Austin Dillon has put on his general manager hat for a new documentary series highlighting a different group of athletes. He, the Carolina Cowboys, and the other teams in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Team Series are the focus of “The Ride” on Amazon’s Prime Video.
The eight-episode first season of “The Ride” landed on the streaming platform on May 29 as Dillon and his fellow NASCAR Cup Series drivers were completing the rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600. It follows the inaugural season of the PBR Team Series, which brought the best bull riders in the country together and put them in a team environment where they have access to coaches and facilities.
“It was pretty cool having our team be highlighted in ‘The Ride,’ and I thought the show did a great job showing different parts of the season and really getting to know some of our guys,” Dillon told Heavy ahead of the trip to Sonoma Raceway.
“I just had my baby girl the other day down in the hospital, and I watched the whole show. I thought it was really well put together and I thought they did a good job and, man, I’d love to see more.”
The first season starts with the inaugural PBR Draft in 2022 where Dillon, the other GMs, and the coaches tried to pick the best bull riders in the world to make up their teams. The show then followed these riders and teams as they celebrated near-perfect rides, overcame injuries, and battled for the championship.
While the focus is on the PBR Team Series as a whole, there was a specific moment early on that showcased Dillon’s transition into a businessman. He and the Carolina Cowboys missed out on their top choice in the draft, Daylon Swearingen, so he jumped on the phone and completed a blockbuster draft-day trade to bring the 2022 PBR World Champion to town.
“It’s been very cool to work in this kind of environment and the excitement level it brings,” Dillon said. “It’s like racing in a lot of ways. You’re trying to get a deal done, trying to make both sides happy, but you’re after something that you think you’re making your team better.
“It’s been very cool to be a part of a lot of trades. I’ve probably been in every trade — outside of one or two — in the league. But now I’m really happy and confident with our roster.
“…I just love working with those guys. They want to work hard. They are super brave, obviously. They’re in the world’s toughest sport. They know what they’re getting into when they get back in one of those bulls.”
1 Episode Specifically Focused on the Carolina Cowboys
There were many prominent storylines that took center stage during the first season of “The Ride.” Ezekiel Mitchell’s journey from undrafted free agent to trusted Austin Gamblers lead-off man and Eli Vastbinder becoming a first-round pick for the Oklahoma Freedom were only two examples.
The fourth episode of the series, in particular, highlights the Carolina Cowboys as the team prepares to host a pivotal matchup in Greensboro, N.C. Richard Childress uses the opportunity to explain how the PBR Team Series is much like NASCAR in its early days and why he decided to get involved despite having an incredibly busy schedule.
The episode also showcases a unique team-building event that Dillon puts on for his riders after taking over as GM. He takes them all to the Trackhouse Motorplex so that they can have some fun, blow off some steam, and compete in an entirely different arena. He also gets involved and ups the intensity level.
“That was just more about having fun, getting out there, and doing something a little different,” Dillon said. “And I think that’s what’s cool about PBR teams is getting these guys in situations that they may not have ever been in.
“Our training camp is coming up and we’re going to talk about not just training and nutrition but finance and different mental things that you can do to get better each and every day. We use the Navy SEALs, we’re doing that again this year. Our training camp probably won’t be as aggressive as last year’s — running them through the mud and the water.”
More Storylines Could Make Up Future Episodes
The first season of “The Ride” came to an end with the 2022 championship battle, but the PBR Team Series has only continued. The teams have been putting in work preparing for the 2023 season, which begins in Cheyenne in late July and continues through the championship in Las Vegas in late October as they travel the country multiple times.
“It’s a different sport for sure,” Dillon said. “I think they all live different lives with the traveling and some of them have families, some of them don’t. There’s just a different story with each guy. I love that God is front and center in a lot of these cowboys’ lives, and they always have their crosses on. [They’re] outspoken about God and their relationships with him.
“I think that is the cowboy brand, and you can really trust these guys when they tell you something. That’s pretty big to me. It’s kind of the last of a dying breed. I think what’s cool about this show and PBR and the ‘Yellowstone’ series coming back, I feel like there’s a lot of hype behind that lifestyle and being outdoors, being outside, working cattle.”
Will Prime Video continue to provide coverage of the eight teams, their biggest personalities, and their journeys while building on the hype that Dillon mentioned? That answer remains unknown, but driver-GM sees potential.
There are many other stories that Dillon believes should become a key part of future episodes so viewers can continue learning more about athletes that put their lives on the line with regularity. He specifically highlighted the riders, their unique backgrounds, and their growth as potential storylines. He also mentioned how the PBR Team Series will change the sport forever.
Riders may change their schedules to focus more on longevity instead of stretching themselves too thin trying to make ends meet. This is an evolution that the series could follow as the PBR Team Series truly gets off the ground.
“I do think that as the sport evolves, you’ll see guys start to do less because of how much this is bringing to bull riding — having an ownership group and a GM,” Dillon added. “I think they’re going to get smarter about how they ride, when they ride, and take care of their bodies more instead of just, ‘Go, go, go.’
“This is the first time they’ve had a guaranteed salary — some guys — and understanding being healthy for that will benefit them in the long run. I think you’ll see guys that don’t ride anything but PBR Teams at some point. You’ll see them come in and ride a couple here and there to get ready for the season’s start — practice bulls and maybe go to some smaller events — but you won’t see as many guys, I think, putting their body through a full season because they can gain a couple more years by just taking the PBR Teams.”