Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 166: JAGS Metals 350

Friday, November 3

Chase was surprised by her reaction as he revealed his plans for that Friday evening.

Perhaps he could have told her a little sooner. But with trying to avoid thinking about anything racing related, it simply had slipped his mind until Morgan reminded him earlier in the day.

She also had to know that their schedules wouldn’t always align. Didn’t she go run a late model event the same day as a Cup race that time? Wasn’t it about balancing schedules for them? To be honest, the anger was uncalled for. He understood the shock due to no warning, but not the anger.

“I have to be at Hooters for 7 o’ clock, sign autographs for an hour and a half, and then do a Q&A and a couple other things so I’ll be there until around 9,” Chase tells her. “That means I’m missing opening ceremonies, and half the truck race. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner; I forgot to mention it.” He then takes her hands with his. “But I promise my heart is with you, and even if I’m not here, I’m cheering you on just as much.”

“A little more warning would’ve been nice,” she comments and he nods his head in agreement. He knew he screwed up, and certainly planned to make up for it later.

“I know and I’m sorry. I should’ve told you when Morgan reminded me earlier. I promise I won’t do that again.” She nods her head, accepting, as she looks into his eyes.

“I accept that promise, and trust you. Besides, you don’t schedule these appearances, right? It happens. I’ll be fine. I’ll see you when the night is done, okay?” He accepts with a smile back in return. “Love you.”

“I love you more.” He then leans in, snagging a kiss, before heading out of the garage to go get changed and ready for the night ahead.

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

Even though he wasn’t at the track, Chase made sure to keep up-to-date on what was happening with the event. He had Morgan tuning into KBM’s twitter handle for updates while at Hooters, whispering over her running position and who was leading whenever she got a chance. Then once they had left, they had turned into the radio broadcast to listen to the entire ride back to the track.

So far, things had gone really well for her. She ran up front throughout the first stage in the top-three until a late caution came out, and Marcus went with the strategy of pitting. Then once the stage ended, she stayed out to inherit the lost position, cycling back to the top-five. She would once again run up front as she did before, taking the stage 2 win after passing her teammate Myatt Snider with nine laps to go.

He had arrived at the track just as they were set to start the third and final stage, and he hoped it went just as well. Sneaking up on top of the pit box in his usual spot, he watched as she restarted further back in the field due to strategy, ready to make up ground.

Then, everything just seemed to fall apart. With 78 laps to go, she kissed the wall slightly, causing concerns that there was damage to the right rear – but those were not to be worried as things looked fine upon further review.

“Loose as fuck!” She swore across the radio shortly thereafter. “Can’t drive it. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10.”

From there on, she was unable to make up much ground, ultimately crossing the finish line in 16th.

“You were doing good until I showed up,” he told her after the race. “I think I might have jinxed you.” She then gave him a smack as he looks at her surprised.

“That’s why you can’t miss part of the race and then just show up,” she tells him. “Either you watch the whole thing, or go fly a kite.” He then laughs back in response. “I can’t believe we lost the handle just like that.”

“Marcus must’ve missed the transition from day to dark. It happens as even the great Chad Knaus has done that before. You’ll get them next week.” She then smiles as she pulls him close.

“That’s right, but that’s after you show off your cowboy strut on Sunday…” He just rolls his eyes as they head back to the motorcoach lot together.

Saturday, November 4

Chase knew he should be focused on the weekend ahead and the racing action that was set to take place, but his mind kept wandering to another spot on Saturday afternoon. That was why after some careful thinking, he made the trip down to see his teammate between practices.

“You always go see Jimmie, so if you’re coming to see me, that’s trouble….” Kasey muses as Chase just laughs, continuing his walk over.

“Maybe because this is advice that Jimmie can’t help with,” Chase comments as Kasey crosses his arms, a little confused.

“He’s 7-time. He knows everything.” Chase laughs as that was most certainly true – about racecars, though.

“You have a brother and a sister, so you understand this better than Jimmie.” Kasey smiles, knowing exactly where Chase was going with this immediately.

“Let me guess. You finally let Sarina meet the family as in not only your parents, but Star and Brittany as well. I could also guess that one, if not both, gave her the third degree.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“But it gets better. Brittany calls me two weeks after that meeting and gave me the 21 question treatment about Sarina’s history, background, intentions, and my thoughts.” Kasey smiles as there was nothing left to do.

“Welcome to siblings. Shanon did the same thing to Samantha after we had been together for a couple months, too. She gave me the questions, followed by cornering Sa-”

“Brittany did that at the family luncheon.” Kasey just shakes his head.

“What do you expect me to do or say? That’s just how siblings are, Chase.” Chase was hoping for a much better response than that.

“How do you deal with it, though?” Kasey wished he had a better answer, as it wasn’t like some magic word or phrase would call off the wolves.

“I just told Samantha that my sister loves me a lot, cares about me a lot, and wants to see the best for me. I also told her that if she was patient, she would see that my sister is a great person and they’d probably get along once she trusted her. In contrast, I told Shanon that she needed to lay off a little, and give Samantha a chance because she was a great girl, someone I trusted, someone I loved, and she’d get to see that. You just have to be understanding to them both, and realize that one cares a lot and the other feels defensive because they’re worried about how that person could cha-”

“Brittany could never make me just say goodbye to Sarina.” Kasey nodded his head, glad to see the commitment.

