CLOVIS, N.M. – A little over a week ago, Ben Jones was sitting in the stands at the Thomas & Mack Center when a group of fans came up to him and said they used to love watching him ride.
Jones understood the comment was not meant to be an insult, but it still bothered him.
“It really fired me up,” Jones said. “They think you are all done, so that fires me up to prove them wrong.”
The 35-year-old doesn’t want fans to think he is washed up. More importantly, he is motivated and determined to return to the Built Ford Tough World Finals as a Top-35 qualifier in 2015.
Jones took his first step toward that goal by going 2-for-3 this weekend to win the L.J. Jenkins Invitational at Curry County Events Center.
“This one feels unreal,” Jones said. “I can’t put words to it to about how important it is to start the year off like this. To win this event is the start of only good things for a good year.”
Jones, who totaled 175 points on two bulls, earned the BlueDEF Velocity Tour victory by conquering Nefarious for 89 points in the championship round and then looked on as Luis Blanco, Roscoe Jarboe, Brady Sims,Austin Meier and Sam Matthews all bucked off their respective bulls.
He became the eighth rider to make 8 seconds on Nefarious in a combined 20 career outs on the Touring Pro Division and Built Ford Tough Series. Nefarious had bucked off seven consecutive riders entering the matchup.
“It felt awesome,” Jones said. “It was unreal to ride him, because he hadn’t been ridden in a fair while.”
Jones pocketed $20,000 for the victory, but turned down a chance at facing $10,000 bounty bull Joe’s Boot Shop Shattered Dreams because of a “minor” knee injury that he suffered when he was bucked off by Classic Whoopin’ in the second round.
Therefore, Thad Newell (2-for-3, 173.5 points), who rode Delco for 87.5 points in the championship round, got the opportunity to get on the bounty bull. Newell became Shattered Dreams 15th consecutive buckoff in 2.76 seconds.
Robson Aragao (2-for-3, 173 points) covering RMEF Big Bull for 87 points in the championship round to place third. Matthews (2-for-3, 161 points) finished fourth and entered the championship round leading the event average, before being tossed by Mr. Mustachio.
Reece Arnold, who helped run the event, along with promoter and owner of Joe’s Boot Shop Coli Hunt, gave Jones a big hug and embraced the dancing Australian after Jones accepted a special bronze for winning the event.
“To see a good friend like Ben Jones win this deal is phenomenal,” Arnold said. “There is no better way it could have ended.”
Hunt added, “I thought this was a hit. I couldn’t pick a better finish. I really couldn’t.”
It’s a great start to the 2015 season for Jones – he also rode Mr. Slim for 86 points on Friday night – after he was cut from the Built Ford Tough Series following the Ty Murray Invitational in March. Jones had tried to fight his way back on tour, but a broken left clavicle and arm hindered his riding ability during the summer months. He wound up making it to Las Vegas as an alternate for the Finals.
Jones competed on the final day of the World Finals and was bucked off by Wicked in 5.38 seconds.
According to Jones, he began to finally feel healthy again a week earlier when he won the Touring Pro Division event in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Jones finished the 2014 season ranked 41st in the world standings, competed in 11 BFTS events and rode only 5-of-23 bulls on the PBR’s top tour. It was the first time since 2009 that he hadn’t qualified for Finals.
“I spent the first three rounds (this year) sitting in the stands with my wife, pouting and thinking I should have been here,” he admitted. “The next two nights, I changed it all and decided I need to be back here in 2015.”
It is why Jones took the advice of his father, Graham, and has been swimming at an indoor pool and riding an exercise bike in Decatur, Texas, to try and get his normally-battered and beaten body in better shape.
Jones plans on competing at next Saturday’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in San Diego, which can be seen LIVE via PBR LIVE.
“To get back to Vegas and the Finals is my goal this year,” Jones said. “Everyone can say they want to be in the Top 10 and whatever else, but I want to be at the Finals in 2015. I am feeling fresh. I am healthy. I just need to keep building off this win and keep going.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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