PUEBLO, Colo. – At this point in the season, no rider is 100 percent and that is certainly the case for the top two bull riders in the world standings.
Regardless, J.B. Mauney and Joao Ricardo Vieira know there is $1 million waiting for the 2015 World Champion, and neither rider wants to take a weekend off with three Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) events remaining until the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Mauney and Vieira are both confirmed competitors for this weekend’s Express Employment Professional’s Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina, and are feeling better following back-to-back injuries during Round 3 of the PFI Invitational last weekend in Springfield, Missouri.
Mauney currently leads Vieira by 312.5 points in the world standings and said his left knee/ankle is improving after getting his foot stuck in the chutes while attempting to ride Pearl Harbor.
The 2013 World Champion said he has been icing and resting the injuries at home in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Springfield was the second close-call for Mauney in three weeks after the 28-year-old nearly broke his left ankle at the Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout in Nashville, Tennessee, last month.
Mauney has drawn Past Time (8-7, BFTS) in Round 1 on Friday night. He previously rode the bull for 85.5 points last year at the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden.
Meanwhile, Vieira is in the draw after bruising his left thigh in Springfield attempting to ride Crazy Days.
Vieira has been dealing with a series of nagging injuries to his right shin and left wrist, which he said has not affected his riding.
However, the 2013 Rookie of the Year has struggled since the BFTS resumed in August and has gone 4-for-13. He also has only earned 60 points toward the world standings since Aug. 6.
Vieira will get a chance to change that trend with a Round 1 matchup against Texas Ranger. Friday will be Texas Ranger’s BFTS debut after he was ridden by Josh Moorer for 85.5 points at the Touring Pro Division event in Archdale, North Carolina, earlier this month.
In other injury news, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi has returned to Brazil for a couple of weeks to undergo physical therapy on his left knee and torn right biceps.
World No. 8 Stetson Lawrence is also in the draw after sustaining a concussion and facial lacerations when he collided with Cooper Tires Semper Fi’s in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round last weekend.
Lawrence said he is feeling better and “looks just a little more colorful in some spots.”
He has drawn Highway Man (1-0, BFTS). Highway Man bucked off Nathan Schaper in 6.08 seconds in Nashville, but was only marked 36.75 points.
World No. 9 Valdiron de Oliveira is in the draw and faces Dragonfly (0-0, BFTS) after missing the final day of competition in Springfield because of a back injury.
The race at the bottom of the standings continues to be one to watch as No. 34 Michael Lane, No. 35 Lachlan Richardson, No. 36 Dave Mason and No. 37 Tyler Harr are separated by only 70.83 points.
The riders are in jeopardy of losing their respective spots on the BFTS with Douglas Duncan and Neil Holmes hot on their heels.
Duncan, who is the odd man out in Charlotte, finished in sixth-place at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Pendleton, Oregon, and is only 3.75 points behind Harr, while Holmes is only 12.5 points behind.
Josh Faircloth and Billy Robinson are also competing in Charlotte because of injury exemptions.
Faircloth will take on Super Man (0-0, BFTS), while Robinson will face Heavy Dose (8-4, BFTS).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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