“But Sarina doesn’t know that 100% certain. She doesn’t know how much you trust Brittany. She doesn’t know how far you take her word. That’s why you have to repeat your words, reassure, and be comforting.”

“Okay….” Kasey puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“Relax, breathe. They’ll get along eventually. Every family deals with this that has siblings.”

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

 Sunday, November 5

“Are you ready or not?” Chase questions, as Sarina glances in the mirror once again, fixing the couple strands of hair that had come loose from her ponytail.

“Do I look good?” She asks and he simply nods his head. “Alright. Let’s go….” They then head out together, set to make the walk through the motorcoach lot together.

“So, are you going to be able to stay calm and collected, or are you going to lose your mind?” She then looks at him, a little confused, almost laughing.

“Oh, so now you think that I’m one of those girls?” Chase glances over with a slight smile.

“Well, you did go a little crazy when we were at the rac-”

“I got to sit in a Formula 1 car. That would make anybody go crazy!” He just laughs back in response.

“I just don’t want you to scare Daniel off…” She rolls her eyes, giving him a playful jab as he laughs back in response once again.

“You’re being an ass.” He just gives her a wink as they finally reach Dale’s motorcoach.

They keep their distance, letting the pair trade helmets and sign each other’s as originally planned. Then once that was done, Dale did the duty of introducing Daniel Riccardo and his friend to both Chase and Sarina, as it was up to them to host the Formula 1 driver for the day.

“Careful, she may have 20 million questions and freak like a little fan girl,” Chase teases as Sarina gives him a shocked look.

“Jackass!” She lets out, smacking his arm as his jaw drops, followed by his hand rubbing the spot.

“See what I mean?” Daniel just laughs at the pair as they walk through the garage area, headed for pit road.

“Don’t be afraid to ask anything,” Daniel informs her. “Because I’ve been asking Dale, and the crew members questions all day. I’ll probably have more to ask Chase.” She smiles back in response, before sticking her tongue out as Chase glances towards them.

“Can I trade him in for you?” She questions, causing a hurt expression to form on Chase’s face as Daniel could only laugh.

“You have got to be kidding me….” Chase’s words then catch their attention as they reach pit road.

“Well, I can’t blame her for trying,” Daniel comments in response as Chase just shakes his head.

“I’m not talking about that.” Sarina then looks at him confused, watching his eyes immediately dart towards Morgan. “Blond chick, Hooters attire, 2 o’ clock. Are you kidding me? You did say something, right?” Morgan follows his lead, letting a big sigh as she does.

“I said something, as well as showing them a copy of the restraining order,” Morgan comments. “Just hang back and I’ll get rid of her.” Chase nods his head, accepting, watching Morgan walk over. While he played it cool that day at the photoshoot, he wasn’t about to let Allison continue to interfere with his life with no regard. Certainly this couldn’t been ‘by accident’ as she had to know an at-track appearance would include him.

“Can I kick her ass right now?” Sarina questions, noticing the blond immediately and seeing the wink that was shot her way. She didn’t need any other thoughts to realize who that was.

“If the pit road wasn’t full of people and witnesses, absolutely,” Chase answers, growing annoyed himself.

“Is she the chick that supposedly went after you because some other chick forced her?” Daniel wonders having heard the story through the news. Chase nods his head as he cautiously looks over at his special guest. Cue the guest leaving now because of thoughts of danger….

“That would be Allison Reynolds…” Daniel watches her and Morgan interact closely.

“If she did all that by accident and meant no harm, why would she break the restraining order?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, now believing less and less of her sob story with each interaction. “If I was in your shoes, I’d accept that they’re all co-herding together.” At least Daniel wasn’t trying to make a run for it.

“Trust me, we’ve talked about that. Hence why we wish she would’ve been locked up.” They then watch as Morgan walks back over, smile on her face as she glances across the group in full.

“She’s dealt with, taken care of, and being escorted off the property by security as we speak,” Morgan informs them, satisfied with a job well done. “Now daily representative at Hooters can kiss my ass as he says three girls in a photo will look like shit because you should have two on either side of you. I told him simply that your safety is more important, and they better accept it because already they failed to do their job in not allowing her to enter your circle.”

“One, two, three girl – does it really matter?” Sarina questions as Morgan shrugs her shoulders.

“That what I’m saying. So let’s go get this over with and then we can have some fun today.”

Chase sits on the pit wall, sipping on some water following the series of post-race interviews, taking a couple deep breathes as he watches Sarina walk over.

“You guys fought hard all day,” she comments sitting down beside him, placing a hand on his leg as he looks over at her.

It wasn’t the day he wasn’t looking for, but it wasn’t that bad in all reality. They continued to make strides in their mile and a half program, and ultimately ended up with an eighth-place finish. It wasn’t the win or top-five he originally desired, but after starting in the back and fighting the handling through the middle, it wasn’t too bad either.

“The guys and I did the best that we could,” he replies. “I can’t complain. We’ll just bottle it up together, and focus on making it happen next week.” She nods her head, accepting.

