PUEBLO, Colo. – Brennon Eldred can finally exhale and turn his focus 100 percent toward qualifying for the 2017 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.
With the conclusion of the PRCA regular-season, the No. 28 ranked PBR bull rider is now at ease knowing he will be making a fourth consecutive trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo after finishing the regular season 12th in the PRCA standings with $92,990.92.
“It was pretty difficult,” Eldred admitted during this weekend’s Rumble in the Rockies. “I am not going to lie. It was hard, but I feel like I am starting to settle in and get comfortable. It was a weight off my shoulders to know I got that made and I can just focus on this.”
Eldred had to compete at roughly 46 rodeos this year to make sure he finished inside the Top 15 of the PRCA standings and earn a trip to Las Vegas.
You combine that with the 26 PBR events at all levels of competition that Eldred has competed at, and you can bet the Sulphur, Oklahoma, bull rider is happy to finally have one of his goals for 2017 complete.
“That was the toughest thing,” Eldred said Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I feel like it is hard being at the top of both. Doing both, you are kind of going to be middle of the field and mediocre. It is hard to be at the top of both of them.”
2017 was the first year Eldred set out to try and qualify for the NFR and the PBR World Finals.
The process has only resulted in Eldred having more respect for Shane Proctor.
Proctor has qualified for the NFR and PBR World Finals in the same season four times. The 2016 NFR event average winner, however, fell short of qualifying for the 2017 NFR by $18,609.21.
“I have the most respect for Shane Proctor than anybody in that locker room,” Eldred said. “You have to be one tough sucker to do that and it is a long, grueling season. You have to dig down deep and grind it out. It is tough.”
Even though it was one of the hardest things Eldred ever attempted to accomplish in his young bull riding career, the 22-year-old did say it was “easier” than he expected.
“I went to the least of amount rodeos I ever went to this year,” Eldred said. “It got tough at the end with these starting back up. (I had to) go to rodeos I normally wouldn’t because I needed to or had to go to catch up.”
Fellow PBR bull rider Jordan Hansen also qualified for the NFR after finishing the PRCA regular season in 13th place ($92,660.02).
Hansen is the first Canadian bull rider since 2001 to have qualified for the NFR.
“That is pretty neat,” Hansen said two weeks ago in Uniondale, New York. “It hasn’t been done in 18 years, so it is pretty cool.”
Hansen was unable to compete in Colorado Springs because of an undisclosed injury.
Eldred admitted it will likely be tough to catch current PRCA bull riding leader Sage Kimzey, who is going for a fourth consecutive PRCA title.
Eldred will begin the NFR in December $144,161.35 behind Kimzey in the standings.
“He would have to slip, for sure, but there is always a chance in anything,” Eldred said. “The sleeper can come up and slay him from behind. I am going to just ride my bulls one at a time and see where the chips may end up.”
It wasn’t until the middle of September that Eldred felt comfortable enough to think he was close to clinching a trip to the NFR.
Eldred used a victory in Abilene, Texas, and a second-place finish at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Xtreme Bulls event to essentially lock himself inside the Top 15.
“I didn’t really know how it would work with where I was sitting in the PBR (this fall),” Eldred said. “I hit a good couple of good licks and was able to relax.”
A week later, Eldred rode Red Fury for a PBR career-high 87.25 points in Uniondale, New York.
The rookie is in contention for qualifying for his first career PBR World Finals with three Built Ford Tough Series regular-season events remaining.
The PRCA uses total money earned throughout the year for NFR qualifications, while the PBR World Finals qualifiers are based on world standings points earned in PBR-sanctioned events.
Eldred is 276.66 points ahead of No. 35 Alex Marcilio after using an 85.5-point ride on Tie One On this past weekend in Colorado Springs to earn 20 world points.
“That is exciting, and this is the time where we have to grind it out, dig down deep and fight for that spot to get there,” Eldred said. “I am going to take it bull for bull and my main job is every time that gate opens is show up. That is all I can do.”
Eldred is 8-for-24 (33.33 percent) in 10 BFTS events.
If Eldred can qualify for the World Finals, he could try and become the first bull rider to win both the NFR and the PBR World Finals event averages in the same season.
“That is what I am shooting for, of course,” he said. “That is a difficult trail ahead, but that is my goal for sure. I want to win the PBR Finals and then go win the NFR.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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