Pastrana revs up for some rallycross
Travis Pastrana has to be the hardest working man in show business. His schedule during the past few years became more and more hectic as a freestyle motocross rider, then a rally driver and the owner and performer on the Nitro Circus tour and TV show.
Over the past couple of seasons, Pastrana has also dabbled in the sport of NASCAR, but this year he decided to jump into NASCAR with both feet and became a driver for legendary owner Jack Roush's Roush-Fenway Nationwide team. Even with this frenetic schedule, he has decided to run another year in the Global Rallycross Championship season. I got a few moments between car rides to talk 2013 with No. 199, who revealed a new technical partner for his GRC team.
Pastrana was so informative we've decided to split the interview into two parts. Here's Part 1:
XGames.com: So 2013 looks like another busy year for you. What are you looking forward to in GRC?
Pastrana: Driving GRC with heroes like Petter Solberg! He signed the hood on my first-ever rally car that I raced and I still have that cut-out piece that he signed from my crashed hood hanging on my wall at home. There's just so many of the WRC [World Rally Championship] guys coming over and it's an awesome opportunity. And to have X Games doing four stops, to have this opportunity, even though I am definitely full time and racing 34 rounds of NASCAR this year, this is something that, definitely, I can't give up. The cars are awesome, the competition is awesome, and it's a lot of fun.
The structure of the team is Bryce Menzies is our No. 1 driver. He is going to drive every round. I am team owner, which means I get to drive whenever I want [laughs]. So we're running two cars every race and I'm driving as much as I possibly can. There's a couple that we're actually going to be taking flights to and Bryce, he's awesome, and his dad is really helping out to get private jets from here to there. We might even get someone else to qualify the car in a few places that I have two races, but any time that I can physically make it, without a teleport, from where I am to the start of the race: I will be there.
If you are not in that second car do you put someone else in there?
Yes, there's actually three guys we are talking to right now that are all pretty eager to find out who's in. So it depends on what round and what our sponsors say.
We've kind of got names and there's guys that I would like to put in. But as a team owner it also comes down to a little bit of business because we are looking for a guy that can either get out there and win or bring some decent exposure and media attention, which is obviously what everyone is looking for, but we're not looking for a consistent guy for a championship.
We have that with Bryce, who I think has learned a lot. There's no one that I have ever worked with that is more of a sponge than Bryce Menzies. He listens to everybody, he tries everything and takes what works. He comes in and he's very smooth and very consistent, but with these cars you have to be aggressive, man. You have to stomp straight line braking, pitch the thing in the corner and straight acceleration. He's used to kind of arcing everything in and just having almost like a road car line. So learning from what he has done with the rally car I'm excited to actually race short-course racing again and try his technique [laughs].
So your team has a new technical partner for this year?
Yes it does. I shouldn't say it held us back last year, but we didn't really get a lot of testing at areas that we thought were good. You know, we had a lot of parking lot stuff -- or what felt like parking lots last year -- and this year the courses should be different and there should be a lot more dirt.
Some courses might be mostly tarmac and some almost all dirt is what I hear. So with Dirtfish Rally School not only do we have our cars up there [Snoqualmie, Wash.], but any time we want to go drive -- and for me I have not had a lot of time in the last two years on the all-wheel-drive stuff -- it's awesome to go up there and drive.
They were laughing, but last time I was there I was like "Dude, I want to go through the school. I want to learn." And they were like [laughs], "Why?"
I can learn anything, and it has been great because you know Bryce went up there for a week and just worked with their instructors. Bryce could probably beat most of their instructors in a head-to-head event, but there was a lot of stuff that he was doing that is, you know, not right for rally and that he could be doing better. I think it has been really great for both of us who are not full-time rally guys.So somebody could sign up for Dirtfish school and find themselves desk-to-desk with you when they get up there?
[Laughs] Yeah, it happened all last week and it will happen next week, as well.
Back in New Hampshire last year you were talking to me about the challenge of changing from one style to another style of racing. These days you are predominantly a NASCAR driver, but what's it like to have to, on the same weekend, jump out of a car where you are driving that oval and then get into the GRC car?
It's actually a lot more different than I had thought. Last year the only race we won, I ended crashing out of the NASCAR race [laughs] so it gave me a little more time to compute what I had to do for the rally.
You know, I always said if you can drive one thing you can drive whatever -- it doesn't matter, but all-wheel-drive is like motocross. It is all about aggression, you are hard into the corner, brake hard, accelerate hard. When in doubt -- throttle out, kind of deal. It's an aggressive form of racing. NASCAR, the speeds are so much higher you're constantly on the edge. Such minimal, minimal input into the wheel. You're just barely sliding all the way and if you ever start sliding too much, with just how the cars are set up, it's really hard to catch. There's no handbrake, you're not usually hard on the brakes.
Everything is very smooth and very, very subtle. So I had a really hard time last year -- not necessarily going from racing one to racing the other, but the qualifying. Usually you would go practice one and then practice the other, then you would qualify in one and qualify in the other.
The biggest trouble for me was just to jump in on that first lap of NASCAR and then that first lap of qualifying for GRC, you had to drive completely different and that had to be your fastest lap. It's something that the NASCAR guys had definitely brought to my attention -- just how I qualified when I raced the GRC were all my worst and all my worst NASCAR races.
Also with the GRC after NASCAR -- like in Vegas -- it sounds stupid, but when you are in the car for that long, mentally you are really exhausted. So I went in and I [took the joker lap twice] pulled a "Dave Mirra" [laughs]. Something that I pride myself on is taking the joker [the one-time-only short- or long-cut lap in GRC racing] when it is going to benefit me most and making those split-second decisions and I was just slow mentally. It's a challenge.
You were saying at the time that Jimmie Johnson was giving you a lot of help on how to drive the NASCAR. Is that still happening now that you are actually placing well?The biggest trouble for me was just to jump in on that first lap of NASCAR and then that first lap of qualifying for GRC, you had to drive completely different and that had to be your fastest lap.Travis Pastrana
Oh, without a doubt. Jimmie is great and it's awesome on the team I am on now Roush-Fenway, Carl's [Edwards] been good, Greg Biffle, like everybody, but the coolest part is that every time I test I get to test the same stuff with the same computer diagnostics and everything that we can overlay one lap to the other lap over the top. Our braking points, how much pressure we put on the brakes and stuff with Trevor Bayne. So that has been absolutely amazing.
I'm still working with Matt Crafton who runs the Truck series and he's still watching and trying to help me out when possible, but that knowledge and the same car setup is just really helping me drive more like I need to drive. I tend to brake too late and brake too hard, just what I have been used to [laughs] braking harder to make up time! I get on the gas too soon and I am too sideways coming out. It's like, yeah, you're good for a lap, or maybe five, but then your tires are just … you are Cole Trickle-ing the tires [laughs]. We made the joke before, but it's really true and it is hard on the long runs to be competitive.
Do your fellow competitors in NASCAR take you seriously these days, or do they still think you are just jumping in for fun?
The interesting part was this year and signing onto Roush, everybody took a step back and they were like, "Oh, crap, you're putting in your own money. You're signing on to do this and, all right, you're doing it every weekend." We've had two top 10s in the first three rounds. I'm learning trial by fire and there will be a lot more mistakes, but definitely I feel like the guys are really helping me.
Like [Ricky] Stenhouse is -- in between every one of his practices -- he comes over and he watches from my spotter stand and he will help me through. I feel like it's awesome, this sport, because as much as you try there is someone willing to help you to get there. It's something that you find a lot in X Games, like in the freestyle stuff, but you don't find it a lot in racing.
Click here to read Part 2 of the Travis Pastrana interview.