“I believe in you and the guys,” she tells him. “Your short track program has been top-notch this year, and you ran well at Phoenix in the spring. If there’s any place it could happen, that’s a good spot…” He nods his head accepting, as he finishes the water. “You look completely wore out….”

“I’m roasted, soaked through with sweat.” The thought of stripping him right down out of those layers came to her mind immediately – to help him cool down, right? But she had to shelf that idea for that second, despite her tongue running across her lips.

“You need to go back to the motorcoach and get a nice cool shower…” He nodded his head in agreement as that was his next destination already.

“Oh, I talked to Kyle already. This coming week, you do not have to go into the shop at all for any meetings – same with myself at Hendrick.” She then looks at him a little puzzled. “Look, we’ve had a lot going on lately. From dealing with Allison popping up like a jack in a box, to Bethany’s trial, to frustrations on-track – it hasn’t been the month that neither of us envisio-”

“We’ll figure it out like we always do – together. I’m not running…” Chase knew that, and appreciated that statement more than he could express that single moment. It meant a lot to see the trust had grown so far to where she was no longer running at the darkest times.

“But let’s face it, we also need to get away and just have some time to where we’re not thinking about racing or life at all for awhile. You’re coming up with me to Colorado this week, with some of my friends and my dad. We’re going to let loose, relax, enjoy the cabin, and have some fun dirt biking.” She couldn’t help but look back a little puzzled.

“Dirt biking and a cabin with some of your friends and your dad?” He nods his head.

“Two of my buddies that live out that way, plus my dad…”

“Your dad going dirt biking?” He laughs at the surprise on her face as he places a hand on her leg now.

“You’re in for a surprise. When we get out there, he just as wild as I am on a bike, ready to hit some of those knarly jumps. He still has a fix for adrenaline.” Sarina couldn’t help but be surprised as she thought it over. it was a good idea, though.

“And your mom lets him?” It was now his turn to be surprised.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She was wondering if maybe she’d stepped over the boundaries, but it was worth saying out loud.

“Your mom seems like she’s the one who holds the control of the relationship between them – not to offend you.” He had heard that from plenty of people before, so he wasn’t surprised by her observation.

“My mom does in many ways, but she knows when it comes to letting Dad play, she can’t stop that. He needs to get in his fix or else he goes a little insane. She just makes him promise to be careful, and makes sure I’ll keep an eye on him. So, what do you say? Ready for some time away?” She couldn’t help but smile back in return.

“When do we leave?”

 

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 125: “Did you see that?”

Sunday, July 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Did you see that?” Jared Erspamer asks as he glances back from the car. “Did you see what the stall looks like? We were just standing there….” The other crew members glance around confused, as they continue pushing.

“Where’s Josh?” Jordan Allen questions, noticing the car chief was missing.

“He went with Chase and Alan,” Chad Avrit informs them. “Chase didn’t look good….” Jordan then stops pushing as they reach the hauler, looking back at the guys.

“You know, something didn’t seem right pre-race, either. I mean, he was quieter than normal and a glance in his eyes seemed off, too. Plus, Josh stayed by the car when normally it’s just myself and Chase.”

“Are you saying that Josh and Alan knew something was up?” Jordan shrugs his shoulders.

“Regardless, it just all seems odd – especially after that.”

“We’re just supposed to load up, right?” Jared Seate questions and Jordan nods his head, remembering Josh’s words. “Okay….” Jordan then goes to head inside the hauler, when he stops and glances back.

“This is even more odd,” he summarizes, catching the crew’s attention. “Why aren’t the engineers looking over the notes?” Jared shrugs his shoulders. “Guess they will at the shop. Alright, not my responsibility…” He then continues into the trailer, set to go upstairs and open the door.

“Jordan?” Jordan then stops and turns around. “Text message from the boss…” Jordan then walks back to Jared, taking his phone as he opens the message. He then shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course….” He then types a message quickly, before looking over the guys. “Load up quickly, please. We got somewhe-”

“Poisoned again?” Jared Erspamer questions, having that fear based on his own experience prior. Jordan just nods his head before going back into the hauler. “Ah shit…”

“Why do I have a feeling that was meant for us truly?” Jared Seate asks as he glances back at the garage once again, thanking his lucky stars.

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

The trip to the care center did not last long as they were immediately transferred to Methodist Hospital of Indiana. Alan and Josh could only feel their hearts pounding harder with worry.

Once at the hospital, the pair found themselves in a waiting room with six sets of eyes staring them down – Sarina and Chase’s parents. Alan takes a couple deep breath, and explained everything. He told them Chase’s original confession, followed by the plan, and followed by how things played out.

“I should’ve done something,” Sarina says quietly as she looks at the floor. “I knew something was off….”

“But you did nothing?” Cindy questions as she looks over. “Seriously, Sarina?”

“Cindy…” Bill warns as Cindy keeps her eyes focused on Sarina.

“I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine,” Sarina answers. “I asked him more than once, Cindy. It wasn’t like I just stood there and let this happen. I literally asked him last night, along with a couple times today. I thought maybe I was just off on radar, or something – I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve pus-”

“Oh now you think of that…” Cindy comments as she sits back in the seat.

