Tag: chicago


2022 championship runner-up Joey Gladstone turned in another solid if unspectacular finish at the 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 standings.

Everything Gladstone and every other rider did all weekend paled in comparison to 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 every other rider was on his or her 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 that positioned the team move in 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 time. We didn’t want to get too greedy, but we didn’t want to race scared, either.”

In the first round against ol’ pal Ryan Oehler, Gladstone advanced easily on Oehler’s foul start but had him all the way anyway 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 Gladstone to his first semifinal appearance of the season, but his 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 off Gladstone by a scant four-thousandths of a second.


Coming off low e.t. and top speed of the meet in Route 66 Nationals qualifying (5.48/270.20-mph) and a semifinal showing in the prestigious Jegs All Stars race, six-time national event champion Annie Whiteley got a bad draw for first round: five-time national event winner Andy Bohl was No. 16. Bohl, making his first start in a Camaro purchased from 2018 championship team owner Tony Bartone, anchored easily the toughest Top Alcohol Funny Car of 2019 – all 17 cars have run at least in the 5.50s.

Racing under the lights Saturday night in the first pair of the first round, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Yenko Camaro and Bohl’s Howards Cams entry shot off the line as one. Whiteley sprinted to a two-car-length lead while Bohl, beset with traction problems in low gear as he had been all weekend, dropped back. Whiteley charged to a winning 5.51 at 269 mph while Bohl’s car made an abrupt left turn at the 2-3 shift, plowing into the wall at a disturbingly direct angle and, when the left rear tire went down, sliding upside down in a shower of sparks into the opposite-lane barrier before ramming head-on into the wall back in his own lane and erupting in flames. He leapt out the escape hatch and clambered over the wall to safety while Whiteley, oblivious to the fiery crash behind her, coasted uneventfully to a stop, wondering what was taking the NHRA Safety Safari so long.

“It seemed like I was sitting there for forever, and when they finally pushed me off the track, [crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] ripped the hatch open and asked if I was OK,” Whiteley said. “I didn’t know what he was talking about, and it was a good 10 minutes before he got around to telling me what we ran and it all started making sense. Watching the, the first thing I thought was, ‘That’s exactly what Jim’s crash at Pomona in 2007 looked like’ – sideways into the left wall, then into the right wall, then back into the left.’ ”

It started raining before NHRA officials could clear the wreckage, and the remainder of the round was postponed. When racing resumed Sunday morning, Whiteley was victimized by Kris Hool’s lethal .024 reaction time and dropped a tough second-round match to the Wyoming driver, 5.52/264 to 5.49 271 (top speed of the meet). “We’re really fighting something in the clutch right now,” she said. “It’s not responding like it normally does – the travel to get it to engage is way more than it should be. What could ever cause it to change that much I have no idea, but instead of moving the pedal an inch to get the car to roll, it was like three inches.”


Motivated by back-to-back top-half qualifying performances at Charlotte and Atlanta, Cory Reed and his Liberty Racing crew pulled into Chicago thinking big. “We were all pumped up, like, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this race,’ but, uh, no,” said the 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year, clearly disappointed. He opened with an off-pace 7.15 and it only went downhill from there.

Well aware that he wasn’t going anywhere in the second session, Reed shut off early and actually went into Saturday not qualified. He then picked up to a 7.03 at just short of 190 mph that squeaked into the field in the 15th spot, and after a similar 7.04 in last-shot qualifying found himself qualified, though barely so in the 16th and final spot. He was pitted against many-time world champ and No. 1 qualifier Andrew Hines in round one, but as it turned out, it didn’t matter who Reed lined up against when eliminations commenced Sunday afternoon – his engine refused to fire, and he was peeling off his gloves as his bike was pushed away from the starting apron when the light turned green for that first-round match.

“We had a different injector for this race, different manifold, shorter pipes, and moved the power curve up,” Reed said. “It all looked good on the dyno, but that’s not how it turned out. You make a small change to the clutch, and nothing happens. Even a big change, nothing happens. Out of nowhere, it does something it’s never done before. When we fried the clutch, we thought, ‘OK, no problem, that wasn’t the right way. We’ll just work back in the other direction,’ but that didn’t work either. It’s been a mess. Right now, the clutch just is not repeatable, but believe me, we’ll get this figured out before the next one.”


