Travis Pastrana made history Sunday, July 8 by completing three motorcycle jumps once attempted by famous stuntman Evel Knievel. These included jumping 52 crushed cars, 16 Greyhound buses and clearing the Caesars Palace Fountain. Not only did he break all three of Knievel’s former records, he also completed all three dangerous stunts in a three-hour period, a feat not done before.
In a feat of its own, the History Channel sponsored event Evel Live drew in over 3.5 million viewers, making it the top cable special this year.
Coming out in traditional Evel Knievel fashion, Pastrana paid tribute to the late daredevil by dressing in a full leather All-American look complete with a starred jumpsuit, helmet and cape. Likewise, he traded his traditional riding shoes for Knievel’s signature platform dress boots.
In addition, he rode the Indian Scout FTR 750 motorcycle, a similar style to Knievel’s. While the bike has one third suspension as today’s motorbikes, the handlebars and brakes were modified to modern standard for safety.
Continue reading to find out just who these men are and were and the impressiveness of what they both attempted and accomplished.
Who is Travis Pastrana?
Travis Pastrana is easily one of the wildest competitors alive when it comes to action sports. Involved in almost everything available, Pastrana dabbled in supercross, motorcross and rally racing. In addition, he holds gold medals from the X Games, competes in NASCAR and is the leader of Nitro Circus.
Pastrana isn’t the type to be on the sidelines of any sport either. The talented stuntman was the first person to perform a double backflip on a dirt bike at the 2006 X Games. Moreover, his other crazy stunts include backflipping a dirt bike between two rooftops and jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
Who is Evel Knievel?
If Travis Pastrana is anyone reincarnated, it’s definitely the late Evel Knievel. Robert Craig Knievel Jr. took the stage name Evel Knievel to perform stunts no one had imagined before. Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, Knievel kicked off his career by starting a show where he impressed crowds with motorcycle tricks like wheelies and jumping a 20-foot box of rattlesnakes and two mountain lions.
Throughout his career, Knievel attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps, including his infamous attempt over Caesars Palace that nearly took his life. In addition, his non-motorcycle stunts included attempting to blast over Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket.
Evel Knievel did it first, but his landings weren’t always so smooth.
Knievel still trumps Pastrana as the first man to perform stunts like jumping over the Caesars Palace Fountain. However, Pastrana now joins the small group of men to successfully complete the jump. While it was also attempted by Gary Wells in 1980, he too barely escaped death in his crash. The two to complete the jump before Pastrana were Evel Knievel’s son Robbie in 1989 and Mike Metzger in 2006.
Knievel was never scared to “send it” when it came to daredevil tricks, yet most of the time calling his landing rough would be an understatement.
Due to using heavy motorcycles with speed and suspension systems set up for street use not tricks, Knievel often missed his landing, leading to broken motorcycles and bones. The picture above shows just how many bones Knievel broke during his attempted tricks.
Surprisingly, it was pulmonary disease that ultimately took his life in 2007 and not one of his dangerous tricks. The stuntman died at age 69. However, his legacy lives on and he is commemorated in both the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Harley-Davidson Museum.
How did Travis Pastrana stack up against Evel Knievel?
When it comes to jumping the Caesars Palace Fountain, both men used wild antics to rile up the crowd before hitting the ramps.
For Knievel, this meant betting and losing his last $100 at the blackjack table, taking a shot of Wild Turkey at the bar and walking out to the jump with two showgirls on his arms. He then took to the staging area to perform wheelies and tricks for the crowd.
In what must have been an equally surreal experience, Pastrana took advantage of his police escort to Caesars Palace by burning out and doing wheelies down the strip, even stopping to high-five fans and take selfies along the way.
Jump 1: 143 feet over 52 crushed cars
Evel Knievel record: Knievel originally attempted to jump 50 stacked cars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1973. He was successful during his attempt, which covered 120 feet.
Travis Pastrana record: Pastrana kicked off his three jumps by soaring 143 feet over 52 crushed cars, beating Knievel’s distance record by 23 feet.
Jump 2: 192 feet over 16 Greyhound buses
Evel Knievel record: Knievel originally attempted jumping 13 buses at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1975. Despite breaking his pelvis when being thrown from his bike on impact, Knievel refused a stretcher. “I came in walking, I went out walking,” he reportedly told fans. He announced his retirement after the jump but later returned to performing stunts.
Travis Pastrana record: With the advantage of a bike with a few modern adjustments, Pastrana upped Knievel’s attempt by successfully jumping 16 Greyhound buses. To land the attempt, Pastrana had to reach around 80 mph. Like Knievel he didn’t continuously practice his jumps beforehand because of the heavy motorcycle style.
Jump 3: 149 feet over Caesars Palace Fountain
Evel Knievel record: Knievel impersonated lawyers and reporters to get a meeting with former Caesars Palace CEO Jay Sarno and then convinced him to allow the stunt. While ABC refused to cover the live event because they doubted its sensationalism, they later paid much more for the footage of Knievel crashing and nearly ending his life. During the 1967 New Year’s Eve attempt, a faulty landing led to Knievel breaking over 40 bones including his left hip and femur, right ankle, both hands and wrists and his pelvis. Luckily, he survived his injuries and the stunt made him a millionaire.
Travis Pastrana record: Like Knievel, Pastrana has his own long list of injuries throughout his career and was quoted saying he lost track because there were too many. Leading into his Caesars Palace Fountain jump, Pastrana had to clear a shorter jump distance of 149 feet compared to the buses but also a daunting height of 15 feet. In interviews prior to the event he simply said he would “try not to die.” His attempt was successful with no injuries. With a net worth of $30 million, Pastrana is already living the life. However, his latest stunt will no doubt boost sales for Nitro Circus’ new Las Vegas residency shows.
Let’s talk about that All-American outfit and riding in dress boots…
“It’s just such an honor to live a day in Evel’s footsteps, and literally his boots,” Pastrana told the History Channel during the event, adding it was “the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Evel Knievel was as well known for his iconic American style as he was for his wild stunts and injuries. Many compared his look to that of Elvis. To prepare for the event, Pastrana told The New York Times he went to a tailor to perfectly replicate Knievel’s heeled dress shoes.
“They’re probably the most expensive shoes I have. They’re made for going out, not for jumping,” he said.
Pastrana normally sports lightweight shoes optimal for riding because of their grip and shock absorption. However, he proved that even a bad ass action sports star can get down in a classy pair of shoes.