Daredevil Pastrana never met challenge he couldn't surmount

Travis Pastrana once jumped out of a plane without a parachute and lived to tell the tale.

"I had a guy catch me on the way down. It was kind of pass or fail. I always like those tests the best," he said. "If he catches you, it's going to be fine. If he doesn't, there's no injuries involved."

The first person to perform a double backflip on a motorcycle, the 28-year-old Pastrana, a 10-time X Games gold medalist, is familiar with injuries. And surgeries, of which he has had an Evel Knievel-esque 31.

"I've pushed myself a lot," he said.

Pastrana will push himself again today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he'll make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the Smith's 350 at 5:30 p.m. and then compete in a Global RallyCross event at 8:30.

"I'm trying to get my future more into NASCAR, and I always wanted to race here," said Pastrana, who watched last year's truck race at LVMS from the stands.

The native of Annapolis, Md., had hoped to make his NASCAR debut last year during a marathon weekend in July in which he planned to compete in the "Best Trick" event at the X Games in Los Angeles and then fly to Indianapolis for his first Nationwide Series race before returning to L.A. for a RallyCross race.

But he crashed his motorcycle while attempting his signature 720 - he's the only person ever to land one - and shattered his ankle, suffering 40 fractures over seven bones.

Forced to back out of the Nationwide race, Pastrana somehow still managed to compete in the RallyCross event, running near the front before crashing into the wall on the final lap.

"I just basically duct-taped the leg and had hand controls," he said. "It was a bad situation, but we made the most of it."

Pastrana has run nine Nationwide races this year and won the last GRC event in July in New Hampshire.

He pulled his first daily double in Charlotte, N.C., in May, when he became dehydrated and struggled to finish a Nationwide-GRC doubleheader.

"With the NASCAR stuff, it's a lot of laps, and it's really hot in the car," he said. "It sounds stupid - everyone's like, 'You drive a car' - but if it's 100 degrees outside, it's 130 or 140 in the car."

Pastrana, who qualified 17th at an average speed of 173.975 mph Friday night for the Smith's 350, said his biggest challenge today will be staying mentally sharp through both events.

"Luckily, it's an evening race," he said. "It will probably be running 120 in the truck, which is still like sitting in a sauna for a couple of hours."

At least his health is "pretty good," he said. He merely dislocated his left shoulder in practice Friday. "It comes in and out a lot," he said. "It's not a big deal. I've got the other arm to compensate."

It's not like he's jumping out of a plane without a parachute.

■ NOTES - Joey Coulter won the pole for the Smith's 350 with an average speed of 176.632 mph. The pole winner has won the race seven times in 15 years, including the past two. … Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan qualified sixth (175.325 mph), and Ron Hornaday Jr., last year's winner, was 20th (172.933 mph). … Ty Dillon leads the points race with 602, with James Buescher second with 598.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal or 702-383-0354.


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