Not many people live life like Travis Pastrana does. The former AMA 125cc Motocross Champion has finally found the vehicle that suits him best: filming himself and his buddies goofing off and doing all sorts of death-defying stunts. He calls it The Nitro Circus, and MTV airs it to great reviews from critics and fans. If you haven’t seen it yet, tune in tonight at 10 p.m. for season two’s finale. We caught up to him to find out what’s it like to be Travis Pastrana these days.
Travis Pastrana: [Laughs] Well, you’re right, you never know. I’m in between test sessions at the final round of the rally car championships. It’s like testing with bikes, but it takes a lot of time to change the suspension and things like that. I’m in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan—like, the middle of nowhere—and it’s supposed to snow tonight. Maybe Scott Murray will come by, who knows?
This little Nitro Circus show that you do, it’s kind of become a big deal. Is it bigger than you ever thought it would be?
This basically started seven or eight years ago when everyone started learning the backflip and we were catching the crashes on film at my house. It basically all started with us filming each other crashing in my back yard. In fact, we now have Kurt Nicoll working for us on Nitro Circus—that’s how big we are! Everyone’s getting into it. Andy Bell is full-time Nitro Circus crew now; we have a whole crew of ex-motocrossers working for us and having fun.
It’s pretty neat because in motocross you used to see someone with a Thor hat or whatever, and you knew that they rode or whatever. But now you go through the airport and it’s wild how many different people are wearing our stuff. You begin to realize how many people watch MTV. I sat beside a 75-year-old woman on an airplane and she was all, “Oh, you do that wild TV show?” And I was just laughing. The people that knew motocross knew about this stuff, but it’s on a different level now. The show is crushing it over in Europe and we’ll go over there soon. I can’t imagine Hubert [his old mechanic, now part of the crew] speaking German and French.
Yeah, Hubert hit the lottery working for you as a part-time mechanic, and he’s now on the show and traveling around.
[Laughs] For sure. It’s such a hodgepodge crew right now. We have two production crews trying to keep ourselves separated from the Jackass guys. [Johnny] Knoxville and those guys helped us out so much with getting our foot in the door at MTV and helped us out with a lot of good things. We’ve got a bigger crew then we’ve ever had. [Ryan] Sheckler is showing up in a Ferrari and Rob [Dyrdek] is in a Lamborghini and we’re like, what happened?
Has there ever been something that you guys did that didn’t make it on the air or past the censors or whatever?
Oh, all the time. Most of the stuff that we do, the real dangerous ones, they’re not even filming. We just get bored and start doing stuff while they’re getting the cameras ready. That’s just our style. They are like, “Give us twenty minutes,” and you’re all nervous, strapped in, and you just say screw it, I’m going! A lot of that stuff is hush-hush. They told us we’re the hardest crew to keep under control because we do this stuff for fun and we’re not always really patient. They tell us, “You guys aren’t going to have a show if you keep it up,” and we’re all, “Okay, we’ll keep flipping things.”
What about supercross? Is that done for you or will we see you back on a track at some point?
Man, I sucked so bad at St. Louis! Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast. For me, I trained, and if I do real well, it’s great. I feel like not making the main event in St. Louis was not the way I wanted to go out, so I think I’ll come back and make the main one last time and try it again. I’m not expecting any miracles or anything, but I feel like I left some stuff unfinished last year. At the same time, though, it sucks for me knowing how close I was to the top when I was racing, and to think that tenth is a really good finish for me is hard to wrap my head around. If I just take all expectation out of my race, then that would be fun for me, and that’s what I’ll try to do. It would help if I didn’t have the most demanding supercross track ever to come back on [laughs].
Yeah, I had some bad arm pump. I’m not exactly a technical rider and need time to get my speed up. When I was in Florida down at Reed’s before that race, I crashed hard and messed up my hip. I couldn’t ride for a while there.
And for Nitro Circus, you somehow have “King” Kurt Nicoll roped into doing some backflips…
Kurt is really good friends with Andy Bell, and he’s still a top racer. He won the Supermoto Unlimited class this year and kicked all the riders’ that he hired asses. He’s an amazing rider and brings some focus to our crew. I know it’s funny to say, but he really does add that up. Like, we’re all on Godfrey time, which is an hour or two late, but with Kurt he’s on it. If you’re two minutes late, he’s kicking your ass. We were up editing last week until three or four in the morning and at six he’s up and yelling at us to pull it together and get up!
So the season finale is on tonight?
The last couple of shows, we went in a different direction. I was on a bike ride and then was out of that. Jim was trying to line up everything. This show we went back to the old ways, and we won’t have any repeat stunts or anything. Make sure you tune in. We have a couple of really cool stunts that people won’t believe, and if you haven’t seen a show yet, make sure you watch tonight.