Cory Reed’s epic crash in 2021 might be a memory of the past for some, but for the drag racer who made his debut in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in 2015, it’s something he’s still recovering from nearly two years later.
The dramatic incident has been named one of the worst crashes in Pro Stock Motorcycle racing. During second-round eliminations, Reed collided with his teammate, Joey Gladstone, at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina. Reed suffered from a compound fracture of his left leg above the ankle and a broken shoulder after crossing into Gladstone’s lane, flipping his bike, and tumbling between the guard wall and his motorcycle.
Reed is still on his road to recovery and his eighth surgery. The Colorado native explained how his once severely broken leg is being stretched to match his right leg due to bone loss from infection.
“I have a halo-fixator back on my leg to make it grow about an inch. I wasn’t great but getting around decent,” says Reed, hoping this will be the last surgery. “My leg being shorter messed my hips up, and then it started giving me a little scoliosis in my back. My ankle is fused, so that’s pretty much all they can do for my leg.”
“I’ve got probably 30 to 40 days of adjusting this thing that’s on my leg to get it to grow and then six weeks to heal and then back to physical therapy, just to start walking again,” continues Reed.
However, he remains hopeful about racing again after the horrific scene on September 19, 2021. As a matter of fact, he’s finding motivation by continuing to work on his and Gladstone’s bike, even after his hopes of racing at the 2023 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals came and went because of a delay on the new Suzuki bodywork.
“If we would have had all [the bodywork], I would have raced Gainesville and then had my surgery,” explains Reed. “Then maybe even waited until later for the surgery in the season to hopefully race again.”
For now, Reed is relying on his support system, which is his family and his wife. “She’s with me every day, taking care of me and cleaning up after me,” says Reed.
Another staple in Reed’s recovery is Gladstone, who also races under the Reed Motorsports banner. Reed and Gladstone became fast friends and then quickly became each other’s adopted family.
“We’re closer than blood,” states Gladstone.
“Joey and I see each other every day, check on each other all the time, and take care of each other throughout everything,” says Reed, referring to Gladstone’s crash during testing a nitrous-equipped Suzuki in 2021, where he suffered multiple injuries.
“It’s mostly mental support more than anything when it comes to injuries like that,” states Gladstone. “Especially when you keep having to go and get your leg chopped off again – it’s like a gut punch every time.”
Gladstone, who has three event wins in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle, continued to explain how important the mental aspect of Reed’s recovery is.
“It’s about staying mentally strong and having stuff to keep you occupied. Us racing last year took his mind off things and got him through it,” says Gladstone while sitting on his boat, fishing next to Reed.
Not only has Reed’s accident changed Gladstone’s perspective when climbing on the back of a bike, but Gladstone also reflects on his own incident that left him with four broken ribs, a bruised lung, a broken collarbone and shoulder blade, plus a concussion and severe road rash.
“The last two accidents we’ve had have changed me quite a bit – it’s changed my view on things and has taken my risk assessment to a different level,” Gladstone explains. “Where I would take a chance or risk pushing something or racing other types of bikes, now I think twice about putting myself in danger. Having a family now, with my wife and daughter, has changed things and made me realize there are bigger things in life. There will always be a shot to do it again if you need to give up on it because your gut tells you to.”
Gladstone and Reed can still be found side by side at the track, feeding off one another’s energy. Reed hopes his recovery schedule will allow him to return to competing on a Pro Stock Motorcycle by the end of the 2023 season.
With Gladstone once again by his side, as they pause the interview to talk about navigating the boat, Reed says, “I’m lucky that we have each other.”