NASCAR's first Filipino-American driver debuted in Europe this year, and hopes to dominate U.S. oval tracks in 2014. When Daly City resident Don Pastor entered the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in May, he said he was met with bigotry on the part of some European racers.
"They told me I don't belong to this sport," Pastor said. "One of them even told me, 'NASCAR is not for you guys.'"
Pastor said that during the first of two races in Dijon, France, two drivers intentionally bumped his car, sending him off the track with a flat tire and damaged bodywork. Pastor said he could hear everybody booing him as his disabled vehicle was carried off the track with him stuck inside.
Because he didn't finish the race, he was forced to start the next day's race in last place. However, Pastor's 13th-place finish in a field of 25 competitors was enough of a comeback that Derrike Cope Racing formally invited Pastor to begin testing and potentially race with the Cope team in the United States.
The Whelen Euro Series tends to use circuit tracks, with both right and left turns, as opposed to the oval tracks more commonly used in the U.S.
Pastor was born in Southern California, and his family moved to the Philippines when he was 6 years old. When he was 8, his father, Tom, took the family on an outing and surprised them with a detour to a racetrack. Just five minutes before the start of the Vintage Cup race, Pastor learned his father was one of the racers.
It was a pivotal experience for Pastor to watch his father start in last place and pilot a four-cylinder Toyota Corolla Sprinter to victory against competitors with V-8 engines.
"The whole crowd was around my dad, all these people were looking up to him, and I said to myself, 'One day, I'm going to be like that,'" Pastor said.
By the age of 13, Pastor was racing go-karts capable of going more than 100 mph. Soon after, his high school sweetheart and future wife, Edna, had to be understanding about Pastor taking her on dates in a race car that had no interior panels, carpeting or air conditioning.
Pastor's brother, Enzo, has also made a name for himself in Euro NASCAR and Formula racing, and in 2009, he was the second runner-up in the Macau Grand Prix. Enzo Pastor's Euro NASCAR debut happened at the same time as Don Pastor's, in the same race. However, the two brothers were on different teams, racing against each other.
Don Pastor's successes in Touring Car and Formula racing made him famous in the Philippines, where he opened his own racing school. He said moving back to the U.S., where he is relatively unknown, has been an adjustment. He said the move was motivated by his desire to dominate U.S. racing.
Whether Pastor is able to do so will depend on more than his driving skills. He said he's currently looking for corporate sponsors, because even if the Cope team hires him, he'll need to bring about $1 million to the table for the 2014 race season.
Depending on where the testing places him, Pastor expects to race in the regional K&N Pro Series West or the Nationwide Series, both of which are seen as proving grounds for up-and-coming drivers.
When asked how it feels to be the first Filipino-American NASCAR driver, Pastor said, "You don't just want to be the first Filipino-American. You want to be the guy that beats everybody. You want to be the first Filipino-American NASCAR champion!"