Pastrana breaks foot, can't race

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:48 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- All of the hype, all of the drama and all of the huge potential audience for both NASCAR and sports television giant ESPN disappeared in a sudden, violent crash when X-Games superstar Travis Pastrana broke both his foot and ankle trying a "720" trick on his motorcycle in Los Angeles.

On Friday, the Pastrana Waltrip Racing team withdrew the No. 99 NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota from Saturday night's Kroger 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind.

The 16-time X-Games gold medal winner's injury occurred during the Moto X best trick final when Pastrana crash-landed on a dirt ramp in L.A.'s Staples Center after attempting a 720-degree flip and spin of his dirt bike while in the air.

Pastrana was to make his NASCAR debut in the No. 99 Toyota as part of ESPN's Pastranathon (in Canada on TSN and TSN2) -- the wall-to-wall coverage on the all-sports networks of both the X-Games 17 in California and the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in Indiana.

The Pastrana Waltrip No. 99 NASCAR Nationwide Series hauler was seen leaving Indianapolis on its way back to Charlotte, N.C., on Friday morning.

ESPN released a statement from Pastrana after he had undergone X-rays at a Los Angeles hospital were he was treated for broken bones in his right foot and ankle.

"I am sorry this happened and will be back in action as soon as I can," he said. "I look forward to Pastranathon 2012 at X-Games 18."

Michael Waltrip and NASCAR were said to have been counting heavily on Pastrana's enormous popularity in the much sought after 18-25 male demographic to draw those fans to stock car racing.

"This was a chance to do something (sign Pastrana to NASCAR contract) that was so beneficial for the sport," Waltrip said. "So many people have tuned in to what Travis was doing, going from X-Games to NASCAR."

Make no mistake, both Waltrip and NASCAR realize the value of having somebody with Pastrana's star power among young sports fans come to their series.

"All the eyeballs that (Pastrana) was going to bring to our sport was too good to pass up," Waltrip said. "But we understood, also, that he might get hurt."

So it wasn't such a shock when that was what happened.

"We knew that (hiring Pastrana) was a risk," Waltrip said. "But when you hear the name Travis Pastrana, risk is the first thing you think. That is how he lives."

Waltrip admitted that while it was a big setback for his racing team, the dream of having Pastrana in NASCAR is by no means over.

"We've waited a long time for someone like Travis Pastrana," he said. "I guess we'll just have to wait a little bit longer."

ESPN, that takes over the Sprint Cup television coverage in the U.S. with the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, also had done major promotions linking their X-Games programming to Pastrana and NASCAR.

Now that emphasis will be switched to the Sept. 9 NNS race at Richmond, Va., where Pastrana is now scheduled to make his NASCAR debut.

"We have a long term vision with Travis which includes lots of NASCAR," Waltrip said. "We are targeting Richmond now. He is going to work with his doctors to find out if that is realistic and if that is something that we can look forward to."

JOHNSON MAD AS HELL

Jimmie Johnson is mad as hell at Juan Pablo Montoya and he isn't going to take it anymore.

The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion said an incident two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the last straw between the two long-time friends.

Johnson said on Friday that the Loudon contact was the third time Montoya had hit him during a race so far this season.

He said that two of the three could be described as racing incidents, but the last one, he feels was totally Montoya's fault.

"I don't feel at least two of the three things that have happened were intentional; they were racing incidents," he said. "But there's a point where you've got to respect the people you're racing around and also respect a driver that you may have had some run-ins with."

What bothers Johnson even more is that because of their friendship Montoya thinks all he has to do is say "I'm sorry" and the issue goes away.

"Juan and I have a friendship, we get along great," he said. "But after three times of me getting turned around, hearing apologies ... I'm tired of hearing apologies. I don't want the contact. I don't want to be raced that way.

"I've certainly had my fair share. It certainly can't happen again."

Johnson said Montoya, too, must think that New Hampshire was the most serious of all their racing tiffs.

"He and I have always talked about things in the past," he said. "But I have not heard from him since New Hampshire."

BRICKYARD HEAT

It has been 15 days since the temperatures at Indianapolis Motor Speedway have dropped below 32C.

And it doesn't look like it will get any cooler Saturday or Sunday when forecasters are calling for highs of 33 and 34 respectively.

That is bad news for NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who will qualify their cars on Saturday and race on Sunday in the Brickyard 400 at the 2.5 mile oval.

Three-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon said Friday that while temperatures can reach almost 50C inside his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, it does have a rudimentary air system that at least cools his head inside his helmet.

But when that breaks, as it did in New Hampshire three weeks ago, it gets real uncomfortable.

"When that alternator went out for us, I had to shut off the loads to all of our blowers," he said. "The air that we blow in around me, in my helmet and everything.

"That really took a toll on my body, dehydration kicked in a big way, cramps and everything else at the end of that race."

Gordon said he has already begun to prepare for that eventuality since his arrival at IMS earlier this week.

"I've already started working on hydration this entire week because this racetrack can be one of the hottest ones we go to, even though physically it's not one of the most demanding tracks," he said. "The way the winds blow around here, the grandstands block it so much, you get very little airflow. When it's hot here in Indiana, it can be very tough on you."


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