Pressed into service when Joey Gladstone’s jet-ski romp on the Colorado River days before the Toyota Nationals ended in a 70-mph tumble and a bruised tailbone, Cory Reed entered his first NHRA event since he climbed off the bike at Indy to grant his much lighter teammate the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it might have been better had Gladstone been healthy enough to ride.

Fit as a fiddle and skinny as a rail, Reed is still at a distinct competitive disadvantage, too tall and too heavy for his Buell-powered Team Liberty XBR. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year opened qualifying with an off-pace 7.17 at 190 mph, followed with a similar 7.13 at 190 mph Friday afternoon, and picked up about a tenth of a second Saturday but still found himself a few hundredths short of the all-6-second field after back-to-back 7.0s at 190.

Reed wound up 19th on the final qualifying sheet, a couple of ticks behind Katie Sullivan and many-time national event winner Karen Stoffer and ahead of veteran Freddie Camarena, former Division 7 bike champ Anthony Vanetti, and newcomer Maurice Allen. When the tour wraps up at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks, Gladstone will be back on the seat, and when the 2019 season opens in Gainesville next March, Reed will be riding a lighter, faster, more competitive bike.