Tag: cory (Page 1 of 8)

PSM – POMONA

Joey Gladstone and team owner Cory Reed finished the Auto Club Finals just like they wound up the year: number 2. Which is a lot better than they possibly could have imagined when the season began. “If anybody had told me a year ago that we’d be in a battle for the championship right down to the last day of the season … who wouldn’t take that?” he asked. “Matt [Smith] was a shoo-in to win the championship – everybody knew that. He’s been doing this a long time. He’s the best. So just to have a mathematical shot at it on the last day of the season is amazing.”

Gladstone personally knocked Smith out in the semifinals, and in the most gratifying possible manner: on a holeshot. Had he not, he’d have finished third, because the rider best positioned to overtake him for second in the final standings, Matt’s wife Angie, won the event. She edged Gladstone in a tight final-round race, 6.74/199 to 6.73/199, but not before Gladstone had locked up second place by upsetting Matt on a holeshot in the semifinals, where they ran identical e.t.s right to the thousandth of a second, 6.757 to 6.757. “That’s right up there with biggest rounds of my life,” he said. “Beating the world champ? That’s a hard thing to do to.”

Mired at the bottom of the qualifying order after a pair of shut-off efforts Friday, Gladstone wasn’t even in the field going into the final day of qualifying. “The team kept me from being depressed for very long,” he said, “and I really have to thank Vance & Hines for giving us the power to win. Anyone who doesn’t believe they give you everything … I don’t know what to tell you. They do.”

That was evident when Gladstone wheeled Reed’s Diamond W/Fatheadz Suzuki Hayabusa to the No. 3 spot with a career-best 6.72 Saturday morning. He kept his dwindling title hopes alive with a 6.76/198 to 6.97/197 first-round win over Hector Arana Jr., who was infinitely harder to beat than most No. 14 qualifiers. He’d just won the last two races, Dallas and Las Vegas. Three pairs later, Matt Smith put the championship mathematically out of reach with an uneventful 6.77/200 to 7.03/187 first-round decision over drag bike godfather Michael Phillips, who was instrumental in Gladstone and Reed’s success all season.

Maintaining focus and finishing strong, Gladstone defeated national record holder Karen Stoffer in the second round and Smith in the semi’s. “That might have been a little redemption,” said Gladstone, who amassed six final-round appearances, three wins, and a career-best 31-12 win-loss record over the course of the 2022 season. “To have a shot at the championship on the last day of the season was dream come true.”

PSM – LAS VEGAS

No matter what happens, 2022 has been, unequivocally, the best year of Joey Gladstone’s drag racing career. Which is nice, because the points lead that began to evaporate a couple races ago is gone.

Gladstone, who won the first three races of his career over a span of just four events late this summer, has been eliminated in the quarterfinals of the past two races while the rider heavily favored to beat him for the championship, Matt Smith, won Dallas and made the final here.

Gladstone qualified sixth for the Nevada Nationals field and drew, for the third time in the past five events, national record holder Karen Stoffer in the first round. He put her away, 6.91/194 to 6.98/192, but not with a performance likely to carry him much further. “It was making too much wheel speed at the top of low,” he said. “We just don’t have enough data for these conditions – we’ve never run this track with this program. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves. I knew she’d go .00 on me, and she did [with a .008 reaction time], but I couldn’t just take it easy up there. I couldn’t lay up, but I couldn’t go red, either.” With a .016 light, he absolutely didn’t.

Then the Diamond W/Fatheadz Hayabusa team pulled off a massive between-rounds thrash or Gladstone wouldn’t even have made it to line for the quarterfinals. “There was no time for [team owner and co-crew chief] Cory [Reed] and I to deliberate on the tune-up,” he said. “It all comes down to priorities. You can’t fine-tune something until you have an engine in the bike.”

They made it but didn’t make the kind of run that’s catapulted them to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle world this season. Facing points leader Matt Smith’s wife, former national event winner Angie Smith, Gladstone came up with a 6.92 but fell short of her 6.91 by 12-thousandths of a second. Matt Smith beat pseudo-teammate Chip Ellis three pairs later and Jerry Savoie in the semifinals but was upset in the final by Hector Arana Jr., who has come out of nowhere to win two races in a row.

Down 104 points with one race to go, the NHRA finals in Pomona, Calif., Gladstone knows the championship is a long shot. “It probably took an hour and a half until I was over losing,” he said. “I’d much rather win the championship – who wouldn’t? – but if I finish second to someone who had a dominant second half like Matt’s had, I can’t feel too bad, can I? He’s a Smith – he knows how to play the game.”

