[Editor’s Note: The PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals will be a six-round event this year after encompassing eight rounds the past six years. Before we look ahead, let’s take a peak back at some of the great moments from the 2004-09 Finals. Writer Chris McManes – who’s been covering PBR since 1996 – will feature eight achievements until the start of the showdown in Las Vegas.]
Brazil’s Guilherme Marchi had No. 2 on his back so long that a novice PBR fan might have thought it was his assigned number. After three consecutive years as the second-ranked rider in the world, Marchi finally punctuated a season on top when he won the 2008 PBR World Championship.
“I know how much I worked these past four years and I still don’t believe it,” Marchi said soon after hoisting the Cup. “Everybody had strong bulls and a long season, and I had a fantastic World Finals and picked good bulls.
“I realized my American dream.”
Fellow Brazilian Robson Palermo won the Built Ford Tough World Finals event title by reaching the whistle on seven bulls for 625.25 points, three points more than Marchi. Palermo posted three 90-pointers in Las Vegas and left with $321,000.
Marchi and Palermo teamed to become the first foreign riders to win the season crown and Finals event title concurrently. Palermo overcame a broken leg and ribs, three concussions and a separated shoulder during the regular season.
“I feel great and I’m so happy,” said Palermo in the Thomas & Mack Center press room. “I told my wife before I came here that I was going to win the Finals and ride all my bulls. I came close, just bucking off one.
“This is my best dream.”
Marchi began his ascent with a post-2003-record 3,358.75-point lead heading into the Finals. By covering seven straight bulls and placing second in the event standings, he finished a record 3,826.75 points ahead.
Marchi won $1,164,000 in Las Vegas, including the $1 million World Champion’s bonus, and $1,518,696 for the year. He became the first man since the PBR went to an eight-round format in 2004 to clinch the championship before the final day.
“That’s really impressive the way he dominated,” said Cody Lambert, who selected the Finals pen of bulls. “It’s hard to do that before Sunday.”
In 33 Built Ford Tough Series events, Marchi won five times, placed in the Top 5 on 16 occasions, and covered 74.8 percent of his bulls. He established records for most points (16,841.5) and qualified rides (74).
“I remember last year when Justin McBride won the world, I was the last bull rider to leave the arena and he told me, ‘Next year is your year,’” said Marchi, who posted thirteen 90-pointers in 2008. “He was right. My two best presents were my baby [boy] and the buckle.”
Marchi, the 2005 World Finals event winner, joined Australia’s Troy Dunn and Mike Lee as the only men to win the Finals and the World Championship. He also became the third Brazilian (Ednei Caminhas, Adriano Moraes) to capture the world crown.
Bull riders that year shattered the PBR Finals high-water mark for 90-point rides with 37 – the record was 20 (1999) – including a record-breaking 10 in Round 7. The standard for most qualified rides in a round (33) was set on opening night.
The 2008 Finals also provided the curtain call for two of the greatest bull riders in history: Moraes, the PBR’s only three-time World Champion, and twin-titlist McBride. A touching Round 7 video tribute honored the two men who epitomized what it means to be a professional bull rider: great rider, great ambassador and great with the fans.
— by Chris McManes
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