Jason Bowles won Saturday night’s Toyota All Star Showdown, but Travis Pastrana got all the attention.
The X-Games star made his much-anticipated NASCAR debut Saturday night, and while he didn’t win, he impressed the NASCAR nation. Including yours truly.
Pastrana started 20th in the 40-car field. He bided his time most of the race, hanging out around mid-pack through the majority of the first 200 laps. Pastrana used that time to get used to the car and racing with others, and managed to stay out of trouble.
That, in it’s own right, was a spectacular feat.
Seemingly every wreck that occurred Saturday night(and there were lots of them) happened directly in front of or near Pastrana. Yet, with the help of spotter Matt Crafton, Pastrana avoided all the carnage and survived to make a charge to the front at the end.
And when crunch time came, he did just that. All of Pastrana’s passes were clean as he dashed to race with the leaders. When he grazed the wall off turn 2 while driving the wheels off the car in the closing laps, Pastrana didn’t blink, staying in the throttle the entire time.
And as the leaders came to the line, there was Pastrana racing wheel-to-wheel with polesitter Derek Thorn, on the outside of a three-wide battle to the stripe. Pastrana beat them both, and ended his debut with a sixth-place finish.
But if that wasn’t impressive enough, Pastrana’s post-race interview sold me.
What he said, I can’t even remember. All I can recall is the excitement in his voice, and the thrill he was experiencing having just completed his first NASCAR race. I thought to myself, “This is a guy I could watch race, and win, for many years to come.”
If Pastrana can keep his positive attitude, and never loses his contagious excitement, he might just be what the doctor ordered for NASCAR. The guy is skilled. He’s exciting. He’s flat-out fun to watch.
He’s Travis Pastrana. And if Saturday night was any indication, he’s here to stay.