One was a very lucky squirrel whose escapades on the track while a dragster powered by resembled a John Force interview ... the squirrel was all over the place.
Next, a supercharger sitting atop a dragster blazed fire out the intake much like a jet engine, just in the wrong direction.
Then there was Angie Smith's qualifying ride through the sand traps, atop a rough field, finally laying down in the corn patch, forever imprinting an iconic scene for this historic dragstrip.
Tumbling off the Buell a blink before her bike smashed in the corn stalks, Smith lay still for several agonizing beats. Cameras stayed steady on her body.
Cut to husband Matt, who as these things go was waiting on the line for the next pair. He kneeled and leaned against the concrete wall separating the starting lanes. One could not see his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, but his body language said enough: torment was crushing him like a Shakespearean tragedy.
The Safety Safari arrived, and she stood to the collective relief of everyone. Holding her wrist, Smith immediately proclaimed hope to make the eliminations show, though the mangled bike seemed to mock that intention.
She will need a new set of boots, too, as the toes were scrubbed off in the vain attempt to slow the rocket. Inspecting the multiple replays of the incident, one realizes her expert job of driving, remaining upright until electing to lay that Buell down.
On Sunday, pit reporter Dave Rieff interviewed the bruised racer when the crash's culprit, inexplicably no front brakes, was identified. She then revealed her husband's edict with obvious chagrin: Sit this event out.
A viewer can count on knowing exactly the reason for the bike's problem at the next NHRA broadcast, the Mopar NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver. Expect to see replays, too, in the full explanation of the accident; it is just the way this telecast team does things.
Indeed, television might just as well covered the entire Norwalk event under the "Wow" banner. Take the top Funny Car qualifier, Johnny Gray's Service Central Dodge Charger. His first-round pairing with No. 16 qualifier, Robert Hight, was the opening feature of the eliminations program.
Hight's Auto Club Mustang had never been the lowest qualifier. Yet here he is racing – what both drivers conceded – his good friend.
Back in the air conditioned booth – Larry Dixon, in a stint with anchors Paul Page and Mike Dunn, noted the joy of getting out of the heat –Page prophesied Gray's race as "no cakewalk" in Norwalk. Ignoring its selection as Dunn's "Marquee Matchup," Gray's hot rod stunned all by spitting out the parachute just after launching. Statman Lewis Bloom, was providing an interesting tidbit but immediately went real-time to what was happening on the track.
Gray was amazing as he freely lambasted the autoswitches that sprung his chute: "Safety switches shot it out. Why don't they let the drivers drive the damn car?" Oh, that's an easy answer: Then it wouldn't be wacky.
ESPN picks up something intriguing on the track then brings our attention to it, a trait of this broadcast entourage traveling to each event. At Norwalk, noting the drivers uncharacteristically brushing themselves off exiting the dragsters, reporter Gary Gerould asked Ron Capps about it. He explained, "There is cleanup stuff everywhere" that blows in as the teams race through it.
Tennessee's Allen Johnson showed his athletic expertise, launching a full can baseball-like across multiple lanes to slam a strike on a track wall. His weekend frustrations were just beginning after losing a first-round pairing at the prestigious K&N Horsepower Challenge to Vincent Nobile's NAPA Dodge Avenger.
Johnson's Mopar Dodge was the class of the qualifying field, and won two rounds of eliminations with the quickest times in both. It looked like his day to redeem the heartbreaking Bristol loss, one that could be the best-ever definition of "losing by a hair."
In the semifinals, once again paired with Nobile thanks to the devilish nature of race brackets, both are loose on the launch. "A Pro Stock pedalfest!" Page shouts while Nobile easily takes the win. Nobile then snatches the Double-Up bonus Sunday for winning the race, too. In his joy, Nobile said "It's party time for the family!"
For the Johnson team, it had to seem like a bizarre reality show, "The Wacky World of Drag Racing."
Drivers repeatedly gave drained crews credit for their effort in the exhausting heat, particularly Saturday. Tim Wilkerson, whose son Dan drove his Summit Racing Mustang through a "fierce fuel fire ... he won't run that one," gave extra kudos for the work preparing his backup Mustang for Sunday's attempt.
Wilkerson felt "the luck bank is paying us back," further explaining he can win in the finals if he makes it that far. But in a terrific race, his Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang lost the Wally to the other driver/crew chief in the class, Mike Neff. The Castrol GTX Mustang just pulled around him.
Wilk's comment was like "I'm mad; I expected to win," but similar to a credit nightmare. His championship-luck deposit slip was from the Bank of Wacky.
And, what about those crazy reaction times? One example from many is the first-round win by Courtney Force, launching her Traxxis Mustang with a .222-second reaction time yet still winning over Todd Lesenko's .119 light in his Tap It Brewing Impala.
Page asked, "What were they waiting for?" Dunn explained, "It could have been a quick light, but Courtney Force's was horrible."
Dunn added that he would never have been lucky enough to be that late on the line and win. Why? Because "wacky" and "lucky" are devious relatives.
Jason Line failed to punch his career-ticket in the K&N Challenge with a win, just as he failed to add the 2011 Indy trophy when he raced the finals. For pro classes, the elite race-in-a-race like the K&N Challenge is a must-win, along with an Indy victory and a Full Throttle Championship. These are the trifecta of validations the broadcast feels necessary to coronate an elite career-card.
Line has his Full Throttle championship, notched again in 2011. Not securing this major add from Norwalk had to pain him; one could see it in his face. Line didn't redeem himself in the finals either as his Summit Pontiac scooted out of the groove before losing again to Nobile for the event's Wally.
The broadcast ending, Page summed up the wows with "What a weekend it's been here in Norwalk." Absolutely, particularly when Pro Stock imitates the nitro classes with pedalfests. Line's reaction? You guessed it: "It's been a wacky day."
Connect to Phillip: