Moving Forward – Chapter 32: Bristol

Marie let out a sigh as she sat in the motorcoach, watching Fox Sport’s feed of practice.

She had planned to be outside enjoying the sights, especially being Bristol, but found herself in the motorhome. With a six month old, they never wanted to stay still for long and it seemed today Elsa was on the patrol of playing more than usual. It was why Marie had her laying on the floor on her blanket underneath the toy thing that they had gotten her. Elsa could reach up and hit the toys, causing them to swing a little and make different noises.

While Elsa wanted to play, Alyssa was all about being around the racecars. It was why she had trusted Greg and Travis to keep an eye on the five-year-old. They both agreed, easily, taking turns as they did their necessary work. It was easy to keep track of Alyssa as she was good at listening in where to go, and how to stay out of the way of the work.

Marie lets out a sigh as the practice speeds flash on the screen, seeing Dale currently middle of the pack. So much for the plan that Greg had for the weekend as it didn’t seem to be working thus far for them.

Though she couldn’t sit and ponder that as she looked back down at her wedding plans. They had finalized the guest list once already – and even sent out invitations, but now she felt lost. Would everybody fit in the church? Would everybody have a spot to eat afterwards? What if they had invited too many people?

Shaking her head and a little laugh, perhaps Dale was right – maybe she was ponder over the wedding a little too much lately. Maybe she could use a break, too, so she had a clearer thought on everything.

She then focused on going through some country business, instead, figuring it’d be a decent escape. It worked, as she forgot about her wedding question – till the boys returned with Alyssa in hand.

As they made their way in the coach, she found the question at the tip of her tongue. She was curious as to the answer from Dale, but wanted to keep her word in regards to their agreement. Besides, he had reason to want to focus on the weekend after the lack of speed in practice.

“You look like you’ve been scared by a ghost or something,” Travis breaks the silence in the room, before sitting down to spend some time with Elsa.

“Is something wrong?” Dale asks and Marie shakes her head no. it was that moment she wanted to spit out the question, but the discussion from the other night rang through her mind over and over.

“You guys just caught me off-guard – that’s all,” Marie comments as she sets aside the country business for the time being. Some discussion would get them all off her back. “So, how was practice?”

“It was good. The car has some good speed in it, we figured out some handling issues, and everything we worked on we were pleased with. I think we’re going to have a winning combination this weekend.” Greg shakes his head in agreement, which surprises Marie based on the practice speed.

“You guys may want to divulge what we worked on as she’s confused now – just like the fans,” Travis adds as Marie glances between the crew guys.

“We worked on race runs – not qualifying trim,” Greg explains. “So therefore the speed factor just didn’t shine through. It was part of the team plan for the day. We worked on race runs, the 48 team works on qualifying trim. See where they were in practice? Enough said.” Marie shakes her head, understanding, feeling much better about things. Perhaps she could’ve asked the question after all.

Greg then goes to sit on the couch after accepting a bottle of water from Dale, though almost sits on the binders. He immediately stands up, glancing at the cover and seeing the word wedding. He then trades a glance with Dale before picking them up and shifting them over to sit down.

“Mommy, Daddy – can I watch cars?” Alyssa’s question catches the entire group’s attention. Glancing out the window, they knew she was referring to XFINITY qualifying.

“But who is going to watch you?” Dale questions as Alyssa thinks it over, before pointing at him. “Sweetheart, as much as I want to, I need to talk with Greg and Travis about things.” She then glances around the room and points to Marie and Marie shakes her head no.

“Someone need to watch me? Really?” Dale and Marie both shake their heads yes. “Can I ask Chasey?” The pair glance at each other with a smile, before Dale pulls out his phone and face times Chase. After a couple minutes, the pair had their answer – resulting in a big smile on Alyssa’s face as she ran to the door to meet up with him.

“So, do you want to go a little loose or no?” Greg asks, switching attention once again. Marie, though, was still focused on the eye glances between Dale and Greg with regards to her binders.

“It’d probably work better so we’ll be fine through all the rounds,” Dale offers and Greg shakes his head yes, agreeing, as he opens up his laptop. “It’s up to you, though.”

“Driver input is important, though, and if you agree then I’m doing it.”

“Aren’t you just the cutest?” Travis lets out as he tickles Elsa, causing her to laugh. “I love your laugh.” Travis then glances up at Marie, seeing the look again. “That look again.” Dale then pulls his attention away from his phone, looking at her curiously.

“What’s up?” He asks, knowing that she couldn’t talk her way out of it this time. Letting out a sigh, she plops back down on her spot on the couch.

“I saw the glances between the pair of you as Greg moved the binders,” she states as the driver and crew chief combo look at each other again. “What’s up?”

“After I let off on you, I felt bad so I talked a couple things over with Greg in how I was feeling and actin-”

“Realizing you were being a jerk?” Travis questions, causing a surprise look at Dale’s face. “Yeah, I noticed it, too.”

“I’m sorry, honestly.” Dale then looks back over at Marie. “Anyways, I may have told him about our wedding deal in detail and such. By the look, I’m guessing he was curious if we laid back on the agreement and if I said my apology to you. Greg, to answer you, I did apologize for what I said.” Greg shakes his head, understanding, keeping his eyes focused on his laptop though as he wanted to make sure the notes were kept neat.

“No worries – it’s fine,” Marie comments as she takes a binder off the stack. “By the way, I hate to ask you this in the midst of a weekend – but are you sure we’ll be able to fit everybody in the church? Are you sure there’s enough room? Oh, and is there enough room for tables in the saloon?” Greg and Travis chuckle a little, causing a scorn look from Marie as Dale thinks it over.

