The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 151: Saying Goodbye

Tuesday, December 4 – Hendrick Motorsports

Chase wraps his arms around Sarina’s shoulders, as they glance over the back of the Hendrick Motorsports property.

“What do you think?” He asks as she takes another glance around with a smile forming on her face.

“I think you made the right call,” she answers. “It’d be perfect.”

The pair had been talking about getting some proper engagement photos done before the wedding, to go along with the re-done RSVP cards to be e-mailed out this week with the re-done wedding plans in place. Chase also knew that Sarina wanted to get some images of them together as she continued to be further along in her pregnancy, now officially at the halfway mark.

“They brought me out here because NAPA wanted a more natural setting for some images, and the idea just came to me,” he starts. “The photographer even offered to take them for us, too.” She then looks over impressed.

“How did you manage to swing that?” She asks, and he just shrugs his shoulders. “You know how to spoil me…”

“I just want to do what I can for the lady that does so much for me, and I love so much.” He then spins her around so he could face her, letting their fingers intertwine together. “I know how much Alan and my dad were there through everything this year, but I don’t know if I would’ve gotten through that like I was able to without you by my side. You offer a certain amount of strength and love that I can’t describe to anybody. Maybe it’s the fact that you inspire me with how strong you are despite everything you’ve been through, or maybe it’s your determination rubbing off on me. Either way, I don’t ever take you for granted.”

“I want to let you know that the feeling is mutual, Chase. Like I’ve told you so many times, I don’t know if I would’ve become the person that I am today and been truly able to move forward from everything that happened without you to lean on. Because of your kindheartedness, I was able to open up to you like I couldn’t ever do so before. I was able to find a special trust in you that showed me it’s okay to be vulnerable, and open, and led to me opening up that trust barrier for others. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “And I can’t wait until I can call you my wife in January.” A smirk forms on her face as she thinks it over.

“Whether I say it as Sarina Elliott, or Chelsy Elliott, it does have a nice ring to it.” He had to admit that he was surprised by her second additional comment, as normally every other discussion she avoided any reference back to her original name.

She then gets changed into the dress that she chose to wear to last week’s luncheon, while Chase adorned a pair of nice jeans and a dress shirt. The pair shot a bunch of photos together with a bunch of different poses. The decision was then made to change, with Sarina adorning her banquet dress from last week as he was back in grey once again.

“You should’ve brought the dress you’re wearing Saturday,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around her for one of the poses they wanted to do.

“Good try buddy,” she replies with a chuckle as he forms a heart with her fingers on her stomach. “You’ll see it soon enough…” She then takes a deep breath, rubbing her chest a little in between photos.

“Are you okay?” She nods her head, letting out a sigh.

“Heartburn all day. I don’t know if it was the tomatoes last night, or just pregnancy related, but it’s been acting up.” He then carefully rubs her stomach.

“Maybe if I calm someone’s jets, they’ll calm down for mommy.” Instead of calming the baby, a fury of kicks could be felt against his hand. “That’ll never old, ever.”

“That baby certainly loves your touch already.” They then switch positions, posing for another select group of photos. “You know, if you ever truly want to run the Chili Bowl, I have a friend that knows someone with a real good car and can give you some great advice.”

“Oh, so you saw my tweet back to Chase (Briscoe)?” She nods her head. “I think Rick has already opened up more than he wanted to in allowing me to run the Snowball Derby, which I thanked him for first thing I got here today. Now asking for a sprint car test and chili bowl, that may be testing the waters.”

“You don’t know until you ask, though…” While nodding his head in agreement, he was already pretty certain he knew where Rick stood on the subject.

“Considering how your truck racing went at Eldora, I’ve actually wondered if you wanted to give either a try…” A smirk comes to her face immediately.

“You should know the answer. I’ll drive anything with four wheels, no matter the car or surface. I already told Christopher that I’d be willing to accept a try at his midget.”

Wednesday, December 5 – FBI Center

The off-season was supposed to be a time of relaxation, but Chase had yet to find that in the first couple of weeks since the season finale. After going through a day of photos yesterday, he was now off to an appearance at the FBI Tactical Driving Center with Jeff Gordon for FOX Sports.

“So how is the wedding planning going?” Jeff asks as they head outside, ready to get everything started following the quick debrief inside. “I got your new invitation last night, and already sent back my answer. Ingrid absolutely adored the photos that you and Sarina did together, but I admit being surprised by the venue change.”

“An accidental double booking at the cabin in Colorado caused them to not honor our requested date,” Chase explains, still shaking his head at how everything transpired. “We didn’t want to change the date, so we went with changing the venue instead. It just makes sense doing it in Dale’s western town as the layout is right, it’s close to home, and security.” Jeff ultimately looked over concerned by the last mention.

“Is there still nerves there in regards to Alison?” Chase didn’t want to admit to that, however he would always worry with her lurking around undetected.

“She hasn’t been caught yet, right?” Jeff lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “She also has been lurking around, as evidenced by visiting Kyle before coming to Florida and leaving a present by the trailer to say ‘congratulations’.”

“I can’t honestly believe that they haven’t caught her yet considering all the places that she seems to have access to. I also can’t believe that she has gotten away with everything that she has.” Jeff then stops, reaching his hand out to Chase’s shoulder. “But you’re doing okay with everything, right?”

“Absolutely. I’m done with all the feelings connected to her, and letting her control everything. She doesn’t bother me anymore, Jeff.” Jeff knew that was partially a lie based on the comments earlier, but wasn’t about to push the issue at this time with others lurking around.

“I just want to let you know that if you ever need someone to talk to about anything, I am just a phone call or text away –  no matter what.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Now, let’s go have some fun and figure out who is the better driver – which is obviously me.”

“Are you sure that you’re not rusty in your old age?” Jeff’s jaw drops surprised by the remark as Chase just laughs.

“I see how it is, young pup. You just sit back and take notes on how a pro gets the job done.” Chase rolls his eyes, but couldn’t help but smile as it was going to be a fun day playing on the course set-up for them.

He also couldn’t help but take a deep breath, and know that this was a good educational experience as knowing what to do in a situation like this could be beneficial. He could never be too careful when it came to Alison.

Wednesday, December 5 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Sarina takes a deep breath, taking a pause as she lifted the photo off of the desk.

She smiled, immediately remembering what race it was from as Brexton sat on the tailgate of the truck pre-race beside her. She places it in the box, before letting her eyes land on the second image. It was another moment of her and Brexton together, hanging out in the trailer between practices with some of his toy cars.

She couldn’t help but smile at the memories, but also thanked the young boy in her mind. Rubbing her stomach as she thought about those moments, it gave her faith that motherhood would come natural and she’d be able to do what was necessary for her baby.

