Tag: Pomona (Page 1 of 2)


Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone never made a run at the NHRA World Finals, where last year the team reached the final to lock up a second-place finish in the final Pro Stock Motorcycle standings. That was never the plan this time anyway – the team was at Pomona strictly to further rider Blaine Hale’s career, and they did.

“I don’t know why or what the deal is, but when I help somebody else reach a goal, the feeling of accomplishment is the same as if I’d done it myself,” Reed said. “Not riding would be harder if Joey or I really wanted to drive this weekend, but right now he has enough going on that doesn’t even care, and at this point neither do I. Blaine’s really coachable, and we just want to help him.”

With the 2023 championship long decided and Reed Motorsports’ focus squarely on 2024, the team concentrated on giving Hale, a former national event winner who made his team debut last month in Dallas, the best bike possible. Hale qualified 16th and drew the utterly unbeatable Gaige Herrera in an impossible first-round matchup in which the impossible nearly happened.

Herrera, who won the 2023 championship in a landslide with an incredible 50-4 win-loss record, qualifying No. 1 at 13 of 14 events and winning 11 of 12 finals, lurched off the line and was, for once, vulnerable. He stumbled to one of his worst runs of the season, a 10.89 at 77 mph that left him hundreds of feet behind Hale at the finish line, but Hale invalidated a sure win with a -.256 red-light.

“It’s too bad,” Reed said. “With his leathers on, Blaine’s probably 200 pounds, but it’s not like he’s lost out there. He’s not out of control or anything. Every time he gets off the bike, he’s like, ‘this happened here,’ or “the bike did this here.’ He knows what’s going on.”

As for his team rider, Gladstone, Reed said, “We’re both looking forward to next year. Joey’s my best friend in the world. Even last year, he was like, ‘Are you  sure you’re OK with me doing so good when you can’t even walk around yet?’ I told him, ‘When you’re riding the bike, I feel like it’s me on there.’ I get that much enjoyment out of it. We’ve got big plans for next year. Joey’s a winner. He’s not out here just to be out here, to be sixth or seventh or tenth in points. He’s here to win races and championships.”


Annie Whiteley pounded out some of her best runs in years en route to a respectable quarterfinal finish at the NHRA Winternationals, which, this year, wasn’t actually run in the winter. At would more accurately have been termed the “Springnationals,” the six-time national event champion laid down a 5.45 in qualifying, improved to a 5.44, and knocked off Nick Januik before falling in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Shane Westerfield.

Whiteley, whose lone final-round appearance at Pomona came at the 2017 World Finals, where she was runner-up to John Lombardo, began eliminations from the lofty No. 2 qualifying position, behind only world champ Doug Gordon, who ran a mere two-thousandths of a second quicker than her 5.441 with a 5.439.

Pitted against former national event winner Januik in the first pair of the first round, Whiteley advanced easily with one of the quickest and fastest runs of the entire weekend, a 5.460 at 267.27 mph. Januik blew the tires off early and was left in the dust with a shut-off 11-second time.

Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro launched just as hard in the quarterfinals against the notoriously quick-leaving Westerfield, who was driving the late Rick Jackson’s car for possibly the final time. She left right with the 2017 world champ, but in the middle of the course the car hunted around, straying perilously close to the centerline and stubbornly camping out there until she finally lifted.

“It shook the tires, I pedaled, and here came the centerline,” Whiteley said. “I pedaled it again, but it went right back over there. I kept bringing it back but it just kept going to the right, and finally I just said, ‘Nope, that’s enough,’ and shut off. It’s too bad, too – the car was trying to run good all weekend.” It was doubly bad, actually: the winner of that round had a bye to the final.


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.”


Annie Whiteley wrapped up her 11th season as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver at the NHRA Finals with her best run of the year on what turned out to be her last run of the year. Whiteley, who won the rescheduled Memphis Mid-West Drag Racing Series event, runner-upped at four other MWDRS events, and made her first final-round appearance in NHRA competition in three years, reached the semifinals at one of her least favorite tracks in either, fabled Pomona Raceway.

Led by crew chief Mike Strasburg, the team came off the trailer Thursday morning with an outstanding 5.49 at 269 mph, backed it up with a super-consistent 5.50, also at 269 mph, and locked up the No. 5 position Friday in last-shot qualifying with a stellar 5.46 at 270.00 mph flat. When eliminations began, the J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro got only faster, with another 5.46/270 that, combined with a noticeable holeshot head start, made quick work of Alaskan Ray Martin’s best run of the year, 5.51/264.

In the quarterfinals, Whiteley clinched the 2022 NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car championship for Doug Gordon by beating rival Shane Westerfield, who had led the national standings almost all season. He threw away a 5.44/268 on a red-light start but Whiteley would have been tough to handle regardless with yet another 5.4, a 5.47/268. The race and the season came to an end Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals when Whiteley’s unbelievable 5.42/271 was held off by Gordon’s slightly slower 5.45/268 on a small holeshot.

