Travis Pastrana’s Road To The Daytona 500 Starts With DIRTcar UMP Mods At DIRTcar Nationals
Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / DIRTCAR – BARBERVILLE, FL – Having won numerous motocross and rally championships, co-created Nitro Circus and Nitro Rallycross, performed several miraculous stunts, and raced in NASCAR, amongst a plethora of other accomplishments, there isn’t much left on Travis Pastrana’s bucket list.
Except for the Daytona 500.
His plan to run the historic NASCAR Cup Series event with 23XI Racing and Black Rifle Coffee Company led to another unexpected venture, all hinged on a dollar bet.
Pastrana will kick off his Florida Speedweeks run with the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds during the 52nd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park, Feb. 6-18.
Looking to do “really cool stuff” that involves the community and helps veterans and first responders, Pastrana said the group at Black Rifle Company approached him and asked what he’d like to do this year.
“And I said, ‘Daytona 500,’” Pastrana said with a joyous laugh. “They were like, ‘Well, that’s kind of the opposite.’ I said, ‘No, no, it’s good. We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with (three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and DIRTcar UMP Modified racer) Matt Crafton, one of their drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring veterans down and hangout with (Longhorn by Loenbro boss and Rallycross driver, Steve) Arpin.’
“I told Crafton and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to driver?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”
Pastrana will drive one of Arpin’s Longhorn Chassis DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, sponsored by Black Rife Coffee Company, during the first week of DIRTcar Nationals – holding a dollar bet with Crafton on who will have the better finish. That first week will feature six UMP Modified Features a night, Monday (Feb. 6) through Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night.
“He cares so much about the sport, so much about the people that are in the sport” said Arpin, who has six DIRTcar Nationals Feature wins in a DIRTcar UMP Modified. “He cares so much about the people that make the sport, that for us to have him drive for us… it’s like, the guy gets in a boat, he jumps out of hotels, it just doesn’t matter, he just does it. For us to get to put him in a car and have this be a bucket list thing for him is absolutely unbelievable.
“He just cares so much about the sport and the industry that he’s just the most kindhearted, big-hearted, normal guy that just happens to be a global celebrity and a talent beyond belief.”
While Pastrana is used to sliding sideways on dirt with his rallying experience, dirt track racing is an entirely new discipline for him. He made one previous dirt track start during the 2010 Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway in a dirt Late Model but only made five laps.
In a two-day test in one of Arpin’s Modifieds, Pastrana joked he wasn’t sure if they were going to let him get back in the car on day two.
“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said jokingly. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”
Arpin attested to the difficulty of trying race a dirt car versus a rally car, having gone from racing Modifieds to rally cars in his career. However, after day two of testing, he said, “we’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar.”
Like any athlete, Pastrana wants to be competitive – and as he put it, “kick Crafton’s ass.” But more so, he wants to have fun. He wants Aprin and the Longhorn team to have fun. He wants his sponsors to have fun. He wants his friends and family to have fun. And like with everything he does, he wants to put on a good show for the fans.
“How this all started was, it’s been an awesome ride for me, and I don’t have much left on my bucket list,” Pastrana said. “To do the 500 was something that felt like a now or never deal. You know, I have some great sponsors with Black Rifle Coffee Company, and Dixxon Flannel jumping on board. Even Wienerschnitzel jumping in. Basically, calling in all the favors from all my buddies. Everybody, long lost relatives, friends, family, sponsors from all the years of motorcycles to rally to NASCAR to everything. They’re all going to be there.
“It’s going to be an expensive weekend. Not everything is covered. If I crash anything it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”