L.J. Jenkins did what he could with the two bulls he drew this weekend in Nashville, Tenn.: He rode them.
The No. 1 rider in the world was 2-for-2, but missed out on both the first short round and the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. However, the 25-year-old extended his lead atop the world standings to 132.25 points over Valdiron de Oliveira.
But lurking in Oliveira's shadow is Silvano Alves.
The reigning World Champion finished the Jack Daniel's Invitational in the Top 10 and moved to within 307.75 points of Jenkins, who has been the No. 1 ranked rider in the world for the past two weeks.
"I'm coming out of this weekend happy with it," Jenkins said. "The first night I kind of cost myself some points, but I hung through it and got a score. That's all that matters and I look forward to Springfield."
This is the first time in Jenkins' career he's been the No. 1 rider.
While he seems to be handling the pressure and saying all the right things with five Built Ford Tough Series events remaining along with the World Finals, he admitted being in the top spot is different.
"I came in here being the No. 1 guy and not being the guy chasing everybody," he said, "and I had to just kind of look past all that. I'm here to ride all my bulls and that's what I want to do every weekend, whether I'm No. 1 or No. 5 in the world - just come here and get my job done."
Jenkins, who finished 11th in the average, was one spot out of the Championship Round, while Oliveira was one of two and finished 24th in the average this week. Oliveira's 80.75-point ride on Hell's Bells in third round broke a buckoff streak of six in a row.
Jenkins and Alves have not gone 0-for-the-weekend since the Albuquerque, N.M., event in late March.
However, Jenkins said the race for this year's title is deeper than the Top 3.
Guilherme Marchi is 2,028.25 points off the lead pace and J.B. Mauney is right there with him, 2,075 points behind Jenkins.
"Everybody that's fighting for this world title race," Jenkins said. "They're not going to quit until after that last round at the Finals. Getting to first is half the battle; staying there is the other half.
"I think anybody can come back with all the points we have at the Finals. We all might be close right now, but it's going to be who steps up and rides a bunch of the bulls at the Finals."
PALERMO SMACKS DOWN COMPETITION:
It came as no surprise when Robson Palermo selected Smackdown with the fourth pick in the bull draft for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, and it was even less surprising when he rode him for 92.5 points.
To watch Palermo do it with a cracked shoulder blade, however, did take people by surprise.
He covered three of four bulls this past weekend in coming from behind to win his second BFTS event of 2012. It's also the second time he's won the Jack Daniel's Invitational. He previously did so in 2007. Palermo has now been on Smackdown five times and rode him in the summer of 2011, at the Chad Berger Invitational, for 94 points.
"If you lean back he's going to throw you and this week I kind of stayed over the front," said Palermo, who added that the win helped him to regain his confidence after the disappointment of learning about yet another injury. His latest injury happened at Calgary Stampede when he landed on his left elbow.
"It's that kind of year," Palermo said, "but it's fun to come over here and win this event again."
According to Palermo, doctors have indicated that nothing can be done for the injury and that his two options are to either sit out until next season or try riding through the pain. Last week, Palermo left Thackerville, Okla., and on Monday afternoon he and Oliveira rode practice bulls in Tyler, Texas.
Palermo admitted that he "gave up," in Thackerville, and bucked off two bulls. He was determined not to let that happen again, in Nashville, when he outscored Brendon Clark 264.75 points to 259.5 points.
"I kept to myself and I fixed my head a little bit," Palermo said. "I've been riding hurt since I started in the PBR. You try to stay healthy and I want to be healthy one year to ride good."
Palermo's win moved him to 12th in the world standings. He's one of only two riders ranked in the Top 15, who has competed in less than 20 events. Because of injuries he's ridden in 13 of 23 events this season.
Clark's second place finish moved him to 30th in the world standings and, more important, the $21,173.33 payday Saturday night moved him all the way to 31st in the qualifier standings with $64,636.59 earned.
Coming off a season in which he was the runner up in the battle for the 2011 World Champion Bull title, Asteroid has continues to show that 2012 could be his year to win the title. For the 14th time this season he put on a remarkable performance.
Chase Outlaw was his latest victim.
Outlaw was right in the middle and looked like he was going to make the whistle with relative ease when, according to the 20-year-old, Asteroid "had that really strong step ahead - that he always has - and he just got me strung out."
He added, "I should have kept riding, but he just got the best of me."
Outlaw said Asteroid and Bushwacker are the best bulls competing because both "do whatever it takes to get you on the ground."
Asteroid had bucked off 16 in a row until Mauney rode him in San Antonio for 93.5 points. He's been marked 45 points or better in 13 of 14 outs this year, including 46.75 on Saturday when he put Outlaw on the ground at 7.17 seconds.
Outlaw, who is vying for the Rookie of the Year title, said he would pick Asteroid "any day of the week."