It was a disappointing end to what’s been a particularly strong season, the YNot team’s best in years. Whiteley winds up 2022 with at least a semifinal finish in seven of her last eight starts, a victory, six final-round appearances, a 20-15 (.571) win-loss record, and a career record of 113-90 (.557) in NHRA national event competition.


After a soaring semifinal finish last weekend at the Sonoma Nationals, easily one of the finest outings of his six-year Pro Stock Motorcycle career, Cory Reed plummeted back to earth at the world-famous Los Angeles County Fairplex.

Competing at Pomona for the first time since his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign and just the second time ever, Reed struggled all weekend with the facility’s notoriously uneven surface. “This place is too bumpy,” he said. “I know it’s Pomona and everything, but they only run here once or twice a year, it’s got a bad crown, and there’s just not enough rubber. It sucks.”

Side by side early against teammate and best bud Joey Gladstone in Friday’s lone qualifying session, Reed slowed to an off-pace 7.16 at 182 mph when the track seemed to drag him toward the centerline. He found himself in that same barren portion of the course Saturday afternoon and drifted as close to the line as possible without crossing it on a coasting 7.33/157. Then in Q3, his last chance to improve, Reed’s powerful Suzuki Hayabusa porpoised off the line, spun, finally grabbed hold of the track, and sprinted to a 7.03/193, good for the No. 13 spot, the second-worst he’s qualified all season, ahead of only Charlotte, where he was 14th.

In the first round against No. 4 qualifier Scotty Pollacheck, who he just beat at Denver, Reed was off like a shot with a .012 reaction time, but again he had to lift downtrack when his bike seemed to take on a mind of its own and lost, 6.88/198 to 7.12/178. “When it spins the tire on the leave like that, the bike always wants to go left,” he said. “The shift light’s already on, but you know you can’t hit the button. It’s hard to ignore it – it’s right there in your face – but you’ve got to at least make it 60 feet before you hit 2nd gear. This 4-valve makes a lot of power but no torque, so when the RPM drops, it doesn’t just roll out of it like a Buell does – you really have to pay attention and keep the motor up there.”


With three straight runs in the mid-to-low 5.40s, Annie Whiteley wrapped up her seventh season as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver with a another solid showing at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. Whiteley, who ran .40s in all four rounds of eliminations last year, put together three runs from 5.45 to 5.43 for a semifinal finish to complete a four-win campaign third in the final standings, tying the career-high she established in 2015.

“It was a really good year,” said Whiteley, who scored in Belle Rose, Charlotte, Denver, and Brainerd and also made it to the final in Gainesville and Dallas. She qualified No. 1 six times, including five in a row to open the season, had an average qualifying position of 2.9 with an average e.t. and speed of 5.522 at 269.10 mph, and made the fast half of the field in 15 of 16 starts – all but the race before this one, the Las Vegas regional.

The electronic gremlins that hamstrung the YNot team in Vegas persisted in the first qualifying session at Pomona, where the car shut itself off and had to be pushed off the line. Whiteley roared back with a 5.45 at 272 mph for the No. 2 spot and wiped out Northamptonshire, England’s Robert Turner in the first round with a better 5.44/268 and Wyoming’s Kris Hool in the second round with an even better 5.43/272.56 (top speed of the meet). Banished to the left lane for the semifinals, she came out on the wrong end of a pedalfest with Sweden’s Ulf Leanders, who earned lane choice with a career-best 5.38 (low e.t.) in the previous round.

Neither driver cracked the six-second mark in the semi’s – Whiteley shook hard off the line, pedaled, recovered, and charged for the top end until it was clear that there was no overtaking Leanders, who had made it farther downtrack before tire-shake set it. “That was a one-lane race track,” Whiteley said. “If I was in my car, I’d have tried a little harder to pedal it earlier, but when it’s somebody else’s stuff, there’s always one thing in the back of your mind: Don’t tear up their car. The steering box was going bad. It felt loose, like the front end wasn’t planted, and it kept getting worse. You’d just barely touch the wheel and the car would be turning and I didn’t want to push it. It’s OK, though. Four wins, third place in the points – that’s a pretty good year.”


Annie Whiteley’s 2017 season didn’t turn out to be the one she’s always dreamed of, but in the end it was one that almost any driver in the ultra-competitive world of Top Alcohol Funny Car racing would be glad to have: multiple finals, multiple wins, and yet another Top 5 finish in the national standings.

At the season-ending AAA Finals in Pomona, Whiteley, who won two of her first three starts of 2017 and obliterated the national record with the fastest run in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (275.00 mph) along the way, finished second to John Lombardo, who was the championship runner-up again. Whiteley, who came out on the wrong end of a 5.37-5.38 showdown with Doug Gordon in the Dallas final, had the misfortune to do so again in the Pomona finale opposite Lombardo in another all-time matchup. Lombardo’s NAPA Camaro edged her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro in by far the best race of the entire weekend, 5.42 to her slightly quicker 5.41.

