Dale makes his way to the garage area, fingers intertwined with Marie’s as the pair cast a glance at each other. It was obvious that both were nervous for how the events would play out that day as the future rested simply on the next couple of hours.
He felt nervous that he wasn’t ready. She felt nervous that something bad was going to happen. He felt nervous that he was going to let the whole team down. She felt nervous that he was pushing himself too soon.
Thankfully, they were both glad that Chase had agreed to watch Alyssa and Elsa for the day so they didn’t have to worry about the kids on top of that.
“Daddy!” They hear yelled from across the garage area as a four-year-old comes running up to him, wrapping her arms around her legs.
“Sorry, she got away while I was changing Elsa,” Chase confesses as he hurries to catch up with her while carrying Elsa.
“It’s okay,” Dale offers as he wraps his arms around her, scooping her up in his arms. “What has daddy told you about running in the garage?” Instantly, her face turned to the biggest pout she could manage.
“Not too,” she answers.
“No more running, and no more getting away from Chase. You’re supposed to stay with him all day, okay?” She nods her head as he puts her down.
“Daddy drive soon?” Dale smiles, as he glances towards the familiar car sitting right there beside him in the garage. Why did it feel that it wanted to jump out and bite him?
“Soon sweetheart. We’re just getting ready.” She rolls her eyes as she runs over to look in the car.
“It ready. Go daddy go!” Dale smiles as he walks up behind her, scooping her back up in his arms.
“Soon. I need to do some stuff first. Why don’t you go play with Chase and Elsa?” She then pouts, as he puts her back down.
“Okay…” She then goes back over to Chase as Chase leads her away once again. “I want to see car go fast.”
“Soon Alyssa, soon,” Chase assures her as he wraps his free arm around here. “Why don’t we go take a walk down pit road and check out some stuff that we normally aren’t allowed to see?” A smile crosses her face as she nods her head immediately.
“How is he so good with her?” Marie wonders as she watches Chase walk off with her kids.
“It just comes natural,” Dale answers as he smiles. “It’s good, though. At least we have someone close we can trust.” He then wraps his arms around her from behind. “That way, me and you can have some opportunities to play…” Marie chuckles as she spins around to face him.
“I don’t mind that at all one bit. But, don’t you have a job to do today?” He lets out a sigh as he glances back at the car once again.
“I guess I better start paying attention before Greg yells at me.” She chuckles, nodding her head in agreement. She then watches as he goes off to speak with the team about the plan for the day.
After divulging a plan that would involve Dale doing three sets of 20 laps, followed by two sets of 50 laps, they were set to get started. He makes his way over to the car, grabbing his helmet and putting it on as usual. Adam Jordan made his way over, standing by the cockpit of the car as he watched his driver closely.
“I went with our usual set-up,” Adam informs him, catching Dale’s attention. “Mirror placement, seat wise, brackets, pedals, etc. If you want any changes, just let me know.” Dale nods his head, appreciating the extra care put in place.
As he had done so many other times in his career, he climbed into the cockpit of his car, securing the belts over his shoulders and across his lap. Everything about this should just come natural, but he couldn’t help but feel a little different that day. Ah yes, his career was on the line.
“Just take it easy to start and build up to where we should be,” Greg advises as Dale heads out on track for the first set of laps.
Initially, things began a little slow as Dale let himself become real accustom to his surroundings and the role, while mentally testing himself as he didn’t want to push it unless ready. However, by the end of the first set, things were about where they should be.
Following a quick lookover and chat with Mickey, he headed back out for the next 20. This time, it just came natural and before long, he was lapping as quick as the front runners had done earlier that year.
“He’s back….” Adam sings in a tune, impressed by how quickly Dale had gotten back into the flow.
All in all, the rest of the day went according to plan and the clearance was given for everything to go forth as planned for next season. With high fives and smiles all around, nobody could wait for the season to begin as they were set to prove something.
But first, there were some other big milestones in store that Dale couldn’t help but be excited about.