Travis Pastrana Is Still a Hero

“I can backflip anything.” Makes for a hell of a dare.

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Travis Pastrana has nothing to prove. The guy’s almost universally liked, a perennial fan favorite and veteran of almost a dozen flavors of motorsport. He’s not just talented; he’s a damned hero. Which is why we love that he’s still doing enormously stupid things at the ripe old age of 32. Like backflipping this big-bore enduro bike out of a Colombian drainage ditch wearing a kart racing suit and driving gloves. With no helmet.

Pastrana earned our affection a long, long time ago as a young 125cc motocross champ. And then he earned it again by burning out of MX racing and plunging headlong into the growing sport of Freestyle Motocross. He was a clean-shaven, telegenic presence in a tatooed and straight-to-DVD world. He helped catapult the sport into the mainstream.

All that came at a cost, 60 broken bones and 25 concussions. So Pastrana went rallying. And rallycrossing. And karting. And hillclimb. And drove monster trucks. And NASCAR. And goddamn if he’s not a spectacle every time he takes the wheel. Which isn’t to say he’s the second coming of Tony Stewart or A.J. Foyt.

Pastrana’s NASCAR career, a giant financial and personal commitment, has been a bit of a mess. His full-time 2013 season in the Nationwide Series ended with just four top-ten places, one pole and six crashes. The hurdle of finding more sponsor money, combined with huge demands for time on the road, was enough to send Pastrana packing, at least for a while. But the incorrigible racer was back on an oval in October, contesting a Camping World Truck Series event in Las Vegas.

It’s that kind of grit that makes Travis Pastrana one of our favorite racing personalities. That, and the backflips.