With those images in the box, she found herself scanning the other images that had sat on her desk through the years. She chuckled at the image of her and Kyle at Martinsville together, before smiling widely in seeing herself and Chase in victory lane for her second win at Kansas.

She may have only spent two years at Kyle Busch Motorsports, but she’d made memories that would last a lifetime. More importantly, she had formed friendships that nobody could ever replace no matter what happened moving forward.

“Sarina?” She hears, catching her attention as Brexton stood in the doorway. She had been used to his visits through the years, actually welcoming them as times as they were a good distraction.

“Hey buddy,” she replies, immediately accepting his hug as he ran in the office, wrapping his arms around her like always. She then let go, eyes glancing back on the box to make sure everything was organized.

“Packing?” She then freezes, as she hadn’t expected the question. She looks over, nodding her head. “Why?”

“Come here and I’ll explain it to you…” She then walks away from the box, sitting in the chair as he climbs up on her knee. “So while I drove daddy’s truck all this year, next year I am going to drive a car for Dale.” She watched a little bit of confusion on Brexton’s face.

“So no be here?” Sarina slowly shakes her head no. “I like you…”

“Trust me, I like you as well, and no matter what happens, you’ll always be my little buddy.” She then pulls him even closer to her. “I’m just not going to be here every day like before due to driving Dale’s car instead next season. but I can promise you that each weekend at the track, you can come over and say hi to me, okay?” Brexton nods his head immediately.

“Sleepover?” She nods her head, accepting, with a big smile.

“Of course we’ll still have our sleepovers so Chase and I can tell you bed time stories, and eat smores with you. nothing is going to change, buddy. I will still spend plenty of time with you, okay?” He nods his head yes with a smile of his own.

“I love you.” He then gives her a big hug, which she easily accepts.

“Are you being careful Brexton?” A voice interrupts, as both Brexton and Sarina look over.

“Yes Daddy,” Brexton answers as he slowly gets down off of her knee.

“That’s good.” Kyle then walks into the office, letting out a small sigh as he looked over the empty desk. “It feels so weird being empty. I know you’re off to a great opportunity with Dale, but I am damn well going to miss you being here every week.”

“I can promise that I am going to miss being here, too. From the moments with Brexton, to the meetings in your office, to the times with the guys – it’s been one helluva ride, and I am going to miss it for sure.” She then walks over to Kyle. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity, and letting me drive for you.”

“Thank you for giving it everything that you had right to the end, and doing what you can do behind the wheel. You’ve improved so much since the day I hired you. I remember believing in your natural talent, but now you’re maturing into a polished talented driver. Keep honing those skills, and I can promise you’re going to go far.” He then easily accepts the hug that he knew was coming from her.

“And thank you for everything that you’ve done persona-”

“You don’t need to thank me, Sarina. You deserve every bit of happiness.” She then takes a deep breath, easily accepting the comment.

“The same goes for you and Samantha. You’re going to get your rainbow baby one day; I know that you’ll both be blessed, too.” He nods his head, accepting.

“So, is everything in the box?” She glances over the desk, before looking over with a nod.

“I can carr-”

“Chase would kick my ass if I let you handle doing this yourself down the stairs right now.” She then lets out a sigh as she knew that he was right. Perhaps she should listen to everybody and take it easy somewhat.

“I help?” Brexton asks, and Sarina nods her head as she picks up the final item on the desk. She takes it over, placing the diecast truck in his hands.

“Can you carry that down to parking lot for daddy and I?” She asks and he nods his head with pride. “Thanks buddy…”

They then head for the exit of the office as Sarina stops for a second, looking back with a sigh. She promised herself she wouldn’t get emotional, but there was no denying the tears that were in her eyes. So much had changed and happened in her life over the past two years, and a lot of that was thanks to what happened within these four walls.

Thinking it all through, it was almost unbelievable to think that she was getting ready to begin a new chapter. Not only would she be driving for a new team, but she was about to get married in a month while becoming a mother after that.

Rubbing her stomach, she knew it was going to be a crazy ride, but she was ready to enjoy the rollercoaster as it would certainly be worth it in the end.

“Are you coming?” Kyle asks as he and Brexton were halfway down the hall.

“Yeah,” she answers, shutting the light off and closing the door before heading down behind them.

Thursday, December 6 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Even though she had officially packed her stuff and moved out of KBM the day before, Kyle and Samantha both insisted that she attend the Christmas party – which she couldn’t pass up. It was also insisted that Chase attend as well, having won the Snowball with the team.

“Come play with us!” Brexton instructs, tugging on both of Chase’s and Sarina’s hands after getting his present for Sarina at the craft table.

“Brexton, be careful…” Kyle warns, as he was trying to make sure that Brexton knew to be careful due to a baby growing in Sarina’s tummy as he was told.

“How about you and Chase go play together?” Sarina suggests, catching Chase off-guard. “I can’t go play due to the baby, but I know Chase would like to.” Brexton then focuses his eyes on Chase.

“Really?” He questions, and Chase nods his head, accepting, as there was no way to say no to a little boy before him. “Yay! Come on!” Brexton tugs at his hand, as Chase glances back at Sarina with a smile before heading off with the little boy.

She could only chuckle as Brexton led him to straight to the ball pit, getting him to join Todd and Harrison inside already with the other crew member’s children.

“Do you think I’m running a race team or a daycare?” Samantha questions as Sarina chuckles, snapping a photo of the group together.

“Whose having more fun – the kids or the drivers?” Sarina asks and Samantha laughs in response. “Actually, you’re never too old to play in a ball pit.”

“I’ll make sure to put one on order for your birthday party next year.” Sarina just shakes her head with a chuckle.

“It’s amazing watching Chase with Brexton…” Sarina takes a deep breath, rubbing her stomach. “I actually thought about something yesterday. I want to say thank you to both you and Ky-”

“Sarina, I’ve already tol-”

“No, but thank you for letting us spend so much time with Brexton. It’s really giving me a chance to believe more that I am ready to be a mother, and raise a baby of my own. I knew that Chase could do be a great father as he’s amazing, and has every single attribute perfect for it. However, I admit that I was scared and worried that I’d screw up; I’d repeat my family’s mistakes. Each time that I get to spend with Brexton shows me that it’s going to be okay.” Samantha wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders.

“Every first-time mother shares the same fears, and trust me, you’re going to have more fears. There will be nights that the baby won’t stop crying no matter what you do, and you’ll think that you’re the worst mother; however, sometimes, they’re just fuzzy and it’s hard to calm them down. I had the same fears that you’re experiencing, and I can tell you that they lasted through the first couple of months with Brexton.” Sarina lets out a sigh.

“How am I ever going to survive?” Samantha smiles as she looks over at the ball pit.

