INDIANAPOLIS – Michael Waltrip can live with the risks taken by Travis Pastrana.
He just thought the action sports star was indestructible. Think again, Michael.
The Maryland native with a shelf full of X Games gold medals, two world-record stunts and a relentless passion to try almost anything, took a nasty spill at the X Games on Thursday night, breaking his right foot and ankle. He was scheduled for surgery on Friday and will have to postpone his highly anticipated Nationwide Series debut that was to take place tonight in Clermont, Ind.
“When I think of Travis Pastrana, I think of Superman,” Waltrip said Friday as drivers practiced for this weekend’s Brickyard 400. “I just assumed it would all be OK.”
His hectic weekend schedule, hyped as the Pastranathon, sounded downright crazy but was intended to expose him to more mainstream sports fans.
Pastrana was scheduled to compete Thursday and Friday in the Moto X Best Trick competition, then fly from Los Angeles to Indianapolis for tonight’s race. The next day he was scheduled to fly back for RallyCross, another X Games event.
But after four years of trying to perfect a trick called the 720, Pastrana desperately wanted to hit it at this week’s X Games. The 27-year-old missed on his first attempt, got up and tried it again on a second bid with far worse results.
“When he fell over the first time and got back up, I’m like ‘Perfect, that’s Travis. He’ll get there,’ ” said Waltrip, who was watching it play out on television. “Then on the second attempt, obviously, we weren’t so fortunate. I got an amazing, sweet email from him last night saying how devastated he was, but how passionate he was about putting that behind him and getting on with his NASCAR career.”
Though it’s not clear how long it will take Pastrana to get back, Waltrip said the team hopes to have Pastrana back for the Sept. 9 race at Richmond.
Wherever he goes, he’s likely to draw big crowds.
He’s one of America’s most popular stuntmen, having won 16 X Games gold medals and multiple supercross, motocross and rally championships. His popularity has grown with a series of motorcycle and automobile jumps and appearances in video games.
And it seems there’s nothing he won’t try.
In September 2007, Pastrana jumped out of a plane without a parachute, hooked up with another parachutist and latched himself to the harness to land safely. On Jan. 1, 2010, he set a world record by jumping a rally car from the Pine Street Pier in Long Beach, Calif., onto a floating barge in the city’s harbor. Total distance: 269 feet. Last September, he set another world record by climbing Mt. Washington’s famed auto road in 6 minutes, 20.47 seconds in a Subaru rally car.
What’s next? It was supposed to be stock cars, where he could emerge as the next big star.
“He really had a good couple of weeks leading up to coming here,” Waltrip said. “Testing, he ran at Lucas Oil Raceway, with David Stremme in a Late Model. Got some laps there and ran some Nationwide cars testing as well. He was prepared. Just couldn’t quite land the jump.”
After testing last week in Indy, Pastrana said he was ready to give up the stunts and concentrate full time on racing.
The question: Which form best suits him?
He has run several races in the NASCAR K&N Pro division and has his eyes on competing for the $5 million prize at IndyCar’s season-ending event in October in Las Vegas. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has offered the money to any driver from another series who wins the race.
Not surprisingly, Pastrana is intrigued. So is Bernard.
“He’s a superstar, an athlete that has been able to excel in many genres of sport and if he can compete in our car and system, he’s exactly what we want,” Bernard said last week. “He’s a huge draw. I can’t believe how many text messages and emails I’ve had already regarding what he said.”
But first, he has to get healthy.
“The main thing is Travis’ health,” Waltrip said. “He gets his foot fixed and we’re going to give him four wheels for a while, we hope, and he probably won’t fall over in the dirt on four wheels.”