PSM – DALLAS

It could’ve been worse – a lot worse. Joey Gladstone red-lighted in the second round of the NHRA Fall Nationals, a potentially disastrous development made much less egregious when the only rider ahead of him in the standings, Matt Smith, drifted toward the centerline and had to lift in the following round, mitigating the damage.

Coasting across the finish with a speed (26.19) nearly the same as your E.T. (20.82) is no is no way to open qualifying, especially in a 20-bike field, but Gladstone made marked improvement from that 20-second throwaway to the 6.90s to the 6.80s, to, in last-shot qualifying, the promised land: the 6.70s.

Only three Pro Stock Motorcycle riders qualified between 6.73 and 6.80, and all three ran not just 6.79s but identical 6.793s that had to be separated on the basis of their speeds. At an even 200.00 mph, Gladstone was right in the middle, No. 4 behind Angie Smith’s 200.96 and ahead of Steve Johnson’s 199.80.

Gladstone, who’s won Sonoma, Topeka, and Reading already this season, drew theoretically the easiest first-round opponent on the ladder – Richard Gadson, who qualified 13th in his NHRA debut. Gadson actually had a slight early lead but eventually had to get out of it after his bike, like many on gray, blustery afternoon, strayed out of the groove toward the wall, allowing Gladstone to drive around him for an easy 6.85/197 win.

“I didn’t take him lightly,” assured Gladstone, who’s reached at least the semifinals in two-thirds of his starts this season. “This may be his first national event, but he’s a phenomenal racer. It takes time. He’s going to have a great career out here, trust me.”

For just the third time in 2022, Gladstone fell in the second round, this time to a self-inflicted wound, a red-light start. It was the perfect time to do it: even with a .000 reaction time, his 6.86/197 wouldn’t have held off resurgent Steve Johnson’s superior 6.77/195. “I apologize to my team and sponsors,” he said, “but I wasn’t going to do anything with that .77 anyway.”

PSM – ST. LOUIS

A round and a half ahead of Matt Smith coming into the Midwest Nationals, Cory Reed and rider Joey Gladstone hit St. Louis thinking big. Title contenders typically average a semifinal finish across the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, and Gladstone did in fact make it to the semifinals, but the rider best positioned to keep him from the crown – five-time world champion Matt Smith – got the best of him there and won the final to assume the points lead with three races to go.

“I’m not going to stress too much about points,” said Gladstone, who’d won three of the past four races, the first three of his NHRA career – Sonoma, Topeka, and Reading. “It’s a dogfight every weekend, and we’re all running so close together and are so close to each other in the points, but whatever I’ve been doing seems to be working so I’m just going to keep doing it.”

Gladstone’s Diamond W/Fatheadz team didn’t make a bad run all weekend, hovering in the 6.70s throughout, starting with a 6.79/199 Friday evening in the first qualifying session that placed him precisely in the middle of the pack, seventh of 13 qualifiers. He followed with identical 6.777s Saturday afternoon, first at 198.67 mph to leapfrog emerging star Marc Ingwersen (6.785) and former world champion Jerry Savoie (6.791) for the No. 5 spot and then backing it up with a second 6.777, this one at 199.58 mph.

“In weather like this, you can really get after it,” Gladstone said of the ideal track and barometric conditions present all weekend. Sunday morning in the first round, he drew a much tougher first-round opponent than No. 5 usually faces, national record holder Karen Stoffer, the only rider to beat him since Denver.

When the tree flashed green, Gladstone was more than up to the challenge, trouncing her otherwise fine 6.87/196 with his best run all weekend, a 6.75 at more than 200 mph. In the quarterfinals against Angie Smith, he covered the quarter-mile in precisely 6.777 seconds for the third time in four runs and passed the tree with a bike-length lead, .031 to .177, to easily outdistance her.

The wheels came off in that crucial semifinal battle, when Matt Smith matched Gladstone on the tree, .019 to .023, and walked away for a 6.75/201 to 6.78/198 win to overtake him by a single point. (After Smith’s final-round win, the lead now stands at 21 points.) “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Gladstone said of their ongoing championship battle. “If it happens, it happens, and if it goes our way, we’ll enjoy it.”

PSM – INDY

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.”

PSM – TOPEKA

It’s not a matter of potential anymore, of what might happen one day. It’s happening. Joey Gladstone is the number one rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle – ahead of Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, ahead of everybody.

After back-to-back runner-up finishes put Gladstone on the precipice of that milestone first victory, his Cory Reed Motorsports team has delivered back-to-back wins, including a positively dominant performance at Heartland Park Topeka. It truly was the most commanding win possible: low E.T. of every qualifying session, low E.T. of all four rounds of eliminations. His fifth-best run of the weekend would’ve been low E.T. of the meet.

