ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The 26th and final Built Ford Tough Series regular-season event featuring the Top 35 bull riders in the world is set for this weekend at the PPL Center.
The Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride will be one last opportunity for riders in the bottom quarter of the world standings to solidify their position to qualify as one of the Top 35 riders for the Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas on Oct. 22-26.
There are currently 692.09 points separating No. 30 J.W. Harris from No. 39 Harve Stewart, the last alternate added to the draw this weekend. The margin in the world standings is only tighter (481.09 points) between No. 33 Billy Robinson and Stewart.
The final list of World Finals participants will not be released until the conclusion of the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Huntington Beach, California, next weekend, as well as the Touring Pro Division event in Little Rock, Arkansas, where No. 34 Kody Lostroh and No. 36 Jason Malone have already double-entered in hopes of gaining additional points to crack the Top 35.
Other alternates for this weekend include No. 31 Josh Faircloth, No. 32 Nathan Schaper, No. 35 Robson Palermo and No. 37 Jordan Hupp.
Ryan Dirteater is out for the second consecutive week with a possible fracture of his left ring finger, while Zane Lambert and Douglas Duncan are also not competing due to injury. Lambert injured his left shoulder (free arm) when he was dismounting Raven Flyer last weekend in Biloxi, Mississippi, during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. Duncan aggravated his surgically-repaired, left thumb attempting to ride Stolen Cash last week in Round 2.
Markus Mariluch is done for the season following season-ending biceps surgery, meaning that barring any other injuries this weekend, the No. 36 rider in the world will be the last rider to qualify for Finals.
Neil Holmes is also in the draw this weekend with the last of his three BFTS event exemptions, and Bonner Bolton is competing following his TPD win in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
In terms of the world title race, world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira enters Allentown with the largest advantage in the world standings that any No. 1 rider has had all season. He has ridden 7-of-10 in the last three events to open a 1,033.94-point lead on No. 2 Fabiano Vieira and a 1,448.69-point lead on No. 5 Mike Lee.
Joao Ricardo Vieira has used two event wins (St. Louis & Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V) this year, seven round wins – which is tied for the most in the BFTS with Guilherme Marchi – and a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory in Anaheim, California, to make up for his 44.58 riding percentage, which is the lowest among the Top 4 riders in the world standings. He also leads the BFTS with four 90-point rides and 10 Top-5 finishes.
Vieira is slated to face Spotted Juice in Round 1 on Friday night and Frost Bite in Round 2 on Saturday.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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