Chase Dougherty, NFR 2018

Former Montana State bull rider Chase Dougherty, pictured in Round 8 at the National Finals Rodeo, earned the RAM Top Gun Award for most money won at the NFR.

LAS VEGAS — Sage Kimzey hurt.

It was even painful to stand up straight.

The National Finals Rodeo had been a rough one for the Oklahoma bull rider. Kimzey separated the shoulder of his free arm in the first round and had a rib pop out in the sixth round.

The second injury made the entire right side of his body go into muscle spasms, leaving him unable to get out of bed four consecutive mornings.

The aches and pains, along with four straight buck-offs opened the door slightly in the standings race for a hard-charging Chase Dougherty. Dougherty rode his final five bulls of the NFR, winning rounds seven and eight.

Kimzey had won the bull riding at 15 rodeos and five Xtreme Bulls events during the regular season. But he was chasing more than just a fifth consecutive world title.

He was chasing history.

“It was a dogfight to the end this year,” said Kimzey late Saturday night. “And that’s when you learn the most about who you are as a competitor and as a person. It was one of those things where I had several opportunities to give up and never did and that’s the biggest thing I took out of this week.”

With the stakes at their highest, Kimzey delivered an NFR-best 93-point ride aboard Shootin’ Stars to clinch his fifth consecutive world championship.

Kimzey won $415,262 for 2018. Dougherty, who competed for Montana State University before pursuing his pro career full-time, won the bull riding average for $232,749 and finished second in the world standings. Dougherty was the only bull rider to cover seven of 10 bulls. The next-best was five. Dougherty earned the RAM Top Gun Award for most money won at the NFR.

Parker Breding of Edgar was fourth in the final 2018 standings with a career-best $241,732.

Kimzey’s five consecutive titles matches the legendary Jim Shoulders, who won five straight from 1954-59. He is the first bull rider to win five straight world titles at the NFR.

“Winning it means a lot this year,” said the 24-year-old Kimzey. “There is a big difference between four and five.

“Anytime your name is by Jim Shoulders, you are in a league you can’t put into words. He’s one of the greatest cowboys of all time and it means the world to me.”

And while Kimzey will resume his quest to break Don Gay’s record of eight bull riding titles in 2019, don’t go looking for him any time soon.

“Nobody will hear or see me for a good two weeks,” he said with a smile. “You might find out through social media I will be on a beach somewhere.”

Emerging from the crowd

Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas, emerged from a crowded tie-down roping field to win his second world title.

Going into the 10th round, 11 tie-down ropers had a mathematical chance at the gold buckle.

“I wanted to do the same thing I’ve been doing all week,” said Smidt of his game plan. “I got good starts and drew some really good calves.”

Smidt had a time of 8.1 seconds to split sixth place. And it was good enough to give him the average title by almost five seconds over Rhen Richard, of Roosevelt, Utah. Smidt won $142,846 to vault from eighth to first in the final world standings.

Smidt also won the world title in 2015.

“This is awesome,” Smidt said. “It has been a few years, but this one means a lot more to me than the first one. The first one, I was young and I was just roping. I came out here to rope and do it for my family. To have another world championship and average championship is awesome.”

Trevor Brazile won the 10th round with a time of 7.2 seconds. It was Brazile’s record 71st NFR round win.

Brazile also claimed his 14th all-around world title and 24th world title overall.

Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

Sports writer at the Billings Gazette

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