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Righting a ship that seemed adrift just two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals, Joey Gladstone rode Cory Reed’s Diamond W/Fatheadz Hayabusa to victory in the first race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship, the Pep Boys Nationals. Qualified smack in the middle of the pack – No. 8 – he roared to life in eliminations, beating incoming points leader Matt Smith in the quarterfinals in perhaps the biggest single round of his entire career.

“This is awesome,” Gladstone said, clearly in disbelief after his third win in four races – his first three wins ever. “It’s still hard to believe it’s really happening.”

“Pure happiness,” exclaimed Reed, now almost fully recovered from his devastating accident last September in Charlotte. “Having so many people root for us … it’s a dream come true.”

Gladstone, who entered the Countdown in second place, an even 20 points behind Smith, opened with a decent 6.81/198 in Friday night qualifying, slowed to a mediocre 6.83/197 early Saturday afternoon, then powered to a 6.79/199 in last-shot qualifying to move back into the fast half of the field – barely. Waiting for him was Hector Arana Jr., a 15-time national event winner whose career has been marred by red-light starts and who took himself out with another one in the first round.

Smith, the five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion who passed Gladstone for the points lead with his Indy win and qualified No. 1 here, loomed in a titanic second-round showdown. For a crucial win that surely will be looked back on as the turning point if Gladstone eventually wins the title, he got Smith at the line and outran him in an instant classic, 6.815 to 6.818.

“I thought I saw the win-light,” he said, “but then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Did I really see it?’ I wasn’t sure until they were pointing at me as I rolled around the corner. I’d never beaten Matt on his V-Twin. He’s a great competitor, one of my idols, and getting him out of here early was huge.”

In the semifinals, Gladstone came from behind for a 6.86/196 to 6.92/195 win over upstart Marc Ingwersen, who’d taken out Angelle Sampey on a huge holeshot, then faced Angie Smith, who had the full might of Matt Smith Racing behind her, in the final. That one was over immediately when she went red, but he had her all the way with a clutch .012 reaction time and a better run, 6.83/196 to 6.86/198.

“To win, you really have to learn how to tune these things on Sundays,” said Gladstone, now the top-ranked rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle. “Eliminations is not the same thing as qualifying, and, as we learned at Indy, what works at one track doesn’t work at the next one.”


After winning the first race of his career 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 phenom Joey Gladstone Indy, and it didn’t. He qualified in the middle of the pack and got beat first round.

The U.S. Nationals was a struggle from the beginning 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 Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader, stumbled to an off-pace 7.01 before the team’s Diamond W/Fatheadz Hayabusa somewhat returned to form in the 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,” said Gladstone 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. We just need to overcome adversity.”

Opposite national record holder Karen Stoffer, a forgettable weekend came to a premature conclusion when the bike didn’t pick up as expected and Gladstone 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 a second.

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 win at the very next race, there would be no third straight. Stoffer’s bike slowed to a 6.91/194, but Gladstone’s did so even more to a 6.94/193 for as disappointing a loss as he’s suffered all year. “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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


Everybody gets beat in the first round, but for Joey Gladstone that hasn’t been a problem – until Richmond. Competing at his adopted home track, Virginia Motorsports Park, Gladstone was gone early for the first time all season after just missing a perfect reaction time with a -.010 foul.

“I was pushing it, sure,” he admitted. “That’s Eddie [Krawiec, the four-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion] over there in the other lane. You know it’s gonna be a tough round. You know he’s gonna run good. You’d damn sure better be ready, and I guess I was a little too ready that time.”

Gladstone, who began the season with a semifinal finish in Gainesville, was looking good until the Tree flashed in the first pair of the first round. Still a solid sixth in the standings despite this untimely setback, he unloaded an all-time best 6.77 at 199.29 mph in testing here April 12 and entered the race in fourth place, ahead of past champions Matt Smith, Angelle Savoie, and Jerry Savoie.

Friday evening in the first of three scheduled Virginia Nationals qualifying sessions, Gladstone, fighting the weather like everyone in every category, came through with a 6.87/195 to move well into the field, followed Saturday afternoon by a more than respectable 6.89/196. Any shot at improving was eliminated by persistent showers that evening that had some riders willing to wait out the rain for one last run and others not.

“The dew point was falling,” said Gladstone, who ended up ninth on the final qualifying grid, stuck with an unenviable first-round meeting with number 8 Krawiec. “The guys who didn’t want us to get one more run were making their case with NHRA officials – I stood right there and watched the whole thing go down. We really could have used one more run. If we’d have gotten it, things would have turned out a lot differently on Sunday, I guarantee you.”


