X Games star and famed stunt performer Travis Pastrana boasts that if it has an engine, he'll drive it: from motorcycles to rally cars he's been true to his word, and as his NASCAR Nationwide Series début approaches this weekend
he's also keen to add open wheel cars to the CV.
Specifically, he wants a shot at the $5 million prize being offered to five guest drivers at the season finale Izod IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas if they can come and steal the race win from under the hoses of the series regulars.
"For me to not do that, I would regret it for the rest of my life," Pastrana is reported as saying by the Indianapolis Star
. "It's absolutely amazing, and I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Pastrana confirmed this weekend that he was one of four motor racing stars believed to have put in a formal application for the race so far. He said he decided to put his name forward after talking with Marco Andretti who told him, "You'd be an idiot not to try it."
"I'm looking forward to getting a test and seeing what [IndyCar] is all about," said Pastrana. "We're definitely not expecting to set the world on fire, but if I can be safe and fairly competitive, then I think it's a worthwhile experience."
The 27-year-old, who has won 16 X Games gold medals, has been a regular competitor at the annual Race of Champions against the likes of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel in his thirst for as wide a range of motorcars to race as possible.
"I've got to test it and I've driven pretty much every other form of racing," he said. "I feel like I can be safe. Whether or not we are competitive for the $5 million is a whole other question."
He is yet to organise a potential team to ally with, but it had better be a good one: "If I can't keep up the pace, I'll pull out," he insisted. "This is a serious deal." But realistically he doesn't expect that either he nor any other 'guest' stands any reasonable chance of actually winning the top prize, and that doesn't put him off in the slightest - he's just in it for the experience and the adrenalin, as always.
The other drivers believed to have put their names forward at this stage include Joey Hand from Ganassi Racing's 24 Hours of Daytona team and one-time IndyCar race winner Airton Dare. Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon - without a full-time ride in 2011 - would also like to be considered, but his inclusion as a non-IndyCar regular 'guest' is unlikely to be agreed as it would not be within the spirit of the $5m challenge.
IndyCar would also like to see NASCAR Sprint Cup Red Bull Racing driver Kasey Kahne put his name forward, but his decision on whether to enter is said to depend on whether or not he makes it into the all-important NASCAR post-season Chase championship shoot-out. Kahne is currently 14th in the championship and would not make it into the Chase as things stand.
With TV ratings critical or IndyCar's survival, the need for star names for the Vegas "world championship" event could be literally life or death for open wheel racing in the US, and securing a big name like Pastrana or Kahne is an absolute must-do for series chief executive Randy Bernard, who has already said that if ratings fail to live up to expectations then he'll quit on the spot, live on TV.
Against that background, Pastrana's acceptance into the race would seem like a sure thing now that he's committed to taking it very seriously and putting in all the hours it demands, and he has rock-solid personal sponsorship backing for the endeavour from Red Bull. The one remaining factor in the way of a formal announcement is believed to be the lack of a confirmed team to partner with.
But Randy Bernard was quick to say that Pastrana's participation was no done deal: "It's great to hear Travis is so excited to race in our $5 million challenge," he told SPEED.com
, "and we'll remain optimistic that he'll get his wish to race with the best drivers in the world at Las Vegas.
"We haven't added or cut anybody from the final list yet because we're looking at all aspects of how they would fit in," he explained. "I will say that we're at the final stages of determining who will be competing, because when it comes down to it, there are a lot of people who are interested, but not everybody is ready to step into an IndyCar and go 200 mph.
“We'll announce them slowly, one at a time," he said. "But I won't say just when we'll present the first one!"
About two dozen drivers in total are believed to have expressed an initial interest in the five available slots. As part of the application process drivers have to submit their motor racing CV and letters of recommendation and suitability, and agree to a physical. They'll then have to commit to a full day of testing in October on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will see the 'guest' drivers having to pass some form of Indianapolis-style "rookie orientation test" to ensure that they can run on ovals at safe speeds.
In the meantime, Pastrana is making his NASCAR Nationwide Series début this weekend
at the Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway, Indianapolis, the first of six events before stepping up to a 20-race season in 2012 assuming that the first outings prove successful.
More immediately, Pastrana will be at the summer X Games this week and competing in the motorcycle freestyle event on Friday before jetting overnight from Los Angeles to Indianapolis for Saturday at the NASCAR event. He'll fly right back to LA straight after the Kroger 200 finishes in order to compete in Sunday's X Games rally cross event, and then on Monday he's off to Salt Lake City to complete filming on Nitro Circus 3-D.
If that's a typical weekend in Pastrana's life, he's going to find merely racing at speeds of around 200mph in NASCAR and IndyCar rather dull by comparison.