By: Justin Felisko August 12, 2014@ 02:00:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. – The time has almost come for the Built Ford Tough Series to resume Friday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the Express Employment Professionals Classic, presented by Jack Daniels, and there is one rider who will certainly be excited to be back in action.
Nathan Schaper will be making his return to the BFTS after missing the final 12 events of the first half because of a broken left tibia and fibula after Bushwacker stomped on him at the LiftMaster Invitational in Anaheim, California.
Despite the time away from the sport, Schaper returned this summer looking just as good as he did prior to the injury and wound up winning Touring Pro Division events in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Big Sky, Montana, in July. The two victories, along with points earned at other summer TPD events since returning to action in Thief Rivers, Minnesota, on July 21 helped the Grassy Butte, North Dakota, native move inside the Top 30 of the world standings, guaranteeing him a spot in this weekend’s draw without the need of an injury exemption.
While much will have to be decided before the championship round on Saturday night, Schaper said in July that he wouldn’t mind a rematch against the two-time World Champion Bull that sent him home earlier this year. Bushwacker is set to buck in the short round on Saturday and it will be interesting to see which rider will decide to pick him in the bull draft.
“Oh always,” Schaper said. “It would be great to get another chance and ride him. I started him good last time. I lasted the longest time (before Mike Lee), but it wasn’t long enough.”
Does he remember what went wrong in that past matchup?
You bet he does.
“The last thing I remembered was going to the front end and staying out over him and when he got to turning back I tried to quit going to the front end and rode him like he was spinning more or less and still going back and forth with him,” Schaper said. “When he jumped out of it, yeah, he got me.”
Billy Robinson (left groin strain) and Pistol Robinson (left wrist sprain) will be in the draw this weekend thanks to injury exemptions.
Speaking of injuries, Sean Willingham will not be competing this weekend as he continues to recover from a dislocated hip suffered at the Newark, New Jersey, Velocity Tour event after being bucked off by Big Kahuna. He is planning on getting a doctor’s opinion on the injury in the next two weeks, if not sooner.
Other riders ranked inside the Top 30 that will be out for Tulsa include Ty Pozzobon, who is done for the season following a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee, and Robson Palermo, who continues to rehab from April shoulder surgery.
Douglas Duncan is the top alternate this week in Tulsa and will be looking to crack the Top 30 after spending this summer recovering from surgery on his left hand to repair torn ligaments.
Other alternates in the draw include Jordan Hupp, Guytin Tsosie, Stetson Lawrence, Jason Malone and J.W. Harris.
Tyler Harr will also be joining the big boys on tour courtesy of his TPD victory last weekend in Springdale, Arkansas.
Kody Lostroh, ranked 55th in the world after a first half that saw him plagued by two small fractures in his right hand, will be looking to gain some points in the world standings and is in the draw thanks to one of his world champion exemptions.
Keep an eye on Lawrence and Malone who were two of the hottest riders on the summer tour not named Mike Lee that scratched their way back onto the BFTS.
Less than 50 points – 49.87 points to be exact – separate the two riders in the TPD standings with Lawrence occupying the second spot and Malone in third.
A complete draw will be available Wednesday.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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