Travis Pastrana returns to motocross racing today at Red Bull Straight Rhythm

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With all that action sports icon Travis Pastrana has accomplished throughout his well-rounded career, it’s easy to forget that he was a national motocross champion 14 years ago.

Pastrana has since retired from motocross racing to focus on other passions. He has long been one of the most progressive riders in freestyle motocross but has also carved out a successful career in rallycross and even attempted a recent foray into NASCAR. This afternoon, he’ll be back on a bike for a brand-new event that will put him head-to-head with some of the top motocross riders in the sport today.

Red Bull Straight Rhythm is like a supercross track without any of the turns – or as the event organizers like to say, it’s “supercross unwound.” The course is a half-mile straightaway of rhythm sections, jumps, whoops and sand sections built on top of a drag strip track in Southern California. Although Red Bull held a test event last year, this will be the first time that it’s ever been done as a full-fledged competition.

Seeking an edge, Pastrana has loaded his #199 Suzuki up on horsepower. Whereas most of his competitors in the open class will be riding a 450cc four-stroke bike, he is mounted on a 500cc two-stroke. It’s a bike so powerful that Pastrana has dubbed it the “RM-Zilla.” (Suzuki’s 450cc bike is named the RM-Z450.)

Despite all the added horsepower, even Pastrana was not immune to the challenging nature of the course. “If you don’t get the first jump, you’re running a completely different rhythm all the way down the entire track than everyone else, which is awesome,” he said. “That’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s basically like a tic-tac-toe puzzle.”

Out of 16 riders in the open class, Pastrana qualified eighth in Friday’s practice session, putting him head-to-head with Josh Hansen in the opening round of today’s competition, which utilizes a best-of-three bracket format to decide a winner. Should Pastrana defeat the ninth-seeded Hansen, he would be on a collision course with James Stewart – the fastest rider in qualifying and the overwhelming event favorite – in the quarterfinals.

It’s a tough task, but Pastrana has made a career out of defying the odds.

To see how Pastrana fares in his return to racing, watch Red Bull Straight Rhythm live online starting at 5:30 p.m. ET today on RedBull.tv.

NBC will also air television coverage of the event on December 20.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”