Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira won Round 1 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, stretching their steer in 4.2 seconds to add $26,230.77 to each man's PRCA world standings total.
The win was a tick of the clock off their 4.1-second run that won Round 1 in 2017, and two tenths behind the time Driggers won Round 1 with in 2012 when he roped with Jade Corkill.
"You know, I've kind of been on the muscle every year I've came here, just trying to win first every time," Driggers said. "This year I've taken a little different outlook on it. I'm dang sure enjoying it and being excited but at the same time taking it all in stride. In the beginning and the end I'm always focused and I'm ready because there's something on the line. But in the middle I don't focus as good and I don't rope as good. If I can stay focused, we should be able to rope better."
Nogueira, like Driggers, has maintained a relaxed air about him throughout his NFR preparation.
"I am not even worrying about it," Nogueira said. "I just got to see the last team before us go, and I'm just trying to stay hooked and do my job."
The last team Nogueira got to watch before riding into the box was Clay Smith and Paul Eaves, who took a no-time with a miss on the head side. Nogueira extended his lead on Eaves with the go-round win, and Driggers, who sat second in the world heading into Round 1, jumped back to first ahead of Smith.
Driggers is aboard Yahtzee, the 14-year-old grey gelding that's passed through Trevor Brazile, Brandon Webb, then to Driggers, then Dustin Bird and now back to Driggers before he heads to new owner Cory Clark after the Finals.
Nogueira was of course on Green Card, the now 14-year-old gelding on which Nogueira won RFD-TV's The American this year and who he's ridden in the Thomas & Mack the bulk of the last two years.
NFR-first-timer Bubba Buckaloo spun his first steer for Chase Tryan, and Tryan nabbed him in 4.6 seconds to split second, third and fourth with his cousin Clay Tryan and Travis Graves and Luke Brown and Jake Long, worth $15,794.87 a man. Reigning world champ Erich Rogers and NFR-newbie Clint Summers got their first one down in 5.0, good enough for fifth and $6,769.23 each. The last clean time of the round was Rhen Richard and Quinn Kesler's 5.7-second-run, worth $4,230.77 a man for sixth.
In all-around news, Richard is the only one of the three men in all-around contention to pick up a Round 1 go-round check, as Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile both two-looped their calves in the tie-down. Richard also split sixth in the tie-down roping with a 8.5-second run, worth another $2,115.38.
Team Roping Round 1:
1. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, 4.2 seconds, $26,230.77 each
2/3/4. Clay Tryan and Travis Graves, 4.6 seconds, $15,794.87 each
2/3/4. Bubba Buckaloo and Chase Tryan, 4.6 seconds, $15,794.87
2/3/4. Luke Brown and Jake Long, 4.6 seconds, $15,794.87
5. Erich Rogers and Clint Summers, 5.0 seconds, $6,769.23
6. Rhen Richard and Quinn Kesler, 5.7 seconds, $4,230.77