Let’s face facts: Ryan Gray’s 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo sucked.
Gray, a seven-time NFR qualifier in bareback riding from Cheney, Wash., was stepped on after falling to the ground in the second round, suffering a lacerated liver. The world standings leader heading into the championship, Gray went on injured reserve and missed the rest of the finals.
In fact, he missed several of the first few rodeos of the 2011 campaign while recovering from the injury, including the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in its inaugural year in Oklahoma City. That injury was becoming a nuisance, but Gray persevered.
In fact, he returned to the NFR this past December and faired fairly well, winning nearly $45,000 in 10 days. He even won a go-round for the first time in seven years, riding Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night for 90 points to take the top prize on the fifth night.
That was just the whipped topping on a triumphant return to rodeo for the cowboy who spends a good portion of his time living near Lubbock, Texas, with his wife, Lacy; he also won the Columbia River Circuit’s bareback riding title and secured his first trip to Oklahoma City since National Circuit Finals moved to the Oklahoma capital a year ago.
“There’s a lot of added money there,” Gray said about the RNCFR, which takes place March 29-April 1 at State Fair Arena. “You have a lot of opportunity to win that money. Not only that, but they give away a pickup.”
With Ram as the title sponsor, each of the event winners earns a voucher for a vehicle. That comes in quite handy for cowboys and cowgirls who make their livings on the rodeo trail. Gray knows that well; he won the national title just two seasons ago.