Travis Pastrana Thrilled With Impressive Finish In Daytona 500 Debutby Hunter Thomas February 20, 2023 1 comment
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Travis Pastrana led two laps and was in position for a solid finish in the closing laps as he competed in his first-ever Daytona 500.
Pastrana, who is known worldwide for his legendary success in action sports had the opportunity of a lifetime this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway. He’s no stranger to NASCAR, competing in 47 NASCAR national series events, and even a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series effort in 2013; however, this past weekend, he made his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 65th running of the Daytona 500 while competing for 23XI Racing in the No.67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota.
“These are the best drivers in the world,” Pastrana said. “I’m not a great rear-wheel driver, I’m not a great pavement driver. Restrictor plate racing is a little different. We had a great team with this 23XI Toyota team, and it was an honor to be on the track with these guys.”
Pastrana kicked off the effort by racing his way into the Daytona 500 in qualifying, which meant that he didn’t have to do so in the Duels on Thursday night. He started the race in 40th, and on Lap 39, Pastrana became the 10th leader of the race, even though it was due to a communication hiccup.
“I led a lap (shouting), but it was by mistake,” Pastrana said. “They said, ‘Come in, no stay out.’ I’m like, ‘I’m already out.’ I led a lap at the Daytona 500 and finished top-20. The car is not a complete write off, so the kid’s college fund is intact. It was a win, and it was awesome.”
As the laps ticked away, Pastrana stayed clear of the multiple big crashes that took place late in the race. By the time that the race reached double NASCAR Overtime, Pastrana was inside of the top-10 with an opportunity to not only to secure a solid finish but potentially compete for the win.
“It’s funny, I know how to drive a car so just drive,” Pastrana said. “No expectations. Let’s see how far we can get up. I really wanted to give my teammate (Bubba Wallace) more help, but once he locked on the bumper of whoever was in front of him and I wasn’t on his bumper, I kind of left him so that was disappointing, but still made a pretty good run coming across the white flag. When that top started going, I thought, we might be top-five here.”
When the field passed the start-finish line for the final lap, Pastrana was on the outside lane in ninth drafting behind Wallace. Pastrana entered Turn 1 holding his position, but a bump from Aric Almirola sent Pastrana sideways and into Kyle Larson who hit the wall head-on. The crash took out many of the top contenders, and it ultimately ended the race. Although the car was damaged, Pastrana held on to finish 11th in the ‘Great American Race’.
“Honestly, just to be in the hunt at the end,” Pastrana said. “We weren’t in the hunt for the win, but to be in the top-10 on that last restart, this exceeded all my expectations. Obviously, it’s disappointing now because you want to do the best you can. I was really trying not to crash and unfortunately when things got tight in there, I wasn’t able to control it on the top with the push.”
The result was impressive, but Pastrana said that the experience was very mentally and physically demanding, and that says a lot coming from a guy who competes in the sports that he does so regularly.
“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week,” Pastrana said. “I am mentally and physically completely drained. Even the Truck race, my heart rate was 170 in a three-wide pack. 182 was my high. That’s just on adrenaline. So, anyone that says NASCAR is boring, they’re full of crap. They’ve definitely never been in a car because this was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”
Although the effort was quite the experience and very impressive, Pastrana says that he’s trying to slow down in his life, so for now, this was a one and day effort.
“One and done,” Pastrana said. “Now if Cody (Efaw) from Niece Motorsports calls me up and says, ‘Hey, what are you doing this weekend?’ I’ll jump in, but I’m not good enough to be the best at this sport with my skill set. The amount of time that this would take right now and I’m trying to slow down. The reason I’m here right now is because I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been as a driver. We’ve been winning championships on the dirt, and I just wanted to experience the whole Daytona Speedweeks.”
Photo Credit: Mitchell White Photography