Cory Reed went 1-for-4 in Sonoma Nationals qualifying, but in drag racing a single solid pass in four attempts always counts for infinitely more than four consistent but unspectacular runs. On the shores of San Pablo Bay just north of San Francisco at Sonoma Raceway, under diametrically opposite conditions than what Pro Stock Motorcycle racers encountered days earlier on the edge of the Rocky Mountains outside Denver, Reed’s weekend began with a thud with a 7.17 at 189 mph that ended with oil in his wake.

Q2 Friday afternoon didn’t go much better. Again the Team Liberty machine bogged on the launch, killing the run and limiting him to a 7.26/179 time slip doomed from the start by a sluggish 1.18-second 60-foot time. The team’s hard work paid off the following day when Reed turned in one of his finest performances since Charlotte, a 6.89 at more than 195 mph that propelled him well into the middle of the pack, just one spot shy of the fast half of the field. Despite a disappointing 7.14/188 on his fourth and final attempt, Reed held onto the No. 9 spot and faced Top 10 rider “Flyin’ Ryan” Oehler in theoretically the closest matchup of the first round – No. 8 vs. No. 9.

It lived up to advance billing – almost. Separated by just three-thousandths of a second heading into eliminations, both drivers nearly duplicated their quickest runs all weekend, Reed with a 6.92 and Oehler with a 6.89. Had he let the clutch handle fly 1/200th of a second later, Reed would have won on a holeshot with a perfect .000 reaction time. Instead, he got a -.005 red-light and Oehler was the one who moved on. “You have to go for it when you’re running that close,” he said. “It felt good when I left – I knew it had to be close.”