“Faith and belief in your own ability, as well as faith in your fiancé. I mean, he’s a natural with all those kids climbing all over him.” Sarina had to chuckle in watching Chase play with the group of kids still. “You also have a great support system around you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me and Kyle if you have questions, or Chase’s parents, or Ryan and Lindsay, or anybody that you know closely. It’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to ask questions, and no matter what, you and your family will grow and be amazing.”

“Thank you, Sam. You always know the perfect words to say….” She then looks over at her. “Just promise me that we won’t’ lose this friendship no matter what happens.”

“Sweetie, you’re stuck with me for life now. We’re best friends and you can trust me fully that I will never give up on our friendship no matter what happens, and I will be here for you and Chase always. All you need to do is pick up the phone or come see me, and I’ll do whatever you need.” Samantha pulls Sarina even tighter to her. “You have my trust and love no matter what. I’m not going to leave you questioning that ever…”


Cabin Fears – Chapter 87: “Did I hit a nerve or something?”

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.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 65: “Can we set something up, please?”

Jeff was focused on some notes on his desk, knowing that things needed to get done in relation to this year and the time ahead. There was never a dull moment, it seemed, and he had grown to respect the job of being the ‘boss’.

As he was flips over the latest piece of paper, he hears a knock on the door, causing him to look up.

“You know you can just enter without asking first, right?” Jeff questions and Chase nods his head as he steps forward.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you if you were busy,” he offers as Jeff rolls his eyes.

“I never get a dull moment, so you’ll find that time.” He then focuses his eyes on the man before him. “So I wasn’t expecting to see you here today. What can I do for you?” Chase takes a deep breath, remembering why he entered the office to begin with.

“I am getting closer to wanting to make a comeback – like real close actually.” Jeff then looks on surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head. “That’s surprising, considering our last discussion just a couple weeks ago had you believing that it could be a month or more…” Jeff also knew of the psychological deals that were still going on, too.

“Something about being at Darlington, seeing that paint scheme, going through all of my thoughts – it made me want to focus on getting back at it, again. I want to drive…” Jeff knew the desperation of drivers to want to compete. He remembered facing that balance himself when he finally chose to give it up. Part of him knew he could do it and part of him wanted to compete for wins, but the other part realized how long he’d be racing for and how his back had gone over the years.

“That doesn’t surprise me, really, because you’re a racer at heart.” Chase then crosses his arms, glad that they’ve made progress.

“So, can we set something up, please? Like a test, or perhaps an XFINITY deal?” Jeff thinks it over, as he pushes back on his chair. He couldn’t see why not as he knew this time would come eventually.

“I can talk to the guys and talk to NASCAR. I’m sure we can work out a test for you – if you’re serious enough. Then we can go from there.”  Chase nods his head in approval. “You just have to answer me two questions before I move forward. Is the fact that you can come back prior to Chicago and be in the playoffs part of this?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I hadn’t even given championship contention a thought, to be honest. This is all done on the feeling of the moment.” Jeff nods his head, accepting.

“Then riddle me this. You said that you didn’t want to come back till you had sorted out everything in relation to Randy due to how you handled it previously. Now given what I’ve heard, there’s still a lot of issues there – anxiety, panicing, fear. There’s also the mind games that he played. I also have a feeling that you haven’t quite discussed ‘everything’ that you should, either. Am I on to something here?” Chase lets out a sigh and nods his head. “Then why should we move forward despite your original statement?”

“I’ve dealt with most of everything that happened and come to grips with it. I am coming to grips with it a little more each day as I sort out my thoughts. I believe getting back behind the wheel will help complete the puzzle. It’ll let me find that common ground that I feel I am missing. I am racer. That’s what I’ve been before anything else. Without that, it’s almost as if something is missing and he has possibly stripped that away from me. I want to be able to stand here and say that’s not the truth.” Jeff nods his head, understanding. He could see how it was another layer of the mind games played by Randy.

“My only concern is how NASCAR will handle your anxiety and panic factor, and knowing you’re currently taking something for that. It may be against the drug policy, and be a cause for concern in relation to emotions.” Chase glances down as he sits down in the chair.

“I can’t blame them if they say no. But you know yourself that each person is different and unique in their own way with their corks. You know that there’s layers of that in each person and understand what I am taking. You have to sense that they’ll get that, too, and realize that it won’t be a big deal on track.” Jeff nods his head, hoping that was the case.

“We’ll just have to see, right? I mean, I’m just preparing you for the worst.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “By the way, have you come any closer to grips with that?”

“Like I said, it’s a little day-by-day. I had a good discussion with Tony on the weekend about mind games and been thinking about that as I piece together each thing. It’s certainly helping me keep the calmness that I need. But I will admit – I still can’t speak of the ice incident as much as I should to get that edge back off of my mind. I still can’t stand to be alone in a crowd with people that I don’t know. I still feel a tinge of fear that something will happen again because that’s what keeps happening. I still think about him, and I still think about Demi. There are still thoughts, there. But I feel that I am halfway.”

“And you feel that’s far enough to take this next step of getting back to racing?” Chase nods his head. “You’re not going to fall into that trap again of focusing on racing, and letting the other eat at you till it causes you to explode?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I learned my lesson the first time, Jeff, and there’s no way I could run from Alyssa.” Jeff smiles, knowing how close the pair had grown over the years. He had a couple small regrets in seeing Alyssa and Leo split up, but knew it had worked out for the better. Alyssa was happy with Chase, and Leo had Elladee.

“Alright. Then I’m willing to play ball. But Chase, balance is key……”

Through the week, Jeff worked through the right people and got them contacting who needed to be contacted. It was agreed that they’d converge next Sunday at Charlotte and go from there with a test.

But first, Richmond was on tap in hopes of another successful weekend for Alyssa…..

Moving Forward – Chapter 41: Groomsmen

TJ Majors walks into the saloon, glancing around as he notices Chase sitting on one of the stools.

He was surprised when he gotten the message from Marie to meet at the saloon that evening. He knew there was a lot going on, and wondered whether it pertained to Dale’s healing from the concussion. There was also thoughts and speculation in regards to the wedding, too. Regardless, he simply accepted the message and went to the saloon.

“What are you doing here?” He asks and as he walks to Chase, grabbing the stool beside him. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“I dropped the girls off at the house and Dale asked if I’d go down to the saloon, and he’d meet me in a couple minutes,” Chase answers as TJ looks on puzzled. Did Dale know of the request from Marie? Had he asked Marie to pass along the message? “What’s your excuse?”

“Do I need an excuse?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, once again. “Actually, Marie told me to come down here.”

“Really?” TJ shakes his head yes, taking out his phone to show the text message. “Don’t worry – I believe you. What’s up with that?” TJ couldn’t answer the question as he had no clue, either.

