Venturing into the shark-infested waters of in-house engine building for the first time, Cory Reed and Team Liberty pulled off a debut that could only be termed a success at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at “America’s Race Track,” Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Reed and teammate Joey Gladstone, who made the painful decision to skip Chicago to focus entirely on to the unimaginable leap to being their own engine builders, exceeded their stated goal of coming back at Denver by making it to Norwalk.
“I definitely didn’t expect to be here,” Reed said. “This is all of us together – [crew chief/tuner] Cecil [Towner], Joey, me, everybody under this awning. We all contribute. We never thought we’d make it back before Denver, but everything looked good when we dynoed our stuff, so we thought, ‘What the hell? Let’s go to Norwalk.’ We used to make peak power at 7,000 [rpm]. We leave at almost 7,000. Now, we’re making peak power at about 10,000, and these things spend a lot more time up around 10,000 than they do at 7,000, so we figured we’d run better than we were and we are.”
Opposite Angie Smith, wife of reigning NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith, for the first time in his career, Reed was off like a shot with a .028 reaction time in the first round and a 1.06-second 60-foot time, his best all weekend. “That told me the clutch tune-up was back where it should be,” he said. “At the 330-foot mark, I could tell I was in front of her. At 660 feet [half-track], she was driving up on me. She was definitely moving on me at 1,000 feet and probably had a good bike on me at the finish line. I thought I could win with a .020-something light and I had one, but I guess we still need to run better. I don’t even care. We’re leaving here with the motors we came with. We didn’t tear anything up all weekend, and that was our whole goal: stop hurting parts.”
YNot/PSE teammates Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone just missed a highly anticipated head-to-head second-round showdown at the Virginia Nationals when Reed was unceremoniously dumped by Hector Arana Jr. in the first round of eliminations. Gladstone put away 2009 NHRA champion Hector Arana Sr. in another first-round match, so another Arana-Arana matchup in the quarterfinals never materialized, either.
Reed assumed the early qualifying lead with a straight-down-the-groove 6.969 at 192 mph off the trailer. He slowed to a 7.13/188 Friday evening, improved incrementally to a 6.962 at just short of 194 mph Saturday in Q3 that left him smack in the middle of the pack, and entered eliminations mired in the No. 14 position after a dispiriting 7.02/191 Saturday afternoon.
Pitted against Las Vegas winner Arana Jr., who now stands third in the 2019 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, Reed managed just a 7.10 187 mph – two-tenths of a second and 10 mph off what he’s capable of, in a discouraging loss to the perennial title contender’s 6.90-flat at 197 mph minutes after Gladstone had dispatched Arana Sr. with what surprisingly was technically the first holeshot win of his NHRA career. “I’ve left on a lot of people and have this reputation for being really good on the lights,” said Gladstone, who whipped the senior Arana’s 6.97/194 with a slower won 7.00/191, “but that’s the first time I’ve ever actually won on a holeshot.”
Right off the trailer at Atlanta Dragway, which has hosted major events since the IHRA glory days of the 1970s, Cory Reed sped to a 6.98 at more than 192 mph that qualified him No. 3 at the time. Following an aborted 14-second time in the second session opposite veteran Karen Stoffer, he rolled silently across the finish line in the never-good upright position at 49 silent mph in Q3 and entered last-shot qualifying an uncustomarily low 12th on the provisional grid, eyeing something in the low 6.90s or high 6.80s on his final attempt.
Instead, Reed’s bike registered an unfulfilling 7.01 at 191 mph and he entered eliminations in the No. 12 qualifying spot. PSE/YNot teammate Joey Gladstone finished a couple spots ahead of him, 10th in the final order with an aggregate best of 6.94/193.99. Between them was 2009 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Hector Arana Sr., who clocked in at 6.95/194.55.
Reed, who has never had any luck against 2016 world champion Jerry Savoie, his first-round foe, blasted off the line with a clutch .026 light, but for once he didn’t get the best of even that battle. Savoie, never known for his reaction times, outdid him with an even better .013 bulb and pulled away for a 6.91/192 to 7.01/191 round-win, his fifth in five head-to head-matchups with the former motocross racer. To compound the YNot’s team’s frustration, Gladstone came out on the wrong end of a hard-fought first-round encounter with Ryan Oehler in which both drivers cut killer .015 lights, 6.92/195 to 6.95/192, despite holding the lead to half-track.
