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The Front Row with Jerry Hitchcock December 28, 2010

| December 28, 2010 8:00 PM

Anyone with a TV remote has probably seen Travis Pastrana as they shuffle by ESPN2. He tends to stand out in X Games competitions, either on two wheels or four. Danica Patrick has concentrated on four wheels for years, without much to show for it.

Both media darlings, Pastrana and Patrick possess the intrigue that makes people want to watch them. While Pastrana doesn't pose for calendars, he does have that daredevil image and persona that is magnetic.

Pastrana, the 11-time X Games gold medal winner, has recently found success on the rally circuit, after winning a national motocross championship. He is also one of the stars of the MTV series "Nitro Circus," with its Jackass-type stunts on motorized vehicles and in the air.

The extreme sports legend has now set his sights on NASCAR, announcing recently he will join Patrick and drive in the Nationwide Series in 2011 (seven races) and 2012 (20 races) for his own Pastrana-Waltrip Racing team.

In many ways, it was a natural progression for Pastrana. He has succeeded in any competition he has entered into, and there is no reason to think he won't be successful in NASCAR, especially given his tenacious appetite for competition.

With Red Bull as a longtime sponsor, Pastrana gives NASCAR a bonafide peer to the young demographic they covet. He is arguably the most popular athlete of that generation, and not only will that help him with sponsorship, but if he brings the style and guts he has demonstrated in his other motorized efforts to stock cars, he'll be a front-runner sooner rather than later.

Pastrana has the unique ability to overcome fear and perform in most anything he has tried. That should make him fun to watch on Saturdays.

Patrick, on the other hand, recently closed out her first season in a Nationwide car, and the results were pretty

dismal. For someone with such stellar equipment, her finishes are not impressive. She seems content to run around at the back of the pack and try to 'keep her nose clean,' but more often that not, her defensive driving style backfires, and so far she has not been able to get the car handling right and gain enough confidence to get her No. 5 GoDaddy.com ride moving toward the front. Her best Nationwide finish is 19th, earned at the season-closing Homestead race this year.

I don't see those issues being Pastrana's problem. Throughout his career, he has been able to find the edge, tiptoe on it for awhile, then do a graceful performance well past it. He may wreck some machinery here and there, but it's because he will be trying to get to the front. The competitive fire within him burns bright and his military-regimented upbringing doesn't allow for failure.

Pastrana took up rally car racing after getting involved in the sport during X Games competition. He excelled almost immediately and is now a four-time national champion.

All this being said, Pastrana will probably take some lumps next season, but he's made a career out of making the impossible seem pretty routine.

The pair should make some interesting headlines next season, whether either succeeds or fails miserably. The mantra that the Nitro Circus stars live by applies here: Epic good or epic bad - both make for good viewing.

Jerry Hitchcock is a copy editor for The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, or via e-mail at jhitchcock.com

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