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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Travis Pastrana
July 20, 2011

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the NASCAR CAM Video teleconference. Our guest today is Travis Pastrana, who will be driving the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning next week at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Travis is using the NASCAR ladder system having competed four times in the NASCAR Cayman Pro Series, prior to making his debut next week in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Travis's Nationwide Series also had several successes with two Top-5s, four Top-10s and two poles including Trevor Bayne's start from the pole position last year.
We have several questions from Twitter and the first is from Jonathan Rodríguez, @racerJonathan: What are your plans for NASCAR in 200012?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: For me, we knew 2011 was going to be a difficult year to spend full-time with NASCAR with the X Games and other obligations, but really wanted to get in the car as much as possible; so that in 2012 we can make a more complete effort with Waltrip Racing and try to see if we can get a little bit more time in that Toyota.
THE MODERATOR: And you are also preparing next week for your Nationwide Series debut, and what have you done to prepare for that or what are you planning to do to prepare in the next couple of days or weeks leading into that?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: It's been absolutely awesome, just getting to know the team, going into as many tests as possible. Yesterday we went down to South Carolina and did my second test in the Nationwide car, and at the end of the day felt really comfortable in the car and was a good starting point. And we got a lot more consistent with the lap times.
The radial tires seem to be a little easier for me to kind of adapt to, just to a little bit more precise and definitely looking forward to going up there and doing the best we can and really having a starting point. But to get to check out Lucas Oil Speedway tomorrow, getting to run a late model up there so that should be fun and get to see the track.
THE MODERATOR: Our last question comes from Vinny Suarez (ph) he talks about what made you change from going to the X Games to running stock cars. It seems like a very different category for each and why did you try that?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: For me it's always about a new challenge, and just really trying to find the most competition. You know it was always in motor cross racing, we got close to the top of sport and free style really caught my interest and I love going out there and I love the camaraderie that you will after the X Games athletes have. It's different than most racing where you're cheering your biggest rivals on, and that was cool.
But after that, I had a lot of injuries and was always driving as much as I possibly could and really started to find a passion in Rally car racing and was able to do pretty well in Rally.
And after winning a few championships, was just kind of looking like, what's the next big thing that I can do that I think would be a huge challenge and started looking to do the Super Car Race back about four years ago, five years ago now with Saunders. I had no idea how much fun racing ovals really well, and from that point on I was just like, all right, we have to find a team that we can have a lot of fun with, we have to find some sponsors that are supporting myself to do the fun, out of the NASCAR stuff and the fun stuff in the car and also be competitive. Very important to be with the Boost Mobile Toyota team to be able to still compete at X Games, at least this year, and really make a diehard decision to do this and let's try to be as competitive as we are for the next two or three years. And hopefully if I can race good at all, we'll continue for a long time after that.

Q. Can you talk about the difference between now that you've gotten some stock car racing down, it's one thing to go out and get in the car and test and try and get some good lap times and drive fast and everything, and then it's a whole other thing when you have another 42 cars or whatever out there that you're racing against. Can you describe maybe the differences between the two, and what might have surprised you most, especially now that you've actually been under race conditions?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: I think the quote from Michael was -- probably explained it the best. He said if you can drive a car, you can probably get in a stock car and drive it fairly quickly. You get on to your first test, you'll feel pretty good. The problem is the other 41 drivers out there are really, really good at what they do, and we found that even in the KN Series. I've been struggling and been driving mid-pack and really learning a lot, though.
It's been awesome just talking to Matt Crafton and talking to the team and really working on trying to figure out how to adjust the car. You might be good at the beginning of practice or be good at the end of practice or be good your qualifying run or be good in the race. But it's difficult, you have to keep working with the team to continually make the car better and as conditions change, being willing to change. Just because a line works one lap with a certain tire, it doesn't mean it's going to work three laps from that point.
It's been a lot of fun. It's been trying, very humbling for sure and we are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole and this is another huge step but really look forward to getting out there and getting to race with these guys and just seeing where we sit.

Q. How much do you have to learn terminology-wise?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: A lot of times, it's been good having Matt, as almost like a translator, even as far as the lingo, I'm like, oh, it's pushing, or whatever, another word for tight. I have motorcycle lingo, I have Rally car lingo and now I have NASCAR lingo that's completely different.
I don't know a lot about what types of adjustments the cars really do. So when I was coming in, like two races ago at Richmond I said, Hey, guys I'm really tight in the middle of the corner.
And Matt Crafton came over the radio and said, "It looked like you were pretty loose coming into the corner."
I said, "Yeah, I'm loose coming into the corner but I can deal with that. I'm tight in the middle."
He said, "Look, we fix the beginning of the corner first. If you're loose on the entrance, you're probably going to be tight in the middle." So all they did was fixed the entrance and all of the sudden, and the middle roll speed was great and the exit was perfect. Because a lot of the stuff that I would change about a certain part of the car that feels the worst is really caused by something completely different.
So it's a matter of working with Matt, who has been awesome, and working with the team and really trying to understand why the car is doing what it's doing.
So we definitely have a lot to learn and a lot of times, I'm still holding my breath or I'll be in a race situation, we're still trying to translate what I'm feeling to what's actually happening, and listening to Carl Edwards, he's just going around the track, in a battle three-wide and talking just as calm and cool and collected as possible. It's something just the more confident and more time I get, the more comfortable I'll be. I can do that in a Rally car now but still something new for me in the stock cars.

