By: Justin Felisko
March 10, 2017
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Matt Scharping knew Air Time was going to be an experiment from the moment he and Jared Allen acquired the white spotted bull in the spring of 2014.
There have been plenty of successes, as well as noteworthy shortcomings, in the past three-plus years, but Scharping isn’t giving up faith that his freakish athlete can still one day win a World Championship.
With that being said, Scharping is ready for his next Air Time experiment.
Scharping is going to flip Air Time from the left delivery to the right for this coming weekend’s Bad Boy Mowdown.
It will be the first time Air Time has bucked out of the right-hand delivery.
Scharping has run Air Time through the right chutes without a dummy or rider about five times in the practice pen.
“The way he jumps out there, I like,” Scharping said. “He is getting himself away from everything. The time where we have had issues. He gets caught up hipping himself or turning back to close.
“Look, I am not saying he won’t do that, but I need to try it to rule it out. If I go through his whole career and he has had a couple of stumbles and I don’t try it, then I am going to kick myself. I want to know. I want to get the most out of him. This is something we need to try.”
Air Time is 2-0 this year and is coming off a solid 45.25-point buckoff of 2015 PBR Brazil champion Luciano de Castro (5.24 seconds) at Iron Cowboy.
He began the season with a 42.5-point buckoff against Cody Nance (6.8 seconds).
The decision to switch deliveries is more so about Air Time’s 2016 performance rather than any disappointment with the bull’s sluggish start to his fourth season on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Scharping had been thinking about making the switch since last fall. After Air Time’s collapse at the World Finals, he really started putting more thought into it.
Air Time was a top contender for the 2016 World Champion Bull title before a 42.5-point bull score against Zane Cook (6.47 seconds) when he came out of the chutes backwards.
He then ran into the side fencing inside the unique arena setup at the World Finals with J.B. Mauney for a foul.
Air Time is 28-1 on the Built Ford Tough Series with an average bull score of 45 points. He has bucked off 26 riders in a row.
Scharping has been studying the bull’s tendencies and foot work. Air Time has always had trouble staying to close to the chutes and not getting out cleanly.
Therefore, Scharping thinks maybe switching him to the opposite side could help the head-case that is Air Time.
“When I work him out of the left, he turns, spins around really fast and is looking at me where his head is on the edge of the chutes,” Scharping said. “When I work him out of the right, he jumps out there once and turns around and looks at me. He is a full length of him away from the bucking chutes when he turns and looks at me.
“That to me is intriguing because if our problem is stupid stuff happening to close to the bucking chute, then getting him away is my goal.”
Stetson Lawrence had discussed the switch with Scharping after noticing that it appeared Air Time was wanting to turn to the right when he came out of the left delivery.
“It could be a game-changer,” Lawrence said. “Lately, he has been trying to go to the right all the time. I think maybe it will make him think a little more instead of crashing into the chute or fouling himself. I just watch him a lot. He always hips himself. I think if you switch him up and get him to take one jump and clear the chutes he will do his thing.”
Scharping added, “The one thing with Air Time we always know is he will try his guts out. Honestly, I would love to see him have a huge jump leaving there doing what he knows what to do. I don’t care if he spins to the left or right. It doesn’t make any difference to me. I know he don’t care either.
“I am not saying I put him over here and it is the only time he is going to be there, but I am not saying he is stuck there either, and he is never going back to the left.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert thinks Air Time’s window for a championship may have passed.
“It won’t hurt, but I think he is a year past his prime,” Lambert said last month. “He is still a great bull, but I think he is a real long shot for a championship now.”
Air Time turns 8 years old later this year, but that isn’t stopping Scharping from giving up.
“If I feel he is starting to lose a step to where he should be, I would retire him mid-season. I don’t believe he has lost a step. He still can pull off the things he has done before,” the Arlington, Minnesota, stock contractor said. “If I can get him out clean, he can still put up 47.5 points.”
Most of all, Scharping isn’t quitting on his bull.
“I am going to try everything in my power because I will get everything I can out of him until the day he retires,” Scharping concluded. “Then at that point he can relax and live his life out and not worry about it. Until then, we are busting our ass to make sure we get every ounce we can out of him.
“I don’t doubt his ability at all. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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