PSM – SONOMA

At long last, overdue rider Joey Gladstone and team owner Cory Reed realized their ultimate dream at Sonoma, the fastest track on the circuit: victory at an NHRA national event. For Reed, who switched from motocross seven years ago, and Gladstone, who’s been drag racing for more than a decade, it was the culmination of years of struggle and countless hours of backbreaking work. “It’s about time,” joked Reed, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, whose team had finished second at the past two races, Norwalk and Denver.

“I can’t believe this is real,” said Gladstone, whose recent hot streak has catapulted him to second in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, just two points out of the lead. “I’ve dedicated my life to this sport. This has been my goal since I was a little kid getting made fun of for being so small. The day I saw Angelle [Sampey], I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

Delivering on the promise shown in three previous final-round appearances this season (including the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte), Gladstone made the quickest run of his career (6.75) for the No. 3 spot Saturday afternoon in last-shot qualifying, then ran at least that quick Sunday in all four rounds of eliminations. After a brief scare in the first round when his bike initially refused to do a burnout opposite overmatched Jianna Evaristo, Gladstone reset his all-time-best with a blistering 6.74, then dumped Katie Sullivan in round two with an even quicker 6.73 at his fastest speed ever, 202.18 mph.

When the Diamond W Suzuki Hayabusa brushed aside Bristol winner Jerry Savoie in the semifinals, 6.75 to 6.84, only one thing stood between Gladstone and his first major win: longtime nemesis Eddie Krawiec. “I’m gonna bring everything I have in this final,” he said as he climbed off the bike, trying not think about how close he was – again. “I was ready to go 20 minutes before they called us up there for the final,” he admitted later. “I was like, ‘Come on, let’s do this. Let’s get it over with. Don’t overthink it. Cut a light, but not too close – don’t throw it away on a red-light. Give yourself a chance.’ “

With a .026 reaction time, he did, gaining the only edge he’d need because both he and Krawiec made the exact same run, matching 6.75s. “I heard him over there the whole way and knew I was ahead, but I never let myself think it – not after what happened at Charlotte [last fall, when an in-the-bag first win collapsed as he looked on in horror],” said Gladstone, who won on a holeshot, 6.759 to 6.758.

“It seemed like it took 30 seconds for the finish line to get there. I almost didn’t even want to look for the win-light. Going to all these finals and losing, you wonder in the back of your mind if it’s really meant to be. We may not have won them, but just from being in those other finals, I knew I could do it. I’m never going to forget this, and this is just the start.”

PSM – DENVER

PSM – DENVER

To keep Joey Gladstone from his long overdue first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle title, it took the fastest run in Mile-High Nationals history. Denied victory in four previous NHRA finals and appearing in his second in a row, he was out first and laid down a fifth straight run in the 7-teens but still got run down by Matt Smith’s record-setting 190-mph blast, 7.09 to 7.16.

“When I let it go and saw the light was green, I knew it was a good one,” Gladstone said. “I thought, ‘OK, you did your job.’ About the 300-foot mark, I started thinking, ‘Hey, maybe…’ I heard him at the eighth-mile and finally saw him at about 1,000 feet, and then I watched him go away from me.”

From the quarterfinals on, Smith, who broke both ends of the Bandimere Speedway track record in qualifying (7.090 seconds at 189.79 mph), reset the track speed mark every time he crossed the finish line. “You can’t be too mad about losing when a guy runs like that,” said Gladstone, who dipped into the 7-teens in last-shot qualifying and remained there throughout eliminations, outrunning everybody but Smith.

Gladstone pounded Ryan Oehler, who red-lighted, in the first round with yet another .00 light, a .008, in an almost uncontested 7.17/186 to 7.34/182 match. He climbed off the bike and proclaimed to a national television audience, “Eddie, you’re done,” before second-round opponent Eddie Krawiec had even raced Kelly Clontz, but, sure enough, took the measure of his longtime nemesis in the quarterfinals, 7.15/185 to Krawiec’s 7.18/186.

“Everybody knows what you have to do to be fast on the mountain,” Gladstone explained. “Add three or four teeth to the rear sprocket and put two floaters next to each other so the clutch doesn’t pull the motor down too much and bog off the line. No matter what you do, you’re making 27 percent less horsepower up here.”

