junior nogueira Archives - Bob Feist Invitational

Driggers and Nogueira Check Big Bucket List Box With 2024 BFI Win

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira were flawless to win the first BFI of their already legendary careers.
BFI Photos by Andersen CbarC Photography

It’s a roping rarity when teams rise up to dynasty status, and last names are optional. Jake and Clay. Speed and Rich. We all know who you’re talking about. The already notorious team of Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira just etched their names even deeper into roping’s record books with their $162,000 bucket-list win at the 47th annual Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic on March 30 at the Lazy E Arena. With five gold buckles, well over $5 million in combined career earnings and now a BFI “W” between them, Kaleb and Junior is all you really need. 

Winning is surely no surprise to these two anymore. And yet, this particular win meant more than a little extra. 

“I was probably more emotional today winning the BFI than when I won the world the first time,” said two-time World Champion Header Driggers, the 34-year-old pride of Hoboken, Georgia. “That’s crazy for me to even say, just because it took me a long time to get it done and we were so close (to winning the world) so many times before we won it. 

“Winning the BFI is a top-three win in my career. I would rank it right up there with the world titles, because of the prestige of it. I think this is my 17th BFI, and my best previous finish was fourth with Junior in 2018. I watched all my idols rope at the BFI as a little kid, and it’s the longest-standing roping. My idols competed in it. The BFI is the pinnacle. This win was a long time coming. This is what I’ve always dreamed of.”

The Feist features a fat 100% payback. But winning it meant so much more to Nogueira than money, too. 

“There are a couple rodeos I’d still like to win, but the BFI was ‘the one’ we wanted to win as far as the ropings go,” added Nogueira, 33, who’s from Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil, but like Driggers makes his second home in Texas. “You can’t beat the prestige of the BFI, and I’ve spent years and years trying to win this. Kaleb and I have been very successful in our careers, but never conquered the BFI until now. 

“The conditions at this roping today were like the BFI used to be, with the long score and strong steers that ran hard all day. This is a very cool win, because it felt like we were roping back in the day, like Jake and Clay did.”

Seven-time Champs of the World Jake Barnes and Clay Cooper make everyone’s Team Roping Mount Rushmore short list. They won the 1988 BFI together, after Clay first won it with brother-in-law Bret Beach in 1982. 

Junior looks up to Jake and Champ professionally, like everybody else. Nogueira made his first of now 10 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos roping behind Barnes the same year he earned 2014 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year honors. 

But it’s so personal between Nogueira and the man who took him into his heart and home when he arrived broke and with very few words of English in his vocabulary from Brazil. Junior lost his dad, Lucinei Nunes Nogueira Sr, when he was 5. Junior calls Jake “Dad” now, and named his own son Jake Nogueira. 

Kaleb and Junior FaceTiming their fams as the emotional happy tears turned to celebratory laughter.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

Junior and Jaqueline are expecting a little sister for Isabella and Jake in April. Kaleb and Nicole are expecting a boy—their first baby—in May. As their families expand, it’s prime time for a windfall win like this one for $81 grand a man. 

“With the baby coming, we’re going to buy a bus to rodeo out of,” Driggers grinned. “This’ll go a long way toward that.”

Kaleb and Junior were third high call in the short round, and stomped on the gas with a 6.84-second run to seal the deal with 44.76 on six strong, old-school Mexican steers. Beyond that $162,000, they were also awarded Coats Saddles, Gist Buckles, YETI Coolers, Resistol Hats and Hat Packs, full-quill-ostrich Justin Boots, B&W Hitches, Best Ever Pads and Equinety.

The Four-Legged Partners

Driggers rode Chics Like Hickey, a 9-year-old chestnut he calls Oliver, who’s a half-brother to Cody Snow’s renowned buckskin mare Annie. 

“I got Oliver when he was 6, and he’s my main go-to jackpot horse,” Kaleb said. “I rode him at the Lone Star Shootout (Driggers finished second, third and fourth with Wesley Thorp, Jade Corkill and Nicky Northcott, respectively, on that fast track the other day; Driggers and Nogueira also won the 2024 Crawfish Invitational with Oliver’s help), and he’s my longer-score horse at the rodeos, too. 

