Tag: Bristol


Joey Gladstone’s dream season continued at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in the picturesque hills of eastern Tennessee, where he qualified a career-high 2nd with a fine 6.88 made more impressive by the fact that this is just the second time Pro Stock Motorcycles have ever raced on the high-altitude Bristol strip.

The barren surface was more than a little shaky for the two-wheel set in Friday evening’s initial qualifying session, but it wasn’t downright treacherous like last fall, when more than one run was a crash just waiting to happen. Drawing on years of experience across a broad spectrum of machinery under every conceivable track and weather condition, Gladstone guided Cory Reed Motorsports’ Vance & Hines-powered Suzuki down the slippery strip to a 7.02/189 for the No. 6 spot.

Saturday Gladstone shot to a 6.94/193 to leap all the way to No. 2 at the time and No. 3 by the end of the session, and then an outstanding 6.88/194. That run, in the final pair of the day, was, for the first time in team history, low e.t. of an entire session and good for No. 2 overall behind only low qualifier Angelle Sampey’s slightly quicker 6.87/196.

“Number 2, wow,” Gladstone said, almost speechless. “That’s the highest I’ve ever qualified anywhere. It’s pretty nice to know that we can do something like that out here with all these guys who’ve been doing it for so long.”

Sunday morning in the first round of eliminations, Gladstone faced the No. 15 qualifier, national event champion Jianna Evaristo, the former Jianna Salinas, daughter of 2022 Top Fuel title contender Mike Salinas and surprise winner of the last national event of the 2010s, the 2019 NHRA Finals. Both matched their qualifying times right down to the hundredth of a second ­– Gladstone with another 6.88 for a lopsided win and Evaristo with another 7.22 in defeat.

Gladstone’s charge came to an end in the quarterfinals when he ran into career-long nemesis Jerry Savoie, the eventual winner. He got off the line on time with a .020 light, but Savoie beat him to the punch with a near-perfect .002 and won by a couple bike lengths with a 6.91/196 as Gladstone spun and slowed to a 6.96/193, dropping his career win-loss record versus the 2016 world champion to 0-8.


Back on the line just an hour after teammate Cory Reed’s devastating crash, Joey Gladstone upset championship contender Steve Johnson in the Charlotte semi’s to reach the brink of his first major title. An hour or so later he had Angelle Sampey covered until a disastrous, once-in-a-lifetime mechanical glitch muzzled his bike and denied him his first NHRA victory.

Since then … nothing. It’s been one early exit after another. Dallas: out first round. Bristol: out first round. And, now, Las Vegas: out first round. None was more disheartening than this latest setback, at the Dodge Nationals in Vegas. This time Gladstone didn’t have a chance – he took himself out with a red-light start, and right when Reed was there to watch.

Confined to a wheelchair since September and probably into the first month or so of next year, minimum, Reed, bored to tears watching from the sidelines at home, found his way back to a racetrack for the first time since his catastrophic crash. “It sucks not being out here,” he said. “You’re stuck at home, you get all excited about finally having something to look forward to – watching the livestream of the race – and then it starts, and it’s not the same at all. You’re there, but you’re not racing. Your team is. Not you – you’re just watching.”

With his team leader and best bud looking on intently, Gladstone opened Dodge Nationals qualifying with a 7.09/193 that positioned him sixth at the time, followed with a much better 6.95/191 that got him right back up to sixth, and entered eliminations in the ninth spot after rolling through the beams on his third and final qualifying attempt.

In the first round, opposite returning veteran Chris Bostick, who qualified just ahead of him in the No. 8 spot, Gladstone narrowly fouled. It was a crusher – his best run of the entire event, a 6.939 that tied Bostick’s qualifying time right to the thousandth of a second, and right when Bostick stumbled to a 6.98 but won anyway.

“The bike’s not really running we think it should right now,” said Reed, bound to a wheelchair with pins sticking out of him but equally bound and determined to get back on the quarter-mile by early next year. “This was never going to be easy – I never expected it to be. We want to do better, and we will, but nothing really looks completely out of whack right now. Nothing’s screaming ‘fix me,’ so I don’t know why it’s not running better. If we find something in testing, we’ll be at Pomona for the Finals. If we don’t, we won’t.”


This year, for the first time since Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone were elementary school kids, the premier Pro Stock Motorcycle teams in the country descended upon Bristol Dragway in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Until now, the two-wheel set had never been part of an NHRA national event here, so no one really had any idea what to expect from the legendary but, to them, completely unfamiliar track.

They just knew it was going to be bumpy. Really bumpy. Knock-your-hands-right-off-the-handlebars bumpy. Everyone was anxious about exactly what was going to happen when they let the clutch handle fly, unleashing their 200-mph missiles on Bristol’s notoriously uneven surface, but Gladstone, more than most, seemed unfazed. “You just have to be ready for it,” he said. “At a place like this, you just need to make sure you’re ahead of the bike the whole time.”

