For well over a decade, Travis Pastrana has become one of the most adrenaline-fueled, death-defying athletes ever to live, earning a number of world records along the way. After conquering motocross disciplines at X Games, the 34-year-old tried his luck with NASCAR and created Nitro Circus – a band of cohorts that are essentially an extreme sports version of Jackass. But, this summer, Pastrana will attempt one of his biggest stunts and pay homage to the original bike-riding daredevil – Evel Knievel.
On July 8, Pastrana will attempt three of Knievel’s most famous stunts for “Evel Live”, an unprecedented three-hour live event that will air on HISTORY, using a motorcycle similar to that which Knievel used. Armed with a Indian Scout FTR750, Pastrana intends to jump 52 crushed cars, 16 Greyhound buses and the fountain in front of Caesar’s Palace – a jump that almost cost Knievel his life. While the FTR750 might be a far cry from Pastrana’s typical dirt bike, the powerful 750 cc 53-degree V-Twin has the kind of giddy-up needed to tackle any of Knievel’s daredevil jumps and, with the bike securing 14 victories along the manufacturer’s and rider’s championship last year, it’s clear this ride was meant for greatness.
“It was extremely important to use a motorcycle similar to the ones [Evel Knievel] jumped. The Indian Scout FTR 750 is just that, a modern-day evolution of the flat track motorcycles of the past,” said Pastrana in a statement. “It has the power I need and handles well, but I’m only going to have a few days to get comfortable on it, not to mention I’ve never jumped a V-twin before. I’ve got my work cut out, but we’re used to going big at Nitro Circus, so we’ll make it happen.”
Going big is something very familiar to the 11-time X Games gold medalist, who has completed the world’s farthest ramp-to-ramp jump in a car, along with being the fastest to ascent Mount Washington in a car – all that on top of pulling off a double-backflip in a dirt bike and attempting monster truck backflips.
Here’s a look back at the three Knievel jumps Pastrana will attempt in front of the nation:
1967: Caesar’s Palace Casino
The stunt that put Knievel on the map, the inspiration for jumping the Caesar’s Palace fountain came when the daredevil visited Las Vegas for a boxing title fight. As the story goes, Knievel repeatedly called the casino’s CEO Jay Sarno claiming to be his own lawyers – as well as the representatives at ABC-TV – and inquiring about the potential of pulling off this incredible spectacle. The event took place on New Years Eve of 1967 and, to the disappointment of Knievel, the jump was not aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, so he personally hired a production crew to film it. The jump was a projected 141 feet, which Knievel came up well short of, landing instead on a safety ramp supported by a van – leaving the 29-year-old in a coma for a month with several broken bones.
1973: Los Angeles Coliseum
Unlike the fountain, the execution of this jump went perfectly for Knievel, who flew his motorcycle over 50 smashed cars stacked in a pyramid at one of football’s most famous stadiums in mid-February. With close to 24,000 spectators on hand – ticket prices were $8 for adults and $4 for children – cheering him on, Knievel set a record that stood for 35 years. Afterwards, he addressed the crowd about how he could feel their prayers and well-wishes before making his way down the ramp – a true momentous moment to be seen. It proved to be one of the biggest events of his career and helped fuel his desire for more national exposure.
1975: Kings Island Amusement Park
In late October 1975, Knievel attempted what was the biggest event to date in his career. Kings Island had gained attention when it appeared on several ABC sitcoms, at which point the park looked for ways to draw crowds and the attention of local and national media, like Karl Wallenda walking a tightrope across two of the site’s tallest attractions. Partnering the event up with a biography that same week, ABC knew it had something big on its hands – though planning the event took apparently about 69 days. The park set up a 13-acre temporary stadium that was made to hold 70,000 spectators, all of whom wanted to see if Knievel really could jump over more than a dozen Greyhound buses. Knievel pulled off the jump and left the world obsessed with the Montana-native.