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NASCAR pursues more action-sports stars like Travis Pastrana, Ricky Carmichael

By Tripp Mickle
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

NASCAR executives have cozied up to action sports stars as it looks to generate new interest among "millennial males" during the 2011 season.

NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps has worked behind the scenes over the past few months to assist former motocross stars Travis Pastrana, Brian Deegan and Ricky Carmichael as they look to join the Nationwide Series and eventually the Sprint Cup Series.

"We're thrilled Pastrana is coming to race, we're thrilled Deegan is coming over and we're excited they could be racing against Ricky Carmichael again," Phelps said. "We'll help them build a new fan base and hope they bring a new fan base to us."

Phelps said 18- to 34-year-old males are a major focus for the sport in 2011, and he sees the addition of action sports stars to NASCAR as one way to reach those males. He said he hasn't actively courted Pastrana or Deegan but has assisted them after being approached for help. He previously worked at Wasserman Media Group, which represents Pastrana.

"We over-index in the 18-to-34 male segment, but it's down," Phelps said. "We need to be sure to stay relevant in that demographic and action sports is one way to do that. That's why we've tried to help."

WMG principal Steve Astephen, who runs the agency's action sports division, said Pastrana was just the first of several of his clients who will look to transition into NASCAR. He said skateboard star Ryan Sheckler, who grew up racing go-karts, plans to test next year.

"Steve Phelps and the NASCAR family have been nothing but supportive of this idea," Astephen said. "This can be great for the sport."

Tripp Mickle is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal