Cory Reed got quicker and faster every time down the track at the Mile-High Nationals and entered the first round solidly in the top half of the field, primed for a long run in eliminations. Then his bike bogged right off the line and Steve Johnson, who’d never beaten him, disappeared into the distance for an easy 7.29-7.41 win.

“I left, and the bike didn’t go anywhere, just kind of went ‘buhhhhh…’ ” Reed lamented. “It took off to the right, really hard. I wasn’t even looking through the windshield anymore to see where I was going. I got on the limiter – the shift light was on for a while as I tried to keep from running into the wall – and I had to double-hit the button to get into 4th gear. No way you’re going to win with a run like that.”

Reed’s disappointment was compounded when every rider he would have faced in the ensuring rounds ran slower than what he’d been running. Qualifying No. 8, as Reed did at this event, almost inevitably leads to a second-round loss to the No. 1 qualifier, but this time No. 1 Eddie Krawiec was upset by the slowest rider in the field, No. 16 Karen Stoffer, and never made it to the second round. “I wouldn’t have had to run 7-teens to win here,” Reed said. “7.20s like we ran Saturday would have been enough. Karen only ran another a 7.34 in the second round [when he would have raced her] and Jerry Savoie only went a 7.28 against her in the semi’s – another ‘gimme’ race. Both guys red-lighted in the final, so no matter what I ran, I would’ve won.”

Until the first-round letdown, Reed’s Team Liberty Buell was improving every time he rolled out from under the tower, from a 7.53/180 to a 7.41/182 to a 7.25/184 to a 7.23/184 in last-shot qualifying that carried him into the top half of the program. “We kinda screwed ourselves on the first two runs, then put in a clutch on Saturday like we ran with Star Racing [in his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign] and it showed a lot of promise,” Reed said. “Our 60-foot time was better than anyone’s. That’s where we belong – that’s Ken [Johnson’s] specialty – but for some reason, the damn thing bogged again Sunday morning. No idea why it would fall on its face like that, but the more the rounds went on, the more frustrated I got.”