He may not have gone the distance, but at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals, the first race of the seven-race 2021 Countdown to the Championship playoffs, underrated Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Cory Reed met his stated pre-race goal: go rounds. Running hard in not just the first qualifying session but in all three at legendary Maple Grove Raceway, Reed opened with a strong 6.86 Friday evening and followed with an even better 6.84 the next afternoon.

With a near-perfect .005 reaction time and another 6.86 Saturday evening, Reed nailed down the No. 6 spot in the final lineup, his best qualifying performance all year. “I think we’re finally starting to make a little progress here,” he said, justifiably pleased. “Both bikes [his and PSE/Reed Motorsports teammate Joey Gladstone’s] are set up the same, and now we’ve got them both running the same.”

Pitted against pal Ryan Oehler in the final pair of the first round, Reed got off the mark first and overcame a series of obstacles downtrack to win a crucial points battle by just 16-thousandths of a second, 6.97/193 to 6.98/194. “He definitely could’ve beat me right there,” said Reed, who pulled to within four points of Oehler in the NHRA standings. “It spun bad, and I had to just ride it out. The front end was trying to wash out and the bike was all over the place, but it was race day and I had to stay with it or I’d have lost for sure. If that was a test run, I’d have said, ‘Screw it,’ and shut it off.”

The wheels came off in the next round against superstar Andrew Hines, 6.85/199 to 6.98/191 – not that Reed didn’t have him covered for a good while. “The clutch didn’t lock up enough,” he explained. “We were trying to slip it down low – I mean, you really can’t get too conservative against somebody like him, can you? You’ve got to try to go a .79, right? I thought I was doing all right for a while there, but he caught me around half-track and just took off from there. I’ve never seen anybody go by me like that.”