By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Joao Ricardo Vieira is packing his briefcase back up and heading home to Decatur, Texas, following a business trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, this weekend in which he tried to lay the framework for a possible $1 million payday in the near future.
Vieira is not looking into any crystal ball that shows him standing center stage inside AT&T Stadium with a $1 million World Championship next Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
He is very much aware he still has work to do.
The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world simply rode Sun Country for 88.5 points on Saturday night during the championship round of the 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, flashed a quick smile and made his way back to the locker room.
“Onto the next one,” it screamed.
Vieira went 2-for-3 at the Velocity Tour Finals, and his third-place finish helped him earn 34.5 points toward the world standings and tighten the gap between himself and world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme.
Leme’s biggest challenger in the world title race is taking a business-like approach to the race for a gold buckle, and says he is only thinking about the next bull in front of him rather than the stakes that are building.
Vieira will head into the 2020 PBR World Finals in five days only 424.59 points behind Leme in the world standings after Leme went 0-for-2 and failed to win the Velocity Tour championship.
One rider can earn a maximum of 1,060 world points at the World Finals, including 560 points for winning the World Finals event average title.
“The Finals has many points,” Vieira told PBR.com at the end of October. “You have one good weekend and you can be a World Champion. Get good bulls and ride good. Me, Jose, Kaique (Pacheco) – if you don’t ride good, the other guys can ride good and be a World Champion, too.
“The game is not over.”
Vieira bounced back from a Round 1 buckoff against Slumlord (5.29 seconds) to ride Barrier Grief for 88 points in Round 2 on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Party Animal (6.47 seconds) and Hang Em High (1.96 sseconds) took down Leme inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.
Leme has been amidst one of the greatest seasons in PBR history this year, but the gold buckle is not his just yet. The 24-year-old has slowed down off his torrid pace recently, and he is only 3-for-10 at his last four events since winning three consecutive Unleash The Beast events in August/September.
The race for a gold buckle now shifts to the home of the Dallas Cowboys, where no bull rider has had the kind of success that Vieira has had inside the prestigious NFL stadium.
Vieira has won more than $895,000 in Arlington since riding for the first time in the home of the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. He has won two Iron Cowboy titles (2014 & 2015) in Arlington, as well as three bull riding championships at The American rodeo in 2016, 2019 and 2020. He also was a member of the victorious Team Brazil squad at the 2019 Global Cup USA in Arlington. Vieira’s 2019 American victory netted him a whopping $433,333.33. He then split the bull riding victory with Sage Kimzey earlier this year for $65,500.
There are officially 14 riders still mathematically alive in the world title race heading into the World Finals.
2020 World Champion Contending Riders
1. Jose Vitor Leme (1,341.50 points)
2. Joao Ricardo Vieira (-424.59)
3. Kaique Pacheco (-688)
4. Daylon Swearingen (-738.34)
5. Jess Lockwood (-745.50)
6. Lucas Divino (-770)
7. Cooper Davis (-779.50)
8. Colten Jesse (-869.50)
9. Mason Taylor (-918.75)
10. Derek Kolbaba (-975.5)
11. Ezekiel Mitchell (-1,007.50)
12. Dener Barbosa (-1,014.09)
13. Cole Melancon (-1,027)
14. Eduardo Aparecido (-1,030.50)
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andre Silva/Bull Stock Media
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