BILLINGS – Anxiety is building and the clock’s ticking on the start of this year’s National Finals Rodeo Thursday in in Las Vegas.
It’s the world’s most prestigious and highest paying rodeo.
To qualify, contestants must finish the year Top 15 in the PRCA world money standings for their respective events. Every qualifier is paid $10,000 as, sort of a, Welcome to Vegas bonus.
Truth is, that’s nothing compared to the pay for winning a single performance. That’s $26,230.77. And to think they let it ride over and over through 10 sell-out nights. That’s a lot of bank.
What most contestants are really chasing is a world title.
Helena’s Ty Erickson has it in his cross hairs. He’s never won it all. A lot of people thought last year would be his, but everything that could go wrong pretty much did for him inside the arena.
To this point in 2017, Erickson looks a lot more driven. He enters steer wrestling ranked number one in the world, a position he’s held most of the season, now with a lead of over $45,000.
Also back representing Montana is three-time world champion Clay Tryan in team roping. He sat out last year competing on another tour. Tryan rides back in to the NFR with zero pressure. He’s 9th in the world, but well within striking distance of his fourth title.
Fellow Montanan Dustin Bird returns after coming oh so close to winning it all last year. The Cut Bank cowboy at the moment is 12th in the world.
Wyoming’s JR Vezain knows a thing or two about this party. He’s a five-time qualifier and now feeling healthy. Vezain sits fourth in the world bareback standings with over $113,000.
We’ll be following a newcomer in this year’s saddle bronc. Keep an eye on Brody Cress from Hillsdale, Wyoming. It’s about 20 miles east of Cheyenne. Cress is sixth in the saddle bronc with over $105,000. If he catches fire, he could in it all in his first ever trip.
In barrel racing, Circle native Lisa Lockhart is back, sauntering in with almost $100,000. Sitting 9th in the world, she’s not really a threat to win her first world title, but that just means she can ride fast and loose trying to bank all the nightly money she can.
The NFR opens Thursday in Las Vegas. You can watch every round on CBS Sports Network. Scott will be down there for *local coverage* — of your final four nights.