In the semifinals, Gladstone prevented a rare husband/wife final, upending No. 2 qualifier Angie Smith, who’d been in the 7-teens all weekend, by 16-thousandths of a second, 7.19/185 to 7.21/186. A heavy underdog in the final, a race he figured he had a “one in four” shot at winning, he afforded himself every opportunity to win with a superior reaction time but there was no stopping Smith, who cracked 190 mph for the third run in a row with an all-time Denver record 190.22.

“I had him for a while,” said Gladstone, who now trails fading points leader Steve Johnson by just 46 points – about two rounds.  “But nobody was gonna beat that guy today.”

TAFC – NORWALK

It doesn’t usually take Annie Whiteley too many races to bag that first NHRA win of the season. For five years now, it’s taken exactly one: Belle Rose.

But now we’re halfway through the year, and Whiteley’s vaunted J&A Service/YNot team has been largely absent from the NHRA scene, relegated to appearances on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour, where, over the past few years, she’s really made a name for herself. “It’s not like I didn’t want to be out here,” Whiteley said of her second NHRA start of 2022. “It’s been my back. People would call, asking if we’d be at Belle Rose because we always start out [winning] at that race, but this year, I couldn’t because my back wouldn’t let me. Now it is.”

Other than a single NHRA outing at the Dallas Regional, where she got just one qualifying attempt and went out first round, Whiteley hadn’t driven 1320 feet since late last season in Las Vegas. “It’s nice to be back on the quarter-mile,” she said at Norwalk, one of her favorite tracks on either tour. “I love the Mid-West deal, but I prefer the quarter-mile. And I like this track. Always have.”

Whiteley made quality runs on two of three qualifying attempts – all but the first, when it seemed no one could get down the barren right lane. She pounded out back-to-back 5.5s in the remaining sessions to secure a spot in the fast half of the field and another in the first round to send driver Tyler Scott and team owner Larry Dobbs back to the Great White North. Both were right on time with .051 reaction times, but Whiteley pulled further and further ahead of the Canadian driver with every shift of the B&J trans for a 5.57/266 to 5.75/249 win.

That same run with the same reaction time in the quarterfinals would have been enough to turn back DJ Cox, but by then conditions had changed. Both cars slowed – just about everybody in that round did – but Whiteley lost three-hundredths of a second and Cox just two in a tight 5.58/261 to 5.60/266 match. “It was almost like the car was shaking the tires,” she said, “but it really wasn’t. I don’t know you’d call it – ‘rough?’ It wasn’t full-on tire-shake, but it was something – something just enough to make us lose.”

PSM – NORWALK

For teammates Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone, still slowly, methodically, but steadily clawing their way to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, the work continues. With a career-best 9-6 (.600) win-loss record this year and now two final-round appearances (doubling his lifetime total coming into the season), Gladstone is perched on the brink of championship contention.

At the Summit Nationals in tiny Norwalk, Ohio, in probably the best outing of the best season of his life, Gladstone landed in his fourth career NHRA final, dropping a rain-delayed decision that looked, for a while at least, as if it all might just go his way. Gladstone picked his way through eliminations to reach a final delayed by rain showers that began not between rounds but as he was on the line, inching toward the beams in the semifinals

“I couldn’t believe they ran us,” said Gladstone, who drove the Diamond W Suzuki to an easy win over returning veteran Hector Arana Jr., 6.93/193 to a red-lighting 10.63/79, to advance to his second final of the season. “I was wiping the raindrops off my visor as I was pulling up there.” The two-hour delay gave his opponent, former world champion Angelle Sampey, who had just red-lighted away a sure win in the Bristol final last week, plenty of time to think. “I think Joey might have relaxed a little that time, figured she’d either be red or way green, but she wasn’t,” Reed said.

“She left on time and made a great run,” said Gladstone, who dropped a good race, 6.86/197 to 6.92/194.

