Travis Pastrana © Red Bull Photofiles

There's no denying Travis Pastrana's well-earned status as a true motorsports legend, but how did he adjust to the metal-mashing world of NASCAR?

While his competitors seemed determined to ruin Travis Pastrana’s stock car race debut, the action sports star managed to avoid trouble several times and take home a top finish in Saturday night’s NASCAR Toyota All Star Showdown at California’s Irwindale Speedway.

“I can’t say enough about the whole Waltrip Racing crew. It was a great team effort to guide me through all the chaos,” Pastrana said after the race.

“I was so happy and Mike [Waltrip] was saying it was so good we didn’t crash out right at the beginning when everything was so chaotic. And then I hit the wall with a couple of laps to go.”

In the final laps, Pastrana slid up the half-mile oval and tagged the wall, but seemed completely unfazed by the contact, keeping his foot solidly on the gas pedal and hardly missing a beat. A couple of laps later, he crossed the line sixth in a race where he simply hoped to run clean and get experience.

It was an eventful night for Pastrana who avoided several wrecks to get the top-10 result. Early in the race, he dove below the white line at the edge of the track to find some safe asphalt as several cars got involved in a crash on lap 27 that brought out the red flag. About 30 laps after the green flag flew again, he got caught in another incident and this time hit the back of another car and damaged his right front fender. If that weren’t enough excitement, another driver spun right in front of Pastrana’s No. 99 in Turn 1 on lap 80, forcing him into evasive manoeuvres.

But he survived and seemed to get quicker as he grew more accustomed to NASCAR-style racing and began figuring out the car: “We finally got the car loosened up in the last 25 laps and it felt like we had something going.”

"Man, I was just having lots of fun out there. It was a blast.”

The All Star Showdown ran in three parts, with a pair of 100-lap warm-ups followed by a 25-lap winner-take-all sprint to the chequered flag. An 11-time X-Games gold medal winner, Pastrana has also won motocross, supercross and rally championships. But none of that prepared him for the door-to-door combat on Saturday night as he fought off a pair of drivers in a three-wide battle late in the race to take sixth.

“I loved going three-wide and we actually had it four-wide a couple of times,” he said. “I am super pumped to be out here and this sport is so much fun. I have plenty to learn but if this is our starting point - hopefully it’s our starting point - then we’ll continue learning from here.”

Ironically, Pastrana’s light-hearted attitude almost ended his race before it began. In a classic Pastrana move, he tried to slide down a railing rather than take the stairs following the driver introductions, except the thing wasn’t bolted on solidly and he almost took a header when it wobbled under his weight.

Although emerging unscathed from a hardware failure wasn’t something he practiced in testing late last year, Pastrana did say that the time he spent in a K&N Pro East Series car at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway came in handy at the weekend.

“All the testing helped and I really have to thank all the guys on the Waltrip team,” he said. “It’s been really amazing with all my sponsors jumping in this from the motocross side made it a lot easier. Man, I was just having lots of fun out there. It was a blast.”

Pastrana makes his NASCAR Nationwide debut at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis in late July and plans to run another six events by the end of the 2011 season. 

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