Travis Pastrana calls Daytona 500 attempt an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

Travis Pastrana, best known for his incredible escapades on two wheels but also has an extensive resume on four wheels, gives a curious look when people ask why the 39-year-old would want to try running in the Daytona 500.

Of course, Pastrana is known for his thrill-seeking stunts. But hasn’t he done enough?

“Why not?” Pastrana said of people wondering if he should risk it with his limited NASCAR experience. “Would any red-blooded American, or whatever you want to call him, have a chance to do that?

“We’ve taken years of success and other forms of racing, put it all together and will try to put our best foot forward.”

Pastrana will attempt one of the sport’s biggest four-wheeled events next month when he drives a third car for 23XI Racing in an attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500. Without a guaranteed spot, Pastrana will compete for one of four non-guaranteed spots (“opens”) available in the 40-car field.

Travis Pastrana on his Daytona 500 bid and the excitement of his fans

Travis Pastrana on his Daytona 500 bid and the excitement of his fans

Travis Pastrana on his fans’ excitement for his Daytona 500 bid and if he’s nervous at all.

It will have Black Rifle Coffee sponsorship for the No. 67 Toyota, which will feature veteran NASCAR crew chief Eric Phillips leading the program for team co-owners Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.

“Travis came to us and obviously with a great opportunity and we were honored to be chosen to build this effort and cross that item off the bucket list for him,” Hamlin said. “He’s been in NASCAR before and he’s been a NASCAR fan for a long time.

“For us as a race team, we’d like to get our feet wet and work on our third gear and work with the staff for that. This allows us to do some dry racing for that.”

It won’t be easy for Pastrana to make the 500. The open drivers will be split equally in the two qualifying races on February 16th based on the results of the single lap qualifying on February 15th. will earn a spot in the Daytona 500 and then the remaining drivers with the top two speeds in the single-lap qualifying will also enter the race.

Among the drivers Pastrana will battle for a spot are former Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Legacy Motor Club), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports) and Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports). There could be many other drivers trying to enter the field with Kaulig Racing, The Money Team Racing, Team Hezeberg and NY Racing all considering fielding an open car. Teams have until the first day the garage is open (February 15) to finalize a registration.

Pastrana, who has already been in Toyota’s simulator testing for the race, has limited NASCAR experience with 42 Xfinity starts (in 2012-13) and five truck starts, with the most recent in 2020. If not is one of the fastest cars in the single-lap standings, he’ll be hoping he has some Toyota teammates to help him in the Daytona draft to secure a spot in the 500 field.

“It’s what runners do, we want to challenge ourselves,” Pastrana said. “And for me, it’s not about going out there and saying, ‘I’m going to win.’

“Dude, I’ll be delighted if I can qualify. But even if I can’t, be a part of the great American race, bring great sponsors with me, you know, get a great car from the 23XI team and have a shot to see as it is. F— let’s go.”

Travis Pastrana talks about going back in a Truck Series race

Travis Pastrana talks about going back in a Truck Series race

Travis Pastrana returned for his second Truck Series race of 2020 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after months of virtual racing.

23XI Racing has its eyes on expansion in the coming seasons and sees Pastrana’s opportunity as one that will bring significant exposure to the organization. He has also told Kurt Busch, who retired from full-time racing due to a concussion last year, that if he is cleared to compete, he could do a part-time program.

“If Kurt decides he wants to race, we have to be ready for that and we have to be ready to put out a very competitive race car,” Hamlin said. “And so doing that with Travis, it allows us as a running team to build that depth.”

And it allows Pastrana to fulfill a dream.

“This is the great American race. I mean, I think the NASCAR crowd was watching like, ‘How do you get a ride?’ ” Pastrana said. “It was like, almost like I was taking something from them. When people on two wheels say, ‘Man, this is going to be a cool experience, I’ll check it out.’

“Win, lose or draw. It’s going to be exciting. And for me, it’s not about what everybody says or thinks. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime… We’re going to have fun and I really, really, really have fun. I hope we can do it and don’t cause any trouble. I think I’m good enough to drive to do that.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register at FOX Sports NASCAR Newscast with Bob Pockrass.

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