Riding for Team Liberty, as he will all next year, Joey Gladstone drove Cory Reed’s bike into the middle rounds of eliminations at the Dodge Nationals in one of his first races as Reed’s replacement. He ripped the Tree down for a near-perfect .003 reaction time to put away Scotty Pollacheck, 6.90/192 to 6.93/192, but despite Pollacheck’s exalted status as a title contender, this was no upset – it was Gladstone who came from the top half of the field.

“I knew I couldn’t cut that Underdahl team any slack,” said Gladstone, who ran Underdahl power until his recent move to Team Liberty and knows as well as anyone how competitive those motorcycles can be. “That light felt almost too good. When I dropped the clutch, I actually looked up to see if his win light was on because I knew it had to be close.”

It was three-thousandths of a second from perfection and four-thousandths from a disastrous red-light, but Gladstone was right back in the .00s again in the quarterfinals, carding a nearly identical .008 reaction time opposite Hector Arana Jr. for another holeshot lead. But Arana was right there with a .018 and drove around him in the middle of the course for a come-from-behind 6.88/197 to 6.94/192 win and then went on to win the race and move to within three points of incoming leader Eddie Krawiec for the number one spot.

“Second round … that’s not really what we wanted, but you really can’t complain,” Gladstone said. “We did pretty good this weekend, and the bike’s running good. We’ll just see what happens over the next few races.”