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Alex Harvill is used to making the most of wide expanses. His pastime of jumping motorcycles great distances requires it, and the two leaps he's made that stand as current world records have both taken place in the sweeping sand dunes of his home state of Washington.
But when Harvill wanted to bring his high-flying show to NASCAR, making the most of his Monster Energy backing and the energy drink maker's sponsorship deal of stock-car racing's top series, Talladega Superspeedway seemed likely to be a natural fit. Combine the 2.66-mile facility's wide stretches of asphalt, its tendency for wild on-track action and its rabid fan base even more so make it an obvious choice.
Harvill will attempt to set a world record for the longest ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jump on May 7 before the start of the GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), aiming to go 400 feet or farther. The jump will take place in the fan-frenzied zone called Talladega Boulevard, and the timing is even more audacious -- the 24-year-old rider is scheduled to make his leap in the five-minute window between the national anthem and the command to start engines.
"I want to be under the most eyes as possible," Harvill told NASCAR.com, "make it on TV and kick off the NASCAR race with the biggest jump ever."
Until this week, Harvill had never been to Talladega, "but I have on NASCAR video games, so it's like I've been here before because I've raced it many times. But this is my first time here, and it's very impressive with how big it is."
Harvill currently holds two world records for motorcycle distance jumping -- a 425-foot leap to set the bar for ramp-to-dirt jumps in 2012 and a 297.5-foot distance to establish the dirt-to-dirt benchmark a year later. The current ramp-to-ramp record is 351 feet, set in 2008 by Australian rider Robbie Maddison, but Harvill has designs on more than the target distance of 400 feet.
"I want to go for the furthest jump and then to keep going," says Harvill, who projects a target speed of 106 mph to achieve his Talladega goal. "My goal is to go 500 (feet), and I'm hoping Monster and NASCAR provide me platforms to keep going further and further."
To understand the psyche of someone who regularly vaults through the air on two wheels, it helps to know Harvill's upbringing. By age 2 or 3, he was a motorcycle passenger in his father's arms. His first dirt bike came at age 4. Winters were spent catching air with his father in the dunes not far from his Ephrata, Washington, home. Before long, young Alex was outjumping older kids on bigger bikes.
The fact that legendary daredevil Robert Craig Knievel Jr. -- better known worldwide as Evel Knievel -- made his first jump just 20 minutes from his hometown in nearby Moses Lake, Washington, only smoothed Harvill's path to a lifetime of thrill-seeking. Back in 1965 when Knievel made his jumping debut, he was primarily a motorcycle dealer who dabbled in flat-track racing. "Everyone there knew him as Bob," Harvill says.
Knievel's influence looms over Harvill, but their approaches to stunt riding differs. Instead of emulating Knievel's devil-may-care style that resulted in multiple crashes and serious injuries, Harvill has taken a more calculating perspective to make his high-altitude endeavor as safe as can be.
World-record jumps before a NASCAR race have happened before, not surprisingly by Knievel, whose star rose through the 1970s. Knievel jumped 19 cars, covering a distance of 129 feet on Feb. 28, 1971 at the former Ontario (California) Motor Speedway.
Now it's Harvill's turn, and he already has a celebration in mind.
"I'm going to do some dance moves on the landing ramp, drink a few Monsters and watch the NASCAR race," Harvill said.