“There’s enough room, Marie. I already checked a couple different times to be certain before we sent out the invites. It’ll be fine, Marie.” She shakes her head accepting, easily. “And ignore those two immature buttheads for laughing at a very concerning question.”

“I wasn’t laughing at that,” Greg states as he looks up from his notes. “I’m laughing because she sounds like every bride out there. Listen, you may think you’re strange for over-thinking everything – and you, sir, may think that she’s going crazy over it. However, that’s how every bridge gets. I don’t know what gets into them, but it happens. My wife was the same way, as was my cousin. But no matter the concerns that you have, everything will piece itself together on the day of the wedding. It’ll work out.”

“Thanks,” Marie and Dale both comment together as Greg smiles.

“The key to a good wedding and a good marriage is love, and you both have that – as proven for a long time now.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 29: Questioning Decisions

Dale shook his head in agreement as Greg laid out the plan of attack for practice that weekend at Bristol.

“Then we’ve got an off-weekend so it’ll give us some time to think about stuff for Darlington and Richmond,” Greg continues as Dale shakes his head yes. “Personally, I want to make a statement at Darlington so people know what to expect when we hit the intermediates in the Chase. I also know you wouldn’t mind winning there, either.” Dale couldn’t deny that theory, either.

“I’ve believed in you since day one, and I still believe in you,” Dale states. “Everything sounds perfect. We are going to get out of this slump.” Greg shakes his head in agreement.

“To be honest, we had quick cars at Pocono and last weekend at Michigan. We just had the pit road hiccups. No speeding on pit road anymore for you, and I’ll make sure the guys get the lug nuts tight.” Dale lets out a sigh as he had been beating himself up all week thus far for the speeding penalty at Michigan. They had dominated the race all day, but on the final round of pit stops, he sped down pit road and it cost them all their track position. They then had to restart back in the 20s, getting caught up in a crash.

“Trust me – I don’t want to repeat last weekend, again.” He then sits back in the chair, thinking it over. He had been grumpy since Sunday afternoon after he had emerged from the wrecked racecar. Letting out a sigh, perhaps he had been a little unfair with Marie. Maybe it was the frustration from speeding that led to his blow-up regarding the wedding planning. “Greg, have I been a pain in the ass this week?”

“Do you want the honesty or something to make you feel goo-”

“Seriously?” Greg lets out a sigh as he glances up from his notes.

“You about bit my head off on Monday when I came to ask you about ideas for Bristol. You then about bit the crew’s heads off when someone made the comment about you helping out with pit crew practice. Let’s just say that there have been comments all week. With that said, we’ve all let them go, knowing they stem from the Michigan incident.” Dale lets out a sigh and shakes his head as he thinks back to the night prior.

“I think I let that get to me with regards to Marie, too.” Greg then looks at his driver confused. “I told her that I didn’t want to deal with any wedding planning till after the season was over. We’ve got the major decisions dealt with, so we can deal with the rest after the year is done. I told her I wanted these final weeks to solely concentrate on racing due to things being, well, suckish these past couple months.”

“And now you’re worried that you went off a little too harshly?” Dale shakes his head yes as Greg lets out a sigh. “To be honest, I don’t blame you for what you said. We have both said that total concentration is needed for the Chase so we can be the best that we can, and figure out a way to get a championship out of all this. You see it with Jimmie and Chad, and Kevin has hinted that he’s the same way. I wouldn’t kick yourself in the butt so quick.” Dale knew that Greg was probably right in the argument, having discussed previous Chase experiences with Jimmie. However, it still didn’t sit well given the tone he took.

“I just feel that maybe I was a little too forth coming with how I handled it.”

“So perhaps you should offer an apology for your attitude and then let the agreement stand, if you feel that way. She was there in Michigan. She’ll totally understand the attitude.” Dale knew that to be the truth as he remembered the glance that she gave him the flight home given his lack of wanting to social at all, even with the kids.  It also didn’t help that he failed to do much around the house that night or Monday, either.

“Why was I such an ass?” Greg shrugs his shoulders.

“You let everything get to you personally, that’s why. You’ve always been that way, too. Look at things when they went down with Chase and Mariel-”

“Do not bring that up.” Greg then freezes upon the tone of Dale’s voice as Dale takes a deep breath. “Look, I don’t want to think about what happened, okay? We’ve moving forward and away from that. Chase is being able to get through each day without much thought. While he admitted to me there are a couple nightmares and flashbacks, he’s been able to move forward from it all with some ease now. I am also moving forward myself, finding it easier on planes and such. I don’t need any reminders.” Greg slowly shakes his head yes as he looks back down at his notes.

“My apologies for bringing it up. I forgot how sore of a subject it was.” Dale then sighs as he keeps his eyes focused on the crew chief.

“I’m sorry for my tone and attitude for when you did bring it up. It’s just….I’d rather not, okay?” Greg shakes his head in agreement. Greg was set to get back to work with ease, though stopped and glanced up at his driver. There were still some lingering thoughts on the topic.

“Pardon me if I’m pushing boundaries with this question, but you have to go back to Pitronia to do the royal announcement and such, right?” Dale slowly shakes his head yes as he crosses his arms. “Are you ready to head back there? I mean, that’s where a lot of this started.”

“I’ve been back since, Greg. We went there for the royal crowning, and other country behaviors. We actually are going to visit during the off-weekend next week, too. I’ve been able to handle it fine without any problems those times, so why would the wedding be different?” Greg wasn’t sure, but felt the need to address the topic. He wasn’t ready to hear about a random wedding surprise.

“I was just curious, that’s all. I wanted to make sure you were taking care of all basis.” Dale then stands up as he glances over the desk at the crew chief.

