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NASCAR still considered biggest leap of Travis Pastrana’s career

After flying over the fountains at Caesars Palace Sunday night and sticking the landing, Travis Pastrana was talking about how special Las Vegas has been to him.

How he had proposed to his wife here, had his first Nitro Circus show here. How he had jumped 52 crushed cars and 16 Greyhound buses and those iconic fountains in a tribute to his hero Evel Knievel.

The History channel had to wrap it up before he could talk about passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. here.

It happened during a 2013 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“It was my first nonrestrictor plate race top 10,” the action sports star said with an engaging smile in recalling his brief NASCAR career that encompassed 42 Xfinity and three Truck Series starts.

He was 29 then, late for a NASCAR driver to be breaking in. He ran all 33 Xfinity races for noted car owner Jack Roush with average starting and finishing positions of 17 and 21.3. He was hoping for a little better, of course.

“I find that my talent is making the best of a (bad) situation,” Pastrana said before taking three flying leaps into history.

“In rally, you come over a hill, full-lock drift, between a gate. You’ve got a 100-foot cliff on one side, you might have trees on the other, you might have busted out lights and you gotta figure out how to make that work. Could be snowing, could be raining, could be mud, could be pavement — you might have them all the same day.

“So you’re not dialing a setup. It’s not like trying to find that half a tenth of a second per lap. It’s not as meticulous as NASCAR on pavement.”

Pastrana said he was well-received by the NASCAR drivers, and other than losing a bunch of his own money, he has no regrets about spinning wheels on the big-time stock car circuit.

“The best way to end up a millionaire is to start with two and go racing,” Travis Pastrana said, his smile still on full-lock drift.

Schmidt team wins

Who says Sam Schmidt’s IndyCar team isn’t fast on the ovals?

Seven weeks after being bumped out of the Indianapolis 500 for being too slow, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe won the Iowa Corn 300, presenting Schmidt, his car owner and a longtime resident of Henderson, with his first victory on an oval track.

Because of a crash the race finished under the yellow flag, which may have upset race fans hoping for an exciting conclusion. But before the late caution, Hinchcliffe was leading by nine seconds.

The right car and driver won.

Gaughan again

With a big crash having eliminated many of the contenders (as well as a bunch of also-rans) in NASCAR’s return to Daytona Speedway, the stage was set for Brendan Gaughan to make another strong finish in one of his infrequent Cup Series starts.

After a solid 16th-place qualifying run, the semi-retired Las Vegas veteran got tangled up in a subsequent wreck but still managed a 12th-place finish. His No. 62 Beard Oil South Point Chevrolet was the next-to-last car running on the lead lap at the checkered flag.

For a team that runs only the restrictor-plate races because of limited sponsorship and manpower, it was another nice showing.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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