“To be honest, I noticed something too,” Bill admits, causing Cindy to look his way. “And to be honest, I asked and he said he was a little sick. I suggested that he tells the guys, and have a stand-by driver. I just thought it was a stomach bug. I could’ve never predicted this.” Bill then looks straight at Cindy. “So before you chew up Sarina’s ass for no reason, think about that. Besides, that’s not what’s important right now…” Cindy then sits back in the chair, crossing her arms.

“I just can’t believe that we’re sitting in a hospital once again not even a month later and he’s fighting for everything that he’s got….” A stray tear falls down her face and she quickly wipes it away. “I just want my baby to be okay…” Bill wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“He will be, Cindy. No matter what…”

“Do you want anything?” Josh asks as he looks at Sarina and she shakes her head no.

“I just can’t believe this….” She comments with a sigh. “We knew shit was still possible with her and Bethany running around, but yet we let it happen. I should’ve went with him to qualifying.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alan assures her as he pats her shoulder. “To be honest, I screwed up, too, probably worse than any of you. I could see the symptoms right before me. I even suggested that we just throw the race totally and get him help. I should’ve done that. I should’ve never let him go through with this plan – no matter how clever Josh was in thinking it.”

“He’s right,” Josh adds. “I mean, there’s two hours there that we let it eat at him and make it worse. As they say, time is the most important in these situations – and we fucked up. We should’ve convinced him to tell the authorities, or to go about it another way.”

“Are the guys okay?” Bill wonders, having heard about the bomb going off.

“Everybody accounted for and safe. I had them moving away from there pushing the car to the trailer.” Josh then glances at the latest text from Jordan. “They’re curious already, by the way.”

“As expected,” Alan summarizes. “We’ll have to explain it to them and why we kept it a secret, even though it sounds so stupid now.” Alan then runs his hands through his thin hair, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry Bill, Cindy, Sarina….”

“You did what you thought was right and what he’d allow you within the window he gave you,” Bill comments as he looks over at the crew chief. “Stop beating yourself up. It’s not going to help. Just focus on him. Focus on making sure he gets better.” Alan nods his head, knowing he wasn’t taking any more chances.

The group then glances up as they watch door open and see a female walk through, followed by calling over to them. She then takes a seat in the chair before the group, which could only add to the concerns that they were having. Alan knew that if the doctor was taking this careful measure entering, she’d have a lot to say and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“My name is Demetra Manning,” she states as she looks at each of the individuals. “I’m the toxicology expert for the hospital, and in charge of poison control. I can tell you everything that you need to know, and answer any questions that you may hav-”

“Just tell me how my son is!” Cindy snaps, just wanting an update as soon as possible.

“I understand that you guys have been in a situation like this before and actually, just a couple weeks ago.” Cindy rolls her eyes as she hated to hear the doctor spending time wasting energy on stuff they didn’t need to know this second. “I got a hold of Dr. Hanken in Daytona as we were looking over initial test results to discuss everything. We both confirmed that he was poisoned with the same substance, with it acting as a stronger stream due to the consistency, the fact that it was injected versus digested, and length of time in the body.”

“We should’ve said something….” Alan comments, feeling a bunch of regret in hearing how serious things had potentially come. It was a regret that he didn’t know if he could ever overcome, either.

“How much more serious?” Bill questions, feeling a tinge of worry himself now. Normally, it was Cindy’s job to panic and worry while he stayed calm – but that wasn’t happening.

“We’re not absolutely certain that he’ll fully recover, yet, or how long it will take him to wake up,” the doctor reveals, which pulled at every heart string for both Cindy and Sarina. “We immediat-”

“What do you mean by ‘wake up’?” Cindy interrupts. “Last time, they gave him a sedative to keep him asleep as his body fought it and he began to heal. Are you referring to that, or….” Dr. Manning takes a deep breath.

“Recall that he passed out on the way to the care center with Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Kirk. Well, he hasn’t woken up since then – and that’s what I am referring to. It may take him a couple hours, or it could be a couple of days. It just depends how the poison affected him.”

“But he will wake up, right?” Dr. Manning felt confident in nodding her head.

“As I started to say, we immediately started him on the antidotes and anti-epileptic medicine. He’s also on a ventilator like previously, too.” Cindy knew that shouldn’t affect her too much as she’d been here before, but she couldn’t help but cringe at those words. “We’ll wait to see when he wakes up and see where he is. If he’s really agitated, we’ll give him a sedative. If he’s not too bad, we’ll look towards the next steps – removing the ventilator, and checking everything over. Either way, it’s going to take a bit of time….”

“Can we go see him, though?” The doctor nods her head.

“I’d actually encourage that, as being surrounded by family and friends will help. Don’t be afraid to talk to him or amongst yourselves, either.”

The group then followed the doctor through the doors, down a short hall, before turning into a room. After a couple deep breaths trying to clear their nerves, Cindy and Sarina led the group into the room. They each took a seat in the first two chairs by the bed, putting their differences aside for the time being. Bill then sat back on the window sill, while Alan and Josh leaned against the wall.

One way or another – none of them were leaving the room until they knew he was okay.

“Kasey won…” Josh breaks the silence in the room that had fallen over a good 20 minutes.

“Really?” Alan asks as he looks over surprised and Josh just nods his head.