“I can handle my life, Greg. Trust me. Let’s just focus on getting the car running better.” Dale then walks towards the door, taking one final glance back at Greg. “Text me if you need me, okay?” Greg shakes his head yes as he watches his driver leave the office.

Moving Forward – Chapter 23: Daytona Pre-Race Con’t

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February 2016 – Sunday 

Alan sat quietly for a couple more minutes, allowing Chase to fully get himself calmed down from the ordeal.

He trusted the guys, especially Josh to handle things on pit road. Josh Kirk was Alan’s right-hand man, responsible for whatever the crew chief slung his way. Thus far, he had impressed in handling everything with ease.

It was why he knew that he could solely focus on his driver at that moment, making sure that he was calmed down and ready to go for the race, or whatever direction that he felt they needed to talk. He truly believed giving him the space with the conversation would be enough to get him set for the day ahead, as once he was in the car, everything would be chilled out.

“Are you okay?” He finally asks after some time has gone by, watching Chase glance up and shake his head yes. “Okay. Remember what I said – no one is upset with what happened as we understand that you’re still working at moving forward. Also, the guys will have it handled so you don’t have to worry about anyone saying anything. Got it?”

“Yes sir,” Chase says quietly as Alan gives him a questioning glance. He respected the young man’s manners, but never felt comfortable with being called sir.

“What did I tell you about that?” Chase looks up sheepishly.

“Sorry. It’s habit.” Alan shakes his head understanding.

“It’s not the worse thing that I could have to handle, as far as habits. It also shows another reason I love you – the level of respect that you have. But anyways, enough about that. What’s your focus going to be once we go back to pit road?” Chase knew the answer, but couldn’t help but wonder what everybody else would have to say.

“Focusing on the day ahead, getting behind the wheel and doing the best job that I can.” Alan shakes his head, approving as he stands up.

“Well, if you’re ready to head back there, we can head over….together.” Chase stands up, takes a deep breath before trading a glance with the crew chief.

The pair then emerge from their hiding spot behind the pit box, heading back to pit road. There were a couple of eyes that glanced down their way, some of them filled with concern while others filled with questions. There were also a bunch that didn’t even bother to glance in their direction, going about their business as usual. Chase couldn’t help but notice each set of eyes.

The pressure was on to perform as he was supposed to be the next big star in the sport. He wanted to live up to not only the expectations of others, but the ones that he had placed on his shoulders. People could accuse him of overstepping those boundaries at times, but it was his way of handling things. If he was going to do it, he was going to do it right.

The pressure right now was creating this burden on his shoulders. He wondered how many would judge his performance during the race. He wondered how many would judge what happened pre-race. Shaking his head, he tried to get the thoughts out of his mind, knowing once he was settled in the car, there’d be no issues.

The pair eventually reunite up with the crew, with some of the guys immediately giving Chase a fist-pump or a hug, having had their own tinge of worry in seeing the events just prior.

“Nobody should say a word,” Josh whispered as he gave him a hug. “We just told everyone that you needed a moment to yourself with everything that happened. Given what you went through last year, it seemed to go over without any issues. We didn’t even hint towards the panic, though.” Chase shakes his head as he glances around, noticing a couple sets of eyes staring.

“It doesn’t stop them from looking even if you say went well,” he comments in return as Alan glances over.

 

“Focus on what I said,” Alan reminds him. “We’ll handle anything that comes your way.” Chase hated to agree to those terms, not wanting to have a babysitter so to speak. However, in that moment, he knew that he had to listen if he was going to keep making steps forward.

“Your parents said that they’d be here shortly to see you,” Josh adds as Chase shakes his head yes. That was something that was welcoming as he knew with his parents by his side that it’d help make things easier.

Further down pit road, the feeling of commotion could also be felt at the 88 car with Dale getting set for the day. Marie had brought both girls out to pit road with her, holding Elsa in her arms. Once reaching the car, though, it seemed the new addition was involved in a game of hot potato as the crew guys each wanted to hold her.

“I see someone not happy right now,” Kevin Meendering says as he kneels down to Alyssa’s level. “Where’s our pre-race smile?” She then glances over and shrugs her shoulders before glancing back at her sister. The youngster couldn’t help but be jealous in the attention that the new kid in town was getting. “What’s wrong, Alyssa?”

“Am I still ‘pecial?” Alyssa asks as she looks at the engineer. Kevin felt a small, sympathizing smile form on his face. He knew that it was always an adjustment for any family with a new addition.

“Of course you’re still special. You’ll always be special to your parents, to each of us guys, your family, to everybody. Both you and Elsa are special in your own ways and are loved the same amount.” Alyssa glances at her sister, before focusing her eyes back on him.

“I don’t know…” Kevin then pulls her close to him.

“Just because we’re not passing you around and holding you doesn’t mean that we love you any less, okay? We love you just as much and you’re always a special piece of this team. But I will tell you that if you get lonely, I can give you a hug, talk to you or play game, okay?” A small smile forms her face as she shakes her head yes.

“Thank you Kevin!” She then wraps her arms around him tightly as he hugs her back with a smile.

“Say, want to sit in the car?” She shakes her head yes. The engineer instantly picks her up, putting her in the car. She immediately sits down on the seat with her hands on the steering wheel.

“She looks like a natural in there,” their team PR rep comments as she takes a photo, sending it out to twitter.

“She’s definitely her daddy’s little girl,” Kevin offers as he focuses back on her.

It seemed the rest of pre-race went by easily, with the pre-race prayer and anthem in the books with no issues.

Down at the 24 car, it seemed as though the incident never happened as Chase got set to climb in the car. He offered a hug to each of his parents, one to Alan and one to Josh before climbing in. If you asked him anything about what happened, it was an after thought.

