Hart is PBR's Iron Man

2002-04-04T23:00:00Z Hart is PBR's Iron ManJOE KUSEK Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 04, 2002 11:00 pm  • 

Move over, Cal Ripken.

In a sport where a serious injury is not an "if" but a "when," J.W. Hart is the true iron man.

Hart, who celebrated his 27th birthday on March 28, has a streak that will probably be unmatched in the history of the Professional Bull Riders.

Tonight will be Hart's 165th consecutive appearance in a Bud Light Cup event when the gate swings open for the 10th Annual NILE Bullriders Invitational at Metra.

"They say records are made to be broken, but I don't see anybody who will break that one," said Tuff Hedeman, the PBR president.

"Anybody who knows anything about the sport has to look at that record in amazement."

Hart's record began in 1994 when Hart joined the PBR. He's had a few close calls, but always managed to nod his head for a bull ride.

"I've had a sprained ankle, another time I sprained my MCL and right now, I'm fighting something on my hip," said Hart, listing off some of his more recent injuries.

"You know, I've been really fortunate. I've been lucky and blessed by the good Lord that I have not been hurt seriously. I never thought, eight years down the line I'd be going without missing one.

Hart

"Now it's the kind of deal I'm just wondering when it's going to end."

Hart says he had most of his more serious bull riding injuries before he became a PBR member.

"Before I joined the PBR , I had a couple of rough deals … broken ribs, a cut liver and when I was 18, I broke my neck riding bulls at Denver," he said, adding the streak almost came to an end last August in Oklahoma City.

"During the motorcycle rally in Sturgis (S.D.), I herniated a disk in my neck but I didn't know it," Hart continued. "I talked to (Dr.) Tandy (Freeman) in Colorado Springs during the Ty Murray hall of fame induction and Tandy gave me some medication to help the pain.

"I rode the first round and turned out for the second. That medicine wasn't enough."

The Oklahoma cowboy almost saw the streak come to an end earlier this year. And not because of an injury.

He struggled early and was among the bottom 45 in the world standings. After every five events, the PBR drops the bottom five and replaces the spots with new riders.

"I was in the cutting zone," he said. "That would have been a hell of a way to miss one."

Hart finished ninth at Guthrie, Okla., to stay among the top 45 and had another top 10 finish in Albuquerque, to keep his spot among the world's secure.

"It look iffy a times for him this year," said Hedeman. "I know there are times when he was there when he shouldn't have been."

Hart, who has qualified for every PBR World Finals since 1994, sees both the good and the bad with the streak.

"I kind of hate it," he admitted. "I've been in this thing (the PBR) so long and not having missed one and I haven't won a world title.

"I've had the advantage of going to every one Bud Light Cups, but I haven't taken advantage of it. That's the ultimate goal, to win the world championship."

Hart finished 15th in the PBR standings last year, 10th in 2000 and 19th in 1999. He enters Billings 24th in the Bud Light Cup standings. Hart has always ridden well at Metra, placing sixth in 2000 and fifth in 1998.

"I don't want to miss out on Billings because maybe there's some little kids who want to see me," said Hart, of his motivation to ride through the pain. He paused then added with a laugh, "Not usually me though.

"There's been times I've been achy and things, but the reason I keep going is the love of riding bulls and competing."

If Hart rides, that means the streak continues. And if the streak continues, that gives Hart an opportunity to win the PBR world title.

"I take pride I haven't missed a Bud Light Cup," said Hart. "I want to keep this streak going until I quit for good.

"I realize that's a long shot because I'd like to do this another nine, 10 years."

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