“Truex and Kyle wrecked racing for the lead and Kasey managed to get his ass to the front.” Alan shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s great for Kasey, though. I know how frustrated he’s been.” Josh nods his head once again.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and Dale manages to snag a win, we may actually get all four cars in the playoffs after all.” Alan could only hope that as he knew how much the guys would like that in the shop. After all, he had seen the frustration with how they’d all run lately.

“How can you think of playoffs at a time like this?” Sarina questions, catching the crew members off-guard.

“Casual conversation and hope for the future – just like the doctor recommended,” Alan summarizes.

“All I can think about is how much pain he’s in and how hard he is fighting…” Alan walks a couple steps forward, rubbing her shoulders.

“Listen, that’s certainly on my mind – bigger than Kasey’s win or anything Josh and I are talking about. Chase’s well-being is the most important thing that I can think of, so you don’t need to question that. We’re just trying to lightly pass the time so we can get to that point he is okay. Besides, you know he’ll be asking what happened and wanting to be in those playoffs.” Sarina sighs, nodding her head. It still didn’t feel right to talk about it all, though.

“Oh shit!” Josh lets out as he grabs his phone off the window sill, causing the entire room to glance over surprised.

“What?” Alan questions as he walks back over to the car chief. “Encumbered finish?”

“Don’t mention those dreadful words – but this is worse. Kasey is feeling crampy, almost dehydrated…but remember before the race in the driver’s mee-”

“Text Kenny right away!” Bill’s eyes then open in surprise as he hears the panic in Alan’s voice. “Kasey sipped from Chase’s water bottle because he was so thirsty. Chase tried to shrug him off from doing it, but couldn’t convince before he did.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“Of course…” He says as he glances over at Chase, feeling his heart break in seeing all the tubes and how he just laid there motionless.

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

Kasey makes his way down the hall, stopping as he reaches the door and glances in. Alan immediately notices him, excusing himself from the room as he goes out to the hall. It had been four hours since the aforementioned text had been sent.

“Nothing from him?” Kasey questions and Alan shakes his head no.

“Not a single movement,” Alan answers as he leans back against the wall, crossing his arms. “Dr. Manning says that could be a good thing, as his body is conserving energy to fight off everything. But she also warned that not waking up in the first 24 hours could be a sign of brain damage or something serious.” Kasey shakes his head in disbelief.

“Well then he better wake up….”

“How are you, though?” Kasey could only shrug his shoulders. It’d be a whirlwind from victory lane to kissing the bricks, to the infield care center and to the hospital.

“I didn’t get a lot in my system, thankfully. Dr. Manning gave me the same antidote that Chase is taking, and it’s starting to work. I’m about 80% right now, and she says I should be back to myself in the next couple of days.” Alan could only let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s good.” Alan then glances back towards the room, before looking at Kasey. “I’m glad you’re not in the same shoes as him. I mean, he shouldn’t be there, either. If he would’ve said something sooner, then he could be like you. If I would’ve convinced him to say something sooner, or I would’ve just done it myself, then we wouldn’t be here this serious. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. I can’t believe I didn’t go against everything. Why did I just sit there this morning and let him convince me about this absurd plan of Josh’s?” Kasey shrugs his shoulders, having not been there to see everything.

“You can’t beat yourself up over it, Alan. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’ve made some myself. It doesn’t help. You just got to focus on getting him bet-”

“Every time I look at him lying there, though, it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that time is precious and I was an idiot for not remembering that. I mean, what kind of crew chief am I if let my driver get into this positio-”

“Alan, it’s not your faul-”

“But it is, Kahne! We’ve been here before! Damn it!” Kasey could hear the anger laced in Alan’s voice, knowing it wasn’t directed at him, but rather the situation. “I should’ve done something…” A couple tears fall as Kasey immediately reaches out, pulling Alan into a hug, rubbing his back. “I should’ve….”

“He’s going to be okay, Alan. It’s going to be okay…”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 32

Thanks for reading and reviewing 🙂

 

“Were you serious the other night?” Chase asks as he pulls into the Hendrick Motorsports packing lot. He had made it up to North Carolina for Media Day, and Sarina had decided to tag along for a couple of days rather than being stuck in Georgia with Ricky. It was nice to be able to spend time with Chase.

“Absolutely,” Sarina answers as she looks over at him. “I meant it, Chase. I feel it’s the right time as we’re getting close and the rumors are out there. Why should we pretend to be something that we’re not just because they’re people around?” He then puts the truck into park as he glances over at her.

“What about your fears of people finding you and such?” She then takes a deep breath, knowing that was still at the back of her mind. Though, she couldn’t let it bug her. It was time to stop letting it control her life and decisions.

“I’m 21 now. It’s been six years, Chase. If they were going to do something, they would’ve done it already as my name has been out there with my success. I need to stop worrying and wondering, and start living. A friend shared that advice, and I think I’m going to stick with it.” He smiles, remembering in discussion after she had revealed more about her past and certain feelings.

“So with that in mind, do you mind if you meet my teammates today?” She felt herself cheer a little inside as she had always been a Kasey Kahne fan for the longest time. She just hoped that she didn’t embrace herself.

“I don’t see why not. Want to share with them that you have a girlfriend?” Chase then laughs as they meet outside at the back of the truck together.

