2022 championship runner-up Joey Gladstone turned in another solid if unspectacular finish at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals, getting faster every run all weekend until he didn’t. For the year, this makes three quarterfinal finishes in three starts, good for sixth in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship standings.
Everything Gladstone and every other rider did all weekend paled in comparison to rookie sensation Gaige Herrera, who made three of the four quickest runs in history (6.677, 6.677, and 6.672) and was slower on his worst run than any other rider was on his best. Herrera may have made the second-, third-, and fourth-quickest runs ever on consecutive qualifying runs, but Gladstone and the Cory Reed/YNot Racing team put together a competitive pack of runs of their own, improving from a shutoff 6.92/174 in Friday’s lone qualifying session to a 6.83/198 Saturday morning to a 6.77/198 in last-shot qualifying to move into the top five.
“We knew we could do it,” said Gladstone, who won three races in six final-round appearances last year. “We were just trying to ease up on it every run. We didn’t want to get greedy, but we didn’t want to race scared, either.”
In the first round against old pal Ryan Oehler, Gladstone won easily on Oehler’s foul start but had it all the way with his best run of the weekend, rocketing off the line with a 1.04 60-foot time and posting a 6.75/198 that brings his all-time first-round win-loss record to a tidy 39-39. “It feels good to be in the time zone as Gaige,” he said. “A 6.75 is no 6.67, I know, but it’s something we can definitely race with.”
Another 6.75 in the second round would have been enough to get him to his first semifinal appearance of the season, but a 6.781 left him just short of Vance & Hines team rider Eddie Krawiec’s 6.786. It’s not easy to lose on a holeshot with a .015 reaction time, but Krawiec, the many-time national champion, put up a near-perfect .006 and a slightly faster speed, 199.08 mph to 197.54, to hold him off by four-thousandths of a second.