Corky Ullman, left, and Daren Peterson, right, presenting the big check to Driggers and Nogueira at the close of BFI ’24.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

“I think Oliver’s one of the most underrated head horses of all time. He always gives me a chance to win, no matter what. He doesn’t stand there like a statue. But when I drop my hand, he’s rolling. He can run, and his foot work keeps their heads and opens them up for Junior to heel.”

If Nogueira’s BFI buckskin looked familiar, that was old Lucky Bucky. Smokin Copper King—who’s 14 now, and is actually registered with the American Paint Horse Association—came from nine-time NFR heeler Cesar de la Cruz. 

“Lucky Bucky’s so fast, and he makes a good turn,” Junior said. “I bought him from Cesar in 2022. I jackpot very good on him, and rodeo on him, too. I love how fast he runs, and the way he follows the steer after the turn makes it easy.”

Horses of the BFI

It’s all about the horsepower at the BFI, and Jake Cooper Clay’s RLLittleBit and Trey Yates’ Marlboro Cat were named Head and Heel Horse of the 2024 BFI. Both cowboys have quite the horse history at this roping, as it was Jake’s third Head Horse of the BFI award and Trey’s second Heel Horse of the BFI honor. 

Clay, who won the 2022 BFI with Billie Jack Saebens, made this year’s short round with Yates heading on a 9-year-old sorrel he calls Louie. 

“My cousin Wayne Clay sent me this horse when he was 6 to make a head horse out of him to sell,” Jake said. “He was a ranch horse that hadn’t been roped on until he was 6. We pig hunted on him before I started roping on him. He liked the roping, and I didn’t think we should sell him. So Wayne told me we’ll just be partners on him as long as I want to ride him. And here we are. 

Jake Cooper Clay’s Louie and Trey Yates’ Sugar Daddy took Head and Heel Horse of the 2024 BFI honors.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

“Louie’s just easy to rope on. He scored really good today, was really good in the field and faced good. He just gives me the opportunity to do my job every time. I don’t know how anybody else would like him, but he’s good for me.”

This was Clay’s fourth-straight BFI short round, and the head horses he’s ridden have everything to do with that. Jake took Head Horse of the 2021 BFI honors on Kevin Williams’ LeRoy, then Head Horse of the 2022 BFI on his horse Sun before this third horse award on Louie. 

“I started heading in 2020, and have been super blessed to ride some great horses,” he said. “Sun’s 19 now, and I’ll still rodeo on him some. But this is a tough day on a head horse, so Louie got the call. Louie and Sun share a pen at home, so I figure Sun talked Louie into doing good today.”

Zac Small and Wesley Thorp won the 2016 BFI with Small on Sun, right before Small put his ropes on hold to go to vet school. When Driggers and Nogueira finished fourth in the 2018 BFI average, Kaleb was riding Sun. 

“A head horse is everything at this roping,” Clay said. “The steers run hard, it’s the longest barrier of any roping we go to, and it’s all day long. The BFI is the hardest setup, and it takes a special horse to be good at this roping. They have to be able to do it, and they have to be tough.”

Three generations of the Yates family, including patriarch Dick, JD and sister Kelly (in 1984, the three of them became the first and only father-son-daughter combo to compete the same year in NFR history), and now Trey are all about the horses. Trey calls this year’s Heel Horse of the BFI Sugar Daddy down at the barn, and the 10-year-old blaze-faced chestnut with two white socks is a former futurity and show horse that’s been in the Yates remuda three years now. 

“There were times I about gave up on him,” Trey said. “But this horse has got grit and heart, because every time I about gave up on him, he did something amazing. He wants to do right, he wants to win and he puts me in position to win. When I don’t win, it’s not his fault.

“Sugar Daddy was amazing all day today. He stayed collected the whole time, and gave me 150%. That’s what makes great horses—they give you their all every single time. And this horse does that.” 

Yates won his first Heel Horse of the BFI award in 2020 on Nic Of Shine, a black horse he called Tux. 

