SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/Franchises

Pastrana-Waltrip team is shuttered

Pastrana-Waltrip Racing is done.

The Nationwide team created last year to bring action sports star Travis Pastrana to NASCAR has dissolved. Pastrana remains committed to NASCAR and is searching for a new team for which to drive full time next year in the Nationwide Series.

The dissolution can be traced to Pastrana’s freestyle motocross crash at the X Games last summer. Pastrana broke his leg and couldn’t fulfill his commitment to drive seven Nationwide Series races in 2011. Pastrana-Waltrip Racing’s sponsor, Boost Mobile, wanted to pick up those seven races this year.

The injury put financial pressure on the Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team. Many of the 20 people working for the team were let go, and the team’s primary underwriter, Gary Bechtel, decided to discontinue his financial support.

While Pastrana was rehabbing from his injury, Michael Waltrip Racing, which started the Pastrana-Waltrip Racing program, decided to expand its Sprint Cup program by signing Clint Bowyer and adding 5-Hour Energy as a sponsor. The addition of 5-Hour Energy created a sponsor conflict with Pastrana, a Red Bull athlete.

That initial conflict was compounded several months later when Pastrana signed a deal to drive a Dodge Dart in the Global Rally Cross series. Michael Waltrip Racing is a Toyota team.

To avoid the conflicts, MWR worked with RAB Racing to field a Boost Mobile-sponsored Nationwide Series car that Pastrana primarily drove this year. MWR also fielded a car in the developmental NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, with Pastrana running seven races so far this season and scheduled to compete in three more.

Pastrana made his Nationwide Series debut in April and ran eight more races with a top finish of 13th.

Steve Astephen, Pastrana’s agent and Wasserman Media Group president of action sports and Olympics, said Pastrana plans to race in the Nationwide Series full time in 2013. Astephen is in talks with teams interested in signing Pastrana. He declined to say with whom he has met. “We’re looking for a great car,” Astephen said. “We know now it takes a great car.”

Ty Norris, Michael Waltrip Racing executive vice president, said, “Our decision for 2012 was that we had so much going on with new teams, new drivers, new competition directors, new chassis for every car we built, we decided we couldn’t support a part-time Nationwide team.”

Norris still believes that Pastrana will succeed in NASCAR. “He’s a really special person,” Norris said. “Personality, history, demographics aside, it will take money and sponsorship.”

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