Joey Gladstone returned to the site of the most unforgettable race of his career – the out-and-out worst one ever and at the same time the absolute best: the 2021 Carolina Nationals, where his best friend, team owner Cory Reed, crashed right in front of him in round two and then a freak mechanical glitch in the final ripped away an in-the-bag first major victory.

Riding the crest of a season-long wave of success, Gladstone landed in a second consecutive Charlotte final – sort of. He was there for the last round, the third Pro Stock Motorcycle quad of the day, but at the Four-Wide Nationals the third- and fourth-place finishers are considered semifinalists. Still, it was a fantastic weekend, yet another late-round finish that catapulted him to fourth in the NHRA standings, the highest he’s ever been this deep into a season.

“I’m living my dream,” said Gladstone, who reached the semi’s at the season-opening Gatornationals and the quarterfinals in Houston. “I can’t express how proud I am of my team.” Led by Reed and longtime crew chief Cecil Towner, Gladstone made his best qualifying run all weekend right off the bat, a 6.80/198, followed by a 6.86/197 under better conditions Friday night and a 6.88/199 and 6.82/197 on Saturday.

Sunday in the first round, Gladstone edged reigning NHRA world champ Matt Smith, 6.84/200 to 6.86/198, to finish second behind Angelle Sampey’s outstanding 6.76/199. (Under the four-wide format, the top two in each “quad” of four bikes advance.) With a 13.43 at 45 mph, Kelly Clontz finished a distant fourth.

In the semi’s, in one of the more memorable moments of his entire career, Gladstone lined up against three former world champions and whipped all three – Eddie Krawiec, Sampey, and Jerry Savoie – with a 6.81/198. He outran Krawiec, beat Sampey on a holeshot, and Savoie, who was quicker than any of them with 6.78/199, red-lighted.

“That’s three gangsters in the other three lanes,” Gladstone said. “Last year, I really got my heart ripped out in the final, and this year I’m going to ride my heart out.” He did, drilling winner Krawiec and winner Steve Johnson with a .037 reaction time, but slipped to his worst run of the long weekend, a 6.90/199 that left him well short of Johnson’s winning 6.74/200.

“A four-wide isn’t like a regular final,” he said. “You know in the back of your mind the whole time what your odds are. Instead of having to beat one guy, you’ve got to beat three, so the pressure’s not the same. We may have slowed down and finished fourth, but I’ll take it. That first win is coming.”


Rolling into the Lone Star State for the last NHRA national event ever at Houston Raceway Park, Cory Reed, rider Joey Gladstone, and their nascent Reed Motorsports team stood a career-high third in the NHRA standings. The race didn’t end in a second consecutive semifinal showing, but a quarterfinal finish kept the young team in early title contention and solidified its status as next the next breakthrough first-time winner on the Pro Stock Motorcycle tour.

“We’re learning how to go rounds,” Reed said. “It takes time. Running good in qualifying is one thing; it’s another thing to do it on Sunday. We’re gonna get there and we’re not gonna quit until we do.”

Gladstone, who reached the semifinals at the rain-plagued Gainesville season opener despite (like everyone) never getting a qualifying run, made the most of the three Spring Nationals sessions. Each was a full pull at nearly 200 mph, starting Friday evening with the best one, an off-the-trailer 6.83 at 198 mph, good for No. 2 at the time and No. 4 by the end of the session.

Back-to-back strong runs Saturday set Gladstone up perfectly for Sunday’s eliminations. He wheeled the team’s Suzuki Hayabusa to a pair of respectable runs that weren’t reflected in the final qualifying order but boded well for Sunday – 6.91/199 and 6.84/198. At that point, he was still fifth on the grid, but reigning world champion Matt Smith knocked him back one pair later with a 6.81/199.

As at the only previous NHRA bike race this season, the Gatornationals, Gladstone met Marc Ingwersen in the first round of eliminations, and again he had it from start to finish. Ingwersen threw away any chance he had of winning with an untimely -.147 foul start, but the Reed Motorsports rider was untouchable anyway with a near-perfect .006 reaction time and his quickest run all weekend, 6.82/198.

Opposite career-long nemesis Eddie Krawiec in the quarterfinals, Gladstone was out first again with another great reaction time (.020), but the four-time world champ ran him down before half-track and advanced with one of the quickest runs of the entire round, 6.77/199 to 6.91/197. “It spun,” Gladstone said. “Just obliterated the tire. It was all over right there, but I stayed in it in case something happened to him.”

“It’s not that we tuned it up too much,” Reed said. “It’s that we didn’t tune it down enough [for the conditions]. That’s something you have to learn. And we are.”

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