LAS VEGAS – Ask any cowboy about the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and they’ll tell you about competing for world championships on the biggest name in rodeo.
They’ll also tell you about big money and the best chance to make it. Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla., knows that as well as anybody. Two seasons ago, the 24-year-old bareback rider won $126,292 inside the Thomas & Mack Center en route to the 2008 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bareback riding world championship.
Through four go-rounds of ProRodeo’s championship event, McDaniel has earned $24,714, which is the fourth best earnings of all bareback riders. This is his time to make a significant living, and he knows it. Of course, it helps that he added another $3,672 on Sunday night with his 85-point ride on J Bar J Rodeo’s Bar Bandit, which tied McDaniel with another world champion, 2004 winner Kelly Timberman of Mills, Wyo.
“That’s a good horse,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t get a good start, and after he went down the gate, he turned out pretty good. Luckily enough he was nice enough that I was able to get back into position and ride him pretty good.”
McDaniel is in contention for his second world championship with six rounds remaining. He sits seventh in the world standings with $106,565, trailing leader Steven Dent by about $63,000. But that ground can be made up quickly with go-round winners earning $17,512 per night and nearly $45,000 going to each average winner, the contestants in each event with the best cumulative time or score through all 10 go-rounds.
All this comes after the cowboy underwent back surgery this past February and didn’t compete from last December until early June this year. He entered the NFR with just less than $82,000 in earnings, something he picked up in less than four months. With the best bucking horses in Las Vegas for this competition, McDaniel said he’s had a lot of help staying healthy.
“The Justin Sportsmedicine Team has been great,” he said. “I’ve had the chiropractor, Shawn Scott, work on me and keep my hips lined out. That’s really helped me out this week, but the Justin guys have helped me all year long. It’s great to have them with us all year, and they’ve been great this week, for sure.”