“Tux was one in a million, too,” Trey said. “This award means a lot to my family. When your horse stands out over 125 horses, that’s a pretty big accomplishment. My dad won Head Horse of the BFI twice, and a Heel Horse of the BFI award (JD and cousin Jay Wadhams won the 2010 BFI with Jay riding JD’s Colonel Cal Dee, aka “A”; JD’s Head Horse of the BFI awards were won in 2008 on Buster, and in 2018 on Turbo), as well. We take pride in our horses as a family. If I get my butt kicked, it won’t be because I didn’t show up prepared and my horse wasn’t ready.”

Clay and Yates were presented $1,000 bonus checks, Lost Prairie Bronzes by Steve Miller, Best Ever Pads, Classic Equine Horse Blankets and Equinety. 

In Other BFI Headlines

Clay Smith and Coleby Payne were second high call behind Bubba Buckaloo and Daniel Braman (who had a leg on their last one), and were this year’s reserve BFI champs with 45.20 on six steers to earn $101,000 plus Lazy L Saddles, B&W Hitches, Best Ever Pads and Justin Boots. 

Clay Smith and Coleby Payne were second high call, and stayed right there in the average with this snappy 7.37-second run in the short round.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

Ketch Kelton and Denton Dunning finished third in 46.77 seconds for $78,000 to continue their 2024 winning rampage, and Colby Lovell and Dakota Kirchenschlager rounded out the top four in the average with 47.7 on six for $59,000, with Dakota K riding Driggers’ gray stud Metallic Payday. 

Fast at The Feist

Reigning World Champion Team Ropers Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp won this year’s Rickey Green Fast Time Award with their 4.87-second sizzler in Round 5. It was the only 4-second run at this year’s roping, and they were awarded full-quill-ostrich Justin Boots and boot jacks in addition to the plaques in honor of the late gunslinger Green, who won the 1988 BFI heeling for the late Mark “Pickles” Arnold. 

Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp won the Rickey Green Fast Time Award with the only 4-second run of the roping in Round 5.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

California native Rickey was fearless, an early-days crossfire king, and watching him pull off wild shots over the neck of a big, black heel horse he called Cowboy was one of the most memorable sights of his era. Rickey would be so proud to see two fellow fast-and-fearless ropers of today honored in his name. 

Game Day Game Plan

Driggers has roped at 11 NFRs since his first Finals in 2011 with Brad Culpepper. The 2009 Overall and Heading Rookie of the Year won his two gold buckles in 2021-22 with Nogueira, who also owns the world all-around championship dated 2016. 

Team Driggers-Nogueira has huddled up and strategized for every possible scenario since joining forces a few years back. But they decided to keep their BFI strategy super simple this time. And it was all about the long game, as in the six-steer average crown.

“The BFI is not something you can set out and say you’re going to win,” Driggers said. “This is a roping that comes to you more than you go to it. You need a couple good steers in there, no doubt. But we’ve had to learn to crawl before we could walk. And we haven’t had very much success here before now. 

“This time, we made it about personal gains one step at a time—getting out of the barrier, sharp head loops, good handles, good heel loops and strong finishes. That was our game plan—to just go do our jobs, and let the chips fall where they would. Sticking to our game plan all day definitely helped us, and going and making our run and being 6 on our last three steers didn’t hurt, either.” 

Simple made sense to Nogueira, too, and kept him feeling comfortable and confident over the course of the grueling BFI marathon. 

“I wanted to push on the gas, but stay in my lane,” Junior said. “I messed up last year here trying to rope faster than I could. You cannot just go take this roping. You need to use the steers you get, and if it’s your turn, you’re going to win. The chances of messing up on these strong steers in this big arena are huge. 

“God was telling me all day, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ So I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t panic, and don’t be afraid.’ Negative thoughts can come into your mind, especially in a roping that lasts all day and into the night. Focusing on not being afraid brought me peace, and helped me relax and get through the roping. 

“I was happy to make that last run to finish the day strong, and to know we were going to win no worse than third when we rode out of the arena. Everybody was close, so everybody had a chance. Whoever had the best steer and made the best run in the short round was going to win it. Everybody roped good. It was just our day.”

