This time, Joey Gladstone is aiming for the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship
A year ago, Joey Gladstone was the guy who should have won an NHRA national event title, but he somehow remained winless despite a wealth of talent and some of the best equipment available.
That’s not the case anymore.
Things have changed a lot since last winter, and mostly for the better. Gladstone finally got his first win when he rode the Reed Motorsports Suzuki to a victory last season in Sonoma, and he quickly followed with a second win in Sonoma. Not surprisingly, Gladstone used that momentum to claim a third win during the Countdown to the Championship in Reading. Gladstone challenged for the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle title until the final days of the season before finally settling into a career-best second-place finish behind Matt Smith. His numbers for the year were impressive with three wins, six finals, and a 31-12 record in elimination rounds.
Now, Gladstone heads into the 2023 season, and one thing that changed is his expectations. With three wins under his belt, he sees no reason why he can’t win even more this season, and when he comes to the championship, he also feels like he’s going to be in the mix when the title is ultimately decided about 10 months from now.
“I think our expectations going into 2022 were to finish in the top five, and now, I’d say we want to be in the top three,” said Gladstone. “I know the championship is on everybody’s mind, but this year will be tougher than ever. My mentality is to go out and shoot for race wins and then let the points fall where they may.”
Early in his career, Gladstone was known as a rider with nearly unlimited potential, but he rarely found himself on a bike that was competitive enough to challenge the class leaders. That changed when he and team owner Cory Reed made the switch to the Suzuki four-valve combination in 2021. Once he was on a bike that could consistently qualify in the top four spots, Gladstone continued to hold up his end of the bargain. In 2022, he was once again the class leader in reaction time average. Fittingly, Gladstone’s first win in Sonoma came via a holeshot against Eddie Krawiec in the final round.
"After last year, I definitely want more than that, and we’re capable of more,” Gladstone said. “I know that our team is capable of going late in the rounds, so expectations are going to be there, but you never know what can happen. I’m a realist. It’s tough out there, so I don’t expect to just pick up where I left off last season.”
This winter, the Reed Motorsports team made several big moves. First off, they’ve moved their entire operation from Virginia to North Carolina. They are now housed within the KB Titan Racing operation, and Gladstone now works in the machine shop. The team is also planning on making the switch to the new billet Suzuki engine cases and the Gen 3 Hayabusa body that has been approved for 2023.
“Moving into [KB Titan Racing] was a big move for us,” said Gladstone. “Cory and I both bought houses down there, so we’re fully committed. There are some very smart people in that operation, so I believe we have a lot of potential for growth."
Gladstone was adamant that the team is still very much committed to their current partnership with Vance & Hines as an engine supplier but also sees future benefits of being under the same roof as a team that has won well over 176 Pro Stock races. He’s also thrilled about the new engine cases and the Hayabusa body, both of which represent a big step forward for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” Gladstone said. “We’ve struggled in past year because we make so much horsepower, and the old cases are not built to handle anything like that. I’d getting hard to find cases even in a junkyard, and if you break one, it’s like a gut punch. The new cases will be stronger and the transmission is removable, so it will be much easier to repair them. Overall, it’s going to save the class a lot of money because the new cases are going to last much longer.”
Gladstone also confirmed that team owner Reed is scheduled for additional surgery following his crash in late 2021, so his return is on hold for the foreseeable future, although he’s still very much involved in the day-to-day operation of the team, along with crew chief Cecil Towner, who is also on board again for 2023.
“Our plan right now is to test in Florida just before we head to Gainesville,” said Gladstone. “With some of the changes we’ve made, it’s not just like wiping the chalkboard clean. If we can run a couple of high 6.60s or low 6.70s and then head for Gainesville, I’d be pretty happy.”