LAS VEGAS – It took him until the final event of the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast first half, but Kaique Pacheco is once again in the driver’s seat toward winning a World Championship.
The 23-year-old’s victory at Last Cowboy Standing propelled him into the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in seven months, and he will take a 239.17-point lead into the summer break.
Pacheco may have a slightly larger lead than Eduardo Aparecido had on him last year (180 points), but the 2018 World Championship race is in a very similar spot as it was a year ago.
Historically, any rider within 2,000 points of the world lead heading into the World Finals has a realistic shot at winning the world title.
Currently there are 16 riders within that key number – Pacheco, Montanha Jr., Ramon de Lima, Cody Nance, Luciano de Castro, Jose Vitor Leme, Eduardo Aparecido, Jess Lockwood, Cooper Davis, Dener Barbosa, Cody Teel, Fabiano Vieira, Dakota Buttar, Keyshawn Whitehorse, Brennon Eldred and Ryan Dirteater.
At this point last year, there were 17 riders within that distance of the No. 1 spot.
2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood overcame a 1,237.5-point deficit at this point last year, while 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis came back from 763.87 points.
2015 World Champion J.B. Mauney overcame 1,350-point summer deficit during his march to a second world title.
Heading into the summer break, there are seven riders within 1,300 points of Pacheco, which is two more riders than the five within that distance last year.
Here is a look at which riders are within 1,300 points of Pacheco
1. Pacheco (2,870)
2. Montanha (-239.17)
3. Lima (-395)
4. Nance (-709.17)
5. Castro (-882.5)
6. Leme (-915)
7. Aparecido (-1,185.01)
8. Lockwood (-1,195)
There have been six different world leaders this year, not including Luciano de Castro’s one-night stand at No. 1, and 13 riders have won a UTB event.
Pacheco’s return to the top of the standings is a reminder of just how up and down the 2018 season has been.
Fourteen riders in the Top 20 of the world standings have missed at least one event because of an injury, and injuries to the top riders kept the door open for Pacheco to storm back into the title race after a dismal start to his fourth season.
Less than two months ago, Pacheco was heading into the Ak-Chin Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Glendale, Arizona, 21st in the world standings and 1,247.5 points behind then world leader Ramon de Lima.
He was also mired in a 1-for-15 slump was, only 7-for-27 through the first 11 events of the season and hadn’t earned a single point toward the world standings in six consecutive events.
“He looked like he lost it,” said 2002 World Finals event winner and RidePass commentator J.W. Hart. “Look, it happens. At some point it is after one event or 10 years, you lose it.”
Pacheco has flipped the script in a massive way.
Pacheco has simply been almost unbeatable in the last seven weeks, going 19-for-24 (79.16 percent) with two event wins and a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory.
“He went from probably the last favorite, no kidding, to the favorite,” Hart said. “I don’t know anybody that can argue with it. That guy rode some rank bulls (this weekend) and made it look easy.”
Pacheco finished fifth last year in the world title race, and runner-up in 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Pacheco took a slim 72.83-point lead into the summer break.
Now he is in the driver’s seat once again, but Hart can’t help but think what if.
“I try to look at is as glass half full, but if he does this the first 10 events of the season and is half of what he was these last four weeks he would have had a lead on them where he wouldn’t have had to show up in the back half,” Hart said. “That is how machine-like he is.”
Pacheco has already headed to Brazil for the summer break and doesn’t plan on competing much until the stretch run resumes in August.
Other riders may choose to hit the ground running and take advance of Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour, Touring Pro Division and international events in Canada, Brazil and Australia to try and close the gap on Pacheco this summer.
There will be nine UTB events when the premier series returns on Aug. 11 in Tulsa, Oklahoma before the World Finals takes place on Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena.
There were four riders separated by 467.5 points at the beginning of the 2017 World Finals and this year is shaping up to be another tight and thrilling race.
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