Behind the Chutes: Air Time’s Reign of Terror Continues

By: Justin Felisko
April 02, 2016

No rider has lasted more than 3 seconds against Air Time this season. Photo: Andy Watson/

No rider has lasted more than 3 seconds against Air Time this season. Photo: Andy Watson/

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Here are three things we learned from Round 2 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle at the First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Invitational on Saturday night.

Air Time continues quick work of victims; Wicked also shines (4-2-16)

Jared Allen’s Air Time may not have been able to outdo Pearl Harbor (46.25 points), during Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle, but the 2016 World Champion Bull contender once again made quick, dominant work of an opposing challenger.

Air Time toppled Mike Lee in a brief 2.06 seconds and was marked 45.75 points to tie with Wicked for the second-highest bull score of the evening.

It was the 10th time in his career that Air Time has dumped a rider in less than 3 seconds. He has dominated all four of his opponents this season in under 3 seconds.

Air Time wasn’t as calm inside the bucking chute Saturday as he has been for most of the season, but Lee remained composed despite being thrashed about a few times.

Once he nodded for the gate, Air Time did a good job of not hipping himself even though his first jump came extremely close to the bucking chutes.

“I like him,” Lee said. “He is alright. I didn’t feel too bad. He did get my head down a little bit. He is not as bad as I thought he was. He was pretty touchy in the chute. I don’t know why they put me on the clock. I would like them to try doing it. That bull can rip your head off in the chute, I was just trying to be soft and kind to him so I don’t piss him off.”

Wicked used agility, speed and a dynamic fading action to buck off Cooper Davis in 2.02 seconds for a career-high 45.75 points.

“Every other time I had been on him, he kind of hit the front of the chute today and I don’t want to blame it on that, but I definitely thought he was stronger today,” Davis said. “When he hit the front of the chute there and got me sitting on my butt, he left and really sucked back. You really get behind from the get go, and he has that much suck back to him that all it is going to do is pull your feet over your head.”

PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said he believed Wicked was the best bull of the 15/15 Bucking Battle, even ahead of Pearl Harbor.

“The rankest bull out tonight was Wicked,” Lambert said. “He has bucked like that before, but in my opinion I had him 47. I had Magic Train 46, Pearl Harbor 46.”

Lee concluded he would love a rematch with Air Time.

“That bull is good. He is rideable,” Lee said. “I would love to try again.”

Mauney makes magic with Pearl Harbor

Remember that time J.B. Mauney had numbness in his riding hand because of nerve damage in his left elbow on Friday night?

The same injury that prevented Mauney from attempting to ride Speed Dial in Round 1?

Well that wasn’t going to slow down the two-time World Champion for a second night in a row.

Mauney gritted his way to a third consecutive 15/15 Bucking Battle victory with an emphatic and highlight reel-making 94.25-point ride on Pearl Harbor.

It was Mauney’s 68th career 90-point ride and his highest-scored ride since conquering three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker for 95.25 points in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the 2013 BFTS event.

“I knew that bull was going to buck,” Mauney said. “I knew I had a chance if I rode him to be over 90. I didn’t know it was going to quite be 94. I didn’t hear the whistle. The crowd was so loud. I hit the ground and I was looking up at the clock and it said 8. That is when I knew I did my job.”

Mauney earned 150 points toward the world standings and now leads No. 2 Paulo Lima, who did not compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle because of a knee injury, by 265 points.

Mason Lowe finished second in the 15/15 Bucking Battle after an 89.25-point ride on Little Red Jacket, earning 90 points in the world standings.

“The whole time my rope was coming out of my hand,” Lowe said. “I was down to two fingers. That is why I flew so high when I came off the bull. Coming out of there I was just thinking stay to the outside because he gets people kind of welled. I rode to that outside horn and kind of evened out.”

Robson Palermo placed third for 75 world points with an 85.5-point ride on Big Tex Walk Off.

Pearl Harbor also helped his case in the World Champion Bull race by posting a career-high 46.25 points.

“He is right up there in contention with the rest of them,” Mauney said. “He doesn’t really have a set pattern. The other week when Silvano (Alves) got on him, he turned back to the right and stayed to the right. You don’t know what he is going to do and he started right and went back around to the left.”

