Chase leaned back against the wall, knowing in the room behind him was the pre-qualifying debrief between crew chief, driver and team. After such a strong ending to yesterday’s practice, he hoped things continued on a high today.
“So you’ve been fine all weekend?” His mind focuses back to the phone call as he rolls his eyes. He knew why his mom was calling, and couldn’t blame her after the recent events. That didn’t mean he’d rather not be having this conversation right now.
“Absolutely fine mom,” he tells once again. “I haven’t had a single issue at all so you can calm down.” He hears a sigh on the other end, knowing the speech was coming.
“I’m your mother. It’s my job to worry, Chase. But you’ve been sticking by the guys and not venturing on your own right?” He knew of her nerves and rightfully so after the incident at Bristol. However, eventually, he would have to see how he could handle things on his own so he was prepared. He knew he wasn’t there yet, with some stuff to still work through.
“Yes, mom. I’ve practically been by Alyssa’s side all weekend, except during practice when I was with Kevin and the team.”
“Okay. Just checking. I love you, and I wanted to make sure you were okay.” As much as the call annoyed him, he couldn’t get mad as he understood the concerns.
“Well, I’m fine so you don’t have to worry about me. Listen, Alyssa is going to coming out soon so I will talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay. Bye Chase.” He then smiles.
“Bye mom, and I love you.” He then hangs up, letting out a sigh as he glances around. He waits a while before seeing the door open, and seeing the group come out. His eyes immediately lock on Alyssa, wrapping an arm around her. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” she replies as she kisses his lips. “We’ve only been away from each other for like 15 minutes. What’s got you all like this?”
“Can’t I just tell my girl how much I love her and want to see her do well today?” She then smiles, knowing not to take any moment for granted. There’d be times next year where she’d be wishing for moments like this when they were traveling to different places.
“Well just cross your fingers that I remember what I learned yesterday, okay?” He holds up his hand, crossing his fingers with a smile.
“I’ll do it if it makes you feel better, but I know that I don’t have to. I believe in you more than you realize.” They then head out of the trailer together, making their way out to pit road with a couple people in toe, all eyes watching those around them.
The popularity from her father had carried on to her, with fans asking for autographs the entire way. She takes her time, signing a couple as they walk together, with Chase also joining in the signing.
“When are you going to come back racing?” “How are you doing?” “Are you ever going to race again?”
Chase could hear the numerous questions along the way, though simply kept signing. He knew if he started to answer that he’d get stuck there with a demand for more answers.
Besides, there was no straight-up answer to the questions asked. He hadn’t decided on a time to come back, and he wasn’t about to bare his soul to them with everything on his mind. He hated to deny them answers and keep quiet, but it was the only way to go about this.
“Chase!!” A female scream rings out, with a hand reaching out and grabbing his arm. “Chase oh Chase, when are you coming back? I miss seeing you every week. I am big fan. I just want to see you race again. When are you racing again?” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as possible as he feels his heart rate rise in being cornered by this fan. He kept reminding himself that she was only doing this probably out of her worry.
“I’m going to come back racing when I am ready,” Chase answers in a calm matter as he looks into her eyes. “I don’t know when that is. Now, can you please let go of my arm, ma’am?” He feels her grip loosen bit by bit, as she finally lets go fully, pulling her hand back to her side of the fence. Chase takes a calming deep breath, glad that he had cooled down the situation. “Thank you. I appreciate your co-operation.” He then keeps walking as Alyssa wraps her good arm around him, placing his marker back in his pocket.
“Take care of her as that was uncalled for,” the PR rep tells security before catching up with the pair.
Chase and Alyssa walk out to pit road in silence, Alyssa still firmly holding him close to her, before stopping in her stall for the session. She immediately looks at him, turning herself so she’s facing him square. She could tell that he froze up a little, and could tell the nerves in his voice earlier. It wasn’t hard to forget about what had happened just a week prior, either.
“I’m fine,” he tells her, seeing the worry written on her face as he leans in for a kiss. “Yes, she scared me and yes, she caught me off guard. But I’m fine. Focus on qualifying, okay?” Alyssa simply shakes her head yes.
“I love you,” she tells him, stealing a quick kiss before letting go and walking to the car. She wasn’t 100% sure on his answer, but knew his reason for even keel regardless – he wanted her to concentrate on the task at hand. Furthermore, she also knew of his technique in avoiding discussion. Resting her hands on the roof of the car, taking a quick glance back at him, her mind refreshed back to the conversation with Regan. “Be there to support him, stand by him, hug him, let him cry, and let him rant. It’ll be okay…”
“Ready to go?” Adam Jordan asks as he walks over to her. Alyssa takes one final deep breath, trying her best to place the whole incident out of mind before looking at the interior mechanic and shaking her head yes. “Good luck this weekend.”
“Thank you Adam.”
Throughout the qualifying session, Chase’s eyes locked on the screen in their pits, double-checking her position on the chart. He knew they had the speed based on practice, so it was just about laying down a solid lap in each round.
The first round went clean as a whistle, no issues at all, with her easily transferring to the Round of 12. She then laid down another solid lap in that round, placing herself fifth on the grid when it was said and done.
“Not bad for someone that was freaking out yesterday,” Kevin Meendering comments, causing Chase to jump a little from his spot. Kevin immediately freezes, facing him. “Woah, are you okay?” Chase lets out a sigh, taking a couple calming deep breaths as he looks at the crew chief. He should’ve known it was just one of the guys.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answers simply as Kevin keeps his eyes locked on him.
“I just spooked you….” Chase knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere without an explanation.
“I had a weird encounter with a fan that caught me off-guard. Let’s just say I haven’t calmed down all the way from that, yet, and I didn’t realize it was you. Sorry.”
“It’s okay, no worries. As long as you’re fine, then I’m fine.” Kevin then walks away, giving Alyssa a pat on the shoulder as they walk past each other. “Nice qualifying effort, princess.”
“Thanks Kevin,” she replies, keeping her eyes focused on Chase the entire time as she continues making her way over to him. She had seen the discussion with Kevin. She knew that wasn’t supposed to push the boundaries with Chase as that’d set him off and make him uncomfortable, but she couldn’t go forward with the rest of her day without saying another word. “Hey, I know she spooked you earlier. I know it got you frazzled and probably spunked your anxiety level a bit. If you need to talk about it, I’m willing to listen – no matter what. I can help you while focusing on what I have to do today.” Chase looks in her eyes, shaking his head in acceptance.
“I know,” he replies. “But I’m fine. I just needed to calm down, relax, and remind myself everything is okay. Besides, she was just an overzealous fan.” Alyssa smiles as she wraps her arm around him.
“Well let me assure you that I will protect you from any crazy fans that come after you because boy, you’re stuck with me.” He then laughs as he wraps his arms around her.
“I have no problem with that at all.”