"It's more of a real job," she said. "There are so many more people involved. He puts more pressure on himself because it's not just on him. He takes it to heart that if he's not doing well, they're not being taken care of. He's putting a lot more time and energy into one thing instead of a million things."

Still a rookie

While Pastrana being successful in NASCAR might seem as far-fetched as basketball legend Michael Jordan trying to become a major league baseball player, there doesn't seem to be the same kind of skepticism among his peers, at least publicly.

NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon said Friday that Pastrana, whose best finish has been ninth place in Richmond, Va., is not being treated any different than any other newcomer.

"You have to earn your respect, whether you're a young talent that's come up through the field and you've watched and you think he's really talented but when he gets here, he's still going to have those stripes and respect," Gordon said. "In Travis' case, we look at him and say, 'He doesn't have a lot of oval experience but he certainly has plenty of bravery and guts and is trying to learn new things.'"

Gordon said he has been impressed by some of Pastrana's results — "He's done better than I thought he would do," Gordon said — but overall looks very much like a rookie. Gordon said that being part of Jack Roush's racing team that includes Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. "should help his learning curve."

A year after his deal with Michael Waltrip's racing team fell apart when Pastrana broke his ankle at an X Games event, Pastrana said that he has put "in a good bit of money to be on the best team, guys that I believe will help me get to where I'm going, guys that I really look up to and respect."

Pastrana said he has been back on a motorcycle just three times since the ankle injury, in large part because nearly two dozen others on the Roush Fenway team rely on him to stay healthy. But he is still involved in the sport in terms of building ramps and tracks for motocross.

His house in the Annapolis area "is a play land for anyone in action sports — there's people from all over the neighborhood riding the skateboards and motorcycles and bicycles every day. … It's fun to be on this side of it where I can help progress the sport."

'It's a challenge'

Historically, making the transition to NASCAR isn't easy, as evidenced by the lack of success for drivers such as former Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr. and former IndyCar and Formula One champion Juan Pablo Montoya.

Those who have come from Pastrana's former world have met with mixed results in four-wheel cars.

Jeff Ward, the seven-time motocross national champion, won an IndyCar race in Texas in 2002. Ricky Carmichael had only one top-10 finish in the Nationwide Series but has done better on NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. Others flopped.

"If you ever make it to the top of motocross, that's your whole life," Pastrana said. "I don't have too many friends who went to a high school dance or on their 21st birthday had a sip of alcohol, you're just so focused. Sometimes priorities change."

That is going to happen for Pastrana, since he and Lyndsey are expecting their first child in August. Pastrana also knows there's a timetable, a small window to prove he belongs, perhaps only until the end of this year.

"I have a very good platform to start with, I have a lot of people that are definitely supportive, but I have a lot of high expectations from everyone," he said of the Roush team. But if by the end of the year the results are not there, Pastrana said, "It's going to be very hard to stay in the sport."

Lyndsey Pastrana said her husband is "ever out to prove he can be the best at anything. He enjoys a challenge and this is very challenging for him. He will be there as long as it's challenging him and he can keep progressing."

Giving up motocross and the riches it has brought him for more than a decade has not been easy.

"It's hard because everyone's saying, 'Oh, you're going to NASCAR for the money,' and I'm actually turning down money and a place where I can be the best, or have a chance to compete to be one of the top guys," he said. "I'm doing this because it's a challenge. We're going to learn, but it's not going to be quick."

don.markus@baltsun.com