Mayday #9 – Chapters 6 Thru 10

Chapter 6: Nationwide Series Race

“Checkered flag,” Earl comes over the radio. “Looks like it’s a 22nd place finish.” Chase lets out a sigh as he knew that would mean a loss in points considering Regan had won the race, with the other contenders for the championship finishing in the top five as well. He couldn’t be too mad because it was his teammate that won, but it still was frustrating to finish 22nd.

“Good effort everyone,” he comments. “Nothing you can do in that situation.” He wanted to be upset about how they ran personally, however he couldn’t be. They had a strong car that should’ve been in the top-five, though found themselves pitting under green as result of a flat tire. Once they were trapped a lap down, you might as well kiss a good finish goodbye. No doubt it wasn’t how he wanted the day to go considering.

“Chase is right guys,” Greg adds. “We’ll get them next week. Good driving, Chase.”

“10-4. Monster will be our friend.” One of the good feelings – going to go Dover next weekend. They both knew that it would probably go well as they had done well there in the past.

“Let’s put this effort together tomorrow night and get a good solid finish. I believe in all of you.” As Chase brings the car to pit road, he knew that he was ready to begin focusing on the Cup race – as Greg said. It would put this disappointment out of his mind and give him something else to think about.

Once he was out of the car, he and Greg debriefed about it, coming to the same agreement – Goodyear has crappy tires, but the Cup race compound should be good and they should be able to get a good finish. That was the plan anyway, as they wanted to start the string of limited Cup starts off well.

Chase then walks away from the car towards the transporter, though stops when he hears his name called. He turns around and see his parents both standing there. He walks over, and gives them each a hug.

“You did your part – the rest will work out next time,” Cindy tells him before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“How are you feeling?” Bill asks as Chase looks between his parents.

“I feel like the world tilted or something because that was backwards,” he comments with a slight chuckle to himself. “I’m fine, though, so don’t worry about me. I was just going to get a bottle of water.”

“Chase!” One of the crew guys yell as Chase looks over. The guy then throws a bottle, which Chase catches.

“Thanks.” He then turns back to his parents as he unscrews the cap and has some. “I’m fine.”

“Make sure you keep yourself hydrated and get some sleep tonight,” Cindy instructs. “You need to follow what the doctor said and take care of yourself.” Chase shakes his head, understanding those words clearly. That was his plan and he hoped his mind co-operated with the plan for sleeping as he knew that he’d need it before Sunday.

Though as he thought about going to sleep, his mind transferred back to his pre-race discussion with Regan. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, it was good to have the discussion and get that out on the table. It had given some relief to his mind before the race in assuring him that one day, it’d possible to easily deal with everything. The key was talking about it and finding that person that he could trust to talk about it with.

The very same thought also brought worry as he didn’t know whether that was possible. He trusted the people that Regan suggested, but was there enough trust to spill his guts? Beyond that, could he honestly do it without totally breaking down to little pieces? There were many thoughts that crossed his mind and he wondered what would be the best course for him to follow personally.

“Chase!” Greg yells, snapping Chase out of his thoughts as he looks back at his crew chief. “You spaced out there for a minute. Are you okay?” Chase shakes his head yes.

“Just thinking,” he informs the group that had gathered around.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Cindy questions as Chase thinks it over. It was the perfect opportunity to get everything out that he wanted to get out. He could go inside the trailer and get it out and certainly clear his mind for a good night sleep that night. However, could he honestly do that?

“Regan and I talked before the race about my sleeping habits. He merely suggested that I should talk to someone about what happened and get my thoughts out on the table. It may help make it easier for me.” Cindy shakes her head, understanding. She had hoped that would’ve done sooner, herself. She was hoping that would’ve happened after the discussion that Dale and Chase had initially when it happened. However, that wasn’t the case as things were thought to be fine and they moved forward.

“So do you want to talk about it right now?” Chase shakes his head no as he had decided that it wouldn’t be possible, in that moment. He would simply keep his mind focused on racing for the weekend – excited for his first Sprint Cup Series start and the great starting spot and the future – and then worry about everything after the weekend. The weekend was his easiest time to sleep anyway, so why mess with it?

“I understand,” Cindy states before wrapping an arm around him and pulling him close. “Whenever you’re ready, I’m here.”