At the 88 car, it was the same story as Dale went through his usual pre-race ritual of giving both Marie and Alyssa a kiss, while adding a new kiss to the group for Elsa. He was quickly set to go, buckled in the car.

“You’re thinking…” Greg comments as he kneels down by Dale’s window. With having spent the previous season working with Chase, he had caught on to where you could tell if someone was thinking about something or having a flashback.

“Just thinking how much things have changed in a year,” Dale replies. “Can you believe that just a year ago we were sitting here, unsure of so many things, scared, but yet on the verge of victory? It’s crazy….” Greg shakes his head in agreement, having spent enough time within the circle to know the specifics.

“But, everything worked out and I can assure you that this year is going to be much better. Everybody is going to put what happened behind them and focus on having a great future, which begins today with a Daytona 500 victory.” Dale smiles as he gives the crew chief a quick high-five.

“I like you’re thinking.”

“You know what to do, boss.” Greg then puts the window net up, giving him a final fist-pump before heading to the pit box.

Moving Forward – Chapter 18: Can-Am Duels

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Congratulations to Chase on winning the pole! Not a surprise considering Hendrick Motorsports’ ability to be quick on the plate tracks in qualifying, and in general.

 

February 2016 – Thursday

“So explain how this works now?” Chase asks as he looks over at Alan. Alan simply shakes his head yes, having gotten word of the latest developments in Daytona.

“Elliott (Sadler) won the Daytona 500 pole with Dale’s car, but driver change results in giving up the pole and starting from the rear of today’s Duel,” Alan answers. “Therefore Denny Hamlin will lead the field to the green in today’s first Duel, with Dale starting at the rear of the field. Whomever wins today’s first Duel will lead the field to the green flag for the Daytona 500.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. It seamlessly somehow made sense.

“And then our duel…”

“Johnson leading the field to the green as second place qualifier, followed by Kenseth and then you. Just stick with Jimmie, and get a good finish, and we will start strong.” Chase lets out a small chuckle as he shakes his head.

“Easier said than done.” Alan gives him look as Chase shrugs his shoulder. “I’m just saying. Daytona can be wild.” Alan gives him a pat on the back.

“You’ll be fine, kid.” Their attention then turns to all the fuss and noise as they glance in the direction, both smiling. “The Royal family has arrived with children in toe.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as he saw Dale and Marie together with their two little girls.

The pair made their way through their way over, letting some of the attention faze down before making their way into the crowd. It seemed that they were the center of attention with everyone wanting to catch a glimpse of Elsa for themselves.

“You’ve got some time before the race – nice timing,” Dale’s PR Laura comments as she leans back against the car, sending out a couple messages to social media.

“Can I see her?” Chase asks as he makes his way over to Marie, who had Elsa clutched against her.

“I’m going to head back to the motorcoach soon to keep her out of the noise and hoopla, but I think that can be arranged,” Marie answers as she moves Elsa away from herself a little to allow Chase to catch a glimpse of her. An immediate smile formed on Chase’s face in seeing how she had Dale’s smile, but certainly got her mom’s eyes.

“She’s adorable. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“Chasey!” Chase hears a small voice and immediately smiles as he looks towards the source.

“Hey Alyssa,” he says as he kneels down to her level. “So you finally made it down here, huh?” She shakes her head yes.

“I come see you and daddy race. You gonna win?” He stays there, giving her a thinking grin as he thinks it over. He knew that he had a car capable of winning. It was just a matter of doing his job behind the wheel.

“I’m going to try to win. Do you think I can win?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Well, hopefully I do and then you can come celebrate.”

“Okay!” Chase then smiles as he looks over at Dale and Marie together with Elsa, talking to all the people that had gathered to see her for themselves.

“Do you like your baby sister?” Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“She cute. I hold her with daddy.” Chase smiles, having seen the photo that had been forwarded around of that moment.

“Are you going to help mommy and daddy take care of her?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “That’s a good girl.

Everybody hung out for awhile longer before splitting, with Dale getting ready for the first Duel, Chase getting set to watch the race with Alan, and Marie heading back to the motorcoach with kids to keep them both out of trouble.

The first Duel went smoothly without any incidents, surprisingly, despite the chaotic three-wide racing through the field from start to finish. Dale was easily able to make his way up to the front of the field, putting himself in position to capitalize late in the race and possibly score the victory.

Unfortunately, his plan didn’t come together as warranted as he’d end up a close second, finishing behind Hamlin. Regardless, there were no complaints on the 88 team as that meant they’d get to start third in the Duel.

“It’s all about Sunday,” Dale tells Greg once the race is done. “We’ve got a really strong car. We’ve proved that we could make the moves today. It’s just about perfecting on it and making the right moves on Sunday.”

“You did a great job out there,” Greg says as he gives him a hug. “Now, I’m not going to keep you. I hear there’s a family that wants to spend time with their daddy.” Dale chuckles and shakes his head no.

“Actually, Elsa has been mommy’s little cuddle bug since she was born. But, maybe I can change that.” Greg smiles as he watches Dale head off to join Marie and the kids in the motorcoach.

The second Duel would go how Hendrick Motorsports wanted, as Chase followed the instructions of his crew chief to a key. He stuck to the bumper of Jimmie from the drop of the green flag, continuing to give him little pushes to keep the pair 1-2. When it came to the first pit stop, the No. 24 team was quick and handy in their pit work, getting Chase off of pit road ahead of Jimmie.

No complaints from either Chase or Jimmie in that, as the key was to stick together, work together and finish 1-2, regardless of the order.

Despite being challenged heavily through the final laps, Chase was able to hold off all challengers with the help from Jimmie, crossing the finish line to pick up the victory.

