Travis Pastrana Completes Evel Knievel Las Vegas Jumps

Mark Kariya | July 9, 2018

Already an icon in the action-sports world, Travis Pastrana cemented his name alongside the late, legendary Robert “Evel” Knievel on the general public’s radar by successfully recreating three of the original stuntman/showman’s most iconic jumps, broadcast live on the History channel for an unprecedented three-hour show.

Travis Pastrana Complete Evel Knievel Tribute Jumps

Travis Pastrana jumps Caesar Palace fountains.
Travis Pastrana successfully jumps the Caesar Palace fountains in Las Vegas in a tribute to Evel Knievel. Photo: Olivia Balog

Riding a Roland Sands-modified Indian Scout FTR750 flat tracker, Pastrana started off with a relatively simple 140-foot jump over 52 crushed cars, though each of the following leaps was more difficult and, therefore, dangerous—just how a showman like Knievel would’ve done it.

About an hour later, he sailed over 16 Greyhound buses parked side by side in a back lot of the Planet Hollywood Casino. Then, after riding his bike up Las Vegas Boulevard with a police escort, Pastrana completed the most difficult leap of the afternoon, sailing over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace despite being able to use only about 200 feet or half of the run-up that Knievel utilized when he crashed spectacularly in his 1967 attempt.

By today’s elevated standards, none of the jumps was particularly difficult and would no doubt be relatively simple for nearly any local pro motocrosser on a contemporary 450. (After all, a few years ago, Mike Metzger back-flipped his Kawasaki KX250 over the fountain.)

But Pastrana wanted this event (which kicks off Car Week on the History channel) to be a tribute to Knievel and not just about him going farther than Knievel’s leaps. Thus, he made the conscious decision to eschew his Suzuki RM-Z450 and employ something closer to the old Harley-Davidson XR750 dirt track bike that Knievel relied on—something with a third of the wheel travel and a good 100 pounds more compared to today’s 450s.

Pastrana even carried the tribute theme over to the graphics scheme for the bike, leather suit, boots and helmet. After practicing in a black leather outfit on a rather stock-appearing FTR750 last month, he unveiled a package in Vegas that clearly evoked the Knievel image with a white base and wide blue stripes outlined in red and containing white stars. He even donned a cape for the initial, single practice run-ups before each jump, though he removed it for the actual jumps in order to reduce aerodynamic drag.

After his last leap, a relieved Pastrana removed his helmet and trotted back to the fountain where he belly-flopped in to the crowd’s delight as well as to cool off in the near 100-degree weather. There would be no trip to the medical center in whose shadow he ironically completed the first two jumps. Instead, Pastrana was free to celebrate his accomplishment with his family and many friends.

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Mark Kariya | Contributor Kariya spends way too much time in the desert, but we’re glad he does as he’s the man who gets us our coverage of all things sandy.

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