TULSA, Okla. – There are nine regular-season events remaining before the 2018 PBR World Finals begins on Nov. 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Of course, the majority of the conversation between now and then will be about Kaique Pacheco and if this is finally going to be the year he wins the world title.
There also will be chatter about if Jess Lockwood can come from behind for a second year in a row to become the PBR’s second back-to-back World Champion, or if Cooper Davis can become the sixth rider in PBR history to win multiple world titles.
However, there are plenty of other intriguing storylines to keep an eye on.
PBR.com takes a look at eight of them with the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast getting back underway on Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at 7:30 p.m. ET on RidePass.
The World Champion Bull race is far from over
The quest to find the next bull ready to challenge SweetPro’s Bruiser will begin in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The passing of Pearl Harbor in the spring has essentially put Bruiser in the driver’s seat for a record-tying third World Championship.
However, if Bruiser were to hip himself or under-perform at the World Finals, the door may open for another bull to steal the championship from the star-studded 7-year-old.
The PBR World Champion Bull is based on a bull’s top eight outs during the premier series regular season and two outs at the PBR World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the champion.
The jury is still out over which bull will step up to challenge Bruiser, but keep an eye on Spotted Demon, Cochise, Smooth Operator, Frequent Flyer, Bad Beagle and Old Fort Days as potential challengers.
Spotted Demon, 10, would be the oldest World Champion Bull in PBR history if he were to successfully win the title at T-Mobile Arena.
A championship for Bruiser would put him next to Bushwacker and Little Yellow Jacket as the only three-time World Champions.
Bruiser could also try and sweep the entire World Champion Bull competition – $25,000 regular season title, $25,000 World Finals title and $100,000 world title – and bring home $150,000 for D&H Cattle Company.
Last year, Bruiser won the Finals and the World Championship, while Pearl Harbor took home the regular season title.
A world title for Bruiser would also give D&H Cattle Company a fourth consecutive World Champion Bull title. Terry Williams Bucking Bulls is the only other stock contractor/company to win four straight championships.
Williams won four straight with four different bulls – Baby Face, Panhandle Slim, Moody Blues and Promise Land.
What if Mauney does not make the World Finals?
This easily could be a non-story by the end of this weekend, but what if two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney does not make the World Finals?
Mauney begins the second half in a highly unlikely position – 39th in the world standings.
Mauney’s first season back from his career-threatening shoulder injury at the 2017 Calgary Stampede has been a house of horrors for the future Ring of Honor inductee. The 31-year-old is 7-for-22 (31.82 percent) in only eight premier series events after tearing his groin in the season-opener in New York and missing the final four first half events following a broken back in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The North Carolina bull rider competed in only two summer events, sticking with his now normal routine of resting and healing up during the summer break.
Mauney showed glimpses of his old self at the Calgary Stampede, going 2-for-4.
It is hard to imagine Mauney not getting back inside the Top 35 and qualifying for a 13th consecutive PBR World Finals.
The odds of Mauney missing the Finals are certainly low, especially with him being such a strong rider in the second halves of seasons.
Mauney is 186-for-334 (55.69 percent) from Aug. 1 through the PBR World Finals in his career.
Will there be a Brazilian World Champion not named Silvano Alves for the first time in eight years?
Is this the year that Brazil finally gets back on top of the PBR mountain?
It’s been four years since Silvano Alves was the last Brazilian World Champion, and it has been eight years since a Brazilian not named Silvano Alves has won the gold buckle and its accompanying $1 million bonus.
Brazil has as good a chance as ever to finish the year with a World Championship thanks to seven of the Top 10 riders in the world hailing from South America.
However, Brazil has had plenty of riders in the world title conversation since the PBR unveiled its latest points system in 2015 and still failed to see their flag finish on top.
The likes of Kaique Pacheco, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Eduardo Aparecido and Fabiano Vieira were unable to finish the job at the World Finals the last three seasons.
Can Pacheco, Claudio Montanha Jr., Ramon de Lima, Luciano de Castro, Jose Vitor Leme, Aparecido or Dener Barbosa put an end to the Brazilian gold buckle drought?
Will Cody Teel become only the second bull rider in history to win championships in both the PRCA and PBR?
Cody Teel may be fully dedicated to the PBR these days, but it is easy to forget the 26-year-old has a 2012 PRCA championship buckle around his waist.
Teel is a quiet dark horse in the PBR world title conversation after dropping to 11th in the world standings since undergoing left ankle surgery in March.
Therefore, Teel could potentially become only the second rider in history to win bull riding championships in both the PRCA and PBR.
Tuff Hedeman is the only bull rider so far to have pulled off the feat.
