PUEBLO, Colo. – While everyone will have their eyes on the comeback of Robson Palermo this weekend, the Battle at the Beau also will feature the returns of Kasey Hayes, Sean Willingham and J.W. Harris to the Built Ford Tough Series.
Hayes’ career-year took a step back when he fractured his jaw when he bumped heads with Margy Time in Thackerville, Oklahoma, last month. He has missed the past four BFTS events and is scheduled to face Wagon Wheel in Round 1 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
Sean Willingham is making his long-awaited return to the BFTS after suffering a dislocated hip at the Newark, New Jersey, BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in June. The 33-year-old has missed close to four months and is ranked 21st in the world. He has a Round 1 meeting against Jack Wagon.
Harris, who has drawn Machine Gun in Round 1, missed last weekend’s event in Oakland, California, after getting pretty banged up in Springfield, Missouri, and Laughlin, Nevada. The four-time PRCA champion opted out of the Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay because of a costochondral sprain and lower back injury. It was also announced this week that Harris has qualified for the 2014 National Finals Rodeo in December after concluding the PRCA season sixth in the world standings.
World leader Joao Ricardo Vieira will look to build off his 3-for-3 performance last weekend in Oakland and try to add to his lead atop the world standings. He has used a BFTS-best nine Top-5 finishes to position himself atop the world standings despite a 43.75 riding percentage. Vieira has the lowest riding percentage among the Top 5 riders in the world standings, but leads No. 2 Fabiano Vieira by 578.88 points. He will look to bump his average up with a Round 1 meeting against Wacey.
Defending event champion Mike Lee is back in Biloxi in need of a strong weekend following his 0-for-2 showing last week. The last time Lee went rideless this season, he bounced back to win in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Lee is slated to face Mexican on Friday night.
Markus Mariluch, who underwent surgery on his torn right bicep on Tuesday, and Ryan Dirteater, who injured his left riding hand last weekend, are out for the Battle at the Beau.
Nathan Schaper, Billy Robinson, Palermo, Josh Faircloth, Jason Malone, Kody Lostroh and Jordan Hupp are the six alternates, while Neil Holmes will be competing with the second of his three BFTS invite exemptions.
It is an important weekend for the six alternates with only two regular season events remaining for the men jockeying to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals later this month. Only 493.88 points separates No. 31 Schaper from No. 38 Hupp.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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