“Thanks Mom.”

“Do you want me to come stay at your place tonight?” He knew why she was offering. If he was having problems sleeping – like lately – it seemed to make it easier to sleep if she was in the house. For that reason, she had stayed over a couple other nights at his request.

“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine, Mom.” He then walks off away from the group, knowing that he should visit victory lane and congratulate Regan on the win.

“Bill, are things ever going to go back to normal?” Bill looks away from Chase at his wife and shakes his head yes.

“He’ll come around when he is ready,” Bill offers. “He’s thinking the right steps. He just needs to take them and when he’s ready, he will.”

“I just hate to see him hurting,” Cindy comments as Bill pulls her close.

“I know, I do too. He’ll be fine, Cin.” He then kisses her cheek before they head off together.

 

Chapter 7: Coca Cola 600

“So are you ready for tonight?” Greg asks as they exit the driver’s meeting together. Chase shakes his head yes, having gotten a solid sleep the night before. There were no dreams to fright him, no sickness to bug him as he was able to sleep like a baby with dreams of doing well in the Sprint Cup Series.

“Ready to do the best that I can,” Chase answers as they head off towards the garage area together.

“Just remember – keep your emotions in check. I know we’re start off well and confidence is high, but this is the big leagues.”

“I got this – don’t worry.” Chase then heads off with a smile on his face, set for the night ahead.

He was set to keep the positive thoughts going through his mind as despite the sickness on Friday, he was feeling much better and ready to go. It was just like any other normal race weekend – but yet, even better. For that reason, there was nothing that could dampen his mood. If he was lucky, he would able to carry this positive feeling into the week ahead and perhaps turn things around.

Of course, he knew that truly meant following the advice that Regan had given him yesterday – talk to someone, get your emotions on the table, face the thoughts that cloud the mind. While it seemed simple and easy to follow, it was the complete opposite in trying to actually do it. Could he honestly think back to what happened without falling to a million pieces?

It wasn’t like he had a choice as he would have to in about a month and a couple of weeks when the trial began. There was no secret that he was going to have to testify as to what happened with Mariela, and tell everything that happened. How would he able to do that if he couldn’t turn to someone he trusted and do it?

As he heads out to driver introductions later on during the evening, he blocks those thoughts from his mind, knowing that he has to focus. As Greg had said – 600 miles was no picnic. It would require every ounce of focus in him to complete the race and have that solid finish that he wanted.

They had shocked everyone in qualifying in starting sixth, however still kept the goals simple for the race. The goal – complete all the laps, finish on the lead lap. If they could do that and be in the top 15, the night would be a success. A top 10 finish – that would be icing on the cake.

Though Chase was also a racer and as he thought more about the race, he couldn’t settle his thoughts simply on those goals. A racer didn’t focus on being solid, but yet running as strong as they could, leading laps and scoring victories. If a racer did that, the rest would fall in place. That was just part of the DNA that was laid in there. For that reason as he stood by the car pre-race after being introduced, his focus wasn’t on the team’s goals, but perhaps picking up the victory. Could you see the headlines of Chase managed to score his first career Sprint Cup Series victory in his first career start?

His thoughts became more apparent to those goals as he strapped in the car, set to go for the 600 miles that night. Everybody said that he was ready for the Sprint Cup Series. He felt that he was ready for the Sprint Cup Series. Rick Hendrick felt that the long race would suit his calm, calculated driving style. His dad felt that he could complete the race without issues. His mom was always confident in his driving. He had a good relationship with Greg. Now was the time to make everything come together and shine.

The race would start off according to Chase’s thoughts as they had a great car, solid running car that kept him up in the top-five. Chase had nothing to complain about over the radio while Greg promised to keep adjusting on the car to go with the ever-changing track conditions as the sun set.

Their good progress continued in the middle of the race as Chase was able to keep himself near the front of the field, solidly in position to strike as the race came down to a close. Could this truly be happening? Or was he dreaming?

As the race continued to draw closer to the ending, it had to be a dream as he wasn’t falling back, but actually gaining ground. He would move into the fourth spot, then the third spot and before he knew it, he was running second with 10 laps to go – and closing on the leader.

