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Celebrity Drive: Travis Pastrana and His Subaru WRX STI

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/9/2016 K.S. Wang

Quick Stats: Travis Pastrana, freestyle motocross legend/rally driver

Daily Driver: 2016 Subaru WRX STI (Travis' rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)

Other cars: see below

Favorite road trip: Perth to Adelaide, Australia

Car he learned to drive in : 1982 Jeep CJ-5

First car bought: 1944 International

Travis Pastrana lives his passion daily, and he's been able to make his passion projects his life's work. This freestyle motocross (FMX) legend, rally racer, and Nitro Circus co-founder is leading the dream life for those who love driving cars and riding bikes. Even for those who aren't fans of action sports, his ability to be true to himself is still inspiring.

"Most of my life is a road trip. That's why I love cars so much. If it's driving or flying, if it's within 12 hours where I can get there in time, I generally like to drive. You leave at 6 o'clock in the evening, you're there at 6 o'clock in the morning; you're ready for the day," Pastrana says, with a laugh. "I prefer not to go to airports; I don't like traveling. I'm in airports all the time."

Capture One Catalog1239© Provided by MotorTrend Capture One Catalog1239 Though some say it takes money to race, Pastrana is an example that one can have fun with a few hundred dollars and a field. They were able to do that when the Nitro Circus World tour went to Australia in 2010.

"When we have the Australia tour, some of my best memories—going to Perth; we have a lot of friends, ironically, in Perth, Australia," he tells Motor Trend. "It's kind of the bogan city, the redneck city. Bogan would be the Australian term, and which most of my friends are. And they have field car races. You go halfway around the world, and it feels just like home to me."

Field racing is just what you'd imagine Pastrana might do for fun. "It's just old junk cars, taking them out to the field with all your friends, with maybe a long-distance jump contest and a figure-eight race and a demolition derby at the end of the day," he says. "Everyone can get their cars for $300 to $500, and you hope you get a good one that's durable and it makes it the whole day. If not, you'll still have a good time."

They had a week between shows in Australia and took a road trip and had fun along the way, spontaneously stopping at places along the way, Nitro Circus-style.

"It's like driving the whole U.S. It's from the west coast to the east coast of Australia and we decided to road-trip it," he says. "We had two vans and we basically stopped at our friends' house. We had a field car race the first day at Josh Sheehan's house, who was the motorcycle rider to do a triple back flip on the Nitro Circus tour, and there was a lot of open road, so we stopped wherever we could."

One day, they stopped in a town where there happened to be a motocross track. "They realized who we were and we borrowed motorcycles and we ended up flipping just about every jump, back-flipping intentionally, like a good flipping," he says, laughing. "And rode with the locals for a day."

In a world that seems increasingly robotic, which includes the reality of self-driving cars and people looking at devices, Pastrana has been able to make a career out of being a driving purist.

Though he admits there are positives to cars with driver's aids, many would agree with his general assessment of cars being made now in this era. "So many cars just really depress me now. I'm not saying I don't like it all or whatever, but you still have to be able to drive the car," he says. "So that's honestly really why I like my Subarus—is that I can still drive the cars. I like to be able to drive the car. If I want to turn off the features and everything, I'd like to be able to turn everything off and drive."

2015 Subaru Forester

Rating: 8

2015-Subaru-Forester-front-side-view3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-Subaru-Forester-front-side-view3 In fact, Pastrana's 2015 Forester is the first car that he's owned that has cruise control. "If you come up to a stop sign and there's someone in front of you, it will go all the way to 0 miles an hour and wait until that person takes off, and then it'll take off with them. It'll use the brakes; it pretty much drives itself," he says.

The Forester is also surprisingly sporty. "I'm afraid of my wife driving it; she's an aggressive driver, so I figured the Forester was a very safe car. It has all the safety features. It's like, 'Man, we've got to downgrade you to a full-size minivan' kind of as a joke. She really likes it a lot—with the turbo and everything. She's like, 'Yeah, this feels like a race car.' I'm like, 'I know. You're driving it like a race car too!'" he says, laughing.

He says the Forester is fairly compact but still has plenty of room. "Honestly, as I get older, we need more room, more space for things," he says.

But even though Pastrana enjoys more room for things in the car, he is philosophical about how life is becoming for those who truly appreciate driving for enjoyment.