“If Dale shows up and I’m not supposed to be here, I guess I’ll text Marie and tell her that we can talk elsewhere, or whatever.”

“Well this is a surprise,” the pair hears as they look behind them and see Steve LeTarte standing there. “Ingrid tells me that Dale wants to talk to me, says to meet at the saloon, and I find you two.”

“I was told by Marie and he was told by Dale,” TJ states as Steve takes a seat on the couch in the corner.

“So we’ve all been pulled here one way or another, and there’s a wedding set to take place here in a couple months,” Steve starts. “Coincidence huh?”

“Well, that’s one way to ruin my surprise,” Dale starts as he stands up from his spot behind the bar. “Jeff here, yet?” Jeff puts his hand up as he walks in through the front door. “Glad to see you’re all here.”

“Can we ask first how you are?” Jeff asks as Dale lets out a sigh. He knew the question was coming. After all, he had spent the last month and a half in hiding without any contact with hardly anybody.

“I can happily say that I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past while. It’s pretty much almost cleared up from what I can tell, except for a couple lagging deals in some exercises and the simulator. If everything plans out right, I’ll be testing next month.” The group look on with surprise and smiles as it was great news to hear. It was perfect news to be hearing as they started November.

“So you got a month and a half till you marry a Queen, and yet you’re somehow squeezing a test and Christmas in before that?” TJ questions as Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“Welcome to my life – where we balance everything wild all at once,” he states. “That brings me to why you all are here. As you know, Marie told the bridesmaids that they were going to be part of the wedding – Kelley, Ingrid and Sherry, with Stacey as the maid of honor. Alyssa and Elsa are set to be the flower girls, surprise surprise, while Wyatt is the ring barrier.” Everybody could only smile as it sounded like the perfect combination for the wedding. “Since someone spoiled my surpris-”

“I’m sorry,” Steve quickly apologies as Dale rolls his eyes.

“This is the meeting of the groomsmen,” he states as the group trade glances. “Chase, you’ve been there amazingly for my family, especially Alyssa, over the past year more than I could ever ask. It’s only fitting that you’re part of the wedding.” He then looks over at Jeff. “And I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always been a close friend and someone to lean on. We made a pair of killer teammates, have a friendship for a life time, and I think it’d be fitting for you to be there in January.”

“It’d be an honor,” Jeff comments as he could only smile. Part of him was still in disbelief that Dale was getting married in just a couple months.

“TJ, I don’t think I need to explain why you’re here. We’ve known each other way too long, and you’ve always been my righthand man. There’s no question about you being part of the wedding, and I expect to see Madelynn there as I know Wyatt wants a dance.” TJ chuckles as he had gotten to see how close Wyatt was growing with his daughter.

“I’ll see if her schedule is open,” TJ teases as Dale gives him a smack. “Hey! I’m paying you back with the bachelor par-”

“There’s going to be no wild party before the wedding,” Dale sets the record straight as TJ looks on surprised. “There’s so much other important stuff going on that I just want to focus on what’s ahead, okay?” TJ lets out a sigh.

“I’m sure you can find another reason to plan a party,” Chase tells him as TJ just rolls his eyes.

“Of course, I’ve stated that everybody is in the wedding except for one important detail. Steve, I would like you to be my best man.” Steve looks on, partially surprised. “You’ve done so much for me, personally. You helped me grow as a person and change into the man I am now. You were also there through all the turmoil with Marie, whether it was flying cross the country or listening to my crazy ran-”

“Hey, you were right about that resemblance though,” Steve says, reminding him of the discussion about the Mariela and Marie scrapbook photo.

“Don’t remind me of that,” Dale comments as Chase shakes his head in agreement. “But you did everything you could during that time to be there for me. Then you also were there for Marie, helping her when I couldn’t. I mean, without you, sometimes I wonder just how that would’ve went down. Of course, I don’t even need to think about that anymore than the plane crash. My daughter is here today because you risked your life, and did what you had to do save her. I told you that day there was no way I could repay you for what you did, and I still don’t know how I could. I could go on for days as to my reasons, but please, be my best man.” Steve smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I’d be glad to stand there with you.”

“So what do us boys have to do to get ready for dream wedding?” Jeff asks, remembering protocol for groomsmen from other weddings.

“Buy tuxedos, white dress t-shirts, and please carry the light blue hankerchief to match the design and dress,” Dale states as Chase’s eyes open in surprise.

“Please tell me you haven’t seen her wedding dress,” Chase comments and Dale shakes his head no. “You know it’s bad luck to see the dress before the wedding, right? Like, please, no taking peeks. You don’t need to tempt fate.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, Chase. I want this day to go off without a hitch just as much as you do.”

Marie smiled as she looked on from outside watching the boys interact together, knowing her thoughts were along the same lines as Dale’s.

As she heads back up to the house – Elsa in hand, Alyssa running up the hill, her mind was stuck on the words that Dale had shared about the past and why he made the choice he did.

She thought about the words that Kelley had told her. She didn’t need someone to walk her down the aisle, but if she wanted someone, then she could ask someone that meant a lot to her to do so –as Kelley had asked her brother.

She knew that Steve made perfect sense as the best man, but what if she needed someone for the walk to the alter?

Cabin Fears – Chapter 38: Hendrick Motorsports

Chase Elliott takes a deep breath, before he walks down the long familiar walkway that he’d grown used to in the big complex. Each area was sectioned off in a certain way  with executives one way, accounting another,  marketing in their corner, followed by drivers and crew chiefs with their own office area.

While normally a Monday morning consisted of heading to his own office, followed by meeting up with Alan somewhere, he instead had another spot to head to.

Since the discussion with Regan and Tony over the weekend, he had been doing some thinking as to what he wanted to do in the following days. He had sent a text message to Jeff with his initial thoughts on Sunday while they were fresh on his mind, with the promise to stop-in Monday to discuss further as needed.

The decision he came to wasn’t easy, as he fought the back and forth argument Tony had discussed. When do the needs for yourself and your brain outweigh your heart and desires to be behind the wheel? How do you balance that all together, knowing everything else filling your thoughts?

It was worth noting as he walked down the hall the last time he stepped in these halls was when he followed Jeff to the conference room, the note he found secured firmly in his fingers. That was not a thought lost on him, either.

Stopping as he reached the end of the hall, he knocks on the door, taking another deep breath. This didn’t seem so difficult last night when he sent the message, but he couldn’t help but be nervous. What if everybody wasn’t as accepting as he hoped?

“Come on in,” he hears, opening the door and walking inside. It was still surreal to think one of the drivers that he looked up to, and a partial initial coach for his move up to Cup, was now his day-to-day boss. “Hey Chase.”

“Hey,” was all Chase could muster with the nerves flowing through his mind as he walked up to the desk. He slowly sits down in the chair, not sure what he was preparing himself for. “Did you get my text last night?”

