After their conversation, the pair met up with everybody else, Chase simply thanking everybody for their thoughts, with clear intentions to work on things as they moved forward. Everybody assured him easily in return that they’d be there for him when he needs them.
There was no more time to spare as qualifying was next on the docket for Alyssa, meaning that she had to get set to go, followed by getting out there for her laps on track.
A 20-minute first round for qualifying on a half-mile seemed like it was way too much, considering the fact that a lap time was down to the sub-15 second range. However, rules were rules, right?
Kevin Meendering played right into the strategy game, sending her out right at the beginning of the session. He told her to lay down the best lap possible, but try to not to make the tires angry in the process so they had something for the second round. She easily succeeded, laying down a lap that they were confident would get them into the second ground.
She just needed to wait out the 19 minute session to see if that was the case.
“Be prepared to go back out ASAP if we’re wrong on that being enough,” he says as she climbs out of the car. She simply gives him a nod before walking back across over the wall, grabbing her bottle of water off the wall and taking a sip. She then leaned back against the pit box, staring at the scoring pylon in hopes she didn’t drop down.
Being able to get some time by herself led her thoughts to go off the track, which was no surprise as she had just talked to Chase about a lot of core emotions from everything.
Taking a deep breath, it felt good to get that out in the open. It gave her heart comfort in knowing there was something off his plate with everything that he was going through. It also gave her confidence in the future in the ability for them to work together due to how easily the conversation went with getting everything out. In truth, they had always been able to do that together. Perhaps if she stopped putting it off, they could plan a night and get it all out in the open.
Though she knew that was harder said than done, as well the confidence remained she still didn’t know how to handle some of her own thoughts. How do you erase the fear? How do you confide your deepest feelings out loud? How do you let someone see just how vulnerable you are?
She then jumps as she feels an arm on her shoulder, looking towards the source as she lets out a sigh. There was no reason to worry.
“Jumpy for a reason?” Marie asks as Alyssa leans back against the pit box like she was.
“Didn’t realize it was you,” she answers as she sips on her water.
“You know, it’d just be a crew member or someone close. You don’t need to worry, Alyssa.” Alyssa glances over the bottle at her mom, wishing it was that easy.
“I know…” She then lets out a sigh, not wanting to be getting into a discussion like this with her mother. She had a job to focus on right now.
“I just wanted to check on you and see how you were doing, especially after everything with Chase.” She knew that was why her mother was there. Marie was always the caring one, double checking how everybody was more than they wanted. Essentially, it was annoying – but she understood the reasoning so she didn’t bite her head off in return.
“I’m fine, Mom. I’m thinking it over a little, but I’m fine and focused on what I have to do now. Can we save this conversation for later?” She hadn’t wanted to say those words. There was no way that she wanted to have a conversation with her mom later about her feelings. There was no way that she could say everything.
“Sure, if you want to. We can talk tomorrow when we’ve got plenty of time. That’s fine. I just don’t want you to let this eat at you, bug you, or distract you. Besides, I’m your mother and I worry abou-”
“Trust me Mom – I’m fine.” She then stops herself, taking a deep breath. She shouldn’t had cut off her mother’s words – that’d lead suspicion. She should’ve continued to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she was growing frustrated. “It’s just….I’d rather stay focused on what I have to do tonight and then worry about that later, okay?”
“That’s fine, but know that you can’t put it off or think you can forget it. Chase already warned you about what happens if you do that, right?” Alyssa rolls her eyes, having heard that enough times to drive her insane.
“I know, but that’s not what I’m saying. All I’m saying is wrong place, wrong time for this conversation.” She then moves forward, working his way back towards the pit wall, climbing back over and going by the car. Only crew members were allowed on this side of the wall so she could escape the discussion without having to say anything else. Besides, she wanted to go over a couple quick things with Kevin before the second round, which clearly she was going to make with only a couple minutes remaining.
“You need to handle this sometime….” Marie then lets out a sigh as she turns on her heels, returning back to the rest of the core group as there was no way she was going to get any further with her daughter.
“How does she get away with that attitude but I get grounded right away?” Elsa questions as Dale looks down at his daughter. Why did teenage daughters have to be such a pain?
“Because she’s got a job to focus on, a reason that her mom should understand as a reason to leave her alone – just as she’d leave me alone when I was busy,” Dale answers, keeping an eye on Marie as he tells Elsa. “There’s also a bit of leeway, given the feelings and emotions that are going through her mind. Under any other circumstance, Marie would’ve easily yelled and lectured her back, probably ending up with her being grounded. So don’t think that you can get out of this easily, Elsa.”
“Got it.” Elsa then watches her sister closely, before glancing back at her dad. “You mentioned some things going on in her mind – emotions. That’s because of what happened. How long does that last?”
“There’s no set limit on that, Elsa. Sometimes it lasts just for a couple weeks, other times for months or years. Chase still deals with some of the emotions from what he went through then. I still find myself dealing with that at times. It’s something that’s with her forever. It’s not like you can flick a switch and make it disappear.” Elsa simply shook her head, understanding. Here was the sister that she loved dearly, but also picked on way too much at times and now she could find herself in a sympathy mood. “Elsa?”
“It’s just, I feel bad for her I guess. I just wonder if things will ever be the same. I mean, we had that weird sisterly bond going on.” Dale had the chuckle as the fights annoyed him more than ever, but he totally understood it.
“Listen, this doesn’t change anything with you girls. I’m sure you’ll still squabble at times, and I’m sure she’ll still be there to give you the weird older sister advice that you sometimes hate. This doesn’t change that, so don’t worry. It’s just for a bit, you have to be a little patient and watch how much you push her buttons.” He then wraps an arm around Elsa and pulls her close. “I know you’re worried about your sister, but trust me – it’ll be fine. I’m fine.”
The group then focused their attention on-track as they watched her pull back out, set for her first run of the second round. Kevin Meendering has chosen a slightly different approach this time, sending her halfway through the session out.
It paid off as she was able to find the clear track that she needed to run her two laps cleanly, once again putting in a pair of laps that held strong enough lap times to be considered pole worthy.
The group was set to celebrate, thinking it was clinched, till the final car crossed – Leo Gordon – and they saw the new time flash across the screen. Rather than being on the pole as they thought she’d get, she’d be starting that night’s 300-mile race in second.
“It’s still a great qualifying effort,” Dale tells her as he gives her a quick pat on the shoulder. She then glances over with a smile, shaking her head in agreement. However, as she looked down pit road and saw Leo celebrating with his team, she couldn’t hide the bit of hurt that she felt. She wanted the pole for the perfect comeback.
Taking a deep breath and set for her post qualifying interview, it was fine – because she was going to have the final word and snag a win that night.