"I love driving. I feel like cars nowadays, everything's turning into an appliance, like, 'Oh, it's got 40 cupholders and I can charge 15 iPhones, and it's got this, and it's got that.' For me, I enjoy driving. I enjoy every minute that I'm in any vehicle on any drive anywhere. I like to drive, hence, why I drive cross for a living," he says. "But for me, it's nice to have a vehicle that I can put everything in that I need to. I can carry my kids, I can go grocery shopping, but at the same time I can still enjoy my drive, and that's what the Forester's done for me. So it's not the STI by any means, but it's not supposed to be."

Pastrana laughs when he admits he does likes backup cameras. "Just because I have a really hard time always turning around the full way to see exactly what's right behind me. But at the end of the day, I think the safety stuff is nice, and it's definitely come a long way, but I hate cars that limit the driving. If I'm in a nice car and I want to do a handbrake slide, I'm not talking about on the road, but if you can take it to a parking lot event or a car show or something, you're so restricted in so many vehicles that it's just nice when you can get in a vehicle and you can either turn everything off, or at the very least, you can still drive the car like it's supposed to be driven."

In an example of why it's sometimes better to be fully in control of a car, Pastrana once had a rental car that hit an ice patch and started sliding.

"We were actually just doing the speed limit, literally, and all the brakes started switching on to right the car to make it straight, and then I was pointed straight on an icy patch of road, headed straight for the guardrail. I'm like, come on!" he says, laughing. "Without the safety features, I would have been just fine, but now I'm heading to a snow bank. At the end of the day, I like to be able to turn everything off, or like in the STI what I was really impressed with is that you don't have to turn everything off, you can put it on Race mode and it'll help you keep in that perfect slide."

Pastrana has another example of a case where not having full control of the car hindered him in the moment.

"We're in rental cars a lot with the motorcycle touring everywhere. We went down a steep hill and the antilock brakes started kicking on. Every time it kicked on it would release the brakes, and halfway down the hill the car was going so fast the brakes just pretty much stayed off, and it ended up I had to buy the car because we went all the way to the bottom and I couldn't stop before there was a jump. I jumped," he says, with a laugh.

"Granted, I'm in situations that I probably shouldn't be in to start with—I totally understand—but it's really frustrating to mess up when it's something very simple and the safety features crash you," he says, laughing. "It wasn't a wreckless thing; I didn't intentionally hit the jump."

2016 Subaru STI

Rating: 8

MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

Pastrana's work allows him the opportunity to drive cars long before the general public get to have them. That's the case with his 2016 Subaru, which he got in 2015.

"That's the good part about driving cars for a living; you always get the new stuff, or you get to test it anyway," he says. "I'd say the handling is a 10; the power is probably a 7. All the race cars that we're always driving, the STI race car that we have is 0 to 60 in 1.8 seconds. So it's hard to get the car to get good gas mileage as well."

The STI at home holds its own in this pro's opinion. "I compare everything to the race car, which makes me a really picky," he says, laughing. "The handling is actually quite amazing. I always thought when I was growing up that I was going to like rear-wheel drive because I like sliding around a lot. But I definitely have fallen in love with the all-wheel drive. Starting to drive now the all-wheel stuff, you can still slide it around and drift it just as easily, you can do it faster and in more control. Kind of fun."

Pastrana gives the STI an overall rating of 8 on a scale of 10, but there's nothing he dislikes about it. "I frickin' love my car, and it's awesome because it's a sports car, but I can still put two kid seats in the back," he says, laughing.

For Pastrana, everything goes back to the ability to fully be in control of the car. "I'd say the best part about the 2016—the computer system," he says. "Almost every computer system out there, they won't let you override. Let's say, if you're a bad driver, you're going to crash. It has oversteer, you know the rear end comes around, but the STI does a really good job of when you take it to Track mode, it still has the computer system in it, and it's still a really safe system."

He says it still allows you to drive the car the way you'd like. "Almost every other computer system I've ever driven just makes it so you're just pushing all over the place," he says. "It just doesn't make it very racy. So the computer system when you put it on Race mode, you can drive it probably better than you could without the computer system for the safety stuff. So that's really neat for me."

Car he learned to drive in

1980 Jeep CJ5 Renegade front three quarter© Provided by MotorTrend 1980 Jeep CJ5 Renegade front three quarter Pastrana initially learned to drive when he was 3 years old when his dad put him in his lap and let him steer the car. His dad taught him how to shift around age 4 or 5. "Even when we were driving on the road he was always having me shift, so I always on the right in the passenger seat, shifting just with the stick through the gears. And then when I was 7 or 8 and could reach the pedals, they taught me how to drive a stick. But I already really understood clutches from motorcycles, so it didn't take too long," he says.

