By: Justin Felisko
May 15, 2016
LAS VEGAS – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney thrives under the pressure of a challenge and the defending World Champion will have plenty of challenges, or better yet challengers, during the second half of the Built Ford Tough Series.
Mauney heads into the summer break second in the world standings just 72.83 points behind newly minted world No. 1 Kaique Pacheco in an extremely tight world title race.
“I am pretty happy with (the first half),” Mauney said. “It’s been alright. I could have done a lot of things a little different and probably could be way out in the lead right now. It makes a better race I guess. Hopefully the second half goes like the first half and I can stay in first.”
The Top 15 bull riders in the world standings are separated by less than 1,100 points. In comparison, last year Joao Ricardo Vieira brought a 1,002.5-point lead on No. 2 Matt Triplett into the summer break.
“It pushes me to do better,” Mauney said. “If I know there are guys that are right there that are going to ride and do good, and be close to me, then I know I have to do my job. It seems like if I don’t have that pressure on me, I don’t do near as good. As long as I have the pressure, hopefully it stays the same and I ride good.”
There are 10 regular-season events remaining, beginning Aug. 19 in Nashville, until the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals begins Nov. 2 at T-Mobile Arena.
Mauney saw his streak of five consecutive weeks atop the world standings come to an end on Saturday evening after Pacheco won Last Cowboy Standing and 920 world points.
Even Pacheco only shrugged when asked about the importance of taking over the top spot on the world standings in May.
“I feel calm and tranquil,” Pacheco said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “I don’t think about being No. 1 right now. There is still a lot of events left and a lot of bulls to get on before the Finals. I want to keep strong faith and ride with confidence.”
No. 3 Fabiano Vieira trails Pacheco by 280.84 points, while No. 4 Joao Ricardo Vieira is 315.33 points behind. No. 5 Paulo Lima, who is tied with Mauney for the most weeks ranked No. 1 this year (six), is 517.83 points behind Pacheco.
Mauney is almost exactly where he wanted to be when he began the 2016 season with the goal of winning back-to-back world titles and becoming a more consistent bull rider.
The 29-year-old leads the BFTS with a 53.33 percent riding percentage after going 24-for-45 in 14 events. He also leads the PBR’s top tour with four 90-point rides, including a monumental 94.25-point ride on Pearl Harbor, and three 15/15 Bucking Battle victories.
“Yeah I felt like I have been riding a lot more bulls than I have in the past year, and a different caliber of bulls too, not just the rank ones,” Mauney said. “I have been staying on the good ones too. That is what I have really been trying to work on because I get on just a good one and my motor don’t get to running as hard, and it seems like I don’t try as hard. I guess when I get on a bull that isn’t really a rank one, I have time to think. When I think, I am usually getting off the ground.”
Mauney had to brush the dirt off his chaps twice at Last Cowboy Standing. He was first bucked off by Gas Pedal in 1.84 seconds in Round 1 on Friday night before being eliminated in Round 3 by rising bull star Big Cat in 1.94 seconds.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, bull rider did win his BFTS-leading 10th round of 2016 in Round 2 by riding Moto Moto for 89.75 points. However, he has yet to win a regular-season event.
Mauney won 16 BFTS rounds during his 2015 championship season.
“I expect myself to ride every bull, and when I don’t, I get a little mad at myself,” he said. “But I have learned to leave it there that night and come back the next day with a good attitude.”
Mauney will head into the summer break not atop his usual world standings perch, but he still believes the ball is in his court when it comes to the 2016 World Championship.
“It is always in my court,” Mauney concluded. “The ball is always in my court. Whether I slam dunk it or throw it into the stands that is all on my shoulders.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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