Photos by Kirt Steinke
We're to the point in the week when those who worry about numbers really start to count every second and every penny and make their calculations, and Dustin Bird and Russell Cardoza did their very best in Round 8 to make things very interesting for them.
Bird and Cardoza won the go-round with a 3.70-second run, the fastest of the rodeo, netting $26,230.77 each.
"The start of the round was pretty soft," Bird said. "Then Wesley Thorp was 4.20, and Rogers come back and was 4.40. He had a tougher steer than we had. We had such a good steer, to lay off him we might have missed him. So we stayed hooked and caught him."
That money wasn't just important in the team roping race--where Bird and Cardoza are second in the PRCA world standings with $200,102.27 and $193,441.35, respectively--it extended Bird's lead in the all-around race, too, where he's first with $214,181.04. Bull dogger Clayton Hass, who is third in the all-around race, won the go-round tonight, putting the pressure on Bird.
"He's not looking at it but I am," Cardoza said of the rest of the all-around field. "When I saw him (Clayton) win the round, it made me try even harder and put more pressure on me. And if you don't get the pressure, you shouldn't be here."
Cardoza came into the Finals behind Bird in the all-around, and as partners, they'll win the same all week. Barring tragedy, the best Cardoza can finish is second in the all-around race.
"If we win the gold buckle in the team roping, that means he wins the gold buckle in the all-around," Cardoza said. "If we don't win the gold buckle in the team roping and he wins the all-around, I'll still be happier than hell."
Bird's and Cardoza's win came in a round that saw Junior Nogueira rope a leg, dropping him and Kaleb Driggers two spots to eighth in the average. Bird and Cardoza moved from seventh to sixth, making them the fastest team on six head at 35.10.
If everything ended tonight, Luke Brown and Jake Long, who won fifth in Round 8 with a 4.70, would take home the gold buckles according to the PRCA's projected world standings. Bird would finish in the reserve spot, and Cardoza would be third behind Long and Paul Eaves. Clay Smith and Eaves have been steady all week in Las Vegas, winning 'only' $49,769, but they've got seven down in 43.30. But of course, everything doesn't end tonight, and as we've seen time and time again, all it takes is one steer to turn the team roping world on its head.
1. Bird/Cardoza, 3.70, $26,230.77
2. Small/Thorpy, 4.20, $20,730.77
3. Rogers/Petska, 4.40, $15,653.85
4. Minor/Minor, 4.50, $11,000.00
5. Brown/Long, 4.70, $6,769.23
6. Smith/Eaves, 5.50, $4,230.77
1. Brown/Long, 37.50/7
2. Smith/Eaves, 43.40/7
3. Simpson/Buhler, 45.40/7
4. Rogers/Petska, 47.20/7
5. Minor/Minor, 61.30/7
6. Bird/Cardoza, 35.10/6