He was. After rolling off the trailer with a 6.98 at 193 mph Friday evening, Gladstone hung within hundredths of a second of that time all weekend, with a 6.96/190 Saturday afternoon and a 7.01/192 later that evening that positioned him ninth in the final lineup, locked into theoretically the closest race of the first round. It couldn’t have been closer than No. 8 vs. No. 9 anyway, but this one figured to be even tighter than ever because both Gladstone and Eddie Krawiec qualified with the same E.T., right down to the thousandth of a second – not just matching 6.96s, but identical 6.966s.

Krawiec, the 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2017 Pro Stock Motorcycle champ, had his choice of lanes because of his faster qualifying speed (196.36 mph to 190.75) and appeared to have the upper hand, but it was Gladstone who actually had the better head-to-head record coming in. “All we have to do is get down the back half of the track as good as we’ve been getting down the front half,” he said, “and this thing should run in the mid-.80s.”

It didn’t. With Reed convalescing and watching the nhra.tv livestream from home, Gladstone got the drop on Krawiec at the Tree, .030 to .040, but it was the last time he’d hold the lead. Instead of them both running the same e.t. they had in qualifying and Gladstone winning on a slight holeshot, he slowed from 6.96 to a 6.99 while Krawiec capitalized on the cool air and tight, tacky track to advance with by far his best run all weekend, a 6.89.


Jim Whiteley’s had it with his ’69 Chevelle. “This thing is officially parked,” he said at Thunder Valley Dragway in the rolling hills of Bristol, Tenn., after another disappointing DNQ. “Bigfoot can drive over this thing and crush it, as far as I’m concerned – that actually would be worth more to me than whatever I could sell it for. People come up at every race and say how much they love it, but it just won’t run.”

Whiteley wheeled the Yenko Blue Chevelle, one of the most popular cars – if not the most – on the entire NHRA Pro Mod tour, to 5-second times in three of four qualifying sessions, but even “Stevie Fast” Jackson, who’s led the standings all season and who recently joined the J&A Service/YNot team to lend his tuning expertise, hasn’t been able to get much out of it. Whiteley ran a 5.98 Friday afternoon for the early qualifying lead and picked up to a 5.92 at just 232 mph that evening to enter Saturday qualifying 17th on the grid, one spot out of the field. A tire-shaking, shutoff 8.90 in Q3 and a 5.97 late Saturday afternoon in last-shot qualifying rendered him a non-qualifier for the sixth time in six 2019 starts.

“We put more [transmission] ratio in for that last one,” Whiteley said. “Didn’t matter. It was already way leaner than you’d ever think you could get away with. Same thing – didn’t matter. I don’t know what it is. It’ll stay with anybody early, but from half-track on it doesn’t go anywhere. This car has a mind of its own. People ask if I’m discouraged, but I’m really not. I’m done with this thing – it’s time – but I’m excited about where Stevie has this program going. He just does not quit. He’s already found things, he has good things coming, and the new car [a Tommy Mauney-built ’63 Corvette the team will take delivery of this week] is going to haul ass.”

“I’ve never failed at anything like I have with this car,” said Jackson, as transparent and no-nonsense as ever. ” I’ve taken parts straight off my car and put them on this one and it still won’t run. I’ve had it so lean that if it was my car it would have blown up at 400 feet and the plugs still have all the cad on them. You know what I want to do? Take this thing up on that giant hill at the other end of the track and push it off the cliff. They can even leave me in it if they want. I’ll just say this: When we get the new car, it’s going to run. Jim’s going to be on the pole, I guarantee you.”


At the Thunder Valley Nationals in picturesque Bristol, Tenn., another promising weekend ended in frustration for Steven Whiteley, who’s been qualifying at the top of drag racing’s most competitive class all year, when he got bounced again in the first round. This time he was at the very top of the Pro Mod qualifying charts – No. 1 – with a 5.823 that held up all weekend as low e.t. “I knew that was a decent run,” he said, “but I couldn’t believe it ran that quick, especially in these conditions. That was right on the edge of not making it – I don’t think the car could have run another .82 five minutes later.”

It wasn’t the only time Whiteley would top all qualifiers at Thunder Valley. Saturday afternoon, when steamy conditions made it impossible for anyone to approach his .82 for the top spot, he established low e.t. of that session, too, with a 5.88. “We knew that No. 1 run from Friday wasn’t going be taken down in these conditions,” he said Saturday, “so we used the day as a test session to have more data for race day.”

The wheels came off again in the first round opposite cagey old pro Todd Tutterow, who would go from the bump spot all the way to the final. Tutterow, seemingly down 13-hundredths of a second, matched his 16th-best 5.95 qualifying time while Whiteley reluctantly lifted early. “It was too weak,” he said. “What’s funny is that the car was set up exactly the same as it was on the No. 1 run, just backed up a little to account for the conditions. Jeff [Perley, Whiteley’s crew chief] figured it would run slower, but not that much slower. It’s bitten us before, and we thought we were getting pretty good at not backing up too much, but a run like that almost makes you wish ran bad all the time so you don’t look like a bunch of idiots losing in the first round after running good all weekend.”


Knowing they were at a distinct disadvantage before they ever pulled through the Bristol Dragway gates, the father-and-son team of Jim and Steven Whiteley fought the good fight at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Both made the Pro Mod show, but when eliminations commenced, both got an unwanted reminder of something they already painfully aware of: supercharged cars like theirs will always be fighting with one hand tied behind their back when the altitude’s that high.

