Bristol Motor Speedway is known as “The Bullring” because of its small circumference and the massive 150,000-plus seat structure that surrounds it.
Come this summer, legendary NASCAR owner Richard Childress will also operate a team that performs in an actual bullring.
It’s called the Carolina Cowboys, one of eight franchises in the upstart Professional Bull Riders Team Series that will begin competition in June. The team, one of only two located east of the Mississippi, will be based in Winston-Salem with its home events held at Wake Forest’s Joel Coliseum.
Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon, Childress’ grandson and driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet in NASCAR’s Cup Series, will serve as its general manager.
According to Chad Blankenship, PBR senior vice president for marketing, the association with RCR and a former Daytona 500 winner will give the local franchise instant credibility in an area already proven to be fertile for bull riding events.
“Over the last 29 years, PBR has had dozens of successful events across the Carolinas,” Blankenship said. “In all the aspects of running a sports team, RCR has proven to be extremely successful and has very strong brand recognition and resonance across the Carolinas, which we absolutely believe as a league is going to help the team be really successful.”
Although Childress is best known as a NASCAR Hall of Famer whose team has won six Cup championships, all with the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the wheel, he’s also a successful businessman whose ventures range from a winery to a Black Angus ranch located in his Davidson County hometown of Welcome.
His participation in the new bull riding league stems from a longtime interest in the sport, a passion he has passed down to younger members of his family.
”I’ve always had an interest in the business side of sports, so I’m thrilled to get a chance at being the general manager of a PBR team alongside my grandfather,” Dillon, who will continue to drive full-time on stock car racing’s top circuit, said in a statement. “I grew up watching bull riders with my grandfather, so it’s special to be able to share this interest with him in our home state of North Carolina.”
The local connection with the team isn’t limited to RCR. Its name, originally slated to be the Carolina Chaos, was changed to the Carolina Cowboys after Jerome Davis was named its first coach.
Davis, an Archdale native known throughout the bull riding world as the Carolina Cowboy, is a former world champion. Although he is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident while competing, he runs a school for aspiring riders while also operating a livestock business that raises some of the bulls used by PBR.
“Jerome Davis is an absolute icon of bull riding in the same way that Richard Childress is in the world of motorsports,” Blankenship said.
Besides the Carolina Cowboys, the other teams in the league are the Ariat Texas Rattlers, based in Fort Worth, the Arizona Ridge Riders, the Austin Gamblers, the Kansas City Outlaws, the Missouri Thunder, the Nashville Stampede and the Oklahoma Freedom.
The teams will compete in a 10-event regular season, with each hosting one weekend-long event in their home arena and televised live by CBS Sports Network. Two neutral site events will also be held, followed by a postseason playoff scheduled for T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas the weekend of Nov. 4-6.
The PBR Team Series will use the same basic rules for judging and scoring qualified eight-second bull rides as its individual competitions.
Events will feature a tournament-style format in which all teams will compete in head-to-head matchups against different opponents each day of the three-day event. Five riders per team will participate in each event with their aggregate scores determining the winner.
Full rosters will feature seven riders and three practice squad members.
“Part of what makes this PBR Team Series really special is that, for the first time ever, there’s going to be a dedicated bull riding team league,” Blankenship said. “Part of the design is that we want to enjoy the benefits that team sports have that individual sports don’t always enjoy.
“For example, there are many people across the Carolinas who are big fans of select bulls and the same is true of individual riders, similar to having a favorite NASCAR driver. But what bull riding and Western sports have lacked is that team dynamic, where I can get behind the whole team of athletes. This team is based in Winston-Salem and is the team for the Carolinas. We’re really excited about that.”