Recording Records: Barrel Racer’s Guide to all Things National Finals Rodeo

Learn about all the historical and current records at barrel racing's biggest event.
Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Duke turn the second barrel at the 2009 NFR.
Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Yeah Hes Firen at the 2009 NFR.

It’s nearly time for the most exciting barrel race of the year! As we all prep to gather on the edge of our couches and cheer on our favorite teams, here’s some weird and fun trivia about the season ending championship event for the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA)—the National Finals Rodeo.

Where? The NFR Locations

When the then-Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) launched the National Finals Rodeo in 1959, the ladies of what was then called the GRA (Girls Rodeo Association) were not a part of the festivities. Instead, they held their own season culminating event across four go rounds in Clayton, New Mexico along with the RCA team ropers and steer ropers. The GRA continued to be held with the team roping until 1962 and was held on its own from then until it joined the rest of the NFR field in Oklahoma City in 1967.

1959: Clayton, NM

1960: Scottsdale, AZ

1961: Santa Maria, CA 

1962-1965: Dallas, Texas — Cotton Bowl Rodeo

1966: Fort Worth, Texas — Will Rogers Memorial Arena

1967-78: Oklahoma City, OK — Norick Arena

1978-1984: Oklahoma City, OK —Myriad Arena

1985-2019: Las Vegas, NV — Thomas & Mack Arena

2020: Arlington, Texas — Globe Life Field

2021-present: Las Vegas, NV — Thomas & Mack Arena

For the 1966 NFR barrel race, the 1967 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo gave the last four performances of the rodeo to host the NFR barrel racers thanks to a deal struck by former WPRA President and then-WPRA Secretary Florence Youree and Mr. WR Watt, Sr., President of the Stock Show.

Since the National Finals Rodeo moved to Arlington in 2020 due to COVID, no barrel racer has competed in every location since the barrels was added to the rodeo; however, four have competed in the previous three (Norick Arena, OKC; Myriad Arena, OKC; Thomas & Mack (Las Vegas): Jimmie Munroe, Martha Josey, Celie Ray and Kay Blandford.

Martha Josey and her famous wedding dress barrel racing outfit.
“This was one of my favorite outfits,” said Josey. “It was the year I won the world in 1980. I always tell everybody it was my girlfriend’s wedding dress and I wanted to be best dressed. I just cut the bottom off the dress and put a pair of white pants with it, and my white hat.”

How Much? The NFR Money

Top Career Earnings at the NFR (Lifetime earnings)

  1. Lisa Lockhart, $1,503,221
  2. Sherry Cervi*, $1,279,547
  3. Hailey Kinsel*, $1,109,429
  4. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi*, $928,853
  5. Lindsay Sears*, $644,798
  6. Charmayne James*, $596,638
  7. Amberleigh Moore, $579,846
  8. Ivy Conrado, $543,143
  9. Kristie Peterson*, $532,378
  10. Emily Beisel, $531,537

Four of the top 10 earners are competing at the 2023 NFR (Lockhart, Kinsel, Pozzi Tonozzi, and Beisel) along with #11 Stevi Hillman, #12 Jessica Routier, and #16 Jordon Briggs.

With the benefit of competing in the richest era of the NFR thus far, coupled with incredible talent, the top three cowgirls with the best averages for earnings per NFR competed are:

1. Hailey Kinsel, $184,905 per NFR

2. Amberleigh Moore, $144,961

3. Emily Beisel, $132,884

Most Won in a Single NFR — Hailey Kinsel, $270,615 in 2020

Beating the Boys at the NFR

In 2010, the PRCA introduced the RAM Top Gun Award at the National Finals Rodeo to recognize the single contestant to win the most money during the 10 days of the NFR. Since then, a WPRA barrel racer has claimed the title three times: Mary Walker in 2012, Sherry Cervi in 2013 and Hailey Kinsel in 2020.

Sherry Cervi barrel racing on Stingray at the 2013 NFR.
Sherry Cervi and MP Meter My Hay “Stingray,” en route to a world championship at the 2013 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

In the decade prior to the RAM Top Gun Award’s inception, barrel racers came out as the highest money winner five times with Lindsay Sears topping the field twice in 2007-2008. Cervi won the most in 2009, Janae Ward in 2003 and Janet Stover in 2001.

  • After nearly accomplishing it in 1986, Charmayne James won more en route to the WPRA World title in 1988 then that year’s PRCA All Around Champ Dave Appleton won in multiple events. That has happened five more times (twice by Sherry Cervi 1995 & 1999, Kristie Peterson in 1996, Mary Burger in 2016 and Hailey Kinsel in 2018).
  • Incredibly, three of those came before barrel racers got equal money to the other events at the NFR beginning in 1998.
  • Incidentally, Lockhart’s career NFR earnings put her third all-time behind Trevor Brazile and Kaycee Feild. Cervi and Kinsel also rank inside the top 10.

Who? National Finals Rodeo Qualification Stats

Most Qualifications:

19: Charmayne James and Sherry Cervi

17: Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Lisa Lockhart

12: Sherry Combs Johnson, Mildred Farris and Kay Blandford

11: Jimmie Munroe, Martha Josey, Deb Mohon and Sammie Thurman Brackenbury

Long Standing Excellence

Six barrel racers have been to the NFR in three different decades:

  • Sherry Cervi
  • Charmayne James
  • Lisa Lockhart
  • Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi
  • Mildred Farris

Three have been in four decades:

  • Sherry Johnson
  • Kay Blandford
  • Martha Josey

Going Fast! National Finals Rodeo Go Rounds

Total Wins

25: Sherry Cervi & Charmayne James

21: Hailey Kinsel

18: Lisa Lockhart & Janet Stover

16: Kay Blandford

NFR Horsepower

  • Lockhart has won a round on six different horses (Levee, Rosa, Cutter, Louie, Chisum, Sterling) while Cervi (Arson, Stingray, Tin Man, Hawk, Troubles) and Stover (Benjamin Might, Check, Lexie, Bo, Hot Shot) have won on five and Blandford on four (Big Jon, June, Popeye and Llave).
  • Stover likely holds a unique record for her 1990 NFR performance—she won two go rounds on two different horses during the same rodeo. Stover won the second round aboard Jakes Royal (Check) and the sixth round on backup Lexie, owned by Lorena Roberts.

NFR Arena Dominance

  • Lockhart has won at least one go round in 13 of her 16 NFR appearances, while Cervi has done the same in 13 and James 11 of their 19 respective appearances. 
  • James holds the high mark with seven years straight with at least one round win, a mark Kinsel will look to tie in 2023 after being perfect so far, winning a round in each of her six previous qualifications, an average of 3.5 per year.

Versatile Champs

Four WPRA cowgirls have claimed the National Finals Rodeo Fast Time Award (given in memory of Sissy Thurman) in more than one NFR venue: 

Lynn McKenzie (1978, Norick Arena, 1979, Myriad Arena)

Marlene McRae (1983, Myriad Arena, 1988, Thomas & Mack)

Charmayne James (1984, Myriad Arena, 1987, 1997, 2001, Thomas & Mack)

Hailey Kinsel (2020, Globe Life Field, 2017, 2022 Thomas & Mack)

Consecutive NFR Go Round Wins:

5: Jimmie Munroe, 1984, Smooth Cadett, first five rounds

4: Lindsay Sears, 2008; Gail Petska, 1972; and Lynn McKenzie, 1979

Nine barrel racers have won three in a row; most recently, Mary Walker in 2012

Most Round Wins in a Single Year

7: Gail Petska, 1972

6: Gail Petska, 1973; Twila Haller, 1991; Lynn McKenzie, 1979; and Martha Thompkins, 1971 who won 3 in a row twice

10 barrel racers with five round wins including Lindsay Sears who did it twice in 2007 and 2008 and Hailey Kinsel, 2020 & 2022

Consecutive Rounds Placed

Note: rounds paid four until 1996, then went to six.

Kristie Peterson is the undisputed champion of consecutive rounds placed, earning money in 22 straight go rounds from 1995-97. She had one off night and started a new streak that lasted 17 rounds.

All 10 in a single NFR:

Colette Graves Baier, 1974

Lynn McKenzie, 1978

Charmayne James, 1986

Kristie Peterson, 1996-97

Sherry Cervi, 2013

Arena Record

13.11, Hailey Kinsel, 2017 Thomas & Mack

Consistent Excellence. The NFR Average

Most Average Wins

  • Charmayne James won the NFR aggregate seven times.
  • Kristie Peterson won five aggregate titles in a row from 1998-1998.

Leave ‘em Standing

  • Kristie Peterson and Bozo made 59 straight runs without penalty in the Thomas & Mack from the 10th go in 1993 to the 9th go in 1999.
  • Charmayne James and the incomparable Scamper went 54 straight from the 10th go in 1985 to the fourth go in 1991. 
  • Only two teams hit two barrels each in their careers together. Peterson in eight NFR’s and James in 99 runs.
  • The next closest are Lynn McKenzie and Magnolia Missile along with Connie Combs and Maudies Joak, who each managed 49 clean runs in 5 NFR’s.

The Repeat

  • Repeating as average champion of the NFR is clearly a difficult task, achieved only eight times by seven different barrel racers since 1967.
  • McKenzie did it back-to-back in 1978-1979 despite a change from Norick Arena to Myriad in Oklahoma City.
  • The most recent repeat winner is Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi in 2006-2007.

NFR Aggregate Oddities . . .

  • Along with McKenzie, Charmayne James and Marlene McRae are the only barrel racers to win an average title in different arenas, both doing so in Myriad Arena in Oklahoma City as well as the Thomas & Mack.
  • Donna Patterson’s horse Engle helped Joyce Loomis win the average in 1970 (running half the go rounds) and returned with Patterson in 1971 to win the average all by himself.

Current Record

  • 136.83 in 10 runs, Jordon Briggs, 2021

WPRA World Title Race

The Domination

  • Hailey Kinsel holds the largest margin of victory in a World title race, that happening during her magical 2020 run in Texas. She won the championship by $147,851.
  • Lindsay Sears holds the next most dominant performance when she won the 2008 title by $104,690 followed by Kinsel’s 2018 win ($98,996) Sherry Cervi’s 1999 ($97,307). 
  • Although inflation makes records based on earnings difficult to compute, it’s still notable that Charmayne James’ 1986 title was won by $85,809, which computes to $240,884 with the 2023 inflation calculator. She also won by $65,938 in 1987 and by $65,549 in 1990.

The Barn Burners

There have been many close World Championship races in the 75 year history of the WPRA, the smallest being Donna Patterson’s $151 win in 1971 (about $1,147 in today’s money) and Loretta Manual’s $212 win in 1967, the first year the barrel racers ran with the rest of the events at the NFR. 

This doesn’t include the three years—1976-1978—that the World title was decided by sudden death style, twice on money won at the NFR and once on a points system at the NFR.

Since equal money hit the Finals, these have been the closest races:

$2,567, Mary Burger over Brittany Pozzi in 2006

$2,856, Kappy Allen over Charmayne James in 2000

$7,091, Brittany Pozzi over Lindsay Sears in 2009

$10,794, Mary Burger over Amberleigh Moore in 2016

$10,927, Fallon Taylor over Lisa Lockhart in 2014