Pro Stock Motorcycle star Joey Gladstone navigated the sometimes shark-infested world of four-wide competition at zMax Dragway and came out not victorious but at least unscathed. Qualified well into the top half of the program, he advanced to the semifinals only to be denied a final-round appearance by a fraction of a second. “This Four-Wide deal can be tricky,” he said. “The first guy stages and that clock gets going, and you know you’ve only got seven seconds to get in there.”
Riding team owner Cory Reed’s Precision Service Equipment Hayabusa, Gladstone recorded a 6.87 in the first of four qualifying sessions, good for the No. 2 position at the time, improved to a 6.85, and ultimately settled into the No. 6 spot with an aggregate best of 6.82/197.94. “It feels good to be on my own stuff again,” said the 2022 championship runner-up, who spent his off time early this season twirling wrenches for the Greg Anderson/Dallas Glenn Pro Stock team. “I loved working on the Pro Stock car, but I can’t juggle both – Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle run too close together. I really learned a lot working for them, though – stuff I can apply to our program.”
Gladstone unwittingly became embroiled in the weirdest quad of a weird first round that ended with two of the four bikes quietly pushed off the starting line. John Hall got timed out, Jianna Evaristo never left, and Gladstone and drag bike stalwart Steve Johnson posted identical times right down to the thousandth of a second, matching 6.840s. Even that wasn’t close, though: Gladstone managed his emotions, focused his concentration, and left on Johnson by literally a second.
No one was ready when the Tree came down because all four drivers weren’t staged when the timer hit the seven-second mark, but when it flashed green Gladstone was gone long before anybody else let go of the clutch handle. “I saw Steve go in, and those other two were taking their time over there,” Gladstone said. “So I just counted to five and put it on the chip,” he said.
With a clutch performance in the semifinals, Gladstone shot off the line with a near-perfect .002 reaction time and narrowly missed making yet another final. Eddie Krawiec was out of reach with a winning 6.78, but Gladstone came painfully close (12-thousandths of a second) to beating Johnson on a 6.86-6.80 holeshot.