Travis Pastrana held a teleconference with media earlier this week. The rally car driver, action-sports star and motocross rider will make the move to NASCAR in 2011, driving several Nationwide Series races for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, for which he is a part-owner.
A transcript of the teleconference follows:
ON FIRST TEST WITH PASTRANA-WALTRIP RACING AT NEW SMYRNA SPEEDWAY (IN A K&N PRO EAST SERIES CAR):
"The first two days went absolutely great. I had a lot of time in different cars and racing different things, but I just didn't know where the baseline was going to be, so I've been very happy. The team has been awesome. We had a great setup for a starting point and it was just really a lot of fun getting out there and getting a feel for the car. I picked it up pretty quick. We took some time and I'm working with a few different people. Matt (Crafton) was out here and really helped and tried to coach me. He was teaching me how to roll the middle maybe a little bit more to keep speed in the corners and not do what we do in motocross or even in rally - where we charge the corners maybe a little too hard - and pivot the car around. I definitely had fun and didn't crash either day, so I guess that's a start. (laughs).
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF A STOCK CAR AT NEW SMYRNA SPEEDWAY?
"It was absolutely awesome. I had a lot of fun. I was running the East car which still has the bias ply tires, so you could still slide it a bit, but it was a really good car to kind of get a base feel. There were a couple guys testing the Nationwide cars out there which are a little more challenging, but I think for a first step this was an absolute blast. I really look forward to getting in with more people and kind of see how it works from there.
DID YOU SPIN AT ALL, AND IF NOT, WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST "OH SHIT!" MOMENT YOU HAD IN TWO DAYS?
"Honestly, no spins. No problems. I got up to speed within 0.3 of my best lap within the first hour of testing. I had one where I was trying to carry more speed into the corner. Matt Crafton said I was breaking a little too hard on the entry and wasn't carrying enough speed through the middle, so I didn't break as hard and ended up in a full drift where I actually bent the control arm I was so far out. I thought I was going in the wall, but it was just a full on drift around the entire corner and then popped out perfect. I mean, it wasn't my fastest lap, but it was a lot of fun. I wouldn't have been so lucky in the Nationwide car, but other than that there were no problems at all. Really felt good in the car and I think everyone was really happy with how it turned out."
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU'LL BE ABLE TO BRING SOME OF YOUR YOUNGER FANS TO NASCAR OR DO YOU THINK YOU MAY LOSE SOME FANS AS YOU CHANGE TO NASCAR RACING?
"I really think that it depends on results. There's a lot of expectation from a lot of people and especially coming from the motocross industry and that kind of thing. A lot of the motocross industry is saying, why would you go from Rally which seems really exciting to NASCAR, which when you just look at it you're just turning left. But, honestly, NASCAR is the top form of racing maybe in the world - definitely in the United States. It's the highest level of competition, everyone is so close and I think as a competitor there is no greater thrill then to put yourself against the best. So for me it's really a new challenge. I've been able to win four rally championships where there is great competition and a lot of good guys, but let's see if I can make the switch here. As it goes definitely the results are going to play a big role in whether people think it was a good idea or a bad idea. Most ideas are judged on the outcome as opposed to the actual thought, but I think the action sports guys are really getting into the car stuff and with age and a cage almost everybody that's been at the top of action sports, whether it's Dave Mirra or Bucky Lasek, Chad Reed even Carmichael - I mean heck, Jeff Ward got second in the Indy 500 and he came from motocross. Not that guys haven't done it in the past, but I think the move to NASCAR is going to get people to watch and they'll probably expect great results right off the bat, which I'm going to hope for but I'm sure is not realistic. So we'll see. Definitely in the end our goal is to get this Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team to the front of the pack."
HAVE YOU DONE ANY OUTREACH TO YOUR CURRENT FANS TO EDUCATE THEM ON WHAT TO EXPECT?
