TUCSON, Ariz. – It was an indescribable, sickening feeling resting in Douglas Duncan’s stomach as he packed up his gear bag three weeks ago in Springfield, Missouri, at JQH Arena.
Duncan had just gone 0-for-3 at the PFI Invitational and knew his fate on the Built Ford Tough Series was all but sealed as his buckoff streak had now reached seven in a row.
He had fallen to 40th in the world standings and was all but certainly cut from the BFTS for the first time in five years.
“I can’t even explain it to you the feeling I had walking out of the Springfield locker room knowing I wasn’t going to Charlotte,” Duncan said this past weekend in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “I didn’t sleep on the plane ride to Pendleton. Nobody is harder on myself than me. I know what I am capable of and I know where I should be. I know it dang sure shouldn’t be around No. 35. I know that.”
Duncan had taken his latest step toward putting the BFTS cutline behind him for good by going 1-for-3 in Allentown.
It was only one ride, but it was a big one as Duncan rode The Kraken for 87 points to place second in Round 2 and earn 55 world points.
He picked up 72.5 points overall in Allentown and moved up to 34th in the world standings after entering the event in 35th.
One week earlier, he was 40th and not on the BFTS during the tour’s stop in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“First time in five years that I was cut,” Duncan said while trembling and letting a deep breath out. “I am so pumped. I needed that so bad.”
Duncan can’t get too complacent though as he enters this weekend’s Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride BFTS event only 83.75 points ahead of No. 37 Lachlan Richardson – the first rider currently on the outside of qualifying for the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
He faces For Play (1-0, BFTS) tonight in Round 1 at Tucson Arena.
Gage Gay, who is currently 19th in the world standings, understands exactly what Duncan went through in the past few weeks.
The 21-year-old was cut from the BFTS following the eighth event of the season in February. He ended up winning the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Hampton, Virginia, the following week to earn another crack at the BFTS in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Gay would miss one more BFTS event following Albuquerque before returning to the BFTS for good in Nampa, Idaho.
“It really puts a fire under you because when you walk into the locker room (at the Velocity level), nothing against those guys, but we don’t really know them a lot because all of our buddies are here every weekend. It just puts a fire under us to get back with our buddies as soon as you can.”
Duncan also used a BlueDEF Velocity Tour victory to pave his way back onto the BFTS.
Three days after placing sixth and seventh at the BlueDEF event in Pendleton, Oregon, Duncan went 2-for-2 to win the Cleveland, Ohio, BlueDEF event.
The Alvin, Texas, bull rider went a combined 6-for-6 from the moment he was cut in Springfield.
“I knew I was backed in the corner, and I knew I had to stay on, and I didn’t care if they ran in Godzilla,” Duncan said. “It is just so frustrating at times.”
The BlueDEF win not only gained him a spot on the BFTS for the remainder of the regular season, but it also helped him earn a much-needed bid to the BlueDEF Finals next weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.
The BlueDEF Finals will be one final shot for riders to earn points toward the world standings or one of the four wild card bids for World Finals.
Duncan called his first trip to the PBR’s development level during a BFTS event a humbling experience.
It also pissed him off.
“Especially because I did that Bucking Madness and I was a coach for those guys and then there I was in Cleveland with all of them,” Duncan said. “I am getting ready in the locker room and I know Charlotte is going on and all of my buddies are there.”
One of the first riders to congratulate Duncan in Allentown was four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris.
Harris has known Duncan for over 10 years and remembers when Duncan was challenging him for a PRCA title in 2009; a year after Duncan won the 2008 PRCA Rookie of the Year.
“It was about time. Damn, I was glad for him,” Harris said. “He looked like the old Douglas Duncan. That was a good bull ride there. I have known him for a long time and the guy can ride really good.”
Harris added that while it is easy for fans to be so focused on the race for the 2015 world title – one that he is currently entrenched in – the race to qualify for the World Finals is also exciting.
“Shoot, they have been scratching and clawing all year,” he said. “The first goal we set is to make the World Finals. It is like a NASCAR race. Sometimes you get back from the front of the pack and you get back there toward the back and guys are fighting for position and it is a better race to watch.
“For these guys, they have to lay it all out there on the line.”
Gay agreed with Harris. He has witnessed firsthand the pressure that is on his buddy Michael Lane’s shoulders since the BFTS resumed in Biloxi, Mississippi, in August.
Lane – 36th in the world standings – enters Tucson holding the last qualifying spot for the World Finals.
Duncan believes he has what it takes to qualify for his sixth consecutive World Finals and he has two more events to make that belief a reality.
“I just expect so much out of myself,” he concluded. “I have wanted to be a World Champion ever since I was little and I don’t want to be average. I don’t work to be average. I crave bull riding.
“It is so much between the ears and you have to believe in yourself. That is what it all comes from.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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