After qualifying 5th with a 6.82/198, Gladstone chased down second-generation rider Jimmy Underdahl, who got out on him with a near-perfect .003 reaction time, 6.89/195 to 6.98/196. “He’s a great rider,” Gladstone said Saturday afternoon in anticipation of their first-round race Sunday. “Not good. Great. He’s been double 0 on the Tree the whole time, and he did it again on me. I got lucky that time and I know it.”

In the following round, it was Gladstone’s turn to strap a big holeshot on someone, and his 6.90/195 took down the much quicker 6.85/195 of early season points leader Karen Stoffer, thanks to a decided advantage on the Tree, .018 to .135. Then came the semifinals, the rain, and another final-round disappointment.

“I almost started hoping it would rain out, so we’ve have time to find more E.T., but I’m not discouraged,” Gladstone concluded, packing up with three weeks before the next race, Denver. “I’m pleased, actually. We moved up in points [to fourth]. I’ve never been this high in the standings this late in the season. Now, I’m more motivated than ever.”

PSM – BRISTOL

Joey Gladstone’s dream season continued at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in the picturesque hills of eastern Tennessee, where he qualified a career-high 2nd with a fine 6.88 made more impressive by the fact that this is just the second time Pro Stock Motorcycles have ever raced on the high-altitude Bristol strip.

The barren surface was more than a little shaky for the two-wheel set in Friday evening’s initial qualifying session, but it wasn’t downright treacherous like last fall, when more than one run was a crash waiting to happen. Drawing on years of experience across a broad spectrum of machinery under every conceivable track and weather condition, Gladstone guided Cory Reed Motorsports’ Vance & Hines-powered Suzuki down the slippery strip to a 7.02/189 for the No. 6 spot.

Saturday Gladstone shot to a 6.94/193 to leap all the way to No. 2 at the time and No. 3 by the end of the session, and then an outstanding 6.88/194. That run, in the final pair of the day, was, for the first time in team history, low e.t. of an entire session and good for No. 2 overall behind only low qualifier Angelle Sampey’s slightly quicker 6.87/196.

“Number 2, wow,” said Gladstone, almost speechless. “That’s the highest I’ve ever qualified anywhere. It’s pretty nice to know that we can do something like that out here with all these guys who’ve been doing it for so long.”

Sunday morning in the first round of eliminations, Gladstone faced the No. 15 qualifier, national event champion Jianna Evaristo, the former Jianna Salinas, daughter of 2022 Top Fuel title contender Mike Salinas and surprise winner of the last national event of the 2010s, the 2019 NHRA Finals. Both matched their qualifying times right down to the hundredth of a second ­– Gladstone with another 6.88 for a lopsided win and Evaristo with another 7.22 in defeat.

Gladstone’s charge came to an end in the quarterfinals when he ran into career-long nemesis Jerry Savoie, the eventual winner. He got off the line on time with a .020 light, but Savoie beat him to the punch with a near-perfect .002 and won by a couple bike lengths with a 6.91/196 as Gladstone spun and slowed to a 6.96/193, dropping his career win-loss record versus the 2016 world champion to 0-8.

TAFC – ST. LOUIS

Jim Whiteley, who’s won big in Pro Mod and won it all, multiple times, in Top Alcohol Dragster, is fast closing in on a first major title in a third different category, Top Alcohol Funny Car. The two-time national event winner in NHRA Pro Mod and two-time world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster just missed winning the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, outdriving the hands-down best Funny Car driver out there, Sean Bellemeur, in the final.

Just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis at multipurpose World Wide Technology Raceway, Whiteley narrowly lost to the toughest possible opponent, Bellemeur, the current MWDRS points leader and reigning series champion in both the MWDRS and NHRA series. “He left on me and had me beat,” Bellemeur admitted. “He’s going to be really, really successful in that Funny Car.”

Whiteley wasn’t so sure. “This thing’s a challenge,” he said of his new ride. “Having them lower the body down over you and having the transmission running between your legs doesn’t bother me, but even though I have a clutch pedal and rev it up on the starting line, driving a Funny Car is not the same as driving an Alcohol Dragster or a Pro Mod. At all. None of that experience helps.”

