Evel Knievel in 2001. Getty Images

One of a kind: Legendary Evel Knievel leathers, cane up for auction

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If you ask the question, “who’s the greatest racing driver of all-time?” you’ll likely get one of maybe five or six answers. It could be Andretti, Foyt, Senna, Schumacher or Earnhardt. Or perhaps another 10 or 12 others.

But if you ask the question, “who’s the greatest daredevil of all-time?” the answer settles on one near-unanimous answer: Evel Knievel.

In a seriously unique opportunity as put together by Heritage Auctions, a couple items from the one-of-a-kind daredevil’s gear from his iconic career go up for auction for the first time ever.

One set of Knievel’s worn leathers and his singular, trademark cane are available for bid through February 25. Further details are available via Knievel’s website, http://www.evelknievel.com, and the auction website, http://www.ha.com.

Photo courtesy HA Auctions
Photo courtesy HA Auctions

The leathers feature Knievel’s signature “American flag” design, adorned with initials and with some “road rash” evidence present. Meanwhile the cane – or walking stick – is diamond-studded and was more or less attached to Knievel for his appearances.

Providing the opportunity for collectors to acquire these items is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and for Knievel’s son Kelly, who is president of K&K Promotions and Evel’s oldest son (younger son Robbie also entered into the family business), it was better to give fans a chance to embrace them rather than have them just sitting collecting dust.

“What are we supposed to do? Be buried with them?” Kelly Knievel laughed, when speaking to NBC Sports. “There’s a time now for someone who’s a collector to bid for them, and have them where they can be seen.

“My dad had many sets of leathers… but they’re either gone, or in a museum, or he’d crash and they’d have to cut the leathers up. Since they were one piece leathers, he’d crash and go to the hospital and they would cut off. This one didn’t have to be cut. It has the scrapes from the crashes.

Photo courtesy HA Auctions
Photo courtesy HA Auctions

“And that cane never left my dad’s hands. He got that cane after his jump at Caesar’s Palace in the late ’60s, and had it until he died. There’s a lot of baseball cards, Super Bowl rings, and jerseys… but there’s only one Evel Knievel and only one cane. This cane has the hollow bottom with the liquor flask. I’m certain it’s the most famous cane on the face of the earth… and it will only increase in value as time goes on.

“It’s like the king’s scepter. It’s like Julius Caesar’s scepter. I think it’s one of the rarest pieces of American pop culture that exists.”

Knievel says he’s not sure what the items will fetch for but indicated that because this is the first time these items are up for bid, they’ll be higher as more years pass.

“I have no idea what it’ll get, but whoever gets it, it’s far underpriced compared to its significance and investment value,” he explained. “The first time something is auctioned… Marilyn Monroe’s dress I believe went for $50,000… and it just sold now for $4.8 million. Whoever gets this cane and set of leathers, it’s a bargain of a lifetime. So it’s the rarest diamond out there!”

For Knievel, growing up the son of a legend provided an incredible opportunity to live a firsthand account as his dad essentially created the extreme sports genre.

In a world now where it’s harder to stand out with simple events – it’s such a saturated sports marketplace – Knievel’s Q rating and impact via ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” almost stands as unparalleled.

Kelly Knievel reflects: “I was 8 (years old) when he jumped at Caesar’s Place – so I was 8 to 16 years old growing up as he was starting out. When you’re a kid, you don’t really have perspective on it. My dad was very high energy. It wasn’t a fake deal. It was Evel Knievel at the breakfast table. He was very ambitious and had a big imagination, but he was a giant man of character. When you’re a kid how would you know it’s any different?

“The only thing I can compare – my other friends’ dads went to work, and my dad did whatever I wanted. That’s how it seemed to me. I don’t know if it’s entirely accurate!”

He also reflected on his favorite jump his dad pulled off.

“It was at Kings Island, where he jumped the Greyhound buses. He went to England that summer… and jumped 13 double decker buses. He crashed, broke his hips and a bunch of bones. He announced to the crowd he’d retire… probably in shock and pain, and then woke up in the hospital, came back to U.S., added one more bus and jumped further and made it. That is a feat of courage and imagination.

“When he landed, the frame of Harley Davidson broke in half and he hung on!”

Knievel discussed how big a deal the “Wide World of Sports” shows were.

“To put it into perspective, on ABC World Wide of Sports, my dad had four of the top 10 shows, including the No. 1 show on ‘Wide World of Sports’ in history,” he explained.

“There’s a Q study – so a measure of name recognition – and in the ’70s, my dad was the most recognized name in the world. There’s a Q study done for deceased celebrities… and he has a 99.5% recognition level.

“The event of extreme sports is such that there’s all these young kids, who know Evel Knievel through the advent of extreme sports. So it connects the generations that way. Guys like Tony Hawk, Travis Pastrana, and Robbie Maddison, their inspiration was Evel Knievel.”

He said timing was everything for his dad’s success. His dad passed away in 2007.

“The situation was the same in the ‘70s, but my dad was so unique. He came up with his own thing. He had that much imagination and creativity. I don’t think it’s a function of time… it’s a person at the right time. It takes a person to do something that spectacular. He invented his own persona.