“Yeah, I read it this morning.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that by the quick response Jeff sent in when he’d be available to talk within his schedule.

“I didn’t mean to send it so late last night, or tell you that way. It’s just everything was on my mind, and I figured I’d get it out while I could.” Jeff shakes his head, understanding.

“Chase, you don’t need to explain things to me. I was there when Tony, Regan and your dad discussed things. I heard what was going on. I was also at the hospital for that week, too. I’ve known about the whole situation since the beginning. Do you remember what I told you at the very beginning in the conference room?” Chase shakes his head yes, remembering those words.

“Focus on yourself and Alyssa, and don’t worry about anything else right now as that’s priority.” Jeff knew the reaction from Marshall wasn’t pleasant – the guy thought of the business side too much, but it didn’t matter to him. He knew he was doing the right thing for his friend, and knew Rick would easily side with him.

“That’s still priority. You’ve won us championships and races. You’ll always damn well have a ride with this team no matter what, whether it takes a couple months or the rest of the year. I don’t care. I will work it out some way or another, whether it’s Jimmie in the car or Leo filling in. You don’t need to come and explain yourself to me, Chase. I get it.” Chase felt all the nerves escape him in a minute, glad that he wasn’t getting the lecture he had originally anticipated.

“Are you sure?” Jeff shakes his head yes, knowing he couldn’t convince himself otherwise. “Like I said, I think it’ll be a couple months based on everything I’m thinking and feeling. However, it may be the rest of the year. I’ll probably give you a better update in October.” Jeff didn’t care about the exact deadlines.

“You don’t have to feel the need to update me and inform me. Just do what you need to do for yourself and when you’re ready, even if it’s just a week before, let me know. We will make it work regardless.” Chase smiled as it helped to have understanding amongst the mess. “I’ll handle talking to Marshall and working things out; you just focus on yourself. However, since you’re here, someone stopped in for the day and requested that you go see him.”

“Rick?” Jeff shakes his head yes. With Jeff on his side, he wasn’t too worried about that discussion. “That’s fine. I can deal.”

“Good. Now, if you have nothing else to say, I better go see Marshall before he goes insane.” Chase chuckles a little as he stands up.

“I’ll go see Rick, and then check in with the guys.”

“Sounds good.” Jeff then walks around, giving Chase a hug. “I meant what I said and Chase, it’ll be okay – just like I told you.”

“I’ve got my girl, that’s all that matters.” Chase then turns around and heads out. Jeff walks back behind his desk, dialing Marshall’s number to get him to come down.

Jeff glanced at the files on the desk, wishing Marshall would’ve kept them in his office as they didn’t matter to him. He knew how NAPA and the other sponsors worked –they’d be fine with Jimmie driving, and have Chase’s back till he was ready.

“I just saw Chase go walking down the hall,” Marshall says as he enters the office, before glancing back outside. “Isn’t he supposed to be her-”

“He doesn’t need to be,” Jeff cuts off Marshall, catching the fellow gentleman’s attention. “That boy has enough on his plate right now with everything that he’s going through. I told him I have it handled.” Marshall then walks up to the desk, a look of surprise on his face.

“So in other words, everything that I’ve flown here on your desk isn’t supposed to matter?” Jeff then sits back and crosses his arms.

“Precisely, yes. I care about hi-”

“Perhaps letting that affect your judgem-”

“And what would your father-in-law say to this, Marshall?” Marshall then lets out a sigh, already knowing Rick’s answer. “That’s what I thought.” Jeff then takes a deep breath, not exactly liking that he had to pull that card. He knew that Marshall was about the business side – and that was a good perspective to always have, but sometimes he crossed the line. “Listen, Chase has just gotten done healing from the physical injuries; however, he’s got a lot of other stuff going on. He’s dealing with nightmares, panic attacks, moments he can’t remember what he did – I could say more but I don’t think I need to, right?”

“No, I supposed not. I get what you’re coming from. So, what’s your plan with this?” Jeff looks at the files, immediately closing them as he hands them back over. “Really?”

“Each of the sponsors has been called personally by me. I called them before Chase got here this morning. They assured me that they are willing to back him and the team through this, no matter what, and be patient with his recovery. Besides, they’re pleased with how Jimmie has been running so there are no complaints. You had nothing to worry about on that side, Marshall.” Marshall then takes a deep breath, knowing that’d calm the marketing and accounting departments in hearing that news. He had them working on extra plans, just in case.

“So how much longer is Chase going to be out?” Jeff shrugged his shoulders, remembering Chase’s answer. “Okay, that’s fair. How much longer does Jimmie want to fill in, and how much longer do we hold the seat open?”

“Jimmie has said that he’s willing to do the rest of this year, except maybe a couple events. I’ve already looked at other options, whether fellow drivers not racing right now or XFINITY, to take over the seat if need be. As far as holding his seat open, I told him that it’ll be there no matter how long it tak-”

“Your caring side is getting in the wa-”

“The sponsors are fine with that, too, if it makes you happy. I told them that Chase may be out a couple months, maybe the rest of the year. They easily accepted. If we get to next year and he’s still not ready, I’ll revisit with him and then touch base with the sponsors. I have this under control, Marshall.” Marshall shakes his head as he picks up the files.

“Glad to see that you’re handling it. But Jeff, just keep in mind to not mix too much personal and business.” Jeff knew where Marshall was coming from, but he also knew the philosophy they’d followed for years.

“This isn’t a business. This isn’t just a race team. This is a family, everybody here in this complex, and a family looks after each other. Remember that when you’re thinking about things. I know Rick put you in charge because you do a helluva job with the business end, but sometimes you need to relax a little.” Marshall knew that Jeff was right, but was too proud to admit it as he turned and left the office with another word.

Down the hall, Chase found Rick busy at first so he went to see the guys, before returning to the boss’ office.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” Chase asks as he walks in the office, feeling the nerves that were there earlier with Jeff.

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” Rick answers as he takes in the young man’s appearance before him.

“I’m doing better, sir. Everything is healing accordingly for the doctors that they feel the stitches should be nothing to worry about soon. As far as everything else, that’s another story.” Rick motions for Chase to sit beside him on the couch, which Chase easily does.

“A little bit of the same before?” Chase didn’t want to divulge into details, but he felt he owed Rick the honesty.

“Nightmares and flashbacks are there once again. I’m also having panic attacks, and they’re worse than what we dealt with before. I completely panic, go about a series of actions without a single thought, and then snap out of it wondering why I did it. It was how I ended up in Canada with $2 million trying to save Alyssa myself, and how I ran into Tony this past weekend.” Rick had seen the series of events with Chase, previously. He was surprised to see how far they’d gotten this time.