“I hope this wave never crashes,” Gladstone said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this my whole life, and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.” It’s lasted for four races so far – runner-ups in Norwalk and Denver and now back-to-back wins in Sonoma and Topeka. “It’s been a gradual thing, really. We’ve been under the radar; it’s just becoming apparent to other people now.”

Launched by a killer 1.04 60-foot time, Gladstone began the weekend with a 6.831 at 195.08 mph, good for the No. 1 qualifying spot by half a tenth and his first track record. Three bonus points for being quickest of the session moved him to within a single point of the number 1 spot in the standings, and after he was quicker than everybody again Saturday afternoon in Q2 (6.84/196), he had his first-ever points lead.

Opposite overmatched David Barron in the first round, Gladstone left first by a tenth and a half and streaked to 6.83/197 on his Diamond W-backed Suzuki Hayabusa, just missing another track record in a runaway win. On the second-round bye he earned for being the No. 1 qualifier in a 14-bike field, he had the entire field covered with a 6.85/196. Angie Smith provided little opposition in the semi’s with an off-pace 7.08/195, and Gladstone easily advanced to his fourth consecutive final with a 6.87/196.

Waiting for him was his mentor and friend, four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, the same driver he beat for the breakthrough win in Sonoma three weeks ago. Krawiec was right on time with a .022 light but Gladstone had him all the way with a clutch .009 and a seventh straight run in the 6.80s, 6.87/195.

“I always wondered if it would feel like this,” Gladstone said. “It’s like I’m dreaming. Now, I know the bike will perform in good conditions, bad conditions, hot, cold – anything. It was perfect every lap. This has been a long time coming, and there’s a different kind of pressure on us now – the pressure to get that first win is gone. Now, our expectations are a lot higher.”

PSM – SONOMA

At long last, overdue rider Joey Gladstone and team owner Cory Reed realized their ultimate dream at Sonoma, the fastest track on the circuit: victory at an NHRA national event. For Reed, who switched from motocross seven years ago, and Gladstone, who’s been drag racing all his life, it was the culmination of years of struggle and countless hours of backbreaking work. “It’s about time,” joked Reed, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, whose team had finished second at the past two races, Norwalk and Denver.

“I still can’t believe this is real,” said Gladstone, whose recent hot streak catapulted him to second in the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, just two points out of the lead. “I’ve dedicated my life to this sport. Winning a race like this has been my goal since I was a little kid getting made fun of for being so small. The day I saw Angelle [Sampey], I knew what I wanted to do.”

Delivering on the promise shown in three previous final-round appearances this season (including the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte), Gladstone made the quickest run of his career (6.75) Saturday afternoon in last-shot qualifying for the No. 3 spot, then ran at least that quick in all four rounds Sunday. After a brief scare in the first round when his bike refused to do a burnout opposite overmatched Jianna Evaristo, Gladstone reset his all-time-best with a blistering 6.74, then dumped Katie Sullivan in round two with an even quicker 6.73 at his fastest speed ever, 202.18 mph.

When his Diamond W Suzuki Hayabusa brushed aside Bristol winner Jerry Savoie in the semifinals, 6.75 to 6.84, only one thing stood between Gladstone and his first major title: longtime nemesis Eddie Krawiec. “I’m gonna bring everything I have in this final,” he said as he climbed off the bike in the semi’s, trying not think about how close he was – again. “I was ready to go 20 minutes before they called us up there for the final,” he admitted later. “I was like, ‘Come on, let’s do this. Let’s get it over with. Don’t overthink it. Cut a light, but not too close – don’t throw it away on a red-light. Give yourself a chance.’ “

With a .026 reaction time, he did, gaining the only edge he’d need because both he and Krawiec made the exact same run, matching 6.75s. “I heard him over there the whole time and knew I was ahead, but I never let myself think it,” said Gladstone, who won on a holeshot, 6.759 to 6.758. “Not after what happened at Charlotte [last fall, when the kill switch became disconnected in high gear as he looked on in horror.]”

“It seemed like it took 30 seconds for the finish line to get there,” he said. “I almost didn’t want to look for the win-light. Going to all these finals and losing, you wonder in the back of your mind if it’s really meant to be. We may not have won them, but just from being in those other finals, I knew we could do it. I’m never going to forget this, and it’s just the start.”

