“…To all these years of searchin' / I finally found my spot / One way or another / Lord, I'm gonna make it down to / Little Rock…”
It has been three years since Arkansas native Chase Outlaw has been healthy enough to compete in front of his home state fanbase at an elite, televised PBR event, but as Hayes Carll sang in the 2005 title track to his acclaimed album Little Rock, Outlaw finally found his way home.
And it was an emotional homecoming for the 29-year-old from nearby Hamburg.
Friday night Outlaw covered Night Moves for 88.75 points, which was enough to secure him the ninth pick in the Championship Round bull draft on Saturday. He selected a familiar foe by taking Big Black, a bull he had ridden four out four times in previous events.
Outlaw, who has missed significant time over the past two-plus years with a series of damn-near career-ending injuries, brought the Arkansas faithful to their feet with 91 points.
“It’s all been from the God above and it’s just awesome,” said Outlaw, when asked on CBS Sports Network how he felt about his third-place finish, “and it’s just awesome. Wish I had done my job in (Round 2) and we would be on top, but just praise God and thank my sponsors for being with me throughout this time.”
Outlaw said he was not alone this weekend.
Not only was his family with him in Little Rock, but he was riding for a friend who has been “having some struggles” and then struggled himself to keep his emotions in check when he recognized the crowd at Simmons Bank Arena.
“That’s the reason we do it. They spend their hard-earned money coming here to enjoy the sport we love,” Outlaw said. “Man, this is all incredible.”
The longtime Monster Energy bull rider and fan favorite added, “I’m having fun, and praise the Lord I’m here and not at the house.”
Fellow Monster Energy teammate and two-time defending PBR champion Jose Vitor Leme was also in Little Rock this past weekend.
Leme, who was 3-for-3 and earned his first elite-level event win of the 2022 season, was all smiles listening to Outlaw talk about his emotionally triumphant return but was similarly poignant following his dominating performance.
“This event means a lot to me because it’s my first buckle of the season,” Leme said. “I’m so happy to be back riding good again. Going to 90—that’s what I’m here for.”
Leme rode Hang ‘em High for 90.25 points in Round 2, which gave him the first pick in the bull draft.
He surprised everyone by passing on yet another Championship Round match with defending World Champion Bull Woopaa and selected Diddy Wa Diddy. Leme has ridden Woopaa four times in the past, including three times last year. His last two qualified rides — 97.75 points in Tulsa, Oklahoma, followed by 98.75 points at the World Finals — have resulted in the two highest marked rides in the 29-year history of the PBR.
With a comfortable 3.5-point lead going into the final round, Leme made a strategic decision.
And it paid off as planned when he covered Diddy Wa Diddy for 92 points and moved all the way to fourth in the PBR world standings with just nine elite, televised regular-season events remaining prior to this year’s World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Sometimes you have to think about the event,” Leme concluded, “not only going to 95-plus points, but I will see (Woopaa) this year…and maybe go to 99 points.”
Leme will be in Arlington, Texas, this weekend, where he will lead a team of his fellow Brazilians at the Global Cup.
Boudreaux Campbell, who missed the Little Rock event because of an injury to his riding hand, was selected to represent the red, white, and blue and has not decided whether he will compete as part of the five-man team or take another week to give his hand an opportunity to heal.
Otherwise, the Monster Energy riders — Leme, 4; Cody Teel, 15; Marco Eguchi, 18; Derek Kolbaba, 20; Outlaw, 27; and Campbell, 40 — will be in Glendale, Arizona; Kansas City, Missouri, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, respectively the last three weekends of March.