Travis Pastrana has a busy summer ahead. By August, he will have brought his Nitro Circus Live show to the U.S., filmed for a 3-D movie full of first-time stunts, competed in Moto X Best Trick and RallyCross at X Games 17 and made his NASCAR debut in the Nationwide Series. And we'll have chronicled it all here, in a weekly(ish) column by Alyssa Roenigk, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and author of "The Big Jump: The Tao of Travis Pastrana." So much for a summer vacation. Or sleep.
If there wasn't a good rivalry in X Games rally racing, there is now. Even if it's all in good fun.
In February, WRC driver and DC Shoes co-founder Ken Block released a web video showing off his new DC Shoes WRC Ford Fiesta. Throughout the video, a trio of blonde Monster Girls in black vinyl bikinis dance to electronica next to his car while graphics announcing Block's 2011 schedule appear on the screen. Block doesn't enter the video until the 1:26 mark (the video only runs 1:45) and, unlike in his Gymkhana videos, which have garnered 110 million views, he never even gets behind the wheel of his car. Still, to date, his newest viral sensation has generated nearly 600,000 views on YouTube.
When two-time X Games rally champ Travis Pastrana saw the video, he was stunned. "I was like, his racing doesn't even matter anymore," Pastrana says. "He doesn't even need to show the car in his videos. The guy is a marketing genius." He's also Pastrana's good friend, teammate, competitor and boss, which makes what he did next even more gutsy.
"Ken and I have the same agent, and I was telling Steve [Astephen] I couldn't believe how many hits this was getting," Pastrana says. "He said, 'People just want to see girls.' I tried to tell him you don't need hot girls to sell gear."
That sparked an idea, one Pastrana smartly credits Astephen with coming up with: Let's spoof Ken's formula for viral web video success. In Pastrana's 1:45 video, which, at first listen and glance, is identical to Block's, he puts a Pastrana-like spin on the formula "girls + cars = views." Where Block features young, hot girls, Pastrana features three "dancing grannies" (also wearing black vinyl bikinis) whose combined age totals 199, Pastrana's number. "One of the ladies who showed up for the casting was only 50 and we had to be like, 'Sorry, you're too young.' The oldest woman in the video is 76 and they all had knee replacements. There were some dance moves where they had to bend down and I had to help them get there," says Pastrana, who's racked up about 20 knee surgeries. "People are either going to really hate or really love this video. But it was so much fun to make."
So, which camp does Pastrana predict Block will fall into? "I haven't talked to him since the video went up, but he knew it was coming," Pastrana says. "If you're going to make a video like that, I'm going to mock you. It's a joke, but Ken is still my boss and we're good friends. It's really me coattailing Ken and trying to draw on his success." Well, does Block agree? "When I first saw the video, I laughed pretty hard," says Block, who is currently testing in the U.K., and on Thursday announced a 2011 Gymkhana World Tour with stops in Vienna, Austria (July 10), Los Angeles (July 23) and Melbourne, Australia (Sept. 23). "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?"
At its core, Pastrana's video (which currently has 137,000 views on YouTube) serves the same purpose as Block's: to showcase the Boost Mobile 2011 Subaru WRX STI he will race at X Games and reveal his summer schedule. When his schedule appears on the screen, it does so along the words "Busier than Block." He also adds to a quote in Block's video that states, "It's going to be an amazing year!" Pastrana's version: "It's going to be an amazing year when I beat Ken at X Games again." Those words alone are enough to turn a friendly rivalry into a real one come race day. "I've known Travis for many years, so I'm weighing out my options about what I'm going to do about this clip," Block said. "My best option, though, is to kick his ass at X Games. In racing, that is. This just fires me up to work even harder to beat him."
Which is something Block has yet to do. But unlike Pastrana, rally is Block's main focus. He is also one of the few X Games drivers currently racing in the World Rally Championship series. Pastrana, who last year had his worst X Games showing since Rally Racing debuted in 2006 (fifth in Rally Car Racing and 13th in Super Rally), has yet to pilot his new ride. "This year is all about redemption," Pastrana says. "It's my No. 1 focus at X Games, to win rally again." Until then, his No. 1 focus is to make it to that day in one piece.
What is a Gymkhana World Tour, anyway?
"The whole point is to bring the awesomeness of gymkhana directly to the fans so that they can see it live," Block says. "It's dope in the videos, but seeing it in person is a next-level experience. The smoke, the noise of the engine, the speed, it's wild. I'm stoked about it, and based on the feedback we've been hearing leading into the tour, the fans are stoked about it, too. It's gonna be an amazing, I can't wait."