Rolling into the Lone Star State for the last NHRA national event ever at Houston Raceway Park, Cory Reed, rider Joey Gladstone, and their nascent Reed Motorsports team stood a career-high third in the NHRA standings. The race didn’t end in a second consecutive semifinal showing, but a quarterfinal finish kept the young team in early title contention and solidified its status as next the next breakthrough first-time winner on the Pro Stock Motorcycle tour.

“We’re learning how to go rounds,” Reed said. “It takes time. Running good in qualifying is one thing; it’s another thing to do it on Sunday. We’re gonna get there and we’re not gonna quit until we do.”

Gladstone, who reached the semifinals at the rain-plagued Gainesville season opener despite (like everyone) never getting a qualifying run, made the most of the three Spring Nationals sessions. Each was a full pull at nearly 200 mph, starting Friday evening with the best one, an off-the-trailer 6.83 at 198 mph, good for No. 2 at the time and No. 4 by the end of the session.

Back-to-back strong runs Saturday set Gladstone up perfectly for Sunday’s eliminations. He wheeled the team’s Suzuki Hayabusa to a pair of respectable runs that weren’t reflected in the final qualifying order but boded well for Sunday – 6.91/199 and 6.84/198. At that point, he was still fifth on the grid, but reigning world champion Matt Smith knocked him back one pair later with a 6.81/199.

As at the only previous NHRA bike race this season, the Gatornationals, Gladstone met Marc Ingwersen in the first round of eliminations, and again he had it from start to finish. Ingwersen threw away any chance he had of winning with an untimely -.147 foul start, but the Reed Motorsports rider was untouchable anyway with a near-perfect .006 reaction time and his quickest run all weekend, 6.82/198.

Opposite career-long nemesis Eddie Krawiec in the quarterfinals, Gladstone was out first again with another great reaction time (.020), but the four-time world champ ran him down before half-track and advanced with one of the quickest runs of the entire round, 6.77/199 to 6.91/197. “It spun,” Gladstone said. “Just obliterated the tire. It was all over right there, but I stayed in it in case something happened to him.”

“It’s not that we tuned it up too much,” Reed said. “It’s that we didn’t tune it down enough [for the conditions]. That’s something you have to learn. And we are.”