Driven to succeed
Pastrana switched but hasn't changed
LOUDON, N.H. — The mind is always there. It invades at dinner with his wife, months before an event, when Travis Pastrana will interrupt conversation to blabber about his racecar’s rake. It surfaces in Buck Hunter, the arcade rifle shooting game in which Pastrana competed at the World Championships last year, or during Ping-Pong, or foosball.
In short, little has changed for Pastrana. Not since he got married in October. And certainly not since he began transitioning from motorcycles to racecars.
Pastrana will double dip this weekend in RallyCross and the Nationwide Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He already has four Rally America titles, 10 X Games gold medals, and many more broken bones to show for his daredevil stunts, which have drawn equal amounts of awe, Evel Knievel comparisons, and cries of “Are you nuts?”
So sure, go ahead. Call Pastrana crazy. Call him crazy when he executed the first double backflip on a motorcycle in 2006. Call him crazy when he base-jumped into the Grand Canyon from a dirt bike, or off a skyscraper, or for all the capers he and his friends perform on Nitro Circus, the stunt show turned TV show that has turned into a 3D movie, to be released in August.
But to harp on the madness, or Pastrana’s move from motocross to behind the wheel, is to miss the point. More than a risk taker, he is still competitive.
“Cars give me an opportunity to, with my body as crippled as it is, stay competitive and push forward,” he said. “I live such a happy, fun life. Even if I’m hurt, and I realize I’m not as healthy and indestructible as I used to be, but I really wake up with a big grin, wondering what I get to do today. I’m hoping after this year I might be able to slow down and focus on this NASCAR program. It’s a change of pace, but that’s where my heart is for me.”
If anything, Pastrana has taken a bigger risk transitioning to RallyCross, trading cycles for cars, all because he wanted to be the best at something else.
“I can’t be competitive in motocross racing anymore,” Pastrana said. “I can still do freestyle, but freestyle for me, no one really wins. What is better style? It’s a judged event. Nitro Circus is fun. but bottom line, I want to race. I want to beat someone to the checkered flag.
“I want to know that, on that day, I was actually faster by some kind of stopwatch, to know that the work we have done was actually an improvement.”
. . .
For years, it was routine. Guy friends during the day, women friends at night.
That was until Travis found the skateboarder just like him, the X Games star who smiled after getting ejected from a tandem, who attempted a backflip on her second day riding a dirt bike.
They met through the circuit. She heard he was a good guy, always thought he was cute. She liked his trademark plaid style.
“Just had such a happy, goofy, I-don’t-care-what-people-think-kind of guy, and I really admire that,” Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins Pastrana said. “People in action sports are so caught up in image and what people think of them. It was so refreshing to hang out with someone who just didn’t care.”
They dated for two years before Travis proposed, and after a month together they embarked on a six-week tour through Australia, living together in the same hotel room.
“We knew from the beginning that we were supposed to be together, and that this life we were living was what we were going to live for the rest of our lives,” Lyn-Z said. “We had talked about marriage in the past, said we’re pretty much married in our hearts. We were like, the way we feel about each other, we’re basically married already.”
He popped the question during a Nitro Circus live show in Las Vegas. Someone made up a rumor that an Elvis impersonator would marry them during the event. Lyn-Z thought it was funny, so she let it pass. Travis never thought he’d settle down. But after Lyn-Z fell on her first run, Tommy Passemante of Nitro Circus threw her over his shoulder, carrying her to the base of the takeoff ramp. When Lyn-Z turned around, Travis was on his knee. She hugged him, kissed him, grabbed the microphone, and said yes.
“I found a girl who could put up with me,” Travis said.
But in change, the Pastranas found stasis. Travis is still a big dork. Lyn-Z worries if they have children, especially a daughter. Travis will embarrass them too much.
. . .
He still has “twinkle toes” when he walks, Lyn-Z says. His serenading and singing skills are still lacking, and he still loves to bet on everything. His schedule is more hectic than ever, but they make it work. They ride beach cruisers to breakfast in California, Harleys to lunch in Maryland. In every city, they release themselves from the fray for dinner dates.
“Absolutely nothing has changed,” Travis said. “Except I have a ring on my finger.”
Lyn-Z poked her head into her husband’s hauler, carrying broccoli and a sandwich on a paper plate.
“No, wait, I take that back,” he said, smiling. “I now get lunch at the racetrack.”
After a few bites, Pastrana left his hauler and walked toward his wife, sitting at a picnic table. He gave Lyn-Z a hug, and then a kiss, and then marched off to awaiting cameras and fans.
A black flag flapped in the smooth Loudon breeze outside his Red Bull tent, advertising Saturday’s RallyCross race, with Pastrana’s name emblazoned on the bottom. This is still the same Travis Pastrana, the risk-calculating champion, furnished with those rugged locks and that striking smile, the dorkiness and off-key car tunes, the one they still come out to watch, the one for whom they still clap and cheer.