Cory Reed pulled out of Norwalk, Ohio in a better place than when he arrived, a first-round casualty but one wiser and better positioned for the future than when he left Richmond and especially Chicago. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year entered in eliminations for this race 11th on the grid, a spot that typically holds the promise of a fair chance at beating the fast-half qualifier, who’s only five spots ahead in sixth place.

But in this instance, the No. 6 qualifier was reigning and many-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, who went on to win the whole race. “We learned a lot this weekend,” said Reed, who had gone rounds at consecutive races to open the season but hasn’t since. “We burned up the clutch trying to pull a gear we thought we could run. I didn’t really think it was going to work, and it didn’t. With that longer gear, the bike is dragging when you shift gears – not ‘snapping.’ It’s just not going anywhere, and you can feel it – it’s obvious.

Reed was consistent in qualifying, and at it’s a good thing he was – inclement weather limited the two-wheel contingent to just two qualifying attempts instead of the usual four. Team Liberty reeled off similar runs of 6.95/193 and 6.97/193 – one on Friday and one on Saturday. In completely different circumstances in the first round of eliminations Sunday, Reed remained in that range with a competitive 6.95/192, but the Harley rider pulled away with a 6.90/193 and went on to the event title.

“We’ll test before the next race [Denver], and we’ll be ready when we get there,” Reed said. “We’re making changes around here, and I know they’re going to help. We’re starting to see the big picture. With these things, you need to get the momentum going early in the run – if you don’t, you’re done.”