PSM – INDY
Turning the seat over to Joey Gladstone at the most prestigious event of the year, former NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed stood back and watched his teammates perform at the 64th annual U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Reed, who, as a stone rookie, clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs at this race in 2016, looked on as Gladstone made the field and Angelle Sampey, the 2000-01-02 world champion, bumped in in last-shot qualifying at the last race of the regular season to keep herself in title contention.
Sampey ripped off a clutch 6.94 that nearly put her in the top half of the field, and Gladstone entered eliminations in his Team Liberty debut one spot ahead of her in the No. 10 position with a string of 6.90s. Both were eliminated in the first round, but Reed, who’s suffered through way too many aggravating outings already this year, remains undeterred.
“We haven’t got it all figured out yet,” he said. “We’ve been locking up the clutch too hard and not keeping the motor freed up enough to drive through it and run like we should, and we didn’t want to take a bunch of clutch out of it again this time and get too far on the other side of it, and we didn’t.”
Facing rookie Mark Paquette in the opening round, Gladstone came out on the wrong end of one of the closest matches of the entire weekend. He and Paquette tore off the line separated by mere thousandths of a second and Gladstone lost a heartbreaker, 6.968/192 to 6.970/192. They crossed the finish line separated by less than a hundredth of a second. Two pair later, Sampey followed with a similar 6.937/193 that wasn’t enough against former world champion Andrew Hines’ superior 6.880/195.
“We’re getting there, getting closer and closer all the time,” Reed said. “It was actually kind of nice to be in the pits without the responsibilities and all the stress of having to ride the bike, being stuck in your own zone, and for once just see how everybody’s working together. Losing first round with both bikes was frustrating because there’s nothing you can do about it, but having to just stand there and watch wasn’t torture like you might think. We’re fine. Both bikes qualified at Indy and things are starting to click.”