Pro Stock Motorcycle will make its first appearance at Heartland Motorsports Park since 1997 for this weekend’s Menards NHRA Nationals, meaning Joey Gladstone will race in Topeka for the first time in the class.
But Gladstone has enjoyed at least one other significant first lately, picking up his first career NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory last month in Sonoma. After two weeks off, Pro Stock Motorcycle is back in action at Topeka’s House of Speed and Gladstone is ready to keep the momentum going on his J&A Service Suzuki Hayabusa.
The victory brought him within two points of leader Angelle Sampey and after a series of near-misses this year, including back-to-back runner-up showings before Sonoma, the win might have opened the floodgates for more Gladstone success in 2022.
“Going to all these finals and losing, you wonder if it’s ever meant to be, but then you win and it makes all that sacrifice worth it,” Gladstone said. “It means more than you could ever imagine. (Sonoma) was just the start for us. We’re hungrier and we’re going to stand on it a little bit and try to get this championship. Now that the monkey (of getting a first win) is off my back, we’re going after the big one and trying to win a championship.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) won the 2021 event, and this year’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Aug. 14. It is the ninth race during the 2022 Pro Stock Motorcycle season and with the Countdown to the Championship playoffs right around the corner, Gladstone knows he has to be on his game.
That hasn’t been a problem lately, as he’s been the most consistent rider in the class this summer, advancing to three straight final rounds. He’s having the time of his life riding for team owner and close friend Cory Reed, becoming a legitimate championship contender in the process.
He has to deal with a host of standouts in the two-wheeled category, including Sampey, who won the race at Topeka in 1997, Eddie Krawiec, defending world champ Matt Smith, Karen Stoffer, Steve Johnson, Jerry Savoie, and Angie Smith, but Gladstone has enjoyed being the thorn in the side of the category’s toughest competitors. He loves the challenge and has no plans of slowing down in his title hunt.
“As long as I can stay out here, I will be out here,” Gladstone said. “The people we’re racing against – Matt, Angelle, Eddie, Jerry, Karen – are all top-tier. These people are stout and they’re all good. That makes it feel quite a bit better. They’ve been out here a while and we’re still green, but with a bit more time and refinement, I think that we can become one of those names. To be a pair of renegade 29–30-year-old guys swinging with these guys and making them sweat, this is so cool, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Speaking of first-time winners, Troy Coughlin Jr. grabbed his first career Pro Stock win in Seattle, cashing in to finish off the Western Swing after a strong recent run. After some struggles for much of the season, Coughlin and his team have found their footing and the results have been impressive in recent races in his JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
He slipped past teammate and points leader Erica Enders in the Seattle final round, providing a jolt he had yet to experience in the professional ranks. Coughlin will look to keep that going in Topeka, where he ran well a year ago, and he’s eager for the challenge against class stalwarts like Enders, reigning world champ Greg Anderson, defending event winner Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, Mason McGaha, Matt Hartford, teammate Aaron Stanfield and rookie Camrie Caruso. Along with running well, the team has gained considerable confidence in recent weeks, putting Coughlin in a prime position to succeed the rest of the year.
“We’re definitely gaining momentum and I can’t wait to get to Topeka,” Coughlin said. “If it were up to me, I would be racing 52 weeks a year. We love what we do. I’ve been surrounded by some wonderful people with great equipment, so we are definitely really blessed. I just can’t wait to keep going.”
Brittany Force enjoyed a historic moment with her father, John, last year in Topeka, as they shared the winner’s circle for the first time and became the first father-daughter to win at the same race in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series history. She has been impressive in Top Fuel in 2022, racking up four victories and the points lead. But getting a repeat win won’t be easy in a loaded field that includes Mike Salinas, who also has four victories this year, two-time race winner Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown, Seattle winner Tony Schumacher, Justin Ashley, Clay Millican and Josh Hart.
J. Force earned an incredible 10th Funny Car victory at Heartland Motorsports Park a year ago, continuing his amazing success at the facility. Last year was his first Topeka win in 13 years and he’ll try to make it two in a row against a star-studded group of competitors. That list features points leader Robert Hight, who has six wins this year, Matt Hagan, defending world champ Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon, who each have four wins at Topeka, Sonoma winner Bob Tasca III, J.R. Todd, Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as Street Legal exhibition runs and action in the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, fans can see an exciting performance from the “Miss Elle” jet funny car driven by Mickey McCormick, as well as a wheelstander exhibition from the “Walking Tall” PT Cruiser driven by “NitroMike.” On Saturday, fans can also attend Nitro School at 1 p.m. in the Tony Stewart Racing pits to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Race fans at Heartland Motorsports Park can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Topeka. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 12 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 13 at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 14. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations at 2 p.m. ET Sunday.
(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)