Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira have been biding their time, knocking down steer after steer in steady fashion until they drew one that made it easy on them to be fast in Round 4—fast enough to win the go and $26,996.67 a man.
The win kept them in hot contention for the world title, moving Driggers into first with $183,759.78 and maintaining Nogueira's no. 1 spot with $198,144.88. They are first in the average with a time of 18.20 seconds on four head, just 0.3 seconds ahead of Clay Smith and Jade Corkill, who are second in the average and third and second in the PRCA World Standings, respectively, with $163,678.27 each. Smith and Corkill were 5.0 in Round 4 and did not place in the go for the first night this week.
"My plan has been the whole time to go at all of them and be aggressive," Driggers, 31, said. "I've started with the mentality of catching all 10 before, but then you stub your toe and you're behind the 8-ball and then you start trying to go at rounds and it's hard to make up the time. I told Junior that I might miss a couple coming in here, but I'm just going to go at them as hard as we can and stack up as much money as we can. We've been trying to rope each steer for each steer."
"We had a good steer, and Kaleb took a great start," Nogueira, 31, said. "He roped him so fast, and I wasn't all around him, but Timon was doing a great job and I was a little bit inside, not bad, but he helped me a lot. He handled perfect, come back and opened up, so I just took a pretty safe, good shot. It was fast, but you know, it was a good run and Kaleb did all the work. I just finished the run.
Driggers is riding Cuervo, the 13-year-old bay gelding registered as Remis Gays On Ofadoc. The horse came from 2020 NFR header Jeff Flenniken, who rode the horse during most of his 2020 regular season.
"I got him in March and he fit like a glove from the very beginning," Driggers said. "I'm hoping and praying that he stays sound for 10 days. That was one of the major reasons I hadn't bought him already. He wasn't 100% sound, and I was a little bit nervous—I was trying horses for $100–$200,000, and I wasn't clicking like I was with him. My wife said, 'You know what, just buy that horse.' Thankfully, I did and I just use him at the good rodeos and I don't jackpot on him. He's so consistent and easy and let's me handle the steer good for Junior."
The horse had an old deep flexor tear, and Driggers keeps him with Danita Walker to keep him sound when he's off the road.
"I hate to say it but, honestly, he might be the best one I've rode here. He doesn't ever try to take my rope. Last night, I got a weird go—got picked up at the line. The steer didn't start great, and [Cuervo] let me just pull it back down and catch the steer. A lot of horses that have a good move here are already making that move right there, whereas he just freed back up and went and caught that steer. He isn't the strongest horse; he doesn't pull them very strong. But he gets a hold of them good and gets them opened up early for Junior and finishes pretty good."
Nogueira rode Kiehne's Frosty Pepto, the 11-year-old buckskin gelding he's ridden since 2019. The horse came from Maryland's Kenny Brown.
"He's been really good everywhere pretty much," Nogueira said. "The more you ride him, the better he gets. He's really good in small buildings."
With six rounds to go, Driggers and Nogueira top the NFR earnings list with $64,429.38 each on the week. Smith and Corkill follow with $53,108.07 each.
"It's way too early to be considering the average," Driggers said. "There's so much money to be won in the rounds, and we'll keep going, roping every steer we get. We might not have a go-round steer tomorrow. So we're just going to keep roping every steer for what we draw and hopefully have our name in the hat at the end."
1. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira. 4.1, $26,996.97 each
2/3. Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves, 4.4, $18,723.71 each
2/3. Quinn Kesler and Joseph Harrison, 4.4, $18,723.71 each
4. Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler, 4.7, $11,321.31 each
5. Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins, 4.8, $6,966.96 each
6. Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan, 4.9, $4,354.35 each
795 Clint Summers and Ross Ashford NT
785 Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan 4.9
797 Tyler Wade and Trey Yates 20.0
789 Clay Tryan and Jake Long 7.7
768 Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp 5.5
756 Clay Smith and Jade Corkill 5.0
798 Erich Rogers and Paden Bray 5.0 + 5
796 Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira 4.1
779 Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves 4.4
773 Quinn Kesler and Joseph Harrison 4.4
792 Coy Rahlmann and Douglas Rich 4.0 + 5
780 Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins 4.8
784 Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin NT
787 Derrick Begay and Brady Minor NT
791 Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler 4.7