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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American Flat Track puts emphasis on fans in building 2020 schedule

American Flat Track
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American Flat Track put an emphasis on fans and feedback from other series while also acknowledging everything is tentative while hammering out its schedule for the 2020 season.

The 18-race schedule over nine weekends will begin July 17-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, about 20 miles from AFT’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The dirt track motorcycle racing series, which is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, shares a campus with its sister company, NASCAR, and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock said the series closely observed how it’s handled races in its return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also built AFT’s procedures from NASCAR’s post-pandemic playbook of more than 30 pages.

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“I speak personally to the committee within NASCAR that has been put together for the restart, regularly talking to the communications people, general counsel and other relevant operations departments,” Lock told NBCSports.com. “So we’ve derived for Flat Track from NASCAR’s protocols, which I think are entirely consistent with all the other pro sports leagues that are attempting to return.

“Obviously with NASCAR the scale of the business is completely different. There were some times more people involved in the paddock and the race operations for NASCAR than the numbers of people at flat track. Our scale is much smaller, and our venues are generally smaller. So we can get our hands around all of the logistics. I think we’re very confident on that.”

While NASCAR has had just under 1,000 on site for each of its races without fans, Lock said American Flat Track will have between 400 to 500 people, including racers, crews, officials and traveling staff.

But another important difference from NASCAR (which will run at least its first eight races without crowds) is that American Flat Track intends to have fans at its events, though it still is working with public health experts and government officials to determine how many will be allowed and the ways in which they will be positioned (e.g., buffer zones in the grandstands).

Lock said capacity could will be limited to 30-50 percent at some venues.

American Flat Track will suspend its fan track walk, rider autograph sessions for the rest of the season, distribute masks at the gates and also ban paper tickets and cash for concessions and merchandise. Some of the best practices were built with input from a “Safe to Race Task Force” that includes members from various motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies (including Supercross and motocross).

There also will be limitations on corporate hospitality and VIP access and movement.

“I think everything the fans will see will be unusual,” Lock said. “Everything at the moment is unusual. We will roll out processes that are entirely consistent with the social distancing guidelines that will be in place at the time of the event. So we’re planning for a worst-case scenario. And if things are easier or better by the time we go to a venue, it’s a bonus.”

Lock said the restrictions are worth it because (unlike other racing series) AFT must have fans (even a limited number) for financial viability.

“We took a decision fairly early on in this process that it was neither desirable nor economically viable to run events without fans,” Lock said. “I can think of some big sports like NFL or like NASCAR where a huge chunk of that revenue is derived from broadcast, which means that your decision making as to how you run an event, where you can run an event has a different view than a sport like ours, or even like baseball, for example, that needs fans. Because the business model is so different.”

Broadcast coverage is important to American Flat Track, which added seven annual races over the past five years and can draw as many as 15,000 to its biggest events.

Lock said AFT ended the 2019 season with more than 50,000 viewers for each live event, making it the No. 1 property on FansChoice.TV. This year, the series has moved to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. “We’re expecting a really strong audience from Day 1, particularly with all this pent-up demand,” Lock said.

NBCSN also will broadcast a one-hour wrap-up of each race (covering heat races and main events).

Because the season is starting three months late, the doubleheader weekends will allow AFT to maintain its schedule length despite losing several venues. And there could be more, Lock said, noting that there still are three TBA tracks.

“There may still be some surprises to come from one venue or another of delay or cancellation,” he said. “But we are intending to run as full a season as possible.”

Here is the American Flat Track schedule for 2020:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

July 31-Aug. 1 (Friday-Saturday):  Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio

Aug. 28-29 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Northeast United States

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida