Bubble Watch: The Closest Battles In The Fight For The NFR Top 15

© Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
By Lincoln Shryack

The 2017 PRCA regular season is rapidly coming to a close with less than three weeks to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, held December 7-16
in Las Vegas. For a select number of cowboys, it's a nerve-wracking time of the year; only the top 15 earners in each event will advance to Vegas after the September 30 cutoff, and the difference between nabbing the coveted qualifier and staying home can be miniscule. 

Here's a glance at some of those bubble athletes who will be scrapping for every rodeo dollar in the coming weeks to qualify for the prestigious event:

Brady Portenier and Tristan Mize | Bull Riding

Portenier's place in the top 15 is the most precarious of any cowboy in Pro Rodeo. The 22-year-old bull rider holds just a slim $593.95 advantage over rookie Tristan Mize for the final qualifying spot. The 20-year-old Mize has been rising fast in the latter stages of 2017, including a win at the Caldwell Night Rodeo on August 19. He has rocketed from 23rd to 16th in the NFR standings since then, and Portenier is surely feeling the heat. Both are looking to qualify for their first NFR.

Mason Clements, Ty Breuer, and Steven Dent | Bareback

While defending NFR champ Tim O'Connell has been dominating the headlines and standings in bareback all season long, the fight for the final qualifying spots in the event has become an intriguing subplot. A mere $912.21 is the difference right now between Mason Clements in 14th, who has never qualified for the finals, and seven-time NFR veteran Steven Dent, currently in 16th. Sandwiched in between is Ty Breuer, the only man of the three to qualify in 2016.

Josh Peek and Jacob Talley | Steer Wrestling

The bulldoggers currently in 15h and 16th, Josh Peek and Jacob Talley, are separated by just $621.68 in the latest standings. While the 38-year-old Peek is a highly experienced cowboy with seven career NFR qualifications between tie-down roping and steer wrestling, the comparatively new Talley won last weekend's Lewiston Roundup with a lightning quick 3.7-second clocking. That head-turning performance has the 25-year-old Louisiana native knocking at the door of a second straight trip to Vegas. Fortunately for Peek, he can relax a little bit as J.D. Struxness in 14th is just $78.02 ahead of him.

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