Photo courtesy of Travis Pastrana/Nitro Circus

Travis Pastrana’s goal: ‘Try not to die’ in bid to replicate 3 of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps

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Sunday in Las Vegas, Travis Pastrana will attempt to replicate and safely exceed the lengths of three of the most famous jump attempts by legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel – including flying over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace – a stunt that almost killed Knievel in 1967.

Pastrana, 34, will try to channel Knievel during a three-hour live broadcast on The History Channel (8 to 11 p.m. ET) titled “Evel Live.” He will do one different jump per hour, and each jump will be slightly longer than those that Knievel originally attempted.

“We have this awesome opportunity to recreate three of the most iconic jumps by the most iconic stuntman who ever lived,” Pastrana told People.com. “I really want to bring back the showmanship and the fun of these events.”

In addition to the fame associated with the event, the 34-year-old Pastrana has one other goal, as he told TheWrap.com: “Try not to die.”

Even on Pastrana’s own web site, NitroCircus.com, is asking, “Will Travis Survive the Stunt That Almost Killed Evel?”

Pastrana will start off the evening attempting to fly over 52 crushed and stacked cars (155 feet in length), then will fly over 16 buses (238 feet), and the grand finale of jumping 155 feet over the fountain.

Knievel made attempts over 50 crushed and stacked cars, 14 buses and a slightly shorter distance over the Caesar’s Palace fountain.

One thing of note to mention: Due to construction and capital improvements/modifications over the years since Knievel’s fountain jump, Pastrana will have a very difficult challenge: approximately half the stopping area than Knievel did when he made his attempt over the fountain.

To further honor Knievel, who made most of his jumps in a trademark red, white and blue firesuit with stars on it and a cape around his neck, Pastrana will wear a similar outfit.

“Evel always wore a cape and white leathers, and he captured that America theme that everyone knows,” Pastrana told People.com. “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.”

Pastrana will also ride a similar type of bike – an Indian Scout FTR750 V Twin – that Knievel used on most of his famous leaps.

The Indian Scout is about twice as heavy as the lightweight dirt bikes Pastrana is used to riding. But he wanted to keep all the jumps as close as possible to Knievel’s stunts, which is why he’ll be riding the Scout.

“My God, how did he get this tank in the air?” Pastrana told People.com about Knievel’s bike. “In true Evel fashion, every time I jump it it’s scary. The motorcycle is awesome. It’s got great power and awesome delivery. It’s super, super fast but it’s not meant to fly.

“It’s hard to manipulate in the air and if you take off wrong it’s kind of how you’re going to land. I’ve got three jumps. If I crash the first one and I’m physically able to get up I have to get back up. Not just for me, but for what we’re doing.”

The fountain could be the most difficult jump for Pastrana. It certainly was for Knievel, who suffered a crushed pelvis and femur, fractures to both hips, wrists and ankles and a concussion.

Pastrana obviously hopes a similar fate does not befall him. But at the same time, he’s prepared for the risks he’s undertaking.

If conditions such as wind change while in mid-jump, he’ll have to make split-second adjustments on the fly – no pun intended – and hope he lands safely.

“People like to see a good crash, but they like to see that person get back up… and land it,” Pastrana told TheWrap.com. “People want to know that it’s dangerous. They want to know that the boundaries are being pushed and that it is something incredible.”

One of Travis Pastrana’s signature moves that likely won’t be seen Sunday night. Photo Getty Images.

Knievel, who made over 75 jumps in his daredevil career and still holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most broken bones in a career (433), passed away in 2007 from heart failure at the age of 69 years old.

Sportscaster (of “American Ninja Warrior” fame) and licensed physician Matt Iseman will call play-by-play of all three of Pastrana’s jumps.

“The reality is this entire show hinges on him nailing it,” Iseman said of Pastrana to the New York Post. “If this guy has a pulse, if he can rev a gas handle, he’ll go and that’s what makes me love him and fear for him at the same time.

“He’s as close to Evel Knievel as we’ve got.”

Here are videos of three of Knievel’s infamous jumps that Pastrana will attempt to replicate – but hopefully not have the same outcomes on two of them:

Caesar’s Palace fountain jump — Dec. 31, 1967

Bus jump at Wembley Stadium – May 25, 1975

Knievel jumping 50 crushed cars at Los Angeles Coliseum on Feb. 18, 1973

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IndyCar: Which drivers need to start or continue comebacks in 2019?

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With the 2018 IndyCar Series season already far back in our rearview mirror, it’s not too soon to start looking ahead to the 2019 campaign, which begins on March 10 at St. Petersburg, Florida.

When you look at how 2018 ended up, several drivers either didn’t have the season they had hoped for and are looking to make big comebacks in 2019, or perhaps began comebacks in 2018 after prior difficult seasons.

Let’s take a look at who is due – or in some cases, overdue – for an even stronger season in 2019:

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: RHR isn’t overdue by any stretch, having started his “comeback” of sorts in 2018. His fourth-place season finish was his best in the series since winning the championship in 2012.

He also earned two wins – Belle Isle II and the season finale at Sonoma – his first visits to victory lane since winning twice in 2015.

Had it not been for three DNFs in the second half of the season, Hunter-Reay likely could have finished in the top 3 at season’s end.

It was good to see him come back into prominence after frustration the last two seasons (12th in 2016 and 9th in 2017).