Asteroid is not expected to compete next week in Springfield. According to owner Jeff Talley, the current plan is to have him in Tampa, Fl.; Greensboro, N.C., and Philadelphia before returning home to Louisiana in preparation for the trip out to Las Vegas.
However, Talley added, "That's just what we're thinking and that could change."
Justin Koon, Austin Meier and Ty Pozzobon were the first three riders still out with concussion-like symptoms, and who had to pass the newly enacted concussion tests. All three passed prior to the start of the Nashville event, but Pozzobon remarked the computerized test "is not easy."
Koon said that he didn't feel symptomatic until three days after the San Antonio event and that a week later he considered retiring from the sport, adding that riding bulls wouldn't be worth it to him "if I wasn't going to be able to remember who I am."
The Arkansas native is enjoying a career year, but said the head injury has been an eye-opening experience for him. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday for further evaluation. He said once the results are in he will carefully consider any advice given by Dr. Tandy Freeman.
Friday night, Kody Lostroh was injured in the chute during the first round. The presumptive diagnosis was left rib fractures and a possible spleen injury, so he has been taken to Vanderbilt Hospital for evaluation. Later that night, Chad Besplug dislocated his left shoulder (riding arm) when he landed on his elbow while dismounting his first round bull.
Neither rider drafted a bull Saturday's third round.
On Saturday, Lostroh said doctors told him they'd identified so many old fractures they couldn't tell if there was anything new. He considered getting on his third round bull, but opted to wait until next week's event in Springfield.
Besplug is expected to be out of competition until the World Finals. With more than $156,318.83 won he's already ninth in the qualifier standings, but missing the final five BFTS events could impact the Rookie of the Year standings.
Outlaw is second with $139,639.15 and, by comparison, Outlaw has earned $28,786.67 in the past five BFTS events.
Alabama native Josh Moore made his BFTS debut in Nashville this weekend. He covered Moses in the opening round for 86.5 points to split third and fourth with Clark.
He nearly made it 2-for-2 in the first short round when he appeared to cover Highway 12, but was called for a slap. Like a cagey veteran he did not hesitate to challenge the call, but after further review the original call was upheld and he received no score.
The 18-year-old finished the event by bucking off Cooper Tires How We Roll in 4.83 seconds.
"I'm here to ride all my bulls and that's what I want to do every weekend whether I'm No. 1 or No. 5 in the world-just come here and get my job done." -- L.J. Jenkins.
Back in 2001, Mötley Crüe released their infamous book The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band. On Wednesday they were performing in Nashville with KISS the night before the PBR load-in.
Ironically, a rainstorm moved through Tennessee - just before their performance - that left the real dirtbeing used for the BFTS event underneath a foot of water. The PBR dirt crew had to make last-minute changes regarding what dirt would be used for the event.
They wound up using crushed limestone, which is the same type of dirt that was used a year ago in Chicago. Arena workers had to adjust the air conditioning to keep the limestone from drying out and turning white. Luckily a cold front moved through the area and on Saturday the temperature was in the 70s.
The soft dirt didn't result in the higher number of qualified rides in the opening round, but may have contributed to a few bulls - RMEF Gunpowder & Lead among them - changing from their normal bucking pattern.
REMEMBER THE TITANS:
The Tennessee Titans open their regular season on Sunday afternoon with a game against the New England Patriots, in Nashville, but Friday night several players were in attendance at Bridgestone Arena for the first two rounds of the Jack Daniel's Invitational.
PBR CEO Jim Haworth took longtime kick Rob Bironas and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck behind the chutes late in the opening round as well as during the first short round. Also on hand for the event were Marc Mariani and Rusty Smith.
After spending time with Colby Yates and Snyder, Bironas Tweeted, "It was good to catch up with a couple 'real cowboy' buddies!" Hasselback Tweeted, "Great time at @PBR tonight. Even got a little dirty."
LET THE COWBOY ROCK:
After 20 years of being part of the most successful duo in country music - Brooks & Dunn - Ronnie Dunn recently released his first self-titled solo album, which features "Let the Cowboy Rock." Dunn, a PBR fan, was at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night to debut the PBR re-mix and re-cut video for his latest single. In addressing the crowd, Dunn said, "I have a lot of respect for bull riders." He joked that his own "COWBOY" tattoo was the result of a long weekend in San Antonio, but added that he's not the kind of cowboy who rides bulls. "I couldn't do it," Dunn said.
Less than two months from their wedding date - Nov. 3 - Luke Snyder and his fiancée, Jen Manna, celebrated the third anniversary of meeting in Nashville by having their engagement photos taken while they were in Music City for the Jack Daniel's Invitational.
Snyder and Manna met, in 2009, at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. He said they had a few photos taken at the Lower Broadway honky-tonk on Thursday before going to the Tennessee countryside outside of town. "We'll always have New York City, where we got engaged," Snyder said, "and Nashville, so they're two pretty special places."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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