Cory Reed’s Team Liberty bike performed with metronomic consistency throughout the longest weekend of the season but never with the kind that wins it all at the biggest event in drag racing, the U.S. Nationals.  The 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year strung together a half-dozen nearly identical laps minus the race-winning potential the team displayed earlier this season in Charlotte, where Reed reached the semifinals, or Sonoma, where he cracked the 6.80s.

Reed overcame a starting-line bog to record a 7.05 at a solid 191 mph under the lights Friday night that left him in the No. 12 spot after the first of five sessions. Saturday was more of the same – a weekend-best 6.97 at 191 mph and a similar 7-flat at 192 – and Sunday ended with a pair of nearly identical runs, another 7.00 at 191 mph and a 7.01 at 191. That left Reed 13th in the final lineup, pitted against 2011 U.S. Nationals champion and longtime nemesis Hector Arana Jr., in the opening round of eliminations.

Reed, who made it all the way to the semifinals at the 2016 U.S. Nationals in his first career appearance at the granddaddy of them all, bolted off the line first, as he almost always does, but his slowest run of the weekend, a 7.02 at 190 mph, dropped behind the Lucas Oil rider’s superior 6.92 at 194. “We’re not that far off,” Reed insisted. “We’re right there, actually. We’ve just got to figure this thing out. I’m not here just to be here – I’m here to win.”