“I’ve just got to get a little better on the lights,” she said. “I worked on my practice tree all weekend, had it all set up, but it didn’t help. It’s just not the same as being in the car, on the starting line, with somebody in the other lane. On Sunday, I just forgot all about it and did a lot better.”

Whiteley was No. 1 after the first of three qualifying sessions with a tremendous 5.439 at 272.61 and again after the second session with an even better 5.414 at 273.27 mph that held up all weekend for top speed of the meet. Bumped to No. 2 by Lombardo’s 5.409 in the second-to-last pair of the final session, she mowed down one veteran after another in eliminations, beginning with Bret Williamson in the first round.

Whiteley’s 5.410/273.05 (one-thousandth of a second from low e.t.) took out Williamson’s 5.669/255.43. A 5.453/271.13 covered Jegs Allstars runner-up Chris Marshall in the quarterfinals, and a similar 5.478/270.70 in the semi’s dispatched two-time 2016 national event winner Terry Ruckman and set up the titanic final-round clash with Lombardo. “It sucked to lose the final, but you can’t feel too bad about a weekend like this,” she said. “This is the best we’ve ever done at Pomona. I don’t know what it is about this place, but it’s never liked us, but this time the car ran good all weekend.”


It wasn’t epic like 2015, when she led the national standings for months and remained in championship contention right down to the last day of the season, but 2016 ended up another solid season for Annie Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing team.

At the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Whiteley wrapped up a half-decade of Alcohol Funny Car competition with a winning record for the fourth time in five years and a fourth Top 10 finish in the national standings.

Whiteley qualified ninth in the fastest field in history with an outstanding 5.52 at more than 270 mph – a time that would have been good for the fast half of the field at any other race, ever – but got a tough first-round draw, nemesis Shane Westerfield, who was even quicker with a 5.50. Both passes came in the opening qualifying session, putting them 1-2 on the provisional grid before both were knocked down seven spots to the exact middle of the field in subsequent qualifying sessions.

Racing in the first pair of the first round as Nos. 8 and 9 qualifiers often do, Westerfield won by matching his qualifying time with another 5.50-flat. Whiteley left hard but slowed on the top end, coasting across the finish line with a smoky 5.88 at just 190 mph.

Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team head into the offseason with yet another Top 10 finish (8th), another winning record, 16-15 (.516), and three final-round appearances – one at a divisional event (Woodburn) and the other two at back-to-back national events, Brainerd and Indy.


Cory Reed may have been knocked out early in his final race for the PSE/Star Racing team, but it did little to detract from a wildly successful rookie season that ended with him as a prohibitive favorite to capture the prestigious 2016 Road to the Future NHRA Rookie of the Year award.

At the NHRA Finals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, Reed, the only rookie to make the Top 10 in any professional category this year, came out on the wrong end of a first-round matchup with the toughest possible opponent, reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ and two-time Finals winner Andrew Hines.

After beating his first-round opponent exactly two-thirds of the time in 2016 – an almost unprecedented feat for a first-year rider – Reed slipped to a 7.15 at 188.10 mph, well short of his qualifying time and far short of the unbeatable 6.88/194.52 put up by Hines, who had to defeat Reed to stay in contention for another championship.

Reed’s first qualifying run turned out to be his best all weekend, a 6.911/192.80 that had him way up in the No. 5 qualifying spot at the time. Subsequent runs of 7.017/191.43, 7.212/188.94, and 6.987/192.03 didn’t improve his position, and he settled in the No. 13 spot for eliminations, his third-worst starting position all year.

Teammate Angelle Sampey, who will join Reed’s all-new Team Liberty Racing operation as team manager and a fellow rider for 2017, still had a mathematical shot late in the season at what would have been her fourth career NHRA championship. She reached the final in her last ride for Star Racing, falling to Matt Smith, who scored for the first time in more than three years.


If only she could’ve maintained the performance from her off-the-trailer qualifying pass at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Annie Whiteley likely would’ve won the 2015 Top Alcohol Funny Car championship she seemed destined to win all year.

Whiteley, who won four races in seven final-round appearances this season and stood atop the national standings longer than any other driver, battled tire shake the rest of the way and eventually fell to Clint Thompson in the quarterfinals, allowing Sweden’s Jonnie Lindberg to slip past her by 12 points to win the title.

“That run probably hurt us more than it helped us,” Whiteley’s husband, two-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Jim Whiteley, said of her off-the-trailer 5.46 at nearly 267 mph. “I think it fooled us into thinking the track was different than it was. There was a whole lot of track out there this weekend.”

The run qualified Whiteley solidly in the No. 4 position and seemed to set her up for even better things in the remaining qualifying sessions and especially in eliminations, but her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro refused to cooperate on subsequent runs.

“It is what it is,” said Whiteley, who reclaimed the lead she lost to Lindberg two weeks earlier at the Toyota Nationals by winning the first round over veteran Steve Gasparrelli with a tire-shaking, backpedaling 6.07. “We never got hold of the track after that first run. No complaints, though. Look how the season started – not getting down the track run after run, barely qualifying at the first race (Phoenix). I’d say it turned out pretty good overall.”

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