“10 laps,” Jason Jarrett radios him. “Keep it up, Chase.”

“Given the lap times, you’ll catch him with three to go,” Greg radios as Chase focuses solely on hitting his marks, driving the car as hard as he can, set to snatch the opportunity.

Everybody watched the lap ticks down and with four laps to go, Chase was on Matt Kenseth’s bumper, looking for a way around him. Three laps drew by and yet, Chase couldn’t get himself enough alongside to put himself in position.

“Last lap,” Jason says over the radio.

As the pair come off turn two, Chase gets down to the inside, getting alongside Matt. They then go through turns three and four side-by-side, battling hard for position. Coming off the corner, Chase remains at Matt’s door, trying to find the extra edge to get by.

As they cross the line, side-by-side, everybody in the stands rises to their feet, looking towards each other. The crew guys for both teams also stand on the walls, glancing around. Who won it?

“Holy shit!!” Greg yells on the radio as he receives confirmation from NASCAR’s scoring system. “Holy shit! 0.003 seconds but Chase Elliott, you’re a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner!”

“No way?!?” Chase says as disbelief comes over him. He was honestly set to pinch himself a couple times, truly believing that it was a dream.

“Congratulations kid,” Chase hears a new voice on the radio, recognizing it immediately – Rick. “I believed that you could do it, but I didn’t believe it would happen this soon. Great job Chase. Great job Greg.”

“Way to go!” Jason lets out before taking his headset off as he stands on the spotter’s stand, full of disbelief.

“I’m proud of you…” Bill then chimes in on the radio as Chase feels a small tear trickle down his cheeks. That pride certainly stemmed from himself as well as while he didn’t get emotional, he had to admit this was special.

“You did an amazing job,” Greg continues on his comments. “Now let’s see the best burnout possible! You deserve it.”

 

Chapter 8: Coca Cola 600 Post-Race

Pulling into victory lane, the disbelief still was stained on his face. He knew that it was possible. He knew that given the right situation, he could win. No drivers thinks that they can’t win. However, was this really happening? Was he really sitting in victory lane at the Coca Cola 600?

He wasn’t known for being emotional. He was a quiet dude that went about his business. He could be hard on himself sometimes, but had gotten better at handling the tough days with the good days. That was the Chase Elliott that the media had gotten to know well.

Over the past three months, emotional could easily describe him. The events of February had certainly stained a mark that kept burning at times – evident by the lack of sleep some nights, evident by the quietness that happened. There was no doubt that the words he heard the night of were playing true – nothing would ever be the same.

Though he knew that he had to move on, and this was a good step. To be able to capture the biggest victory of his career on one of the biggest stages was huge. To be able to do it in his first career start in Cup – even bigger. It showed not only his talent behind the wheel, but the growth that he had as a young man in being able to handle the situation that was dealt to him. It showed him that even when the odds were stacked against you, it was still possible to do it.

That was a lesson that he knew would last even further beyond that night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was a lesson that he was ready to carry into every aspect of his life – beginning with moving forward beyond February.

The odds may feel stacked against him to get over those emotions, but it was possible. He just needed to take the steps necessary – as Regan suggested – and work his way through it. If he did that, there would be light at the end of the tunnel. That tunnel may be dark, long and cold at times – but it could be completed. He just needed to begin the journey, as he had tonight by putting himself in position to win this race.

But he wasn’t going to think about that any longer, for that night at least. He didn’t want to put any dampers on the night. That night – Sunday crisp warm night in Charlotte – was about one thing: victory. He was ready to focus on the success that he had, soak in every ounce of the celebration and not let anything ruin his moment in the spotlight.

He slips the helmet and HANS off as he sits in the car, placing the helmet on it’s hook with the HANS thrown aside. By now, he normally would’ve been out of the car, fists in the air, celebrating. Though this time was different. He was letting the victory soak in, getting the emotions in check, knowing that the world was ready for him.

He looks out the window, smiling as he sees the smiles on all the crew guys. No doubt the shock also stuck with those guys as well as this wasn’t supposed to happen – not this soon anyway. However, it was thanks to those guys. They had worked hard preparing the car and getting it to Chase’s liking. They had worked hard all night with top-notch pit stops to keep him position. The boys also deserved it after how disappointing the previous day had been.

“You did an amazing job!!” Greg reaches in and wraps both arms around Chase, holding him close into a hug, snapping Chase out of his thoughts. “That was incredible! I can’t believe how good that was. You’re just…Wow! I’m proud of you.” Greg then lets go of Chase, as the pair lock eyes.

“Thanks for your hard work and great car,” Chase comments. “I can’t believe this.” Greg grins as he couldn’t believe it, either. It was just a year ago that he was meeting this young kid in the shop, debating whether he had what it took to be a driver. Now they were standing in Sprint Cup Series victory lane together. Was this reality? Or were they dreaming?

“You better believe it because in a couple of seconds, you’ll be standing before the world as a Sprint Cup Series race winner.” Chase lets those words sink in, knowing just how big this was. Everything that he had worked for over the years – coming together in one single moment.

“Can’t wait to celebrate every minute of it with you and the guys.” Greg shakes his head, knowing that they’d be up for a huge celebration later that night. Though in the same moment, the past couple of days hit Greg. He remembered finding Chase in the hauler, seeing how sick he was, discussions of lack of sleep. While tonight was super special for many reasons – including bouncing back from all that – there was a haunting reminder on the other side of the door for Greg.

“Are you sure that you’re up to partying, mister?” Chase keeps his smile on as he looks towards Greg. No doubt his mind was ready to party given the current state of bliss and happiness. However, was his body? That was another story. He was beyond wore out. He knew that 600 miles was a long race, really long race, but didn’t know that it was this physically grueling. Add in being sick just two days prior and no doubt his body was set for him to go hide in a corner and sleep for a long time.

“I may have to take a rain check on that, if you don’t mind.” Like Greg had thought – the other side of the door, taking its turn creeping into the picture.

“I’m willing to accept that. You deserve a day or two of pure rest after what you did tonight.”

“You can climb out young man!” The NASCAR officials instructs, seeing as that TV was ready and set to capture the moment in victory lane.

Over the next couple of hours, the celebration in victory lane was huge and full of smiles.

It was also full of smiles as everybody came to see Chase, congratulating him on a job well done.

He knew that he’d forever cherish the hugs that he shared with his parents and Rick – knowing how much meaning they both held. He could se the pride written on their faces and was glad that they were all there to witness the moment. He was thankful for what his parents had done for him, and thankful to Rick for the opportunity.

There was a fourth hug that meant a lot to – Regan. The pair shared a long hug as Chase wanted to make sure to thank Regan for the advice the day before. It was that advice that had helped the moving forward process, allowed his mind to feel a little less weight and truly focus even more that night under the lights.

“Just remember what I told you,” Regan reminded him as they went to separate. “Make sure you talk to someone and actually do something about it…..but hell, right now – celebrate this in the biggest way that you know possible. You’re amazing!”

His fellow competitors also stopped by, each taking a turn to congratulate him with either a high-five or hug. There were some special hugs mixed in there as while he was a child of a star in the sport, there were current drivers that reminded him of a superstar status in his eyes. To see them be proud of him and respect him, it made the moment even that much more special.

The night was also filled with lots of media obligations – from victory lane, to the post-race media center conference, to single interviews that were requested. Chase easily accepted each interview with ease, not minding the obligations. He knew that he could talk about the win all night as each discussion allowed the win to soak in that much more. He also appreciated the media’s respect, given that nobody brought up the things that had happened earlier that year, or how he was feeling earlier in the weekend. It allowed his thoughts to stay on their positive track – where he wanted them to remain for as long as possible.

As he laid his head down on his pillow later, late, late that night, the smile was still on his face. He knew that there was no way that the smile could be wiped off with the pride and pure happiness that radiated through his body. As he let his eyes drift close, his thoughts were full of one thing – victory, celebration, friends, family and success. The things that made happiness easy to come by.

 

Chapter 9: The Month of June

I know there’s some of you that are craving for an Alyssa appearance in this story. She’ll show up in this story, somewhere, but I want to focus on the idea that I thought of a couple nights ago.  Keep in mind, this is story is titled “Mayday #9” and is set to focus on Chase’s emotions based on what happened in Flight 88. But, that doesn’t mean that it won’t feature Alyssa, or Marie, or Dale, or others. They will have some special moments of their own as we know how much I love writing the three of them, and we know Alyssa has a special connection with Chase. 

