- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

Comfortable in his life as a daredevil showman and race-car driver, Travis Pastrana was in no rush to get back to riding motorcycles competitively.

He still rides every day, of course, but luring him from his hiatus was going to take something special.

This weekend’s Red Bull Straight Rhythm race proved to be just the event to get Pastrana to roll off his kickstand back into motocross racing for the first time in five years.

“This event is something guys like me have wanted to do for a long time,” Pastrana said. “And most people who know me know that it’s really tough for me to turn my back on a new challenge. When I heard about the new head-to-head format of Red Bull Straight Rhythm, I instantly felt that tug on my heart to get into the mix.”

The inaugural Straight Rhythm race, Saturday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, will be unlike anything else in motocross racing.

After a demonstration event last year, the first full race will have a 32-rider field going head-to-head on a straight, half-mile track filled with jumps, whoops and table tops.

Essentially a Supercross track unwound into a straightaway, Straight Rhythm is a drag race that will reward aggressiveness, but also require riders to pick the right lines, when to hit the accelerator and maybe even a little braking.

In other words, find the right rhythm to get through all the obstacles without wrecking.

“It’s definitely different than what we’re used to, but it’ll be nice to twist things up, kind of spice things up,” said James Stewart, a multiple champion in motocross and Supercross. “It should be a lot of fun.”

Unlike typical motocross events, the track will be laid out directly in front of the riders instead of winding through a variety of left and right turns. It will be an interesting twist for the riders and visually appealing to the fans, who won’t have to sort through a course filled with riders to figure out where the leaders are.

The format should be fun as well: two riders on the track at the same time, racing head-to-head in a best-of-three knockout format until one man is left standing.

The unique format and track have lured some of the top riders in the sport, including Pastrana, Stewart and multiple champion Ryan Dungey.

“As a single event, there’s going to be nothing more entertaining to the fans,” Pastrana said. “You’ve got the best riders in the world and you get to see them over and over again paired up against other riders and you can see every little increment of the race.”

Pastrana’s return has added another level of buzz to the race.

He won national championships in motocross and Supercross before taking a big star turn with his freestyle motocross antics at the X Games and other action sports events.

Pastrana turned his attention to four-wheel racing after that, becoming a rally-car champion and a driver in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. He’s also been the frontman for the popular Nitro Circus, an action sports extravaganza that started as a TV series that later became a live show and a 3D movie.

“Obviously, having Travis around brings a lot of uniqueness and spice to this event,” Stewart said. “It’s going to have him back racing. And obviously, he’s got a lot of fans that he’s going to bring to the event and with him, you never know what’s going to happen.”

As has been his style, Pastrana will not be holding back at Straight Rhythm.

While motocross riders today race with 450cc four-stroke engines, Pastrana had a custom bike built that has all the current technology - lightweight frame, factory suspension and chassis - but with an old 500cc two-stroke engine in it.

“It’s unusable power, for sure,” Pastrana said with a laugh. “I’m not sure it’ll be an advantage. If anyone gets behind me, the (rooster tail of dirt) is going to be horrendous.”

And fun to watch.

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