Stuntman Travis Pastrana Will Attempt Evel Knievel’s Most Death-Defying Feats on Live TV This Weekend
Travis Pastrana will attempt to jump 140 feet over the Caesar’s Palace Fountain on Sunday in honor of legendary stuntman Evel Knievel
The legendary stuntman Evel Knievel attempted more than 75 jumps on his motorcycle before his death from pulmonary heart disease in 2007 at age 69.
Knievel — born Robert Craig Knievel Jr. — was not only known for his death-defying stunts in the ’60s and ’70s, but for the showmanship he displayed while attempting them. His flair helped to inspire a generation of women and men who later took up extreme sports like freestyle BMX, motocross and rally racing (and at least one newspaper has labeled Knievel the “godfather” of extreme sports).
But Knievel’s legend didn’t grow into what it is today just because of all the stunts he pulled off — but for all of those he didn’t land, too.
Many of his failed jumps have become iconic, such as his crashes at Snake River Gorge, Wembley Stadium, and, famously, Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, which left Knievel with over forty broken bones and placed him in a coma for a month. Knievel still holds the Guinness World Record for the most broken bones experienced in a lifetime, clocking in at 433.
To honor the legacy of history’s most celebrated stuntman, Travis Pastrana — who has won several X Games gold medals for supercross, motocross, and freestyle motocross — will attempt to surpass three of Knievel’s signature jumps this weekend in Las Vegas.
“My dad, he has five brothers and they all had motorcycles and lived by the philosophies of Evel Knievel,” Pastrana tells PEOPLE. “Henceforth I grew up learning, ‘be a man of your word, and if you say you’re gonna do something do it.’ Evel knew he wasn’t gonna make the jump at Wembley, but he said he was going to do it, so he went and he jumped it anyway. You only fail if you don’t try.”
As a part of History’s Evel Live, airing live this Sunday on HISTORY at 8 PM E.T., Pastrana’s first stunt will have him attempting to fly over 52 cars in the parking lot behind Planet Hollywood, which would beat Knievel’s record of 50 crushed cars. The second jump will see Pastrana jumping over 16, 11-foot-tall buses, which would best Knievel’s 1975 record of 14 Greyhound buses during an event in King’s Island, Ohio. This stunt will require the most speed of all of Pastrana’s jumps during the three-hour program.
But the main event of the night will have Pastrana attempt to jump 140-feet over the Caesar’s Palace Fountain, a stunt that Knievel never tried again after the monstrous wipeout that cemented his national stardom. Yet, much has changed to the structure surrounding the fountain since Knievel’s 1965 attempt, and Pastrana is performing with almost 50 percent less space to jump and land than Knievel had. While Pastrana admits he is both nervous and excited, jumping the fountains and recreating Knievel’s other stunts would be the culmination of a childhood dream for him.
“We have this awesome opportunity to recreate three of the most iconic jumps by the most iconic stuntman who ever lived,” Pastrana — whose company, Nitro Circus, is helping to produce the event. “I really want to bring back the showmanship and the fun of these events.”
To add to this showmanship, Pastrana will be channeling Knievel’s swagger by donning similar America-themed gear that pays homage to what the legendary stuntman was famous for wearing.
“Evel always wore a cape and white leathers, and he captured that America theme that everyone knows,” Pastrana says. “So we even went as far as going to the same tailor who did Evel’s boots, and they’re probably the most expensive item I’ve ever had! Definitely the most expensive shoes I’ve ever had.”
By the end of the night, Pastrana hopes he will have inspired the next generation of action sports athletes.
“Our main goal is to help promote active lifestyles and basically, action sports. Getting kids off the couch and riding their BMX bikes or their skateboards and help older generations of people to understand these are real sports now,” he says. “At the same time, we get to honor a legend and I get to step up and see if I can actually fly a tank.”
Not only that, Pastrana hopes Knievel’s fans will gather together with their friends and families, just as they did decades ago, to watch a man and his motorcycle attempt the seemingly impossible.
“This will help to bring my dad’s generation, my kids’ generation, and my generation, together,” Pastrana says. “It will show my dad’s generation that the spirit of the sixties and seventies, it’s not dead. It still lives on.”