Sunday, July 23 – Indianapolis
Chase lets out a yawn as he makes his way through the infield, knowing that he had a pre-race meeting with the guys.
He admittedly hadn’t slept well last night, tossing and turning and worrying about everything. He even began to wonder if maybe there was nothing in what she injected – and it was just done to scare him more than anything.
Though beginning to feel a little sick in the morning, he knew that was a lie. It wasn’t terrible – sort of reminded him of how you feel with the 24 hour stomach flu. He felt a little nauseous, but other than that he was fine. Saying his own prayers in his mind, the day would be over soon and they could get to the bottom of it.
He makes his way into the trailer, taking his usual position amongst the guys, paying attention as Alan goes over the notes for the day. He then chimed in with his own ‘pick me up comments,’ and the team felt more than confident in the day ahead.
With the meeting done, he headed out of the trailer, knowing he had to go see some sponsor VIPs, and then he would have a couple hours for himself. Maybe he could get some sleep, or perhaps stomach at least some soup.
“Hey, are you feeling okay?” His dad asks as they head to the last appearance. With how it’d been set-up, the pair was supposed to attend together and do a quick Q&A with the guests.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Chase answers quickly, hoping to finish up this string of events quicker than ever so he didn’t have to deal with questions like this. Bill, meanwhile, had his eyes locked on Chase, knowing that his comment was an immediate lie. If there was one thing, he could never tell a lie, ever.
“Chase….” Chase then lets out a sigh, debating which way to go with his excuse.
“Alright, I’m feeling a little sick. I think I picked up the bug that was going around – one of the other crew guys had it. I’m fine.” Bill then looked at him with raised eyebrows, but figured he could trust him. Besides, Cindy could handle strangling him later.
“Just be careful and make sure to tell Alan incase, okay?” Chase nods his head.
While he hadn’t planned to say anything to Alan and didn’t really want to have a back-up driver – someone else involved in this chaos, it did give him another idea though. Maybe there was a way out of this quicker, after all.
Once he was done the series appearances, he made his way back to the team trailer. He knew that Alan and Josh would be there going over some final notes of the day with the car having gone through pre-race tech inspection already. He just needed to find the courage to tell them.
“You’re back here?” Josh questions as he sees the door to the lounge open up.
“Yeah,” Chase answers as he closes it behind him. “I needed to talk to you both before the race. It’s important…” Josh and Alan glance at each other a little confused, before setting their eyes back on their driver.
“I’m all ears,” Alan says as he sets his notes aside. He knew if Chase was interrupting them, it was important.
Taking a shaky breath, Chase went into detail of the series of events over the past week involving Allison. He told them about what happened at the beauty pageant. He told them about the photo getting sent to Sarina and how that broke down. He then told them what happened yesterday in the garage area, which caused both of their jaws to drop.
“I’m starting to feel some symptoms – very minor at that, though,” he reveals, bringing an even bigger shock to Alan’s face. “Feeling a little sick, a little clammy – but nothing that I can’t handle. I figure I’d let you know so we can do something post-rac-”
“There’s no way you’re racing toda-” Alan starts.
“Alan, we have no choice. If we go say something, then that bomb goes off. Do you know how many people are around there right now?” Alan lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “And sure, you could tell the cops and the bomb squad and whoever you want. But if she gets word that someone knows, she won’t take any chances.”
“So you’re just going to let this crap eat at you, while trying to race 400 miles today?” Chase sits down, knowing that was the only option that they were left with. He just figured the team knowing would be a good step for after the race.
“Alan, I know we’re trying to point our way into the playoffs, but could we just give up this one?” Josh questions, causing a shocked expression from Chase immediately.
“That’ll clue her in righ-” Chase starts as Josh shakes his head no.
“Not if we do this how I am thinking, Chase.” Chase then looks at him puzzled.
“He’s not wrecking the car purposely at the start for that reason,” Alan states, beginning to read the car chief’s mind.
“Does anybody not have a clue to what I am thinking?” Josh questions as he had to laugh at their responses. “Of course, I wouldn’t want him to do that because what if he gets hurt? I’m not stupid, Alan. Remember – you hired me.” Chase had to chuckle at the response as Alan rolls his eyes. “But what if we had an engine failure?” Chase and Alan glance at each other, before turning their eyes back to Josh.
