Back at the controls of Cory Reed’s Precision Service Equipment Hayabusa exactly two years after Reed’s horrible accident at this same event, Joey Gladstone made his first start since Bristol. “It feels good to be back,” he said at spacious zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C. “I haven’t ridden in so long I almost forgot what it feels like. I had a few butterflies at first, but they were gone after that first run.”
It wasn’t a good one – had the Saturday forecast not been so dire, Gladstone never would have completed it under power. He spun on the launch, quickly recovered, and rolled back into the throttle for a just-for-the-hell-of-it 7.22 at 192.85 mph to get himself on the board. Though they never came close to approaching their career-best performances of 6.72 and 202.18 mph from last season, Gladstone and team improved on every run thereafter, starting with a 6.97 at 194.21 mph Saturday afternoon in Q2.
“We probably had it turned up a little bit too much for that one,” Gladstone said, “but this one gave us some good data to work with.” He picked up a little more in the final session to a 6.93/194.91 and broke into the .80s Sunday morning in the first round of eliminations with by far his quickest and fastest run of the weekend.
13th on the ladder when he staged for round one, Gladstone was down more than a tenth of a second to 2023 Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Van Sant, who’d just missed the 6.70s in qualifying with an aggregate best of 6.80/198. Van Sant slowed way down and Gladstone made a quantum leap into the 6.80s with his first 195+ mph speed since Chicago, but it wasn’t quite enough in a tough 6.86/196 to 6.89/195 loss.
Still, it was a giant step forward for the Reed team’s new alliance with KB Racing, which is led by the most prolific Pro Stock racer of all time, Greg Anderson, who collected his NHRA record 102nd national event win over the weekend. “We really have a home now at KB Racing,” Reed said. “They’d never had an in-house project like this before and really want to see us succeed. Greg obviously knows how to make horsepower – just look at how his own stuff is coming around now. He’s on the dyno every single day, just constantly, and that can only mean good things for us.”