Cory Reed never really got going at the 2020 NHRA Finals, which, for the first time since way before he was born, wasn’t at Pomona. With California locked down by the state’s draconian COVID-19 restrictions, Las Vegas, long the penultimate event of the season, became the Finals.

It was a disappointment by any name and over early for Reed, who, until now, hadn’t lost in the first round in his abbreviated 2020 campaign. The second-generation racer barely made it off the line in the opening qualifying session and rolled to a stop not far downtrack while in the other lane teammate Joey Gladstone, who’d made the first final-round appearance of his young career two weeks earlier in Dallas, charged to a 6.89 at 195.56 mph to assume an early qualifying lead he didn’t relinquish until the final pair went down the track.

“My front brake was locked up,” Reed said. “I could tell right away that something was wasn’t right, but I’ve never had this exact thing happen before, so I didn’t know what it was.” Stuck in the first pair in the only remaining session because teams run in the inverse order of how they performed in the first go, he stumbled to a 7.31 at 190 mph but at least got a time up on the board. Meanwhile, Gladstone backed up the 6.89/195 with a mirror-image 6.90/195 and headed into eliminations in the No. 3 spot, a career best that had him qualified higher than championship contenders Scotty Pollacheck and Andrew Hines.

Gladstone advanced to the quarterfinals, but Reed, 16th in a 16-bike show, had no chance in the first round opposite top qualifier Eddie Krawiec, who paced the field with a 6.81 and took him out with a 6.90/196. “It wasn’t our day,” Reed said. “It’s cool – we’ve got better things ahead, and I’m really looking forward to next year. But that front brake held me back all weekend.”