By: Justin Felisko
February 01, 2017
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Time is running out for three Built Ford Tough Series riders that finished inside the Top 35 of the world standings last season.
No. 31 Luis Blanco, No. 32 Tyler Harr and No. 33 Nathan Schaper will be using their final BFTS exemptions at this weekend’s Frontier Communications Showdown, presented by Ariat. It is the last guaranteed event for the trio that finished 31-35 in the 2016 PBR world standings
As a reminder, based on the PBR rulebook, riders that placed 1-30 in the 2016 world standings are guaranteed eight BFTS events before being subject to the cutline, while riders ranked 31-35 are guaranteed five BFTS events before being subject to being cut.
Nevada Newman, who finished last year 34th in the world standings, is not competing because of a right shoulder injury and will have one more event when he returns to competition. Newman is currently 18th in the world standings.
Blanco, Harr and Schaper have not done enough through the first four events to ensure themselves a draw spot following this weekend’s event in Anaheim.
Five BFTS draw spots, as well as any alternate positions, will be based on the 2017 world standings beginning in Kansas City, Missouri, in two weeks.
Therefore, all three understand the stakes this weekend.
If they want to stay on the BFTS they will need to make a serious push up the world standings.
Blanco is ranked 52nd in the world standings with 58.33 world points, and he admits it has been a frustrating start to the season.
“Right now, like it or not, there is more pressure,” Blanco said. “You have one more event. I am in this position every year. I am not thinking this affects me.”
The 28-year-old was coming off a career-best 3-for-5 performance at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Blanco became the first rider to ever make 8 seconds on TLW’s Big Cat in Round 2 when he rode the previously undefeated bull (19-0) for 85.5 points.
However, Blanco then dislocated his right shoulder (free arm) the next night attempting to ride Curly Bill.
Blanco would battle through the injury for two more qualified rides – 80.25 points on Native Gangster and 71.75 points on Silver Dollar – at the Finals.
He has since gone 4-for-13 in 2017.
“After Big Cat, I had dislocated my shoulder and did not get on any practice bulls,” Blanco said. “I had no authorization for 30 days to get on the bulls. I only got on one bull before New York. Then I was busy doing PR for PBR. I had no time to go home and train.
“Now, I have had time to go home and practice a lot and I am pretty sure I will be strong this event.”
Blanco likely needs more than 57 world points to be in the running for one of the final alternate spots for Kansas City.
Based on injuries and retirements from last season, there could potentially be up to six alternates competing in Kansas City, not including the five new draw spots opening up.
Being ranked inside the Top 30 of the world standings will put any rider in a strong position for one of the alternate spots.
“I have more experience,” Blanco said. “I am not nervous anymore. I just ride. I don’t want to think about the game or each bull I have to get on. I just try to ride my bull, win the round and get more points to stay on tour.”
Schaper is 3-for-12 this season is 68th in the world with 32.5 points.
He was in a similar position last year and was cut from the BFTS after his eight guaranteed events ran out.
“I have been doing this for so many years,” Schaper said. “It is just another bull riding and at the end of the day it is what it is. I am not going to worry about it or stress about it. That just doesn’t help at all. You get stiff and you don’t ride like you should be riding. You just can’t think about it and have to stay as relaxed as you can.”
The 26-year-old needs 83 points to crack the Top 30.
“Sure it is more comfortable when you are seeded and you start the year off right away getting a lot of points,” Schaper said. “I am not worried about it. I have missed some opportunities early on this year already. But at the same time, I feel like I have stayed on a few bulls. I have been riding decent.”
Harr has the most work to do of the three riders from last year facing the cutline.
Harr is 0-for-11 this season and has not earned a single point to the world standings.
Robson Aragao and Sonny Schafferius are tied for the 29th and 30thranking in the world standings with 115 world points.
“I have never been in this position before, but I am not worried about it,” Harr said. “I never had five events to start off the season. I really don’t want to talk about. I have made a couple of mistakes, but I am ready to fix them.”
Regardless, one strong weekend could put Harr back into the Top 30 and on the BFTS for Kansas City.
Schaper said the best thing the three could do was to try to relax and take care of business in Anaheim.
“You always strive to get better and live each day in its own,” he concluded. “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Make the most of the day and live in the moment as much as you can. I am happy being here. I just need to make sure I am healthy and doing my job.”
OTHER RIDERS NEEDING BIG WEEKENDS
There are multiple alternate riders competing in Anaheim this weekend. This will be the final BFTS event of the season where alternates will be based on 2016 and 2017 world standings points.
Some of this weekend’s alternates will also need to earn world points this weekend or face losing their alternate position to riders succeeding at non-BFTS events that are ranked higher in the world standings.
Alternate riders in need of world points this weekend include, No. 34 Cody Heffernan, No. 44 Cody Campbell, No. 66 Justin Paton, No. 70 Fraser Babbington and No. 75 Keyshawn Whitehorse.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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