After dropping valves in the second session of Four-Wide Nationals qualifying and more or less levelling the engine, 2016 Rookie of the Year Cory Reed took a quantum leap forward in last-shot qualifying Saturday afternoon with a 6.95 in the thin desert air of Las Vegas that propelled him all the way to the No. 6 spot – higher than he’s qualified since Chicago last June.

“We’ve been thinking we were underpowered, but we’ve been overpowered this whole time,” Reed said. “We toned it down for that last qualifying session and got it down through there for a good run. Just by adding a little timing, the bike picked up three- or four-hundredths [of a second] in the first 60 feet.”

Free to pick any of three of the four lanes for the first round of eliminations and thinking big after an outstanding qualifying performance, Reed seemed better positioned to go rounds than he’s been all year. Instead, he was gone after a single round of eliminations. It certainly wasn’t the best quad he could have hoped for – two of the other three drivers were past world champions (Jerry Savoie and Eddie Krawiec) – but Reed needed only to outrun one of them and No. 14 qualifier Freddie Camarena to advance. He sped across the finish line well ahead of Camarena, as expected, but trailed both Krawiec (6.90) and Savoie (6.94) with a disappointing 7.12.

“That was my fault,” Reed later admitted. “I over-revved 1st gear and ‘double-buttoned’ 2nd, and bam – there goes your whole run. I pulled on Jerry through the middle but ran out of room before the finish line got there. I staged super, super shallow that time, thinking, ‘If I just go green, I can win with another .95,’ but I was thinking too much up there. I had a .046 light – not terrible, but nowhere near what I’m capable of because I had death grip on it as I staged. ” ‘Relax,’ I told myself. But whenever you do that, it’s always right when the tree comes on. I almost short-shifted another gear, but I caught myself and thought, ‘Noooo, don’t do that,’ and ended up hitting the rev-limiter. I just have to get back to what I already know how to do.”