Anthony Craft and his uncle, Brett Vanalst, both shared a deep affection for motorcycles. That love blended into a special bond that will live on in spite of Vanalst’s passing on Oct. 29.
“It’s indescribable really,” said Craft of his relationship with Vanalst. “He was a hero to me.”
Before Craft had even been born, Vanalst decided he want to break a world record, and the Ingalls native would wind up attracting the attention of history’s most famous daredevil, Evil Knievel.
From the mid-1960’s to the early 80’s, Knievel inspired a generation of thrill-seekers with his motorcycle jumps over cars, Pepsi trucks, Greyhound buses and even rattlesnakes.
But as far as distance goes, Robert Craig Knievel’s longest attempted jump of 141 feet did not even approach the world record set by Vanalst on June 25, 1972.
On that day, the longtime Maxwell resident broke the ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jump world record by soaring 196 feet and four inches at what was then known as Sportsman’s Paradise in northwestern Hancock County.
Craft said Knievel was in attendance and stood along the bank of the lake as Vanalst jumped over.
The world record entering that day was 143 feet. Indianapolis’ Mark Wells bested that mark with a jump of 147 feet. Phillip Herr of Cambridge City topped Wells’ record by reaching 196 feet, but that record didn’t even last a day because of Vanalst.