Ninth in the standings coming into this race and hot off a productive pre-race test session, Cory Reed hit Denver for the Mile-High Nationals and battled through two tough days of qualifying to go rounds on raceday. Amazingly, he ran the same E.T. at the same speed in all three sessions: 7.22 at 184 mph – 7.220/184.42 Friday night, 7.223/184.65 Saturday afternoon, and 7.226/184.90 under the lights Saturday night.

Just for the hell of it Saturday afternoon, Reed showed up at the starting line bald. Not Michael Jordan bald. More like Terry Bradshaw bald – the ol’ male-pattern-baldness look. “It’s working for Matt Smith,” he joked. “Who knows? Maybe it’ll work for me. But I might have to cut off the rest of it.” Sure enough, Reed’s head was completely shaved when he rolled under the tower Sunday morning to face Smith’s teammate, reigning U.S. Nationals champ Scotty Pollacheck, in the first round of eliminations.

In the first pair of the round, Reed staged first, left first, passed the 60-foot clocks first with a nice 1.06-second time, and held off Pollacheck for a huge win. The PSE rider outran Pollacheck, too, with his best run of the weekend to that point, 7.208 to 7.213. At the finish line, the bikes were separated by just 15-thousandths of a second.

That put Reed up against Smith, the incoming points leader and winner of the most recent event on tour, Norwalk. He crashed into the teens with a fantastic 7.19 but fell to the 7.14 of Smith, who tied the 7.11 track record five times over the course of the weekend and went on to win the event. Again, Reed had it at the 330-foot mark and could have won on a holeshot with the same .047 reaction time he had against Pollacheck, but a .093 left him just short opposite Smith’s .099.

“We still had a great weekend,” Reed said philosophically. “I just like going rounds. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot.” Heading into Sonoma, where everybody should be deep into the six-second zone and the fastest bikes consistently over 200 mph, Reed remains in the Top 10, just behind Karen Stoffer, who made her NHRA debut 25 years ago at this weekend, and teammate Joey Gladstone, who narrowly red-lighted in the first round.