CLOVIS, N.M. – How important can a BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in October really be toward the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series?
For those that think, ‘Well, not too important,’ you just go ahead and askBen Jones.
Jones won the 2015 L.J. Jenkins Invitational last year to earn automatic bid for the 2015 BFTS season opener in Baltimore, Maryland, and the 80 points he earned toward the world standings played a major role in him earning a full-time spot back on a tour a year after being cut.
Jones earned an additional 57.5 points in three fall BlueDEF events and eventually used a sixth-place finish in New York and a seventh-place finish in Oklahoma City to earn enough points through the first five events of the season to earn a full-time spot back on the BFTS.
The fifth annual L.J. Jenkins Invitational takes place on Friday and Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET inside the Curry County Events Center and will be streamed live on CarbonTV.com.
Some riders expected to compete include 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, Valdiron de Oliveira, Eduardo Aparecido, Douglas Duncan, Derek Kolbaba, Sean Willingham and Marco Eguchi.
It is the first of four BlueDEF Tour events before the start of the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series.
Standing outside the locker room last week during the Built Ford Tough World Finals, Jones said Clovis did much more than get him back on the BFTS.
It is the reason he was even able to make it to the World Finals.
“We went to Clovis and those Velocities the week after,” Jones said. “That is why I am here this year. That was it.”
Jones, who is currently at home in Texas recovering from a concussion, a 12th rib fracture and transverse process fractures of the first and second vertebrae, as well as injuries to his face and eye socket, concluded the season ranked 21st in the world standings.
He posted a message on his Facebook fan page saying, “I am pretty banged up, but I’m back home now. Dr. Tandy Freeman has seen all the scans and at this time I just need to rest and let everything heal.”
The 36-year-old used an 89.5-point ride on Handsome Jeff to place 10th at the World Finals.
Following the ride Jones said, “Man, I am just so emotional right now.”
Jones went 21-for-62 (33.87 percent) with a 90.25-point ride to win the Ty Murray Invitational in March and finished 2015 with six Top-10 finishes.
If not for his victory in Clovis, none of that may have ever happened.
Jones’ bank account was running low and he was mentally beginning to prepare to accept that maybe 2014 was signaling the end of his career.
“Getting on them bulls at Clovis, I had to dig deep in myself and ask myself if I didn’t do good at Clovis, ‘Was it time to hang it up or not?’
“I won Clovis and that was a sign that said no way.”
Jones said 2015 was one of his top-three performances of his career.
“Winning the Ty Murray Invitational and Clovis, It has been a fun year,” Jones said. “I am not good with words, but it was a very fulfilling year for myself. Not being here last year, and here I am now.”
Jones went 3-for-3 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to win his first BFTS event since Aug. 15, 2010. He capped the performance with a 90.25-point ride on Beaver Creek Beau.
Beaver Creek Beau had previously bucked off 21 consecutive BFTS riders.
“That goes down as one of my best rides ever,” Jones recalled.
Murray said Jones has been able to succeed in the PBR because he has a heart that very few other bull riders can match.
“He is not an athlete. He is no great talent. He is just a rough, tough little guy from Australia. He is tough and he has the essence of what this sport is about,” Murray said. “People root for Ben because they can see it is so pure. They can see it all comes down to his heart and guts.”
According to Jones, he will meet with Freeman in six weeks to see how his recovery is going.
There is no current timetable for when Jones will be able to return to competition, but he is guaranteed eight BFTS events in 2016 before facing the BFTS cutline because of his 21st finish in the world standings.
The New South Wales, Australia, bull rider hopes to ride into his 40s as long as his body lets him.
“I reckon I have three more years,” Jones concluded. “The goal is to break the 40 mark. We will be here when I am 40. That is for sure. It is the last thing I think about when I go to bed and it is still the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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