BISMARCK, N.D. – In 2009, Chad Berger went to Chris Pantani of Cooper Tires and said that Pantani needed to try and go sign Renato Nunes to a sponsorship deal.
Berger had noticed that Nunes’ celebratory backflip was becoming not only a crowd favorite, but a major draw to television cameras.
Pantani and Cooper Tires eventually signed Nunes and the Buritama, Brazil, bull rider rewarded their investment by winning the 2010 World Championship.
On Friday night, Nunes brought the Bismarck Civic Center crowd to their feet with another two backflips as the 33-year-old went 2-for-2 to win the Dakota Community Bank and Trust BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
“It worked out well,” Nunes said. “I am so glad for Chad to bring so many good bulls to this event. He is not just my favorite stock contractor, but he is one of my best friends. That is why I am here and that is why I hang out with him all the time. He is one of my best friends in the United States.”
Nunes was the only rider to make the 8-second mark in the championship round. He rode Strong Heart for 86.5 points.
“I saw Robson Palermo had him this year and bucked him off. I knew I could ride him,” Nunes said. “He turns left and bucks like a son of a gun. If I want to win, I needed to get on the best one and that is what I did.”
Berger added, “It was a very good ride. He was looking to be close to 90 and he got a little messed up at the end and got docked for his ride, but he hung on and hung tough until the whistle.”
Even though Berger would like to see a few more qualified rides at his own event, he was sure as heck proud to see his bulls showcase their power and ability on Friday night.
Overall, Berger had 57 bulls compete in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
“There were a few bulls in the long round that were pretty outstanding,” Berger said. “Apollo Stripes was probably almost as good as Smooth Operator today. It was phenomenal and I was real happy to see that.”
Smooth Operator took home high-marked bull honors with a 47-point bull score after bucking off Cody Tyler in less than 2 seconds in the championship round.
“I was pretty excited and pretty nervous, but he is in really nice shape now and I think he is healed up,” Berger said. “I think he is right back in the hunt now if he stays like that.”
Nunes entered the championship round in seventh place following his 85-point ride on Son of a Sioux in the long round.
Nunes was surprised how calm Son of a Sioux was when he sat down upon him in the bucking chutes. Prior to climbing on, Son of a Sioux was bucking around and not settling down.
“He is so mean in the bucking chutes, but when I got on he was good,” Nunes said. “He didn’t move or anything. I said, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s make work.’
“It worked out really good for me.”
Nunes picks up 80 points toward the world standings, which moves him from 24th in the world standings to 21st.
Neil Holmes and Michael Lane split the long round with 87-point rides onTwitter This and Chantilly Lace. Both riders earn 40 points toward the world standings. Holmes moves from 44th in the world to 38th, while Lane remains in 34th.
Rounding out the Top 5 was Cody Campbell and Mike Lee, who used 86.5-point rides aboard Undertaker and Set ‘em Up Joe to split fourth and fifth place. Each rider picks up 17.5 points toward the standings.
Nunes promised Berger earlier this spring that he would make sure he was in the United States for this weekend’s two BlueDEF Velocity Tour events.
However, it wasn’t an easy trip for Nunes after it took over 24 hours for him to make it to Bismarck from Texas. At one point in his drive, Nunes, Alexandre Cardozo and Luis Blanco were stuck on Interstate-35 for six hours.
“I am so tired from traveling around,” Nunes said. “We didn’t get here until 11 today and we left (yesterday) at 7 (a.m.).
Berger was certainly happy that his good friend was able to make it to Bismarck.
“He has been a real good friend of mine,” Berger said. “For as long as he has been over here, I have always liked Renato. He is a pretty good guy to be around and I was sure proud of him tonight.”
There will be another BlueDEF Velocity Tour event on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. CT at the Bismarck Civic Center. The event will be streamed on PBR LIVE on CarbonTV.com.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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