In victory lane, the celebration quickly started with the team spraying liquids of all sorts all over each other, and high-fiving each other. It was certainly nice to not only start off their year on a high note, but know that they had a stellar piece for the Daytona 500.

As Chase was celebrating with the team, he felt a small tug on the pant leg of his firesuit, looking down with an immediate smile.

“She kept bugging to come see you,” Justin Allgaier comments as Chase smiles. “So I told Dale that I’d bring her over.”

“It’s usual – she always comes to victory lane when I win,” Chase says before picking her up into his arms.

“You won!” Alyssa says as she wraps her arms around him.

“Yep, you were right that I could win,” he tells her, before setting her back down. “Did you watch the whole race?” She shakes her head yes. “So, do you think I can beat your daddy on Sunday?” Alyssa thinks it over, and then shrugs her shoulders.

“Maybe. Me no know.” He just chuckles as he playfully messes with her hair.

“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens, right?” She shakes her head yes.

Moving Forward – Chapter 16: Post Labor

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February 2016 – Wednesday

After waiting awhile and giving them some privacy for a bit, Dale allowed the rest of the family to come in to meeting the new littlest member of the family.

“This is your little sister Elsa,” Dale tells Alyssa as she walks over to look at the baby in Dale’s arms.

“She was in there?” Alyssa asks, pointing to Marie’s stomach as Dale shakes his head yes. “She look too big that, Daddy.” Dale couldn’t help but laugh, as he thought how kids could say the craziest things. “Mommy belly shrink now?”

“Yes sweetheart,” Marie offers from her spot on the bed as she looks over at them, still feeling tired from giving birth. “What do you think of your sister?” Alyssa looks back over at the little girl in Dale’s arms as a big smile forms on her face.

“She cute!” Alyssa then leans against Dale as she continues to eye the newest addition to the family. “Can I hold her, daddy?” Dale smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I have to help you hold her though, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “We’ll get Aunt Kelley to hold her so you can get comfy on my lap, and then we can hold her together.” Dale then hands Elsa over to Kelley as Kelley looks at her with a smile.

“I think Alyssa described you perfectly, sweetie – you’re certainly cute,” Kelley comments. “You’re also the perfect combination of the pair, it seems.” She then watches as Alyssa gets comfortable on Dale’s lap, before carefully handing the baby over to them.

“I think it’s safe to say that I have the most adorable family,” Marie comments with a smile as she watches them. Kelley then snaps a photo on her phone, knowing that it’ll definitely be a moment to save forever.

“I being extra careful, mommy, unlike my dollies,” Alyssa shares as Marie laughs with a smile. They had told her when Marie was pregnant that she had be more careful holding baby Elsa than she treats her baby dollies when playing with them.

“I can see that. You’re being a good big sister.”

With the baby born, the parents began spreading word to family members first, followed by close friends. they figured that later that night they’d officially reveal to the world that the littlest edition had been added to complete their family circle.

In spreading the news to close friends, which included telling Greg Ives and Chase Elliott the news. Dale had chose to spread the news to close friends by sending them a photo of him and Marie together with both their daughters, as taken by Kelley.

“They certainly make an adorable family,” Elliott Sadler comments as he looks at the photo on Greg’s phone after practice. “Looks like I was right in saying that Dale would be able to get here by Thursday for the Duels.” Everybody shakes their head in agreement, as the team had to admit it’d be nice to have their driver there for the rest of the weekend.

“When is he flying out, and are they all coming?” Travis wonders from his perspective. In the end, it didn’t matter as to the specifics, but it didn’t hurt to have an idea.

“Dale texted me saying that he’s flying out Thursday morning,” Greg reveals. “Marie and Elsa are at the hospital over night. If they’re released by the morning than they’re coming. If not, they’ll fly out once they’re relea-”

“Elsa is going to make her first appearance at the track only a couple days old?” Elliott cuts him off, surprised by the dating of everything.

“That’s what they tell me. The doctor seems find with the baby flying out once she is released, and they want to keep the family together and close.” Greg glances down at his notes for a quick second, getting lost in his own thought. He knew the reason for doing this, beyond the simple facts laid out on paper. There was no doubt that the past year still played on everybody’s thoughts, and having everybody close would give comfort in the midst of that. Besides, Daytona wasn’t the most comfortable topic at times by itself anyway. “I’m not going to dive into specifics, Elliott, but he has his reaso-”

“You don’t need to say anymore.” Greg gives him a nod of approval. “Oh, and as far as Alyssa, she’s flying out on Thursday morning, as well. She’s enjoying spending time with her new sister, but she also can’t wait o get to the track and see her track friends.” Everybody knew those friends included not only those around her age, ranging from Leo to Lydia, but also included fellow drivers, like Chase and Ryan. “Speaking of which, Elliott, Dale was wondering if you’d watch her during the Duels while he’s racing. Chase had the honor last year, but obviously he has his hands full this year.”

“I wouldn’t mind at all.” Greg relays the message back to Dale via text.

It seemed that everything was falling into the place as the crew chief had planned it out prior to the weekend and beyond. Now it was just about getting everything to fall together once they hit the race track.

Moving Forward – Chapter 12: Daytona Qualifying

February 2016

 

As Chase had predicted, the rest of the night went smoothly without incident. He was able to sleep that night, getting all the sleep that he could muster. As he woke up and went about his normal morning routine, he couldn’t help but smile.

It was officially the beginning of his Sprint Cup Series career.

He went forth the rest of the morning with ease, attending the pre-qualifying meeting with the team to discuss last minute adjustments and such. They didn’t know if they had anything for the pole given how they had practiced, so as long as they got a pair of solid laps and started somewhat near the front for the Duel they’d be off to a solid start.

