Daytona 500. (Getty Photographs)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Travis Pastrana has jumped out of a airplane with no parachute however by no means pushed NASCAR’s high Cup Collection automotive over 40 mph. He by no means took the automotive for a lot as a single spin on the high-banked, high-speed monitor at Daytona Worldwide Speedway. And regardless of a earlier dalliance with NASCAR, Pastrana had by no means earlier than tried to qualify for the Daytona 500.
In order the motion sports activities star discovered himself standing on the grid, only a automotive aside from good buddy and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, it may need been a good time for Pastrana to ask for some last-minute pointers from the two-time Daytona 500 winner.
Johnson has simply returned to NASCAR after a two-year stint within the IndyCar Collection and, like Pastrana, the growing old superstars weren’t assured a spot in Sunday’s season-opening spectacle.
However the duo skipped the small discuss entry or exit or throttle or pace. Johnson’s two daughters had been at a close-by horse competitors; Pastrana’s at a cheerleading camp. And that’s what a few dads chatted about earlier than some of the pressure-packed moments in each their NASCAR lives.
Pastrana watched Johnson, making choose begins this season, try his lap on the video board. It was a tough and bumpy journey together with his new Legacy Motor Membership workforce that alarmed Johnson, who after two years away has no thought what the Subsequent Gen automotive is meant to really feel like.
“You’re a skilled man!” Pastrana gushed to Johnson after the session.
When it was Pastrana’s flip to qualify in a Toyota from 23XI Racing, his journey was a lot smoother and, like Johnson, quick sufficient for the duo to assert two of the 4 open spots within the 40-driver Daytona 500 discipline.
Similar to that, a Daytona 500 champ and an X Video games champ shall be racing for one of many greatest prizes in NASCAR.
There have been six drivers vying for the spots, with Johnson and Pastrana incomes the 2 awarded via time trials. The opposite 4 had been set for a pair of Thursday night time qualifying races that finalize the sector.
“Certain, I wish to win. I get in a automotive, that’s the usual factor, that’s what I wish to do,” Johnson mentioned. “However that is extra concerning the lengthy recreation. That is extra about being part of a rising race workforce than it’s actually about that fierce aggressive aspect that I’ve all the time operated by.”
Pastrana, who at practically 40 had turned his consideration to touchdown a Dayonta 500 slot, erupted in celebration after his qualifying lap. He was approached by Kurt Busch, the previous Cup champion, Daytona 500 winner and present 23XI/Toyota coach who was compelled to retire final season after struggling a concussion in July that’s nonetheless not healed.
Busch supplied a dose of actuality for Pastrana: “Kurt Busch got here proper as much as me on the finish and mentioned, ‘OK, now we get to work.'”
Pastrana’s definition of labor won’t match the same old vernacular inside NASCAR.
This is identical hell raiser who has YouTube movies with 1 million views devoted to his most gnarly crashes. So getting behind the wheel of arguably the most secure automotive in NASCAR historical past won’t essentially present the identical problem of, say, a daredevil backflip into the Grand Canyon.
Pastrana, although, was anticipated to win all these gold medals and make followers maintain their breath over every terrifying trick. In contrast to the 47-year-old Johnson, who believes he can win Sunday, Pastrana is simply glad to offer the race a strive. His workforce, workforce co-owned by Michael Jordan, had the capability to enter Pastrana and Toyota had a fast-enough engine to get him into his dream race.
“If I can get this automotive on the lead lap to the end line, I by no means mentioned that earlier than about something however successful, however that shall be a win,” Pastrana mentioned.
It is likely to be becoming if Pastrana can stick round for the end and by some means watch Johnson win a 3rd Daytona 500. Pastrana went on one in all his first dates together with his spouse on the NASCAR monitor in Fontana, California, a few years in the past to observe Johnson race. Pastrana mentioned he saved Johnson up late speaking about sooner or later making a run at his personal NASCAR profession.
He tried a NASCAR profession a decade in the past and raced the complete Xfinity Collection schedule in 2013 for Roush Fenway Racing. Pastrana did end tenth at Daytona in 2013 within the second-tier Xfinity race and — whereas the vehicles have advanced and he is nonetheless a inventory automotive novice — maybe it provides somewhat slice of potential that perhaps he could possibly be aggressive on Sunday.
That’s, if he can simply get to the top.
“I mentioned to my spouse, ‘Look, I wish to spend extra time dwelling. I wish to step again somewhat bit. However proper now that is the very best likelihood I’ve, the very best success I’ve had in autos to place my finest foot ahead,’” Pastrana mentioned.
AP Auto Racing Author Jenna Fryer contributed to this story
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