LAS VEGAS – Precise timing is one of several keys to fielding a winning NASCAR team, as first-time United States Bowling Congress Open Championships participant Mark Ellis of Charlotte, North Carolina, can attest to better than most.
As a transporter for Chip Ganassi Racing and the Jamie McMurray racing team, Ellis knows how being able to shave a tenth of a second off a lap or pit stop can be the difference between a top-10 finish and getting to celebrate in the winner’s circle.
Ellis also hopes the good timing that allowed him to make his debut Thursday at the world’s largest participatory sporting event works in favor of McMurray’s No. 1 car this weekend as the team looks to take home the checkered flag at the Kobalt 400 at the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 29-year-old left-hander made the 2,200-mile trek from Charlotte to Las Vegas hoping to jump on the tournament’s sub board and get the opportunity to compete before having to start preparing for race day.
“After looking up the schedule and figuring out if the timing would work, I started to talk to some people, specifically (USBC Hall of Famer) John Gaines, about how I could get out on the lanes,” said Ellis, who bowls regularly out of George Pappas’ Victory Lanes in Mooresville, North Carolina. “I got here on Wednesday afternoon and was able to get lined up with someone looking for a doubles partner. I got to bowl with a great guy from California, and now we’ll head to the race track to get ready for this weekend.”
Although Ellis struggled to get going during his six games at the South Point Bowling Plaza, he found an appreciation for what it meant to be at the top of the leaderboard at the USBC Open Championships.
“It’s difficult out here,” said Ellis, who rolled sets of 501 in doubles and 498 in singles. “I give a lot of respect to anybody and everybody who bowls this event. It’s tough. I think USBC does a great job to make it competitive for everybody.”
Whether on the lanes or on the track, Ellis feels both sports share several of the same qualities necessary to succeed.
“In my opinion, they’re the most competitive sports out there,” said Ellis, who has been with Chip Ganassi Racing for two years. “When it comes to a team aspect, you have to have everybody working together to achieve the same goal. You win or lose as a team.”
The NASCAR season generally runs from February through November, so opportunities to bowl during that time are not always available for Ellis, but he keeps his equipment on the truck to stay sharp when he can. He’s also been able to compete in several Professional Bowlers Association regional events when his scheduled has allowed him to do so.
Ellis now has a new tournament to look forward to in 2018 as the Open Championships heads to Syracuse, New York.
“I’m looking forward to doing this every year,” Ellis said. “I grew up 20 miles outside of Syracuse, so I’m planning on bowling it and learning a whole lot in the next year.”
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