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LAS VEGAS â€“ Chet Johnson likes his role as a veteran saddle bronc rider at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He also likes the fact that heâ€™s earned money in the first three rounds of the 2013 championship. On Saturdayâ€™s third night of competition, the Douglas, Wyo., bronc buster matched moves with J Bar J Rodeoâ€™s Sweatinâ€™ Bullets for 77.5 points to finish sixth and collect a check worth $3,005.
â€śIâ€™m way more comfortable this year than Iâ€™ve ever been here,â€ť said Johnson, now in his fourth NFR qualification. â€śI have way more experience than the first three times I was here. Iâ€™m one of the older guys, too, so Iâ€™m not as intimidated.
â€śWhen I first came here (in 2005), the veterans were Billy Etbauer, Dan Mortensen, Glen Oâ€™Neal and Rod Hay. They were my heroes, and I was riding against them. There was an intimidation factor there. Now Iâ€™ve been rodeoing with these guys my entire career. A lot of them are just new guys; they still ride really good, but itâ€™s just different.â€ť
Over three nights in the City of Lights, Johnson has pocketed more than $7,000. This is the place where big money can be made, with go-round winners earning $18,630 each night of the 10-round championship, but the Wyoming cowboy likes that heâ€™s earned something in the opening few nights.
Most importantly, his cumulative score of 229.5 points through three rides is third best.
â€śI honestly didnâ€™t think I was going to place in that round,â€ť he said Saturday. â€śA lot of the horses didnâ€™t have their day. You get out of rhythm, and I think horses do, too. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the weather, but it seems like a lot of them are worse in the chute, and theyâ€™re just not having their day.
â€śI thought it would take 82 or 83 points to place tonight. The horses just havenâ€™t been doing what theyâ€™re supposed to be doing. Like everything, you donâ€™t know what all is affecting them.â€ť
Only the top 6 scores earn money each night, and Johnsonâ€™s was one of two money-makers who didnâ€™t surpass the 80-point marking. Based on the 100-point scale, half the score comes from the ride, half comes from the animal.
â€śEverything Iâ€™ve been on, the horses just donâ€™t have the action, so youâ€™ve got to do it all yourself,â€ť Johnson said. â€śI canâ€™t complain; Iâ€™m still getting checks.â€ť
That, especially in Las Vegas, is a good thing.