This year, the U.S. Nationals, the longest race of every NHRA season, turned out to be the shortest. For the first time in the 67-year history of the sport’s oldest and most prestigious event, qualifying for all pro classes consisted of exactly one run.

Instead of one attempt Friday, two Saturday, another two Sunday, and eliminations on Monday, it was one shot Friday and straight into eliminations on Sunday – if you qualified. Saturday was a complete washout, and, as a concession to the pandemic, eliminations this year were contested Sunday and not on Labor Day Monday as they have been since the ’60s.

“Not getting all five sessions really changed things up,” Cory Reed said Saturday afternoon, bored to tears in the gloomy Indy pits but secure in the knowledge that at least if the rain never let up he’d already locked himself into the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a six-second run under the lights Friday night. “I think having just the one session really stressed out some people. Not me. It actually might just play into our favor.”

Paired against Kelly Clontz Friday night in the first of what should have been at least three qualifying sessions, Reed guided his sleek Suzuki Hayabusa to a respectable 6.99 at 187 mph that put him third at the time and ultimately landed him 10th in the final lineup. Sunday dawned bright and sunny, but the track was still suspect after a relentless 15-hour deluge, which made lane choice critical. The young rider, 10th in the field, didn’t have that advantage – his first-round opponent, former teammate Angelle Sampey, earned it by qualifying in the fast half of the program, No. 7.

Reed, who’d beaten her the last few times they’d raced, drilled the former world champ with a .014 reaction time and made his quickest and fastest run of the rain-shortened weekend, a 6.97/192, but she powered around him downtrack with a winning 6.83/194. It was a disappointing end to a strange race that marked the end of the regular season, but not one without promise. When the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin next weekend at Maple Grove Raceway, both Reed and teammate Joey Gladstone will be in title contention, and, thanks to the points reset, closer to the lead than they’ve been all year.