“Remember – no pressure,” Alan comments as he pats Chase’s shoulder. “If we have to rely on the worse case scenario, we have the owner’s points from last season that will get us in the field. Just focus on doing the best job that you can, okay?” Chase shakes his head yes with a smile. “That’s good. Did you sleep alrig-”

“What did I tell you last night?” Chase cuts him off as Alan lets out a sigh.

“Okay, you told me to lay off as you’d be fine. I believe you – I honestly do. I just can’t help but worry at times. When Jarred told me, it caught me off-guard. I’m sorry.” Chase was about to go the defensive route in telling him that he didn’t want to hear another word out of frustration, but took a deep breath. He could see where the crew chief was coming from.

“It’s okay. I understand. I would just rather avoid talking about it, if you understand. They say that post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, for sort is something that you never totally get out of your system. I can never erase what happened, what I felt in those moments, the fear I carried, and the fact that sometimes I still look over my shoulder, or don’t trust a stranger as much as I should. They say you never get over it, but rather you find a way to deal with it so you can live your life. My way of dealing with it? I have the strategies for the nightmares, I try to focus away from it and talk about it with those close to me if I need to.” Alan shakes his head, understanding.

“So in other words, you’ll come to me if you need to, but would rather just pretend as if nothing happened?” Chase shakes his head yes. “I can work with you on that. My mouth is shut.”

“Good, because I thought you had a job to do.”

It didn’t take long till the group was on pit road hanging out, waiting for their on the 2.5-mile oval. They watched as the first car pulled off pit road – Denny Hamlin – set for his pair of laps. Chase had drawn 20, so it’d be awhile till he would get his chance to make his pair of laps.

He could feel the eyes of the reporters and photographers on him, repeatedly noticing the multiple photos that they were taken. It was to be expected. He was replacing Jeff Gordon. He was the rookie that everybody had their eyes on with his last name and success up through the ranks. Everybody also had their concerns considering what they had heard from the winter. As long as they maintained a level of respect and didn’t push the boundaries, it’d be fine in his mind.

It was finally time for him to take his pair of laps as he grabbed his helmet, placing it on his head with one of the crew guys helping to get the HANs attached correctly. He smiled and thanked each of the crew guys for their good luck wishes in the process, while sharing a hug with both the boss and his parents.

“Remember what I said,” Alan says as he watches Chase climb in the car before walking off pit road.

“Is everything going smoothly?” Alan hears and glances over to his left to see the boss standing there. He simply shakes his head yes, without another word. He had found a level of trust with Chase and wasn’t going to burst the bubble. The incident that took place would be kept between the pair, and the boss would only be informed on a need-to-know basis.

“He’s handling it in his way, and doing a good job. I have an eye on him, though.” Rick shakes his head accepting.

Alan kept his eyes focused on the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet for both laps with intrigue, glancing at the stopwatch every couple of seconds. With both laps in the books, he stood pleased with the performance. It wouldn’t be enough to win the pole, but it was a lot better than they had practiced. They would be in a solid position come Thursday.

When the whole session was complete, the pair couldn’t complain as he had qualified sixth, set to start to third in the second of the Duels. Alan felt confident in where they were starting and the drafting ability of the car, to along with the ability to watch the first race and see how it unfolded first.

“Unbelievable,” Alan comments as he looks over the final rundown. It seemed that the Hendrick Motorsports cars had speed, having swept the front row.

Elliott Sadler, who was filling for Dale, had managed to put the No. 88 Chevrolet on the pole, with Jimmie Johnson second. Looking at how that shook down, both cars were locked in the field and Jimmie would be starting on pole for the second Duel, right ahead of Chase. Satisfaction was the key of the day.

Of course, it was meant with a bit of disappointment in knowing that the No. 88 being on the pole really didn’t mean much since Elliott wouldn’t be running the Daytona 500. Hopefully, Elsa would be born in the next three days so Dale could run the Duel himself and get the car a decent qualifying spot, starting from the rear of the Duel with a driver change. If not, they knew that’d mean Dale would start at the back of the 500. At least they knew that they were locked in without any issue right now.

Shortly after qualifying completed, Dale called Greg to make sure that the team was not too bummed in not being able to keep the pole position with the current situation. Greg quickly assured him that it was not a problem, given that the team backed his reason for not being there. It wasn’t about where you started, anyway, but where you finished.

“I told you that the car had lots of speed,” Dale says while on the phone with Greg. “There was a reason why I wanted to bring Amelia with us this weekend.” Greg laughs as he remembered the debate in the shop as to whether to bring a new car, or bring the car that they ran at the plate tracks through last season.

“I have no doubt in your ability,” Greg offers. “Now we know Amelia can get the job done, hurry up and have that baby, and get your ass down here.” Dale laughs as he looks over at Marie.

“I’ll be sure to pass that message along with Marie, who has already walked around the house five times today to try and make Elsa come now.”

Marie could only sit there now, rubbing her stomach, wondering if she should’ve let Dale go down and run the two laps himself versus sitting there with her and their patient daughter.

“Come on Elsa…,” she encourages quietly to herself. “Please co-operate and come meet us.”

Mayday #9 – Chapters 41 & 42

Chapter 41: Winnie

Chase hears a knock on the door as he slowly goes to get off the couch.

“Don’t move!” He hears and lets out a sigh as he sits down back.

“Mom, I can take care of myself!” He yells as Cindy comes out of the kitchen.

“I told you that I’m going to take care of you while that leg heals and you’re not going to argue with your mama, understood?” Chase lets out a sigh as he shakes his head yes. Cindy then goes to the door, opening it as she glances down with a smile. “Hey Alyssa.

