Travis Pastrana, joined by Blocks, cherishes Daytona 500 berth

After setting a strong enough lap time in Wednesday’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying, Travis Pastrana will race in the Daytona 500 for the first time on Sunday. It was more than just a time of celebration for him and his 23XI Racing team as he got to embrace and cherish the moment with those like Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time Cup Series champion who also clinched a spot in the race, and the family of his late friend Ken Block.

Although Block never raced in NASCAR, his impact on motorsport and close friendship with Pastrana could not be understated. The two competed together in rallying and rallycross, and Pastrana paid tribute to Block with a special livery in at the Nitro Rallycross round in Circuit Trois-Rivières; Nitro Rallycross, which Pastrana oversees, also retired Block’s #43 as did the World Rally Championship. Block’s wife Lucy and daughter Lia are both also rally racers in the American Rally Association, while the latter has competed in Nitro RX’s SxS class.

“Ken’s wife Lucy and two of his kids came down. They watched their first NASCAR qualifying. They came out, flew out this morning. They’re flying back tomorrow morning. They just wanted to be here to support,” Pastrana said in his post-qualifying press conference.

“For me, I was pretty emotional at the end of this, just that they came out for me. Everything that I’m able to do right now, the pavement experience, is because Ken Block was able to build a sport around having fun, sliding cars, to allow me to be part of that series, to build rally the way it is, I’m forever thankful.

“Could not be more thankful and happy that his family’s here. I can’t wait to help do anything that I can to get Lia and his other kids, but she’s a phenomenal driver, I bet she’ll be here racing the 500 at some point. She’s definitely going to be one of the top rally drivers of all time in the U.S. here.”

Pastrana qualified twenty-fifth, second best among the six cars without a charter and therefore needed to make the race either on qualifying time or Duel performance on Thursday. He had not raced at a superspeedway since his lone full NASCAR season in the Xfinity Series in 2013, during which he qualified fourth and second at the two Daytona events.

The speedway has been relatively kind to him even outside of NASCAR, as it was the site of his first professional Supercross win in 2000 in the 125cc class. Johnson, who was two spots ahead and has won the Daytona 500 twice, also hails from an off-road and motocross background.

For Pastrana, who made his name getting air on bikes and rally cars, making the biggest stock car race was a moment of jubilation for his friends from the extreme sports world as well.

“I’ve been driving go-karts since I was two like every other driver out there. Competitive in rally for the last, almost twenty years,” he continued. “Racing and driving has been my passion. It’s interesting, a lot of the guys that follow NASCAR, just the fans, they know me as a TV personality or a stuntman. In my heart, racer, motocross racer, built the reputation as a race car driver as well.

“Having said that, it’s been really cool. When I announced I was going to come over here, the action sports community jumped onboard 110%. So many people are like, ‘Man, I’m watching the 500.’ I haven’t been excited since I was a kid for our industry to see this.”

Pastrana will have a chance to improve his starting position for Sunday’s Daytona 500 via his Duel; he will start twelfth in Duel #2. The 500 will be the culmination of a busy week of racing in Florida, winning a modified A-main at the DIRTcar Nationals in Volusia over the previous weekend while he is set to run the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener at Daytona on Friday. Further adding to the festivities, his cousin Greg Powell will serve as his tyre carrier on his #67 Cup car; Powell starred alongside Pastrana on the latter’s Nitro Circus brand.