That's what happened in Brainerd, casting a pall for a few days before the television shows produced at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in this Minnesota resort area.
Casually viewing the broadcasts, though, one would never notice any changes were under way. No doubt some recall that less than a year ago the Sunday morning race show, a staple for years, was cut loose, too. Page was not a part of that program.
Whether by edict, design or just the inherent professionalism of the on-air personalities and production staff congregated in their own "Zoo" – the nickname for the boisterous trackside camping – the race patter moved quickly ahead with, perhaps, relief the show could finally start.
On television sets, yellow was the paint of the day for those on the Countdown to the Championship bubble, lime remained the shade for those safely in, while black signified those left to the spoiler's role.
As these things go, the race for pro classes working through the brackets' maze became synced with Page's yellow status: are we going to survive the Countdown? Or will we be lame ducks until season's end?
Early in the broadcast Page delivered an overture for the racers competing to win the race or capture a slot in the championship hunt: "Pressure gets in your way ... eight rounds left to make the top 10 in points."
By happenstance, eight events were left in Page's broadcast-ending countdown.
Two Top Fuel teams battling one another just to make the Countdown to the Championship led top-end reporter, Gary Gerould, to remark "This could be a very pivotal day."
While Bob Vandergriff's C&J Energy dragster fought to retain their qualified spot, Clay Millican's Parts Plus ride worked to oust them.
Gerould pointed out the tantalizing possibility of the two meeting in the quarterfinals if only they could make it out of the opening set. If only ...
There's a reason teams are battling at this late stage in the point's battles just to grab one of the coveted spots: they're not yet up to par with the top teams.
After David Grubnic's Optima Batteries entry sent Millican back "Walking in Memphis" as the song goes, Millican admitted a need to step up performance when he said his team was not ready to run elapsed times of 3.70s.
Vandergriff ran a competitive ET of 3.844 seconds, yet the Matco Tools dragster of Antron Brown won the round with a holeshot that demonstrated the Tree is one of common ways teams can lose in drag racing.
The conditions Page described as "one beautiful day" led to other common ways to lose like tire spin affecting many teams, particularly points leader Spencer Massey's Fram dragster.
The last driver to lose in the first round this year, the thought occurred after Massey was gone: the odds have increased for something special happening in this class.
In the meantime Cory McClenathan, not in the points chase, took his Uplift Cranes dragster to the team's only round win of 2012, even leaving on starting-line ace Shawn Langdon's Al-Anabi machine.
Mark it down, surprise upsets count as a loss.
McClenathan seemed nonchalant when his parachute didn't deploy: "Look at Cory," exclaimed commentator Mike Dunn, "No parachute and he's still pumping his fist."
Though his broadcasting pal is about to limit-out, Dunn missed no bites to his bobber this weekend.
One of the more unusual ways to lose struck Tony Pedregon's Charter Communications Camry. The chute popped out during the burnout, perhaps foretelling as horsepower continues to gain, now thought to be in excess of 10,000, the racing distance will eventually be reduced to 60 feet.
If so, he'll go down as the first to nail that distance. Page noted, "Terrible break for Tony Pedregon."
Dale Creasy's Plugger Racing Impala lost by imitating a Popper lure off the line: blowing the supercharger the Chevy looked every bit like a wounded – but giant – guppy.
Winning and then losing in a most unusual way the same lap against John Force's Castrol Ford torqued the jaws of Alexis DeJoria in her Tequila Patron Camry.
Meanwhile, Force wanted his crew to "take me to Indy and beat the crap out of me" for staging deep (noted by an alert Dunn), going red, and momentarily giving away the win.
But then DeJoria, who sailed down the track with the win in hand, felt her dragster jibe violently like a catamaran's boom wildly swinging. She nailed a buoy, as the booth said, and we won't have to look at the tape for that one to know she crossed the line.
"I can't believe it," she sputtered to the microphone, "(The) driver screwed up."
Luck is a word heard frequently around fishing and drag racing. Most times, someone is making their own luck.
For example, veteran Larry Morgan stapled hotshot Vincent Nobile's Mountain View Tire Avenger to the first round Christmas Tree, commenting "I beat this kid (on the Tree) and I don't know how."
It's difficult to do, but without it he wouldn't have been in the position to lose in the quarterfinals.
Why would losing be lucky? Simple; he actually won. Mark Martino's Charter Pontiac weighed in light after celebrating his only round-win ever.
In this rare occurrence the Lucas Oil Mustang was cast back in the game, scaling up to race the semifinals instead of leaving the fray.
Additionally, Morgan was jettisoned back in the Countdown to the Championship from the outside thru one very long cast of racing fortune.