Watching gunslinger-by-birth Driggers round out his roping game has been somewhat reminiscent of seeing Florida-raised Speed Williams do the same over the course of his career. 

“Growing up in the East, we learned how to go fast before we learned how to just go catch,” Driggers said. “This is a long-score, catching scenario that I had to put a lot of hours in to learn how to do. I’m relieved to win this roping, just because we’ve been trying to check it off of our bucket list for so long. To finally get it done is a weight lifted off of our shoulders.

“The Lazy E is special to me, too, because when I was 15 or 16 years old and my dad (Nick) and I would come to the US(TRC) Finals in Oklahoma City, we’d come rope at the Lazy E in Guthrie. We won a roping or two here together. I like how big this arena is, and that they can set the barrier out there. You almost feel like you’re roping in a field. It takes a partnership to get steers caught out in that big arena.”

Brotherly Bond

Driggers and Nogueira are getting nothing but closer both in and out of the arena. By now, they’re basically brothers, and their mutual appreciation is at an all-time high. 

“It’s more than just roping with us now,” Kaleb said. “We’ve had our ups and downs the last few years. We’ve won the world some years, and not had great years other years. It’s all just drawn us closer to each other. We have a bond. And when we do well together, it just makes the wins that much sweeter.

“Junior and I feed off of each other. If I get a good start and am aggressive, he can close it. If I have to safety up a little bit more, he’ll make up the time. I don’t have to be absolutely perfect and take all the risk on our team. Junior’s not afraid to take risk to give us a good shot to win.”

“Kaleb just got so good,” Nogueira added without being asked. “He’s always been amazing. And he’s smart. He’s the best header in the world, and he’s got great horses. He uses his horses, and can use his rope when he has to, too. We work together, and just rope good together and get along so good. That makes it fun.” 

If you noticed Nogueira’s glasses on BFI Saturday, he’s been wearing them when roping in indoor arenas, because the lights bother his left eye. The glasses have helped bring things into better focus since his sinus surgery in January. 

BFI Mission Accomplished

This was Junior’s 11th attempt at cracking the BFI code.

“I’d placed with Jake and Kaleb, but had never won much at the BFI before now,” Nogueira said. “I was second high call with Cody Snow in 2020, and slipped a leg to take the lead and maybe win it. This roping lasts a long time, and your mind gets tired. It’s easy to lose focus, but the steers don’t slow down and wait for you. They keep running hard, and if you lose your focus for a second, you’re out. You’re done. 

“The BFI is so old, and it’s been a great roping for so long. The conditions are very tough, and the BFI is so hard to win. The heroes have won this roping. That this roping has never changed is part of what makes it special. You have to be on your best A-game just to get through the day.” 

Driggers and Nogueira made a horse race out of their first victory lap at The Feist.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC Photography

And after 28 combined attempts, it’s finally mission accomplished at the BFI for Kaleb and Junior. At this stage of their careers, it’s hard to find events that have eluded them. 

“The BFI is one of the majors a guy grows up wanting to win,” said Driggers, who’s the only four-time winner of The American; he’s won $100 grand at the world’s richest one-day rodeo twice with Nogueira. “I’ve been watching BFI tapes since I was a kid. It’s a great roping, and it’s very prestigious to come out on top roping big, strong Mexican steers that run. It made for a long day, but a good day. The hardest part might be the hour and a half between runs. A guy has to try to stay mentally focused during that down time. It’s fairly easy to make a mistake at this roping if you’re not paying attention. 

“This is just a sweet win for us. It sounds weird, but this one is about a lot more than just the money. Junior and I both wanted to do our jobs today. Winning the BFI is so satisfying, and the prestige that comes with it is just the cherry on top for us.” 

“It’s always cool to win, but this is a special win,” Nogueira agreed. “I needed this. It took me a lot of years of trying, and a lot of perseverance to win it. You’ve got to be aggressive, but not beat yourself. You have to have one of your best days of roping ever to win the BFI. I’m very happy. And thankful.

“You can’t copy rodeos like Salinas (California) or Cheyenne (Wyoming). And there’s nothing else like this roping. There’s only one BFI.”