Fresh off a quarterfinal finish at the U.S. Nationals in his first start in exactly a year, Cory Reed kept going rounds at the Fall Nationals in Dallas, and that didn’t end up being the high point of the weekend for Team Liberty – far from it, actually. Teammate Joey Gladstone, racing for the first time all year, went all the way to the final for the first time in his career.
Reed came off the trailer Saturday morning with a competitive 6.92 at 194 mph and backed it up with an almost identical 6.92/195 in the only other qualifying session, eventually settling into the No. 11 spot on the eliminator ladder. Gladstone was even better, anchoring the fast half of the 16-bike field with a 6.89/195 on his only attempt.
Both drivers sailed through the first round of eliminations against heavily favored opponents, Gladstone with a winning 6.98/190 when Hector Arana Jr. red-lighted by eight-thousandths of a second and Reed with a 6.96/193 over U.S. Nationals winner and national championship contender Scotty Pollacheck’s bogging 7.00/197 in a race decided by 1/500th of a second.
In the quarterfinals, Gladstone stopped cagey veteran Michael Phillips, who had upset incoming points leader Matt Smith in the first round, with a steady 6.97/191 opposite Phillips’ slowing 9.77. One pair later, Reed, who long ago established himself as one of the better leavers in Pro Stock Motorcycle, lost on a holeshot to eventual winner Jerry Savoie, 6.97/189 to his slightly quicker 6.96/193. After a semifinal upset of 2000-01-02 world champ Angelle Sampey, who threw away what would have been a winning 6.89/195 on a red-light start, Gladstone, with nothing to lose, lined up against former world champ Jerry Savoie in the final.
The Team Liberty bike made its worst run all weekend, a 7-flat at 192 mph, and Savoie, in a Dallas final for the sixth straight year, scored with a 6.91/191, bringing to an end the finest day of Gladstone’s career. “This is pretty unbelievable,” the young rider said of his first final-round appearance in NHRA competition. “[Engine builder/crew chief] Cecil [Towner] did a great job tuning. Everybody on the team did a good job, and we’re all having a good time. I really think that’s what’s led to this success. I’m still in disbelief – we weren’t even sure we were going to come here – but in drag racing, I guess when it’s your day, it’s your day.”