Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 | 6 p.m.
2013 Wrangler NFR Round 9
“Mission accomplished,” said 27-year-old Texan J.W. Harris as he grabbed the bull by the horns to finally win his fourth world championship gold buckle in six years Friday night at the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“Man, it’s been long overdue to say that I’m the four-time world champion,” said the gritty and confident bull rider. “It should’ve been six in a row. I set out to win the gold buckle this year, and then to accomplish it feels pretty good.
“This title feels better because there have been a lot of people out there saying I was too old to win another world title and that I was done. I don’t feel like I’m too old for anything, and I think I have 10 more years left in me.”
Nearly 18,000 screaming fans were at our Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV to cheer on the man who hadn’t won the title the last two years despite being at the top of the world standings most of this season.
Texas country artist Aaron Watson opened the show with his tribute song to the late world champion bull rider Lane Frost, the subject of the film “8 Seconds” starring Luke Perry as Lane. Daryle Singletary, who performs at the Mirage tonight, sang the national anthem.
Wondering how many titles J.W, who won three in a row from 2008-2010, thinks he can win?
“I’m not going to set a number because I don’t want to sell myself short,” he said. “I know I want to beat Donnie Gay’s record of eight, so that’s the goal, but I won’t put a number on how many titles I want or how many more years I’m going to ride.”
J.W. was bucked off in Wednesday and Thursday night’s rounds, equaling his worst streak of the season. “Honestly, it’s been a disappointing Finals for me because I wanted to win the average, as well,” he added. “I know there’s still one round left, but I wanted to win the world and average, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be 9-for-9 right now. One of my goals was to ride all 10 here, but I couldn’t get that done.”
In the Wright vs. Wright vs. Wright family feud, Cody Wright broke through in saddle bronc riding to claim his first round win after watching his younger brothers — twins Jake and Jesse Wright — win five rounds.
Jake had four of those round wins but missed out Friday night, damaging his chance of winning his first gold buckle, after brother Jesse won the title last year. Cody was the world champ in 2008 and 2010 and entered the Finals leading the standings, but Jake had taken over the top spot in money won. Cody is ninth in the average, and Jake slipped to sixth Friday night.
Shane Hanchey took a big step toward his first world championship by winning tie-down roping in Round 9 in 7.4 seconds ahead of Trevor Brazile, the 19-time gold buckle winner who finished fifth Friday night.
Team ropers Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves claimed their first round win of the Finals with a time of 3.6 seconds. They’re second in the world standings and ninth in the average. First-time WNFR qualifier Stan Branco had a childhood dream come true when he won the fast-paced steer wrestling in 3.5 seconds, his first round win.
Ryan Gray celebrated the upcoming birth of his first child by collecting his fifth check and first round win of the Finals on a wild feisty bucking horse. Ryan and Lacy, his wife of seven years, have a due date of Jan. 4, and the winnings help. Ryan hit $47,476 at the Finals and is third in the world with $155,763. “That money will go a long way in the diaper world,” he laughed.
Barrel racer Lisa Lockhart got her second round win of the Finals with a time of 13.65 seconds. She’s fourth in the average and fifth in the world standings. Sherry Cervi tied for third in 13.89 seconds. She leads the average, has an advantage of more than $44,000 in the world standings and has all but wrapped up her fourth world championship.
Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his all-action photos and to the WNFR for its assistance with this report. Check back Sunday for the wrap of the finals and again Monday for our world championship gold buckle presentation coverage.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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