LAUGHLIN, Nev. – This coming weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series Desert Showdown can have a significant impact on the world standings, especially with Friday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle.
A week after only two of the Top 5 riders in the world standings (Joao Ricardo Vieira and Fabiano Vieira) recorded at least one qualified ride, the top riders jockeying for the 2014 world title have only gotten closer.
The race is set to intensify with four remaining regular-season events and a special 15/15 Bucking Battle in Huntington Beach, California, the weekend before the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
The Top 5 riders in the world – Joao Ricardo Vieira, Fabiano Vieira,Guilherme Marchi, Silvano Alves and Mike Lee— are all within 792 points of each other and didn’t do much to separate themselves from the pack in Springfield, Missouri, and have started to open the door slightly for other riders within the Top 10.
Rookie Gage Gay, currently sixth in the world, has since cracked the ever-important 2,000-point threshold and is within 1,986.88 points of Joao Ricardo Vieira’s No. 1 ranking.
Cody Nance, Matt Triplett and Eduardo Aparecido are within 2,200 points of the world lead.
This weekend’s bucking battle features the majority of the Top 15 riders in the world standings other than Markus Mariluch (torn right biceps) andKasey Hayes (fractured jaw). Valdiron de Olivieira and Chase Outlawhave since been added to the 15/15 draw.
Defending World Champion J.B. Mauney, currently 14th in the world standings, is returning to action after missing a week with a lower back injury and squares off against Beaver Creek Beau.
Dr. Tandy Freeman confirmed to PBR.com this week that the results of Mauney’s X-rays and MRI taken last week showed “no evidence of any body injury or new soft tissue injury.”
It will be the first meeting between Mauney and Beaver Creek Beau, who is unridden in 10 career BFTS outs.
The 15/15 Bucking Battle features seven rematches, including Triplett’s fourth showdown against Mr. Bull. Triplett rode him for 90.5 points in their latest meeting back in Billings, Montana, in April.
The biggest rematch to watch beyond 2008 World Champion Marchi’s $25,000 matchup with two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker may just be Fabiano Vieira’s battle against Fire & Smoke. Vieira, the No. 2 rider in the world, would love to earn his second 15/15 Bucking Battle victory of the year by riding Chad Berger’s bull for the second time since doing so for 87.25 points at the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V in March.
Lee gets his third shot against I’m a Gangster Too, a bull he has ridden once for 88.75 points in St. Louis, and Alves has a second meeting with Walk Off, who bucked him off in 2.47 seconds in St. Louis.
Other rematches in the 15/15 Bucking Battle include Cody Nance vs. Margy Time and Emilio Resende vs. Percolator.
The 15/15 Bucking Battle winner receives 200 points and second place receives 180 points, this continues down on a graduated scale to 20 points for 10th place.
Tanner Byrne (right wrist injury) returns for the first time in one month with the start of Round 1 on Friday night, while Kody Lostroh will continue his hunt to crack the Top 35 after missing last week’s event due to his chronic riding hand injury. Lostroh, who turned 29 on Thursday, is in the draw due to a World Champion exemption.
Five riders are in the draw thanks to Touring Pro Division victories – Jay Miller (Louisville, Kentucky) Budd Williamson (Coronation, Alberta), Josh Birks (Stavely, Alberta) Cooper Davis (Fredericksburg, Texas) and Neil Holmes (Fredericksburg, Texas).
Josh Faircloth, who is coming off a fifth-place performance in Springfield,Stetson Lawrence and Claudio Crisostomo are competing as alternates, while Billy Robinson is competing due to an injury exemption.
Sean Willingham (dislocated hip), Ty Pozzobon (right knee) and Robson Palermo (shoulder surgery) highlight other riders ranked inside the Top 30 that are not competing besides Mariluch and Hayes.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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