In his fifth start astride Cory Reed’s Team Liberty Buell, Yellow Corn rider Joey Gladstone got faster and faster in almost every qualifying session and entered Carolina Nationals eliminations primed to give Vance & Hines test rider Chip Ellis all he could handle. Gladstone got off the line within thousandths of a second of the 2008 championship runner-up, but that was the last time he was in the race.

Ellis pulled away with an outstanding 6.77 – low e.t. of the entire event – while Gladstone could only watch him increase his lead with every shift after bogging hard off the line. Qualified 15th and down exactly a tenth of a second heading into their first-round heat, Gladstone wasn’t exactly the favorite against the No. 2 seed, but Ellis doubled the distance between them in qualifying (6.80 to 6.90) to an insurmountable two-tenths of a second, 6.77 to 6.97.

But despite entering eliminations in the second-to-last spot, Gladstone wasn’t out of contention. He’d already outpaced five non-qualifiers to make the Sunday field and stepped it up in virtually every session of qualifying with times of 7.01/193, 6.99/193, 6.90/192, and 6.92/194. For a No. 15 qualifier, he wasn’t far from the top – less than a tenth of a second, actually, with a 6.903 to No. 1 Eddie Krawiec’s 6.806 – but against low E.T. of the meet, no one would’ve had a chance.