“I like you a lot, I’m proud of the woman that you are, and wouldn’t mind letting you to get to know my friends. If you’re going to hang around North Carolina with me, it’s important that you meet them.” The pair then headed inside together, as Sarina took a deep breath hoping it went well.

Inside of the shop, the other three had gathered together already, and were awaiting the arrival of Chase and then to be joined by Rick. Once the boss was there, the plan was to head out together with the PR reps to go over to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to talk with the media and do their job.

“Whoa,” Dale lets out as he notices Chase walk through the doors with a female close behind. “Chase has a girlfriend.” The comment immediately gets the attention of Jimmie and Kasey, who look over at the girl in toe.

“I’ve seen her face before…” Jimmie muses out loud quietly as he tries to place where he had seen the face before. He remembered seeing it somewhere on twitter as somebody else shared a photo and a news story. “Hey Chase.”

“Hey guys,” Chase states as he wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders. “Guys, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Sarina Ott. This is Dale, Kasey and Jimmie, but you probably know that already.” A smile forms on her lips as her eyes immediately lock on Kasey. It was crazy to think that she had his poster on her wall, admiring him for the longest time.

“It’s nice to meet you all,” Sarina then speaks up quietly as Jimmie keeps his eyes locked on her, still trying to place why he had seen her face.

“Sarina, you’re a racecar driver, right?”  Dale questions and it immediately comes to Jimmie as he remembered reading the story about the Snowball Derby, and how the win fell into Chase’s lap.

“So she gets caught cheating, you get the win and then you ask her out?” Jimmie spits out, causing a shocked glance from the group. Chase had to shake his head at the thought, but knew it probably wouldn’t be the last time that he heard that comment, either.

“The disqualification was something that her crew chief did without her knowledge or consent to do,” Chase starts explaining. “As far as us, we were already starting to see each other before then, as in back in the summer. It more so turned into a relationship near the end of November.” The group could only glance at the pair surprised, as they hadn’t suspected Chase to be in a relationship at all. Though Dale could only smile as he thought it over, remembering some of the odd trips that Chase was taking without much details. He kept thinking Chase was going to Georgia to see his parents, but it was really for a girl.

“I should’ve known that you had something up your sleeve,” Dale comments as Chase shrugs his shoulders. “As long as you’re treating him right, his parents are alright with you and he’s happy, then it’s fine with us. However, I should warn you that if you cross him, you better start running immediately.” The smile immediately fades on Sarina’s face in hearing the comment as she takes a careful deep breath. She didn’t expect the harsh reality quite in that second.

“I understand, and I can assure you that will never happen as I love him, a lot,” Sarina says as she looks at Chase, before returning her eyes back to the group before them.

“So, how did you meet?” Kasey then asks, curiously, catching Sarina’s attention. It was all the strength that she had to not reveal how big of a fan she was through the years.

“Racing against each other,” Chase answers. “We’ve raced against each other in late models for a while now, and have gotten to be good friends over the past four or so years. I’ve always had a crush so I made my move, and she accepted.”

“Smooth,” Jimmie comments as he glances at the other two. “The kid actually has some game.” The group lets out a laugh as Chase rolls his eyes, knowing the teasing that he had already heard from them and Jeff included.

“So I overheard Christian saying he heard rumors that you’re putting a developmental driver program together and you’ve hired a driver,” Dale then starts. It was obviously supposed to mean a change in topic, and a way to simply discuss as they would always. However, Chase knew with the answer that they wouldn’t venture far from the actual topic at hand. He could only now wonder how Dale’s new late model driver had heard the rumor.

“Ricky is in charge of the program and it was announced last year that it was coming together,” Chase informs him, rememebering the press release that they put out. He had gotten applications from across the country, a couple that he could’ve probably accepted and been fine with. “As far as the driver, that driver will be making her debut at Speedfest.”

“Her debut?” Kasey questions as he keeps his eyes on Sarina. “I think I may know the name of the driver, Chase.” Chase glances between them as Sarina’s smile widens.

“It’s alright that they know – they’re close friends and will keep it quiet till your surprise.” Chase then looks back over at the group. “Sarina will be driving the car this year. She has always performed well, despite being in sub-par equipment, even beating me on a couple occasions. I figured she deserved a chance to truly herself in good equipment. It was something that I was thinking of even before we got together.” The group shakes their heads understanding.

They knew the assumption – everybody would believe that she got the ride out of the relationship. However, they knew Chase better than that and knew Bill’s hand in the team was better than that. Besides, Dale knew of Sarina and heard about her before so he could agree that it was a good idea by Elliott.

“The boss says he will meet us there,” Laura interrupts the group of drivers. “Are we ready to go?” They all shake their heads yes as they walk down the hall together.

As they’re heading down the hall, Dale pulls on Chase’s shoulder and pulls him back to where he is, away from the others.

“It’s a big step to take in going from driving your own equipment to having someone drive for you,” he starts quietly. “My only piece of advice is don’t let your relationship with her and love affect the business decisions.” Chase then looks over at Dale.

“I didn’t hire her due to the relationship, Dale,” Chase states clearly and Dale shakes his head, knowing that Chase was right in their words. Everybody on that team knew better than to do that, ranging from Chase to Bill and Ricky.

