By: Justin Felisko
April 19, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney and 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis highlight a group of eight riders inside the Top 35 of the world standings that will compete at the Sean Willingham Invitational on Friday night in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before heading to Tacoma, Washington, for the Built Ford Tough Series event on Saturday and Sunday.
Mauney and Davis will be joined by No. 5 Chase Outlaw, No. 13 Cody Teel, No. 15 Stormy Wing, No. 16 Cody Nance, No. 26 Gage Gay and No. 33 Reese Cates at Willingham’s second annual PBR event.
Mauney, the No. 3 bull rider in the PBR world standings, said it was a no brainer for him to compete at Willingham’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event before Tacoma.
“Well, I have known Sean for a long time with him being from Georgia,” Mauney said. “Me and Brian (Canter) started going to (Touring Pro Division) events and we would stay at his house sometimes. We would hang out all week and go to the lake between bull ridings and stuff like that. Once we got on tour, you saw all of us together all the time running around. We became pretty good friends.”
The 2nd annual Sean Willingham Invitational, presented by Monster Energy & Circle K, takes place on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET at the UTC McKenzie Arena.
The event is broken down into two separate long and championship rounds and the winner of the event will be the rider with the highest two-score aggregate score from either Friday or Saturday.
Willingham has been hitting the phones hard since the offseason trying to get some of the Built Ford Tough Series elite to make a trip to Tennessee.
“It is an amazing honor having guys like that to come show their talent to Chattanooga,” Willingham said.
The Velocity Tour is also hosting an additional event Saturday night in Des Moines, Iowa.
This weekend could be a big one for Mauney.
If Mauney were to go 4-for-4, he would become the third rider in PBR history to reach 500 qualified rides on the BFTS.
Mauney is also trying to gain more ground on world leader Eduardo Aparecido in the world title race.
Aparecido leads Mauney by 1,123.76 points and No. 2 Kaique Pacheco by 1,040 points.
The 26-year-old missed the Billings, Montana, event because of a riding arm injury and is set to face Billy Bat Skat (5-3, BFTS) in Round 1 on Saturday night.
Fans can catch Round 1 of the Tacoma Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, on Twitter beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET.
No. 9 Rubens Barbosa (concussion), No. 15 Stormy Wing (calf contusion), No. 18 Ryan Dirteater (left thigh adductor strain) and No. 19 Dener Barbosa (left elbow sprain) are also returning to competition after missing Billings because of injuries.
The Easter BFTS break allowed some riders to get a much-needed rest, but No. 10 Mason Lowe (back), No. 25 Mike Lee (shoulder), No. 29 Brady Sims (leg) and No. 30 Troy Wilkinson (groin/hand) will still miss the Tacoma Invitational because of injuries.
Lowe recently learned he had two fractured vertebrae in his back, which has led to him battling muscle spasms, and he expects to be out until Last Cowboy Standing.
Lee dislocated his elbow in his Touring Pro Division victory in Stephenville, Texas, during Easter weekend. There is currently no timetable for his return.
Wilkinson strained his left groin attempting to ride No Regrets in Billings.
Other riders that remain out because of injuries include No. 36 Nevada Newman (shoulder surgery), No. 170 Tanner Byrne (groin/hamstring), Lachlan Richardson (bicep surgery) and Aaron Roy (leg).
Therefore, the door is now open for alternates No. 39 Brennon Eldred, No. 40 Emilio Resende, No. 41 Alex Marcilio and No. 43 Cody Campbell to attempt to move into the Top 35.
Eldred is only 48.34 points behind No. 35 Robson Aragao after winning the Perkins, Oklahoma, TPD event last weekend.
The 22-year-old won the event with an 86.5-point ride on Big Country and has won his last two TPD events he has competed in.
Eldred has drawn Whiskey Bent (5-2, BFTS) for Round 1.
Taylor Toves is this weekend’s Velocity Tour invite courtesy of his Fresno, California, victory on March 25.
The 24-year-old from Stephenville, Texas, is making his BFTS debut against Tommy Gun (1-0, BFTS), and is 61st in the world standings.
Toves is 4-for-18 (22.22 percent) this year at all levels of competition and is a career 22.37-percent rider in 38 events.
Toves was originally an Alexandria, Louisiana, native before moving to Stephenville when he was 10 years old. He attempted his first steer at 13 and is a second generation bull rider that placed third at the Texas High School Rodeo Association state finals.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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