The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will represent Joey Gladstone’s 67th race in the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series and to the surprise of many, he’s still looking for his first victory. Gladstone’s talent has never been in question but his luck? That’s another story.
During his career, Gladstone has ridden almost every bike imaginable including the insane 230-mph “no bar” bikes, and he’s been a winner on all of them but the Pro Stock Motorcycle class has been a tough mountain to climb. Gladstone has some of the best reaction times in the class and he’s gotr two runner-up finishes on his resumé,but a victory has eluded him and he’s not very happy about it.
“It is what it is; I really try not to think too much about it,”said Gladtone. “I mean its going to happen whenever it happens. All I can do is keep working and trying to be the best rider I can be. Sometimes you wonder if it will ever come, but I’m still pretty motivated.”
If Gladstone ever lacks for motivation, it might help to remember two simple words: Scotty Pollacheck.
It took Pollacheck more than a decade and 131 starts before he finally collected his first win at the 2020 U.S. Nationals. He quickly scored another title at the 2021 Atlanta race before taking the 2022 season off.
Gladstone doesn’t make excuses, but in this instance, he could and no one would blame him. To put it in simple terms, his 2021 season was a disaster. Gladstone was injured in a testing accident in March and later in the year, his Reed Motorsports teammate Cory Reed suffered a serious leg injury when he and Gladstone collided in Charlotte. Reed still hasn’t returned to riding and might not until the 2023 season.
“I don’t think we can really blame either of the crashes [for our performance],” Gladstone said. “For whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. They say things happen for a reason but I don’t know. I wish I knew what the reason was.”
Last week’s event in Bristol is a textbook example of Gladstone’s recent luck, or lack thereof. Gladstone qualified No. 2 in the tough field, defeated Jianna Evaristo in round one with a very competitive 6.88 run, and then slowed to a 6.95 in the quarterfinals when his Vance & Hines prepared Suzuki spun the tire.
“I had a 1.05 sixty-foot time, which is great and then when I plugged it in second gear it just blew the tire off,” said Gladstone. “If the bike stays stuck to the track, we’re probably going to the semifinals and then, who knows? I’d like to think we could have won the whole thing.”
Sometimes its easy to get discouraged, and Gladstone admits that he’s had those feelings, but he’s not about to quit. Quite the contrary. In fact, he’s given up riding other bikes in order to concentrate on the Reed Motorsports Pro Stock Motorcycle program.
“We’re fully committed to this deal,” said Gladstone. “We know what we’ve got and we’ve got a really good bike. We just need to keep plugging away and something good will eventually happen.”