“Have you spoken to anybody about this?” Chase wished he had a better answer at this time.

“Regan and Tony, a little – and Alyssa about some of her concerns. I haven’t divulged to anybody totally.” Chase then takes a deep breath. “It’s hard. I know I got to deal with it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to remember or relive that. I don’t want to believe it happened. That’s been how I’ve dealt with things, you know? That’s why I ran before and why I got myself so sick that weekend. I know it’s wrong, but it’s what my subconscious keeps telling me.” Rick wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“Listen, I think you’re just being too hard on yourself right now. You’re right that you’re not taking the right steps initially, but anybody would understand why you haven’t followed through with the according steps. Look at everything you’ve been through. You don’t need to sit here and eat at yourself for not doing the right thing.” Chase knew Rick was probably right in those words, but it still didn’t seem to change his ways.

“I’ve always been the one to say that you take experiences, look back on them, find what you did wrong, and damn well do it right the next time. I’ve told myself that numerous times. Here I am knowing what I’m doing wrong, and I can’t follow throu-”

“Chase, it’s okay, though. Everybody understands, and you should yourself too, that it’s difficult because it’s tough right now on you to do so. It’s tough to face those moments and go through that. At least you’re realizing what you’re doing and in the right time, you’re going to do the right thing and handle it. The first step is recognition. The second step is determining your strategy – which I can see you’re doing now. You’re feeling out who you can talk to, whether that’s Regan, Tony or someone else. Once you’re certain, you’ll go through with it and do the right thing. I know that.” Chase hoped that Rick was right in those words, but the uncertainty he told Regan about still remained at times.

“I suppose….”

“Everything is going to be okay, no matter what. I can promise you that.” Once again, Chase hoped those words were true as he heard everybody saying them around him. Perhaps he just needed to push himself to believe more like everyone else. “And remember – like I told you previously, my door is always open. We’re all here for you.”

“Thank you, sir.” Rick then shook his head as he glanced around the room.

“It’s crazy that you’ve been driving for me for like 14 years now and you still haven’t dropped the sir.” Chase chuckles a little.

“I was brought up to give respect, and sir, you still deserve that respect.” Rick just smiles as he looks over at him.

“I remember I met you as a little rascal teenager, and signed you to a development deal. I knew you’d turn into a great racecar driver by what I’d seen, and had faith that you’d turn out alright. I can tell you now that you’ve turned into quite the young man and done your fair share of things right – even with everything against you. Don’t ever change.”

“I don’t plan on it. It’s worked for me so far.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 29: The Meeting

Tony Stewart walks outside, turning the corner and making the quick work down to the next hauler, meeting face-to-face with Kevin Harvick. He was surprised to still see him racing, but had to chuckle as it reminded him a lot of himself. For some, there was no way to get the racing out of them.

“You  know, it’s a lot harder than you may think to wrangle up that group and get them to stay in a room calm without many details,”  Kevin starts as Tony crosses his arms. “Between the questions to the worry to the demanding of answers, to what the heck is going on – I give up with them. Why did you put me in charge?”

“Because I knew you could handle it as best as anybody here, and thank you,” Tony tells him. “Besides, I couldn’t say much or else they’d be stomping down the doors till they found him.” Kevin then looks at Tony curiously, stopping Tony as he goes to walk inside.

“Is he alright?” Tony stops, looking at Kevin with a sincere smile.

“He’s good right now, let me put it that way. It’s just going to take time working through everything, and I want to make sure that these people know what’s going on.” Kevin shakes his head yes as he understands, allowing Tony to enter.

Tony walks through the trailer, up the small set of stairs and opening the door. He glances around the room, seeing the group – including a face he didn’t text message – before stepping inside and closing the door.

“What the hell is going on, Tony?” Alyssa demands first, catching Tony’s attention.

“Where’s my son?” Cindy asks as she crosses her arms, giving Tony the equivalent to a stare down.

“Why haven’t you told us much of anything?” Dale questions as Tony sits back in the one open seat, spinning around the chair before looking at the group.

“Any other questions that you have?” He asks as he glances around. “No? Okay, then maybe I’ll start talking. For the record, Alyssa, I am going to explain what’s going on. Cindy, your son is currently having a well-needed in one of the other haulers in the lounge, at my request. He kind of appeared to look to need it. And Dale, that’s because I wanted to do it this way rather than in pieces over text message and make you go looking for him. Happy? Okay! Now that I’ve answered those, I will say what I called you here for.” He then looks over at Regan. “But wait, why are you here?”

“Dale told me to come,” Regan states with a glance towards Dale.

“When Chase is going through something and needs someone to talk to, most of the time he goes Regan,” Dale starts. “I figured it’d be fitting that he heard this.” Tony shakes his head, completely understanding. He figured the kid had a support system and tried to message those he knew were probably part of it, but figured he’d miss one or two. He was glad that Dale picked up on the fact to call Regan.

“Quite fitting indeed,” Tony comments as he takes a deep breath. Where was he supposed to begin? “So I was making my way back to the hauler after having met with some of the team in the garage to discuss things and I heard someone let out a sound, so I looked with curiosity – and it was Chase. He had tripped over a rock, causing him to let out a curse of word of his choi-”

“Was it fuck or shit?” Ryan questions, catching Tony’s attention. “That boy doesn’t say a lot of bad words. Cindy and Bill raised him really well.” Tony had expected a remark of question in that regard from Darrell, not Ryan.

“It was fuck, but who cares on that small detail, okay? Anyways, I called out his name, simply looking to ask if he was okay. I got an odd reaction, as he jumped back surprised, perhaps even worried. Anyways, I stood my ground and just simply said for him to look at me and got his attention. Seeing how startled he was –not by just me, but perhaps everything going on, I figured it’d be best to give him space to relax so I brought him in the hauler and got him a bottle of water, wanting to calm him down.”

“Anxiety, fear, worry – it’s common with him after something,” Regan starts, remembering some of their conversations. “There was one night he made me stay there over night to be with him because he was worried, I guess you could even say scared. We dealt with a good bit of that when Randy originally attacked him. You could also say that Alyssa being missing resparked that as I noticed it in a couple conversations we had before he got kidnapped. Tony, if that’s why you called us all figuring we didn’t kno-”

“I figured that you guys knew something, but you probably don’t know everything that I’m going to say,” Tony starts. “That’s why I called you guys – because of the unknown facts that I know. However, it’s great to see that you’ve recognized what’s going on and have spoken with him. I just hope that continues, and big time.” The comment throws a curveball through the room, as minds began to wander as to everything that Chase either said or did to spark this conversation out of Tony.1

“Why do you say that?” Jeff Gordon asks curiously from his perspective. Tony then takes a deep breath, figuring it was worth continuing with what else he sad to say.