He was go-kart racing and sliding around at age 2. "I rolled it right before my third birthday," he says, laughing. "So they had to put a rollcage on it. Just before my third birthday I was starting to figure out how to slide and that didn't work out so good. So then we got seat belts and rollcages put into it. It was only a six-horsepower Briggs and Stratton; it wasn't like it was a super high horsepower thing or anything."

Celebrity Drive: Travis Pastrana and His Subaru WRX STI

At 7, when he was tall enough to see over the dash, Pastrana learned to drive his uncle's manual 1982 Jeep CJ-5 on the family's property around Annapolis, Maryland. "We had a small construction company. It was cool because they had a shop in the middle and a dirt oval went around it. It was where my uncle and my dad would just slide cars around; it was like our little NASCAR track," he says, with a laugh. "It was a quarter-mile circle or less. It was just dirt, and they work in concrete, so every year as I was growing up there was more and more concrete. Now it's all concrete all the way around, which was still really fun for drifting around."

Pastrana's uncle also had an old 1969 Corvette that was one of his favorite cars. "He didn't usually let me drive it, but every now and then he'd sit next to me and yell at me as I went around and drifted it, 'Stop sliding the car. Slow down!' His car was set up more for drag racing, which was what he did. I was always more into the drifting and the sliding," he says, laughing.

The love of driving was a family affair. Every day they would drive around the oval.

"Every day after work, it was either motorcycles, soccer, or racing whatever old cars they'd come up with. They'd go pretty much to the junkyard. Generally the Volkswagen Rabbits were the cheapest that we could build them for $200 to $300 and just go until they either broke down again or we rolled them over," he says, laughing. "It was a fun childhood. When we were still a couple years from getting the driver's license, we were driving, jumping, and crashing cars."

The family's property was "this little compound that we had was just surrounded by trees, and we could make pretty much as much noise as we wanted and no one ever complained. So it was really fun for driving and riding motorcycles."

While most people have to learn to drive on streets, Pastrana had a wonderful childhood in a safe place where he could learn to drive and enjoy motorsports. "Without a doubt. Nothing to hit that wasn't ours," he says, with a laugh. "So at least that way you don't get into as much trouble."

First car bought

Pastrana bought a 1944 International, an old fire truck when he was 14. "It was $900, and I needed something with a bed to get to the motocross track," he says. "I worked for my dad's construction company during the summers and also with motorcycles, We got contingency, which was 'Suzuki bucks' So if you won a national championship and you got like $800 that was good toward buying stuff for the motorcycle."

Pastrana was only 14 when he won the world championship for freestyle motocross. "That was the first world championship they had, so I won $5,000 there and that helped out a lot," he says, with a laugh.

So with Suzuki bucks, he bought the International at 14. "It was bright orange," he says, laughing. "It was a convertible, superloud, it had a top speed of 45 mph." He rode it at a track just 3 miles from his house.

NitroCircus D810 Studio 01871© Provided by MotorTrend NitroCircus D810 Studio 01871 Pastrana still has the International. "After I turned pro I was able to get some land, so I still have pretty much every vehicle I've owned except for the ones I've crashed," he says, laughing. "We generally run them and then go take them around back and now we've got a rally car track."

While it might be nostalgia that makes some people keep their first car, for Pastrana the International is also a great ride that gets him out of messy situations.

"I could get rid of it for $1,000 or I could keep it, and it's a great winch, pulley system. We still use it to transport people around back because when it's muddy, it's a dually, and it gets people around wherever they want to go," he says, with a laugh. "If we get anything stuck or we need people to go around back, it does the job."

When Pastrana modestly says "around back," he's referring to what everyone calls "Pastranaland" outside Annapolis, where he was lucky to find friends who are neighbors and who like the idea of stringing their land together to enjoy.

"I have 20 acres, the my next-door neighbor has 20 acres, and the next-door neighbor has 20 acres, and it connects to another motocross track. So it's about 100 acres of just trails," he says casually. "We're only 8 miles from Annapolis downtown. My next door neighbor is Tommy Passamonte, one of the guys in Nitro Circus," he says. "We've got a really good group of friends around here."

Nitro World Games on NBC July 16 at 8 p.m.

