- Neal Reid
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This year's two-man bareback riding race between reigning world champion Will Lowe (Canyon, Texas) and Andy Martinez (Pavillion, Wyo.) has been scintillating, and certainly the tandem's "can-you-top-this" theme will continue to play out at the 2006 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Lowe started his title defense in style, winning the average title at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver. Following the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour's winter series, both rode their way into the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out, May 12-14 in Tulsa, Okla. But Martinez fired back by winning the crystal cup and $19,500 to take over the lead in the world standings.
Lowe regained the top spot by winning the average title and $9,406 at the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo, while Martinez won the Wrangler Tour round and finished second in the average. Later, Martinez bagged average titles in Nampa, Idaho; Salinas, Calif.; and Hermiston, Ore., putting the two riders in a virtual dead heat heading into September.
Lowe pulled farther ahead by winning the prestigious Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up, and at the conclusion of the Wrangler Tour's summer portion, both found themselves at the ProRodeo Tour Summer Finale in Omaha, Neb. Martinez won his second crystal cup of the year, Lowe actually earned more money, and the two continued their incredible chess match. Lowe extended his lead to more than $27,000 after winning the title at the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Championship presented by the Interstate Batteries Texas Stampede. But with the staggering prize money at stake this week in Las Vegas, the two could are bound to switch places more than a few times.
Like a shootout football game, the cowboy with the last ride might be the one to finish the year on top.
2006 Wrangler National Finals Event Previews