Last seen exactly a year ago at the 2019 U.S. Nationals, 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed made his triumphant return to drag racing back at the motorsports capital of the world: Indy. Running all by himself Friday night to open pro qualifying for the one race every rider most wants to win, he skipped the 6.90s entirely and plunged into the .80s with an off-the-trailer 6.897 at 194.58 that kept him atop the entire Pro Stock Motorcycle field well into the opening session.

“It felt so good to know right away that we had a bike that could go rounds,” said Reed, the relief evident in his face. The next afternoon, appearing in the second-to-last pair because he had run so well in Q1, he laid down a quicker, faster 6.894/195.76 to maintain his grip on the fast half of the field, then wrapped up the preliminaries late that afternoon with an even better 6.881/195.51 that eventually slotted him 10th in the final order.

When qualifying was complete and eliminations commenced, Reed drove to an especially satisfying first-round victory over Hector Arana Jr. before narrowly disqualifying himself in the quarterfinals against many-time world champ Eddie Krawiec with a close -.013 red-light that just as easily could have been a holeshot win. “That time, I held nothing back,” Reed said. “I actually didn’t know I could react that quickly. That’s everything I had. I knew ‘everything I have’ is better than a .000 light, but I haven’t thrown it all out there looking for my best possible reaction time in I don’t know how long, basically forever.”

Slightly less than Reed’s best possible reaction time actually would have been better in this case – it would’ve earned him a win, and not just any old win but the best possible kind of win for any driver – a holeshot win – because his bike was right there with Krawiec’s vaunted Harley-Davidson machine in performance, 6.85 to 6.90. Anything .035 or better on the Tree – in other words, his average reaction time –  and Reed would’ve been a hero holeshot winner. “It was still a great weekend,” he said. “Haven’t raced in a long time, qualified, ran good all five runs, didn’t hurt a part, went rounds, beat Arana, could’ve beat Krawiec … I’ll take that. We’ll see when we run again. It’ll be whenever it’ll be, but I feel a whole lot better than I did when we got here.”