Hunter-Reay still has several more good years in him and it would not be surprising to see him finish even higher in 2019 – and potentially once again being a championship contender.

SIMON PAGENAUD: After winning the championship in 2016 and finishing second in 2017, Pagenaud definitely had an off-season by his usual standards in 2018, finishing sixth in the IndyCar standings.

The French-born driver failed to win a race for the first time since 2015 and had just two podium finishes (also the most since 2015).

One of the most telling stats from what was a frustrating campaign is Pagenaud and the No. 22 led a total of just 31 laps across the 17-race 2018 season, the fewest laps led in a single season in his entire IndyCar career.

He also had the second-worst average per-race finish of his career (8.6), after having average finishes of 6.1 in his championship season and 5.3 in 2017.

Of course, looking at things from a glass half-full viewpoint, Pagenaud went from a winless and disappointing 11th place finish in 2015 to become champion in 2016. Could history repeat itself in 2019?

By all measures, 2018 was definitely an off season for Pagenaud. Look for him to make a significant comeback in 2019.

Or, to borrow a line Pagenaud said to teammate Josef Newgarden during their early 2018 season “autograph battle,” it’s your move, bro, for 2019.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The French driver had perhaps the best comeback season of any driver in 2018.

When former CART champ Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan joined forces with Dale Coyne Racing just prior to the start of the 2018 season, Bourdais was the hand-picked driver to carry the DCR with Vasser-Sullivan banner.

Bourdais did not disappoint. He started the season with a win at St. Petersburg and enjoyed his best overall season finish – seventh – in an Indy car since capturing the fourth of four straight CART/Champ Car World Series championships in 2007.

It was also Bourdais’ best career IndyCar finish, topping his previous best season finishes of 10th in both 2014 and 2015.|

Bourdais, who turns 40 in late February, finished the season strong with two top 5 and two other top 10 finishes in four of the last five races. That’s a good harbinger of even better things to come in 2019.

GRAHAM RAHAL: It was a tough season at times for Rahal, who turns 30 in early January.

Not only did he have his worst season finish – eighth – since 2014 (19th), he failed to win even one race (also for the first time since 2014) and had just one podium finish (2nd at St. Petersburg).

As if to add insult to injury, Rahal had two of his three season DNFs in his final two races (4th lap crash at Portland and a battery issue at Sonoma).

Rahal is overdue for the kind of season he had in 2015, when he won two races, had six podiums and finished a career-best fourth in the overall standings.

While Rahal has the equipment and personnel to do better, something just didn’t click in 2018. Will things turn around in 2019?

MARCO ANDRETTI: The grandson of Mario and son of Michael Andretti continues to be a work in progress – with emphasis on the word “progress” when it came to his 2018 performance.

Although he remains winless since 2011 and hasn’t had a podium finish since 2015, Marco Andretti still showed overall improvement in 2018, including earning his first pole (Belle Isle I) since 2013.

With a fifth-place finish in the season-ending race at Sonoma, Andretti jumped from 12th in the standings to finish the season tied for eighth place with Graham Rahal, Andretti’s best overall showing since finishing fifth in 2013.

Andretti had a strong second half of the 2018 season, with a top 5 in the season finale at Sonoma, as well as three top 11 finishes in five of the last eight races.

Don’t be surprised if he closes in on a top 5 finish in 2019. Andretti Autosport continues to improve overall as a team, particularly with Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and now Andretti, as well.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It was a strange season for the Mayor of Hinchtown.

He failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, had just one win and two podium finishes, yet ended up with a 10th place overall finish in the standings, his best performance since finishing 8th in both 2012 and 2013.

The Canadian driver went on a hot streak early in the second half of the season, winning at Iowa and finishing fourth in his hometown race in Toronto.

But DNFs at Pocono and Portland, as well as three other finishes of 14th (Mid-Ohio) and 15th (Gateway and Sonoma) likely cost him a chance of potentially finishing as high as eighth.

There was also the emotional, gut-wrenching crash involving Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and longtime best friend, Robert Wickens, at Pocono. While Hinchcliffe tried to put on a happy face and showed support to his fallen mate, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wickens’ injury constantly dwelled on Hinchcliffe’s mind.

With the Indianapolis 500 heartbreak, the firing of engineer Lena Gade (who lasted just five races before her ouster), the injury to Wickens, and the overall second-half season struggles, Hinchcliffe is to be commended for finishing as high as he did in the final standings given the overall circumstances he had to endure.

At the same time, it’s likely a season he wants to wipe away from his memory bank and turn a forgettable season in 2018 into what Hinchcliffe and his team hope is an unforgettable season in 2019.

TONY KANAAN: A new team, new outlook and racing for legendary A.J. Foyt offered a great deal of promise for Tony Kanaan in 2018.

Unfortunately, the Brazilian native suffered through the worst season ever in his IndyCar career, finishing 16th in the overall standings.

Prior to 2018, Kanaan had experienced just one other season outside the top 10 (11th in 2013, the same year he won the Indianapolis 500).

Admittedly, TK, who turns 44 on December 31, is the oldest full-time driver on the circuit. But it doesn’t look like he’s lost much with age.

Rather, three DNFs and a career single-season low of having led just 20 laps over 17 races took its toll on Kanaan.

He will return for 2019, driving a second season for Foyt. But things need to dramatically improve for Kanaan, who hasn’t won a race since 2014.

Follow @JerryBonkowski