 

You can’t outrun your demons. They will always catch up with you.
To outrun your demons, you need to shed your own skin.
The nights that followed the victory at Charlotte – magical. Chase couldn’t believe how well he slept as each night, he replayed the end of the race and victory lane in his mind. He kept thinking back to how he went about scoring the victory and how close the finish was. It was almost disbelief at some moments in that he beat Jimmie Johnson by just that much. Then he’d think towards victory lane and the special moment there. From the conversation with Greg to the hug with his parents, to even the special small visitor that came to see him.

Alyssa had persuaded Marie to not change her into her PJs but leave on her suit that matched Chase’s. Somehow, she managed to convince her parents to let her wear that suit, rather than the one that matched her dad’s. She had told her parents that she was wearing it since Chase was ‘pecial’ in racing against daddy and Jimmie for the first time. Perhaps she was the magical lucky charm that held the pieces together for it to happen.

Regardless, it was certainly cute when she came to victory lane to see him and congratulate him. The pictures – he made her sure to get some printed up already of the whole night, including one of him and Alyssa together – were certainly the cutest photos, ever.

With that night and then Dover and the races that followed flooding his mind with thoughts, sleep was a wonderful thing. It allowed him to forget about what happened. It allowed him to feel as though he was set to truthfully move forward and beyond what happened in February.

However, that saying that you can’t outrun your demons and that they will always catch up with you was something that Chase was finding out, rather too well. He didn’t want to find out this truth, but it was slowly creeping up with him.

As he got to mid-June and further away from the victory, the nightmares came back and with the nightmares came back the sleepless nights.

When they first started, he pushed them away – as if they were nothing. He thought that they would pass and he’d go back to the bliss that he had gotten used to. In his mind, that bliss meant that the terrors were in the past and gone.

Though as much as he wished away the nightmares, they kept coming, and getting stronger. They were bringing less and less sleep for him, and that didn’t go well with the fact that they were in the dead middle of the season. No doubt lack of sleep, plus lots of racing and heat weren’t going to play well. He’d find himself back as sick as he was in May, and he didn’t want to go back down that road.

As he laid in bed, unable to sleep for the sixth night in a row, awoken in a cold sweat and tons of tears for the second time that night, he knew that he had to do something. If he wanted to get rid of those demons, he’d need to follow the advice that Regan had given him and shed his own skin. As terrifying as it’d be to recount those precious events and the thoughts that trickled through his mind and heart, what other option did he have?

Not even bothering to glance at the clock, he grabs his cellphone off the nightstand where it had been charging. He immediately goes into his contacts and brings up Regan’s number. Taking a deep breath, knowing that this was going to be hardest step to take ever, he hits ‘call’.

“Hello?” He hears a sleepy voice at the other end, glad that he got Regan and not Megan. He didn’t want to be responsible for waking her up as he didn’t know how she would react.

“Hey,” Chase says quietly as he takes a deep breath, trying to compose his own emotions. “It’s Chase. Listen, can you come over? I can’t sleep. I need a friend.” The sleepy feeling that Regan felt immediately disappears as he hears those words. He knew that this was Chase’s call for help as he was finally realizing the truth to the advice that had been given about a month ago. Regan swings his feet out of bed, quietly going over to the closet to find something to quickly change into. He wasn’t about to let his friend down, even if it was four in the morning.

“I’ll come over as quick as I can. Give me about 15 minutes, okay?” Chase knew that’d give him enough time to grab a quick shower (he hated the cold sweat clammy feeling) and be ready to face Regan with what needed to be said.

“That’s fine. You know the passcode, right? I don’t want to wake up Marie and Dale.” As Regan changed out his pajamas, he quickly thinks back to the last time Dale told him the password for the front gate of the property. Once in the property, it was a simple drive to the lakehouse, where Chase was.

“Yeah, I know it.”

“Okay. I’ll see you then. Bye.”

