Travis Pastrana leaves Daytona with a lot of great memories

Travis Pastrana, driver of the #67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota, gives a thumbs up on the grid during qualifying for the Busch Light Pole at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Travis Pastrana started the Daytona 500 11th and when the longest Daytona 500 in terms of mileage in history was over, with many of the favorites in a pile of twisted metal and wrecked racecars, the likeable action sports star found himself in 11th after being involved in a crash that seemed tame compared to some of the wild incidents he’s been a part of during his long career in motocross, rally driving, X Games competition, and stunts.  Sunday was a very good day for Pastrana who just hoped to be in the hunt at the end, not for the win of course, after all his first laps in a NASCAR Cup racecar came just a few days ago when he qualified, but for a top 10 finish.

“To be in the top-10 on that last restart, this exceeded all my expectations,” he said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing now because you want to do the best you can. I was really trying not to crash and unfortunately when things got tight in there, I wasn’t able to control it on the top with the push.”

During the race due to green flag pit stop cycles, Pastrana was actually credited with leading a lap in the Daytona 500.

“Yeah! I led a lap!” he shouted. “But it was by mistake. They said, ‘Come in, no stay out.’ I’m like, ‘I’m already out.’ I led a lap at the Daytona 500 and finished top-20. The car is not a complete write off, so the kid’s college fund is intact. It was a win, and it was awesome.”

As for his NASCAR future, was this Daytona 500 a one and done?

“One and done.,” he said. “Now if Cody (Efaw) from Niece Motorsports calls me up and says, ‘Hey, what are you doing this weekend?’ I’ll jump in, but I’m not good enough to be the best at this sport with my skill set. The amount of time that this would take right now and I’m trying to slow down. The reason I’m here right now is because I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been as a driver. We’ve been winning championships on the dirt, and I just wanted to experience the whole Daytona Speedweeks.”

On the final restart of the race, Pastrana was lined up in the top 10, and that’s just where he wanted to be.

“It’s funny, I know how to drive a car so just drive,” he said. “No expectations. Let’s see how far we can get up. I really wanted to give my teammate more help, but once he locked on the bumper of whoever was in front of him and I wasn’t on his bumper, I kind of left him so that was disappointing, but still made a pretty good run coming across the white flag. When that top started going, I thought, we might be top-five here.”

It ended in a crash, and once it was over, Pastrana said he wasexhausted.

“As excited as I am right now, I might sleep for the next week,” he said. “I am mentally and physically completely drained. Even the Truck race, my heart rate was 170 in a three-wide pack. 182 was my high. That’s just on adrenaline. So, anyone that says NASCAR is boring, they’re full of crap. They’ve definitely never been in a car because this was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”

And now that it’s over he said he will have a lot of fond memories of his NASCAR experience.

“This was one of the greatest if not the greatest weeks or couple of weeks of my life,” he said. “Just coming here and even to go down to Volusia and camping with (Matt) Crafton and all the fans that came down there. Then realizing there were three guys that did the Clash and flew the red eye. These guys just love to drive. The Blocks came here just to watch me qualify and I’ve got all my friends and family here.”


Greg Engle