2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed paced the field early in qualifying for the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago before ultimately bowing out in the first round of eliminations. Reed, teammate of three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Angelle Sampey, wheeled his Team Liberty Victory machine to a speedy 6.96 at just short of 190 mph off the trailer to assume the top spot.

Reed and crew chiefs Ken Johnson and Chris Rivas maintained their consistency in the second session with a similar 6.97 at just 185 mph. Under different atmospheric conditions Saturday afternoon in the third of four qualifying sessions, Reed managed an incredibly consistent 6.97 at his best speed of the weekend, 190.62 mph, and followed with a steady 7-flat at 189 that evening.

Eliminations ended early when Reed, one of the quickest-reacting drivers in drag racing, was too quick for his own good. By less than one-hundredth of a second he fouled in the opening round of eliminations against recent nemesis L.E. Tonglet, who absolutely dominated the first half of the season, winning more races than all other riders combined.

“It didn’t even matter – no way I could have beaten him that time no matter what my reaction time,” said Reed of his -.009 red-light start. Tonglet, who also won the Chicago event in 2010, when he won the NHRA championship, and again in 2011, marched to a 6.830 at 196.36, crossing the finish line ahead of Reed even despite Reed’s ill-gotten early lead. “We’ll keep working at it and working at it and one of these days I won’t need to try to cut it so close on the Tree.”


Another race, another career highlight for Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie Cory Reed.

At the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, the 22-year-old phenom from Grand Junction, Colo., qualified strong, took down 2010 NHRA world champ LE Tonglet in the first round of eliminations, and did it on a holeshot. Tonglet made one of the quickest runs of the entire event, a 6.86, but Reed dipped into the 6.80s too, and drilled him on the Tree by a half-tenth for his biggest round-win to date.

“We both staged at the exact same time, which makes it hard for both of you,” Reed said. “It threw me off, but it threw him off big time. I didn’t think I left on him – thought I was just running better in 60 feet. I have a lot of respect for LE. I figured he’d leave the same as me. Beating somebody like him, who’s good on the lights and has won a championship, was awesome – especially on a holeshot.”

Tied with veteran Scotty Pollacheck for 14th place in the national standings, just two rounds (41 points) out of the prestigious Top 10, Reed faced PSE teammate and eventual runner-up Angelle Sampey in the quarterfinals. He was off like a shot with a near-perfect .006 reaction time, and it was another 6.86-6.88 race, but the three-time world champ cut a great .015 light of her own to advance by just 11-thousandths of a second.

“That was the coolest race ever,” Reed said. “Angelle looked over at me as we were pulling off the track, kinda like, ‘I don’t know,’ and I was thinking the same thing. She said, ‘I thought you had me.’ She has blinders on her helmet, so she doesn’t have much peripheral vision.”

Even if she did, Sampey still might not have known who got there first. Sampey, who broke through earlier this season in Englishtown, N.J., for her first major victory in eight years, crossed the stripe about three feet of ahead of Reed with a slightly faster top-end speed, 193 mph to 192.

“It was still a great race,” Reed said. “It was one step further, and if we keep taking steps every time out like this, I definitely think I can win at least one race by the end of the year.”


At the site of her first career NHRA national event title in 2014, Annie Whiteley drove to the semifinals of the Allstars race and the quarterfinals of the Route 66 Nationals. At Route 66 Raceway just outside Chicago, Whiteley qualified No. 3 with a blistering 5.49 and never ran slower than a 5.52 in eliminations for either race, moving to within two rounds of the Top 10 in the national standings despite having run fewer races than most of her competitors.

Whiteley’s Mike Strasburg-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro opened with a solid 5.63 at 263 mph in the first qualifying session and got only stronger from there, picking up to a 5.57 at 266 for the provisional No. 4 position in the late Friday session and ultimately to a 5.49 at 267 mph early Saturday for the No. 3 spot on the final grid.