Jim’s immaculate ’69 Chevelle, tuned by supercharger authority Chuck Ford, ran a 5.96 to anchor the field, and son Steven Whiteley’s Cadillac CTS, tuned by Jeff Perley and already locked into the field before last-shot qualifying, improved to a 5.94 in that session to improve to the No. 12 spot. Jim, a huge underdog against No. 1 qualifier and eventual runner-up Shane Molinari, left first, as usual, but went up in smoke in low gear.

Steven, the second ranked driver in the J&A Pro Mod series, drew the toughest possible opponent in round one: reigning world champion Rickie Smith, who was undefeated in 2017, a winner in his only appearance since returning from back surgery. He cut a clutch a .047 light – the exact same light he had one week earlier in Englishtown in a must-win first-round matchup against the only driver ahead of him in the standings, Mike Castellana – but wily “Tricky Rickie” produced the second-quickest reaction time of the entire event, a .020, and outran Whiteley’s weekend-best 5.92 with a 5.86.

“Rickie can still pull out a light like that every once in a while,” Steven said. “That’s probably the quickest he’s ever staged against me – he’s not called ‘Tricky Rickie’ for nothing – but give him credit: he cut a great light. We could have beaten a lot of guys in that round with a .92 but not the guy we were racing.

“5.90s aren’t that great anymore,” Steven said, “but for a blown car at Bristol, they’re not too bad. You really can’t keep up with the nitrous cars and the turbo cars here on the mountain. That’s just the way it is. We get to Charlotte, we’re deadly. But here or Vegas – especially here – you know you’re at a disadvantage. To beat the turbo and nitrous cars, you have to outrace them. You have to be smarter than them, and that’s what we’ve tried to do all year: race smart.”


The Thunder Valley Nationals at historic Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., ended early for the father-and-son YNot Racing/J&A Service Pro Mod team of Jim and Steven Whiteley. Jim, whose classic ’69 Chevelle won the Houston event last month and reached the semifinals last week in Englishtown, N.J., shook hard and fell to points leader Rickie Smith in the first round of eliminations. Steven did likewise and dropped his first-round match against No. 1 qualifier and 2015 runner-up Bob Rahaim.

“We needed to get the car to run a little better early, so we made a move – a big move,” Jim said. “It didn’t work, and we got our legs cut off.” He opened qualifying with a respectable 6.02 in the first qualifying session and backed it up with a consistent, quicker 5.99. Steven made his best run of the weekend, a 6.04, right off the trailer that put him third on the qualifying grid at the time.

Steven shut off to a 10.44 in the late Friday session, one of the few times he and his dad have run side by side. “He got me on the Tree, which I’m sure he enjoyed,” joked Jim, who dipped into the five-second zone on that run for the No. 10 spot at the time. Neither driver put down a representative run in Saturday’s final qualifying session, but hopes were high when the first round went off that evening.

Unfortunately, it was more of the same for both YNot Racing entries. Jim, one of few drivers on the J&A Service Pro Mod circuit with a .500 record against Smith, had to shut down in in a rematch of the wild Houston final won by Whiteley. “We took a little power out for that run, but it didn’t work,” he said. “We almost got by with it in the third qualifying session, and I really thought we could again in the first round. I figured running after the nitro cars would make the track better.”

In the last pair of the round, Steven’s flawless Cadillac CTS fared no better in a shut-off loss to Rahaim, who advanced all the way to the final and had the race won until he lost control near half-track and narrowly avoided a crash.


At the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at historic Bristol Dragway, YNot Racing’s Jim Whiteley ran deep into the 5.90s for the third race in a row and for the second in a row ran stride for stride with fellow two-time NHRA world champ, Rickie Smith. If he’d run just 1/200th of a second quicker, it would’ve been two straight upset wins over Smith.

Whiteley, who won the 2012 and 2013 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster championships, gained an imperceptible jump at the line, .056 to .059, and his blown car and Smith’s nitrous-injected machine were locked doorhandle to doorhandle the entire length of the quarter-mile in a race won by Smith, 5.97 to 5.98. The margin of victory: four-thousandths of a second.

“I never saw him,” said Whiteley, who was just 20 inches behind Smith when they went through the lights. Whiteley led by more than half a tenth at the 330-foot mark and by more than two-hundredths as he passed the 1,000-foot cone, but Smith’s better top-end charge, 244 mph to 239, was just enough to get around Whiteley’s ’69 Chevelle.

“I couldn’t hear him either, because a blower engine is louder,” Whiteley said. “He’s been around for a long time and has won a lot of races a lot of ways. He backed out after I pre-staged, but that’s just Rickie being Rickie. I don’t have a problem with him.”

Whiteley powered into the 5.80s for the first time officially on the way to his semifinal finish Houston, but considering the altitude, humidity, and oppressive heat at Bristol, this might be his most impressive performance in a Pro Mod to date. “I’m really excited about this,” he said. “Pro Mod is just a fun, fun class to run, and the car keeps getting better and better every time out.”


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