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USA TODAY Sports’ Brant James tells you what to watch for at the Food City 500 in Bristol, including who’s got the best chance to come away victorious.
USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR’s next leap of faith with Monster Energy is roughly 400 feet. Alex Harvill wants 425.

The 24-year-old motocross rider from Washington is scheduled to attempt a world record ramp-to-ramp jump, minutes before the green flag for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on May 7 at Talladega Superspeedway. A self-described lifelong NASCAR fan making his first trip to a race, Harvill was to have practiced the stunt Thursday at Talladega but construction delays postponed it until Friday.

Two steel ramps, 26 feet high and 30 feet wide, will be positioned for the jump in the infield parallel the campground epicenter of frolicking known as Talladega Boulevard. Harvill will need to attain 106 mph, he said, at launch to reach about halfway down the landing ramp and his goal of 425 feet.

“It’s harder to replicate at somewhere that’s not made for dirt bikes,” Harvill told USA TODAY Sports. “There’s no dirt out here and back in Washington I was able to make it perfect, exactly how I wanted, waited for the right conditions so it’s a lot easier. Out here you have to replicate it with a steel structure at the landing and its a little more difficult. Nonetheless, I still believe I can still jump the furthest.”

The 425-foot distance, Harvill said, is currently his “personal unofficial” best.

Robbie Maddison holds the current ramp-to-ramp world record of 351 feet, set in Melbourne, Australia, on March 29, 2008. A Guinness World Records representative is scheduled to be at Talladega to certify Harvill’s attempt.

Harvill grew up in Ephrata, Wash., just 20 miles from Moses Lake, where Evel Knievel made his first jump in 1965. The late daredevil set a then-world record of 129 feet by jumping over 19 cars before the Cup race at now-defunct Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway on Feb. 28, 1971.

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Harvill currently holds motorcycle jump world records for ramp-to-dirt (425 feet; May 12, 2012, Royal City, Wash.) and dirt-to-dirt (297.5 feet; July 6, 2013, Richland, Wash). He devised what became the Talladega plan after reading on Instagram in December that Monster Energy had become the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, working through agent Marc Levine and Monster Energy content-creator Paul Taublieb. Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch learned of it a few months ago and final approvals were given within the past few weeks. Texas Motor Speedway also had been considered for the jump.

Monster Energy has increased its pre-race presence since a comparatively tempered opening at the Daytona 500, but the Harvill jump should reach a much wider audience than the so-called “Smoke Show” of motorcycle and truck stunts which so far has been held on track midways.

Monster Energy Vice President of Sports Marketing Mitch Covington said Talladega was ideal as “NASCAR’s biggest and wildest track, ” adding “from a sheer size perspective, you need somewhere like Talladega to pull off a record-breaking motorcycle jump. Plus, the jump will take place in Talladega’s infield, which is considered NASCAR’s party capital.”

A hulking 2.66-mile restrictor plate venue known for massive wrecks, high banks, high speeds and high times in the campgrounds near the jump site, Talladega is a hard-used backdrop for excess and oddity.

“We’re excited about it. Talladega is known for record-breaking attempts in various things throughout the years,” Lynch told USA TODAY Sports. “There were days when they were basically letting anybody drive anything around the race track and set a record. But we’re extremely pumped up.”

Lynch said he had few early reservations about the attempt, which could be scuttled by various factors including rain or excess wind and probably will be aired on delay.

“There’s always a risk factor out there with these things because it is somewhat of a death-defying stunt in some ways with the length of the jump and everything,” Lynch said. “But [Monster] assured us that he has done a lot of practicing and that he has the ability to do this.

“They seemed to be buttoned-up. Of course, we are insurance-conscious at our facilities and [Monster] is going to be providing all the necessary insurance for the project. … They seem really confident.”

Lynch said Harvill will likely end up in the media center for interviews if he completes the jump and the rider would like to end up in victory lane at the conclusion of the race.

Word of the attempt had begun to spread through the action sports community before the deal was complete pending requisite agreement from NASCAR, Fox Sports, which will broadcast the race, and International Speedway Corp., which owns Talladega. Travis Pastrana, who was sponsored as a freestyle motocross rider by Monster Energy competitor Red Bull, was enthralled by the idea.

“Minutes before a NASCAR race, field-goal-to-field-goal-plus. It’s huge,” Pastrana cackled in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “Going for it on live TV? Are you kidding me, minutes before the race? It could be catastrophic. But it’s going to be entertaining.”

Follow James on Twitter @brantjames

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