With a 3.68 at 210.47 mph, Whiteley wheeled his J&A Service/YNot Racing entry to an easy first-round win over 2021 MWDRS championship runner-up Chris Marshall, who broke, then won the round he didn’t particularly want to win, over his least-favorite opponent ever – his wife, Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran Annie Whiteley. He got out first with a clutch .042 reaction time and hung on to edge her slightly quicker 3.66 with a 3.67.

An almost identical .048 light in the final gave Whiteley a noticeable holeshot lead on Bellemeur, but Bellemeur narrowly ran down his event-best 3.66 at just 207 mph with a much quicker and faster 3.61/213 for a photo-finish win. “It had to be close,” Whiteley said. “I still only have 12 hits in this thing, and I’m still learning every time out, but I can say one thing without a doubt: this Funny Car is harder to drive than anything I’ve ever driven.”

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS

It’s been three years now since Steven Whiteley last raced at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside St. Louis. Back then, he was still hitting 250 mph on the full quarter-mile and his opponent at that race, the 2019 NHRA Midwest Nationals, was, of all people, his crew chief today, Brandon Snider. (Snider won, but Whiteley had him on the Tree.)

Now, the two work together, Snider tuning and Whiteley driving, and they’re almost always entrenched in the upper reaches of the qualifying order. At the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, they again had the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s spotless ’69 Camaro into the fast half of the field, but not as close to the top as usual – just seventh, with 3.770 at 201.16.

“We struggled all weekend,” Whiteley admitted. “The whole team did, really – all three cars. The track just stumped us. The heat was part of it, but other teams had to deal with it, too.” Nobody made it into the 3.60s, the whole top half of the field was locked in the .70s, and the first driver in the .80s, No. 10 qualifier Brian Lewis, was Whiteley’s first-round opponent.

Long established as one of Pro Mod’s top leavers, regardless of the association, Whiteley had the best reaction time of all 16 drivers in the opening round, an outstanding .018. Lewis was right behind him with a .028 and matched his 3.813 qualifying time almost to the thousandth of a second with a winning 3.815 at 197.57 mph. Whiteley could’ve slowed down half a tenth and still won on a holeshot, but he slowed way down, coasting across the eighth-mile mark with a just a 4.83 at about 100 mph in a dispiriting loss.

“It just took the tire off that time,” Whiteley said. “I don’t know what happened. This track whipped our ass. It was so hot all weekend; we were just glad to get out of there. It’ll be nice to have some time off from racing to work and spend time with the family.”

One of the truly unique aspects of competing on the racer-friendly MWDRS tour is the lengthy three-month summer break it affords teams, most of which are led by independent entrepreneurs who spend that time between races literally taking care of business. The season winds up with a flourish, a three-race stretch from Sept. 9 to Oct. 22 with stops in Martin, Mich., Tulsa, and Ferris, Texas.

PSM – RICHMOND

Everybody gets beat in the first round, but for Joey Gladstone that hasn’t been much of a problem – until Richmond. Competing at his adopted home track, Virginia Motorsports Park, Gladstone was gone early for the first time all season after just missing a perfect reaction time with a -.010 foul.

“I was pushing it, sure,” he admitted. “That’s Eddie [Krawiec, the many-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion] over there in the other lane. You know it’s gonna be a tough round. You know he’s gonna run good. You’d damn sure better be ready, and I guess I was a little too ready that time.”

Gladstone, who began the season with a semifinal finish in Gainesville, was looking good here until the Tree flashed in the first pair of the first round. Still a solid sixth in the standings despite this untimely opening-round defeat, he unloaded an unbelievable all-time best 6.77 at 199.29 mph April 12 in testing here and entered the race in fourth place, ahead of past champions Matt Smith, Angelle Savoie, and Jerry Savoie.

Friday evening in the first of three scheduled Virginia Nationals qualifying sessions, Gladstone, fighting the weather like everyone in every category, came through with a 6.87/195 to move well into the field, followed Saturday afternoon by a more than respectable 6.89/196. Any shot at improving was eliminated by persistent showers that evening that had some riders willing to wait out the rain for one last run and others not.