Back on the bike after team boss Cory Reed had to substitute for him in Las Vegas, Joey Gladstone reeled off some of his best runs of the season and ranked among the top drivers deep into qualifying. After ripping off a 6.88 in the second of four sessions for the No. 5 spot on the provisional grid, Gladstone settled into the No. 11 spot on the final ladder with that time and backed it up with a nearly as good 6.90-flat.
Heading into eliminations, Gladstone had a nice stack of E.T. slips to build from: 6.96/193, 6.88/196, another 6.963/193, and a 6.90/193. His first-round opponent turned out to be about as tough as it gets – 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Jerry Savoie, but Gladstone was only had a few hundredths of a second behind him, 6.83 to 6.88.
Trying to get a jump on Savoie, who has come out on the wrong end of a few holeshot decisions over the years, an overanxious Gladstone jumped the gun by the invisible margin of just 1/50th of a second. His -.023 red-light start invalidated a 7.01 at 192 mph and advanced the always-tough alligator farmer from the bayous of Mississippi, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a run that would have been hard to get around anyway, 6.83. It was a disappointing end to the 2018 season for Gladstone, but with a full-time ride with Team Liberty for the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello campaign, there are bigger and better things ahead.
Pressed into service when Joey Gladstone’s jet-ski romp on the Colorado River days before the Toyota Nationals ended in a 70-mph tumble and a bruised tailbone, Cory Reed entered his first NHRA event since he climbed off the bike at Indy to grant his much lighter teammate the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it might have been better had Gladstone been healthy enough to ride.
Fit as a fiddle and skinny as a rail, Reed is still at a distinct competitive disadvantage, too tall and too heavy for his Buell-powered Team Liberty XBR. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year opened qualifying with an off-pace 7.17 at 190 mph, followed with a similar 7.13 at 190 mph Friday afternoon, and picked up about a tenth of a second Saturday but still found himself a few hundredths short of the all-6-second field after back-to-back 7.0s at 190.
Reed wound up 19th on the final qualifying sheet, a couple of ticks behind Katie Sullivan and many-time national event winner Karen Stoffer and ahead of veteran Freddie Camarena, former Division 7 bike champ Anthony Vanetti, and newcomer Maurice Allen. When the tour wraps up at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks, Gladstone will be back on the seat, and when the 2019 season opens in Gainesville next March, Reed will be riding a lighter, faster, more competitive bike.
In his fifth start astride Cory Reed’s Team Liberty Buell, Yellow Corn rider Joey Gladstone got faster and faster in almost every qualifying session and entered Carolina Nationals eliminations primed to give Vance & Hines test rider Chip Ellis all he could handle. Gladstone got off the line within thousandths of a second of the 2008 championship runner-up, but that was the last time he was in the race.
Ellis pulled away with an outstanding 6.77 – low e.t. of the entire event – while Gladstone could only watch him increase his lead with every shift after bogging hard off the line. Qualified 15th and down exactly a tenth of a second heading into their first-round heat, Gladstone wasn’t exactly the favorite against the No. 2 seed, but Ellis doubled the distance between them in qualifying (6.80 to 6.90) to an insurmountable two-tenths of a second, 6.77 to 6.97.
But despite entering eliminations in the second-to-last spot, Gladstone wasn’t out of contention. He’d already outpaced five non-qualifiers to make the Sunday field and stepped it up in virtually every session of qualifying with times of 7.01/193, 6.99/193, 6.90/192, and 6.92/194. For a No. 15 qualifier, he wasn’t far from the top – less than a tenth of a second, actually, with a 6.903 to No. 1 Eddie Krawiec’s 6.806 – but against low E.T. of the meet, no one would’ve had a chance.
YNot Racing’s newest driver, Joey Gladstone, qualified solidly in the middle of the pack at the NHRA Fallnationals in Dallas but bowed out early with a tough first-round loss at the hands of 2016 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie. Negotiating the notoriously narrow groove at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex in the first pair of the first round, Gladstone slipped to a 7.02 at 191.13 mph – 2 mph and about a tenth of a second slower than he ran in qualifying, where he was just a tick behind Savoie.
“There’s not one thing we could point a finger at on that run,” Gladstone said. “I short-shifted 2nd gear a little – that probably knocked a couple hundredths off of it – but it just fell off from qualifying. I think the motor was hurt little when we got up there. The air/fuel ratio was good, the EGTs [exhaust-gas temperatures] were good; it just wasn’t pulling as hard as it had been earlier in the weekend.”
The numbers bear that out: after opening with a strong 6.94 at 193 mph Friday afternoon, the Buell-powered YNot machine’s performance steadily but gradually diminished, from a 7.04/192 Friday evening to a 7.05/191 Saturday afternoon to a 7.03/192 in the fourth and final qualifying session. “Something internally is wrong with the engine – we don’t know what it is,” said Gladstone, who eventually finished in the No. 10 qualifying slot with a 6.94, just a hundredth of a second behind Savoie’s seventh-best 6.93. “Whatever it is, it’ll be right by the time we get to Charlotte.”
Seemingly outgunned against the top-ranked rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle all year, reigning NHRA world champ Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone upset his heavily favored opponent, who handed over a first-round win with the most aggravating red-light of all, a -.001. “I was squatting behind the beams,” said Gladstone’s boss, Team Liberty leader Cory Reed. “They left, and I never even noticed the red-light in Eddie’s lane. I watched them go down the track and thought, ‘Dammit, we lost,’ and then somebody yelled, ‘Wait, he red-lighted!’ ”
Gladstone was outqualified by his much more accomplished foe by a full nine spots – No. 4 to No. 13 – but those numbers are somewhat misleading. Gladstone actually was right there alongside Krawiec in the 6.80s, 6.82 to 6.89, and the same numbers flashed on the scoreboards when they raced – 6.82 for Krawiec and 6.89 for Gladstone – but the win-light shone on Gladstone’s side of the track. “The bike is running better now than it would be if I was on it because of Joey’s weight – 135 pounds,” Reed said. “I weigh 150. In this class, that makes me a fat guy. It’s funny, the different emotions you feel watching someone else riding your bike, but it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s all about taking the next step, ’cause I’m tired of getting my ass kicked.
“Joey keeps making good passes,” Reed said, “and we keep learning more than we ever would if I was on there – the way the clutch works, way the tire hits, the way the wheelie bar works … when Joey’s on there, the weight transfer is what it’s supposed to be. When I’m on there, everything’s all wrong – it works right one time and doesn’t the next, and we never know why. When we get the new bike, it’ll be like 40 pounds lighter and we’ll be able to move weight around and have everything exactly the way we want it.”
Turning the seat over to Joey Gladstone at the 64th annual U.S. Nationals, former NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed stood back and watched his teammates perform at the biggest race of the year. Reed, who, as a stone rookie, clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs here in 2016, looked on as Gladstone made the field and Angelle Sampey, the 2000-02 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, bumped in in last-shot qualifying at the last race of the regular season to keep herself in title contention.
Sampey ripped off a clutch 6.94 that nearly vaulted her into the top half of the field, and Gladstone entered eliminations in his Team Liberty debut one spot ahead of her in the No. 10 position after laying down a string of 6.90s. Both were eliminated in the first round, but Reed, who’s suffered through way too many aggravating outings already this year, remains undeterred.
“We still haven’t got it all figured out,” Reed said. “We’ve been locking up the clutch too hard and not keeping the motor freed up enough to drive through it and run like it wants to. We didn’t want to take a bunch of clutch out of it again this time and get too far on the other side of it, and we didn’t.” Facing rookie Mark Paquette in the opening round, Gladstone came out on the wrong end of one of the closest matches of the entire weekend. He and Paquette tore off the line separated by just thousandths of a second, and Gladstone came out on the wrong end of a heartbreaker, 6.968/192 to 6.970/192. They crossed the finish line separated by less than a hundredth of a second. Two pair later, Sampey followed with a similar 6.937/193 that wasn’t quite enough against former world champion Andrew Hines’ 6.880/195.
“We’re getting there,” Reed said, “getting closer and closer all the time. It was actually kind of nice to just be there without all the responsibilities and the stress of racing the bike, trying to get in your zone, and for once just standing back and watching how everybody else was working together. Losing in the first round with both bikes was frustrating because there’s nothing you can do about it, but not riding wasn’t the torture I expected it to be. I’m fine. Both bikes qualified at Indy and things are starting to click.”