Q. Can you describe your lack of fear or ability to overcome fear, and do you think that you have kind of a special ability to maybe sense fear in others?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: No, I mean, nothing too special. I think the greatest thing is -- or the greatest help for any action sports athlete is to be able to come in, people say conquer the fear, not have the fear but really fear is what makes you stronger, more alert and makes everything else kind of go away and allows to you focus. The great part is, usually if you come in with confidence, for me, fear is of the unknown. If I'm sitting on the starting line or sitting about to drop in for a trick, and I don't know what's going to happen, I'm always nervous.
But if you do the homework, you put in the practice and you are aware of the consequences. There's really not a lot to be scared of after you make the decision, that is it worth it or is it not worth it. If it's not worth it, let's do it.
Coming into NASCAR, especially the debut in the Nationwide Series, I have a lot of fears. I have a lot of stuff that I'm nervous about and a lot of stuff that's out of my control. You definitely want to go in there and put on a good show but at the same time wherever that is, it's going to be -- that's my base point.
So I know I have a lot of work to do and I know we are off from where we need to be eventually. But we have some great sponsors and great help and some great people behind me and I really think we have what it takes to make it eventually to the front of the pack so it's going to be a long road.
But I think the fear is what keeps you from doing anything too dumb. In NASCAR it's less about the fear and more precision. Other sports are able to make up a lot more time by taking chances. In Super Cross, if you just really held it wide open, you could make up two seconds. Everyone is like, in NASCAR, well, just go faster. It's not that simple. It's really easy to overdrive the car or over-brake the car or wear out the tires. The faster I have been trying to go in NASCAR, the slower I've been going. So thank God the hardest part is just settle in, drive the speed you can go, as fast as you can go every lap without killing the car in the process.

Q. You've taken a different path to NASCAR driving, and young aspiring drivers are having a lot of difficulty with the getting a sponsor.
TRAVIS PASTRANA: It's a tough industry, with anything, and with racing especially. For me I was very fortunate, we could never afford cars to get to the level where I'm at without the sponsorship I was able to bring in from the motor cross and from the Rally and from the success in other sports. I think all of those sports definitely helped, especially X Games, gained notoriety and enough to where people, when I say, hey, we are going to go try this, they are not like, oh, you're crazy. They are like, you've been able to make it work in the past so let's help you over here.
I definitely understand there's a lot of drivers that have been definitely beating me every week, week-in, week-out, kicking my butt in the KN Series, and literally drivers, literally 16, 17, 18 years old looking at me getting in the Nationwide car going, that could be me, and wherever I finish, they know, and they are probably right, that they could finish ahead of wherever that spot is.
But you know, if you're good enough, if you stand out enough, if you're passionate enough about something, I believe you go make it happen. And even talking to Carl Edwards and those guys, Carl, he went down and just started working at a race job and built his first car out of used parts and he went out there and he proved he could drive. If you can drive, you can be better than the other guys and you're passionate enough to make it happen, you can find a way. You can find a way to get it done.
So it's just a tough, tough economy right now. It's tough to get in, but you know, good luck to everyone that's trying. And for me, I've been very fortunate to have come from where I came from and be able to utilize that past experience to make this hopefully a successful endeavor.
THE MODERATOR: We have a few other questions from Twitter. One of them is: Do you look forward to racing against Ricky Carmichael in NASCAR?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: Yes, definitely look forward to racing against Ricky, and everybody else. Honestly, there's a lot of drivers that are very good. It kind of gives me something to shoot for.
So hopefully I'll be able to race Ricky here pretty soon. I'm not sure which events in the Nationwide Series he's doing. I don't think I'm doing any Truck Series races this year. It will be interesting. Definitely be really cool and no matter where we are in the track, I'm sure we'll be well aware of where the other one is. Yeah, that's going to be fun.
THE MODERATOR: And something, also, along the lines of Ricky, he said before he made his series debut at Road America that his motor cross experience helped him greatly in hitting his mark. Do you see any correlation between racing on two wheels versus four wheels; will anything translate for you?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: Racing translates all the way across the board, but that doesn't mean because you are good in one that you'll automatically be good in the other. It just means that you found things that worked in one form of racing.
With motorcross, the balance of the motorcycle is with your body. You have to hit your lines and you have to hit your marks and be spot on just like you do in NASCAR.
But in NASCAR, you have to find the balance through your team, through communication, with how they are setting up the car and also through the steering wheel and the pedals.
So I think there are similarities and there are difficult differences. Even Rally cars, with all-wheel drive, pretty much wherever you're aimed, you hold it wide open and wherever the front tires are going, that's where you kind of have to go. Have to really start to back off, because I was kind of almost drifting through most of the corners, first over-braking on the way in and accelerating too soon in the corners and getting the car kind of sideways.
It works for a few laps but unfortunately the tires basically burn off and you don't have a car very many laps into the race. There's been a lot of stuff that correlates but a lot of stuff that is probably a negative as well.
THE MODERATOR: Will your road to the Nationwide Series, along with drivers like Ricky and Danica Patrick, help NASCAR attract new fans?
TRAVIS PASTRANA: I think NASCAR is awesome. It's got the biggest fan base out of any of the other people that are coming in, like Danica and Ricky and myself. But at the same time, I think it's going to help get a different audience, because there's not a lot of the action sports audience that was really into NASCAR and probably not a lot of NASCAR was really into action sports, until you start getting some cross over and there's some interest.
There's a reason a kid can sit down with his dad and watch the NASCAR and a reason that the dad is going to sit down with his kids and watch the action sports. Hopefully it all works.
Bottom line is Carmichael, myself, Danica, we all have to learn how to drive NASCAR and spend a lot more time trying to get up in finishes as well as we could. I think I'm definitely the lowest on that totem pole but as many people as we bring in are going to tune out if we can't figure out how to drive the car and be competitive. We'll do our best.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate your time and best of luck next weekend in Indianapolis.

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