“See you soon. Bye.” Regan heads out of the bedsroom, hurrying down the stairs as fast as he can. As he soon as he reaches the bottom of the stairs, he swears to himself. “Damn it Regan!” He then turns around, going back to the bedsroom. Grabbing a piece of paper, he quickly writes Megan a note as to where he has gone. He then places it on her nightstand, before giving her a kiss on the forehead and hurrying out of the bedsroom once again.

As he walks down the driveway, he thinks back to the conversation with Chase. He could tell the emotions in the young man’s voice. He worried about him; it was why he had offered that piece of advice back at Charlotte. As he got in his car and set to drive over, he just hoped that things worked out. He hoped that Chase was fine by himself for the 15 minuets that it’d take to get over there.

“Stop over worrying about him,” Regan comments to himself as he pulls out of the driveway and heads off.

It was common for him to worry too much about Chase. He worried a ton when he heard that Chase was missing that day, blaming himself as he knew that he would’ve been in that position if he hadn’t been sick that day. Why was he sick that day, anyway?

The worry was only increased by how young, sweet and innocent Chase was. He was only 18 – just old enough to be considered an adult. An event of that magnitude was hard enough on a mature, certain adult. How would someone his young age handle it? Beyond that, Chase was naturally quiet and reserved. Would this close that gap even more?

Letting the thoughts roll through his mind as he took every back road, probably breaking some speed limits along the way as well, he pulls out to the gate of the property. He rolls his window down, focusing his eyes on the keypad. He thinks back to the conversation when he learned the code, typing it in as it comes to him. With all the numbers in, he watches the light switch to green as the gates open.

Success.

He then pulls through the gates and heads over to the lakehouse, ready to the face the young man and what he had to say within.

 

Chapter 10: Spilling Emotions

It’s odd how story content can come to you sometimes. Chase being sick came as a dream, this came to me while taking my dog for a walk on a rainy night. Either way, I can say that this and “Flight 88” are very fun to write.

The pair sat in the living room together, sipping on hot chocolate. When Regan arrived, Chase thanked him for coming, and then asked him if he wanted a drink. Regan suggested hot chocolate as it was a good late night soothing drink, and would be perfect to drink over the discussion.

Beyond that, no words had been spoken between the pair. Chase made the drinks and then led Regan into the living room, where they each sat on the couch. There was no need to say any words as Chase knew why he had called Regan, and Regan knew why he was there. It was obvious that Chase wasn’t able to sleep and wanted to get things off his chest, as Regan had suggested doing before. Regan was just glad that Chase was finally doing it.

“Whenever you’re ready, you can begin,” Regan breaks the silence after awhile. “You can start wherever. If you find a certain spot easier to start in, then start there as at least it’s somewhere. Some people feel it’s easier to start at the beginning, and go through each detail piece by piece. I’m just here to listen and help you, as I can.” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

He then takes a deep breath, debating where to begin. He could begin, as Regan suggested, at the beginning. He could begin where Randy entered the picture and sent him back with Mariela. Perhaps that was the best spot. it was easiest, after all, as not that much happened in that moment.

“I think I’ll start from the beginning,” Chase states and Regan shakes his head, understanding. Regan knew of what happened with Mariela and Chase – having seen it first hand – but didn’t know how he got to that point. It was something that pinged his curiosity, wondering whether he could’ve found a way out then. “So after we talked, I went and got into my firesuit. I then went to the driver’s meeting, followed by driver introductions. It was like I was going through a series of motions, without any thought. I wasn’t thinking about what was happening or feeling the moment, but rather just doing it like a robot.”

“Because your mind was stuck on Dale, how he was, where he was?” Regan asks and Chase shakes his head yes. Regan could understand that as while he was sick and concerned of his own sickness, he was also worried about their car owner and best friend.

“So I got done driver introductions and headed over to the car, joining the team. I looked at the guys, thinking that they were my team for this race – but yet couldn’t bring myself to say the word ‘my’ and them. It just didn’t feel natural to me. That’s not my car – that’s Dale’s car. He should be running the Daytona 500 – not me. Plus, I had never drove his car at all throughout the weekend so how would I know what to expect?” Regan looked down, knowing that his fault. It was Regan that had done the filling in during the week. It was Regan that was supposed to drive the car should Dale not be available. However, the kid was put in the position because of him being sick.