The event's Marquee Matchup broke from the Funny Car ranks in another fight for countdown points. Tim Wilkerson's Levi Ray & Shoup Ford, outside looking in, fighting to leap two notches, met Bob Tasca's Quicklane Ford narrowly grasping the 10th slot.
Televising from Tasca's pit, both Page and Dunn gabbed about this upcoming round. They agreed if "Tasca takes Wilk out, it's pretty much over."
But, Dunn added, "(Tasca) is going to have to step that thing up a bit to get by Tim."
Reporter Dave Rieff, the anchor for the Lucas Oil NHRA Sportsman broadcasts, added "Hagan is watching as he is 11th in the points."
Dunn's forecast was spot-on, leaving Tasca in a much sketchier position. His struggles continue like slush bait "much as he has since Sonoma," noted Dunn.
Wilkerson called the round "pure racing luck," when acknowledging a win after dropping oil is luck.
How did baseball legend Lefty Gomez say it? "I'd rather be lucky than good."
In a classy move Wilk apologized to the fans for the errant spill "messing up the time for the rounds."
The Curiosity on Mars space age adventure arrives at Brainerd in the form of the new Top Fuel dragster canopy. It looks both futuristic and fast as a rocket.
But the new safety cover is going to be a topic for some time. Why? There's a perceived performance advantage.
Tony Shumacher answered that criticism best when he said, "(Then) buy one!" Dunn discovered a driver "can't hear anything" as it muffles the sound.
The broadcast reminded viewers Morgan Lucas' last win here came in 2009 when it happened to rain on Saturday afternoon. It rained Saturday this year, too, even at about the same time.
Turns out the broadcasters were right thinking the happenstance might foretell another win.
Whatever the reason, the Shumacher's Army canopy couldn't overcome the advantage Lucas' GEICO dragster has at this track.
But racing Brown in the finals did not seem promising for Lucas. When these two pair up the Matco Tools railer wins about 85 percent of the time.
Forrest Lucas didn't hold his nervous heart for the finals as he was shown in the opening round's first pair, the GEICO machine setting a track speed record.
A head start off the line and a performance advantage combined for the second Brainerd win for Lucas.
Watch for those Saturday afternoon rains ...
A major story continues revolving around the young women drag racers, Courtney Force and Erica Enders.
Force's Traxxis Ford Funny Car received kudos from Henry Ford III for the Seattle win, a true highlight.
The NAPA Charger of Ron Capps, on his way this race to boating a third Wally in his wet tank, sent young Force back to the docks.
Enders' flat-black GK Motorsports Cobalt almost gave away the day to the re-energized Morgan after he was summoned back to the battle; maybe the sting of a near first-round disaster (reaction time of .001 seconds) remained when she was slow at the launch.
As Morgan grabbed another great light (RT of .029) and the lead, he must've had visions of making the finals while traveling down track.
The Chevy's power plant is for real, though, as Enders pulled around him for the win.
Her topping Allen Johnson's Mopar Avenger in Seattle's semifinals last week was a precursor for their return meeting at Brainerd's finals.
Now she has notched two wins back-to-back.
Like father, like son, is a good relationship in drag racing that only fails when the father redlights out of the race in the first round as Hector Arana Sr. did while saddling the Lucas Oil Buell. It was the finals against super-hot Eddie Krawiec's Screamin' Eagle Harley where young Arana Jr. hiccupped his race away with a red light.
The biggest sinker, the definitive bottom feeder of the week, was not on the track but was this statement from ESPN:
"Paul Page will pursue other opportunities after the 2012 season and will not return to the ESPN NHRA anchor position in 2013. He has been a tremendous presence on our motorsports coverage, most recently NHRA, for decades and we wish him the very best in the future. We have not finalized our plans for 2013 and we don't expect to make any NHRA commentator announcements until after the 2012 season."
This note was so cold the temperatures plunged around Brainerd to near freezing the day it was issued.
Most recognize the brutal nature of change not only in television broadcasting but also professions, jobs, careers, big corporations, small companies, dragster teams, sponsors, writers ...
The ESPN encampment producing these broadcasts is a special group, highly experienced and very tight together, traveling from event-to-event just like the teams themselves.
Spending time with these bright, motivated professionals, I discovered they are a cohesive family; it shows in the quality and forward-thinking of their programs.
Perhaps an understanding from this upheaval came unexpectedly from the guy sitting next to Page in their enclosed set . . . .
Dunn explained, challenges are discovered when racing Funny Cars. He revealed more about life and careers and rocky roads like television broadcasting than he probably realized when remarking,
"You race these things long enough . . . you're going to have issues."