BILOXI, Miss. – The Built Ford Tough Series resumes on Friday night at 9 p.m. ET with the Battle at the Beau at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. It will be the first time since Last Cowboy Standing in May that the Top 35 bull riders in the world will compete in the same event after some riders continued to hit the summer grind full steam ahead, while others took some time off to recover from the first 18 BFTS events of the season.
Here is a look at some of the standout performers from the break.
THE KING OF SUMMER
Mike Lee was the PBR’s strongest bull rider for the second consecutive summer. A year after earning 1,493.12 points in the PBR’s old points system, Lee accumulated the most points (320) among the Top 40 riders in the world standings to move from 16th in the world rankings to 12th.
Lee kicked off the summer with a win at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Decatur, Texas, by going 2-for-2 and riding Rough ‘Em Up Tuck for 87.25 points.
The 2004 World Champion’s only other win this summer came at the Odessa, Texas, Touring Pro Division event where he rode Scooter for 87 points.
However, Lee posted seven Top-10 finishes at a series of TPD and BDVT events.
Lee also registered three 90-point rides during the summer break – 91 points on Wipeout; 90.5 points on Joe The Grinder; 90 points on Modified Clyde.
BISMARCK SWEEP SPARKS NUNES
Renato Nunes went 4-for-4 in Bismarck, North Dakota, in June for an average ride score of 87.13 points per out and two BlueDEF Velocity Tour event wins.
Nunes earned the second-most summer points with 280 points – 160 from Bismarck – and jumped from 24th in the world to 19th courtesy of four combined wins at the BDVT and TPD level.
The 2010 World Champion picked up TPD wins in Gonzales and Amarillo, Texas.
Tanner Byrne spent most of his summer competing at PBR Canada events and he was able to earn 245 points to move up two spots in the world standings to 17th.
Byrne actually has a dominant lead in PBR Canada and sits atop its world standings with 3,345 points, which puts him 1,695 points up on No. 2 Cody Nance.
NANCE HOLDS HIS GROUND
Speaking of Nance, the Paris, Tennessee, bull rider continued his summer tradition of competing at non-BFTS events and ended up earning 215 points this summer – the fourth-most – to stay ranked 14th in the world.
One of Nance’s best performances this summer came in Pendleton, Oregon, when he rode Imagine That for 87.5 points to win the Touring Pro Division event.
Nance also posted an 89-point ride aboard Mental Revenge at the Thief River Falls, Minnesota, TPD event.
LAWRENCE CRACKS TOP 10
Stetson Lawrence, who is out for the Battle at the Beau because of a right knee injury, was able to move into the Top 10 of the world standings by earning 207.5 points this summer.
Lawrence appeared to be finding his stride at just the right time prior to getting injured Thursday night in a rodeo in Sidney, Montana, with two 90.5-point rides in two weeks – the last being aboard More Big Bucks last week in Big Sky, Montana.
In fact, Lawrence had ridden five of his last six bulls at non-BFTS events.
Two other movers and shakers of the summer were Justin Paton and Neil Holmes. Both riders are in the draw this weekend thanks to their efforts in June and July.
Paton (140 points) moved from 44th in the world standings to 38th following his BFTS debut at Last Cowboy Standing while Holmes (160 points) has jumped nine spots and is ranked 37th heading into Round 1 on Friday night.
In terms of the Top 5 of the world standings, there was limited movement as Joao Ricardo Vieira (70 points), Matt Triplett (50 points), J.B. Mauney (67.5 points), Kaique Pacheco (80 points) and Nathan Schaper (82.5 points) all competed sparingly.
Schaper was able to leapfrog Valdiron de Oliveira for the No. 5 ranking.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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