Fans return for PBR team challenge championship
Team Cooper Tires takes home title
By Brandon Walker EBS STAFF
SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA – The Professional Bull Riders tour officially became the first professional sporting event in the U.S. to welcome spectators back to the arena on the weekend of July 10-12.
“It was an historic weekend for PBR, and all sports when you consider everyone’s goal is hosting fans back in the arena, safely and responsibly,” said PBR CEO Sean Gleason. “PBR is getting back to business in very challenging times, and getting back feels great. To begin the weekend, we were extremely fortunate to have all of our athletes, stock contractors and crew test negative for COVID-19.”
Following weeks of planning with state and local officials, PBR hosted fans for the culmination of the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In an email to EBS, Gleason applauded his staff’s efforts to continue providing PBR competition, including those without spectators, over the course of the pandemic.
“… That said, there’s nothing quite like bringing fans back into the arena for a full-blown PBR production, pyro and all. The excitement and energy level rises a notch,” Gleason said.
Back in the bucking chutes, Team Cooper Tires, led by the No. 1 ranked bull rider in the world Jose Vitor Leme, capped off a perfect 8-0 season with decisive victories over Team Ariat and Team Pendleton Whisky to capture the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge championship.
“This feels amazing in front of these great fans,” said Keyshawn Whitehorse of Team Cooper Tires. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
Having secured a first-round bye, Team Cooper Tires dispatched Team Ariat on July 11 by more than 255 event aggregate points at 344.75-89. Whitehorse showcased a strong performance in the matchup, completing both of his rides for the contest, while Leme added an 86.5 event aggregate point ride of his own.
In the championship match, Leme and Whitehorse came through again, completing the only two qualifying rides of the game versus Team Pendleton Whisky, resulting in a 177.25-0 shutout.
“I’m so happy and we’re so blessed to win,” Leme said. “I have to thank these guys with me, and the fans that were here this weekend. Thank you all.”
Leme’s efforts throughout the PBR team challenge were recognized when he was named the Built Ford Tough most valuable player. In total, he completed qualifying rides on 11 of the 16 bulls that he rode throughout the competition.
Gleason hopes to continue welcoming fans to arenas as PBR continues with competitions.
“… We will continue to work with local professionals up until the minute of each event to ensure that we are making safe and responsible decisions. Our goal is to provide a safe and controlled environment for our fans to continue to enjoy PBR responsibly,” he said.