By: Justin Felisko
NAMPA, Idaho – World leader Jose Vitor Leme shook his head in disbelief and smiled a few minutes following his perfect 3-for-3 weekend at the Cooper Tires Take the Money and Ride.
Leme fell short of winning his fifth-event of 2019 on Saturday night, but his 88.25-point ride on Whiskey Bent helped him hold off a valiant push up the world standings from No. 2 Jess Lockwood in Nampa, Idaho.
For the second consecutive weekend, Lockwood shot off fireworks on the Unleash The Beast by riding Heartbreak Kid.
This time, Lockwood took it up a notch and rode Heartbreak Kid for 94 points in the championship round.
Leme – like raucous Ford Idaho Center crowd – was impressed by Lockwood’s fearless in selecting the No. 4 World Champion Bull contender a week after he ended the bull’s streak of 38 consecutive buckoffs for 93.75 points and nearly broke his neck in the process.
“This is crazy and awesome,” Leme said. “That was an awesome ride. He is a pretty good cowboy and I am a big fan of him. I pray for him too because he needs to stay healthy for Finals and this race. It is a very important race. For me. For him. I just need to ride my bulls and go to Finals.”
Nampa was the latest example that the 2019 World Championship may come down to the last day of the 2019 PBR World Finals on Nov. 6-10 in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena.
Leme earned 380 points toward the world standings in Nampa by riding Red Bandana (88.75 points) in Round 1, Justify (84 points) in Round 2 and Whiskey Bent (88.25 points) in the championship round.
The 23-year-old slightly extended his lead on Lockwood, who went 2-for-3 to finish in 416.66 points this weekend.
Leme was shocked he was able to select Whiskey Bent – a bull he rode last year in Nampa for 88.5 points – with the fourth pick in the draft behind Chase Outlaw, Dalton Kasel and Brennon Eldred.
“He was my No. 1 pick for this short go and he was left for me,” Leme said. “I am very happy to finish in second place here. One more time. Last year, I placed second. This year second too. I am happy to finish good here and stay healthy.
“I am ready for next week.”
Leme is competing at the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour regular-season finale in Rapid City. South Dakota, on Saturday night. Fans can watch the event on RidePass at 9 p.m. ET.
The No. 1 ranked rider in the Velocity Tour can potentially earn 220 points toward the world standings.
Nampa was a solid bounce back for Leme after he only picked up 110 points in the last two weeks.
Leme said before the weekend started that he was still extremely confident despite his mini-slump.
“I feel very good physically and mentally too,” Leme said Friday night with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I just try to do my best and do good here at this last event before Vegas. Jess has caught up and is not too far behind. He has been riding good these last few weeks. That is great for him. He is doing good.”
Lockwood is not competing in Rapid City, but he is going to be ready to blow the roof off the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa at the 2019 Velocity Tour Finals on Nov. 2-3 before he looks to win his second world title at T-Mobile Arena a few days later.
The 22-year-old bounced back from his first-round buckoff against Long Cut (6.61 seconds) in Nampa to ride Roadkill for 85.75 points in Round 2 and Heartbreak Kid for a career-high, 94 points.
Lockwood has posted three consecutive Top-3 finishes to stay right on Leme’s heels with two-and-a-half weeks left until the World Finals begins.
“I have never felt so good,” Lockwood said. “I am 10-foot tall and bulletproof right now. Going into the Finals last event. I don’t know if I can feel any better. I think everyone is going to start calling me crazy because I am going to start going into the championship rounds and choosing that bull because he is my bull.”
Does he think he can set a new PBR record for the highest-scored ride in PBR history at the World Finals?
“I don’t know if they will ever let us get that high anymore, but if I am riding this good going into the Finals, and I am getting better each weekend, I like the statistics on that.”
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RACE STANDINGS
- Jose Vitor Leme
2. Jess Lockwood (-416.66)
3. Chase Outlaw (-1,415.83)
4. Joao Ricardo Vieira (-2,119.16)
5. Cooper Davis (-2,864.16)
Outlaw entered the championship round in the lead when he selected Smooth Wreck with the No. 1 pick in the draft. However, Outlaw’s bid for his fifth-event win came up short when Smooth Wreck displaced him at the 7.45-second mark.
Historically, any rider within 2,000 world points of the world No. 1 ranking at the start of the World Finals is a legitimate contender for the season’s World Championship. However, 3,300 points are available across the five days of competition.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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