BILLINGS, Mont. - For the PBR (Professional Bull Riders), Billings, Montana, also known as the Magic City, has proven to be just that and more for America’s original extreme sport. PBR’s annual Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) visit to Billings is the longest-running event for the organization. PBR makes its 22nd consecutive stop in the city this year at Rimrock Auto Arena on April 7-9 with the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
Since the first event in 1996, loyal Billings fans have witnessed many historical performances. They’ve seen past, present and future World Champions take home the event title, while the PBR has awarded more than $2.5 million in prize money to 20 different cowboys who have won in Billings.
One of those historical moments played out on the dirt last year in front of more than 20,000 fans, an attendance feat also reached during the PBR’s 20th anniversary in the city in 2015.
2004 World Champion Mike Lee, who was born in Billings, entered the three-day event with 499 qualified rides, poised to join Brazilian Guilherme Marchi as the only other rider in BFTS history to log 500 qualified rides. In Round 2 of the event, Lee etched his name in the history books when he rode Rockin I Rodeo’s Tahonta’s Magic for 86.75 points, his 500th qualified ride.
That same weekend, Jess Lockwood showed Montana fans and the bull riding world that his name was one to remember. In just his third BFTS event, the then 18-year-old high school student used back-to-back round wins to earn his first victory at the PBR’s elite level.
He won Round 3 after riding Jeff Robinson/TNT Bucking Bulls’ Alligator Arms for 89.5 points, but it was his ride in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round put the rookie on the map. In his final out of the event, Lockwood rode Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger/Clay Struve/Ken Barnhard’s Modified Clyde for 90.5 points, the teen’s first career 90-point BFTS ride and highest scored ride of the event. Lockwood would go on to earn six additional Top 5 finishes, 12 Top 10 finishes and two 90-point rides en route to winning the 2016 PBR rookie of the year title.
To date, six World Champions have emerged as the event winner in the PBR’s history in Billings. 1995 World Champion Tuff Hedeman won in 1996, followed by two-time winner and 1998 World Champion Troy Dunn (1999 and 2000), 1999 World Champion Cody Hart (1997) and two-time World Champions Chris Shivers (2001) and Justin McBride (2005). Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney was the last champion to win in Montana, taking the title in 2007, fresh of his Rookie of the Year performance in 2006.
The PBR’s ties to the state of Montana, however, aren’t limited to its annual stop in Billings. Four of the PBR’s top-riders hail from the Big Sky state; with Lee and reigning Rookie of the Year Lockwood, of Volborg, leading the Montana contingent.
Other Montana cowboys include Matt Triplett of Columbia Falls and Nevada Newman of Melstone, who is currently on the sidelines after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier in the 2017 season. Montanan’s can also look no further than the PBR’s official entertainer, Flint Rasmussen, for a fellow statesman who resides in Choteau.
The Top 35 bull riders in the world and the rankest bucking bulls in the country will bring their high-adrenaline action back to Billings April 7-9 at Rimrock Auto Arena where they will vie for their piece of the $140,000 payout. The stars of the PBR will face one bull each in Rounds 1 through 3. Immediately following Round 3 on Sunday, the riders’ individual scores will be totaled, and the Top 15 will advance to the Built Ford Tough Championship Round for one more ride and a chance at the $30,000 event title.
Billings is the 12th stop on the 2017 BFTS schedule. The season began in New York City at the world famous Madison Square Garden on Jan. 6-8, 2017, and will conclude with the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 1-5, 2017.
Tickets for the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, are on sale now and start at $17. They can be purchased at the MetraPark Arena Box Office, all MetraPark outlets, online at metrapark.com or by phone at 406-256-2400.
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