Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves threw down the gauntlet in Round 2, putting the team roping field on notice with a 3.8-second run that catapulted them into the lead in the PRCA world standings.
"He came left in the run-through pretty hard, but if he didn't just peel straight in front of me I knew it would be all right," Egusquiza said.
The Florida-born header laid the barrier back and delivered on his second swing.
"He headed him fast, that's what he does," Graves said. "He did want to step a little bit left, and we ended up getting a good finish to allow us to be 3.8."
The horse responsible for Egusquiza's long-game right now is a 16-year-old gelding named Jack, who Egusquiza bought just a month and a half ago, after his good horse Dude went out with an eye injury.
"It's kind of a freak deal," Egusquiza, who's in his third Finals appearance, said. "He brought him to my house and I ran five or six on him, and I liked him and wrote him a check. I haven't had him very long. This might be, besides from the Stockyards over in Fort Worth, I think this is his first rodeo. He's real easy. A kid was high school rodeoing on him, and I didn't think a whole lot about it like he was going to be one of my best horses, but I bought him because he felt good. He was so easy, and he pulls a lot like my other horse. Finishes good, scores good, I really like him."
Graves rode Dual Chip, the great brown gelding he bought from Joseph Harrison. That's the same horse he won San Antonio aboard this February.
"Chip was good all winter, but I haven't rode him probably two months," Graves, in his 12th Finals appearance, said. "He had some abscess issues, and he's just had trouble with that. But I'm just getting him back in the knick of time. He's so easy, and he's got a short neck and he stops really well. You can't catch him off guard. He finishes the run pretty well. He'll also let you place your loop down there where he's not too tight. He's a really good horse and I'm fortunate to have him. I just want to keep plucking along here."
Florida's Egusquiza, 25, now has 118,599.12 in year-end points. Oklahoma's Graves, 36, has 110,937 in year-end points.
[Read More: The 2020 NFR Payout Breakdown]
While the PRCA has yet to release the official NFR payout, George Taylor did confirm with TRJ earlier this year that the event would pay a minimum of $6 million, with the go-rounds paying at least $15,738.46 a man to win. But the association is awarding points at the Finals this year to calculate the standings, meaning the go-round winners Egusquiza and Graves will receive 26,230.77 in points toward the standings.
Notably, NFR newcomers Nelson Wyatt and Levi Lord have their first two steers down in 11.3 seconds, putting them second in the average early on behind Egusquiza and Graves. TRJ
1. Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves, 3.8, 26,230.77 each
2. Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves, 4.4, 20,730.77 each
3. Nelson Wyatt and Levi Lord, 4.5, 15,653.85 each
4. Chad Masters and Wesley Thorp, 4.7, 11,000 each
5. Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins, 4.9, 6,769.23 each
6. Charly Crawford and Logan Medlin, 5.0, 4,230.77 each
Clay Tryan and Jake Long: 5.3
Jeff Flenniken and Tyler Worley: 5.2 + 5
Erich Rogers and Paden Bray: 5.6 + 5
Levi Simpson and Shay Carroll: NT
Cody Snow and Junior Nogueira: 4.3 + 10
Clay Smith and Jade Corkill: NT
Luke Brown and Joseph Harrison: 4.3 + 5
Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan: NT
Kolton Schmidt and Hunter Koch: NT