Annapolis rider Travis Pastrana was the most extreme freestyle motocrossbiker there was last summer. He celebrated his gold-medal winning performance inX Games Vby taking his motorcycle on a plunge into San Francisco Bay.
Since then, he has turned pro and made an impression on both the Supercross indoor circuit and, more recently, the outdoor circuit riding for Team Suzuki.
"There has been a lot of fun associated with being a pro," says Pastrana, 16. "There's a lot of travel, and it's really neat seeing new places and meeting a lot of new people."
It's also been neat, because Pastrana has found his way to the winner's circle. The only rookie to win at all, he took three of nine Supercross events and ended third in the indoor series' standings. With one victory and three top-five finishes, he's fourth in points in the outdoor part of the season.
On Thursday, the American Motocross Association rolls into Budds Creek Motocross Park for the 125cc Eastern Region Supercross Series' 2000 National Motocross Championship, and Pastrana is looking forward to the weekend of competition.
"It's my home track," Pastrana said of the Leonardtown facility in St. Mary's County. "It's the track I grew up on. I competed there as an amateur when I was 4, 5 and 6 years old. It's the only track my parents would take me to."
Pastrana laughs when asked if that means he expects to be victorious.
"Me and about 20 others are hoping for a win," he said. "But I do have an advantage: I know the track. I know exactly where the track goes. I know what the speed is for the corners. And I know the soil. I do believe I can win here. If I can't win here, I can't win anywhere."
The national motocross circuit has only 12 stops this season, so Pastrana says Maryland should consider itself lucky to have one. He says his entire family and all of his friends will be on the scene to watch him race. But, he shrugs off any nervousness that might come from so many eyes watching just him.
"At the first Supercross race, there were 60,000 fans and a live pay-per-view audience," Pastrana said. "It will be nice to have everyone there, but, not to be mean or anything, I probably won't even think of them when I'm racing."
The AMA championships will include a full schedule of amateur events for all skill levels on Friday and Saturday, with pro qualifying rounds at 4 p.m. Saturday. Next Sunday, pro practice begins at 9 a.m., with qualifying at 10:30, and the national finals at 1 p.m. For a more detailed schedule and more information, call301-475-2000 or log onto www.buddscreek.com.
Don't call him junior
Dale Earnhardt Jr., 25, has several nicknames, including Little E and Junior. The opinion here is that there is only one Junior, and his last name is Johnson.
Be that as it may, with yesterday's International Race Of Champions race at Michigan in his mind, Little E was reminiscing the other day about the IROC race at Michigan a year ago, when he dueled his father to the closest finish in IROC history.
"I'd probably hit my dad before he hit me, if I'd known what was coming," Little E said. "He and I argue about this one all the time. I'd have turned left a little sooner and a little harder if I'd have known he was going to win the race. I thought I had it, but then Rusty [Wallace] came up and helped push Dad at the very end. They act like big rivals and all, but then they worked together on that deal and ganged up on a kid!"
The real deal?
Darrell Waltrip was talking about perceptions recently. He was talking about them, because he has heard all the talk about how badly he is racing and that he should have retired before going on his current career-ending "Victory Tour."
"The perception is that I'm racing bad," he said. "No one said bad things about Richard Petty, when he was racing those last few years of his career and he was crashing. At least, I'm not getting in anyone's way or hitting anything.
"But perceptions are funny. Just look at this year's rookie race. By what's being said, the perception is that Dale Jr. is the best rookie, but it's Matt Kenseth who is having the best overall season. That's just the reality of it."
Dale Jr. has won two races, but Kenseth, by virtue of one win and four Top 10 finishes, is leading the rookie points race, 174-168. Kenseth is also 13th in Winston Cup points, while Dale Jr. is 15th, 99 points behind.
A force in waiting
Funny car star John Force finally beat old pro Bob Glidden's long-standing victory record last weekend in Joliet, Ill. Force won for a record-setting 86th time to one-up Glidden.
But Glidden still has a record Force wants: the all-time record for NHRA titles.
Glidden has 10 in the Pro Stock division. Force has nine in Funny Cars.
"I want to pass that, and I think I can in the next five years," said Force, at 51 old enough to qualify for American Association of Retired People membership. "I have set the goal of winning 11. It's going to be tough to get. Ten is going to be tough to get."
Force is leading his division.
Winning isn't everything
After winning his first race of the season last weekend at Dover Downs International Speedway, Tony Stewart found he had moved into ninth place in the Winston Cup points standings.
His reaction? Don't count him out of the championship hunt.
"I pretty much treat it the way I did the Triple Crown in '95," he said, referring to the United States Auto Club title. "We didn't win a race and still won the championship. We won it on the last night. The two guys in front of us had to have problems, and they both had problems. There are a lot of races left this season, and anything can happen."