After a soaring semifinal finish last weekend at the Sonoma Nationals, easily one of the finest outings of his six-year Pro Stock Motorcycle career, Cory Reed plummeted back to earth at the world-famous Los Angeles County Fairplex.

Competing at Pomona for the first time since his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign and just the second time ever, Reed struggled all weekend with the facility’s notoriously uneven surface. “This place is too bumpy,” he said. “I know it’s Pomona and everything, but they only run here once or twice a year, it’s got a bad crown, and there’s just not enough rubber. It sucks.”

Side by side early against teammate and best bud Joey Gladstone in Friday’s lone qualifying session, Reed slowed to an off-pace 7.16 at 182 mph when the track seemed to drag him toward the centerline. He found himself in that same barren portion of the course Saturday afternoon and drifted as close to the line as possible without crossing it on a coasting 7.33/157. Then in Q3, his last chance to improve, Reed’s powerful Suzuki Hayabusa porpoised off the line, spun, finally grabbed hold of the track, and sprinted to a 7.03/193, good for the No. 13 spot, the second-worst he’s qualified all season, ahead of only Charlotte, where he was 14th.

In the first round against No. 4 qualifier Scotty Pollacheck, who he just beat at Denver, Reed was off like a shot with a .012 reaction time, but again he had to lift downtrack when his bike seemed to take on a mind of its own and lost, 6.88/198 to 7.12/178. “When it spins the tire on the leave like that, the bike always wants to go left,” he said. “The shift light’s already on, but you know you can’t hit the button. It’s hard to ignore it – it’s right there in your face – but you’ve got to at least make it 60 feet before you hit 2nd gear. This 4-valve makes a lot of power but no torque, so when the RPM drops, it doesn’t just roll out of it like a Buell does – you really have to pay attention and keep the motor up there.”