Travis Pastrana – Evel Live – Nails All Three of Evel Knievel’s Historic Jumps
Pretty much every extreme sports star owes something to the late Evel Knievel.
While Knievel might not have necessarily been the most successful stunt artist in terms of, uh, completing all his jumps and stunts, he was among the most daring ever and inspired a generation to think bigger.
Travis Pastrana didn’t jump the Caesars Palace fountains with a motorcycle Sunday. It was a time machine — hitting the ramp precisely at 56 mph and sending some in the crowd all the way back to 1967.
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) July 9, 2018
Clifford Branan saw Pastrana. But the 57-year-old was also remembering how, as a young boy, he watched Evel Knievel on TV’s “Wide World of Sports” wipe out trying to make the same jump more than five decades ago.
“It made me nostalgic,” he said. “At that time, it was unbelievable.”
Branan was visiting Las Vegas with his son, Ford, from Oklahoma. The 22-year-old said he hadn’t seen Knievel’s iconic jump until Sunday. On YouTube.
Travis Pastrana is one of those who has followed the path started by Knievel, and he paid tribute to America’s most legendary stuntman by completing – and heightening – three of his famous jumps in one evening in an event called “Evel Live” on the History channel.
The first jump Pastrana recreated was Knievel’s 50-stacked-car jump, which Knievel landed at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in February of 1973.
Pastrana, dressed in a full Evel Knievel getup, left no doubt in nailing a 52-car jump – complete with red, white and blue pyrotechnics.
Pastrana’s stunt was aimed at honoring Knievel. Pastrana, the founder of Nitro Circus — which features a variety of stunt-driven entertainment — said that even though he was born in the 1980s, he was well aware of Knievel from his parents. He even owns Knievel toys — some of which now sell on EBay for more than $200.
In a statement, Pastrana said the stunts were “an opportunity to pay tribute to the man who inspired a generation to live for the moment and not be afraid to take chances.”
But Gary Gray, a 48-year-old from Minnesota who was in the stands awaiting Pastrana’s attempt to jump the fountains, said the whole event was about nostalgia.
— Jeff (@JeffKhoury2000) July 9, 2018
He said he remembered seeing the Knievel wreck on the fountain landing, which left the stuntman with multiple broken bones. He had the Knievel toys. He got into motorcycles and ultimately landed a job with Indian Motorcycle, the maker of Knievel’s bike.
Gray said that Knievel was inspirational and that one of his most treasured possessions is a framed letter he got from the daredevil decades ago with a business pitch.
“I’ve told people that if I ever move my office, they can break anything in there — except that letter,” he said.
“I think the hardest part was getting the whole costume on,” Pastrana joked after landing the jump.
Pastrana’s second jump was a recreation of Knievel’s (ultimately failed) jump of 13 buses at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1975.
Pastrana cleared 16 Greyhound buses – once again with the requisite pyro – firing up the Las Vegas crowd.
“Man, this is just an awesome honor,” Pastrana said of clearing two of three jumps in record fashion.
Pastrana wore a replica of Knieval’s leather jumpsuit for his three stunts as well — despite temperatures in excess of 104 degrees. And his ride from a lot behind Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino where the bus and car jumps took place to Caesars Palace on the Strip almost brought traffic to a halt.
From the stands above the heads of the thick crowd, all that could be seen heading down Las Vegas Boulevard was a Knievel-like helmet and a fluttering cape.
If it weren’t for the ubiquitous pose of people holding cellphones taking pictures, the full-size wall promo for Donny and Marie Osmond on the Flamingo hotel and the sounds of Rage Against the Machine blasting from speakers, one could’ve imagined it was Knievel himself heading to the ramp.
Pastrana weaved his way through the crowd on his bike and headed to the starting point. He revved the engine several times and accelerated quickly. The crowd was on its feet. The motorcycle — a virtual replica of what Knievel jumped on — sailed through the air.
The finale was a recreation of perhaps Knievel’s most famous (or infamous?) stunt: jumping the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Knievel attempted the jump on New Year’s Eve in 1967. It did not go well.
Knievel suffered numerous injuries as a result of the crash; though ironically the wild wipeout raised his profile like nothing had before.
Knievel would obviously recover and go on to become an American icon for his high-flying stunts. He died in 2007 at the age of 69.
Over 50 years after Knievel’s memorable crash, Pastrana cleared the fountains outside the Las Vegas casino.
— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) July 9, 2018
It was a daunting proposition even for the 34-year-old freestyle motocross and X-sports legend, who has done some pretty crazy things in his career. Among them: the first-ever dirt-bike double back flip, stunning crowds at the 2006 X Games; backflipping a motorcycle between two rooftops; and skydiving without a parachute. He won his first motocross title at age 14, and has been a dominant force in the sport ever since.
Looking relaxed and confident throughout the three-hour live event, Pastrana alternated highly demanding stunt performances with quick hits of on-camera commentary.
Sources: history.com, usatoday.com, latimes.com