Charlotte, NC – Nik Wallenda navigated the 750 feet across the asphalt, from 100 feet above the track surface, with pure ease, carrying on near-constant banter and stopping several times to pump his fist at the crowd during his tightrope walk Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Wallenda, of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family, started from high atop the frontstretch grandstands, wearing a tether that speedway officials required while he was above the audience. As soon as he passed over spectators, though, Wallenda pulled the tether off, continuing his arduous uphill journey to a large crane parked behind Winner’s Circle.
As he reached the end of the 5/8-inch tightrope, Wallenda roused the crowd to “never give up on your dreams.” He was then lowered to the ground amid thunderous cheers and pulled a long-sleeve black-and-gray Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt over his head. Wallenda said it was his tribute to tonight’s missing man.
“It’s a dream of mine; it’s just another dream fulfilled,” Wallenda said. “It’s exciting to be here, and it’s an exciting environment to perform in. All these fans are here to see an amazing race; to be part of that pre-race entertainment is an amazing experience.”
Wallenda said this walk wasn’t as difficult as this summer’s wild, windy journey over Niagara Falls, which was televised live. But that didn’t mean he took the stunt’s success for granted.
“One of the interesting things about what we do, we’ve been doing it for seven generations, 200 years,” Wallenda said. “You can get very complacent. We don’t consider one [stunt] more dangerous than the other, because every one is dangerous. My great grandfather Karl Wallenda lost his life in 1978 doing a walk that was one of the shortest he did in his career. But he still lost his life. So we have to take every one seriously.”
Karl Wallenda died at age 73 during a high-wire walk between two hotels in Puerto Rico.
Even with that knowledge buried deep in his mind, Nik Wallenda never seemed to have an ounce of doubt about his ability to cross the high wire above Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was relaxed as he mounted the rope for his death-defying stunt, keeping his calm even as track workers rushed to pull the support lines taut enough for him.
“It’s really just about staying calm and peaceful,” Wallenda said. “I say a prayer [before the walk], and that’s about it. There’s no rituals, no yoga, nothing like that. I’m just a regular guy; I wear jeans and a T-shirt because I’m just a normal guy. I just happen to do something that’s unique.”