Travis Pastrana to Take Crack at NHRA Top Fuel Dragster

Photo credit: Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images
Photo credit: Vince Mignott/MB Media - Getty Images
  • Drag-racing thrill-seeker Alex Laughlin talks fearless Travis Pastrana to experience nitro for real.

  • Nitro-in-name-only Pastrana will get a major jolt in the Top Fuel dragster Monday morning at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.

  • Laughlin’s team owner, Scott Palmer, all-in for the cross-sport experience.

Frankly, the question wasn’t how Travis Pastrana will fare Monday in his first passes in an NHRA Top Fuel dragster. It was why he hasn’t tried real nitro before.

Pastrana, the extreme-motorsport personality who loves to trade on “nitro” branding, has taken up Top Fuel driver Alex Laughlin on his offer to have a crack at a 300-plus-mph, 11,000-horsepower dragster that blasts down the strip on nitromethane.

Nitro is the product of a chemical reaction between nitric acid and propane – unholy and untamed and perilous enough to attract the attention of Pastrana, whose Evel Knievel-grade sense of adventure has propelled him into all sorts of automotive aerobatics and stunts.

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

“He’s got shows called Nitro-everything: Nitro Circus . . . He’s got Nitro Rallycross. I told the guy, ‘You can’t all this nitro-everything without ever experiencing nitro,” Laughlin said after his opening qualifying run Friday for the Betway Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

“Come Monday morning, we’re going to get him baptized and hopefully get him to go 300 miles an hour in a nitro-powered dragster,” Laughlin, no stranger to a variety of on-the-edge forms of drag racing, said.

One of the NHRA’s marketing slogans is “Baptized by Nitro.”

Scott Palmer, team owner of the Havoline Dragster that Laughlin drives in the Camping World Drag Racing Series and a huge Knievel fan, said, “Travis Pastrana’s coming out (to the dragstrip at Concord, N.C.). He has Nitro Circus, but he’s never driven anything with nitro. So Alex Laughlin brought this up last year, and he’s been working on it. So we’re going to put him in the seat on Monday and start the process, see where it goes. But it’s going to be pretty exciting on Monday.”

Public-address announcer Alan Rinehart said, “Travis, love ya, buddy, but please don’t, like, New Year’s Eve decide to ‘OK – we’re going to take a Top Fuel car and do a triple backflip and jump over the Statue of Liberty as the clock strikes midnight. If you know Travis, [you know] that’s the kind of thing he does. Wild man. Looking forward to him standing on the gas in a Top Fuel car.”

In announcing the experiment through his Instagram account Wednesday, Laughlin said he has been working for more than year to make his own headline declaring “Travis Pastrana goes for his Top Fuel license” become a reality.

Laughlin posted, “I’m always trying to do something fun and different, whether it’s racing against the Hoonigans or maybe Street Outlaws, but this time Travis Pastrana will pilot the Top Fuel car I drive on this coming Monday in Charlotte!”

Laughlin, who broke into NHRA’s pro ranks in the Pro Stock class, thanked Palmer “for letting me pimp out his Top Fuel equipment! This is not only good for both of us, but it’s great for drag racing as a whole! Hey TP, let’s roll!!”

Pastrana is familiar with Charlotte Motor Speedway – home to zMAX Dragway – through his NASCAR career in both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.