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Travis Pastrana: How Good Is This Kid, Anyway?

Roger DeCoster has been walking around with a big smile on his face lately. The reason is obvious. As team manager for the Suzuki motocross/supercross effort, he’s got the public relations’ dream in Travis Pastrana.

Think about it. First of all, the kid wins pro level races at only 16 years of age. On the podium, he bubbles over with enthusiasm as he articulately thanks all of his sponsors, most notably Suzuki. When he chooses to participate, he is also one of the best free riders in the world, having won the X-Games last year on television.

A few weeks ago, we commented that every manufacturer has checked to see if David Vuillemen was signed by Yamaha for next year (he is, by the way). Now, we imagine that the same effort has been made with respect to Pastrana and Suzuki.

Watching Pastrana clean up at the Vegas 125 shootout last weekend (where he was the only 125 rider to clear an outrageous triple), I really felt that this kid could be competitive and win in the 250 class. The only reason he finished outside (barely) of first place in the 125 supercross series was his tendency to crash — the same tendency Ricky Carmichael had his first year as a pro (as well as his first year on a 250). Week in and week out, he was the fastest rider on the track.

We will be very interested to see how he does in the Outdoor Nationals this year. Yamaha’s Stephane Roncade (who was the East Coast 125 champion this year) and Kawasaki’s Tallon Vohland are probably the favorites for the 125 Outdoor title. Pastrana, however, is clearly on everyone’s mind as the Outdoor season commences this weekend in San Bernardino. I’ve seen comments to the effect that Pastrana is a better outdoor rider than he is a supercross rider. That is a scary thought for his competitors to ponder.

More than anything, Pastrana seems to have a very strong head. He seems incapable of being psyched out — he just does his job. At this level, this is an essential ingredient that talent alone cannot overcome. I’ll say it again, he’s a manufacturer’s dream, and, if he continues on the same course, he will be a multi-time national champion.