Robert Craig Knievel Jr. is among the most popular (if not the most popular stuntman) to have lived in the modern era. Known more popularly by his stage name, Evel Knievel, the daredevil was renowned for his death-defying stunts that caught the imagination of an entire generation of American kids.
Among these kids was Travis Pastrana, who paid tribute to his idol by performing his three most popular stunts in in an event called "Evel Live" in glitzy Las Vegas. In less than three hours, Pastrana covered over 400ft in the air jumping obstacles – clearing all three jumps, each in a single attempt!
Born in Maryland, Pastrana is an American professional motorsports competitor and stunt performer. He has won the X Games gold medals on numerous occasions and has also participated in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross, rally racing and even competed in NASCAR.
Since this was a tribute event, Pastrana wore a jumpsuit like Knievel’s – the white-and-blue jumpsuit with its iconic stars. His first attempt was to clear Knievel's 50-stacked-car jump, which the legendary stuntman had managed at Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1973. Pastrana managed to nail the stunt rather easily, with the red, white and blue pyrotechnics in the background making the audience cheer even louder.
His second stunt was a recreation of the iconic jump over 13 buses at London's Wembley Stadium attempted by Knievel in 1975. Although the jump in Wembley resulted in a crash, Knievel managed to jump over 14 buses in Ohio, later that year. Pastrana soared 192ft in the air and cleared 16 Greyhound buses – and surpassed his idol by making a safe landing in one attempt.
In his third and final attempt, Pastrana recreated one of Knievel's most publicised stunts – jumping over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. For Knievel, the 1967 jump over the fountains was the longest he had attempted in his career. Sadly, it wasn’t as memorable as it was infamous. The then-29-year-old stuntman crashed at over 140kph when he landed. His pelvis got crushed, and he broke his left hip, right ankle, hands and wrists. Knievel also suffered concussions because of the stunt, which put him in a coma for almost a month! At “Evel Live”, though, the stars were shinning bright in Pastrana’s corner as he cleared the fountains outside the casino. Despite a slightly dodgy landing, things were under control.
Evel Knievel passed away in 2007 at the age of 69. Although the daredevil is no more, he leaves a legacy that lives on in stuntmen like Travis Pastrana.