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Why is Travis Pastrana in the Daytona 500? How motocross legend made jump to NASCAR

Travis Pastrana is a racing legend, reaching the highest levels of motocross and winning several medals at the X Games. This week, he will attempt to do something he’s never done before.

Pastrana is attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s largest race that will have eyes on it from all across America. While he’s raced in the NASCAR Truck Series, Pastrana is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut.

The 39-year-old wasn’t assured of a spot in Sunday’s race entering this week, but he was able to qualify along with Jimmie Johnson out of a group of six drivers on Wednesday night. While this is uncharted territory for Pastrana, he rose to the challenge during qualification and has little to lose in the main event this weekend. 

MORE: How Daytona 500 qualifying will work in 2023

Here’s why Pastrana is making the leap to the NASCAR Cup Series and trying his hand at the Daytona 500.

Why is Travis Pastrana in the Daytona 500?

While he wasn’t even guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s race before qualifying Wednesday, Pastrana has long had his sights set on this challenge. In a press release, he described racing in the Daytona 500 as something he has always wanted to do.

Pastrana said the Daytona 500 is “an event I’ve wanted to race my entire life,” mentioning that he and his family typically sit down to watch the race every year.

Pastrana is participating for 23XI Racing, which already has Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick in the field of 40 cars. 23XI Racing is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Pastrana will drive the Black Rifle Coffee Company No. 67 Camry at Daytona.

MORE: Date, time, TV channels for every NASCAR Cup Series race in 2023

While he admits the challenge of qualifying is daunting, Pastrana said, “I’m confident the 23XI team will give me a car that belongs in the show and truly believe I have the skills to get it there.”

Pastrana labeled the Daytona 500 “the biggest race” he’s ever competed in, despite his terrific career. 

Between Johnson’s return to NASCAR and Pastrana’s attempt, the Great American Race is loaded with storylines. Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 last year, with Wallace finishing in second.

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