NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle
Joey Gladstone/San Marino Excavating team report
upcoming event: NHRA Carolina Nationals
when: September 15-17, 2017
where: zMAX Dragway, Concord, North Carolina, USA
Gladstone and San Marino
Teed Up for the Countdown
story and photos by Tim Hailey
Rider Joey Gladstone and the San Marino Excavating Pro Stock Motorcycle team roll into zMAX Dragway for NHRA’s Carolina Nationals ready to drive long and put it in the cup as a contender in the ten-rider Countdown to One playoff competition.
“Nobody last year would have predicted us to make the Countdown this year, nobody,” said Joe Riccardi, owner and tuner of the San Marino Suzuki. “Look at the people that didn’t: Steve Johnson, Team Liberty, Mike Berry—those are major players. And we finished ahead of Angie Smith and Karen Stoffer. That’s a huge accomplishment, and now we’re freakin’ three rounds behind first place (with points reset for the Countdown).”
“We’ve reached the top ten and that was one of our biggest goals,” said Gladstone. “We weren’t even 100% sure we were gonna do all 16 races when we started the season, we wanted to see if the Countdown was an achievable goal—and it was!”
The team showed a lot of momentum at the beginning of the season, qualifying third and going to the semis right out of the box at Gainesville. “That fast start kept us motivated as other teams started to step up as the season wore on,” said Gladstone. “It really sunk in what we’d accomplished when I put my name up there with all those hefty names on the Countdown board at Indy: Eddie Krawiec, Jerry Savoie, Andrew Hines, LE Tonglet, Scotty Pollacheck, Hector Arana Jr, Matt and Angie Smith, and Karen Stoffer. It was a really, really cool feeling.”
Joey Gladstone got a .009 to .028 jump on Matt Smith at Indy, but Smith's big V-twin had the legs to drive around
And it was an uplifting way to cap off a somewhat frustrating outing at Indy’s U.S. Nationals. Like many of the Suzuki campaigners, the San Marino team was struggling to find a competitive edge. “I changed tires, I changed engines twice, I changed gearing, I changed fuel up, down, timing curves,” said Riccardi. “Apparently I can’t tune myself out of a wet paper bag in the heat of summer. It will be nice to get back to the tracks where I feel confident with the set-up.”
Charlotte promises great weather—low 80s in the daytime and low 60s at night. “What I like about Charlotte is the barometer should be close to what it was in the springtime,” said Riccardi, whose Suzuki qualified strong in fifth when NHRA raced there in April. “Joey has done a great job thus far and I think he will shine during the Countdown.”
Like everyone, Gladstone is bowled over by the zMAX facility and captivated by Charlotte’s deep racing heritage.
But Joey’s immediate plans for Charlotte are a Thursday golf outing with Scotty and Susan Pollacheck, Chip Ellis, and Cory Reed. “I played with Scotty in Brainerd and he’s awesome, he’s a real good golfer—probably a mid-80 golfer. Susan’s apparently good too. I don’t think Cory’s ever played. Chip said he’s getting pretty good. And I’m a low-90, high-80 golfer.
“You get the same good feeling when you nail a good shot on the course as when you lay down a good lap on the dragstrip. I do anyway.”
And by being in the Countdown, Gladstone and the San Marino team are clearly shooting par. “We were very consistent throughout this year. We’ve really worked well together as a team and the results show it.”
Riccardi takes him team’s performance very personally, but he’s competing against tuners and team owners who race professionally fulltime. As the hands-on owner of San Marino Excavating, Riccardi doesn’t have the luxury of focusing on his motorcycle on weekdays as much as he would like to. Riccardi is the workman’s tuner, and when you compare apples to apples, the San Marino team’s results this year are outstanding. “Without the great people at San Marino Excavating filling in for me when I’m gone racing—handling the day to day operations—the team would not be out here competing,” said Riccardi. “It’s a sacrifice to race the full season, and without the support of my wife Shelby and the kids it would be nearly impossible.”
“I’m really proud of what Joe Riccardi’s done this year, being a relatively new tuner to Pro Stock Motorcycle,” said Trim-Tex sponsored Gladstone. “I’m also proud of myself, and our mechanic Chris Clontz, and how we all work together as a team.”
Clontz will have two bikes to wrench on in Charlotte, as his wife Kelly will pit her Suzuki under the San Marino awning. “Kelly’s an accomplished racer, and she and Chris both have great attitudes and incredible work ethics,” said Riccardi. “I’ll be helping Chris tune her bike. We’ll be sharing data with each other and our spare parts and motor with them, so it’s a win-win for everyone. It’s gonna be really fun having her around.”
“We’ve still got a lot of racing to do, but the mere fact that we’re still in the fight at this point in the season is pretty awesome,” finished Gladstone. “We have a strategy for the rest of the year starting off with Charlotte. I didn’t mind the four wide in April, we went a round there. But I’m happy to get back to traditional racing this time.”
Joey Gladstone and Joe Riccardi thank Joe Koenig and Trim-Tex , Eddie Krawiec and everyone at Vance & Hines , San Marino Excavating , Kustom Machine , Eight Mile Signs , Michigan Cat https://www.michigancat.com , Northeast Ohio Dyno, Pingel Enterprise , Manitoulin Chrysler , Dave Vantine and Vantine Imaging , Mike Androwick of Mike’s Racing Heads , and their families.