Motorcycle daredevil Travis Pastrana is known for jumping high and far.
Now he’ll try leaping into the past.
In “Evel Live,” airing Sunday (8-11 p.m.) from Las Vegas on History, Pastrana will pay homage to the godfather of action sports, Evel Knievel, by attempting three of Knievel’s iconic jumps. Matt Iseman (“American Ninja Warrior”) will host the live telecast, featuring one jump per hour.
“Growing up, [Knievel] was such a larger-than-life figure, the first daredevil I ever remember,” says Iseman (one of his first toys was an Evel Knievel power-charge motorcyle). “And Travis [Pastrana] … wants to pay homage to the originator and evoke what Evel Knievel meant, that sort of trailblazing style, to recreate these stunts.”
Pastrana is not just looking to recreate Knievel’s iconic jumps — but to surpass them.
Knievel jumped 50 cars, so Pastrana is attempting to hurtle over 52 vehicles. Knievel jumped 14 Greyhound buses, so Pastrana will attempt to jump 16 buses. Those two jumps will take place in a lot located directly behind three hotels: Planet Hollywood, Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s.
The last and most sensational jump is one that Knievel never landed: the fountain at Caesar’s Palace.
“The only reason we’re adding more is in the spirit of Evel Knievel,” says Pastrana. “He never wanted to do the same thing twice. He always wanted to push the boundaries.”
Knievel jumps the hotel’s fountain 51 years ago.Bettmann Archive
As if trying to outdo the legend isn’t enough, Pastrana has chosen to attempt these record-breaking feats on an Indian Scout FTR-750 motorcyle similar to the bike Knievel used when he famously attempted to jump the Caesar’s Palace fountain on Dec. 31, 1967.
(Knievel crashed and was hospitalized with a crushed pelvis and femur and fractures to his hip, wrist and both ankles. He also had a concussion.)
Pastrana, an 11-time X Games gold medalist — and the first rider to land a double backflip on a motorcycle — will also wear a Knievel-like flowing cape. He’s had limited practice time with the Indian Scout bike, which weighs almost twice as much as the bikes he normally uses.
“My God, how did he get this tank in the air?” says Pastrana about Knievel. “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,” says Pastrana. “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.”
Iseman, a licensed physician, has seen life and death, and says he has a multitude of emotions about hosting this show — and the real possibility that Pastrana could get hurt.
“Honestly, it makes my heart race. Especially because it’s not one jump — it’s three jumps in three hours, live,” he says. “There’s no room for error. As the host, it’s super-exciting because I have the best seat in the house other than Travis’… his seat is clearly a lot better, but I don’t want that seat.
“The reality is this entire show hinges on him nailing it,” he says. “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.”