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Driven for bigger things

Brian Deegan isn't one to subscribe to the philosophy that "slow and steady wins the race."

"Fast and fearless," perhaps even "reckless," fit the motocross superstar better.

His career in the X Games and freestyle motocross has led to his losing a kidney, rupturing his spleen and at least 20 broken bones, by his count. He famously broke his femur in a freestyle motocross crash in 2004. His wrists, both broken while performing freestyle motocross stunts, still give him trouble.

Deegan is one of a number of X Games stars who have made the transition into more mainstream sports. Shaun White is both a consistent threat in X Games Skateboard Vert and an Olympic gold medalist. Ricky Carmichael used his popularity in X Games to land a seat in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Travis Pastrana has gone from freestyle motocross mogul to rally car specialist.

For Deegan, his motivation to race in NASCAR is fueled by a desire to return to racing and compete at the highest level.

"I wanted to get into NASCAR because I see it as the top of the food chain of motorsports," said Deegan, who lives in Temecula, Calif. "I've done dirt bike racing. I've done freestyle motocross. I've raced road course race trucks. I had an opportunity offered to me to race stock cars. I've always been intrigued by it. I'm going to chase that dream for a while; see how far it gets me. In life, I've tried a lot of things. One out of 10 things I do good at. Never know until you try. We'll see."

Deegan is heading into Summer X Games 16 in Los Angeles with an open throttle, competing in Rally Car Racing and Speed and Style. His freestyle motocross days are probably behind him, although he's considering entering Step Up, making a possible three X Games events for the 10-time X Games medalist.

Deegan readily admits that X Games have helped him build a successful career in action sports, but he's looking beyond X Games to further his career in motorsports. He started racing off-road trucks in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series last year, then moved closer to NASCAR territory, racing stock cars at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in June.

But unlike his approach to motocross and the X Games, Deegan is taking it slow in NASCAR. He is racing late-model stock cars with the intention of moving up to the regional NASCAR K&N Pro Series West by November. With no specific timetable, he would like to eventually move up to one of the NASCAR national touring series -- Camping World Trucks, Nationwide or Sprint Cup series -- in the next few years.

Deegan accomplished his goal of a top-10 in his first NASCAR race by finishing 10th at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. It was a doubleheader night of NASCAR late-model racing at Irwindale, and he finished 11th in his second race.

"My goal was to really just finish the race," Deegan said. "I heard a lot about new guys coming out, spinning out and hitting the wall. I went out there and it was my first race. I needed a top-10, that was my goal. I ended up getting 10th. It was all right. It was a fun experience."

Deegan is racing with NTS Motorsports and has a mentor of sorts in driver Brennan Newberry. Newberry has been racing a variety of stock cars, from super late models at Irwindale to the Stockcar Racing League Southwest Tour and NASCAR West Series. He said Deegan wanted to learn how to race stock cars at the lowest level before making the jump to a national touring series.

"We said, 'We'll take you through the right steps,'" Newberry said. "He called us, we did a couple of tests. He's like, 'I want to do it full tilt.' Brian wants to be in there, he wants to learn. He didn't show up saying, 'I know what I'm doing.' He came to me, he came to my crew chief and my dad, Bob Newberry, and said, 'I really want to do this thing right. I want to go out there and I want to succeed and I want to win. I don't want to look like some of the fools that have gone out there and tried before. I want to succeed.'"

Deegan built a replica of the Speed and Style course to prepare for X Games 16 and has been practicing his tricks, working on his speed through the makeshift dirt course at his Metal Mulisha compound in Temecula.

"To train for Speed and Style, it's a different technique," Deegan said. "You have to go out and practice your tricks, which is really important, but you have to actually have stamina to do laps and put it all together. It's been so long since I've raced supercross or ridden supercross tracks. Fortunately for me, I have 21 acres at my house to build a Speed and Style track."

His training includes recruiting riders to help him practice tricks and work on his pace around the makeshift supercross track.

"I have my buddies come over and ride with me," Deegan said. "We do sprints. We pressure each other, put each other into situations that might happen on the track. I've trained for so many events, but this one is cool because of the different challenge of really stamina and laying down good tricks. The way I'm going to do it is I'm going to go out there and lay my biggest tricks down while I still have energy. I'm excited. It's a big challenge for me."

One of the riders Deegan has been training with is Ronnie Faisst, who lives in nearby Murrieta. Faisst said he wants to compete in Speed and Style at X Games with Deegan, but knee surgery prevented him from qualifying for the event. Still, Faisst has been working with Deegan over the past few weeks.

When asked about Deegan working his way up the NASCAR ranks and competing in X Games at the same time, Faisst said, "I think it's awesome.

"It's cool. It's a new element, a new flavor," he said. "I think it's good for both sports."

Newberry said NASCAR could use the following that Deegan and his Metal Mulisha crew would bring to stock car racing.

"He's just really looking forward to learning a lot more, bringing Metal Mulisha into the sport," Newberry said. "NASCAR needs it. NASCAR needs a following like Brian Deegan has, especially in the dilemma they are in right now. Bringing him into the sport is just going to popularize it so much more."

For Deegan, though, racing in NASCAR is more of a personal challenge. After winning gold medals in X Games Freestyle and an off-road racing championship, Deegan said he wants a new challenge.

"Now what's next? Stock cars are the hardest challenge, the hardest thing to accomplish," Deegan said. "To set my goals to actually make it into a NASCAR race is motivation within myself. I think that's what has given those other guys the drive. That's the mentality of a guy like myself or a Carmichael or a Shaun White. You conquer something and you want the next challenge. I think that's what's driving those guys to branch off into other things."

Tim Haddock is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.