That 5.49 couldn’t have come at a better time – the final qualifying session for the Route 66 Nationals was actually the first round of the prestigious Jegs Allstars race, which pits the top two drivers from each of NHRA’s four geographic regions against each other on an eight-car ladder comprised of the best of the best.

The 5.49 wiped out East Coast contender Dan Pomponio’s distant 5.79, and an equally outstanding 5.52 at 267 mph in the Allstars semifinals left her just short of a 5.50-flat at 270 mph by Shane Westerfield, who went on to sweep both the Allstars and the Route 66 Nationals.

Whiteley stomped former national event champion Ulf Leanders of Sweden in the first round of the Route 66 Nationals with another 5.49 but came out on the wrong end of a tight race to Doug Gordon in the quarterfinals, 5.53 to 5.50. Next up is the first of two regionals at Woodburn Dragstrip, just outside Portland, Ore., where last year Whiteley won once and was runner-up at the other one.


With the greatest run of her Top Alcohol Funny Car career, Annie Whiteley cracked the 5.5-second barrier with a 5.488 for the No. 1 spot in both the Route 66 Nationals and the invitation-only Jegs Allstars event that’s run in conjunction with it.

“I knew it was a good run, but I didn’t know it was that good,” said Whiteley, whose previous best had been a 5.50 in Sonoma in July 2012. “It didn’t feel that much different from a low .50-something, but [crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] and the guys told me if I made it to the finish line without shaking the tires it was going to be my first .40, and it was.”

The 5.48 was just one of four great runs in a row for Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro in Chicago – just like her five consecutive passes last week in Norwalk, where she rattled off two 5.57s, a 5.53, and two 5.55s. Here, it was a 5.53, the landmark 5.48, and back-to-back 5.50-flats in the first two rounds of the prestigious Allstars race.

A 5.508 at 264 mph in the first round of Allstars eliminations took down many-time national event winner Mickey Ferro’s 5.58. Under the lights in the semi’s, an identical run – right down to the thousandth of a second – erased former Indy winner Chris Foster’s 5.65.

In the final, run on Sunday afternoon due to inclement weather Saturday, John Lombardo Jr., running a cylinder head borrowed from the YNot team, unloaded his own 5.48 for the Allstars title when Whiteley lost traction in low gear. It was a frustrating end to what had been a great weekend and only compounded the aggravation from the first round of the Route 66 Nationals, run earlier that day, when she was upset by No. 16 qualifier Kirk Williams.

Next up is a Western Regional event in Woodburn, Ore., which has already attracted a 17 entrants for just eight qualifying spots. Whiteley heads there ranked second in the West standings, with a victory and back-to-back final-round appearances in her last two regional starts.


After advancing to the final at three of the past four races and qualifying No. 1 at every one, defending champ Annie Whiteley had an off weekend at the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago. She qualified the J&A Service/YNot Racing Funny Car a strong third but went up in smoke immediately in the first round against nemesis Shane Westerfield.

“It didn’t make it far at all that time,” said Whiteley, who coasted to a 21-second time and crossed the finish line at just 73 mph. “[Crew chief Roger Bateman] told me that there was nothing I could have done because the car went up in smoke so early.”

Until then, Chicago was shaping up to be another solid outing for Whiteley, who won the first national event of her career at this here vent last year and was runner-up recently in Houston, Denver, and Tulsa, barley losing the last two. Bateman delivered the perfect setup in the second qualifying session and Whiteley wheeled the car to the provisional No. 1 spot with a 5.65 at 256.99 mph. She improved to a 5.64, also at 256 mph, in the final session and eventually settled into the No. 3 spot.

Everything seemed to be in order for yet another late-round finish when Whiteley left on time with a solid .073 reaction time  and Westerfield smoked the tires early. But as in their final-round matchup in Houston, he was able to recover and win with a subpar time in the 6.30s while she could only idle helplessly down the track.

“It was a bummer for sure,” she said, “but that’s why there’s always another race.”

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