"For sure. I mean, that's the big thing for Michael (Waltrip). His thing is, look we want to get a lot of these guys that have had success in other sports that know what it takes to be a champion. In the long term as a business owner say, hey can we get some of these guys to start looking at NASCAR and get some of these guys to maybe start driving at a younger age and maybe take some of the skills that they learned from BMX or motocross and they have that exposure and understanding of what it takes for media and press and can we help NASCAR grow. I mean, every team is very ambitious in how it starts and we don't expect to change the world, but I think it is a really good fit. I think if the fan base of action sports understands truly how amazing and how awesome it is to race against the best that the United States and maybe even the world now, with some of the F1 drivers and Indy drivers starting to come over into NASCAR because it's where the best go. I think that's something that any competitive individual can relate to."
WITH ALL THE EXCITING THINGS YOU DO WHAT DOES AN ADRENALINE RUSH MEAN TO YOU? AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
"Well, for me my whole life is been based, at least from the outside, is based around adrenaline, but actually it's really based on competition and trying to figure out what it takes to get to the top of the sports, at least where I'm concerned, that people consider crazy or dumb or whatever your words may be. (Laugh). But, doing the Nitro Circus is a lot of fun because my friends travel around with me and we get to go out and really come up with some fun stuff to do and travel the world with my friends. But having said that, I think with NASCAR the coolest thing is just the competition base. That's really what I'm looking forward to the most. To go home and get on a road bike or for me working out is kind of my relaxing time if that makes any sense at all. Unfortunately I spend a lot of time on airplanes and sitting in cars, so it's nice to really get outside a little bit."
DO YOU THINK CHAMPIONS IN ALL SPORTS HAVE SIMILAR ABILITIES OR TRAITS AND COULD YOU IDENTIFY SOME OF THOSE?
"Yeah, I definitely think that's true. If you find a way to get to the top in any sport you know the passion that it takes. I don't care how much you're given or how many sponsors backed you - someone always says I've got a lucky break, but generally people make their own luck. You need luck on your side for sure, but I think anyone that's made it to the top in any sport has got respect for the other people in the other sports because you realize that you don't take the media for what it is. There's so many times that people just don't bother to tell their story and if someone makes it, no matter if they think they're training hard or they got all the lucky breaks - anyone that is an athlete or the best at their sport realizes that it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice not only from them, but from everyone around them. I think that's the common bond between every sport."
COMING INTO YOUR FIRST YEAR HERE WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE REALISTIC EXPECTATION AND HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT WILL GO?
"You know yesterday was really my first day to even set a baseline and say, ‘OK, this is where we are.' I was fairly consistent. I felt like our times were really good. Having said that, I have never been in a race with 42 other cars. So it's going to be a huge learning experience. Rally is just you on the track. Honestly, I felt like I had the most trouble trying to do the qualifying laps. More than likely I will struggle a bit on being at the front at the beginning of a race. With any luck we will be able to work as a team and get better. I have great people around me and we'll try to continually get the laps that I need. We'll just work on whatever that first base is and work up from there. The team is basically doing everything possible to make it as easy as possible. It's going to take time and I realize that. I have high hopes. Every racer out there thinks they can win. It's just a matter of getting the time in. I know that didn't really answer anything. We will just have to see how the first race goes and go from there."
WHAT DOES YOUR COMPETITION SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE OUTSIDE OF NASCAR NEXT YEAR?
"This first year in NASCAR is going to be a little difficult until August until the X Games. I have Nitro Circus live tour that will take up some time in February and then again in March. Definitely, working on doing a few things for X Games this year and then the focus goes 100 percent over to NASCAR. I feel I am going to need a few rounds, a few races, and a few test sessions to really figure out where I am. Really after every test session I need to just go home and really think about it and try to analyze what happened instead of just jumping in and pounding myself into the ground. After every race you give yourself a little time to talk it over with the team and figure out what we need to do to improve ourselves next race.
"My main goal is not to look like an idiot this year. Hopefully, next year we can come in with a good game plan with some experience under our belt and really start doing well. Obviously, I am very optimistic. Hopefully, we will get there eventually but it's not going to be quick but I think we have a pretty good plan."
DID YOU GET IN BOTH THE NATIONWIDE CAR AND EAST CAR AND WHO DIRECTED THE TEST FROM PWR?
"Basically, I was supposed to get in the Nationwide car a little bit but the weather was really cold. So we just kind of stuck with the East car which was a lot of fun. Michael (Waltrip) didn't get out to the test but it was good to get to know the whole crew and the mechanics. Matt Crafton was probably the greatest help. Crew chief Jerry (Baxter) was awesome. He said look, it's going to be a difficult learning curve but I really think you are a lot better than what we expected and you didn't hit a wall."
IN GENERAL WHY DO THIS? YOU DON'T REALLY NEED TO DO THIS FOR YOUR CAREER OR REPUTATION WHY DO IT?
"For me it's all about waking up every morning with a passion. I have always been one to switch maybe before I needed to or maybe before other people thought it was wise. I think if you are passionate about something you can find a way to make it happen. In my 27 years I have been able to chase a lot of different dreams and I feel like I have done as much as I can do in that sport or been as successful as I want to. I need to wake up every morning thinking about nothing else other than what it's going to take to get to the top of whatever sport I am in. I think this is the biggest challenge that I have ever had and it's going to take a lot of time, but I am willing to put the time in."
Do you have kind of a comprehension of how much time it’s going to take and are you ready to give up some of your other activities in order to focus on this more?
"For sure, there is going to come a time when I need to focus on this more and that time is fast approaching. I want to get a background of the entire sport. I watched it on TV all the time but unlike what Cole Trickle said the coverage on ESPN might not be fully comprehensive as a learning tool. It's going to take a lot of time and effort. I have gotten to know a lot of guys through Red Bull like Brian Vickers and guys that have come from California like Rick Johnson and Jimmie Johnson. They are all convinced that I am going to hit a lot of walls and it's going to be a rough learning curve. However, everyone is really behind me in trying to help out as much as they can. I am optimistic that I can do this and we are going to give it everything we got to give a legitimate effort."
DID CARL EDWARDS GIVE YOU AN ADVICE AT THE RACE OF CHAMPIONS?
"I gave Carl a hard time because we did the Nations Cup and I won two of the three races, and Carl had some really tough draws and didn't win a race. But, he came back at me and said, ‘When I'm lapping you for the third time in your first Nationwide race I'm going to put you in the wall.' I mean, he was joking, but the best advice he gave me was - don't expect to be running up front for a while. He's really a funny guy though - definitely I'm going to be looking for a lot of advice. Everyone keeps saying that they are open for questions, but it wasn't until I got in this car yesterday that I even knew what I should ask. Rick Johnson, who is one of my heroes from motocross, we had done the Catalina GP on motorcycles and he had driven some truck stuff - he had basically said, ‘Look, you're going to want to come in too hard. You're going to want to overdrive the corners and you're going to think that you're making up time, but end up losing time going down the straightaways.' Which is pretty basic thinking and philosophy - okay, just be smooth. But as a motocross racer you just want to charge in and make up the time there and pretty much all of telemetry was telling me that is exactly what I was doing. I was braking later than everybody, braking harder than everybody and slowing down more than everybody and not really being able to set the car up for exit. I think it's all just time and learning how to slow down in order to go faster."
AT DIFFERENT TIMES WHEN YOU'VE WOKE UP IN THE MORNING YOU'VE SEEN A MOTOCROSS DRIVER, A RALLY DRIVER ... WHAT DO YOU SEE NOW?
"As with rally it took two years of everybody laughing and joking and saying, ‘oh you jumped right into the top series. You're going to crash a lot. You're never going to make it. It's not going to be good,' and yeah, they were mostly right for a few rounds. Then we just really buckled down and knew what we needed to work on and that was such an awesome challenge to overcome all of the people that said I couldn't make it. That's my whole life. I was groomed as a racer. I went into freestyle and everybody said that there is such thing as the sport of freestyle - that's where the guys that can't make it in motocross go. And now freestyle may even be a bigger sport than motocross is itself. It's just been a combination of a lot of luck and a lot of hard work. I really think that when I look in the mirror, I mean, I don't see a NASCAR driver yet ... but I sure hope I see myself as one here real soon. But we'll see what happens."
HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE TO GET THE RALLY DRIVING STYLE OUT OF YOUR HEAD TO CONVERT TO THE NASCAR SERIES?
"I think it is going to be really difficult because my biggest asset in both motocross and rally is the ability to charge when the chips are on the line. Whatever the situation, I could find the time. In stock car racing, you can't find a lot of time but you certainly can lose it. I think that is going to be the biggest thing. In motocross you see something two seconds in front of you and you can close your eyes and do a wheelie into a whoop section. In rally, you listen to what your co-driver says and if you think you can hold it wide open over a crest, it doesn't matter if it's snowing with both your headlights busted out and a 100 foot cliff on your right, you do it. With NASCAR it is not that simple. It's like any circuit racing. There is nothing you can blindly launch into. It's going to be a big challenge and not be able to simply just go faster. You have to do it through technique and skill. That's going to take some time."
YOU LENT YOUR NAME TO PASTRANA-WALTRIP RACING, HOW MUCH IF ANYTHING ARE YOU GOING TO DO IN THE DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS OF THE COMPANY?
"Our goals are the same. Michael is looking at is as an opportunity to see what these action-sports guys can do. Here's a chance and we'll start with you. If I fail, then the whole thing kind of goes downhill. For me, it's about the business plan and what we hope to accomplish than the day-to-day thing for now. I really hope to spend more time in the future with everything that goes on behind the scenes of a race team. Right now my focus is on driving. Michael is in a little different boat where his focus is to provide the best cars and team possible to allow me to get there so we can fulfill both of our goals which is to merge these two worlds together."
WHEN YOU MADE THE DECISION TO DO THIS WERE THE PEOPLE THAT YOU KNEW THAT YOU RACED WITH, YOUR FANS, WERE THEY MOSTLY ON BOARD OR DID YOU HAVE TO DO SOME CONVINCING?
"There was a little bit of both. Anyone who is given the opportunity to race in NASCAR and says they wouldn't is flat out lying. Having said that, I think a lot of people have always seen me as someone who does something with that. From racing bikes, that's where all the money was and turned down a big contract to go into rally which hardly had any money and turned down a big contract to go into Freestyle which at the time basically you were paying your way to get there. Now you are going into something that people perceive as what you do as a financial thing. Nothing I have done has been for that reason. Honestly if it is about the money, you would never make it. There has got to be a passion burning inside you that is greater than any financial gain or greater than anyone else could put in you to try and be the best at something. For me this was something I needed to do to just see if I could do it. I always sat down to watch Daytona which there was about 200 of us at a little go-kart track. About three years ago I had the chance to run a Silver Crown car and from that point on, I have been trying to get involved with this. It's 50-50. Half the people are really excited and believe I will do well. They tell me to go for it. The other half just doesn't understand what NASCAR is all about. Jeff Gordon told me something a few years ago that really stood out. I said, ‘Man you get to run an F1 car. How cool and awesome was that?' He kind of shrugged and said, ‘It was fun but for me it's not the driving. It's the competition.' I think I kind of reiterated that too much in this interview but that is what NASCAR brings to the table. It's something that action sports and everyone can really relate if they allow themselves to see it for what it is. It's not that you are just turning left. It's obviously not that simple otherwise everybody would be doing it."
IN WORKING WITH CREW CHIEF JERRY BAXTER, HOW DID THE CHANGES YOU SUGGESTED FEEL TO YOU AND IN GENERAL, HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO RELATE TO THE CHANGES?
