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Kaptain Knievel Jumpy At Texas

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 6 2010

Robbie Knievel catches big air at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night (Photo courtesy of IZOD IndyCar Series)

Fort Worth, Texas – Motorcycle daredevil Kaptain Robbie Knievel admits the only lifestyle he has ever known could someday be the death of him.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case Saturday evening on the frontstretch at Texas Motor Speedway, where Knievel successfully completed his “Above The Law” jump.  Knievel, the 47-year-old son of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel, set a personal best by jumping 200-plus feet of City of Roanoke service vehicles parked between two ramps.

After completing his patented pre-event wheelie and warmup routine, Knievel motored off the Turn 4 banking, drove up the take-off ramp and easily cleared a lineup of six police vehicles, one fire truck, one TMS pace truck and five ambulances – all with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Knievel’s landing on a 70-foot ramp was spot-on, capping his third such performance at TMS.

Knievel’s jump on a white Honda-based, 500cc dirt bike was the centerpiece of pre-race activities leading to the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550k. All three of Knievel’s jumps have been paired with the open-wheel series at “The Great American Speedway.” Knievel jumped the entire 25-car IndyCar Series starting field in a stunt called the “$10 Million Texas IndyCar Jump” on Oct. 6, 2001. Knievel  returned on June 7, 2008 for “Kaptain Robbie Knievel’s Great American Hummer Jump,” when he cleared 21 Hummer vehicles.

Knievel has been performing for more than three decades and successfully has completed more than 250 jumps, including 20 that resulted in world records. His career has been highlighted by the Caesars Palace Fountain jump in 1989, the “Death Jump Live” building-to-building stunt in 1999 and the Grand Canyon jump in 2000.

TMS president Eddie Gossage said Friday he anticipated this would be Knievel’s final jumping appearance at the 1.5-mile quadoval. But both Knievel and Gossage agreed this type of event never gets old.

“There’s always somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘My dad brought me to see your dad. And this is my kid and my father,’ ” Knievel said during a news conference. “There’s three generations of people always wanting to come. I draw bigger crowds and bigger crowds every time I do something.”

Gossage, a motorcycle enthusiast and one of motorsports top promoters, said, “I wouldn’t get out of the electric chair to get on that motorcycle with him.

“The big thing about what Robbie does, his name is Knievel. And there’s no question what he’s going to do here Saturday night. The question is, can he successfully pull it off? And each time you go a little further, you make it tougher and tougher and tougher. There’s been great response to this. People are really interested in what he’s doing. And if they’ve seen it once, they’re going to come back and see it again because they’re not quite sure what they saw and it happens and it’s an amazing thing.”

To which Knievel deadpanned:  “And I’m getting older, and I might crash. That’s why they’re coming back. I’ve broke 20 bones, give or take one or two, and I’ve been in as many county jails since I was 15. There’s a little Evel in all of us, and there’s a little more in me.”

Robbie’s father, born Robert Craig Knievel, attempted over 300 jumps during his career, of which 276 were deemed successful. He died on Nov. 30, 2007 at age 69.

Knievel’s upcoming jump itinerary includes a trip to London’s famed Wembley Stadium to jump a vintage XR-750 Harley-Davidson over 16 double-decker buses – a stunt first attempted by his father a generation ago. Evel Knievel cleared 13 double-decker buses but crashed upon landing and broke his pelvis at Wembley on May 31, 1975. Disappointed in the outcome, he defiantly jumped over 14 Greyhound buses at King’s Island, Ohio, on Oct. 25, 1975.

“I’ve missed my dad because I can’t call him up and ask him what pain-killers I can take and how many shots of cortisone you can take in a lifetime,” Knievel joked. “We had some good talks before he died and I just want to carry on that name as long as I can…keep the Knievel name, the most famous on two-wheels.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 6 2010
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