In their first appearance of the 2019 NHRA season and everyone’s first on Gainesville Raceway’s all-new million-dollar track surface, Cory Reed led early Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying and teammate Joey Gladstone lasted all the way to the semifinals, tying the best finish of his young career.

Reed picked up from his opening 6.93 to a 6.91 at more than 195 mph that miraculously wound up good for only the bump, 16th in a 16-bike field, and paired him up against Andrew Hines, who took the pole with the quickest run in NHRA history, 6.72. Under first-round pressure and lined up opposite the toughest possible opponent, Reed improved still more, dipping into the 6.80s with a 6.87, but Hines was out of reach with another 6.7-second blast, a 6.78.

Two pair ahead of him, Gladstone, matched up with former YNot/PSE team rider Angelle Sampey, shot off the line with a telepathic .002 reaction time for an insurmountable lead on Sampey’s late .120 light on her first official leave with Vance & Hines’ world-famous Harley-Davidson team. Both covered the quarter-mile with nearly identical E.T.s, and Gladstone got the best of a 6.87-6.88 decision not nearly as close as the elapsed times alone would indicate.

“Joey did great,” Reed said of his teammate, who catapulted from the No. 11 qualifying position (6.855), to a spot in the final four. Said Gladstone, “Before I saw the E.T. slip, when I first heard that it was 6.87 to 6.88, I was thinking, ‘Man, I hope I ran the .88 and she ran the .87 so I beat her on a holeshot’. I led the class in reaction-time average with something in the low .020s my first year and have a reputation as the best leaver out here but I’ve never actually won a round on a holeshot.”

After leaving on Sampey and then outrunning her, Gladstone trailered an even bigger name in the quarterfinals – reigning world champ Matt Smith, who knew he was in trouble before he staged and never made it to the finish line. “He was trying to mess with me on the line, but I knew what he was doing, so it didn’t affect me,” said Gladstone, who easily advanced to the semifinals with by far his best run of the weekend, a 6.81. It gave him lane choice over former series champion Eddie Krawiec, who bogged off the line in a lucky 6.92 win over Jimmy Underdahl, who had him beat until his engine blew in high gear.

In the semi’s, Gladstone left on Krawiec and would have made his first final had he not dropped a couple hundredths of a second from his earlier performance in a close but disappointing 6.81-6.85 loss. “That time, I actually felt like I had a good chance to beat Eddie,” Gladstone said. “It gets a little easier as the rounds go on, believe it or not. The pressure actually goes down – at least until you get to the final.”