Travis Pastrana re-creates three Knievel jumps on History's 'Evel Live'
For Travis Pastrana and his family, Evel Knievel served as a model for how to live life: Push yourself to your limits and beyond, back up your talk with action and always follow through on promises, even if there is a good chance they will get you hurt.
Pastrana was 16 when he met Evel Knievel at a Hawaiian Tropics beauty contest in 2000, an encounter he cherishes and sounds like something out of the legendary Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola ad of the 1970s.
"I had just won Daytona Supercross at 16 years old," he recalls, "and I had this awesome introduction. Everyone was like, 'Oh, this guy is a young up-and-comer. He just won his first Supercross. Blah, blah blah. He jumps like you. He likes action sports, doing big stunts.'
"Evel says, 'That sounds great, kid. Get me a beer.' And I ran to my dad. I was like, 'Dad, Evel Knievel asked for a beer.' Dad, he never cuts the line and he ran straight to front of the line. He was like, 'It's for Evel Knievel!' And we got Evel a beer, he said, 'Thanks' and that was my only interaction with Evel. And it was exactly at 16 how I hoped that would have gone."
Pastrana gets to emulate and pay tribute to the late daredevil by re-creating three of Knievel's stunts, the last an infamous jump that nearly cost him his life, in "Evel Live," airing from Las Vegas Sunday, July 8, on History.
Using a motorcycle similar to Knievel's, Pastrana will attempt to break his jump records of 50 cars and 14 buses, which he established in 1973 and '75, respectively. Then he will undertake the jump of the fountains at Caesars Palace. When Knievel attempted this in 1967, he wound up crashing and being hospitalized for more than a month with a crushed pelvis and femur, multiple fractures and a concussion. Though it nearly killed him, the stunt also earned him worldwide fame.
Having practiced the stunt for months, Pastrana is well-familiar with what he's working with at Caesars, as well as the speed he needs to have at takeoff. "There's less than 200 feet to get to 70 mph," he says. Still, Pastrana sounds confident in his ability to land the stunt, though he admits that the motorcycle he's riding -- which is twice the weight of his regular motocross bike -- could make things interesting.
"I feel good," Pastrana says with a laugh, "as good as you can get when you're jumping a tank. You know, if you miss your mark at all -- and obviously Evel proved it time and time again -- it's like riding a dragon to the ground."
But, he adds, the show must go on and "this guy was a showman, and we're going to put on a heck of a show and try to do him proud."
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Airs live at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 8, on History