Erik Jones adjusts to full-time ride on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie Erik Jones generally lives his life one 180-mph lap at time.
He slowed things down a bit Wednesday — to fewer than 13 mph — for an appearance at Main Event Entertainment in Olathe, where he challenged Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren in a game of bowling.
There’s nothing slow about Jones’ chosen career or his rocket-like ascension through professional auto racing’s ranks.
Jones, 20, a native of Byron, Mich., was winning quarter-midget and late-model races throughout the Rust Belt before he could legally drive a car on city streets.
He remained a sensation after signing with Kyle Busch Motorsports in March 2013, winning Camping World Trucks Series rookie of the year in 2015 in the first season he was old enough to run a full-time schedule.
Jones then signed with Joe Gibbs Racing, moved into stock cars and was chosen Xfinity Series rookie of the year in 2016.
Now, he’s in his first full-time Monster Energy Cup season with Furniture Row Racing, which is running a second car on NASCAR’s top circuit for the first time and made Jones teammates with Martin Truex with the Denver-based outfit.
Jones, who made his Cup Series debut as a replacement for Kyle Busch during the 2015 spring race at Kansas Speedway, was in town to promote the Go Bowling 400 on May 13 at Kansas Speedway.
Top speeds on the lanes at the new Olathe bowling alley, arcade, and bar-and-grill — where Warren fended off a late two-strike rally by Jones for a five-pin victory — paled in comparison to those on a NASCAR track.
“I see what frame killed me right here,” Jones said, pointing to the sixth frame on a printout of the game. “I didn’t even realize this, but I hit one pin in the sixth frame. One. … I think I’ll stick to driving race cars and do bowling on the side.”
Jones’ average ball speed was roughly 12.5 mph during the showdown with Warren, not that he minded a break from his usual life at breakneck speed.
“I saw that up there (on the monitors) and the first thing I thought was, ‘That’s probably a bad idea, because I can imagine some people coming in here and one goal is probably going to be how fast can I throw it down the alley,’ ” Jones said. “But it’s kind of nice to slow down sometimes. It’s not too bad.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean Jones wasn’t tempted to see if he could light up the radar gun.
“Oh, there was temptation there, for sure,” Jones said. “Oh, yeah, but it would have ended up in the gutter too.”
Truex made a similar appearance last appearance last spring. He defeated Warren in the bowling match, won the pole for the race a few weeks later and was poised to win the race before a broken bolt cost him the lead late in the race.
“Maybe this will turn it around and it’ll be the other way around,” Jones said. “I lost the bowling, so we can make up for it in the race this time.”
Tickets for the Go Bowling 400, which takes place under the lights at 6:30 p.m. May 13 at Kansas Speedway on Fox Sports 1, are available at www.kansasspeedway.com, by calling 1-866-460-7223 or by visiting the Kansas Speedway ticket office.