"Jerry Baxter is awesome and a really funny guy. What is really neat about it and this whole Waltrip-Pastrana race team, they are all about having fun. They were busting my chops yesterday, but at the same time, they are very serious. I think what really related was Jerry told me the car was pretty much set up. If I had anything that was really killing me, they would change it. But it was more about getting the time in the car. When we go to a race, I don't care how I did at first. It would be my base. The focus is to get all the laps in. It's about working the race from the ground up as opposed to just go out there and dominate. After my first season in Rally, my team manager said the same thing. I was crashing out of a race. Testing was too expensive to do all the time. Since I was crashing out of the races, I wasn't getting the experience I needed. The team wanted me to finish 10th instead of crashing out. I started out finishing eighth and seventh and then I started getting some podiums. I ended up winning the championship at the end of the year because of consistency and not on winning. I think that's what I really saw very similar in the approach to this and the approach to how I started doing well in Rally. It's really good to have Jerry and someone who has been around and worked for these different race teams. He really understands the sport. I think it's going to be a good match."
IF IT WAS UP TO YOU, WHEN WOULD YOU WANT TO TEST A STOCK CAR AGAIN? WHEN IS THE NEXT ACTUAL SCHEDULED TEST?
"If it was up to me, I would want to be in the car again tomorrow. The next scheduled test is in early January. I definitely need to get in as much testing as I can before the race at the end of January. The guys told me to go home and sit on it and think about it. When I come back, I will be better for having thought about it and thought about what my mistakes were ... thought about what I could improve. And instead of feeding my bad habits, every time I go out there, I am to have a purpose. I think it's good to have a whole team behind you. I'm not saying that I didn't have that in motorcycles, but I think if I had what I have in Rally and now with this NASCAR team, if I had that in motocross, I probably would have been a lot better off for championships.
HAS THERE BEEN A TIME WHEN YOU HAVE MOMENTARILY FAILED AT SOMETHING AND HOW MIGHT THAT HELP YOU WITH NASCAR. NASCAR APPEARS TO BE AS TOUGH A CHALLENGE AS WHAT YOU FACED EVEN BASED ON WHAT SOME OTHER FOLKS HAVE TRIED TO DO IN THE PAST.
"I failed at pretty much everything I have tried to do. Initially you have high expectations and when you come from one sport where you are winning it is very difficult to accept not winning. I think it is the greatest asset and the greatest problem or hindrance. When I was in motocross, I won right away in the 125 class. Then I had a lot of trouble adapting to the bigger 250 motorcycle. Free Style went pretty well from the very beginning. Rally, it took me a long time to really figure it out. It's difficult when you come in and it's not under the radar. I'm not doing what Ricky Carmichael did. He did a great job coming into NASCAR and keeping a low profile. He really learned the ins and outs. He's done great in some Nationwide races this year. He's not winning but for a guy that hasn't had a lot of car experience he is doing really well. He's putting in the time and he knows what it takes to win. He's got a great team. I think I can do the same. Like you said, it is going to be really difficult at the end of -- maybe the first race or maybe the first four races ... people may think because we're not winning, we suck. All of the media that may have been positive and nice and great so far ... there may be some I told you sos or see you can't do it. It might take everyone at Waltrip-Pastrana Racing to step up and say this is what we need to do to win. Let's not prove them right. Let's make sure. Maybe it's a year or two down the road to find our way to the top."
WHAT WILL BE THE TOUGHEST FOR YOU ... NOT WINNING RIGHT AWAY OR TRYING TO FIGURE THINGS OUT? OR PEOPLE ASKING WHY AREN'T YOU WINNING.
"For me, it's about having a good three-year program. I realize that it's not going to be easy. I realize people are going to expect a lot. It's not going to be something that's going to happen right off the bat. Yeah, it's going to be difficult when you go to every race and say maybe I qualify good for somewhere and you are excited and you have a chance to move up but the car or I am not quite good enough whatever the case may be to say lets settle for 15th place here and let's get the track experience. I think that is going to be difficult especially if I think if I push a little bit harder I should be able to move up to 10th to beat this guy or do whatever. I think I should have a good spotter, a good crew chief, a good team. I just need to have everyone keep me and move me in the right direction. I can't let certain things get the best of me. We have to do this methodically. It's going to be rough. There is no doubt about it. There will be a time, probably very shortly after the first race where everyone is going to say that I am not going to make it. But I really believe in myself and my team."