Pastrana admits NASCAR Cup debut at Daytona 500 is “nerve-wracking”

Pastrana admits NASCAR Cup debut at Daytona 500 is “nerve-wracking”

The 11-time X-Games gold medalist and founder of the Nitro Circus is driving a third entry for 23XI Racing, which is co-owned by Cup driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.

While it may appear on the surface an athlete who lives on the edge of danger on a regular basis should be immune to fear, Pastrana said that’s not necessarily true and especially when it comes to making his series debut.

“For me, it’s definitely nerve-wracking, but I don’t know what to experience. I’ve never had a Cup car out of second gear,” Pastrana said. “So, to worry about what it’s going to do in the first turn.

“I’ve got all the information from all the drivers, and they’ve all said similar things, some completely opposite things and I don’t know who’s messing with me and who’s telling me the truth.”

Pastrana didn’t have a chance for any practice and apparently didn’t need it.

His first lap on the track in the current Next Gen car came on Wednesday night in his qualifying attempt and he was second-fastest among the six cars without charters. The top two in speed are guaranteed a spot in the race.

Travis Pastrana, 23XI Racing, Toyota

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Pastrana will still compete in Thursday night’s qualifying race.

“It’s good that the Duel isn’t the first race because it’s definitely good to be out on the track by myself and feel what that does without people around me is good,” he said.

“I did qualify front row here and finished top 10 in the [Xfinity] Series [10 years ago] so it’s not like we’re coming in with nothing. I definitely have the most pavement experience I’ve ever had in my life and I feel ready to make it happen.”

Doing exactly what he needed to do

After making the race, an ecstatic Pastrana climbed from the car and congratulated fellow open driver Jimmie Johnson on also making the race.

to Denny Hamlin to Bubba (Wallace) and Tyler (Reddick), they all just helped me get there. And this TRD motor and being able to get on the sim, that was everything. Can’t give them enough credit for this opportunity.”

was the top Toyota in the field.

“The launch was good,” added Pastrana, reflecting on the lap. “I shifted a little bit early on two and didn’t lift enough shifting to fifth so I had to double let go and I thought I just blew it. I look at Bubba’s (Wallace) time and the car definitely had a little bit more. This team helped me to get there and like Kurt (Busch) just told me, now it’s time to learn. We’ll go to work tomorrow and then we’re in the 500, so cool.”

Pastrana has 42 Xfinity Series starts to his credit, having run the full season in 2013. His best finish came at Richmond, finishing ninth, and he won a pole at Talladega.

Pastrana is also competing in Friday night’s Truck Series opener, driving the No. 41 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports.

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