Thanks for reading and reviewing J So we know this story doesn’t have to follow real life. I mean, let’s face it – we have things that have happened here that didn’t happen, such as Chase winning back-to-back championships. So with that in mind, this may not follow the Daytona 500 that you came to know, or maybe it will know. I don’t even know what direction I want to take on that race yet haha
February 2016 – Sunday
Chase closed his eyes as he took a deep breath.
It was the morning before the Daytona 500. It was the morning before the biggest race of the season. Though here he sat at the kitchen table, eating breakfast, and all his mind could do was flash back towards what happened the year before.
He remembered sitting at that very table, eating his breakfast, wondering if today would be the day that they’d find Dale. He remembered the worry, the angst, the pain in wondering what could be going on.
There was also the situation of facing Alyssa, whom seemed to come see him a bunch with questions of her own little mind. It was difficult at time to answer those questions, but yet somehow he managed with the help of his parents. He also knew that he wouldn’t had changed having her around during that time as she did offer some hope at times.
“I know my daddy will be okay, Chasey,” he could hear her saying clearly in his mind. “He’s strong. It will be okay.”
The thought brought a simple smile to his face as he remembered her sitting there on his lap as he sat on the couch. Everybody was down and worried, but yet the littlest person in the room offered the reason to smile. She was right in her words, as it was still remarkable to reflect back and remember what he accomplished that day.
He is snapped from his thoughts as he hears a knock at the door. Glancing over with curiosity, he rises from his seat and walks over, peaking through the peep hole. There was never a time that he didn’t open the door without taking a glance first. The past year had taught him otherwise. He was going to do whatever it took to not repeat those events, and that included watching who he crossed paths with.
A smile crosses his face, with the glance though, as he recognizes the face immediately, opening the door.
“Pre-race meeting?” He questions the crew chief, before backing away from the door to let him inside.
“Nah, we don’t need to speak anymore about today,” Alan offers as he follows the young man up the stairs and takes a seat on the couch. “I actually came to check on you.” Chase then spins around, surprised. The crew chief was set for a lecture from the young man, and restatement of what was said last night. “I told you last night that I was willing to give you the space since you assured me that you were fine, and were taking the right steps in handling everything. However, then I got thinking and with nothing else to do, I came by to see you.”
“I can’t blame you….” Chase then heads over to the table, picking up the bowl and placing it in the sink. His eyes then reconnect with the crew chief as he remembers what he was thinking just moments prior to his arrival. “Before you showed up, I caught myself thinking back to that morning last year. I remembered eating breakfast, worrying about Dale, and curious as to where he was. I also thought about the reassurance from Alyssa that everything would be fine.”
“So in other words, it’s a good thing that I stopped by?” Chase couldn’t help but smile in the crew chief’s comment. Sometimes it was hard to admit that help was something that he needed. However, it was understandable as to why. He wanted to believe that it was all behind him, and there was no need to worry. By asking for help, he was admitting otherwise.
“I pretty much got my thoughts under control with the thought from Alyssa, but I guess supposedly it may be a good idea that you stick around as we go forward today.” Alan smiles and shakes his head, understandingly.
“That’s fine with me, kid. I told you that I was here for you and going to help get through it. Just think, it is only about five hours till you can strap behind the wheel and think about the one thing that you do best – driving.” Chase smiled as he had to agree with that.
If only he could make the next couple of hours disappear.
As he moved forward through the motions, everything seamlessly went easy. He got through the driver’s meting with no issue. The meeting with the team felt natural and he had gotten used to these guys being his team. He went through the interviews, simply keeping his mind on the focus at hand. Nobody bothered to touch the topic of his recovery from the off-season adventures, which was welcome by him as he didn’t want to discuss things. He went through driver introductions, finding himself surprised by the amount of cheers that he received from the fans.
Knowing that there was only a mere 20 minutes or so before the pre-race ceremonies, he leaned back against the car and hoped the time passed by quickly. He wanted to take in the moment as this was his first official Daytona 500, but also wanted to get to being in the car where he felt most comfortable.
Taking a deep breath, he tries to keep himself in a relaxed state with his mind only focused on the events that are set to take place ahead, rather than the events that he left behind.
Though, it wasn’t as easy as it seemed and one thought led to another in his mind….
Stuck in his own panic, Mariela took advantage of the moment, grabbing him and pulling him close to her as the door busted open with the mad foursome standing there. she brought the knife to neck level as Chase closed his eyes, predicting pain coming in his future as his breaths got even quicker.
