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The Samís Club National BBQ Tour Prepares for Bentonville, Round Three

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October 17, 2013

After 30 cities, nearly 150,000 miles covered and 50 teams left in the running - it’s here. The Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour Championship Final is upon us for the third year, ready to crown the series champion with bragging rights for a year and oh, a check for $50,000. That’s right, $50,000. Ready?

Twenty-two of the 50 teams participating have previously earned the rights to Bentonville, leaving room for 28 fresh teams to join the roster this year. Of those 50 teams, only five have qualified for the Sam’s Final all three years of the series existence. Both the 2011 and 2012 series champions, Tippy Canoe BBQ Crew and Lucky’s Q, will be in attendance once again, of course, bringing their A-game in hopes of reclaiming their title. The team lineup for this year will also include the American Royal BBQ Invitational and Open GCs, Cool Smoke and Iowa’s Smokey D’s BBQ, the 2012 Jack Daniels Invitational GC, Pigskin BBQ and the current KCBS Team of the Year points leader, Truebud BBQ.

Of course, it’s every team’s dream to walk away $50,000 richer, but at the end of the day, only one team will (though that $25,000 reserve grand prize wouldn’t be a terrible compromise either!).

“We feel good, but competing against the best teams in barbeque, how could you not feel a little anxious?” said Paul Zonfrillo, part of ZBQ, who won the Chesapeake regional event.  ZBQ made it Bentonville in 2012 where they finished in the middle of the pack, leaving plenty of room to improve as a team this year.  

“I think our teamwork is stronger than ever. We’re working better together. My wife says we’re like ants in the colony – everyone knows their job,” said Zonfrillo.

Caveman Cuisine, who, like ZBQ, competed in 2012 and finished in the middle overall, are eager to get back to Bentonville this year to improve their game, though they’re also just thrilled to be a part of such a fantastic competitive environment.

“It’d be nice to win a little bit of money, but if we don’t, it’s just great to be able to go and compete against this field,” said Chad Backerman of Caveman Cuisine, grand champions of Midwest City regional event. 

For Tombstone BBQ, grand champions of the Las Vegas regional event, this has been their first year competing in the Sam’s Club series. Despite their rookie status, pitmaster Michael Eckert is no stranger to the barbeque game and knows the obstacles. 

“It’s all about the judging tables right now,” said Michael Eckert, pitmaster for Tombstone BBQ. Eckert says his team has been working on their consistency in preparation for the Final.

For teams like the BBQSuperstore.com, a tournament-style series like the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour really heightens the competitive spirit.

“I love this type of competition,” said Richard Parker, of BBQSuperstore.com. “When it comes to the Jack or the Royal, you compete against 200 other people, but they’re not necessarily going to be the best. They may be, but they also got lucky. With Sam’s, it kind of thins it out a little bit more and you’ve got to get lucky twice.”

Come Saturday, 50 teams, representing 26 different states, will put the best barbeque ribs, chicken, pork and brisket they know how to cook in 9x9 boxes and leave the rest up to the judges.

Best of luck to each and every team who has worked so hard to make it this far in the series!


*special thanks to Chris Cox for providing statistics 

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