SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Here are three things we learned from this weekend’s First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.
Bulls pitch shutout in championship round
For the second time this season, the bulls in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round proved their dominance against the top riders on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Boot Jack led the way on Saturday night with a 45.5-point bull score as all 13 bulls in the championship round took care of their opponents in an average of 3.75 seconds.
Only 13 riders competed in the championship round after there were only 20 qualified rides on the weekend.
Stormy Wing (bruised calf) and Eduardo Aparecido (sprained left shoulder) had qualified for the championship round, but dropped out because of their respective injuries suffered in Round 2.
CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart believes the riders had an off-night and an off-weekend because of mounting injuries and the grind of the season.
Sioux Falls was the 11th stop of the BFTS and injuries, soreness and the rigors of travel have begun to take their toll.
“I’m going to say it was an off-night for the guys for the most part, but I think a lot of the reason for the off-night for the guys would be because of the injuries and the time of year it is,” Hart said. “Guys are starting to get a little burnt out of traveling and are getting tired, really.”
At the conclusion of the event, there were 19 riders listed on Dr. Tandy Freeman’s official injury report (see below), which is not including the unofficial injuries that another group of riders are dealing with.
Four-time Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger was the owner of the three high-marked bulls of the weekend – Boot Jack (45.5 points), Cooper Tires Brown Sugar (45.25 points) and Smooth Operator (45 points).
Boot Jack earned top honors by dumping Valdiron de Oliveira in 1.6 seconds, while Cooper Tires Brown Sugar shook down Cooper Davis in 5.98 seconds and Smooth Operator bucked off Nathan Schaper in 3.42 seconds to kick off the championship round.
“When all of the best bulls are there, they have a good chance at posting a shutout,” Berger said. “Today, I think the guys just missed a step. I think you found out today all of the great bulls ain’t from Texas and Oklahoma. There are a few in North Dakota.”
In Sacramento, California, the championship round bulls bucked off all 15 of their opponents.
Harris overcomes Arrow Truck Sales Hot Iron, jumps to fourth in world standings
J.W. Harris jumped from eighth to fourth in the world standings this weekend, and he did so in part by riding Arrow Truck Sales Hot Iron for 86.5 points to finish Round 2 tied for second place with Ben Jones.
“He dives around the corner to the left, but, shoot it worked out good,” Harris said. “I had seen him a few times and he looked good. I was excited after getting the ride last night (87.25 points on Oyster Creek) and thought he would fit my style pretty good.”
Hot Iron had bucked off his previous eight BFTS opponents. Brady Sims last rode him for 88.25 points in Des Moines, Iowa.
Harris earned 55 points for the round finish, and wound up placing second overall in the event average to earn an additional 240 points to finish the weekend second overall with 395 points toward the world standings.
It is the second-most points Harris, who won Round 1 on Friday night with 87.25 points on Oyster Creek, has earned this season outside of his event win in Kansas City, Missouri.
“You are supposed to ride all of the long-round bulls and it helps when you draw two good ones like I did,” Harris said.
Harris has ridden both his Round 1 and Round 2 bulls in four BFTS events this season.
The four-time PRCA champion’s only slip up in Sioux Falls came in the championship round when American Sniper hooked his horn into the gate while leaving the bucking chute before dispatching Harris in 4.45 seconds.
Harris wasn’t the only rider to make a move within the Top 5 of the standings as Joao Ricardo Vieira moved to second in the world standings by earning 240 total points in Sioux Falls.
Vieira saw his consecutive ride streak snapped at eight in the championship round by Diesel (6.99 seconds), but he did enough damage to cut Matt Triplett’s lead to 695 points.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year finished third in the event average (2-for-3) to gain 180 points to the world standings in addition to the 60 points he earned on Friday night for placing second behind Harris with his 87-point ride on Butcher’s Nightmare.
He rode Oyster Creek for 85.25 points in Round 2, but he didn’t place within the Top 5 of the round.
Triplett finished 1-for-3 and earned 10 points for finishing 11th in the event average.
Lee cracks the Top 30 thanks to first win of 2015
Mike Lee began the weekend as an alternate in Sioux Falls, but the 2004 World Champion left the Mount Rushmore State with a guaranteed spot on tour for the foreseeable future by winning the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational.
Lee edged J.W. Harris for the win by one point in the event average (174.75 to 173.75) to earn the crucial 400 bonus points that was more than enough to provide Lee with his first win of 2015.
More importantly, the 595 total points Lee earned moved him from 33rd in the world standings to 15th. He began the weekend with only 190 points in the standings.
“I didn’t know that until I nodded for my bull,” Lee said. “That stuff really don’t matter to me. I don’t know why. I am just not wired that way.”
Lee helped set himself up for the win by riding Cooper Tires Semper Fi for 88.75 points to win Round 2 and earn 100 points for the world standings.
Cooper Tires Semper Fi may have spun into Lee’s hand, but Berger’s bull was firing on all cylinders.
“Oh yeah, that bull had a lot of back up and was slinging his head,” said Lee, who mentioned on Friday night that he had been struggling with his confidence. “He can pull a guy down and I sat up when he turned around there.”
Wing did not compete in the championship round because of a bruised right calf that he sustained when he was stepped on by Little Joe in 2.61 seconds in the second round. According to Freeman, he is probable for next weekend’s event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Aparecido also did not compete in the final round after he sprained his left shoulder when he was struck by the Soldier Pride’s horn as he was thrown from the bull. He is questionable for Albuquerque.
Cody Nance did not compete on Saturday night because of a pelvic contusion/sprain that was a result of his hard landing in Fresno, California, following his 74-point ride on Yak Attack. He is questionable for Albuquerque.
Freeman also added Wing (left MCL sprain) and Tanner Byrne (sprained left thumb, riding hand) to his list of riders competing with injuries in Sioux Falls. Wing sustained his injury attempting to ride Off the Grid last week in Fresno, while Byrne hurt his thumb during his 82.75-point ride on Velvet Rain in Fresno.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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