After winning his first NHRA race at Sonoma and backing up it with a second straight victory and fourth consecutive final at Topeka, Indy couldn’t possibly have gone any better for Pro Stock Motorcycle phenom Joey Gladstone.
It didn’t. He qualified in the middle of the pack and got beat first round.
The U.S. Nationals was a struggle from beginning to end for Gladstone and team owner Cory Reed, who had established low E.T. of all three qualifying sessions and all four rounds of eliminations in a storybook weekend at Topeka. At Indy, Gladstone, running in the final pair of Friday night qualifying as the incoming points leader, stumbled to an off-pace 7.01 before the team’s Diamond W/Fatheadz Hayabusa somewhat returned to form in ensuring sessions.
Gladstone entered eliminations No. 8 with an aggregate best of 6.87 at 195 mph, the lowest he’s qualified since Richmond, his home track, where he was ninth – the only time all year he hasn’t made the fast half of the field. “We just need to get back to what we know,” Gladstone said after the team traced the problem to a faulty ignition coil. “We’ve struggled with things beyond our control, but I think we found it. I’m not in as good of a position as I was in at Sonoma or Topeka, but we just need to overcome a little adversity.”
Opposite national record holder Karen Stoffer, a long, forgettable weekend came to a premature conclusion when Gladstone’s bike didn’t pick up as expected and he lost in the first round for the first time since Richmond, just six races but seemingly a lifetime ago. They were separated in the qualifying order by just one spot (8-9) and two-thousandths of a second (6.873-6.875), and when Gladstone let the clutch fly the instant the ambers flashed for a near-perfect .004 reaction time, things were looking up – for an instant.
But for just the fifth rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle’s 40-year history to ever back up a first career win with a second at the very next race, there would be no third straight. Stoffer slowed to a 6.91/194, but Gladstone did so even more to a 6.94/193 for as disappointing a loss as he’s suffered all season. “This weekend was hard on us,” he said. “We got behind and paid the price for it. But we’ll be back stronger – that’s a promise.”