While most of the motocross community was focused on the runaway win of Ryan Villopoto in Anaheim this past weekend, the country's most well known motocross star was a whole coast away in Daytona, Fla. Travis Pastrana switched two wheels for four and joined many of the world's top sports car drivers at the 'Roar Before the Rolex 24' -- a practice and test session for the upcoming 'Rolex 24 at Daytona' later this month.
"Getting to drive at Daytona was so cool. I won my first pro supercross race here, and I've always dreamed of driving here," Pastrana said. "When I hit the high banks for the first time, it was 'holy cow - here we come!' It was also my first time in a Ferrari. I can't complain. I spent last night watching footage so I can find a little more speed."
Pastrana will be putting in his inaugural ride as part of the Michael Waltrip racing team in their racing partnership with Italian racing team, AF Corse. Pastrana is linked to Waltrip as part of Pastrana/Waltrip racing and was destined to run his first season of Nascar Nationwide events last year until famously crashing at X Games Best Trick, effectively ending his X Games run and his heavily-promoted Nascar debut that same weekend.
The Rolex 24 is, as its name would suggest, is a 24-hour long race held at the legendary Daytona Motor Speedway. Teams of drivers must race -- and keep their car intact -- for a full 24 hours, switching up drivers as the race progresses. Teams must have a minimum of two drivers and in the case of the AF Waltrip effort, the team consists of four race ready pilots: Pastrana, road racing veteran Rui Aguas, Waltrip's team partner Rob Kauffman and Waltrip himself. Michael Waltrip is of course no stranger to Daytona Motor Speedway, having won the Daytona 500 on two occasions.
The course utilizes most of the Daytona high-banked race course, with a short infield road section and a back stretch chicane to slow the cars down before turns three and four. Pastrana's team is driving a race equipped Ferrari 458 GT and at least three of the four drivers admitted that the car was going to take some getting used to as Waltrip pointed out pre-test: "In this type of racing, you have to find a happy medium for all the drivers. I've never driven the latest version of the 458 so instead of worrying about learning the track and car, which is what I usually do when I race a Ferrari, this weekend I'm just focused on the car."
The AF Waltrip team will have some serious competition in the heavily contested GT class. "I have some pretty simple goals this weekend," Pastrana said. "I need to learn the track, learn the car and work hard with the other guys on pit stops exchanges. It might look easy on television but getting drivers in and out of the car quickly takes some practicing. The real key for me will be to learn how to drive the Ferrari without burning through the tires. We have a lot of work to do."