As most Americans are dealing with students returning to school and the end of summer, a handful of professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls are logging hundreds of miles chasing down the ultimate prize: a trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR). The SuperBowl of rodeo, the event is held each December in Las Vegas but is open only to the 15 highest money winners in each of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's (PRCA) six events as well as the Women's Pro Rodeo Association's (WPRA) barrel racing.
The cut-off for earning all important dollars towards the WNFR is September 30 leaving just six weeks of rodeo left for competitors battling for those final positions in the World standings and for those jockeying for a good position to try to earn a World championship come December.
The chase for 15th in each event is turning into an exciting race. For example, the difference between 16th ranked Seth Brockman and 15th ranked Wade Sumpter in the PRCA steer wrestling standings as of August 19, 2013 is a mere $218. Likewise in the bareback riding, 16th ranked Steven Dent is just $362 behind Clint Laye. Considering that competitors have been earning points since October 1, 2012, the small margins are bound to be heartbreaking for those contestants who end up on the wrong side of the bubble.
While there are just six weeks left, there is still plenty of prize money up for grabs. On the August 24-25 weekend, the top 30 cowboys (no barrel racing) will compete for a share of the huge prize money offered in San Juan Capistrano, California at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo. In 2012 each event paid out huge, over $4000 per event.
In the final month of the season, contestants have the chance to earn more cash at big rodeos like Ellensburg (WA) Rodeo, the New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo in Albuquerque and the Pendelton (OR) Round-Up along with a pair of Wrangler Million Dollar Tour events at Puyallup, Washington and Omaha, Nebraska. In addition to the big events, there are numerous smaller rodeos that cowboys will be trying to get to in order to earn the needed points.