OAKLAND, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from the Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay this weekend.
1. Joao Ricardo Vieira takes charge in world title race
It appeared as if no rider in the world standings was going to take charge of the world title race this weekend through two rounds at Oracle Arena, but Joao Ricardo Vieira showed why he is currently the world leader by covering Cowtown Slinger for 89.5 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round for a significant swing in the title race.
Vieira made easy work on the bull he selected with the second pick in the championship-round bull draft by finding an easy seat when the bull spun right into his left hand.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year wound up finishing second overall in the event average after Stormy Wing took the event title with 90.75 points aboard Mr. Bull in the championship round.
However, Vieira’s ride was ever so important for the title race because out of the Top 5 riders in the world standings, only he and Guilherme Marchiqualified for the championship round.
Marchi finished tied for 14th place after riding Cali’s Cruel Intentions for 83 points in Round 2. The 2008 World Champion bucked off his re-ride bull –Alright, Alright Alright – in the championship round. Marchi originally selected Deerango in the draft.
Vieira’s 3-for-3 performance helps him extend his lead in the world standings to 578.88 points over No. 2 Fabiano Vieira, who opted out of the championship round due to his unstable right shoulder. Fabiano Vieira placed 18th overall.
Mike Lee took a step back in his hunt for a second world title by going 0-for-2, falling to fourth in the world standings, while No. 5 Silvano Alves failed to qualify for the championship round with his 58.25 point ride on Gator.
The Top 5 riders began the weekend separated by less than 563 points, and Joao Ricardo Vieira, who also rode Boogie Shoes for 80 points in the second round, now leads Marchi by 935.69 points, Lee by 956.94 points and Alves by 1,103.94 points.
2. Wing wins first BFTS event, but falters against Bushwacker
Wing earned his first career win thanks to the eighth 90-point ride of his career when he covered Mr. Bull. It was a bovine athlete that Wing had been eyeing from the beginning of the weekend.
“Mr. Bull was good,” Wing said. “I knew he was going to be right around there to the left, like J.B. Mauney said. J.B. had told me to sit up and he was right there. It felt good, like I did all weekend, and I got my first win.”
He had previously ridden Rudolph for 86.5 points earlier in the night in Round 2 and had won Round 1 on Friday with an 87.75-point showing onGame Over.
The event win gave him a shot at Bushwacker and a chance to win $50,000, but he became the two-time World Champion Bull’s 12th victim of the season and 18th since Mauney ended Bushwacker’s record BFTS buckoff streak last year.
Wing started off in good position, but once Bushwacker made his way to the middle of the arena, he was able to shake the Dalhart, Texas, cowboy off his back at the 3.23-second mark. Bushwacker was scored 45 points.
“I felt good from the first two seconds and then just like that – Bam! – and he had me down on his head,” Wing said.
3. Robinson and Malone make up ground in race to Finals
Billy Robinson and Jason Malone each helped their respective cases of qualifying for the Built Ford Tough World Finals next month with their performances in the championship round on Saturday
Malone got things started with the first ride of the round when he rode Fire Rock for a career-high 90.25 points.
“I didn’t know the bull, but from what the guys said, he was one I needed to pick,” Malone said. “He kicked good, set me up on my rope good, and went into my hand. I really enjoyed that bull.”
The 30-year-old finished a season-best fourth overall in the event and has moved up to 35th in the world standings after beginning the weekend in 40th.
Robinson moved up from 38th to 32nd in the world standings thanks to his second ride of the event when he made the 8-second mark on Cooper Tires Semper Fi for 89.5 points in the championship round. He rode El Capitan for 86.75 points in Round 1.
This weekend was his first event with at least two rides since going 2-for-3 in Kansas City, Missouri, in February.
Injuries piled up in the second round, leading to six riders opting out of the championship round.
Neil Holmes did not compete in the championship round after sustaining a partial fingertip amputation of his right small finger, a partial avulsion of his left ear and a scalp laceration when he was run over after being thrown from Ranga in the second round. Holmes had the laceration and ear treated in the sports medicine room and his finger will require surgery. He is listed as probable for Biloxi.
Fabiano Vieira did not compete in the championship round due to soreness of his right shoulder (free arm). He is probable for Biloxi.
Douglas Duncan did not compete in the championship cound in because of a painful heel resulting from a laceration sustained in a Jet Ski accident in Laughlin, Nevada. He is probable for Biloxi.
Reese Cates, Ryan Dirteater and Renato Nunes also opted out of the championship round.
Josh Faircloth sustained a concussion during the championship round when his head collided with Roy during his 5.24 buckoff. He is questionable for Biloxi.
Dr. Tandy Freeman did not release an official injury update on Cody Nance, but the Paris, Tennessee, native said after the even that his left foot would be ok after he was stepped on by Mad Max in Round 2.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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