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Air Time Steals the Spotlight from Mauney

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jared Allen’s Air Time blew snot out of his nose and swung his head forward when J.B. Mauney began to lower himself onto the World Champion Bull contender Saturday night during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Not that Air Time could possibly know who was about to sit upon him, but he certainly wasn’t about to give any preferential treatment to the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings and the Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy.

If anything, he was making it known to him that North Carolina may be Mauney’s state, but this was his Priefert bucking chute.

Sure enough, things only got worse for Mauney once the gate for the bucking chute swung open, and Air Time came bursting out toward the dirt inside Time Warner Cable Arena.

Just 4.57 seconds later and Mauney met the ground.

Mauney, who was jerked around a bit inside the bucking chutes by Air Time prior to nodding his head, felt like he let one get away from him.

“Oh, I fell off,” said a frustrated Mauney. “He is a bucking bull. He was just a little better than me today, I guess. We will have ourselves a rematch. That is for sure.

“I don’t like losing.”

Mauney’s loss was Air Time’s gain.

Air Time was marked an event-best 45.5 points in his final out before next month’s Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.

“How he started wasn’t ideal,” stock contractor Matt Scharping said. “That is not what I would like to see. The great thing was we got to see the bull buck. A lot of guys would have fell off the way he started. When it all comes down to it, J.B. is just a hell of a cowboy. He can ride through some of that, deal with some of that and he tries his guts out every single time.”

Scharping was pleased that Mauney lasted as long as he did on Air Time because it allowed the judges to see what his bull has to offer.

Many riders this year have struggled to make it past Air Time’s wiggle-roll coming out of the chutes. The roll has been a large reason why five of Air Time’s eight buckoffs have come in less than 4 seconds.

“Oh, it is crucial because he has that little roll coming out of there a lot of times, but you couldn’t see it today because of the way he started,” Scharping said. “Usually, he has that roll and he gets them guys off and we don’t get to see the bull.”

Air Time concludes the regular season 8-0 – 2-0 against Mauney – and is averaging 45.13 points per out.

It is the first time this year Air Time has posted back-to-back 45 points or higher bull scores in consecutive events. Air Time bucked off Matt Triplett in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2.37 seconds for a 45.25-point bull score.

Two of his four 45-point or higher bull scores came with Mauney, who finished seventh overall this weekend.

“I love that matchup,” Scharping said. “That ain’t the last time we will see that. That is what I want. I want him to pick him every opportunity he has.”

Despite being confident in his bull on Saturday afternoon, Scharping certainly appeared more nervous than in past outs.

It was apparent he was aware the stakes were higher with none of the other World Champion Bull contenders competing this weekend.

Once he heard Mauney confidently pick Air Time with the fifth pick of the championship-round draft, Scharping had a reason to feel less nervous.

Scharping believes Air Time has the advantage when a rider such as Mauney selects him.

“100 percent,” Scharping said. “Having J.B. pick Air Time and J.W. (Harris) pick Magic Train, for me, those are the two guys I want on my bulls when it comes to them rank bulls of the short round. That is what I want. I want (my bulls) tested.

“Problem is, he beats them mentally so often in the chute, but with J.B. or J.W. (Harris) you don’t have to worry about that.”

Lane’s Magic Train dispatched Harris in 6.62 seconds for a 45.25-point bull score, which was the next best bull score behind Air Time.

Even though he wasn’t perfect inside the chutes, Air Time did appear to be calmer in the back pens compared to prior events.

There have been instances where Air Time would become frantic or annoyed by other bulls or people near him this season, but in Charlotte he was much more relaxed.

He also responded well when the Charlotte faithful began to roar in support of Mauney when the 28-year-old sat down on Air Time.

Instead, Air Time’s own engine roared to life in the Queen City.

For now, Air Time has the No. 1 bull rider in the world’s number, and Scharping believes Air Time is beginning to peak at the right time.

“His condition and where he is at currently, everything we planned for this year is right,” Scharping said. “He is done now until Finals. I wasn’t going to wear him out during the first half and I caught flak for that and that was fine, but I wanted him to peak when it is right and I feel like he’s is in the best physical condition I have had him in.

“He is ready to go.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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