Friday at Kentucky Speedway
With Alyssa on track for the second practice of the day, Chase retreated back to his familiar perch on top of the hauler, fingers crossed it went smoother. Ultimately, that wish didn’t come true as smoke came out the back of the No. 88 Chevrolet as she went to go in the corner on her second run.
“Son of a bitch!” He lets out as he climbs back down the steps, knowing what that meant. Blown motor equals end of practice for the day due to having to change it, and starting at the rear on Saturday with a car that was handling worse than ever. Certainly going as planned…
“Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing?” Chase hears and immediately rolls his eyes without a glance towards Jeff.
“Is everybody going to ask me that every single hour today?” He responds back, the combined annoyance of the question and Alyssa’s issues obviously nagging at him.
“It’s because we care, Chase…” Chase stopped, took a deep breath, knowing that Jeff was right. So maybe he could give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Well, like I’ve told everybody else, I’m alright. I’m taking it easy, just out here supporting Alyssa, but following all orders that I was told. I don’t need everybody turning into my babysitter.” Jeff nods his head, accepting, as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.
“I get it, and you’re right. But just remember…” Chase nods his head, accepting, only so that way Jeff would carry on his own marry well.
Chase makes his way into the garage stall, waiting patiently as he watches Alyssa interact with the team.
“Did the car feel better that run?” Kevin Meendering asks and Alyssa rolls her eyes.
“Before the motor blew? Yeah, it did as I think we found the handle a bit better,” she answers. “I mean, I did pop up to fourth on the speed chart, right? But hey, I guess that doesn’t matte-”
“It gives us somewhere to start from going into tomorrow. Now, if we can start there and are at least close on the set-up, you can gain some ground and put it in the top 10. That’s all we need here. Solid consistency will get us to round two.” She lets out a sigh as she leans back against the car.
“So why does it feel like I’m climbing a freaking mountain? Nothing has gone right, Kevin. What makes you so sure about tomorrow?” Kevin then spins around, eyes focused straight on her.
“Because I believe in my team, I believe in my driver, and I damn well know that we can win this championship. Now, are you in or are you out?” She then looks at him, eyes turning a dark navy blue laced with determination.
“I wouldn’t be here if I was out, Kevin. I wouldn’t schedule an important surgery around my racing career if I didn’t believe what was possible. That said, we better bring our A-game tomorrow.” She then puts her sunglasses on, walking out of the stall. Chase could only let out a sigh as he goes to follow, not saying a single word, just there for support for when she finally said something.
“Did I hit a nerve or something?” Dale nods his head as he watches Alyssa and Chase walk off together.
“Never question her determination, desire, or drive,” he starts, glancing back to the crew chief. He knew exactly what she was going through from his own experience as she was like him more and more each day. She hated to have someone question her desires; she hated to be surrounded by people with doubt. Confidence was everything to her, and sometimes determined just how far she would go. She needed that positive energy, even if the world was imploding, to get to that next step. “Just be positive and a cheerleader, no matter how she gets. She’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Dale then follows suit, knowing that he wanted to go give her a boost of confidence – if Chase hadn’t done that already. He also pulls out his phone, sending a quick text message to Steve LeTarte. Stevie had always been good at knowing what to say and boosting him up. Now maybe he could translate that to his daughter.
Saturday – Kentucky Speedway
After a quiet night filled with simply watching movies and playing video games as a distraction, it was time for a new day – race day. All that mattered today was getting something good out of what had been a disastrous past couple of days.
Alyssa had woken up early, sneaking out to meet up with the team. She immediately apologized to Kevin for her attitude, which he accepted with an apology of his own. He also followed the advice of her father with some quick works of encouragement, with the pair set to do what they could that day.
As they headed out for qualifying, their goal was simple – use it as a test session to shake down the car, and see where they stood on set-up, but not go beyond the limits since they were starting last anyway.
Chase had slept in a little late, with Regan taking the role of hanging out with his friend for the day. Regan didn’t have any obligations, having finished what he needed to do on Friday. Thankfully, he turned a long Thursday night into a solid Friday with a third-place finish in the truck race.
Now he was ready to focus and help his friend….
“I can’t do this,” Chase’s words catch his attention away from the television screen as he looks towards the small kitchen table where Chase stood.
“Can’t do what?” Regan wonders, watching him closely. After hearing positive things from Friday, he was shocked by the words.
“This, all of this…. It isn’t me.” Regan felt a wash of confusion, but his eyes didn’t leave Chase. Was he talking about the situation? Was he talking about needing someone? Was he talking about the pain? Or was he talking about the white capsules in his hand?
“What? Struggling to find answers? Lacking that perfection? People run into issues-”
“No – these pills.” Chase holds up the small white pill, which Regan knew was for the anxiety. “Anxiety pill, sleeping pill. It’s not me. How did we get to the point where I need these to get through every day?” Regan takes a deep breath, not expecting to turn into consult this early in the day.
“By a series of traumatic events that are out of your control.” Regan then stands up, walking over to where he stood, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Chase, like everybody has said, everything is okay. We get why you would struggle. We get the emotional breakdown. And like Eric said, this is just temporary till we find the right strategies that will work for you.” Chase had heard those words over and over since July, but yet seemed to be further away from the point he wanted to be at now more than ever.
“Do you think we will ever find them?” Regan had grown used to the uncertainty, knowing it was the anxiety playing tricks on his mind, as well as lacking what he desired the most right now.
“Absolutely. I haven’t changed my viewpoint since day one.” Chase knew that, and appreciated the confidence from Regan. However, he also began to wonder some, though.
“What if I don’t?” Regan didn’t want to process that thought as he wanted his best friend back, totally.
“Let’s not think about tha-“
“But what if?” Regan takes a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t escape the question.
“So you have a case of anxiety, so you have a case of the nightmares – do you realize how many people deal with that? There are some that you don’t even hear about. Don’t even dare look down on yourself one bit because you have to take that pill or that pill. Don’t ever think it’s a bad thing if that you have to do. It’s understandable. The important factor is that you – you know who you are, your desires, your wants, and you’re striving for that. We haven’t lost you in the midst of this, despite thes-”
“Sometimes I wonder….” Regan shakes his head, keeping his hand firmly placed on Chase’s shoulder.
“Trust me – I would know if we were losing that, and so would Alyssa. I also know that you’re taking the right steps, doing the right things – and you will find your way through this. It will take time, it will be tough, but you’ll find your way. Sure, we’ve hit two steps backwards lately – but damn, look at the progress since then. It’s coming together…..” Chase nods his head, remembering some of the steps that he had taken, from various conversations to confessions. It had to mean something, right?
“I hope you’re right….” Chase then puts the pills in his mouth, followed by a big swig of water to wash them down. “For now, though, we have a princess to focus on….”
“I think it’s going to be a good day…” Chase crossed his fingers, hoping that Regan was right, as they both settled in to watch the remainder of the qualifying session.