BILLINGS - First Interstate Arena's lower back parking lot will be filled with dirt and bull pens a week from Friday (April 29) when the Professional Bull Riders tour wraps up its regular season in Billings -- earlier than ever.
Effective this season the PBR slate is completely revamped.
A series that used to end in November now ends in May and with a wide open world title race, the move happens to benefit Billings fans as riders jockey for a tightly-contested top spot entering the world finals.
Jose Vitor Leme, who just won the PBR Tulsa stop, has run away with the last couple world titles. But he's not running away from anybody this season. Leme is chasing three other guys right now as bulls have held their own against cowboys this season.
How do your Montana guys fit in? Not great. Columbia Falls native Matt Triplett, who's battled injuries, is 25th on the leaderboard. Browning's Dakota Louis is No. 40. Volborg's two-time world champion Jess Lockwood isn't on the leaderboard. He's been nursing a shoulder injury since mid-February.
So, who is everybody chasing? Joao Ricardo Vieira — and what a great story he is. Vieira, who's been on top of your world standings for six weeks, has never won a world title. And the guy just won't quit. He's 37 years old, which would make him the oldest cowboy ever to win a PBR championship if he can stay hot. Approaching age 40, he seems to be riding bulls like he's 19.
One other note; not only are your PBR World Finals in May instead of November, but they've also bolted from Las Vegas to Fort Worth. And what used to be five nights of finals are now busted up between a pair of weekends. They'll go three rounds at Dickies Arena starting May 13, rest a few days, then buck through the final five rounds starting May 19.