“I’d be fully willing to give up today as someone’s health and safety is more important…” Josh then pulls up his laptop, opening some of the engineering numbers.
“Dale has blown a couple motors this year, and we have past data from other years. I can construct the perfect formula in steps for Chase to follow to make that motor blow up in the first 50 laps.” Chase then looks on surprised.
“That easy?” He questions and Josh nods his head.
“Certain missed shift on the start, certain missed shift on a possible restart afterwards, and hitting certain revs would cause it to go big time,” Josh reveals as he looks over the numbers. “Of course, you’ll have the engineers and engine tuners willing to kill yo-”
“Wrong choice of wording!” Alan yells as Josh freezes.
“Right, sorry.” He then goes back to his notes. “But I mean, I’d rather deal with them on your ass then something else.” Chase couldn’t help but admit that the car chief was pretty smart after all.
“Give those numbers, please…” Josh then sorts through everything, jotting some numbers and notes on a piece of paper, before handing it over to Chase. “After it goes and we’re don-”
“Clearing the garage area immediately, telling the guys to load up and not even bother reviewing,” Alan cuts him off, reading his mind. “We’ll have it sorted out. You just focus on coming back to the garage, getting out, and going to get help.” Chase nods his head as he takes a couple deep breaths. “Chase?”
“I’m fine,” he tells them as he stands up, snatching the piece of paper off the table. “By the way, Sarina doesn’t know. Someone will have to tell her.” Alan nods his head, knowing that would be on his conscious.
For the rest of the morning before the race, things went like normal and Chase found himself standing on pit road, counting down the minutes. He glanced around, silently telling him what he had read off the paper 50 different times over and over in his head, just hoping that it’d work out as smooth as Josh said it would.
“Ahh, my favorite people,” Chase hears, as he glances over and sees Ryan walking over with a box. He would rather just be left alone, but he knew that’d be too suspicious.
“And how’s Ryan?” Chase questions as Ryan just smiles in response.
“Ready to go and have a great day.” He then looks over at Sarina. “My team had a couple extra donuts so I thought I’d bring you a snack.” Sarina then looks at him, surprised.
“Any specific occasion?” She wonders and Ryan shakes his head no. “Well, everybody knows I love a good Krispy Kreme donut…” Ryan smiles as she takes the box from him.
“I’m good,” Chase comments as Sarina holds the box out to him first. He had already heard about the contents, but also knew that it’d turn his stomach once again and he may actually throw-up this time.
“Suit yourself…” She then opens the box, and her smile immediately disappears as she sees a mix of raw cabbage and broccoli, shaped into little donuts. Ryan began laughing immediately as she looked at him. “Really?”
“Nice job on the ringtone,” he tells her with before turning on his heels and walking away. She then takes one of the pieces of broccoli, chucking it down pit road at him, causing him to spin around in surprise. “Now, now Ms. Ott, you shouldn’t be throwing things on pit road. That’s against the rules.”
“This is cruel!” She replies as he only laughs harder. Chase just shakes his head between them, knowing that this was probably just the start of what was to come. They seemed to have a good knack now for pranking each other. “Did you see what he di-”
“It’s a good prank,” Chase cuts her off as he leans back against the car. If he had to be honest, the heat was getting to him a little, combined with the sickness increasing. He could only hope the plan that Josh had in place worked real quickly as there was no way he could do 400 miles feeling like this. Maybe he should’ve taken the back-up driver approach, instead.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I’m still saying something is off….” He then looks over at her, giving her a small smile.
“Just ready to get this started. I would’ve preferred to be in the car by now….”
It wasn’t long until opening ceremonies kicked off, followed by Chase climbing in the car. Josh had stayed there to make sure he was buckled in, and go through everything once again. As he put up the window net, Josh had to resist the urge to yell something there as he could see it in Chase’s eyes that things were getting worse. However, he followed normal protocol, before retreating back to the pit box.
Chase went through pace laps as if nothing was different – though felt everything wrong in that moment. He felt sicker to his stomach, felt clammy, felt a headache coming on, and knew what was coming if they didn’t get through this sooner than later.
On the drop of the green flag, he remembered what Josh said – skip from gear 2 to gear 4 by accident, letting the motor hit the higher revs as that’ll damage some inner components. He could only curse what he was doing, knowing it’d just increase everybody’s discussions about him doing crap on restarts.
