Another race, another career highlight for Pro Stock Motorcycle rookie Cory Reed.

At the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, the 22-year-old phenom from Grand Junction, Colo., qualified strong, took down 2010 NHRA world champ LE Tonglet in the first round of eliminations, and did it on a holeshot. Tonglet made one of the quickest runs of the entire event, a 6.86, but Reed dipped into the 6.80s too, and drilled him on the Tree by a half-tenth for his biggest round-win to date.

“We both staged at the exact same time, which makes it hard for both of you,” Reed said. “It threw me off, but it threw him off big time. I didn’t think I left on him – thought I was just running better in 60 feet. I have a lot of respect for LE. I figured he’d leave the same as me. Beating somebody like him, who’s good on the lights and has won a championship, was awesome – especially on a holeshot.”

Tied with veteran Scotty Pollacheck for 14th place in the national standings, just two rounds (41 points) out of the prestigious Top 10, Reed faced PSE teammate and eventual runner-up Angelle Sampey in the quarterfinals. He was off like a shot with a near-perfect .006 reaction time, and it was another 6.86-6.88 race, but the three-time world champ cut a great .015 light of her own to advance by just 11-thousandths of a second.

“That was the coolest race ever,” Reed said. “Angelle looked over at me as we were pulling off the track, kinda like, ‘I don’t know,’ and I was thinking the same thing. She said, ‘I thought you had me.’ She has blinders on her helmet, so she doesn’t have much peripheral vision.”

Even if she did, Sampey still might not have known who got there first. Sampey, who broke through earlier this season in Englishtown, N.J., for her first major victory in eight years, crossed the stripe about three feet of ahead of Reed with a slightly faster top-end speed, 193 mph to 192.

“It was still a great race,” Reed said. “It was one step further, and if we keep taking steps every time out like this, I definitely think I can win at least one race by the end of the year.”