Editor’s note: ESPN’s X Games host Ramona Bruland got a 180 m.p.h. introduction to NASCAR recently when X Games veteran and NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie, Travis Pastrana, took her on a few laps at Daytona International Speedway. A feature from the ride-a-long will air during the X Games coverage this week as well as in ESPN’s telecast of Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway. Pastrana is driving an X Games-themed car in the Iowa event and will then travel to Los Angeles to compete in Global RallyCross at X Games.
In this first-person narrative, Bruland, a native of Australia, tells of her NASCAR orientation:
Travis Pastrana is a nutter to start with, but put him behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car and he’s going to push the limits and ride the edge for as long as possible, as does every good race car driver. I seriously had low expectations going into this ride-a-long with Travis. Fast car, around a track, a bit of fun, but no big deal. Boy was I in for a surprise! Travis was ready to go. He wanted to skip the chit chat and just buckle up.
The X Games graphics on his car were super cool, right down to a copy of each individual medal he’s won. They had modified the inside of the car to accommodate an extra seat. I went to get in but of course there is no door. Can’t remember the last time I climbed in through a car window. That in itself was fun. I strapped in and we were off.
Nothing out of this whole experience surprised me more than lack of traction we had when Travis peeled out. We were fishtailing everywhere and THAT is what freaked me out. As Travis explained to me afterwards, the cars are designed with as little downforce as possible so they are incredibly squirrely when not on the course going max speed. So for those first few seconds I got a shocking experience firsthand of the slicks and the lightness of those cars, and just how volatile they actually are.
After that start to the ride there was no chance of relaxing. I was just waiting for the tires to slip out and slam us into that looming cement wall that was at times just feet from me. I had absolutely no faith in that car on the first two laps, I thought I was going to die. My faith in Travis was minimal too, after all he’s the king of crashing. It took me a lap and a half just to get my cussing under control. But I still kept putting my hands out to brace or hold onto something as if that would help if we did crash going 175 m.p.h. Just as I was starting to be able to see clearly and focus on specific details like which way was up, it was over as fast as it had started.
Talk about an adrenaline rush. I’ve jumped out of planes, I’ve done acrobatics in gliders, I’ve ridden in Baja 500 cars, on dirtbikes, snowmobiles, been paragliding, downhill mountain biking, bungee jumping and deep sea diving, just to name a few, and this experience was a total rush. Loved every minute of it. There is nothing like a little NASCAR ride-a-long to get the blood pumping and heart racing. You’re always more nervous as a passenger than when you’re in control, but I was happily and sufficiently freaked. It was a day I will never forget.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! What would I change? Well maybe they would let me drive and we could put Travis in the passenger seat. Then we’ll see how much he likes that!
As told to Andy Hall