Still Rendering 1© Provided by MotorTrend Still Rendering 1 Olympic snowboarder Todd Richards will host the inaugural Nitro World Games, along with Pastrana and Tony Hawk, a former Celeb Drive, co-hosting. What they see as a bold reinvention of action sports competition will air on NBC on July 16. There is state-of-the-art ramp technology, an all-new scoring format, and a global qualification process with the top athletes in disciplines including FMX, BMX, skate, scooter, and inline.

While Pastrana's life might seem like one big passion project, as co-creator of the Nitro World Games, this has been a big passion project for him lately, though he won't be competing in it. It's the biggest North American event currently on his schedule for 2016.

Pastrana's team projects the Nitro World Games are going to be huge, and it will take place at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The games will incorporate new formats and never-before-seen tricks and include seven gold medal events— FMX, FMX Best Trick, BMX Best Tricks, BMW Triple Hit, Skate Best Tricks, Scooter Best Tricks and Inline Best Tricks.

"Nitro World Games is bringing all-new bigger and steeper ramps, which will allow the athletes more time in the air to perform bigger stunts then we have ever seen in a competition," Pastrana says. "Safer landing ramps too, which will give riders confidence to try tricks they may crash on without as much risk of injury. Finally, a new judging format, which will make it easier for anyone watching to follow."

The evolution of the Nitro World Games from Nitro Circus was, to Pastrana and his team, a natural progression. "These sports are exciting, and all of us at Nitro Circus are passionate about seeing them succeed," he says. "We've learned a lot about entertainment and giving the fans what they want as we have traveled around the world. We can go bigger than ever before but we can do it with less risk."

Pastrana calls the Nitro World Games a must-see event. "The first action sports event that has truly tested the athletes and shown their true potential," he says. "The heights are going to be greater and the tricks are going to be more jaw-dropping than anyone has ever seen in a competition."

Nitro Circus North American Tour

Travis Pastrana 3 USA© Provided by MotorTrend Travis Pastrana 3 USA His team has called Pastrana the ringleader of Nitro Circus since the beginning, and he's at the heart of everything Nitro. The 2016 North American Nitro Circus is the team's biggest tour yet. It stops in Louisville, Kentucky, on July 9.

It got its start in 2003 when Pastrana and a group of friends rode motorcycles and cars around the house, and he started filming it and creating DVDs from a garage, along with co-founders Jeremy Rawle and Gregg Godfrey. Johnny Knoxville from "Jackass" saw one of their DVDs and gave him a call. It aired on MTV and the rest is Pastranaland history.

"So now we get to really road-trip around the world with a bunch of the best in the world, pushing ourselves," Pastrana says. "My goal as a kid was to never to grow up, and it's amazing sitting here in my 30s with two kids and a wife. My wife is a professional skateboarder, and she's on a lot of the tours that we do. Our girls love being around the energy of the shows and it's just been a wild ride."

The TV show "Nitro Circus: Crazy Train," which is more a behind the scenes of what it takes to put the tour on and what the athletes do while on tour in between shows, will re-air this summer on NBCSN.

Currently on the Nitro Circus tour, the crowd favorite—the guy on a couch—is back. This time, instead of a Slingshot, the couch launches off a 40-foot Giganta Ramp, a big feature on this tour.

"Like we talk about these road trips—we'll film the road trips and the shenanigans and the lifestyle behind these action sports and what goes into learning all the tricks—but the shows are the final product of what you get to see on TV," he says. "It's all the best of the best."

Nothing replaces being at the venue in person to experience Nitro Circus. "The cool part about our show, is it's not like a Cirque De Soleil that everything's staged out. These guys are literally trying stuff they never tried before, every single weekend. The second half of our show it's guys trying stuff they've never tried before, stuff that's never been landed before."

Although Pastrana ran the tour in the beginning, action sports executive Mike Porra took everything and turned it into a global touring live event, with the first Nitro Circus Live tour in 2010. Last year Forbes placed the company on its "Most Promising American Companies" list. Nitro Circus' 2016 North American tour has more than four shows, all in first-time markets.

Pastrana is still at the heart of it, but the Nitro world is now a brand that stands on its own and people know what to expect with that name. Nitro Circus Live promises a monster live event with a group of athletes including both X Games medalists and stars in the next generation of action sports.

"Now I mostly just work on trying to make the show the best that I can. Hopefully this will continue much after I'm done," he says. "Every night the show is different; you can never say what's going to happen because these guys are pushing themselves. It's new tricks, it's new contraptions, it's new and exciting every time."

For more information, please visit nitrocircus.com

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NitroCircus D810 Studio 0352© Provided by MotorTrend NitroCircus D810 Studio 0352
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