“Hi Cindy,” the little girl says. “Is Chasey here?” Cindy shakes her head yes as she moves back and lets the little girl on.

“Your buddy is here!” Chase then glances back as he watches Alyssa walk over, hopping up beside him on the couch.

“Hi Chasey!”

“Hi Alyssa,” he replies with a smile. “How was your day?” A big smile forms on her face.

“I got to go to zoo and see ‘nimals. There was lion, tiger, giraffe, bears…it was fun.” Chase smiled as he liked hearing about her adventures.

“Really? Were they any monkeys?” Alyssa starts to giggle a little as she shakes her head yes. He then reaches out and grabs her, ticking her. “I think you’re acting like one.”

“Chasey!!!” He then lets her go with a laugh as she sits back down beside him. “Chase, you feel good?” He shakes his head yes.

“I’m doing good. Still a little sore…but a little better.” Alyssa then lets out a sigh.

“We play soon?” Chase shakes his head yes with a sigh. She had been so disappointed to hear that they couldn’t play some of their usual games due to his leg.

“Soon, sweetheart.” He then reaches behind the pillow and pulls out something, holding it behind his back. “I got something for you.”

“Present?” Chase does a thinking motion and shakes his head no. “Candy?” Chase shakes his head no as she tries to peek but he turns a little.

“No peeking!” She then lays back as she thinks it over – instantly popping up a couple seconds later.

“Winnie!!” A big smile forms on Chase’s face as he hands her the bear. “Yay! He come home!”

“I couldn’t leave him there.” She then hugs the bear tightly, before looking carefully at Chase.

“He make you feel good? He make you go fast?” Chase shakes his head yes as she looks at the bear. “Good boy Winnie. You do job well.”

“I know you’re not supposed to be sneaking around in my bags, but that was very nice of you to sneak the bear in there. He was a nice surprise and a great buddy to have.”

“You ‘elcome!” She then sits the bear down, taking her turn hugging him tightly as he just smiles.

“Now guess what?” She then sits back and looks at him curiously. “You get to see me race this weekend!”

“Yay!! You go win. You go fast. I wear ‘pecial suit.” Chase grins as she always looked cute walking around in the suit to match his.

“I think that’s a good plan. We’ll just have to see if Regan will let me…” Alyssa then makes face.

“Chasey, I tell Reggy to do that. He listen.”

Sure enough, Alyssa lived up to her word as the next time she saw Regan, she told him that he had to be nice, share and let Chase win. Regan could only grin and assure her that he would share some wins with his teammate. It was the only thing that he could say to keep her happy as anything else, and she would be grumpy.

The plan worked like a charm, too, as Chase was able to head to New Hampshire and pull off the victory. The immediate celebration brought forth tons of hugs in victory lane, including a special hug with his buddy. He also made sure that she got front row and center for the photos, taking a special photo of them just together with Winnie in her arms.

It seemed that the win at New Hampshire was exactly what Chase needed as it propelled him into a streak of racers that saw him pick up two more wins, along with a big string of top-fives that had him start to close the gap that was now between him and the leaders with missing Kentucky.

As the XFINITY Series got ready for the season finale weekend at Homestaed, Chase found himself back into championship contention, somehow. Regan was the points leader with Darrell four points behind, followed by Ty Dilon and then Chase. Sitting 32 points behind Regan, he defiantly had a shot to win his second straight – but it wasn’t going to be easy.

“How did you get back in championship contention?” Darrell questions as they get ready for the champion contenders press conference.

“I just did what I do best – win races and run up front,” Chase answers with a smile. “I said back at Iowa that anything was possible. While I said it, I didn’t believe that it was. This is just beyond crazy.”

“I don’t plan on letting the door of opportunity open for you,” Regan comments as Chase gives him a look.

“Did you ask Alyssa if that was okay?” Regan rolls his eyes as he knew exactly what Chase’s little buddy would say.

“I still want to know why you’re her favourite.”

“Because he’s the charmer – he can charm anybody, anywhere,” Ty comments as they enter the media center.

“But yet still ahs no girlfriend,” Darrell adds as he sticks his tongue out. Chase simply rolls his eyes as he takes his seat.

In honesty, he never pictured himself as being part of the championship picture after he sat out a race. But, here he was – part of the discussion with a mathematical chance. Could he honestly win his second straight championship? Could he come back from missing a whole weekend? It was a possibility and he planned to do everything possible to try and make it happen by dominating and winning the race on Saturday night. But if he wanted it to happen, there were a lot of other factors that had to fall in place.

 

Chapter 42: Ford 300

He leans back against the car with a smile on his face. Things were going according to plan so far that weekend. He had led both practices, before winning the pole in qualifying. Now he just needed to go dominate the race and let the pieces fall in place. While he hated to wish bad luck upon any of his competitors, he wished that the three in front of him had a small slip up over the course of the night.

“Chase!” Alyssa yells as Chase snaps out of his thoughts and smiles as he looks down at her.

“Hey princess,” he replies as he kneels down to her level. “What’s up?”

“I came ‘ish you good luck. So…good luck.” She then wraps her arms around him, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Chase remembered the first time that she did this – she had given him the kiss because that’s what mommy and daddy did when mommy wished daddy good luck.

“Thank you sweetie.” She then sits on the ground with her teddy bears in her hands, leaning back against his car.

“Chase, you gonna win. I know that.” Chase then looks at her surprised.

“Oh really?” She shakes her head yes.

“Fast car and you good driver. You fastest.” He hoped that she was right and he was able to pull off the win, whether he won the championship or not. It’d certainly be a great way to end off the season.