“As he was drinking the bottle of water, you could tell that he was in pain – his stomach –just by his motions and expressions. I offered to go get someone, or do something, and he told me that he left his pain pills in the 24 hauler when he was there earlier today seeing the gu-”

“That’s why he probably didn’t come up for practice, because he went to get the pills and ran into you?” Marie questions and Tony shakes his head yes. “Yeah, he told Kevin (Meendering) that he had to do something and then was coming back. It caught Dale and Kevin off-guard when he didn’t, but we figured maybe he got tied up talking to someone.” Tony could understand that explanation. However, he knew that wasn’t a fitting reaction based on what he had seen out of Chase. It was why he knew this conversation was necessary.

“Totally easy assumption to make in figuring nothing is wrong,” Tony starts. “But to be honest, I think for the next bit everybody should be a bit more careful, know where he is and who he with and everything. Why? Trust me, you’ll understand if you let me finish saying what happened.”

“And you said that he was fine now, so we don’t have to worry at this very moment, right?” Bill questions and Tony shakes his head yes.

“He’s calmed right down, enough to grab some sleep in the trailer. I have a crew member there and as soon as he wakes up, the crew member will text me so I can go back and make sure he’s fine. Trust me, I took care of all angles.” Bill shakes his head in approval, glad that it was Tony who had found Chase and gone through the motions. He wasn’t sure if the same type of reaction would’ve happened with just any fellow driver or owner in the garage. “Anyways, I offered to go get them but he didn’t want to be left alone – sort of what you were talking about, Regan. So I sent a crew member, easily got them, and he was able to take one, which started working instantly. I waited quietly, just seeing where his reaction would go and what to do next as I wasn’t sure how to handle this. He then told me that he thought he could simply go get the pills, take one, return back to the trailer to watch Alyssa with ease. However, he then goes ‘then it happened, again.’” The group looks at each other, slight confusion entering the spectrum as Regan glances at Dale, remembering the discussion they had shortly after Chase had gone missing with the airplane.

“Can I guess?” Regan asks, catching Tony by surprise. “I’m guessing that he had a total panic alarm set off in his mind, blanking out logical thinking, just going through the wheel of motions till everything caught up together without clearly knowing what he was doing.” Tony was surprised that he heard the right guess made, as it made him question even more why Chase was left alone.

“Yeah, that’s what happened,” Tony answers as Regan lets out a sigh. Perhaps he should’ve moved forward on his original thoughts then. “If you guys knew of this happening, why did you leave him alon-”

“We didn’t know of it being an actual occurrence; it was a random mind guess after he went missing looking for Alyssa. It was a theory that I had put together, but quickly dismissed due to nothing said by him in the days that followed.” Tony felt anger boiling as he just thought nobody had any idea. However, how could you avoid thought when you had an idea?

“Well, since you know of it, I guess why I’ve called you all here. Listen, the kid is got a TON going on emotionally, on a variety of scales. I just wanted to warn you based on what I saw so that way those closest to him to make sure to be there with him, and perhaps – as I said earlier – make sure someone was with him at all times – just so that way they can handle when these happen, till he figures it out.”

“Maybe I did come back racing too soon….” Alyssa thinks out loud, as she thought back to Chase’s thoughts on her return over the past several days. She had been selfish, stuck on her own goals of racing and dealing with her feelings. However, was part of the apprehension actually due to his feelings and needing her to deal with them?

“Alyssa, you can go back racing and we can still handle this,” Darrell starts. “We’ve got a bunch of us here that are tied up and available at different times so we can help when we’ve got time. This doesn’t fall on your shoulders and don’t think your decision has bought this on more.” Tony was glad to hear Darrell giving that piece of advice to Alyssa, especially with what he had to come. He had debated not saying what was said between him and Chase about Alyssa, but knew it was worth her knowing so everybody knew just where Chase was mentally.

“Chase was only giving you those warnings based on his own experience of coming back early, not because of this,” Dale adds. “However, if you felt that you handled it enough to come back racing, and handle the rest while racing, then don’t hold a single thought back on coming back.” Alyssa lets out a sigh as that was a thought she had continued to toss back and forth over the past couple of weeks, as well as during the day with what was said earlier at the press conference.

“Beyond that comment, I think you have word from the rest of us that we’ll be there and help him, and I appreciate you letting us know,” Ryan states, figuring they were near the conclusion of Tony’s discussion period. Besides, there was another XFINITY practice coming up that some of them had to get to.

“I know that I have your word because I know that you guys love him and will do what it takes,” Tony states cleanly, and that wasn’t a question in his mind. “I just have one other thing I think you guys should know, and I hope it doesn’t cause another issue.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the discussion. “Chase blames himself for what happened. He says because of letting his fear control him, he wasn’t there for Alyssa. He wasn’t able to save her, prevent it from happening, or be there for her today. it’s a ton of guilt that just seemed to pour out of him unexpectedly. I spent a good bit convincing him otherwise in telling him that he was an amazing guy, great for Alyssa, and the fact his attempt to come out this weekend despite everything going on was beyond brave. I told him that he did a great job at the press conference, that he’s proven the odds surrounding the relationship, and mistakes are bound to happe-”

“He’s a ultra perfectionist,” Bill cuts off Tony, catching his attention. “He doesn’t believe in mistakes. To him, mistakes are the cause of things that he could’ve changed or done better to change what happened. He’s always been that way. It’s why he kept playing the previous attacks in his mind over and over, trying to see what he could’ve done differently. It’s why this is eating at him, again, and perhaps more because of how much he loves and cares about her.” Tony shakes his head, having picked up on his own theory around that.

“I also told him that he could bounce back from this, in which he didn’t believe me at first. However, I reminded him how he was able to before, followed by everybody who is here to support him, including Alyssa. I reminded him of the strength that we know he has, and there’s always a way to move forward. I told him it’d be okay, and to be honest, I think I got somewhere as we had a good session of tears before I let him go to sleep for awhile.” Tony then takes a deep breath. “I’ve been in those darkest moments and I know it takes a lot of work. However, with this group, I know you guys will help him.”

“It’s going to work out,” Ryan comments. “It’ll take time, it’ll take each of being patient with him and helping – but it’ll work out. I hate to go through this again with him, but I’d do a 100 times over because of how much I like my best friend.”

“I have no doubt,” Tony states as he reaches for his phone, seeing a text message. “That’s Chase…” The group goes to move, but Alyssa holds her arms out as she stands up.

“I want to go see him before any of you, please,” Alyssa starts. “He blames himself for what happened to me. As Tony said, the first round of feelings that poured out was all about me. Let me go see him. Let me have a heart-to-heart with him, show him I love him, show him it’ll be okay. Maybe with that out of the way, we can work through the rest.”

