DOVER, Del. — Red Bull will no longer own a NASCAR team at the end of 2011, but X Games legend and Red Bull athlete Travis Pastrana expressed confidence Sunday that the energy drink company will sponsor a car in the Sprint Cup Series next season.
Pastrana, who was going to make his Nationwide debut for Pastrana-Waltrip Racing in July before suffering a severe ankle injury after crashing in the X Games Moto-X best trick competition, said Red Bull is “working out the details” of divesting its interest of the team. Red Bull Racing General Manager Jay Frye told SportsBusiness Journal last month he was confident the team would be sold by the end of the year, and Formula One champion and part-time NASCAR driver Jacques Villeneuve has expressed interest in the team, according to SceneDaily.com.
“[Red Bull] wants to sponsor a team, as opposed to the Formula 1 setup where they do own the team,” Pastrana said following a press conference in the Dover media center.
If Red Bull stays in Cup racing, the odds-on favorite to drive would be Brian Vickers. In 2009 Vickers recorded Red Bull’s lone Sprint Cup victory and Chase appearance since the team opened in 2007. Vickers missed most of 2010 due to blood clots after undergoing heart surgery, but returned this year and demonstrated how well he fits Red Bull’s no-limits marketing style by skydiving into Daytona International Speedway.
The question would be who Vickers would drive for. The Red Bull sponsorship could stay with whatever the next incarnation of Red Bull Racing is. But there are other more stable organizations looking for sponsors. Vickers has been mentioned as a possible replacement for the soon-to-be-departed Clint Bowyer at Richard Childress Racing. But would Budweiser, already the flagship sponsor of RCR’s entry with Kevin Harvick, be OK with another beverage heavyweight on the roster? Jeff Gordon’s relationship with Pepsi blocked Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s ability to bring Budweiser with him when he moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. (Earnhardt eventually drove for another Pepsi brand, Amp Energy.)
As for Pastrana, he entered the media center on crutches. But he said the pins are coming out of his ankle Monday, allowing him to begin working out in a pool. He plans to resume testing in December.
Boost Mobile is set to sponsor Pastrana for 20 Nationwide races in 2012, and Pastrana may do more if sponsorship can be found. He doubts that Red Bull will jump on board for any of his Nationwide races anytime soon. But he said that could be revisited at some point next year based on his performance.
“They’ve been great as far as a personal sponsor, giving me whatever I need,” Pastrana said. “Even though they’re not on the car, if I need something like renting a track for some testing, they’ve been right there to help.”