Thanks for reading and reviewing 🙂 For the record, I may drop naming chapters as I hate naming them lol
A new day in Daytona brought forth the real restart of the 2016 race season as the cars headed off pit road one by one to being single car qualifying practice on Saturday morning ahead of the Daytona 500.
There were the interviews and the media tour, and the Shootout practice from the day before, but this was the real start of the new year. Rather than just those 25 drivers out there, everybody was getting in their first laps of the year, including the rookies.
Originally upon retiring, Jeff Gordon was set to move on and focus on the new road that his life would take. He was set to focus on spending time with his kids, doing things that he wouldn’t had gotten to do with them before due to his schedule. He was set to focus on his new job as a commentator for NASCAR on Fox, working with Darrell and Mike on broadcasts and such. There wasn’t going to be much focus on what happened with Hendrick Motorsports, except for hopes of success and there if say Jimmie wanted to talk about something.
So why was it that as the first official practice begun he found his eyes focused on a young man? Why was it that he was focused on the young man that would be working with his old crew guys?
He believed that Chase had the talent to get it done behind the wheel. The youngster had proved that thus far through the ranks, winning races in each division that he competed in while showing a special sort of poise. He was truly ready, as a driver, to take this next step in his career.
However, he found his mind drifting back to a conversation from a couple days ago that took place between them. He remember peaking in on Chase in his office. He remembered the nerves that he heard expressed in the comments in return. He remembered the slight quietness in reflecting back to what happened, and how he swallowed away from discussing it in that moment. He wondered if he had discussed it with someone else since, knowing that Chase had many close to him whom knew details.
Everything began in Daytona for Chase and Dale with what they went through over the past year. What if it was all too much to handle in returning?
“Do you mind if I join you?” Jeff hears, snapping him out of his thoughts as he looks over at his former boss. He simply shakes his head no, moving over to make room for Rick beside him. “You looked like you had a lot on your mind. Considering that retirement is supposed to bring ease, there’s something wrong about that.” Jeff chuckles, remembering the comments in that relaxation was supposed to come with the decision. So much for that happening with a youngster caught in his glance.
“I guess you could say that I have a lot on my mind,” Jeff comments as Rick shakes his head, already having assumed that by the quietness and the look in Jeff’s eyes before joining him.
“Care to talk about it?” Jeff thought it over and whether it’d be a good idea to bring up. Perhaps there was a strategy to make the events seem like something that never existed, or to put them in the shadows and focus on the weekend ahead. Perhaps he was worrying about Chase over no reason. However, it wouldn’t hurt to say something incase.
“I’m just thinking about Chase. We know that he can drive and he’s ready. But can he handle the pressure that comes with this? Can he handle this weekend with everything that happened?” Rick takes a deep breath, thinking over the question. He had the same thought himself, and had made sure to put the right measures in place in case things went affray to ease his own worries.
“I think he can handle the pressure as he’s done it all his life in carrying the Elliott last name. As far as handling everything, I’m not 100% sure actually. I know that he’s spent time with Regan, Ryan and Darrell. I also know that he asked me if he could skip out on a meeting a little early to go see the psychiatrist that he has been seeing. He’s doing the right things to handle the situation, Jeff. Is it enough? I don’t know.” It gave Jeff some relief that Rick saw the same concerns that he had in relation to Chase in the days moving forward. That meant that there were eyes on him, incase something went wrong.
“I went and saw him the other week and he said that he wasn’t quite sure, either. That’s why I’ve been thinking about it ever since.” Rick could understand that, having thought about it more than he would’ve liked. He knew those thoughts would even grow more once Dale got down there after Marie had the baby.
“For what it’s worth, I have spoken to Jon and Alan about things and they are aware of the situation. If there’s anything that comes up, we have everything in place to handle it accordingly and help him. That’s all we can do.” Jeff shook his head in agreement. He knew the caring side of Alan, and if that came through with Chase, then there’d be nothing to worry about. There was a reason why he loved his guys and wanted to make sure that they got the chance to go for a championship the previous season. “It’ll be fine, Jeff. You don’t need to worry.”
“I trust you, boss. I know how well you handle things and have no worries about that. Hopefully it turns into lots of success on the track this weekend.”
While the pair were discussing things, Chase had gotten a pair of opportunities to go out during the practice session and lay down some laps behind the wheel of his new ride. The first practice, he wasn’t super pleased with the handling, and it carried forward to the second practice. The speed chart backed up his claims, too, as he wasn’t near the top where he wanted to be.
He wasn’t worried, though, as qualifying was just one piece in Daytona and the main thing that mattered was how you drafted. Besides, his teammates hadn’t done much either.
“Are we getting closer on the handling?” Alan questions as he walks over to where Chase was leaning against the car, and Chase simply shakes his head no. “Okay, so I probably went the wrong way and should’ve gone with my first idea. I’ll double-check with the others in a bit to see what they’re doing, but we’ll go the other way for Sunday.”
“I believe in you and know that we’ll figure it out so let’s go with that,” Chase answers easily. “Besides, all that matters is how we do on Wednesday in practice, and Thursday in the Duel.” Alan shakes his head in agreement as he keeps his eyes on the young man before him. Since the discussion with the boss, he felt himself more concerned than he would’ve preferred, with all thoughts on making sure things went smoothly.
“I don’t want to come off the wrong way or anything, but Rick mentioned to me about what happened and to keep an eye on you. I just want to let you know that if anything comes up, I’m here for you. Just let me know and we can talk, or I can give you some space – whatever. I know it can be difficult, so I want to make it as easy as I can.” Chase’s eyes lock on Alan’s immediately, seeing the concern laced in the crew chief. Perhaps it’d be a good idea to have him knowing more than normal incase. However, that didn’t seem warranted.
“I appreciate the concern, and everything. However, I don’t think we’re going to need to worry. I was worried when I first got down here that I’d have some lingering effects, or flashbacks. However, it’s gone with ease thus far, even with people bringing it up. I don’t think there’s going to be any issues as my focus is on this car and nothing else.” Alan shakes his head, accepting. Though even with the answer in hand, it didn’t mean that he’d drop his guard.
“I understand, and that’s good to hear. Now it’s just my job to get this car handling well for you.”