Travis Pastrana isn't leaving the X Games, he said Tuesday -- he's leaving the Moto X Freestyle. Pastrana told ESPN he plans to compete in the Rally Car Racing events at X Games LA in 2012, and he may return to Moto X Freestyle competition in subsequent events. Pastrana's X Games future was called into question on Sunday, when The Associated Press reported that Pastrana "is about to say goodbye for good to the X Games" to focus on NASCAR racing. Pastrana said the confusion came during a news conference at Dover International Speedway after the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, where he told reporters that X Games 17 (where injuries in the Moto X Best Trick competition waylaid both his X Games "Pastranathon" and his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut) "was supposed to be my exit from X Games."
"Someone asked, 'Are you going to be doing X?' But they were talking about freestyle. I said, 'No. I am only going to commit to doing X Games for rally, but I'll still be riding a lot,'" he said. "The bottom line is, I'm not done. I am crippled right now and can't ride. But I will be riding. I'm out of the cast and in a soft cast. I have all the exposed pins out. There's still one pin and screw that I'll need to have out down the road."Pastrana has been one of the X Games' most decorated athletes since winning his first Moto X Freestyle gold medal in 1999.
Pastrana's rally racing has become as important to him as his FMX accomplishments and helped pave the way for his nascent NASCAR career with Pastrana Waltrip Racing, which he announced last November. He won the first X Games Rally event in 2006, took bronze in 2007, won again in 2008 and took silver in 2009, adding to a pile of hardware that also includes 13 X Games medals in Moto X Freestyle, Step Up, Best Trick, SuperMoto and Speed & Style events.
He quickly fought his way to the top of rally racing in the United States, winning Rally America series titles in 2007, '08 and '09. After breaking his right ankle and foot at X Games in July, Pastrana had hand controls installed in his rally car and was behind the wheel competing two days later with his leg in a cast; he finished fourth.
On Tuesday, his 234,000-plus Twitter followers learned he was "saying goodbye to X Games," seemingly confirming the AP report, but the tweet was later deleted from his account.
"I have no plans to do freestyle next year at X Games, but I will be doing rally every year," Pastrana told ESPN. "Waltrip Racing supports me doing other forms of racing, because everything I do in a car helps. The more I'm driving, the better. The plan for now is basically to spend as much time as I can at the race shop and then hopefully -- mid-December and into January and February -- to go and do quite a bit of testing in Georgia. Then as it gets warmer, come up to the Charlotte area. That part, the story got right."
Pastrana fans have learned rumors of his career's demise tend to be exaggerated, even if they come straight from him. Case in point: After winning Moto X Best Trick in 2006 with the first-ever double backflip, Pastrana swore that he'd never do the trick again for his mother's sake. By 2010, he was seamlessly incorporating the trick into his winning Moto X Freestyle run at X and on his Nitro Circus Live tour earlier this year.
"In 2006, everyone was like, 'Travis is retiring.' And then at the next X Games, they were like, 'He's out of retirement.' But I ride motorcycles every day. That is never going to change. I will still trail ride. I have a foam pit and most of the Nitro Circus crew is at my house all the time. It's not like I'm stopping. I'm just not focusing on freestyle or doing anything risky until I establish whether or not I can race NASCAR. After that, if there is something I want to try, I will do that," he said.
Pastrana has postponed his NASCAR plans until 2012 while he recovers from his injuries and subsequent surgeries, but that recovery appears to be on track. "My ankle is almost 100 percent healed," said Pastrana. "My foot is taking more time, but the ankle is important and it's good. Pain? It sucks. But it will get better."