By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – There are still six regular-season Unleash The Beast events remaining, as well as the 2021 PBR World Finals, before the PBR’s World Champion is officially crowned, but world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme continues to look determined to leave his closest challengers in the dust.
Leme’s most recent victory this past weekend at the PBR Monster Energy Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Anaheim, California, now makes Leme the first rider in PBR history to win six or more events on the premier series in back-to-back seasons.
Last year, Leme won seven Unleash The Beast events, which is the second-most all-time, on his way to his first gold buckle. This season, he will certainly be a threat to two-time World Champion Justin McBride’s single-season record of eight event wins (2007).
Looking at the big picture, Leme very well has history on his side, with less than two months remaining before the World Finals begins on Nov. 3 in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.
There have been only four riders in PBR history to win six or more events in a single season – Leme (2020), McBride (2007, 2005), 1999 World Champion Cody Hart (1999) and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney (2013).
All four won the World Championship in that respective season.
However, winning six events does not mean winning the gold buckle is a walk in the park. Take Mauney, for example. Mauney entered the 2013 World Finals with five event wins, but it still took a perfect 6-for-6 victory at the 2013 PBR World Finals to unseat reigning World Champion Silvano Alves.
McBride won his record-setting eight events in the regular season in 2007 and needed a 4-for-8 performance at the World Finals to hold off future World Champions Guilherme Marchi and Mauney.
Meanwhile, injuries can also play a factor in the final weeks of the season, something both Hart and McBride had to overcome during the second halves of their respective world title runs as well.
Leme will take a 729.5-point lead on No. 2 Kaique Pacheco in the world standings into this weekend’s PBR ZipRecruiter Invitational in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and Sunday.
One rider can earn a maximum of 1,090 world points at the World Finals by winning every round (80 points per round win) and the event average (560 points) and posting six 90-point rides (9 points for every 90-point ride).
Of course, that is a near-impossible task, and therefore, it is more likely that a rider needs to be within 800 points of the world No. 1 ranking to have a realistic shot at catching Leme.
That scenario also would have to involve Leme struggling in Las Vegas, and right now, Leme leads the league in not only wins and 90-point rides on the Unleash The Beast but also round wins (17), qualified rides (40), and riding percentage (64.52%). As Slade Long of ProBullStats also noted in last week’s Morning Line on PBR.com, Leme is also gaining significant world points simply by reaching the 8-second mark; he is averaging 45.73 world points per qualified ride on the premier series.
Pacheco and No. 3 Cooper Davis (-828) are the only riders currently within less than 1,100 points of Leme in the world standings.
2002 World Finals event winner J.W. Hart said during the CBS Sports Network broadcast on Saturday night that Leme may also be mentally wearing down his opponents in the world title race as the season goes on.
“This sends a message to the locker room, and not intentionally,” Hart said on CBS Sports Network after Leme claimed the victory in Anaheim. “This guy is just doing what he does, but the guys in the locker room are just shaking their head. They don’t know how to keep pace at this point, and it has to be disheartening a little bit to know that somebody is just dominating your world.”
Below is a look at the four riders who have won six or more events in a single season and how they compare.
2007 Justin McBride
Event Wins: 8
Riding Percentage: 63.04%
90-point Rides: 15
Average Ride Score: 87.13 points
Best Ride: 93 points on Scene of the Crash and Chicken on a Chain
2020 Jose Vitor Leme
Event Wins: 7
Riding Percentage: 67.69%
90-point Rides: 9
Average Ride Score: 88.15 points
Best Ride: 95.75 points on Woopaa
2021 Jose Vitor Leme
Event Wins: 6
Riding Percentage: 64.52%
90-point Rides: 19
Average Ride Score: 89.65 points
Best Ride: 97.75 points on Woopaa
2013 J.B. Mauney
Event Wins: 6
Riding Percentage: 52.22%
90-point Rides: 8
Average Ride Score: 87.11
Best Ride: 95.25 points on Bushwacker
1999 Cody Hart
Event Wins: 6
Riding Percentage: 65.71%
90-point Rides: 16
Average Ride Score: 87.58 points
Best Ride: 94.5 points on Cripple Creek Promiseland
2005 Justin McBride
Event Wins: 6
Riding Percentage: 56.63%
Average Ride Score: 86.85 points
90-point Rides: 6
Best Ride: 93 points on Palace Station Deuces Wild
Since 2000, six of the 11 riders who won exactly five events won the world title that year: 2019 World Champion Jess Lockwood, 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco, 2009 World Champion Kody Lostroh, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, 2001 World Champion Adriano Moraes and 2000 World Champion Chris Shivers.
Derek Kolbaba (2017), Robson Palermo (2011), Austin Meier (2010), Mauney (2009) and McBride (2001) also won five events but did not take home the gold buckle.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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