“The dew point was falling,” said Gladstone, who ended up ninth on the final qualifying grid, stuck with an unenviable first-round meeting with number 8 Krawiec. “The guys who didn’t want us to get one more run were making their case with NHRA officials – I stood right there and watched the whole thing go down. We really could have used one more run. If we’d have gotten it, things would have turned out a lot differently on Sunday.”

PRO MOD – TULSA

Everything was falling into place for second-generation Pro Mod driver Steven Whiteley at the Throwdown in T-Town – all the potential displayed in the first two races was on full display.

“The car was really running here,” he said. “Both lanes. That’s the thing about Tulsa. There’s that famous bump in left lane, but it doesn’t matter now – it’s after eighth mile. I’ve never seen a track where both lanes were truly as equal as they were this weekend. You don’t need a plan for the bad lane because now there is no bad lane.”

Thrown on top of the postponed Memphis Nationals – a whole other MWDRS national event in itself – the regularly scheduled Tulsa event was enough to put anyone on overload. Driving a powerful Pro Mod, plotting strategy round after round of Memphis Top Dragster eliminations with wife Delaina, and keeping an eye on their kid’s Jr. Dragster was enough to frazzle anyone, but Whiteley gamely kept it all straight.

“One race was over and you’d turn around and be right into the next one,” Whiteley said. “It kinda got to be a blur – the rounds all started running together. All I remember was that the last round I won was on Friday night.” The first round for the originally scheduled Throwdown in T-Town was on Saturday, and Whiteley lost traction and had to lift against the ’68 Camaro of Brian Lewis, who’d barely qualified, 16th with a 3.81.

In the other lane, Lewis skied to a 4.07 but still squeaked into the quarterfinals against eventual runner-up Daniel Pharris. To compound Whiteley’s frustration, Lewis never made it to the line to make a race of it and Pharris advanced on a 3.72 single. Whiteley, who probably should have qualified No. 1 for the Memphis race, did qualify No. 1 for this one with an outstanding 3.638/207.08, pacing an enormous field of 25 cars from all over the middle of the continent.

“I think I’ve only had to abort three runs all year – one went toward the wall early on, it took the tire off on a qualifier in Memphis, and now here in the first round,” Whiteley said. “The car made it out there quite a way, started chattering, and then took the tire off, but for the most part it goes right down there every time. And it’s fast. [Crew chief] Brandon Snider is top notch. It’s nice to have a crew chief understand exactly what it’s like from the driver’s point of view because he’s a really good one himself.”

TAFC – TULSA

In the afterglow of the rescheduled Memphis race finished in Tulsa, one of the best overall events in team history, the Throwdown in T-Town turned out to be a major disappointment for YNot Racing, and nowhere more so than in Top Alcohol Funny Car, where both Annie and Jim Whiteley were dumped in the first round.

Annie, who has a lifetime win-loss record of 14-4 (.778) at Tulsa Raceway Park, blew the tires off at the hit and fell to former nitro Funny Car racer Steve Macklyn, and Jim did likewise two pair later opposite second-generation driver Brian Brown. Macklyn’s and Brown’s winning times (3.77 for Macklyn and 3.95 for Brown) made the losses even more grating – neither was close to the Whiteleys’ qualifying performances, and both were gone a round later.

“We finished Memphis here, and the first and second round counted as the second and third qualifying runs for Tulsa,” Annie said. “We got one extra run because we were in the final [of the rescheduled Memphis event], and after that, I think it all got a little confusing for everybody.”

Annie qualified No. 3 for the Throwdown in T-Town with a 3.668 at 211.56 mph – quicker and faster than she’d just run to win the rescheduled Memphis event. Jim, racing his beautiful white Camaro for just the second time, wasn’t far behind, but neither cracked the six-second mark on the eighth-mile course in their brief stays in eliminations.

“You just won the Memphis race, and now you’re nothing?” asked Annie, who used to live in Tulsa, won back-to-back NHRA regional events here in in 2012 and 2013, and reached the final a third straight time in 2014. “Sometimes, I guess that’s just how it goes: like they say, in three or four hours you really can go from a hero to a zero. I don’t know what the hell happened up there; the car just didn’t make it that time. It took the tire off. Jim’s car did the exact same thing, and we didn’t change a thing on either one.”

« Older posts

© 2022 YNot Racing

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