“I think you’re right. I just have to make sure nobody passes me.”

“They won’t.” The pair then fall silent as Chase stands up.

“She kept bugging me to come see you,” Dale comments as he glances down at his daughter. “I kept saying that you needed time to think how you’re going to win, but she insisted that she see you.”

“It’s fine,” Chase assures Dale. “I always love seeing her. She knows how to make me smile so easily.” Chase glances back down at Alyssa checking on her, before glancing back at up Dale. “So boss, are you going to win tomorrow?”

“The car is quick and I’ve got to win if I want that championship, right?” Chase shakes his head yes. If Dale was going to finally win it, he’d have to put up the best race with how quick he, Jeff, Jimmie and Kevin were all in practice.

“It’s going to be a great race tomorrow night. Everybody will on the edge of their seat for that battle.” Alyssa then stands up, catching both of their attention.

“Chase, you need ‘ucky buddy,” she starts as Chase looks at her, slightly confused. “You have Winnie. Winnie go for ride.” Chase then takes the bear from her as he thinks it over. He had been good luck earlier in the year, and if he wanted the pieces to fall together… “Please?” There was that darn please again that he couldn’t say no too.

“I think that’s a good idea,” he comments. “Will, zip ties…again.” Will rolls his eyes and heads to the pit box, knowing exactly what the plan was. He didn’t get he deal with Chase, Alyssa and the bear, but knew that he had his job to do.

“You ‘ake care of him. Tie him tight and keep safe.” Chase shakes his head in agreement. He was planning on going fast and escaping all trouble, anyway.

“I’ll take of him, sweetie. Nothing will happen to Winnie, okay?” She shakes head yes with a smile as Will walks back over with zip ties in hand.

“Here we go…” Will lets out as he snatches the bear and goes forth with securing him in the car.

********************************

“Final lap!” Earl Barber says over the radio.

“Got to beat him…” Greg adds as he glances over at the live scoring monitor, showing the current points standings. “You can do it, kid!”

The race had gone according to their plan, so far. It was unfortunate, but Regan indeed run into trouble with a motor failure taking him out of the race. That left the championsip to be presumably either Ty’s or Darrell’s. But Darrell was back in the field multiple laps down following a pit road speeding penalty and Ty found himself at the bad end of a wreck. As a result, if Chase could pull off the win that night, he would be crowned the series champion. If he finished second, then the nod would go to Ty.

Chase had dominated the race, though found himself restarting fifth late in the race when they made the decision to take tires while others stayed out. Now with the final lap of the race upon them, Kyle Busch was right ahead in the lead, with Chase right on his bumper, set to challenge for the win. It was win the race and the championship, or lose both.

Through turns one and two, Kyle took the high line that he had been using the whole race while Chase made the car hug the bottom line. Coming off the corner, he still hadn’t been able to close the gap enough to get underneath, having to fall behind going down the backstretch.

Tucked behind the Monster Energy Toyota down the whole backstretch, getting a good view of Kyle’s black bumper, Chase knew that his chance was going to be down in turns three and four. He’d have to make it stick, somehow, and grab the lead or else the pieces would fall apart.

Going into turn three, he dives down the bottom, tugging on the wheel as hard as he can through the middle of the corner. For the whole night, the car had been tight through the middle and kept wanting to wash up. He knew he couldn’t let that happen as he had to make it stick around the apex to have the run off to beat Kyle to the line. There was the option to slide up and cause Kyle to slide up and lose momentum, but he wasn’t going to play things dirty. That wasn’t how he raced.

Through the middle, he was able to hold it and coming off, he was right align with Kyle. Straightening the wheel and pushing the gas pedal as hard as he can, he kept his eyes focused ahead on the finish line. He just need to get there and as quick as possible, ahead of Kyle.

The pair cross the finish line as everybody keeps their eyes peeled. To the naked eye, it was impossible to tell who had the advantage as everybody looked at each other in curiosity.

Greg glanced towards the scoring monitor, wanting to receive confirmation, either way. As he watched the numbers pop up, his jaw dropped in shock as he looked between the fellow crew members on the pit box.

He was about to give official word to Chase, but noticed a NASCAR official with his finger up. Glancing down, the official told him that they were going over the video footage to make 100% sure.

“They’re going over the video,” Greg tells Chase, not wanting to leave his driver hanging.

Chase coasted around the bottom of the track and let out a sigh. He had done everything that he could’ve. There was nothing else that he could’ve thought to do in that situation. If he won it, it’d be absolutely amazing. If not, he was still proud of the effort that he and the team had put in over the past couple of months.

“It’s official!!!” Greg lets out. “We’re the champions….again! I love you, kid! You’re amazing, spectacular! That was a great move on Kyle! You did it!”

“Woohoooo!” Chase lets out in response, smiling. “Great car, great crew. Way to go everybody! This is just…unbelievable! Thank you everybody!”

He then let out the biggest burnout that he could muster, before joining the whole team in championship victory lane for celebration. He shared a hug with each and every crew member, disbelief washing over him at the moment. He also did his usual spell of interviews, giving Alyssa a special shout out for the lucky bear.

In parts, there were a couple of tears rolling down his cheeks out of pure happiness, relief and just pure joy. Though there were also a couple in there in knowing how stressful the past year had been and everything that he had been through.

No doubt everything still lied beneath the surface and had its affect. He would always have a reminder in the form of a scar. There were also the couple of nightmares and thoughts that came about with reflection. His life had certainly changed over the year, and there was nothing that he could do to make go away.

The only that mattered that night, though, was that he was a champion and for those hours that followed, he could focus solely on that and forget everything else.

For that night, with his team and those that loved him, he could be free from everything.

 

THE END