Cory Reed’s dream season got a brief jolt when the rookie sensation, a semifinalist (at least) at three of the past four races, came out on the wrong end of a tight first-round match with former world champ Matt Smith at the NHRA Fall Nationals in Dallas.
Reed negotiated the infamous narrow groove at the Texas Motorplex for one of his better runs all year, a 6.872, to make the top half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle program for the fourth time in six races. He ran another 6.87 off the trailer and 6.89 later in qualifying but slipped to a 6.92 opposite Smith’s 6.89 for a close loss.
Reed, who’s been living in the teens all year, had another teen reaction time (.013) but actually was edged off the line by the usually more cautious Smith’s perfect .000 – one-thousandth of a second from a red-light disqualification. “I couldn’t really see him because I have blinders on my helmet but I could definitely hear him, so I knew it was going to be close at the finish line,” said Reed, whose Star Racing/YNot Buell crossed .046-second behind Smith’s Victory Gunner. “That’s not we were looking for, obviously, but it’s OK. Overall, the team did good.”
Reed’s Star Racing/YNot teammate, Angelle Sampey, who will be part of his all-new YNot team for 2017, reached the semifinals and now stands third in the Top 10 standings with two races left to go in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Coming off a No. 1 at their last stop, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team qualified just seventh at the NHRA Fall Nationals despite a 5.50 and bowed out with a disappointing first-round loss.
Typically dynamite conditions at the Texas Motorplex meant the entire field was fast, and the bump ended up being the second-quickest in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.635), anchored by Bryan Brown, the same driver who was No. 16 at the only faster race, Dallas last year (5.621). Though teams got just two qualifying sessions instead of the usual three, four of them made it into the 5.40s and another three ran 5.50-flats, including Whiteley, who was right behind second-ranked John Lombardo’s 5.506 and third-ranked Doug Gordon’s 5.508 with a 5.509.
For Whiteley, ranked fifth in the national standings before and after this race, a sometimes frustrating season of near-misses and could’ve-beens continued in the first round when she met recent nemesis Steve Gasparrelli. He qualified 10th with a 5.57 but stepped up to a 5.55 to edge Whiteley’s 5.59.
“I short-shifted,” she said. “I have no idea why I did that – sometimes, it just happens. The car wasn’t shaking hard or anything, but in the back of your mind the only thing that’s going get to you down there faster is hitting the next gear and sometimes your thumb just pushes the button. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t, and I knew what happened as soon as I did it.”
On the all-concrete quarter-mile at the Texas Motorplex, Annie Whiteley pounded out the quickest run of her four-year career to qualify high in the fastest field in Top Alcohol Funny Car history. A 5.45 at nearly 267 mph positioned her fifth in the Fall Nationals lineup, but an up-in-smoke 10.95 in the first round of eliminations knocked her out of the race. “I don’t know what it is, but Scott McVey is my kryptonite,” Whiteley said of the disappointing early exit. “That guy’s always had my number.”
Up till then, the incoming national points leader was headed for yet another late-round finish, maybe even an eighth final and fifth victory of 2015. Whiteley guided her YNot Racing/J&A Service Camaro to an off-the trailer 5.58/263 Friday that had her fourth on the provisional grid, then stepped way up to a 5.52/264 later that afternoon for No. 6. When conditions improved Saturday morning, she made an even bigger gain to a career-best 5.453/266.90, one of three 5.453s in that round.
When eliminations kicked off Saturday afternoon, Whiteley blasted off the line with one of the best 60-foot times any Alcohol Funny Car driver ever had, .920, but with the front end in the air and the car headed straight for the wall, she had no choice but to lift. “I left too high that time – that’s why the 60-foot time was so good – but there’s no way the car’s going to make it with that kind of wheel speed that early,” she said.
With three races left, including two at her best track on the tour, the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Whiteley remains first in the national standings, where she’s been since July 19. Swede Jonnie Lindberg, who closed the gap slightly with a semifinal appearance at this race, is now 10 points back.