On day one of the three-day event, he won Round 1 with 88.5 points on Americana and then followed up with 86 points on Tequila Sunrise in Round 2 in order to qualify for the Championship Round.
Gay secured the win with 85.5 points on Redbone.
“To be honest, I hadn’t been on without a helmet in about four years,” Gay said. “I got on with a hat at that event and I was just scared to death.”
He added, “With a helmet, you’re not really thinking about it. You’re not really thinking about the consequences if you get popped in the face or something like that. With a helmet, if you get popped in the face a little bit you get right back up, but with a hat if you get popped in the face you’re getting some stitches. That’s in the back of your mind – definitely – if you’re tying your hand in with a hat on.”
Gay, who has been traveling with fellow Monster Energy teammate Chase Outlaw, said he knew he had been having trouble keeping his chin tucked.
He didn’t have that problem in Deadwood.
“It makes you really think of it every time you get in the bucking chute,” said Gay, of the reminder to keep his damn head down. “I really saw me bulls clear like I hadn’t in a while.”
Wearing a cowboy hat in the bucking chute heightened his awareness and proved to be the focus he needed.
Gay is a fifth-year pro who is in his fourth full season competing at the elite televised level of bull riding and he’s already a three-time World Finals qualifier, who’s in position to compete at the Finals for the fourth time in four years.
That said, prior to the event in Deadwood, Gay said, “I couldn’t tell you what it felt like to win. I hadn’t won really anything since I won Tulsa, (Oklahoma) my rookie year.
“It felt good to actually be in first again.”
Gay is currently ranked 26th in the world standings and is one of six Monster Energy riders on the verge of heading to Vegas for this year’s World Finals the first week of November.
Derek Kolbaba is third, Outlaw is fifth and J.B. Mauney is sixth, while Guilherme Marchi is 21st and Reese Cates is 35th.
Outlaw and Mauney are in Calgary for the Stampede, while Gay will next compete in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when the elite televised PBR series resumes in August.