WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. ― Shane Proctor can't even begin to imagine how many bulls he had been on since he last won a Built Ford Tough Series event in 2011.
But all it took were three in Winston-Salem, N.C., to turn his fortunes around.
Proctor was 3-for-3, including a 90.75 point effort on Jack Daniel's After Party in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, to win the fourth BFTS event in his career. Proctor has now won at least one BFTS event in four of the past five years after laboring through an injury-plagued 2012.
"Everything is starting to click," Proctor said. "I just had to go and relax and enjoy riding bulls again and it's been a blessing."
It's taken a lot of work by the 27-year-old - he turns 28 in late March - to come back from a severely broken left free arm and a groin injury.
Proctor, one of the riders who puts as much or time in the gym as he does getting on bulls, said after missing the early part of last year he put too much pressure on himself when he finally returned. He missed the first nine events and was eventually cut from the BFTS.
He also missed qualifying for the World Finals and he said he felt behind again this season.
"Last year, with the injury," Proctor said, "it was real humbling."
He added, "I was fighting my head a lot."
Prior to getting the call to compete in Winston-Salem as an alternate, he had already ridden at Touring Pro Division events in his home state of Washington, in Georgia and in Colorado before traveling to North Carolina, where he relocated a few years ago after marrying his wife Jessi.
"These bulls get in shape on the road. They don't get in shape at home or resting."
Following the win he's now ranked fifth in the world standings.
He said he feels a little more secure about the season ahead, but needs to remain focused on continuing to work as hard as he did in 2012.
In Winston-Salem, he won the opening round with 88 points on Stinger. He followed that with another round-winning 88-point effort on Chocolate Drop and used the first pick in the bull draft to select After Party.
Naturally, he didn't hesitate when it came to choosing him.
"He's a real bucker," Proctor explained, "but you have to go and challenge yourself and I felt real comfortable with my pick."
Proctor out-scored Cody Nance, who finished second, 264.25 points on three bulls to 259.25 points.
As elated as Proctor was by the win, he said he's fortunate to be healthy.
In 2011, which was a career year for him, he still remembers how everything went in his favor. He said he drew the right bulls, rode them and put up a lot of big scores on the leaderboard compared to the long, lonely road back in 2012.
Proctor concluded, "It's just so great being back on tour."
ASTEROID'S DEBUT: "I thought the bull was OK," said Gene Melton, when asked about the reigning World Champion Bull. "It wasn't his best trip, but, I mean, he still bucked."
The bull in question, of course, is Asteroid.
He bucked off Guilherme Marchi on Friday night in the first of seven 15/15 Bucking Battles featuring the Top 15 bull riders matched up against 15 of the rankest bulls in the world. Marchi, who won the 2009 world title, bucked off Asteroid in 4.86 seconds.
Marchi prefers bulls that come back toward his right riding hand and although Asteroid did just that in the marquee matchup that was featured on CBS, the 30-year-old had cheated a probably turn to the left and afterward said he was late.
Known for being a powerful bull in spite of his small stature, Asteroid put Marchi on the dirt with relative ease ― having a much easier out than even the time indicated. Afterward Marchi said he felt old and out of shape.
Melton said the same for Asteroid.
"I thought he was a little off tonight," said Melton, who hauls and handles bulls for Circle T Ranch and Rodeo. "He's been laying around and put on a little weight, but he'll get back in the game.
"These bulls get in shape on the road. They don't get in shape at home or resting. They get back in the groove (on the road). I thought he did all right after being off all winter."
Asteroid still impressed the judges to the tune of 46 points.
If the road is where he's going to get in shape then he ought to be all that much stronger in the near future. According to Melton, Asteroid will travel to the West Coast for a pair of outs in both Sacramento, Calif., and Anaheim, Calif.
This weekend was the first of several events featuring the Top 2 bulls from the past two years.
Bushwacker, who won the World Champion Bull title in 2011, will be in Oklahoma City this weekend. Asteroid will then have back-to-back outings in California followed by Bushwacker, who will then be in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Both bulls are then expected to be in Arlington, Texas, for the Iron Cowboy Invitational.
INJURY UPDATES: Last year's World Finals event winner Robson Palermo was a late scratch from the draw in Winston-Salem. Palermo has been competing since last fall with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
Palermo had an off-season issue in which his right shoulder became dislocated while sleeping. It now happened a second time in Denver, Colo., last week when he landed on his right elbow. The sports medicine staff reduced the shoulder and Palermo is at home in Tyler, Texas.
He is expected to compete this coming week in Oklahoma City.
Marco Eguchi injured his right leg when his first round bull in Winston-Salem fell on him. He has a possible fibula fracture, did not compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle or Round 2 and is questionable for Oklahoma City.
Dakota Beck aggravated a left hip injury in the first round on Friday night. The injury was initially sustained when he was thrown hard to the ground during the Championship Round in Chicago. He was able to finish the event, but went 0-for-2.
Stormy wing sustained a bruised left ankle (above his previously sprained left foot) when he was stepped on after being thrown from his re-ride bull in the opening round. He was questionable for Saturday, but finished the event. No confirmation is available yet regarding this coming weekend's event in Oklahoma City.
No significant injuries were reported Saturday night.
TAR HEEL STATE REPRESENTS: While Texas, Oklahoma and other western states are traditionally thought of as the perennial region for bull riding, North Carolina has emerged as an equally viable region. This past weekend was a who's who of recognizable PBR figures from the Tar Heel State.
Last year's Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Tom Teague was on hand and had bulls bucking both nights, as did reigning three-time Stock Contractor of the Year Jeff Robinson and 1998 Ring of Honor inductee Jerome Davis.
Mooresville native J.B. Mauney was competing along with Carolina transplants Billy Robinson, who won the Chicago Invitational a week earlier, and Proctor. Also on hand were Davis' wife Tiffany, who received the Sharon Shoulders Award in 2010, Brian Canter, Josh Faircloth and Wyoming transplant J.C. Navarro.
Canter and the Davis' have teamed up on several bulls including Superfreak, who was matched up with Aaron Roy in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night.
Prior to their outing, in which Superfreak got the better of the Canadian rider, Davis and Canter ― both bull riders ― said they always pull for riders to make the whistle ― even on their own bulls. "We want them to be 90," Canter said, "or look like they're 90."
DRIVERS TAKE IN EVENT: Known for its rich history in college basketball and NASCAR, it was no surprise that this weekend's event, which was held on the campus of Wake Forest University, drew a laundry list of recognizable drivers.
Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer and Bobby Labonte were at Joel Arena on Saturday, while NASCAR broadcaster Jeff Hammond was out on Friday and Austin and Ty Dillon were at the event both nights along with a few crew chiefs and several crew members.
Austin Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, was the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion. In recent years, he's become close friends with Luke Snyder.
"Well, I'll tell you what, these bull are (heck) of athletes and you have to respect a guy who will jump on a bull just as rank as they are," Dillon said. "The good thing is, all the riders are good friends and it looks like they get along good and have a good camaraderie together and help each other out. I really just want to watch them all ride 8-seconds and the coolest thing is, it takes a lot of (cajones) to do this.
"We have a seat around us and a helmet," he continued. "These guys have a helmet, but, man, it's a lot less protected than we are, so it shows a lot of heart and passion for what they love to do."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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