"It's been on my bucket list for a while," says Travis Pastrana, world-renowned professional motorsports competitor, stunt performer and 17-time X Games medalist, who intends to get his first taste of nitro methane behind the wheel of Scott Palmer's Top Fuel dragster next week following the conclusion of the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Pastrana, 38, has participated in motorsports and racing of various kinds his entire life, as well as every imaginable thrill-seeking adventure he could, including a near-fatal base jump from a Ft. Lauderdale high rise hotel earlier this year ("I almost bled out," he says). Making a pass in a 11,000-horsepower dragster, however, will admittedly be a completely new experience.
"I grew up about five minutes from Capitol Raceway," Pastrana told Drag Illustrated earlier this week. "Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek is just about a hour away from Pastranaland, so I've been around drag racing a little bit, but nothing even close to this. My dad has a '69 Chevelle – an 11-second car – that I've made some passes in, and I rode an eight-second bike, but I've never been over 200 mph in a car."
The motocross-racer-turned-NASCAR-driver-turned-rally-racer and event promoter (with his beloved Nitro World Games) will likely go every bit of 200 when he stands on the throttle of Palmer's fuel dragster next Monday, but that's not to say that he's going into the private test session with any expectations beyond what he describes as "the Top Fuel experience".
"I just want to make it down the track and not die," Pastrana says, laughing. "I'm asking Alex [Laughlin] questions like, 'What should I not do?' This isn't necessarily about me becoming a skilled drag racing driver or ultimately competing. This is me getting getting to do something I've always wanted to do, that I've dreamed of doing. I understand and respect the craft and I'm not expecting to have it figured out and perfected on day one, but I do want to be able to say I did it. That's the goal. To drive a Top Fuel dragster."
The aforementioned Alex – Alex Laughlin, that is, who transitioned into Top Fuel last season after a drag racing career spent primarily in Pro Stock competition – has been the driving force behind this entire happening. He and Pastrana crossed paths during a video shoot and when Pastrana mentioned to a mutual friend that he'd always wanted to make a pass in a Top Fuel car, the friend knew Laughlin could probably make it happen.
"The next thing I know, Alex is calling me and asking when I want to do it," explains Pastrana. "We started talking about dates and, well, here we are. It's going down."
Asked if his daredevil antics and racing experience have prepared him to make a full pull in a Top Fuel car, Pastrana wasn't entirely sure.
"I'm definitely comfortable in a race car," he says. "But with all my racing experience...the speed is just different. On dirt bikes you're talking about 70 mph. I've raced NASCAR, but, again, we're just talking about a different animal. I'm ready to give it a shot, though, even though I don't totally know what to expect."
Pastrana appreciates details – be it the angle of a motorcycle ramp or the entry to a turn on a rally course – so he intends to lean on the experience and wisdom of Scott Palmer and Alex Laughlin.
"I've never sat in one, I've never been around one – nothing, so I'm going to be asking a lot of questions and following instruction," says Pastrana. "I'm not trying to master it or be perfect. For instance, the perfect launch in a rally car might as well be rocket science, but just launching a rally car? Anyone could do it. Like I said, I think I'm going to be making sure I know what I shouldn't do and how to keep myself out of trouble. I just want to make it to the end."
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