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 all weekend, 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. I’m more motivated than ever now.”