Knievel's latest TMS jump is longest
FORT WORTH, Texas -- At 48 years old, Kaptain Robbie Knievel's goatee might be grey and his hands might shake, but the second-generation daredevil's spirit remains red, white and krazy.
Performing his first stunt at Texas Motor Speedway since he cleared 21 Hummers through a stiff wind in 2008, Knievel returned Saturday night for his third stunt at the track, this one dubbed the "Above the Law" jump, which would require him to clear more than 200 feet of service vehicles.
Wearing a black jumpsuit with the classic Knievel bold stripping lined with stars, and riding a 223-pound, 500cc dirt bike, Knievel revved up the crowd with several wheelies down the backstretch and then three teasing pass-bys as pyrotechnics shot off with each pass.
Finally, to signal everything was a go, Knievel took the bike to the top of the launching ramp and gave the crowd a thumbs-up.
Pyrotechnics blasted yet again.
Then it was time. Knievel took his starting position at the top of the high-banking wall of Turn 4 and let loose. He picked up speed and the crowd rose to its feet as Knievel hurdled toward the ramp. The bike's motor whirred and instantly the son of Evel Knievel soared high above the 200-plus feet of City of Roanoke vehicles that included five ambulances, one fire truck parked length-wise, two large police SUVs, four police cars and one TMS pace truck.
When he hit the landing ramp, his bike bottomed out just as he predicted it would from his practice sessions, yet the Kaptain absorbed the blow and hung on. Moments later he repeatedly and jubilantly pumped his right fist into the hot evening air.
Knievel pulled the jump off flawlessly despite a steady wind he estimated to be coming at him at 14 mph. No problem, as he cleared his longest jump of the three at TMS. Once he rode his bike up the landing ramp and slipped off it, he thanked the crowd and then "the real heroes" -- his dad and the United States service men and women.
Then he talked about his latest successful stunt with the humility of a man who has broken nearly every bone in his body -- twice.
"I'm just so happy this is over," he said. Asked if doubts had crept into his mind as he approached the ramp and the teeth of the wind, Knievel said, "Yeah. I always have doubts."
And what thought must have reverberated in his brain as he took on the wind and the gap below him?
"Don't let go," Knievel said.
The son of the world's most famous motorcycle daredevil, Knievel has carried on the family tradition 10 years now beyond the age his father retired. The elder Knievel died in 2007.
"I miss my dad because I can't call him up and ask him how many painkillers I can take and how many shots of cortisone you can take in a lifetime," Knievel said. "We had some good talks before he died and I just want to carry on that name as long as I can to keep the Knievel name the most famous on two wheels."
Knievel expects Saturday's stunt to be the jumping-off point for something of a family revival. He will follow in his father's footsteps to London's Wembley Stadium in September and jump a Harley-Davidson, just like his dad, over 16 double-decker buses.
Then, he said, plans are in motion to go back to where only his dad would dare and resume his quest to take a rocket across Idaho's Snake River Canyon.
"I jumped part of the Grand Canyon on a bike 231 feet and I want to show people why my dad had to get in a rocket to go over half-a-mile, zero to 450 [mph] in 3 1/2 seconds, 57 degrees straight up," Knievel said. "I've been waiting 35 years for some big, long line of daredevils to go out and do it, but now I'm stuck with it because nobody else tried it."
Knievel said he plans to build the same type of rocket his dad used, but he hopes to avoid the electrical malfunction that caused his dad's parachute to blow out "like a shotgun shell."
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Jeff Caplan covers motorsports for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.