Yes, I generally write about Northeastern pavement
Then why, you may ask, is Brian Danko covering a rodeo?
When I went away on vacation, my usual, two week tour of the country, I
figured that I wanted to do something “racing connected,” but featuring
a different sport.
One of the towns that I visited was Cody, Wyoming, also known as “The
Rodeo Capital of the Country.”
The Rodeo and more specifically, bull riding, has been gaining more and
more fans across the country, even being featured on ESPN and other
Does NASCAR and Rodeo have anything in
Now, honest, did you even think that Poker would be so
I know, you’re saying what do auto racing and rodeo have in common? Well,
actually it is more than you might think.
As my friend and I embarked on out first rodeo adventure, I was excited
about what I was to see. At the end of the night, I wasn’t disappointed.
In my quest for information, I asked several in the rodeo whom I should talk
One of the first people I talked with was Mark Cotter, a breeder of horses.
Perhaps he could be compared to the “racing chassis fabricator” or “car
builder.” Mark hoped that some of them will become the “bucking horses.”
My first question to him, after looking at all of the youthful faces in the
“pit area” was, “Do kids start out young doing this, much like children
running Go-karts, to get experience?”
That turned out to be correct.
“Yeah, they do start off quite young, much like auto racing,” Mark said, a
veteran of rodeos, and wearing the traditional garb of cowboy hat, blue
jeans and boots. “Many of the kids involved now are because their families
grew up doing it, that’s the way it tends to be.”
That sounds very much like our sport, both on a local level and nationally.
Cotter also said that the people follow a circuit. Again, much like the auto
racing. They may be in one city one Saturday, and another city in another
state the following weekend. “It’s almost like a family,” he added, “because
you see each other weekly.”
One of the big differences that I found was in the competition.
While in auto racing you’re competing against the other drivers, in the
rodeo, you are competing against the animal.
“Like auto racing, everything is done by a draw,” Mark said of pitting
cowboy against horses or bulls. Of course in auto racing, drivers qualify by
On of the reasons that Cotter believes rodeos and in particular, bull riding
is getting so big is because of the danger involved.
“People go to see a wreck,” said Cotter. “In auto racing, it’s big
accidents. In rodeo, (people go to see) the rider getting thrown off, the
horse kicking or the bull stampeding. Everyone wants to see it but they
don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
That too is just like racing, where fans anticipate thrills and spills, but
want to see their heroes on the track walk away unharmed from the accidents.
Cotter also said that the riders exchange a lot of information and help
others with advice, much the same as in racing when teams pull together to
help out a driver or team in need.
One of the young riders that Cotter wanted me to talk with was 17 year old
J.R. Vezain, whom Cotter refers as too the “next big thing” in rodeo.
Cotter brought over the baby faced Vezain. Much like many of the young
drivers in racing, he is shy and doesn’t like to talk about himself.
“None of my (immediate) family was into it but my uncle was,” he said, as to
how and why he actually got involved in participating in rodeos. “I always
looked up to him and one day we started off. I was about four when I started
riding sheep and then once I was good enough, I moved up to steers when I
was about seven, until I was 13.”
Just as NASCAR has an age limit, so does the rodeo.
For people who want to ride bulls, that age is 18 to ride on the
professional circuit but not in the local rodeos.
Vezain is not only the champion in rodeo in the state of Wyoming; he is also
the only member of his high school rodeo team.
I asked Vezain if he was a follower of NASCAR, or racing in particular, and
he said “no,” adding, “Racing is for rednecks.”
Interesting that he had that view.
I talked with many that night in the rodeo circuit and everyone indeed
pointed to Vezain as the “one to watch” as he won the bronco horse event and
finished second in another. But like all the riders before him, he wasn’t
able to beat the bull in the bull riding.
When others referred to him, it was like all the hype that Joey Logano
received working his way up the NASCAR ladder. I’m sure that some night
watching television and the rodeo, that I will see another up and comer.
Modifieds At Bristol
I was quite excited about the first event for the
NASCAR Modified Tour at Bristol Motor Speedway. And, like many of the
faithful followers of the Modifieds, I was quite pleased with the whole
As a dedicated lifelong fan of the division, and member of the media
covering modified racing since the late-1970s, my biggest fear was that
it would be a wreck fest. But the drivers on both the Northern-based
Modified tour and the NASCAR Southern Modified tour performed great.
With just four caution flags, and one for rain, it was a good race to
Donny Lia (4) during the UNOH Perfect
(Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
While the event, like Martinsville, was of the “follow
the leader” category, I still thought the first race for the Modifieds at
Bristol was quite good.
Event TV announcer Mike Joy, a Modified fan, was the perfect choice for that
role. However, I didn’t think that Dr. Dick Berggren added much to the
broadcast. I also thought the production of the race was quite good.
I would also believe that the crowd of more than 40,000 was thrilled with
the first event for the Modifieds at that oval in its present, high-banked
Hopefully, the folks at Speed TV, along with NASCAR, were pleased enough to
go with more television in 2010 and beyond.
And while one of the major complaints of the race heading into it was the
purse, maybe O. Bruton Smith was impressed enough to not only have the open
wheel Modifieds back to Bristol, but to also increase the purse to a New
Hampshire Motor Speedway payout. That would make it somewhere in the
Ted Christopher appeared to be the class of the field, faded at the end but
still ended up second to increase his points lead.
While driver Donny Lia will be in the record books as the first winner of
the NASCAR Modified Tour race at Bristol, the entire Tour came out in first
place in the eyes of this veteran observer.