“As I’ve already said, I feel bad for the situation that I put you in with being sick. From being forced to drive the car, to what happ-”

“Just stop.” Regan then looks at Chase, shock filling him. “You don’t need to apologize. It wasn’t you that kidnapped Marie, or Dale. It wasn’t you that purposely got yourself sick. It wasn’t you that caused this to happen. I have convinced myself that there is no one to blame but two people – Mariela and Randy. Nobody else did it, got it?” Regan shakes his head, knowing the understanding was clear.

It was a good step for Chase to take, though, as he had gotten through the step one in getting through it. They always said that the first spot is to blame themselves, or put false blame on someone else. However, here was Chase, properly asserting the blame on the ones that caused the situation.

“So as I was saying,” Chase starts, taking a deep breath before continuing. “Obviously, on top of feeling unnatural without laps in the car or my car, how I was supposed to go about being business as usual with my best friend and boss missing? How could I put that worry out of my mind for 500 miles? My heart wasn’t about to take that because it focused on them.” He then looks away from Regan, thinking through his thoughts of the weekend. “Then there was Alyssa. How do you explain to a little girl what is going on?” Regan shrugs his shoulders, as he wasn’t sure how Megan had handled that situation.

“I don’t even know where I could begin,” Regan admits as Chase shakes the thought from his mind. They weren’t there to talk about Alyssa, or her emotions of it. It was time to get through the worst part of all. Chase knew that he had to slowly keep making his way towards the events that happened.

“I totally out of it, in my own world, with thoughts and not believing that I was ready. Then, thankfully, Dad helped me put it perspective. It made it a little easier, I suppose.”

“So, are you ready to go?” Chase snaps out of his thoughts as his father walks over to where he is standing. “Nervous?”

“It doesn’t feel right, dad,” Chase reveals as he looks out over the roof of the car at the crowd in the stands. There was no hiding his feelings from his dad as his dad could read him like a book. “I shouldn’t be driving his car. I shouldn’t be standing here right now on pit road where I am.”

“I know it doesn’t feel right, but it’s the situation that we’re dealt. We just have to deal with it the best that we can.”

“That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, dad. I’m not focused on today’s race or winning – I’m focused on wondering where he and Marie are, and whether they’re okay.”

“They’re both going to be fine; just focus on the race today. Everything is going to work out.” Bill then gives him a small pat on the back before walking away, knowing that Chase needed some alone time before the start of the race.

“So after that discussion, were you ready to go?” Regan wonders and Chase chuckles as he shakes his head no.

“Are you kidding me? I was freaking out inside!” Chase lets out as Regan just shakes his head. “I remember my exact thoughts. I was like, ‘It’s going to work out. Why wouldn’t it work out? It’s not like anything has gone to plan lately’.”

“You jinxed yourself buddy…” Regan wanted to keep the discussion as light hearted as possible, wanting to help his friend get to the part of the discussion that they truly wanted to get to.

“Why do you say that? It’s not like Randy didn’t show up shortly after…”

“Listen to me and listen smartly,” he hears as he almost gets into what he calls ‘race zone’, snapping his eyes open to see the new team engineer Randy standing directly beside him. His eyes immediately focus off of Randy to the phone that lays in the young man’s hand, seeing a photo of Dale currently in his kidnapped spot. A cold shiver goes down Chase’s back immediately.

“I went to yell for Jason…” Chase continues explaining, as Regan listens and watches intently.

“Never got the words out in time?” Regan questions and Chase shakes his head no.

“He told me that if I did, he would send ‘word’ to end the pieces.” Regan then freezes, knowing what those words meant. No wonder the poor kid did what was instructed of him that day without issue. “I always wondered what could’ve been if I had said something, though. What if I actually had got his name out in that moment?”

“He would’ve sent the word to en-”

“But what if I snatched his phone away from him? Sure, it’d cause a scene, but that’s what we’d want. Then I wouldn’t get kidnapped, and then the rest wouldn’t happen…” Regan knew the possibility that Chase was suggesting, however knew better otherwise.

