Nov. 30, 2007 02:20 PM
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Evel Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose exploits made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.
Knievel's death was confirmed by his granddaughter, Krysten Knievel. He had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.
You might think the living embodiment of the word “daredevil” had nothing to do with IndyCars, but consider that after failing in life as a ski jumper, pole vaulter, big game hunter, hockey player, arm wrestler and insurance salesman, Evel Knievel decided he would earn a living by emulating the stunts auto racer Joie Chitwood (who’s grandson is currently the COO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway) did on the “Joie Chitwood Thrill Show” television program in the 1960s.
Except of course Evel did them with motorcycles, leading to his massive fame, fortune and notable run-ins with the law. Knievel was so ubiquitous that none other than AJ Foyt made him a member of his pit crew at Indy one year. In fact, Knievel later presented Foyt with a "First 4-time Indy 500 winner" bracelet that Evel had made before the race in 1977.
So rest in peace, Evel, from a kid who’s most prize possession was once a doll with a helmet, a star-spangled cape, and chopper that jumped just about everything else in the house.
UPDATE: Thanks to mmack for directing us to a photo of a 1977 Indy 500 entry co-owned by Knievel and driven by Gary Bettenhausen.