Most recently, Shane Proctor and J.W. Harris came up short in their attempts at joining Hedeman in the record books.
Teel returned to competition in June and trails Pacheco by 1,645.84 points.
Will the Rookie of the Year race actually become a race?
The Rookie of the Year race feels as if it is Keyshawn Whitehorse vs. the field, but that can certainly change between now and the World Finals, especially if Whitehorse’s riding hand injury worsens in the second half.
Whitehorse begins the stretch run to the Finals at No. 14 in the world standings and is 335.83 points ahead of No. 2 rookie Alex Marcilio.
The 21-year-old could also make history by becoming the first rookie to win the World Championship.
Whitehorse, though, needs to overcome a 1,900-point deficit to catch No. 1 Kaique Pacheco, and Whitehorse is not competing in Tulsa because of the hand injury.
Other Rookie of the Year eligible riders include No. 27 Marcos Gloria, No. 29 Brock Radford, No. 40 Tye Chandler, No. 45 Juan Carlos Contreras, No. 47 Chase Robbins and No. 51 Brady Oleson.
Radford was one of the most intriguing rookies that could make a run at Whitehorse in the second half.
He went a combined 21-for-45 (46.67 percent) across PBR events in Canada, Australia and the United States this summer to earn him a spot on the premier series after appearing in six UTB events in the first half.
However, Radford sustained a knee injury (torn ACL, MCL, partial meniscus) and there is no timetable for his return. He will likely get a follow-up on Monday to see if surgery is necessary.
Other riders that may become ROY eligible once they crack the Top 30 of the world standings include No. 33 Lonnie West, No. 35 Alisson de Souza and No. 37 Colten Jesse.
West, Souza and Jesse had impressive summer performances and could also make a push for Rookie of the Year if Whitehorse stubs his toe.
Let’s not forget as well that the entire Rookie of the Year race can be twisted upside down if a rookie can duplicate the kind of performance Jose Vitor Leme had last year.
Leme went 6-for-6 in his first premier series event to win the World Finals event average and stunningly snare the Rookie of the Year title from Dener Barbosa.
Can Dener Barbosa finish the season with a riding percentage of 65 percent or higher?
Speaking of Barbosa.
Barbosa missed the final seven premier series events of the first half because of a broken foot. However, Barbosa was knocking down 8-second rides at an alarming rate prior to the injury.
The 24-year-old was 19-for-28 (67.86 percent) until Clemon Time put an end to his dominantly consistent start to the season.
Barbosa said this summer he still believes he can win the 2018 World Championship if he rides like he did prior to getting hurt. Frankly, he will most likely need to ride at that same 60-percent clip to make up ground on Pacheco and truly put himself back into the world title conversation.
The last two riders to finish the season with a 60 percent or higher riding average?
2015 World Champion J.B. Mauney (60 percent) and three-time World Champion Silvano Alves (2012, 2011).
No rider has finished with a 65 percent or higher average since Alves did in 2011 (68.32 percent).
Can Buttar become first Canadian to finish in the Top 5 of the world standings?
There is always talk about which Canadian bull rider will become the first to win the PBR World Championship or the PBR World Finals.
However, what about starting with a Top-5 finish?
So far in the PBR’s previous 24 seasons the highest a Canadian has finished in the standings is No. 8.
Tanner Byrne finished 2015 ranked eighth in the world standings and he heads into Tulsa ranked 23rd in the world standings.
It is easy to forget about the standout season Dakota Buttar is having; the Canadian begins the stretch run sitting in 13th place in the world.
Buttar sits only 1,777.5 points behind the world No. 1 ranking, and only 815 points behind No. 5 Luciano de Castro.
ABBI Classic reset
Tulsa will also be an ABBI Classic event with some of the top 3- and 4-year-old bucking bulls descending upon the BOK Center.
Previous ABBI Classic Champions Bushwacker, Long John and Bruiser later went on to win World Champion Bull titles.
At the end of the regular ABBI Classic season, the Top 40 bulls (based on earnings) qualify for the ABBI Classic World Finals in Las Vegas. Those Top 40 bulls will go head-to-head in two rounds of competition under the Top 40 PBR riders in the world for a chance to win the ABBI Classic Champion title and $100,000. This bull will be decided from his Top 6 scores headed into the Finals, in addition to his two performances at the PBR World Finals. The ABBI World Finals Classic Event Champion will earn the title and $100,000 from his two performances at the PBR World Finals.
Here is a quick look at the Top 5 Classic Bulls in the ABBI standings heading into the stretch run.
1. Blue Crush
2. Hocus Pocus
3. Big Black
5. Mind Freak
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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