Records snapping like twigs on a path spawned upset teams, emotional upsets and old-fashioned drag racing upsets in a few damp hours on a chilly Monday morning.
"Welcome to the perfect storm" greeted the show's lead broadcaster, Dave Rieff.
The tempest produced performances such as Al-Anabi Top Fuel pilot Shawn Langdon's "phenomenal run" by lowering the elapsed time mark while upping the speed record.
Team manager Alan Johnson punctuated the run and earned television time with nitro-charged fist pumps.
Commentator Mike Dunn explained the frenzied results as a product of the adjusted altitude. "(We're) 198 feet below sea level!" almost like racing in Death Valley, the lowest elevation in North America.
For the second year in a row a skeleton broadcast crew produced a jam-packed Monday show by focusing on top stories such as John Force's Goliath 1,113 rounds of racing wins vs. four by David: Todd Lesenko's Tap It Brewing Impala.
The Castrol GTX Mustang took care of scoring a direct hit by parking the kegger, while later encountering one of the weirder mistakes on the line.
First, a teammate showdown had the scrambling NAPA Charger driven by Ron Capps staring at Jack Beckman's Valvoline Charger with its two new records here.
The broadcast quietly hinted at Beckman's win as commentator Mike Dunn noted, "The key is Capps struggling" while "Statman" Lewis Bloom offered this tidbit: "Last time (Capps) went beyond the quarterfinals here was 10 years ago."
Now it is 11.
Capps, his championship chase in peril, an albatross strangling the popular driver, sadly said after the loss, "I feel so bad for (crew chief) Rahn Tobler."
Beckman met yet another teammate in the semifinals, Johnny Gray in the Service Central Dodge, yielding a result so unlikely Rieff called it "a stunner."
Dunn observed, "I saw Beckman move around on the top end, probably cost him the race."
Beckman minced no words as melancholy settled in. "I'm disappointed the Service Central car started up" referencing his belief they rushed after the Valvoline team's delay getting to the line.
"Don't know what the issue was," Dunn admitted.
With Mike Neff's Mustang also advancing to the quarterfinals, a Castrol GTX dual with Force was certain ... until the launch. While Neff's "bracket car," as Rieff described it, would have lost to either Gray or Beckman on the other side of the bracket, it didn't matter.
Force's Mustang sputtered like an old mare, wheezing to a stop.
Some instantly jumped to the conclusion Force's problem developed to help Neff's ascent in Funny Car points.
Down track, Force was contrite: "We made a stupid mistake. I'm not blaming anyone on my team 'cause they never blame anything on me."
Back in the pits ESPN had Force's crew chief, Dean Antonelli, explaining "I didn't take the throttle-stop off because our routine was changed up" because of another issue on the car.
Antonelli's ashen appearance, along with his dejected delivery while on camera, left no doubt this was exactly what occurred except with the most "Suspicious Minds" in the pits and at home. If Elvis had to illuminate the situation, he would sing, "Why can't you see what you're doing to me when you don't believe a word I say?"
For the second year in a row, Gray loses in the finals to a JFR hot rod – in 2011 it was Robert Hight. Neff was about as excited as he gets, noting to Jamie Howe reporting on the top end, "This really lifted the weight. We made some forward progress."
Opening racing at the "Monday Nationals," as Andrew Hines adroitly called the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations, not surprisingly produced new records for the class.
Hines set the national ET record for the class in the first round ("What a pass," cheered Dunn), then backed it up in the last lap of the day (7.28 seconds "a jaw breaker," hailed Rieff). Notably, that was not the finals, as the race was postponed to Las Vegas as rains returned to Reading.
"I could cry" were the words Allen Johnson uttered after going red in his white and blue Mopar Avenger for just the first time this season and at the absolute worst time.
Looking in the rear view mirror, Rieff foretold this possibility of a loss with a surprising fact: "He's never been to the finals here," then "AJ has let that points door swing wide open."
Turns out Johnson's verbal slam – "Jason (Line) has two freebies to the finals" – turned on the prognostication redm light, too.
In the next pair, Erica Enders "could not take advantage of (Johnson)" as her GK Motorsports Cobalt slipped in a race with Jeg Coughlin's Mopar Avenger. Rieff continued, "You bet she feels some pain."
Enders continued her terrific string of quotables with, "I pedaled my butt off." Move over, Force, king of quips; she's here to stay.
Line's Summit Camaro ran into the V. Gaines juggernaut in the semifinals after the Kendall Oil Avenger first sent Greg Anderson's Summit Camaro to the warming tent.
"How about V? On a holeshot!" hollered Rieff as Gaines edged Line by 20 inches.
Never count out a 65-year-old; Gaines won only his fourth Wally (the last? Four years ago) with a 6.515-second lap against Dave Connolly's Cagnazzi Racing Chevrolet in the final.
"He goes red, V. Gaines wins!" exclaimed Dunn. Gaines started to criticize himself ("I did a lousy job ...") when he was reminded "You got the win; celebrate!"
Gaines relaxed and genuflected, "It's a dream come true year" for his team to be a factor in the results.
Mania turned to smack on this frenzied day when Antron Brown's Matco dragster – "that car was perfect from A-to-B" roared Dunn – sent Morgan Lucas home even as the GEICO dragster ran a stout 3.74 ET.
"Oh, my goodness; a 3.701 ET (for Brown)," Rieff called.
"Laying down some smack," added Dunn; "Quickest side-by-side" in history.
Al-Anabi's Khalid alBalooshi earned his the finals running a career best ET, surprising his favored teammate, Langdon.
"What a day in Reading," sighed Rieff.
The final stage was set for Brown to leave with an ever-expanding points lead against alBalooshi's first time in this role.
On a day of surprises, though, this was the big one as Dunn yelled, "Antron's smoking the tires!" while down the track alBalooshi pedaled once, quickly, taking his first win.
Holding his Wally, alBalooshi gratefully thanked "Everybody doing everything for our car."
Rieff had the tally ready from Statman: "99th different winner in class history" a number that begs for the 100th to be determined yet this season.
"Kudos to Khalid," Rieff exclaimed.
alBalooshi will remember this manic Monday while savoring his first Wally. alBalooshi's victory is a certain dream for the Al-Anabi team especially since teammate Langdon won his first Wally, the 98th on the list, just three races ago.
Points leader Brown left with national records plus a very special treat: Dunn drew the Do-or-Dunn line – signifying those who have a chance to win the class – directly below his name, tentatively awarding the championship to the Matco Tools dragster.
Brown is the two-race heart in the Al-Anabi sandwich of wins in the four races completed in the Countdown to the Championship.
If Brown fulfills Dunn's bold prediction – it's not a mathematical lock – it will be a dream come true for the sport of drag racing.