The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) world title race changed after the Minneapolis Invitational, when the 1,031-points lead world No.1 bull rider Jose Vitor Leme enjoyed coming into the Twin Cities diminished to 671.66 points.
Jose Vitor Leme was 1-3 for the event after bucking off Awesome Man in round one, riding Space Force for 88.50 points in the final 15/15 Bucking Battle of the 2019 season to earn 60 points. Those 60 points help lessen the amount the world title race contenders – Jess Lockwood, Chase Outlaw, Joao Ricardo Viera – were able to chip away at his lead.
The momentum of getting a high-scoring ride on Space Force in the 15/15 Bucking Battle did not carry-over to round-two for Jose. He got bucked off Red Snapper.
Jess Lockwood the PBR’s youngest world champion and current world No. 2 bull rider was on a cold streak going into Minneapolis and it appeared the cold streak would last with his first-round pairing with Lethal Larry. The former high-school wrestler bucked off early but was granted a reride and was bucked off that bull, Rocket Man. Yet, Jess who has a penchant for riding in big moments capitalized on his special round draw Bad Beagle for 91.50 to win the league-best fourth and final 15/15 Bucking Battle of the 2019 season and earn 150 world points. Jess carried the momentum forward to round-two and rode Tulsa Time for 87 points and gaining a spot in the championship round.
Lockwood was paired with Gambini and the two danced to a high-scoring 89 points, placing him second in the round and third overall event, and earning 270 world points.
World Title contender Chase Outlaw, the world No. 3 ranked bull rider, did not fare so well in Minneapolis. He notched a ride in the first round for 86.25 points on Twist of Barbwire but was taken down in the 15/15 Bucking Battle by Talking Smack, after looking like he would make the 8-second whistle. Preachers Kid was his bull for round two and after slamming the ground in dramatic fashion. Chase was questionable for the championship round.
It would take a lot more than a banged-up elbow to keep a cowboy with plates and 68 screws in his face away from the championship round.
The fan-favorite cowboy called the “toughest athlete in sports” by USA Today has a significant deficit to retake the world No.1,139.66 points away. However, Outlaw is not a rider to underestimate in the title race. He could regain those points in the remaining two regular seasons events, or in Las Vegas – where 3,300 points are available – if he rides like he did last year, conquering his first five bulls inside T-Mobile Arena.
Joao Ricardo Viera, the world No.4 bull rider, was 1-3 much like Jose Vitor Leme and also bucked off his first-round bull, Time Well Spent. The Brazilians time was better spent in covering his 15/15 Bucking Battle bull, making the whistle on Soup In A Group for 89.25 placing third in the bonus round and earning 75 world points. Joao was unable to use the momentum from that great ride when paired with Viper. His weekend was ended after bucking off the bull.
The title race has grown tighter, and now the plot thickens heading into Greensboro. Leme could rebuild his lead with a strong showing. Lockwood looks fired up like when he won the first two events of the 2019 season and went back to back to start the second half. Outlaw came a hair from making another ride in Minneapolis.
Could the race get tighter before Las Vegas?
Fans will not know for sure until after the dust settles in Greensboro. For now, the results in Minneapolis are making the PBR’s visit to North Carolina an even more interesting and intriguing title race to watch unfold until a gold buckle is handed out on Championship Sunday, November, 10th inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.