X-Games vet Pastrana calls Darlington scary

Friday , May 11, 2012 - 6:05 PM

Pete Iacobelli

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Travis Pastrana has leaped from an airplane without a parachute and jumped a rally car nearly 300 feet off a pier to a floating barge. Yet, he's seldom felt anything as extreme as his first trip around Darlington Raceway on Friday.

It was the "most cared I've been in a vehicle, in anything with a roll cage for sure," Pastrana said after Nationwide Series practice.

Pastrana is competing in his second career Nationwide Series event on Friday night. Pastrana made his debut at Richmond last month and finished 22nd.

Pastrana's spent his career on the edge. He's been an X-Games medalist, raced monster trucks, competed in motocross, supercross, RallyCross, the 24-hour race at Daytona, several international events and starred in an extreme-stunt series called "Nitro Circus."

Pastrana's spent his career on the edge. He's leaped from a plane without a chute over Puerto Rico, meeting up with another jumper on the way down for a safe tandem landing. Two years ago, he set a world record when he jumped his rally car 269 feet off a California pier onto a floating barge anchored in Long Beach's Rainbow Harbor.

Right from the start, Pastrana knew Darlington was something completely different.

"Never really been scared in NASCAR until today, for sure," Pastrana said.

Pastrana is competing in his second career Nationwide Series event on Friday night. Pastrana made his debut at Richmond last month and finished 22nd. He said he's never raced a track that kept pushing the car up closer to the wall on every lap.

"With rally, there's certain times that there's a 100-foot cliffs or trees or snow or fog or whatever and that's scary," Pastrana said. "But this, you know what's coming up and the fact that it is still scary is still overwhelming."

Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle said first timers face an immense challenge in getting up to speed at Darlington. "This place is very, very unforgiving," Biffle said.

Pastrana did two complete spins trying to navigate the track in practice. He kept the car out of the wall. Pastrana's was told the best drivers fight the car's natural tendency to push up to the wall and keep it pinned to the spot in the middle of the track. "So I did that and I spun a 720 (degrees) down the backstretch and was able to keep it off the walls and realized maybe I'm not a good driver yet."

It could take Pastrana some time to compete in NASCAR. He made his debut at Richmond last month and finished 22nd. Pastrana hopes to keep on the lead laps. He remembered how he fell from 25th to 35th at Richmond over the first two laps.

"These guys, it's like sharks in the water," Pastrana said. "When they smell blood if you mess up a little bit, you're going back huge."

Pastrana thinks the way he's handled fear in his other extreme sport stunts and pursuits will aid him at Darlington. "The toughest part is not just saying, 'Okay, I'm going to do this,' but saying, 'All right, I'm going to do this and I'm not going anyone else or myself out in the process."'

Pastrana came to Darlington after getting a haircut. Gone is the mullet he promised Jimmie Johnson he'd keep until winning.

"My wife said it was either divorce or cut hair," Pastrana said. "She wasn't too optimistic about my winning in the near future."

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