Travis Pastrana moves on
On Monday afternoon, Travis Pastrana posted a message to his Facebook page. It was addressed to no one in particular, because it was meant for everyone: his fans, his friends, his teammates at Roush Fenway Racing, anyone who supported him, believed in him or doubted him during his two-year push into NASCAR.
"I wanted it to come from me," Pastrana says. "In my words." Not from a press release or an AP story or a statement ghost-written by a representative from his team. The decision had been his to make, so the news would be his to break.
"This past season of NASCAR has been an awesome experience ..." Pastrana wrote. "It's tough to step back now and prove the critics were right, but unfortunately my results were not good enough to get the sponsors I needed to appropriately fund next season." (Read the full statement here.)
It was not an easy statement for the 30-year-old Pastrana to write. To him, choosing to exit NASCAR after only one full season on the Nationwide series meant admitting defeat. It meant acknowledging that he had not achieved the goal he had set out to accomplish, that he was quitting and, worst of all, that he had failed.
"By definition, this year was not a success," Pastrana says. "The goal was not to leave after two years, so I failed. This was my year to prove myself. It was a tough decision, but with the opportunities I have with the Nitro Circus and off-road racing, it was the right decision."
But if the true meaning of failure is never to have tried, then this year was, by definition, a success. Pastrana might hate to fail as much as any person in sports, but it is the fact that he confronts it head on, any chance he has, that is perhaps his most admirable quality. He is neither crippled by fear of failure nor complacent in the avoidance of it.
Whatever the outcome of his many pursuits, Pastrana never stands still long enough to be defined by any one success any more than by any one failure. So now he moves on, jumping out of NASCAR and into next year.
This season, Pastrana funded a large portion of his racing efforts in Nationwide, while racing a full season on the Global Rallycross series, traveling internationally to X Games events and becoming a dad. Had he been able to secure funding for a full season in 2014, he would have returned to the sport, "absolutely," but even with longtime sponsor Red Bull's support, his cup was still a half-season empty.
That wasn't enough to weigh the scales against an expanding and exploding Nitro Circus Live tour, opportunities in off-road racing, and getting to spend more time with his wife, Lyn-z, and their two-month old daughter, Addy Ruth.
"My main focus right now is Nitro," says Pastrana, who will fly to Europe with his family Sunday, the day after his final race at Homestead, Fla., to join up with the Nitro Circus Live crew and remain on tour until Dec. 14. Lyn-z will return to skateboarding on the European tour at the end of the month.
Knowing this is my last race, knowing it doesn't matter how I do, knowing this will be my last full year of NASCAR racing... It makes it a lot of fun. And I always race better when I'm having fun.Travis Pastrana
"The shows have been selling out all over the world," he says, "and I get to spend time with my wife and daughter and some of the most amazing athletes and positive people."
On Monday, Nitro Circus announced that Godfrey Entertainment, the film and TV company founded by Pastrana and Gregg Godfrey in 2003, and Nitro Circus Live, the touring company, will merge. The Raine Group, a media, sports and entertainment merchant bank headquartered in New York, has made an investment of roughly $25 million into the venture.
"It's huge for us," Pastrana says. "It's incredible how much Nitro has grown in the past 10 years. I never thought when we were making those first videos that it would grow to this."
The company plans to expand the tour internationally, add permanent shows in Las Vegas and Macau and build an elite training academy for athletes. For 2014, the show schedule will more than triple, with tours in South Africa, North America and Australia. Beginning in Europe, Pastrana will return to his eponymous show both holding a mike and back on the bike.
"I can't travel around the world and watch everyone else have fun," he says. But in the future, his role of ringleader will take on an even greater meaning.
"It's my job to continue to make the sport, and the show, better and safer," Pastrana says. "I need to make the entertainment bigger to keep people coming back, but my job is to keep the guys healthy enough to ride the whole tour. I want to help action sports progress in the right way."
That means designing ramps that will allow riders to launch triple backflips and 1080s on dirtbikes -- as well as those tricks riders have yet to create -- and working with a company called Bagjump to design innovative air bags that will keep them safe while doing so.
In the weekends between tours, Pastrana will reunite with former co-driver Christian Edstrom to contest a Rally America championship, which he won from 2006 to 2009 -- the last year he raced a full schedule. He plans to team up with his GRC teammate Bryce Menzies to race the Baja 1000 next November, a race Pastrana has yet to finish in the Truck division.
He also hasn't ruled out hopping in a car for a few races in GRC. "This is the sport that has the opportunity to be really huge," Pastrana says.
After his statement was posted to Facebook, Pastrana went out riding at his home in Maryland. When he returned to his house a couple of hours later, he had more than 200 text messages from friends, family and drivers in the series.
Michael Waltrip left a voicemail. Brian Scott texted to tell him what an honor it was to race against him all season. Jimmie Johnson -- "who's in the middle of a Cup chase!" -- reached out to remind him he's always welcome to change his mind, even for one-off races next season. And Dale Jr. wanted him to know the sport is better off because he was in it, and told him he should be proud.
"I barely talked to Dale before today," Pastrana says. "It's overwhelming how many people care and took the time to write. NASCAR really is such a cool little family."
This weekend in Homestead will be a family reunion of sorts, a gathering of friends from Nitro, X Games and motocross who texted to say they'd be at the speedway. Several drivers in the series said they would stop by throughout the weekend to celebrate his final race in the No. 60 car.
"Knowing this is my last race, knowing it doesn't matter how I do, knowing this will be my last full year of NASCAR racing ... it makes it a lot of fun," Pastrana says. "And I always race better when I'm having fun."
Even Robbie Van Winkle, a former Supercross racer and longtime friend who recently built a new house in Palm Beach, texted to invite Travis and his family down to Miami a day early.
"I'm flying down on Thursday to jet ski with Vanilla Ice," Pastrana says. Sounds like the start of one fabulous retirement party.