BIG SKY, Mont. – The first week of November promises to be a rowdy one in Las Vegas, Nevada, and 19-year-old Montana native Jess Lockwood is squarely in the ring.
The Built Ford Tough Series World Finals returns to Las Vegas Nov. 2-6 to crown Professional Bull Riders’ world champion, and BFTS rookie Lockwood is sitting at No. 5 in the standings. A rookie has never won the title in the 22-year history of the championship.
In an Oct. 20 interview, PBR CEO Sean Gleason said he’s been impressed with the freshman season from Volborg, Montana’s native son.
“Raw natural talent, extremely committed to success and devoted to learning the craft of bull riding,” Gleason said of Lockwood. “He’s got a little bit of a hill to climb, but only due to him joining us part way through the year.”
Lockwood missed the first 11 BFTS events while he was fighting his way onto the premier tour. He is 2077 points behind leader Kaique Pacheco heading into Las Vegas, and he wasn’t able to close the gap Oct. 22 and 23 in Tuscon, Arizona, coming out of the weekend without a point.
A total of 3,300 points are available during the six rounds of the World Finals, with 1,500 awarded to the top rider by average, and 300 points available to the winner of each round. To win the title, Lockwood needs to be the top rider by average and win two rounds—without the other top riders scoring big points.
PBR Finals Week kicks off with the BlueDEF Velocity Tour World Finals Oct. 29 and 30, and the best three riders along with the top international rider, will qualify for the BFTS World Finals.
Montana’s Big Sky PBR has been a BlueDEF stop since the tour’s debut in 2015, and has been voted by the bull riders as Event of the Year three years running. Big Sky’s sixth annual event, held last July, has a strong chance to take that title again, according to Gleason.
“[It’s] extremely well produced and a special outdoor setting,” he said. “The combination … makes it a great experience for everybody.”
The Built Ford Tough Series Finals this year moves from the Thomas and Mack Center to T-Mobile Arena, which opened in April. It’s a state-of-the art facility and Gleason said this year’s event is already the most economically successful World Finals in PBR’s history.
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler will play the headliner concert Nov. 5, and other musical acts during the weekend include George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Casey Donahew, Colt Ford, and Warrant, among many others.
With the top 20 bull riders still mathematically in contention for the world title, it’s anyone’s guess who might take home the title.
While Lockwood has work to do in order to bring a gold buckle back to the Treasure State, he’s impressed more than the top PBR brass throughout his rookie season.
Three Forks, Montana’s Andy and Jacey Watson travel with the Built Ford Tough Series documenting the competitions for Bull Stock Media. The Watsons also own Freestone Productions, which collaborates with Outlaw Partners (publisher of EBS) and Continental Construction to produce the Big Sky PBR.
“Being a 19 year old, he’s kind of a phenomenon,” Jacey said. “It’s rare you see someone come in that young, be so assertive and get to the top like he’s done. When I think of Jess I think of tenacity—he never gives up.”
“What makes him stand apart from other guys we see on the tour [is] he reached out to [PBR founder] Cody Lambert … and Cody invited him down to his ranch in Texas,” Andy added. “He’s not focusing just on the bull riding, but also the business side since he’s been catapulted to the spotlight.”
Lockwood has won more than $172,000 on tour this year, and will be looking to add to that total in Las Vegas. Not bad for a kid who can’t yet purchase alcohol.
Visit pbrworldfinals.com/buy-tickets/ to book your seats at the “Greatest Show on Dirt,” the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada.