ARLINGTON, Texas – Joao Ricardo Vieira has handled himself in a business-like manner for his three years on the Built Ford Tough Series.
He has very rarely shown much emotion in the arena, always looking toward the bigger picture and the ultimate prize of winning a World Championship and its accompanying $1 million bonus.
It is why when he won the 2013 Rookie of the Year he was more disappointed that he fell short of putting a run together to catch J.B. Mauney for the 2013 world title.
It is why he was even more frustrated the following year when he bucked off his last three bulls (Karaoke, King Tut and Yo Yo) at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals as Silvano Alves jumped past him to win his third world title after he began the week as the No. 1 bull rider in the world.
Most importantly, it is Vieira’s driven personality that should make it no surprise that Vieira rose from the ashes of 26th in the world standings to claim his second consecutive Iron Cowboy title. He also earned 900 points toward the world standings to move all the way to No. 5 in the world in the PBR’s first PBR Major event.
The 30-year-old hadn’t been satisfied with how his 2015 season had gone and had been quietly getting closer to the BFTS cutline than toward the top of the standings.
“I was not riding very well and now I draw good bulls,” Vieira said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “It is good to win this weekend again because I rode all of my bulls. I feel like the Iron Cowboy. It is in the heart of all the riders to be the Iron Cowboy champion.”
Vieira’s reaction was evidence of that as he lifted his black cowboy hat into the air, kissed his right hand and pumped his chest in celebration with the AT&T Stadium crowd before being mobbed by Guilherme Marchi, Renato Nunes and Alves.
He is the PBR’s first two-time Iron Cowboy winner.
The draw was a big benefit to Vieira, who had rematches against Crack The Whip and Bruiser after riding them both in Thackerville, Oklahoma, last year. They, as well as Grandpa Joe, all spun to the left and into his hand, which Vieira turned into three qualified rides and a $194,833.33 payday.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said the 2015 Iron Cowboy couldn’t have asked for better draws seeing as Vieira has been known to be dominant when bulls spin into his hand.
“I thought he looked awesome last night,” McBride said. “All them three bulls went to the left, that is the only thing. I don’t want to take anything from his win because he rode the bulls he was drawn. That last ride when it was down to the last three, that was such a cool ride on Crack The Whip. That little bull was trying so hard.”
Vieira rode Crack The Whip for 88.5 points and the last qualified ride of the night to seal the victory after Tanner Byrne and Stetson Lawrence were bucked off by Boot Jack and Lane’s Magic Train. Vieira previously rode Bruiser for a season-high 90.5 points to win the second round. It was his highest-scored ride since he rode Smackdown for an event-winning 90.75 points on Feb. 16, 2014, at the St. Louis BFTS event.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said that winning the Iron Cowboy two years in a row says a lot about Vieira.
“This is one of those big events and he was able to win it back-to-back and that is something,” Murray said in this week’s Weekend in Review. “That is where you make a name for yourself, and J.R. has gone a long ways in doing that (by) winning this event twice.”
One of the main benefits of the PBR Majors – there are two more remaining this season (Last Cowboy Standing and Nashville, Tennessee) – is that not only is there a significant amount of cash up for grabs compared to a regular BFTS event, but also 1.5 times the amount of points available.
That may seem futile, but when you factor in two round wins by Vieira (300 points) and the 600 points he received for winning the event, it is safe to say that the PBR Majors can have a “major” impact on the 2015 world title race.
Vieira nearly cut Matt Triplett’s world lead in half after entering Iron Cowboy 1,820 points behind. He now sits only 920 points back from regaining the No. 1 position in the world that he last held at the beginning of the 2014 World Finals.
“The majors have more emphasis,” Murray said. “When you walk into one of the PBR Majors, it feels different. You go into the locker room, you can feel the excitement in the guys and you can tell that everything is turned up a notch.”
Vieira certainly did that.
He hadn’t ridden three consecutive bulls since October 2014, when he rode four straight, and he had only ridden three bulls at an event once this season in New York.
He also wanted to prove that he truly is the Iron Cowboy after many questioned his victory last season when he bucked off all five of his bulls in the PBR’s old bracket-style format. The longest he stayed on a bull was when he lasted 5.9 seconds on Mississippi Hippy, and he only remained on the back of his bulls for an average of 3.22 seconds.
“This proves I am the Iron Cowboy and deserved this title more than last year because I rode all my bulls,” he said. “I got on my bulls last year to win and stay on them and I couldn’t get it done. I feel more like the true champion because I got on all the bulls this weekend and rode.”
The win may also turn around Vieira’s otherwise slow start to the season. His best finish prior to Saturday was a ninth-place result in Oklahoma City. Last year, he led the BFTS with 10 Top-5 finishes and was second in Top-5’s with 14 to finish fifth in the world.
On Saturday, he flashed that kind of Top-5 ability for the first time this year.
“This weekend I showed up here to ride bulls and I was ready,” Vieira concluded. “I came here to win and it worked out great.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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