OAKLAND, Calif. – Kody Lostroh has nodded his head 652 times on the Built Ford Tough Series and he even did so with $1 million on the line five years ago.
The Longmont, Colorado, native won one of the tightest races in PBR history when he held off J.B. Mauney to win the 2009 world title by 594 points at 24 years old.
In other words, Lostroh is no stranger to close finishes and the pressure that comes with it. That kind of championship pedigree may serve as an ultimate advantage or difference maker when it comes to competing with others for those final coveted spots for the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“It is definitely an advantage to have been there and done that,” Lostroh said. “You know how that stuff feels and you know how to deal with the pressures and the different stuff that comes with it, but I can remember being that new guy too, just trying to get those points to stay on tour and kind of prove yourself so to say. Those guys are new to it, so having that experience is definitely an advantage and it is a unique position.”
Lostroh only competed in seven BFTS events during the first half of the season because of a chronic right hand/wrist injury, one that flared up on him two weeks ago in Springfield, Missouri. However, he has shown flashes of his talents in the second half and enters this weekend’s Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay ranked 37th in the world standings, 63.66 points behind No. 35 Harve Stewart.
The Top 35 riders in the world standings qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals held Oct. 22-26.
Lostroh agrees this year has been one full of challenges, but he refuses to use his riding hand injury as an excuse for any shortcomings. Despite a 31.25 percent riding average, he is right in the mix to qualify for the World Finals for the 10th consecutive year.
“I have been doing this long enough to know when to be gone and when I need to get healthy,” he said. “Right now, it is just push through when you can. To be honest, you guys like to make a bigger deal about a lot of stuff then we do. I know I am fully capable of doing my job here. It is not a big pressing issue to me.”
It won’t be easy with riders No. 30-40 separated by less than 914 points with three regular-season events remaining.
One of those riders includes fellow veteran Billy Robinson, who has 12 years of competing alongside the toughest bull riders in the world. He has also qualified for the World Finals five times.
He enters the weekend 38th in the world standings and is riding at a 25.57 percent clip. The 34-year-old says there is one constant factor for both young and experienced cowboys: You have to make 8 seconds.
“It all comes down to the same thing,” he said. “We have to stay on and them young guys are in the same boat, they have to stay on their bulls to qualify. It is the only way we are going to have a shot to do it is to stay on.”
Nagging injuries have been burdensome for Robinson this year, and he is hoping to put together a strong finish to qualify for Las Vegas.
Many of the riders ranked between No. 30-40 have missed time this season due to injury.
Robson Palermo, currently 31st, announced on Twitter this week that he has been medically cleared to return to competition next week in Biloxi, Mississippi.
No. 30 Nathan Schaper returned to competition this summer after missing 12 first-half events with a broken right leg compliments of Bushwacker.
“Oh yeah, injuries put you in a lot of them positions,” Robinson said. “My whole career I have had years where it stuck me in there while I had some injuries. I always seem to kind of pull through and get it done there. I may wait until the last minute sometimes, but we will see if we can do it again this year.”
While the heat will rise for the Top 5 contenders in the world during their respective battle for the 2014 World Championship, so too will the blood pressures of riders ranked in the bottom half of the standings.
Once again, Robinson and Lostroh will have to set aside any potential worries or stressors.
“The pressure is still on until the bitter end because you don’t really know if you have a for sure shot until it is here,” Robinson said. “We kind of have a lot riding on it, too. You need to be in the Top 35 to just have a (potential) shot to get that ($250,000). We are all battling at it just to get there.”
Lostroh said it depends on the individual when it comes to how much the race to the finish weighs on a rider’s mind.
“Bull riding is the same mentality, regardless if you are riding for a world title,” he said. “You are not worried about what the other guys do; you are focused on doing your job as best as you can. Same with when you are at the bottom, you are not worried about who you have to pass or who is behind you; your job is to stay on.
“That needs to be your focus if you are going to succeed.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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