“I think (extreme sports) would exist… but as a symbol, it was a case where he was coming out of nowhere and captured the public’s imagination. Like a lighting rod.”

You can’t get the lightning rod, but you can get the next closest thing with that walking stick. And those leathers, which are still in one piece.

The man himself. Photo courtesy HA Auctions
The man himself. Photo courtesy HA Auctions

IndyCar: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Recap

Photo: IndyCar
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After two days, with both featuring a lot of rain, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is finally in the books for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

With Mother Nature intervening with rain and fury over both days, it’s understandable if there’s a sense of relief that the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is behind us.

Still, as is usually the case, Barber produced plenty of thrills, and a few spills, across the weekend of racing.

A recap of big stories to emerge from the weekend is below.

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head…

Mother Nature was ever present on Sunday and Monday, dropping a lot of rain on Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Rain races can be very fun and entertaining…if they’re able to run. Sadly, that just wasn’t the case on Sunday.

The undulating and picturesque Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most striking road courses in the country, and often produces some of the best racing anywhere. But, the nature of the track and its dramatic elevation changes can make it susceptible to standing water in heavy rains.

And that’s the exact scenario that played out on Sunday, with heavy and persistent rain hitting the track late in the morning, and hanging around the entire day.

While INDYCAR officials and Barber track crews worked tirelessly on Sunday to disperse the standing water, the rainfall was simply too heavy for them to make any impact.

While very unfortunate, postponing the finish of the race to Monday was the right decision, as several drivers explained.

“It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us,” said eventual race winner Josef Newgarden following the Sunday postponement. “We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much.”

Graham Rahal echoed Newgarden’s sentiments, also emphasizing poor visibility as a big factor in making the conditions too treacherous.

“It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue (on Sunday), no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in (on Sunday), but that’s life,” he explained.

Rest assured, Firestone makes a strong rain tire, and IndyCar teams, drivers, and track crews are more than equipped to handle a rain shower from Mother Nature. But, Sunday’s weather was simply too extreme.

Newgarden Shines in the Rain and the Sun

Josef Newgarden in Victory Lane at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

About the only thing as powerful as Mother Nature during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

Last year’s IndyCar champion was quickest at the end of Friday’s practices, scored the pole on Saturday, and led all but nine laps across Sunday and Monday.

And his leads were always decisive. He quickly gapped the field when racing started on Sunday, holding down a gap of as much seven seconds over teammate Will Power in the early laps. And on Monday, he gapped the field by as much as 27 seconds during the second half of the race.

Only outside circumstances could have prevented Newgarden from getting to Victory Lane…and that nearly happened. A late rain shower in the final minutes created split strategies across the field, with Newgarden among those opting for rain tires, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais gambled by staying out on slicks.

Hunter-Reay, however, jumped into the pits soon after for rain tires, a move that helped him eventually finish second, while Coyne and Bourdais gambled that the track would not get wet enough to force them to pit.

Alas, with only a few minutes remaining and the rain getting heavier, conditions became too slick and Bourdais was forced to pit, handing the lead back to Newgarden and dropping Bourdais to fifth.

“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden quipped when asked about conditions at the end of the race. “It seemed like it was pretty straightforward all day. We weren’t having yellows. It was dry. Then that rain made it very nerve-racking.

Newgarden added that pitting for rain tires, and doing so early, was their best option, even though it opened the door for others to jump ahead.

“I think for us we did the only thing we could,” he said of their strategy. “We went to rains as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early.”

The victory, Newgarden’s second of 2018, moves him back into the championship lead with 158 points, 13 ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

Misc.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay enjoyed a solid weekend following a troublesome day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver ranked in the Top 10 through practice, qualified a strong fourth, and ran a very clean race to finish second, his best finish of 2018, and he now sits only three points out of third place in the championship – he is currently sixth, with 113 points.
  • While teammate Robert Wickens has made more headlines, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is having one of the best early-season efforts of his IndyCar career. With finishes of fourth, sixth, ninth, and second to his name through four races, Hinch sits fifth in the standings on 118 points, and is keeping himself well within reach of the championship lead. A race win would do wonders for his championship standing, but the consistent start puts him in a good position heading into the month of May.
  • Conversely, four-time champion Scott Dixon has yet to finish on the podium in 2018 – his best finish is fourth at ISM Raceway. Still, at seventh in the standings with 107 points, Dixon is within striking distance despite the quiet start.
  • Elsewhere, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud have had comparatively disastrous starts to their seasons. Power has hit the wall in three of the first four races, while Pagenaud only has a best finish of ninth, coincidentally at Barber this weekend, through four races. Power sits tenth in the championship on 81 points, while Pagenaud languishes down in 15th on 66.
  • He made not have made many friends out there, but Zachary Claman De Melo gave viewers some thrills after the Monday restart, pushing his way through the field despite being two laps down. It also created one of the highlights of the race, with he and Spencer Pigot going for a slide through Turns 7 and 8 (video below). For his efforts, Claman De Melo recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing 19th.

The Verizon IndyCar Series now has two weeks before their next race, the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11-12. However, the series will be plenty busy, with testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicking off next week.

Follow@KyleMLavigne