SAN JOSE, Calif. – Reigning three-time PRCA champion bull rider Sage Kimzey isn’t thinking about redemption when he arrives in Las Vegas this coming weekend for the 2017 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals.
Instead, Kimzey is focused rather on taking advantage of huge opportunity that sits in front of him.
Kimzey informed the PBR Competition Department on Monday that he has accepted an invitation as the reigning PRCA champion bull rider to compete at the upcoming Velocity Tour Finals on Oct. 28-30 at South Point Arena.
“Not only is the Velocity Finals a very large event, but you have a chance to qualify for the World Finals,” Kimzey said in an exclusive interview with PBR.com. “The only thing I can control is staying on all my bulls and let the chips fall as they may. Hopefully that ends with a Velocity title, an event title and a spot at the World Finals.
“That is the whole reason I am going out there. I am not going out there to win second, that’s for sure, but first thing first is I have to stay on my bulls.”
Fans can watch the Velocity Tour Finals exclusively and in real-time on PBR.com. The action begins Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET.
For the second consecutive year, the PBR extended invitations to the PRCA champion (Kimzey), the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo champion (Cole Melancon), the 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo champion (Trey Holston), the 2016 Indian National Finals champion (Cody Jesus) and four PBR international champion riders to compete at the Velocity Tour Finals.
The four PBR international champions invited to the Velocity Finals are Troy Wilkinson (Australia), Jose Vitor Leme (Brazil), Zane Lambert (Canada) and Francisco Morales (Mexico). The highest finishing international invite not ranked in the Top 35 of the world standings will earn an automatic bid to the World Finals.
Kimzey will qualify for the World Finals if he finishes in either the Top 2 in the final Velocity Tour standings or in the Top 2 of the event average.
If the top two finishers at the Velocity Tour Finals are ranked inside the Top 35 of the world standings, then the two spots will be filled by any non-Top 35 rider who finished in the Top 5 of the event average.
This will be the second consecutive year that Kimzey will attempt to use the Velocity Finals playoff weekend to qualify for the World Finals.
To be blunt, things didn’t go too well for Kimzey last year.
Kimzey finished in 12th place after going 1-for-3 and failed to qualify for the championship round.
The Strong City, Oklahoma, bull rider was first bucked off by Switch Hitter in 4.52 seconds before bouncing back in Round 2 with an 85-point ride on Scary Harry.
In Round 3, Alligator Arms whipped Kimzey off just before 8 seconds at the 7.82-second mark.
Did Kimzey underestimate the competition and the bull power that awaited him?
“I don’t think I really underestimated it,” Kimzey said. “The first bull I got on. Switch Hitter really good bull. He threw me off pretty handedly (in 4.52 seconds). It was one of those deals he beat me out of the chute and I just couldn’t get back to him. Then I had Alligator Arms rode dead easy and it was one of the weirdest phenomenons that ever happened to me in bull riding. His tail wrapped around my free arm and jerked me off. I just took it as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. It is what it is. At that point, if that freak thing didn’t happen, I make the short round and who knows what would have happened.”
“It just wasn’t enough. So this year I am going to go out there and make sure I take care of business.”
Kimzey also echoed what other PRCA riders, such as four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris, 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel and Brennon Eldred, have said about competing in the PBR.
“Really, the atmosphere is just so much different at just a bull riding event compared to a rodeo,” Kimzey said. “You hear it all the time with every guy that switches over from the PRCA events to the PBRs. Obviously, you are getting on good bulls. Riding good bulls is what I do for a living. So the bulls, I am not worried about at all. Man, just adjusting to the atmosphere. The atmosphere and the feelings around the event are very different from one another.
“At the end of the day, it shouldn’t affect my job of getting the bull rode for 8 seconds.”
Kimzey is once again on pace for a fourth consecutive PRCA championship, and he will head into the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo No. 1 in the bull riding standings with $237,152.27 in earnings on the rodeo trail. The PRCA standings are based on money earned, unlike the PBR’s point system. Kimzey has won 15 events across the rodeo trail, according to ProRodeo.com this season.
The 23-year-old also was victorious at two major PBR-sanctioned bull ridings competing against some of the PBR’s top bull riders at RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN and the Calgary Stampede.
Kimzey also became one of only five riders to ever reach 8 seconds on 2017 PBR World Champion Bull contender Pearl Harbor when he rode Chad Berger’s bovine superstar for 92 points during a $20,000 exhibition bull riding matchup in Mandan, North Dakota.
Those three victories, combined with his PRCA earnings, has netted the Strong City, Oklahoma, bull rider $752,085. A Velocity Tour Finals victory, and a trip to the World Finals, would only add to what has already been a career-year for Kimzey.
“World titles are not about who gets hot when, it is about who doesn’t get cold the whole year,” Kimzey said. “That is what I think I have done a lot better this year. I just haven’t gone through any cold streaks at all. I haven’t went on an absolute heater besides the month of July, but I never got real cold. I just feel like I am always prepared to have a breakout victory when I get on the back of one.”
Kimzey is 26-for-36 (72.22 percent) in Las Vegas at non-PBR bull ridings and has thrived inside the Thomas & Mack Center between the historic yellow bucking chutes of the NFR.
There is no question Kimzey has been the best bull rider in North America not competing in the PBR this year, but it remains to be seen if Kimzey’s dominant PRCA success will translate to the PBR.
Still, Kimzey said he isn’t looking for redemption following a disappointing showing in 2016.
“Not so much redemption, honestly,” Kimzey said. “Last year, I almost had a chip on my shoulder and felt like I had something to prove. This year it is a lot different. With the success I had, I feel like I am a lot more comfortable in my shoes as a bull rider. I am looking forward to a great opportunity to win a bunch of money.”
Kimzey has said multiple times this year that a PBR run is in his future, even though he has yet to commit to one.
A victory at the Velocity Tour Finals could indeed be a breakout win for Kimzey.
A PBR World Championship is certainly out of the picture in 2017, and, yes, it is dangerous looking too far ahead, but Kimzey has certainly thought about the possibility of winning the 2017 PBR World Finals event average in two weeks at T-Mobile Arena.
“I definitely am thinking of all that stuff,” Kimzey said. “Making and winning the World Finals is definitely on my mind, but I know I have a pretty tall task to get there. Really, you hear it all the time, but I really am going to take it one bull at a time because each one of them is so important to get me to where I have that opportunity.
"If I can get by all of them, I think I have a pretty good chance at getting into the World Finals. Then that is a whole other monster in itself.”
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