LAS VEGAS – Justin McDaniel’s ninth-round paycheck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo wasn’t worth as much in comparison to what he’d earned the rest of the week, but it was just as important.
McDaniels, 24, of Porum, Okla., rode the Smith, Harper & Morgan horse Baby Doe for 81 points, splitting the last piece of the round’s financial pie with Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas, on Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. He added $1,412 to his NFR earnings, which moved to $58,279.
But the score helped McDaniel stay atop the average standings with a cumulative total of 753 points on nine rides, and if he can maintain that lead through Saturday’s final night of the 10-round fistfight, he will add another $44,910 to his pocketbook by winning the NFR.
“You can’t think about that; you think about riding the best you can,” said McDaniel, the 2008 world champion. “If you ride your best, all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
Friday also marked the eighth straight round in which the young Oklahoman earned a paycheck in Las Vegas. He entered ProRodeo’s championship eighth in the world standings with $81,850. He’s moved to sixth and has pocketed more than $140,000 in 2010.
What’s even bigger is that he did so in just six months – he missed the first half of the season with a back injury that required surgery in February, then months of rehabilitation.
Now he’s competing for his second world championship. He trails world standings leader Steven Dent of by less than $30,000, but Dent is eighth in the average race with a cumulative total of 696 points. McDaniel carries a seven-point aggregate lead over Bobby Mote, who is No. 2 in the average and world standings.
It all comes down to Saturday night, just like all championships should.