Travis Pastrana To Make NASCAR Nationwide Series Debut at RichmondDeath-defying aerial acrobatics on motorcycles, off-road rally racing, skydiving and X-Game gold medals are nothing new for Travis Pastrana, but this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, Pastrana will make his long-awaited NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the Virginia 529 College Savings 250.
Originally scheduled to make his first start last July at Lucas Oil Raceway, Pastrana’s bid was thwarted due to injuries suffered during the X-Games the night before. Now after injury rehab and a couple of runs in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – including Thursday night’s Blue Ox 100 – the action sports icon is set for his big-stage NASCAR moment on Friday. It’s a homecoming, of sorts, for Pastrana, as well. He’s a native of Annapolis, Md.
Pastrana is set to run at least seven series races in 2012. He will be driving for RAB Racing, which last week announced an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing that will feature RAB equipment and MWR technical and marketing support. The No. 09 Toyota now becomes the No. 99.
Though a huge star in other sports platforms, Pastrana has taken a modest approach to NASCAR. "I just hope I don't hit a wall, don't hit anybody else, don't make anybody upset, and hopefully we can end up on a lead lap, and I think it will be a really strong goal for me," Pastrana said.
Pastrana’s experience in the NASCAR K&N Pro East and West Series will be most valuable in preparation for this weekend. He has made five total career starts in the East Series with a best finish of 12th at Bristol earlier this year.
"We've done our homework," Pastrana said. "I've got great people behind me. I've been with the crew chief (Scott Zipadelli) since I started in NASCAR, and I feel really confident with the people I have around me." (Click here for the Pastrana transcript)
Virginia Native Sadler, Reigning Champ Stenhouse Lead Series RegularsIt’s home sweet home for NNS standings leader Elliott Sadler, a native of Emporia, Va., who goes home to showcase his talents at Richmond International Raceway. Sadler leads a contingent of talented drivers not running full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend who have won seven of the last nine NASCAR Nationwide Series races dating back to last season at Texas.
Despite momentum on their side, Richmond is going to be a hard egg to crack for the non-full-time NSCS drivers. Double-duty NSCS drivers have won every Richmond race since Robby Gordon claimed the track’s fall race in 2004. Another Virginia native, Denny Hamlin, last week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup winner at Kansas, comes home with confidence and also is the defending winner of this race.
Kevin Harvick, who’s tied with Mark Martin for most NNS wins at Richmond with five, also returns to the series this weekend. Brad Keselowski, the winner of this race in 2010, Joey Logano, who has three top-10 finishes in three series races at Richmond, and Kasey Kahne are also slated to compete.
But Richmond could be very different this season. Reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has closed the gap on Sadler to a mere four points following his victory a few weeks ago in Texas. Sadler and Stenhouse have virtually mirrored each other’s finishes. Both drivers have posted two wins, four top fives and five top 10s in the season’s first six starts. Both are at the top of their game heading to Richmond, but Stenhouse (95.7) slightly betters Sadler (92.9) in pre-race Driver Rating at the 0.75-mile speedway.