She then makes her way towards the door, glancing at Tony for directions as to where to go. She knew that she had practice coming up, but she in no way could think about the car or the race later on that night. There was only one thought on her mind, just as he had been in the hospital.

She had to make sure he was okay before she could take her own next step forward that weekend.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 21: Her Excitement

Alyssa walks back into the room, smile proudly on her face, as she walks up to Chase, giving him a kiss as she hands over a smoothie.

“Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry and mango – as instructed,” she states as he simply smiles, sliding a touch over so she could join him in the bed. “It’s nice to see you allowed food.”

“It’s nice to be allowed something other than water, bread and jello,” he replies as he sips on the drink. “What’s up with that smile on your face?” Jeff could only smile in his corner, knowing the exact reason. He had wished he could’ve been downstairs for her reaction earlier.

“I take it somebody enjoyed what Steve did, huh?” Jeff asks and Alyssa simply shakes her head yes as the rest look on confused.

“He took my camaro and got it fitted with paddle shift gears so I could drive it,” she states as Dale looks over at Steve surprised. “It took some getting used to, but once I was, it felt amazing. You do not realize how much the thought of being torn away from racing bugs you till you’re sitting there, feeling that driving again. I will admit – I was scared and worried over that fact. I admit it killed part of me inside originally. But just those 15 minutes today were enough to regenerate everything.” Dale glances at Marie, remembering their discussion from the other night at the hotel. He knew there were some feelings going on for his daughter. He just didn’t realize Steve would solve their problems before they could be addressed.

“I also told her that we could possibly try it out with a racecar,” Steve continues, catching a mix of curious and surprised glances from the room. “If Dale would let us use one of the XFINITY cars, I could get the same technology put in that and see if she can run it, and then if NASCAR would approve it.” They thought caused a mixed of emotions throughout the room, ranging from fear to surprise to uncertainty to excitement. Everybody had their own opinions on Alyssa’s situation and what to do moving forward.

“What are your thoughts on this, Alyssa?” Bill asks as he looks towards her. It seemed fair to make the person who this affected most get her say.

“I can’t deny it – racing is my life, it’s my dream, it’s everything that I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “I grew up wanting to drive a stock car. I grew up wanting to be a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion. I grew up wanting to win at Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol, and one day the Daytona 500.” She then looks at Chase with a smile, before glancing over towards her father. “I grew up wanting to be a racecar driver and just as successful as the two people who mean the most to me – my father, and my boyfriend. It means everything to me and certainly being torn away from that sooner than getting my real shot at it would hurt. It’s why I know that I want to take the sho-”

“But sweetie, do you realize what you’re saying?”  Marie asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes as she then turns to her mother.

“I know it’s going to be tough. I know it’s going to be a test of strength and durability and whether I can simply handle driving with just one hand. I know there are people out there who do it at the short track level – there was this one guy I saw who always kept his right hand on the roll bar, just his left hand on the wheel.  I believe that I can do it. I also know there’s a challenge in getting NASCAR’s approval because this is out of the box of normal. However, I want to take a chance and see if I can do it before I close that chapter in my life, if I need to.” She then glances at Steve with a slight smile. “I don’t want to be stuck asking myself what if down the road.”

“I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with this….”

“Mom, it’s my life and my decis-”

“You’re my daughter, though. I care about you. I don’t want you to get hurt.  I don’t want you to do something that could cause more pain. It’s my job to worry about you. I mean, are you absolutely certain?” Alyssa knew there were no doubts on that, having thought about it since her discussion with Steve.

“Trust me, I’m absolutely 100% certain. Besides, if NASCAR doesn’t accept, there’s always sports car or open-wheel.” Marie’s eyes then widen, as she wanted her children to have nothing to do with open-wheel cars. Stock cars were scary and one thing, but open-wheel was whole other animal.

“Dale, help me, please?” Dale takes a deep breath, thinking of where he could start. He knew that he couldn’t deny his daughter the opportunity, having been in her shoes in a way before. He had his fears just as much as Marie, but that was part of being a parent. The racecar driver in him knew otherwise.

“There’s risk and there’s worries, but we don’t know anything till we take a chance,” Dale starts. “It’s worth looking into to see if it’s possible and go from there. If the test goes well, I don’t see why not. However if the test doesn’t go well, at least we know whether than questioning it.” He then looks over at Steve, knowing he was waiting for the seal of approval. “You have my permission to use one of the cars. Just let Kevin Meendering know what you’re doing, and he can tell you what chassis you can use.”

“Are you serious?”  Marie questions as Dale looks over at his wife, shaking his head yes.

“You heard the conversation that we had when racing was almost ripped away from me. You heard my thoughts on the situation last night, and you heard her thoughts today.  There’s always risk in racing. Let her at least see where she stands before you pull the plug, please.”

“It’s not like we’re jumping in without evaluation either,” Steve comments as his eyes lock on Marie.  He hated to leave it with her being disapproving. However, he figured that’d be solved once they were at the test together as he believed in Alyssa, as he always did.

“I can tell you that if it does work out for you, safely, I’d race with you any day on any track because I know that you can do it and win,” Chase tells her before he gives her a kiss. “I just hope you don’t a bump and run for the win at Bristol.”

“I just hope you don’t mind a door slam for the win at Martinsville,” she replies with a smirk in return. It was their normal teasing back and forth as they had done throughout the whole summer.

“I just worry about everything else, though, in everything that happened,” Marie adds, catching their attention.

“I can cover that knowing it from experience,” Chase starts as he takes a deep breath.  “In a racer’s mind, those two become separate. You’re able to throw everything into a bucket and forget about it for those hours that you’re driving; it’s why racing can sometimes be our escape, and trust me – I used it a lot before. But knowing her, the way she is, and her parents, she’ll work through everything that happened in between those weekends to where she can go each day without a single fear. If I was able to do it, then I know that she can.”

“Just don’t forget about doing that yourself,” Cindy reminds him, remembering the runaway stunt he pulled. Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head, understanding. He knew that fact. He just wasn’t looking forward to it as there were lots of thoughts swirling through his mind already.

“I know, trust me.  I’ll do what I got to do, momma.”

The conversation entered the mind of Alyssa as she laid there, head on Chase’s shoulder. She hadn’t thought about much in regards to what happened. She was focused on getting herself feeling better, along with him. She wanted them to both get out of there and home as soon as possible.

Though as she let those 72 hours flood through her mind, she felt the fear, anger, sadness, worry that everybody had talked about around her. She felt the emotions that Chase had discussed going through in his instances. She felt others in her mind.

She began to wonder whether she could make them all go away, like Chase had talked about that. How do you forget that fear you felt? How do you forget the pain? How do you go forward like normal and nothing happened?

Feeling him against her, she wasn’t sure how to answer those questions, but believed that she’d make it through as long as she had him by her side.