Cory Reed and his Team Liberty crew paid the dues at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver that all new drag race teams must before it all pays off in the end. At mile-high Bandimere Speedway, as at every track on tour this year, Reed and teammate Angelle Sampey continued their quest to meet the lofty goal they established before the season got underway in Gainesville: qualify both bikes at every race all year.

“It’s a lot to ask – especially for a brand-new team – but we’re capable of doing it and so far we doing it,” Reed said. What’s proved much more elusive is racking up round-wins, but, in easily the most competitive class in professional drag racing today, that’s to be expected.

Reed opened rain-shortened qualifying with a solid 7.27 at 181 mph that afforded him the early qualifying lead. As he has so often this year, Reed backed up his early success with rock-solid runs in the ensuing sessions, recording similar times of 7.31/179 and 7.30/181

Qualified a solid 10th in the field – the second-highest he’s qualified all year, behind only Norwalk, where he was ninth – Reed had a first-round matchup against the toughest possible opponent: reigning world champ Jerry Savoie. Reed charged off the line with a holeshot head start, as usual, but Savoie’s White Alligator Racing Suzuki surged into the lead before half-track and pulled away for the win, 7.23/183 to Reed’s competitive 7.30/181.

Despite fighting to keep the bike in the groove for much of the race, Reed fell short by just 56-thousandths of a second. “It was close, but not close enough,” he said. “It make take a while, but we’re going to get there – trust me.”