started preparing Pastrana Sunday night as soon as he landed . Pastrana was to drive the Top Fuel car on Monday , and they didn ’ t waste any time teaching the adrenaline junky .
Pastrana and crew were at the track until 2 a . m . Monday morning , practicing the staging procedure in a rental car . They explained to Pastrana the different G-forces he would experience and what the car would be doing as it makes its way down the track .
“ They said you ’ ll feel 4-Gs at the beginning , then it will go 5-Gs , and then 6-Gs as you get more aerodynamic and the weight goes all the way down on the rear wheels ,” Pastrana recounted . “ They also said you have to go wide open the first time . It won ’ t work if you go half-throttle .”
“ You ’ re basically driving on an 11,000-horsepower bomb ,” Stewart told Pastrana . “ Then Tony goes , ‘ the key part there isn ’ t even putting your foot to the floor . The thing handles pretty good , but your butt will feel what ’ s going on , but your brain isn ’ t going to process it .’”
Stewart confessed to Pastrana that after 13 runs in a Top Fuel dragster , he still had no idea what was going on . “ That scared me , and that was when the reality set in ,” Pastrana said .
However , Pastrana was still feeling confident Monday when he got to the track and was ready to get in the car . An NHRA official told Pastrana that he would start by going 150 feet . “ 150 feet ? Weak !” Pastrana thought to himself .
“ I finally get in the car – my chin is strapped down , my head doesn ’ t fit . I feel like Donkey Kong in Mario Kart ! We got the steering wheel on sideways so I can get my knee to clear the brake far enough , so I stop the car when it starts going ,” he explained .
“ I started to panic ,” Pastrana confessed . “ I ’ ve never panicked before or felt claustrophobic . I don ’ t get claustrophobic unless you ’ re in a foam pit , upside down with your foot over the back of your head with fuel dripping , and someone yells fire .”
Pastrana ’ s thoughts continued to spiral as he remembered the team “ delicately described this vehicle as a bomb .”
“ I ’ m thinking , ‘ my wrist is fused , and I can ’ t get to the latch to unhook .’ The back spasm started to kick in , I couldn ’ t breathe , and I got all this stuff on . I ’ m like , ‘ Bob , get me out . Get me out , Bob !’ It didn ’ t even start yet , and I ’ m getting out ,” Pastrana chuckled .
Stewart reassured Pastrana this happens all the time . “ They asked if I could get back in , and I was like , ‘ I have to .’” Pastrana was reassured by everyone around him at zMAX Dragway that he didn ’ t have to go through with it .
Pastrana , who has stared fear in the face time and time again , thought to himself that his “ no fear ” attitude might be changing . “ I ’ m thinking , ‘ I ’ m getting old , and I ’ m panicking .’ I haven ’ t even started this thing yet – let alone gone down the strip yet . I ’ m claustrophobic and completely lost my mind .”
It was then that the thought of Pastrana ’ s father , a former Marine , entered his mind . “ I ’ m like , ‘ man , if I say I didn ’ t go down this dragstrip and if I say I ’ m claustrophobic and couldn ’ t even deal with being in the vehicle , he ’ s going to kick my ass .’ He ’ s 73 years old , and he can still kick my ass .”
It was through the fear of Pastrana ’ s father that he found the strength to get back in the dragster and continue with what he had set out to do . “ I calmed myself down . I got hooked up and wedged back in , and I ’ m like , ‘ I ’ m going to do this .’”
Pastrana began the staging procedure for his first run in a Top Fuel dragster . He even detailed how he accidentally hit the throttle when backing up and “ almost shot back at 100 MPH .”
“ I did a good burnout with the tires but couldn ’ t find reverse , so they had to push me back ,” he said . “ I finally got up to the starting line , lined up and hit the gas pedal , and felt exactly what Tony was saying .
“ I felt everything that was happening , but my brain wasn ’ t processing . It felt literally like Star Wars . Warp mode . Everything got narrow – I got squished to the back , and all of a sudden , my mind caught up to what was happening , and I got the perma-grin . I was like , ‘ this is awesome …’ and then they shut it down right as the G-force started to pick up more ,” Pastrana explained of his first launch in a Top Fuel dragster .
Then Palmer and his crew rebuilt the motor , and it was time for round two . Everyone was optimistic about Pastrana ’ s second attempt , as his first 150-foot attempt was a success . “ Back to claustrophobic again ,” Pastrana said as he remembered climbing back in the confined cockpit .
“ It went worse ,” he added , describing his second launch . “ I didn ’ t quite line up perfect … had a bit of a wheelie going … made a correction right away , and my foot came off the gas .
“ I blew it – definitely disappointed ,” Pastrana said . However , it was a major win for everyone participating in this exciting day .
“ Everyone was pretty excited at the end of the day . This was something that was so much above any beyond I could ’ ve ever imagined ,” he said . “ It ’ s truly remarkable . I hope to go and watch an event . Thanks to everyone that was involved .” DI
22 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179