Cory Reed, who’s shrugged off who knows how many motocross injuries but until now had had never been hurt on a drag strip, was lucky to survive a harrowing top-end crash in round two. Immediately after crossing the finish line at 190+ mph in a thrilling side-by-side match with teammate Joey Gladstone, Reed’s bike veered toward the opposite lane and just kept going.

Hanging further and further off to the left until he almost wasn’t even on the bike anymore, Reed never did get it to come back, finally tangling with Gladstone and going down hard. The bike catapulted high into the air and smashed into the wall while he tumbled down the unforgiving zMax Dragway pavement in a frightening scene.

Gladstone managed to avoid becoming entangled with Reed’s errant mount, came to a safe stop, and, when he whipped around to look back uptrack, was horrified to see Reed laid out on the asphalt, immobilized by multiple injuries. Gladstone sprinted toward his fallen comrade, arrived almost simultaneously with safety personnel, and, when the ambulance pulled out of the track, was right in there with Reed, who would undergo the first of multiple surgeries that night.

Gladstone made it back to the track in time to defeat incoming points leader Steve Johnson in the semi’s only to watch an in-the-bag first career NHRA victory dissolve before his eyes in a heartbreaking final against Angelle Sampey. The kill switch somehow became disengaged, cutting the power and bringing a sad end to an emotional day for the young racer, who’d strapped a bike-length holeshot on Sampey and was seconds away from the victory of a lifetime.

“It’s drag racing – it happens – but I don’t know what I ever did to deserve this bad luck,” said Gladstone, almost despondent. “It stings, it really does.”

Reed, runner-up here earlier this year at the Four-Wide Nationals and tied with Gladstone in the standings coming into this event, qualified solidly with a 6.99 at 191 mph. He knocked off Sonoma winner Karen Stoffer in the first round before narrowly losing to Gladstone, 6.94-6.93, an outcome rendered meaningless by what happened after they crossed the finish line.

It was exactly the kind of matchup Reed was looking for when qualifying wrapped up. “I like running guys close to me in the points head-to-head,” he said. “Let’s just get to it, right? I don’t need anybody else deciding anything for me. I want to settle it myself.” Now, unfortunately, he won’t get that chance.