FORT WORTH, Texas ― It was a race unlike the PBR had ever seen.
Over the course of 10 months, Kody Lostroh battled J.B. Mauney and Guilherme Marchi one Built Ford Tough Series event after another from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again, before concluding with eight rounds at the World Finals in Las Vegas over the course of 10 days.
Between them they had won 11-of-31 regular-season events.
They were the only three riders in the Top 40 who had ridden more than 60 percent of their bulls, and only Lostroh and Mauney had been atop the world standings at any point in the season. However, it was Lostroh who arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center having been ranked No. 1 for the past 20 events.
Yet, when the Finals began the three of them - Lostroh, Marchi and Mauney - were separated by a mere 785 points.
Every time Lostroh had looked poised to separate himself from the other two, either Mauney or Marchi would step up and challenge him, and so went the story of 2009.
Was there any reason to believe the finale in Las Vegas would have been any different?
Going into the championship round on the final day of the season, both Lostroh and Mauney were a perfect 7-for-7. They were No. 1 and No. 2 in the average with Lostroh holding a slight 2.75-point lead and, more importantly, Lostroh was ahead of Mauney in the world standings.
Two key outs later and Lostroh had managed to hold off Mauney for the world title by only 594 points despite bucking off Voodoo Child less than a second shy of the 8-second, while Mauney made history as the first and only rider in PBR history to cover all eight bulls at the World Finals.
The PBR has been celebrating its 20th anniversary and, throughout this season, the PBR has profiled the Top 20 Moments in PBR History.
This week's moment is "Mauney makes World Finals history."
Mauney managed to ride Black Pearl - the high-marked bull of the event - for 93.75 points. He claimed $250,000 for winning the event, but his 91-point advantage in the average wasn't quite enough to give him the elusive gold buckle.
"I came out here with the mindset to ride every bull I got on," said Mauney, standing in the Hall of Champions while Lostroh celebrated his title, "and it worked out, I drew right and I couldn't have asked for any better bulls. That's what every guy dreams of … is winning the World Finals and winning the world (title).
"I did all I could and he came out on top."
"None of us (had) seen a race like (that)," said PBR co-founder Michael Gaffney, who championed both of their approaches in making things happen. "This is exactly what we envisioned or we're hoping to envision."
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride agreed.
He added, "That's what sports are about to me. When you see somebody at what they do take the chance to be great at it. They don't just try and win. They try to be great at it."
Mauney had held an 8.75-point advantage after the first two rounds when his entire season was in jeopardy after Crosswired fell on him in Round 3. He took his re-ride on Black Smoke and rode him for 88 points and a 5.75-point lead in the average over Lostroh with three days off to recover.
Unlike the 2008 Finals, which featured seven drafts to one draw, the 2009 format called for three draws and four drafts.
They battled for the next four rounds with Lostroh protecting his overall lead.
However, the final outcome was so close that no one in the arena knew which of the two had won the world title until it was announced by in-arena announcer Clint Adkins. Even then Lostroh didn't hear it and only when Mauney offered a congratulatory handshake was the roar of the crowd confirmed.
The two smiled, nodded and then Lostroh leaned in to share a few private words with Mauney that neither has ever publically talked about since.
Lostroh ultimately got what they both went to Las Vegas to win - the gold buckle and a $1 million dollar bonus - but Mauney's relentless pursuit continues to make him a viable challenger four years later.
"I've been watching J.B. Mauney ride for a long time," said nine-time World Champion Ty Murray. "When there's a big moment set up, he converts. He converts big moments about as good as anybody I've ever seen."
"If it comes down to it," McBride said, "where he has to ride Asteroid to win a world title, we've seen him make those kinds of rides before. I think he's a gamer. I think he can make up ground on guys by riding rank bulls that most of them don't want to get on. He does believe he can ride any of them and, I think, that gives him an advantage."
It's only fitting that the tightest race in PBR history would have come down to two men and one crowning moment.
They are forever linked by a season-long battle, and yet they couldn't have been any more different.
Lostroh, who joked that he thought "me and J.B.'s fans were going to fight it out," was typically quiet and reserved, and tended to avoid the spotlight.
Mauney had a swagger that evoked a rock star-like charisma.
"It was fun," said Mauney, who won five events in 2009, including two rounds and the World Finals average with that unforgettable 8-for-8 performance.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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