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Tanner Godfrey beat a world record as part of Evel Knievel Days on Friday night.

But no matter how it had come out, driving 70 mph in his souped-up utility terrain vehicle, the nephew of Nitro Circus daredevil Gregg Godfrey has already beaten the odds.

Strapped in the vehicle, Tanner, a paraplegic since age 18, set a new world record for distance jumping a utility terrain vehicle, exceeding the previous mark of 198 feet. Tanner told the Standard Friday before the jump that he wanted to "at least get past that."

He did just that, before a crowd of thousands cheering him on along East Park Street, hitting 202 feet — four feet over the record.

Even if he had missed that record, his jump is inspirational because he's already beaten incredible odds.

Doctors told Tanner he would never walk again. This news came after a motocross race accident in which he hit the ground head first at 50 mph. Godfrey had just graduated from high school.

It was thanks to his excellent physical conditioning that he didn't break his neck and die from the accident. Instead, the accident caused his vertebrae "to explode," he said. It also dislocated his spine. He was wearing a helmet.

Though paralyzed from the chest down, he walks with canes. Tanner said he regained mobility because he was determined to defy the doctors' predictions.

He has spent 7 1/2 years in physical therapy and working out at the gym to regain mobility. But it didn't take him nearly so long to get back into daredevil work. Within six months, he was back in a seat.

"I started going stir-crazy," Tanner said during an interview Friday afternoon at Evel Knievel Days in Uptown Butte. "I needed speed in my life."

Now 26, Tanner, of Utah, jumps UTV's, also known as side-by-sides.

To get around his disability, he uses a stick for gas and brake pedals. He said he has tipped his UTV over but never had a serious accident since the big one when he was 18. He wears all the appropriate harnesses, seat belts, helmet and gear.

And despite the uncertainty in his life, he set one world record for a UTV jump. In Mesquite, Nevada, in 2012, he jumped 105 feet.

Despite his daredevil stunts — and daredevil injury — Tanner doesn't call himself a daredevil.

"I'm just an average man," he said.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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