“Okay….everybody….remain….calm…” Bill tells the group as he holds them behind him as he focuses his eyes on Mariela and his son. “You must be Mariela, I assume, right?” Mariela slowly shakes her head yes. “That’s nice. I’m Bill, his father. Listen, I know that you have some crazy strange plan with Dale and Marie, so how about you just let Chase go and be done with what you have going on here?”
“That cannot happen sir as your son is now part of this mess,” Mariela informs them.
“You’ve got Dale in the car and you have Marie hidden somewhere – why do you need Chase now?” Regan wonders as he and Bill trade glances, thinking what to do.
“Please……let…..me….go…,” Chase slowly lets out.
“Please let him go,” Bill begins his side of the begging. Regan goes to say something, though feels vomit coming up his throat, then flying out of his mouth, hitting both Mariela and Chase.
“Yuck!” Mariela yells, not releasing her grasp at all as she holds Chase as tight as she can, while keeping the knife at just about skin touch.
“Regan?” Bill asks.
“Sorry – I’ve been sick all weekend,” he answers. “I feel much better now.”
“Let him go!” They then hear the voice of a police officer behind them as he makes his way through the group and up to Mariela. “Ma’am, please let the young man go.”
“Why don’t you go to hell?” Mariela offers as the officer draws his gun at her.
“Ma’am, please don’t force us to do something that we’ll both regret.”
“You won’t dare shoot that while I have him.”
“Let…me…go….” Chase says as he tries to focus on taking deep breaths. “Can’t….breathe…”
“Let him go!” The officer yells.
“Can’t…” Everything then seems to freeze as a bullet goes off, coming through the back window and directly into Mariela’s back, forcing her down. As she goes to fall, Chase pushes her arm out of the way, and falls forward the other direction, into Steve’s arms.
“I got you kid,” Steve says as they both sit on the floor together.
“I….couldn’t….breathe,” Chase lets out slowly as Steve rubs his back.
“You’re going to be okay.” Cindy then kneels down to their level, immediately wrapping both arms around Chase and holding him close as she kisses his cheek. “Everything is going to be okay.”
“Can’t….breathe…..,” he lets out as he tries to take a couple deep breathes, catching attention of everyone around him.
“Chase!” Alan yells as he snaps his fingers in front of the young man’s face, causing him to snap out of his thoughts. The fast, raggy breathes continue as Alan grabs both of Chase’s hands, squeezing them. “Look at me….breathe….in….out…deep breaths….in…out….” Chase focuses on Alan, focused on the instructions at hand. Slowly, everything gets under control as Alan keeps his grip on his hands. “That’s it….”
“I’m sorry…..I….” Alan glances around, noticing eyes peering from each direction. He lets go with one hand, keeping hold with the other hand.
“Keep everybody distracted, make some excuse up for us.” The surrounding crew members each shake their heads as Alan shuffles Chase away from pit road. He takes him to where the pit box was on pit road, taking him behind it, away from the eyes of everybody.
“I’m sorry…” Chase’s eyes glance to the ground as Alan sits him down behind the box.
“You have nothing to apologize for so stop saying sorry.” Chase slowly looks up at the crew chief. “I mean it. Don’t say those words again. You had a panic attack – I get it. You feel bad because of everybody and everything – I get it. However, you have nothing to apologize for. It’s part of healing, part of trying to move forward and facing these events head on. It’s okay….”
“I just thought I could handle it, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.” A couple stray tears begin to fall as Alan pulls him close, wrapping his arms around him.
“It’s okay. I get it, I understand. It’s okay…” Alan rubs his back as they stay there together. “Let it out, if you need to. I’ve got you and I’ll damn well make sure that nothing happens again. You shouldn’t have to go through what you went through. Nobody should ever have to endure all that. I don’t know what to say, except to be able to do what you have done in being here today, showing the strength you did – kid, you’re stronger than people realize. You’re amazing, truly. I can’t wait to work with you this year. And for what it’s worth, the rest of it will come with time.” Chase pulls back from Alan and looks at him, though glances over his shoulder as he sees the pit crew standing on pit road awaiting their return.
“But…what happened….” Alan shakes his head as he glances over before looking back at Chase.
“Don’t even worry about it. Who cares what everybody else has to say. The team understands what’s going on, and they’ve got your back just as much as I do. They’re handling things, okay? Don’t worry about that. Let’s just focus on you. Rather than that, focus on keeping yourself calm, and in the moment. Just focus on that. Forget what happened there.”