“I know – I believe you and trust the judgment made. I’m just giving that advice moving forward, should the program grow to something bigger or not go as well as you’re hoping. They always say that you shouldn’t mix relationships with work, or have a relationship at work. There’s a reason why due to issues that can come up. I’m just warning you to be careful – that’s all.” Chase shakes his head, understanding the advice. He hadn’t even thought about the possibilities of issues, but then he just believed it’d all fall in place. He was going to stick with that theory as there was no way that he could deny her talent and Ricky’s ability as a crew chief.

“Thanks for the advice, Dale, but I don’t think we’ll have any problems.”

 

The Runaway – Chapters 56 Thru 59

Chapter 56: Flashback and Tears

January 7, 2016

Chase takes a deep breath, after recalling the conversation. To him, that was the easy part of the flashback. The attempted escape was the harder piece to tell, and how it failed. He partially regretted that escape due to the pain that he suffered out of it, but also knew in the moment that he made to try something.

“I told him that I wasn’t going to go with him,” Chase continues his tale as Darrell and Ryan sit across from him, listening closely. “He tried to tell me that it wouldn’t work, but I stuck to my guns. As soon as he opened the door open a bit, I immediately pushed forward, pushing Randy down and going for the stairs. Of course, someone got in the way.” Ryan rolls his eyes, knowing who immediately.

“His helper?” Ryan questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “I thought he was saying that Randy was crazy for his plan for you?”

“Oh, he was, but that didn’t stop him for helping. As I went to go by him, he grabbed my foot, pulling it back, which sent me face first down against the wooden stairs.” Ryan and Darrell immediately cringe hearing the details, understanding why Chase was in pain while in the hospital healing from the other bits of the attack.

“I don’t even want to think about how much pain that’d result in. I mean, I’ve fallen and that hurt enough. I couldn’t imagine that. I’m guessing that’s when he was able to regain control, right?” Chase shakes his head yes, remembering the moment.

“He then grabbed me with both of his hands, sticking a needle back in my arm, knocking me back out. The last thing I remember is his arms around me, scared as to what would happen next.” Ryan shakes his head in disbelief a he hadn’t realized how many pieces were to Chase’s tail.

He knew of some deception by Demi, but not the fact that she was his first. He knew that Chase had found himself stuck in an ice hole courtesy of Randy, but not everything that had led up to that. Hearing the details, he found himself cringing at the thought of the pain, but also feeling his heartbreak in realizing what his friend went through.

Making a small sacrifice and giving up a night of sleep was nothing if you compared it to everything that Chase had been through. In part, he felt a huge responsibility in sitting there, willing to do whatever it took to help his friend move forward.

“I can understand the fear as you knew what he was capable of,” Ryan finally lets out, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room. They had simply expected Chase to go into the next part of the story, but he found himself topping in the midst of it. “But, no matter how much you think about, you also have to remember how strong you are. You have to remember that you made it through everything that he flung your way and that you’re here. You have to remember that no matter how daunting these thoughts may be, you survived and are going to be able to move forward with your life as you want.” Chase shook his head, knowing that Ryan was right.

Besides the odd pain here and there from the previous damaged nerves in his leg, and having to watch how much he did with it, everything else had seemed to heal accordingly without any trace. All that was left was leaving the mental aspect in the background, and that begun with telling his friends his story.

“Are you okay?” Darrell questions, noticing Chase’s quietness more so now than earlier in the discussions. “Are you sure you’re set to continue?” Chase shakes his head yes, knowing that he had to get it out. The boys deserved to know the full truth with how much they had learned thus far, and their end of what they went through in worrying about him throughout. Besides, he felt that it should be easy to tell the tale as he had talked about the most haunting piece of the attack – the ice hole – with his father at the hospital.

“The next time that I woke up, I was on a sled with one foot tied to a pole in the corner by a rope,” Chase starts quietly, remembering that moment when he woke up. “My hands were also bound behind my back by a simple thin tie-wrap. I remember immediately analyzing the situation, thinking of a way to escape.” It didn’t surprise Ryan to hear that detail as based on what Chase had told them thus far, he was a fighter and wasn’t about to accept Randy’s fate no matter the situation.

“He heard you trying to escape, or you couldn’t break the tie?” Ryan questions and Chase gives him a so-so glance on that mark. Randy had heard him in his movements, but he hadn’t started his escape at that point.

“He heard me when I was glancing around at the ties, and that caught his attention. I then also let out a shiver, in which he commented that I should’ve worn a coa-”

“You were knocked out so how could you put it on?” Darrell questions as Chase laughs, remembering his response to Randy.

“That’s what I told him in those exact words,” Chase offers as Darrell smiles. “He told me that I shouldn’t have tried to escape, but he was glad that I had my sweater. I continued to pull at the tie-wrap that bound my wrists together, finally able to bringing it by swinging my arms as fast as I could in opposite directions. You could hear the plastic break, which caused me freeze as I thought Randy caught me.”

“Did he?” Chase could sense the anticipation in Darrell’s voice in wondering about how things went down. It seemed Darrell had anticipation in learning the details, while Ryan had been caring voice throughout the discussion. Based on the relationship that they had together, that didn’t surprise him.