He pushed like usual, keeping himself in solid contention, though silently wishing that it would go sooner than anticipated. He knew the caution at Lap 11 and restart six laps later would help his cause, too, as he went through another of the messed up processes.
“Something is off here,” he reports afterwards, starting to feel the beginning of the valve train giving up. Obviously, Josh’s numbers were right on target.
“10-4,” Alan replies, giving the car chief a nod on the pit box. “Just keep an eye on it.” Alan knew that they should actually look at it under the next possible caution, but knew that’d go against the plan in place.
They got another caution, and another fumble through the gears to hit different RPM numbers began to work its magic, with things getting even more off basis.
“Next caution, we’ll take a look,” Alan states, following protocol of cover-up as he glances at Josh. It was only a matter time now.
“It’s flashing these codes,” Chase alerts them as Josh smiles, knowing that the process had worked perfectly. He knew those were the error codes of the fuel pump.
“Read them off…” Chase bit his tongue as that’d be tougher than imagined. He was already having a hard enough time ignoring how he was feeling, concentrating on racing, and following the necessary steps in place. Now he had to read a series of numbers off the dashboard?
He began to read the first set of numbers as Josh compared them to other notes, seeing as though they were following the error process that he wanted. Sure enough, it came together with smoke begin to come out the back of the No. 24 on Lap 43.
“Bring it in,” Alan states as he immediately closes up his notebook. “Guys, to the trailer and load it up. We’re done.” He glances at Josh, remembering that crucial step as Josh nods his head in response.
“You take Chase as Sarina will follow,” Josh whispers once they’re down off the pit box. “I’ll make sure all the guys are there. Alert the guys if you need them – I’ll make sure everywhere else is clear….” Alan nods his head as they began the quiet walk through the garage area.
They turn the corner and see the car sitting by the garage stall, causing both of the crew members to look at each other confused. They then walk a little faster, with the rest of the team in toe.
“She wouldn’t roll the rest of the way,” Chase says quietly as he leans back against the car after climbing out.
“It’s fine,” Alan assures him as he wraps an arm around his shoulders. “We got this regardless.” Chase nods his head as he lets out an aggravated sigh. “Talk to me…”
“I feel like shit. I never should’ve let her do that. I never should’ve let gone along with this. I should’ve said something sooner, did something different. I shouldn’t even started that race.” He then pauses, taking a careful deep breath. “I feel like total shit, Alan. I feel like I’m going to throw up, I feel so clammy but sweaty and hot, headache, fever, and can barely move…”
“I knew something was up….” Sarina says as she crosses her arms.
“We’ll explain later,” Josh tells her as he glances between Chase, Alan and the crew.
“Come on, I got you…” Alan forces Chase to lean against him, leading him away from the car as he takes a glance at Josh.
“Guys, let’s push it to the trailer…” Josh instructs, rallying all the guys.
The guys begin to follow the instruction, pushing the car through the garage with confused glances at each other as they each take turns in seeing what direction Alan headed with Chase. Josh had headed that way, showing up on Chase’s other side, before another look towards Alan. They had only one destination in mind.
As everybody heads in different directions, they hear a big boom behind them, causing the whole crew to freeze and look back to the stall that they were just standing in a couple minutes ago in shock.
“The guys…” Chase says as he leans against Alan through their walk.
“I got them out of there, heading to the hauler with the car,” Josh assures Chase.
“Do I want to know?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no.
“Like I said – we’ll explain later….” Sarina could only fear in finding out the truth of what was going on, with thoughts of Allison, her brother and Bethany floating through her brain. Why did this keep happening? She had done it again to him, and now the guys, too….
“Just focus on continuing to go forward, and focus on yourself,” Alan tells him. “Keep walking, keep moving forward, and keep fighting. We’re almost there…”
“I’m trying…” Chase says his legs give out a little, which causes Alan and Josh to grab him a firmer grip. “I can’t…” They then go give out again.
“Chase!” Alan tightens his grip even more, if he could, before feeling the young man fall against him. “I got you, I got you buddy….”
“Hold his shoulders and head,” Josh instructs as he picks the lower half up. The pair then continue moving as quickly as they can, shuffling into the care center. “We need help – ASAP!”