PSM – DENVER

To keep Joey Gladstone from his long overdue first NHRA title, it took the fastest run in Mile-High Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle history. Denied victory in four previous finals and appearing in his second in a row, he was out first and laid down a fifth straight run in the 7-teens but still got run down by Matt Smith’s record-setting 190.22-mph blast, 7.09 to 7.16.

“When I let it go and saw the light was green, I knew it was a good light,” Gladstone said. “I thought, ‘OK, you did your job.’ Somewhere around the 300-foot mark, I started thinking, ‘Hey, maybe…’ Then I heard him at the eighth-mile and finally saw him at about 1,000 feet. After that he just drove away from me.”

From the quarterfinals on, Smith, who broke both ends of the Bandimere Speedway track record in qualifying (7.090 seconds at 189.79 mph), reset the track speed mark every time he crossed the finish line. “You can’t be too mad about losing when a guy’s running like that,” said Gladstone, who dipped into the 7-teens in last-shot qualifying and remained there throughout eliminations, outrunning everybody but Smith.

Gladstone pounded pal Ryan Oehler, who red-lighted, in the first round with yet another .00 light, a .008, in an almost uncontested 7.17/186 to 7.34/182 match. He climbed off the bike and proclaimed to a national television audience, “Eddie, you’re done,” before second-round opponent Eddie Krawiec raced Kelly Clontz, and, sure enough, took the measure of his longtime nemesis in the next round, 7.15/185 to Krawiec’s 7.18/186.

“Everybody knows what you have to do to be fast on the mountain,” Gladstone explained. “Add three or four teeth to the rear sprocket and put two floaters next to each other so the clutch doesn’t pull the motor down too much and bog off the line. No matter what you do, you’re making 27 percent less horsepower when you get here.”

In the semifinals, Gladstone prevented a rare husband/wife final, upending No. 2 qualifier Angie Smith, who’d been in the 7-teens all weekend, by 16-thousandths of a second, 7.19/185 to 7.21/186. A heavy underdog in the final, a race he figured he had a “one in four” shot at winning, he afforded himself every opportunity to win with a superior reaction time, but there was no stopping Smith, who cracked 190 mph for the third run in a row with an all-time Denver record of 190.22 mph.

“I had him for a while,” said Gladstone, who now trails fading points leader Steve Johnson by just 46 points – about two rounds.  “But nobody was gonna beat that guy today.”

PSM – NORWALK

For teammates Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone, still slowly, methodically, but steadily clawing their way to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, the work continues. With a career-best 9-6 (.600) win-loss record this year and now two final-round appearances (doubling his lifetime total coming into the season), Gladstone is perched on the brink of championship contention.

At the Summit Nationals in tiny Norwalk, Ohio, in probably the best outing of the best season of his life, Gladstone landed in his fourth career NHRA final, dropping a rain-delayed decision that looked, for a while at least, as if it all might just go his way. Gladstone picked his way through eliminations to reach a final delayed by rain showers that began not between rounds but as he was on the line, inching toward the beams in the semifinals

“I couldn’t believe they ran us,” said Gladstone, who drove the Diamond W Suzuki to an easy win over returning veteran Hector Arana Jr., 6.93/193 to a red-lighting 10.63/79, to advance to his second final of the season. “I was wiping the raindrops off my visor as I was pulling up there.” The two-hour delay gave his opponent, former world champion Angelle Sampey, who had just red-lighted away a sure win in the Bristol final last week, plenty of time to think. “I think Joey might have relaxed a little that time, figured she’d either be red or way green, but she wasn’t,” Reed said.

“She left on time and made a great run,” said Gladstone, who dropped a good race, 6.86/197 to 6.92/194.

After qualifying 5th with a 6.82/198, Gladstone chased down second-generation rider Jimmy Underdahl, who got out on him with a near-perfect .003 reaction time, 6.89/195 to 6.98/196. “He’s a great rider,” Gladstone said Saturday afternoon in anticipation of their first-round race Sunday. “Not good. Great. He’s been double-0 on the Tree all weekend, and he did it again on me. I got lucky that time and I know it.”

In the following round, it was Gladstone’s turn to strap a big holeshot on someone, and his 6.90/195 took down the much quicker 6.85/195 of early season points leader Karen Stoffer, thanks to a decided advantage on the Tree, .018 to .135. Then came the semifinals, the rain, and another final-round disappointment.

“I almost started hoping it would rain out, so we’ve have time to find more E.T., but I’m not discouraged,” Gladstone concluded, packing up with three weeks before the next race, Denver. “I’m pleased, actually. We moved up in points [to fourth]. I’ve never been this high in the standings this late in the season. I’m more motivated than ever now.”

PSM – 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.

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