LAS VEGAS — Honoring the man who paved the way for dozens of daredevils, Annapolis native Travis Pastrana succeeded in triplicating three of Evel Knievel's iconic motorcycle jumps Sunday night.
Donning his own Knievel-like costume, Pastrana used an Indian Scout FTR750 to jump 143 feet to clear 52 crushed cars, 192 feet over 16 Greyhound buses and concluded the “Evel Live” event on the History Channel by jumping 149 feet to clear the fountains at Caesars Palace.
“It's just such an honor to live a day in Evel's footsteps, and literally his boots,” said Pastrana, a Davidsonville resident. “To be here in Las Vegas, so much of my history has been here. I proposed to my wife here, I had [the] first Nitro Circus show here. This was definitely the coolest thing I've ever done.”
Pastrana, who is nearing the end of an impressive career as a stunt showman and professional motorsports competitor, admitted he was nervous leading up to the event, which began in an empty lot behind Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Bally's Las Vegas.
“This is all about Evel, and the coolest thing about this whole thing, all of Evel's family is out here,” said Pastrana, whose outfit included a white jumpsuit with the blue V and white stars, a cape and high heel dress boots. “This is the home of the most iconic jump, one of the most iconic events that has ever gone down. And to end at Caesars Palace, to have a chance to jump the fountain.
“It's not the longest jump but it's definitely the hardest.”
After his first two jumps over the cars and buses, Pastrana had a police escort while riding the same motorcycle along Las Vegas Boulevard all while popping wheelies and stopping to high-five and shake hands with fans.
“To be able to get a police escort on the Las Vegas Strip, I mean c'mon,” said Pastrana, 34, who cleared the fountains over 50 years after Knievel famously crashed while attempting the same feat.
Pastrana jumped the fountain in the opposite direction Knievel did. With the area much more built out than it was on New Year's Eve in 1967, Pastrana had less space for his approach, leaving him a shorter distance to reach approximately 70 miles per hour before takeoff.
Knievel, who died in 2007 at age 69, came up short on his attempt at jumping the fountain, hitting the knuckle just before the landing ramp and losing control. He flew head first over the handlebars and tumbled along the pavement, crushing his pelvis and fracturing several other bones in the process.
Knievel jumped over 50 crushed cars at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1973, and 14 Greyhound buses in 1975 at Ohio's Kings Island amusement park.
“I've had a front row seat for everything Travis has done since 2003, and I can tell you this is extra special because Evel Knievel is somebody Travis has 100 percent has looked up to his whole entire life, and me as well,” said “Streetbike” Tommy Passemante, a member of Pastrana's action sports collective Nitro Circus posse who is a Shady Side resident. “This is the greatest thing to pay homage to the greatest to ever do it. There's not a better showman that's ever happened in the sports action industry like Evel Knievel.”