Mauney, who rode Unwound for 70.25 points in Round 2 and turned down his re-ride option, ditched his elbow brace on Saturday and relied on a solid tape job by the PBR sports medicine team after consulting with Dr. Tandy Freeman.

The Mooresville, North Carolina, bull rider said he expects to ride in Round 3.

“Yeah, the arm hurts,” Mauney said. “That bull got me stretched back when he went back to the left. When I am riding it don’t really hurt, but as soon as I hit the ground I knew it hurt. I feel it pretty good.”

Gay/Oliveira split Round 2 victory

Gage Gay will head into the final day of the First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Invitational in prime position for his first event win of 2016.

Gay split the Round 2 victory with Valdiron de Oliveira by riding Chantilly Lace for 87.25 points, making him a perfect 2-for-2 on the weekend courtesy of his 86-point ride on Wild Bob Cody.

“Two down, two more to go,” Gay said. “It was just a good one. I had seen my buddy Michael (Lane) ride him in Bismarck (North Dakota) last year, so I knew what he was going to do. He just felt good blowing up underneath me him. I don’t feel like I could have bucked off him.”

The 21-year-old heads into his Round 3 matchup against Handle Bars (0-0, BFTS) leading the event average, which awards 500 world points to the winner.

Gay is one of five riders to have ridden their first two bulls in Sioux Falls.

Fabiano Vieira followed up his Round 1 win with an 81.25-point ride on Off The Rez and is sitting second in the event average, while Mike Lee (85.5 points on Vegas Outlaw), Eduardo Aparecido (83.25 points on Soldier’s Pride) and Kaique Pacheco (82 points on Hillbilly Music) round out the Top 5 in the event average.

Lee, who now has 496 qualified rides on the BFTS, was the only ride of the group with two qualified rides other than Gay to earn round points in the second round. The 2004 World Champion placed fifth for 30 world points.

Oliveira was excited to not only make the 8-second mark for the first time in 11 attempts, but to also practice some pushups with PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen in the arena.

“Yeah, buddy!” Oliveira exclaimed. “I told Flint, ‘I miss you. We haven’t done pushups.’ I had been frustrated.”

Oliveira and Gay earned 80 points toward the world standings.

Oliveira, who celebrates a qualified ride with pushups, then added he wanted to thank five-time Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger.

“I want to thank Chad Berger because he told me yesterday, ‘I know what you need to do. Your head is not calm. You need to get on your bull like a practice bull. Don’t look at the people here or the ground. Just calm. Just calm. You can do everything when you are calm. Do not put pressure on yourself.’

“That is what I did. It worked.”


Dr. Tandy Freeman and the PBR Sports Medicine team were a busy group on Saturday with seven riders sustaining an injury in the arena.

World No. 2 Paulo Lima missed the 15/15 Bucking Battle after aggravating his right knee injury from the Ty Murray Invitational during his 2.97-second buckoff on Cowboy Up. He is probable for next week’s BFTS event in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ben Jones did not compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle because of a dislocated left shoulder (free arm) when he was struck by Swashbuckler during his 3.71-second buckoff. The shoulder was reduced in the training room, but due to swelling and pain, he was transported to the hospital for X-rays and additional evaluation.

Wallace de Oliveira was bucked off by Crossfire in 3.28 seconds during the 15/15 Bucking Battle after spraining his right knee (grade 3 MCL/PCL) when he was hit by Louisville Slugger after riding the bovine athlete for 83.5 points.

Robson Palermo sprained his right ankle in the 15/15 Bucking Battle when he twisted it in the chute before riding Big Tex Walk Off for 85.5 points.

Aaron Roy sprained his right thumb (riding hand) attempting to ride Necessary Roughness in Round 2. Roy lasted 5.21 seconds before aggravating the old injury. He is questionable for Round 3.

Alexander Cardozo sustained a left thigh contusion and a left ankle injury when he was stepped on while hung up and thrown from Beer Nuts (5.82 seconds). He is doubtful for Round 3.

Matt Triplett partially dislocated his left shoulder (free arm) when he landed on his elbow after being thrown off Buckle Up in 6.51 seconds. He is doubtful for Round 3.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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