By: Justin Felisko
May 18, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – The PBR has seen a new wave of young, rising superstars take charge on the Built Ford Tough Series in the last two years and now 2002 World Finals event winner and CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart wants to see if one of them has what it takes to conquer Jared Allen’s Air Time.
The J.W. Hart PBR Challenge takes place June 4 in Decatur, Texas, and Hart has once again found a way to make his annual bull riding a must-see event.
After getting confirmation from Jared Allen Pro Bull Team stock contractor Matt Scharping, Hart has extended invitations to 2015 World Finals event winner Cooper Davis, current 2016 rookies Jess Lockwood, Derek Kolbaba, Jorge Valdiviezo and second-year Built Ford Tough Series rider Mason Lowe to come compete in Decatur in two weeks for a chance to challenge Air Time.
The five riders will square off in a $10,000 bonus round following the BlueDEF Tour event and the winner of the round will then get a chance to face Air Time, arguably the leading contender for the 2016 World Champion Bull title, for $50,000.
“Well, everything we do is for charity,” Hart said. “The bigger the event is, the more we raise for charity. Every year we try and do something a little better and a little bigger and a little out of the box from anybody else’s bull riding.”
The event will be live streamed exclusively on PBR LIVE.
Hart is one of six committee members, along with Andrew Rottner, Calvin Jackson, Wendell Berry, Alan Sessions and the late Roy Young, that have helped WC Challenger Charities raise over $825,000 since the first J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in 2004.
Last year was all about eight retired bull riding legends coming out of retirement to compete one final time during the Built Ford Tough Ring of Honor: Unfinished Business. The 2015 PBR BlueDEF Tour event alone raised $69,000 – the most ever at Hart’s bull riding – for charity.
Now, this year’s event will feature the next generation of PBR superstars and potential World Champions.
“I don’t know if it is ironic or just funny that last year it was the old guys and this year it is the young guys,” Hart said. “They will get a head-to-head match and they will get their shot at glory against Air Time for $50,000.”
Fans got a sneak peek of how Hart’s special showdown may turn out when Air Time smoked Lockwood in only 2.66 seconds in the $50,000 Bad Boy Mowers Bounty Bull matchup during the third round of Last Cowboy Standing last weekend.
Air Time was marked a career-high tying 47.5 points.
“I wouldn’t mind a rematch,” Lockwood said. “I was pretty frustrated. When you show up you are supposed to ride everything you get on. That is the kind of mindset you are supposed to have. Even when he is the best bull in the world, you are not supposed to be satisified. I will try to get him back.”
Lockwood added that it is a big opportunity, and honor, for the five riders to showcase such a historic summer PBR event.
“It is really cool just to think someone thought we were good enough, and ride good enough, and had a chance at Air Time enough to put us in our own little special round and reward us with that,” Lockwood said. “That is pretty cool to think about.”
Scharping is excited to see if Lockwood will earn himself his much-desired rematch with Air Time or if one of the other young riders has what it takes to challenge Air Time.
Lockwood is the only rider of the group who has attempted Air Time. The 2016 World Champion Bull contender is 6-0 this season and has only been ridden once in 28 outs at all levels of PBR competition.
“Man, I think they all have a fair shot at him as long as they ride him jump for jump,” Scharping said. “That young group of talent we have in the PBR is so crucial to who the PBR is and what we are doing. I am thrilled it is a bunch of them good young guys. They are great bull riders, but they are better guys. That is such a breath of fresh air. It is awesome. I am excited to see who gets him.”
Davis became the fourth rookie in PBR history to win the World Finals last year, and the No. 8 ranked bull rider in the world standings became the first rider in 22 attempts to cover Crossfire earlier this year when he rode Chad Berger’s bovine for 91.5 points at the Ty Murray Invitational.
Davis believes the group not only poses a strong threat to Air Time, but that they also have the ability to one day be World Champions.
“It is kind of cool how they are bringing the young guys in,” Davis said. “I don’t think the (young) guys before have had such a strong young group, but it is good getting noticed as a group of young guys that have the talent to be World Champions. I think any of us have the ability to do it.”
Kolbaba, currently ninth in the world standings, added, “That is a pretty cool event that J.W. has come up with. That is pretty great to showcase the young talent that is coming up and for a chance to get on one of the best bulls going right now for a big chunk. It is pretty exciting for us.”
Valdiviezo, 26, is the oldest of the five riders, but is in his first full season on the BFTS.
“I mean these kids can ride definitely,” Valdiviezo said. “I am very excited because they just asked about me and I can ride together with these young guys. Yeah, why not? This is a big opportunity and a really big chance to get Air Time. I need to ride the best to be the best.”
Hart had offered an invitation to 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco and 2016 rookie Nevada Newman, but both riders had prior commitments. Hart also added that Lowe may have to drop out of the event because of his on-going wrist injury.
Hart has built a reputation in the last 13 years as one of the most creative event promoters during the Built Ford Tough Series summer break.
Past years have featured showdowns between four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney to a social media challenge featuring Pistol Robinson taking on three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker for a chance at $40,000.
In 2011, Mauney also attempted to ride Bushwacker in Decatur. He was bucked off, but the highlight was the lights blowing out during his ride, leaving the arena in total darkness. Legend went on to say that Bushwacker bucked so hard he knocked both Mauney and the lights out.
The challenges aren’t made to boost ticket sales for added profit. Instead, they are made to help increase the total amount of revenue WC Challenger Charities can then donate to those in need.
“We are always trying to do something a little bigger and a little better and something really outside the box that the folks will be interested to come see,” Hart said. “That turns into more ticket sales and publicity, and that turns into money for charity.
“That is our goal and our push. That is our reason behind it. It seems like every year it is harder to come up with something, but it kind of fell into place kind of this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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