“Cause a scene and let the cameras catch on. Somewhere, Mariela would be watching and seeing the scene, she may go forward with whatever sick plan she had.” Chase looks down, knowing that Regan was probably right as Mariela certainly did have a twisted mind. “Listen, you did the right thing in listening to what he was saying, Chase. You played your role perfectly knowing that Marie and Dale were in a situation that perhaps could be deadly. Given what you knew, you did the right thing. It’s the rest that could’ve worked out better…” Chase shakes his head, understanding where Regan was going with that. It was that discussion that he was slowly working towards.

“Yeah, I guess.” Chase then thinks back to the day, taking a deep breath as he remembers his discussion with Randy. “Considering my lack of options, I then asked him what he wanted. He then described his plan…”

“You’re going to tell everyone that you need to go to the bathroom and I’m going to volunteer to lead you there. You’re then going to follow me to where I am going to take you without a single word. If you say anything, there will be no Dale, there will be no Marie.”

“Fine…” Chase then turns around, straightening up as he gets set for their little plan. “How much longer till start time?”

“About 20 minutes till opening ceremonies. Why?”

“I need to run to the bathroom.”

“Uh no, please tell me that Regan didn’t share his stomach flu with you,” Jason chimes in from his spot with a couple of crew members. “You didn’t hang out with him, did you?” Chase shakes his head no, debating whether to break the cover of whatever thing Randy had planned.

“Listen, I’ll take him and make sure that he’s back in time, okay?” Randy offers as Jason shakes his head.

“Okay – hope you’re not catching the bug. Oh, and kill those nerves. No matter how today goes, it’ll be fine.” Chase gives a thumbs up as he heads off with Randy in toe, not letting him stray off.

“So you walked off with him…” Regan catches on and Chase shakes his head yes. He could clearly remember walking through the Daytona garage area with Randy directly beside him, clearly keeping an eye on his moves.

“I headed the direction that I’d normally go towards the bathroom,” Chase offers, remembering the walk. “Once we got far enough away, I let him begin to lead me around. Mainly, the fear of what happened controlling my mind….”

“I can understand why…”

“But I kept thinking why he had the photo and what he wanted to do with me. I never thought that he’d have some plan for Dale to drive the car. I thought that for some sick reason, they wanted to kidnap me to go along with Dale and Marie. How could I know why, honestly? Perhaps they understood how close I was to them. Perhaps they thought I knew something. Either way, curiosity was all that ran through my mind.” Chase takes a sip of hot chocolate, watching the marshmallows swirl around endlessly, thinking about what to say next. “I finally broke the silence, annoyed of not knowing anything. I mean, if you’re going to kidnap me, I should know why, right?” Regan shakes his head, understanding Chase’s thirst for logic.

“I would do the same thing, honestly.”

“So I asked him what he wanted to do with me and where he was taking me…”

“You’ll see very shortly and I suggest you move fast,” Randy answers as Chase looks at back at him confused.

“May I ask why?”

“You’ll see.” Randy then leads him around another couple of corners, before opening the door to a trailer and sending him inside. They then walk through the trailer and at the back, Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he sees Dale sitting there before him.

“I couldn’t believe that Dale was standing there in front of me,” Chase states as he looks over at Regan. “I mean, I knew that Randy had to be on things, but standing there, in front of me? Both of us loose and completely free in that moment. It should’ve sent off signals that something was wrong, but it didn’t….”

“What happened, instead?” Regan wonders, his eyes locked on the pair that stared back at him in return. He could see the emotions pouring out, bit by bit, knowing the biggest was yet to come.

“My shock and thankfulness that he was alright – well, he was sore but hey, he was alive and standing – took over in that moment. I went from total big boy to little boy in minutes, hurrying to him and wrapping my arms around him in shock. It was like as if all those worries that I felt moments earlier on pit road were relived in that moment. It was a total release and I let myself get lost in that moment. I turned back to teenager, rather than adult set to take charge of the situation.”

“It’s understandable that you did what you did, though. He’s your car owner, somewhat like a hero in being your mentor right now. You both have a real close friendship and as worry grows huge, it’s understandable that you’d want to feel that relief in that moment. You see him standing there and know he’s alright, but don’t want to believe it till you hug. Again, you can’t fault yourself because that you, in that moment, with your feelings.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that Regan read the situation perfectly. Perhaps it was a good idea to talk about things. “So after you got over the initial shock, what happened?”

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