CHICAGO – Chandler Bownds peered through his Ray-ban eyeglasses and glanced around Allstate Arena on Friday night.
The 27-year-old may have never competed on the PBR premier series before, or even at Allstate Arena, but Bownds had no sense of nerves competing for $50,000 at the WCRA Windy City Roundup.
“No, I have never won that much in one night,” Bownds said prior to the long round. “When you are in a building like this, it always raises your game and the guys you are competing against. When you go to big venues, you always want to step up.
“I have been to a lot of big places, but this is one I would like to get under my belt.”
Bownds is no stranger to the bright lights and some of the biggest stages in rodeo.
The 2011 PRCA Rookie of the Year is a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier and won the 2015 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
Still, Bownds has yet to break through just yet in his PBR career since leaving the full-time rodeo trail at the end of 2015.
Bownds took a big step toward potentially making his PBR premier series debut on Friday night.
The Lubbock, Texas, bull rider finished runner-up during the bull riding competition at the WCRA Windy City Roundup – a $1 million rodeo – to earn 127.5 points toward the PBR world standings.
Bownds split the long round victory with Derek Kolbaba (88.5 points on Soup In A Group) when he rode Biker Bob for 88.5 points.
“He was a little in and out, but he gave me enough time to get around there,” Bownds said. “Right out of there he kicked in the bucking chute and he set me right up there where I needed to be. He felt really good when he was around to the left. I kept fighting to get to the front and stay in there a little bit. It was awesome. It worked out.”
Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger admittedly was surprised by Bownds’ performance.
“I will tell you who really impressed me, Chandler Bownds on Biker Bob,” Berger said. “I really was. Away from his hand. He made a hell of a ride. It was real good. Either one of those guys could have won the round. Flip a coin there.”
In the Championship Match Round, Bownds was no match for Handsome Jeff, though, and was bucked off in 4.87 seconds.
Bownds made a classy gesture as he grabbed his bull rope from the arena floor. Kolbaba was finishing up his pre-chute procedure before Bownds walked over and said “Bear down, Derek.”
Kolbaba did just that and took Testified to the 8-second mark (84 points) and a $67,675.91 payday.
The runner-up in the 2018 PBR World Championship race admitted he heard Bownds’ words of encouragement.
“That is the other cool part about the sport that you are not going to see in any other professional sport,” Kolbaba said. “I told Chandler (earlier) to set the bar high. That is just kind of how we feed off each other. It damn sure is not me against him. It is me against the bull and vice versa. It all works out in the end and I am sure we are all buddies through it all.
“When he was younger and first starting he was one of the baddest cats there was. It is only a matter of time before he gets everything together.”
Bownds, who won $17,675.91, left Chicago on Saturday around mid-morning in his Dodge pickup truck rental with his father, Woody, to begin a 4-hour drive to Toledo, Ohio, for the Toledo Invitational Velocity Tour event.
He is slated to face off against Prankster in Round 1.
“To get to come to these big events. That is where guys want to be,” Bownds said. “That is why I want to be on the PBR tour. That is the main thing. Do good the first of the year. That way you can get on tour and be there all year. That is my plan.”
Stock contractor Kenny McElroy said he was excited to see how his K-Bar-C Bucking Bulls bovine athlete debuts against Bownds.
“He is a bull we raised,” McElroy said. “I just had to ease him along. I haven’t had anybody make the first jump on him. I actually hung a dummy on him to see what is actually going to happen because I haven’t seen him make it two jumps. I am happy to see Chandler test him and see what I got.”
Bownds – the No. 17 ranked bull rider in the world – believes his window to qualify for the PBR World Finals for the first time and ride on the Unleash The Beast is not closing.
“That is the thing,” Bownds said. “I still feel young. I come to some of these events and there are kids that are just 18. I am like, ‘Man I used to be there.’
“It is crazy. Time flies when you are having fun getting to travel and go to these events. I kind of thought about going to the PBR sooner, but I loved rodeoing. That was my dream to make the NFR at a young age. I am glad to have conquered that dream and those goals, but I would love to be able to say I made the PBR Finals too.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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