Cory Reed may have been knocked out early in his final race for the PSE/Star Racing team, but it did little to detract from a wildly successful rookie season that ended with him as a prohibitive favorite to capture the prestigious 2016 Road to the Future NHRA Rookie of the Year award.
At the NHRA Finals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, Reed, the only rookie to make the Top 10 in any professional category this year, came out on the wrong end of a first-round matchup with the toughest possible opponent, reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ and two-time Finals winner Andrew Hines.
After beating his first-round opponent exactly two-thirds of the time in 2016 – an almost unprecedented feat for a first-year rider – Reed slipped to a 7.15 at 188.10 mph, well short of his qualifying time and far short of the unbeatable 6.88/194.52 put up by Hines, who had to defeat Reed to stay in contention for another championship.
Reed’s first qualifying run turned out to be his best all weekend, a 6.911/192.80 that had him way up in the No. 5 qualifying spot at the time. Subsequent runs of 7.017/191.43, 7.212/188.94, and 6.987/192.03 didn’t improve his position, and he settled in the No. 13 spot for eliminations, his third-worst starting position all year.
Teammate Angelle Sampey, who will join Reed’s all-new Team Liberty Racing operation as team manager and a fellow rider for 2017, still had a mathematical shot late in the season at what would have been her fourth career NHRA championship. She reached the final in her last ride for Star Racing, falling to Matt Smith, who scored for the first time in more than three years.