Ever start driving and get the feeling someone’s following you?
Not that we’ve ever been in trouble with the law, or an ex-girlfriend. But you get the drift.
Someone is on your tail. You start driving with one eye glued to the rear view mirror. Sometimes it becomes two eyes. With your attention diverted, you wind up rear-ending a tractor trailer.
For PBR World No. 1, Jose Vitor Leme, that’s the intriguing situation and question going into this weekend at PBR’s final regular season event in Nampa. Will Leme be looking ahead? Or at the two former World Champions and two very hungry veterans chasing him?
The technically brilliant Brazilian, who can often ride completely centered to make rank bulls look easy, has been No. 1 the past five weeks. Leme went into the Minneapolis Unleash The Beast event the first weekend in October with a season-high lead of 1,031.66 points. However, in the two weeks since, Leme has gone 2- for-6, while Jess Lockwood has been putting up big rides and earning big points. Lockwood has decimated Leme’s lead to a mere 321.66 points.
Ladies and Gentlemen: we have on our hands a very good championship race.
While Leme has been struggling the past two events (1 for 3 in the Twin Cities and Greensboro), Lockwood has been great. For example, Leme earned 110 World points in Minneapolis compared to Lockwood’s 820.
Leme needs to take his eye off rear view mirror and take care of his own rides. Quite simply, he needs to gain most points he can, because every cowboy in the running is going to, as Steven Tyler sings in the CBS openings, “hold on and won’t let go.”
In the Nampa round 1 draw, Jose Vitor Leme is rematching with Red Bandana (8-7). The former Brazilian soccer star was able to secure round one win in 2018 Sioux Falls event on this bull with an outstanding 89 point-ride. Granted, simply because he conquered Red Bandanna in their last match up does not mean Jose will be able to dance with the bull to the 8-second whistle this round. But if Jose can take his eye off the rear view mirror, and focus completely on his own riding, he could win the round.
“If Global Warming exists it may be because the man in Jose’s mirror is on fire,” said a PBR spokesperson when asked about the recent turn of events in the championship race.
Since Minneapolis, World No. 2 Jess Lockwood has gone a torrid 6-for-7 (85.71%), covering his last five draws.
Lockwood is riding high after swinging for the fences, picking the hardest bull, and breaking Heartbreak Kid’s (38-0) buck-off streak in last weekend’s championship round in Greensboro with a huge 93.75 point-ride.
Jess was driven into the ground in a very scary dismount, but says he is feeling fine after using an Equine Pulse machine and therapy cream this week, according to PBR Insider Justin Felisko. The 22-year-old has drawn Long Cut (1-0, UTB) for Round 1 on Friday night, which can be watched exclusively on RidePass beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Having ridden six consecutive bulls on the premier series, Lockwood is looking to make it seven on Long Cut (1-0) this round to get right on Leme’s bumper.
Cooper Davis, world No. 5 ranked bull-rider, also storms into Nampa with momentum after a dominating 3-for-3 performance good for the event title, punctuated by an impressive 92.75 point-ride on Chiseled (7-2) in the championship round of the Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic event. Cooper might be a long-shot for the World Championship, but he definitely should not be left out of the discussion and could be a strong bet for a World Finals event title.
Cooper is facing a round 1 rematch with Actin Crazy (14-4) and could get the better of a bull who had last bucked him off in 2.67 seconds.
World Title Race Matchups
Joao Ricardo Viera, world No. 4 ranked bull rider is paired with Spotted Snake (3-1). Joao has recently been struggling to get to the 8-second whistle, after going 0-for-2 in Greensboro. With this desire and his improvement in being able to ride bulls that go away from his hand Joao, does need to connect on a ride this round before the world title falls further from his reach.
Chase Outlaw, World No. 3 ranked bull rider, drew Coal Train (3-0). Outlaw has been struggling to make the 8-second whistle. The Arkansas cowboy has been riding bulls for seven seconds or so, then bucks off or loses his rope right before notching a qualified ride. Chase could use a ride in this round to rebuild his confidence and get the event started on a good foot.
The Rookie of the Year Race
This is an historically tight race packed with young talent. The top four Rookie of the Year contenders – Dalton Kasel, Mason Taylor, Daylon Swearingen, and Ezekiel Mitchell – are all separated by only 50 points.
World No. 10 Dalton Kasel is currently leading the Rookie of the Year race by a slim 21.25 point lead over Daylon Swearingen, who in balancing his PBR career with working towards a degree at Panola College while riding for the school’s rodeo team, is a “Be Cowboy” story unto himself.
Swearingen, World No. 12 (and also No. 5 in PBR Canada), is taking a zero in Round 1. He’ll be honor his collegiate obligations in riding for Panola Friday night in Mt. Pleasant Texas. Daylon will then take a 6:20 am Saturday flight out of DFW for Nampa, according to Felisko.
The college rodeo champ is turning down a chance to win $30,000 and to increase his chances of cutting the 30.41 point deficit behind Kasel in an impressive show of loyalty to his school team. That’s a young man of his word. That’s integrity. That’s a cowboy.
While we’ll miss Daylon Friday night, here are other matchups that stand out for the Rookie of the Year race.
After going 0-for-2 in Greensboro, Dalton is coming into a pairing with Ambush (0-0) looking to shore up his lead in this round. Dalton is an impressive rider who can put together high-point rides and win a round easily and might feel the pressure of other contenders gaining on him.
Mason Taylor world No. 11 ranked bull-rider, who has lost around 16 pounds since the one-week break in September, went 3-for-3 in Greensboro and finished third in the overall event rocketing from No. 6 in the race to 2 and only 21.25-points behind race leader. This gives Taylor some momentum for his pairing with Raging Crazy (0-0). Mason appears to be getting a streak at the right time to gain the lead in the Rookie of the Year race.
Ezekiel Mitchell, World No. 13 and number 4 in the rookie race, is seeking to regain his form from Greensboro in going 2-for-3 and finishing seventh in the overall event. For round one he is paired with Cheddar Bob (1-1) and the streaky rider is coming into Greensboro hopes to get his first Unleash The Beast event and regain the position as top rookie on the premier series.
If fans are unable to make it to the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, ID. PBR will be broadcasting round one action exclusively on RidePass. The PBR subscription-based digital network with coverage starting at 8:30 P.M. EST on Friday, October, 18th