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Behind the Chutes: Iron Cowboy

ARLINGTON, Texas – Here are three things we learned from the Choctaw Casino Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki Strong, on Saturday night.

Asteroid retires on top

Asteroid capped off his legendary career in the PBR by bucking off 2004 World Champion Mike Lee in 1.61 seconds during Round 2.

The 2012 World Champion Bull lunged out of the bucking chute and slammed Lee onto the ground for a bull score of 46 points to finish his career with a 49-4 record on the BFTS.

It was the bovine athlete’s 29th time in which he was marked 46 or more points.

The out left owner Jeff Talley pleased.

“I am dang sure proud of him,” Talley said. “That was rank.”

It was a coincidental twist of fate that Asteroid would face off against Lee. Throughout Asteroid’s previous four years on tour, he was always compared side-by-side with three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker.

Bushwacker’s final out of his career was at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals against Lee as well, and he bucked off the Decatur, Texas, bull rider in 2.13 seconds for a bull score of 46.5 points.

“It’s a little bit discouraging for me on my part, but it is a big honor,” Lee said. “The thing of it is, I am 31 years old and I have been around a long time and I still am not scared to get on them. It is still fun even when they stomp the crap out of me. It is fun to get on rank bulls. I didn’t even know what happened to me until I hit the ground.

“When you can do that, that means you are probably pretty rank.”

PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said the out reminded everyone that Asteroid still is capable of being one of the PBR’s best bovine athletes.

“He went out like the champ he is,” Lambert said. “My last words to Gene Melton were that if he changes his mind, I still think he can win it this year.”

New format, no problem for Joao Ricardo Vieira

There may have been a new Iron Cowboy format this year, but once again Joao Ricardo Vieira is the Iron Cowboy for the second consecutive season.

Vieira made it a point to ride every bull they ran underneath him to leave no doubt who deserved to be Iron Cowboy. Vieira won the title last year in the old bracket-style Iron Cowboy despite not making a single qualified ride.

This year he had no choice but to make the 8-second whistle if he wanted to be crowned Iron Cowboy, and he made it look flawless.

“Both events are very tough to win,” Vieira said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I came in and won it, but I didn’t ride my bulls. They were very rank bulls. There came to be a lot of question about how I won and didn’t ride a bull last year. This year, I came over here and won again. This proves I am the Iron Cowboy and deserved this title more than last year because I rode all my bulls. I got on my bulls last year to win and stay on them and I couldn’t get it done. I feel more like the true champion because I got on all the bulls this weekend and rode.”

The 30-year-old sealed the victory, and the $180,000 event purse, with an 88.5-point ride on Crack The Whip during the third and final round of the night after Tanner Byrne (1.82 seconds on Boot Jack) and Stetson Lawrence (2.57 on Lane’s Magic Train) bucked off their respective bulls.

Vieira is the first two-time Iron Cowboy champion.

Crack The Whip originally scurried forward out of the bucking chute before turning and kicking hard into Vieira’s hand.

“I didn’t really know which way the bull was going to go,” he said. “I just flow to the right and waited for him to go anywhere. I just wanted to get it done, go jump for jump and win the whole deal.”

It was Vieira’s second qualified ride on Crack The Whip after making 8 seconds on the bull for 88.5 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma, last season.

On a night where Lambert organized one of the rankest bullpens of the season, Vieira actually benefitted in large part from the random draw in Arlington.

Not only had Vieira faced Crack The Whip before, but he also had previously rode Bruiser for 88.75 points in Thackerville – the same bull in which he rode for an event-best 90.5 points on Saturday night to win Round 2 at AT&T Stadium.

Vieira earned a total of 900 points toward the world standings at Iron Cowboy and skyrockets from 19th in the world to No. 5. He was awarded 600 points for winning the Iron Cowboy and picked up an additional 300 points for his first-place finishes in the second and third rounds.

Vieira rode Grandpa Joe for 85.5 points to make it past Round 1.

Duncan gets much needed points toward world standings

Douglas Duncan couldn’t get past Beaver Creek Beau in the second round, bucking off in 1.8 seconds, but it doesn’t mean that Iron Cowboy was a complete bust for the 27-year-old.

Duncan tied with Rubens Barbosa (Cowboy’s Dancehall Blonde Bomber), L.J. Jenkins (Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack) and Lawrence (Bluegrass) for the Round 1 victory with his 87.5-point ride on HD.

The Alvin, Texas, native picked up 93.75 points toward the world standings for splitting the win and is now back within the Top 35 of the world standings in position No. 29 after beginning the night 38th.

“I wasn’t really sure how they do it here,” Duncan said. “I don’t look at it and I just try to ride my bull. I just try to take care of my business. I’ve had a couple bad weekends where I rode a couple of bulls to the whistle where I didn’t finish it out. It feels good. It is a long season.”

There were a total of 16 qualified rides in Round 1.

Barbosa also moves into the Top 35 from No. 40 to No. 31 in the world standings.

Lawrence, who is 11th in the world standings, earned a total of 168.75 points and finished the event in second place. He earned 75 of his points for placing third in Round 2 with an 85-point ride on Pound The Alarm.

*Based on the Iron Cowboy format, only the Iron Cowboy champion (Vieira) earned any bonus points toward the world standings. All other points earned for the riders were based upon round-finish in Rounds 1 & 2.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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