“He did, and he stopped the sled shortly after. I didn’t care because I was just focused on escaping and throwing the punch that I needed to. Randy then got off the snowmobile, and I kept my hands behind my back as if I hadn’t broken the tie. I also noticed the hole, debating whether I could land his ass in it.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that things had turned in the wrong direction. “I guess I shouldn’t have thought about the hole.”

“Ice isn’t something to mess with. That stuff is freezing cold.” A shiver escapes Chase at the thought, as he knew Darrell was certainly right in those words. There was one thing for certain – him and cold water weren’t going to mix well for awhile. “Are you okay?” Darrell had noticed the shiver, wondering if perhaps they were getting too far into the discussion for the night being. He wasn’t sure if he could handle Chase getting more upset while telling them as he thought perhaps that’d be something to save for Regan.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I was just thinking about the water…and it escaped without me realizing.” He then takes a deep breath, knowing that he had to tell the rest of the tale. He had to get it off of his chest so that way he could move forward. “I knew I had to escape so I finally swung my arms around, pulling the rope to release my foot and screamed for help. That was when Randy’s plan changed, and he thought about just killing me in that moment.”

“So what did you do?” Ryan wonders, knowing that Chase probably did something in hopes of stopping Randy. Chase glances down at the ground, taking a shaky deep breath as he tries to calm himself as the images come to mind.

“I gave him a hard shove to push him away from me,” Chase starts. “I then went for the snowmobile, thinking that I could drive away with ease. However, he knew that I was going to try something – there were no keys in the snowmobile as he dangled them before me. I was in shock, couldn’t believe it, and he took advantage of me – as he always has.”

“Chase….” Ryan then reaches for Chase’s hand, noticing that their on the edge with Chase’s comments and knowing that they’re growing closer to the moment. “It’s not your fault. There was nothing that you could do in that situation. You tried everything that you could to get away and stop him. It’s not your fault. Like we’ve said all along – be thankful that you’re okay and able to move forward.” Chase kept repeating those words in his mind, but they were hard to believe as repeated images of drowning also filled his thoughts as well. He knew how close he had come to dying when he was in that ice hole.

“I know. It’s just hard at times to make myself believe that…” He then takes a deep breath, trying to release the shaky thoughts from his mind, as well as the tears that threaten to fall. He knew that he simply had to continue. “In that moment, he grabbed my foot, pulling me off of the snowmobile. I then reached for anything, whatever I could – but I couldn’t. I failed to grab anything, and he kept pushing me further back, till I fell into the water. He then got on the snowmobile, left, leaving me there.” Chase focuses his eyes back down, grabbing the blanket and wrapping it tighter around himself without a thought. Closing his eyes, he tried to erase the images that flooded his mind as the cold water splashing around him, set to claim him, set to make him frozen in the moment.

“Chase?” Darrell asks, a little worried as he watches his friend fight the images in his mind.

“Chase, its okay…” Ryan says quietly as he reaches for Chase’s hand, grabbing it firmly. “Chase, open your eyes. Escape those images that are in your mind. Open your eyes. You’re not in the middle of the ice. You’re not in a hole. Open your eyes as you’re here with your friends, in your home, warm and cozy.” Chase’s eyes slowly open as he looks at Ryan straight on, tears surfacing.

“You don’t understand how scared I was,” Chase starts, voice shaking. “You don’t understand how cold that was. You don’t understand how alone I felt. You don’t understand how scared I was and how close I was to…” The tears then begin to fall as he glance away from the boys. “I’ve never been so scared. What if I had not escaped?” Ryan immediately stands up, wrapping both arms around Chase to hold him close, rubbing his back.

“You did escape, though. You made your way out of that mess and survived. That’s all that matters. You can’t dwell on what could’ve happened, but just be thankful that you’re okay. You’re okay, Chase. You made it through that, and you’ve got us to make sure that you make it through the days ahead. You’re okay, Chase.”

Ryan stayed like that for the next 20 minutes, simply rubbing his Chase’s back, repeating the words that he was okay as Chase continued to cry in his shoulder. Feeling that he had gotten out of his system, Chase released himself out of Ryan’s hold and sat back in the chair, letting out a long sigh of relief.

“Are you okay?” Ryan asks and Chase shakes his head yes. Ryan then resumes his spot of sitting on the floor. “It’s okay to cry. I bet it feel better now that you let that go, right?” Chase simply shakes his head yes, once again. “I meant what I said. I’ll be here anytime that you need me. Anytime that you get a flashback, nightmare – whatever. Just call me.”

“Same with me bud,” Darrell adds from his spot on the couch. “We’ve got your back and are going to make sure that you get through this.”

“Thanks,” Chase simply says. “I couldn’t ask for better friends.” The boys both smile.

“So we heard how you escaped the hole – your dad told us after you told him,” Ryan starts, knowing that making Chase reflect right back to those exact details would perhaps be too much considering the most recent crying episode. “Like I said, be thankful that you’re okay and those bars were there. Somebody was looking out for you, boy.” Chase had to smile at the thought, knowing that Casey was always looking down at him. He swore he heard Casey’s voice that day, telling him to reach further when he didn’t reach the bar the first time. “Beyond what you’ve told us, is there anything else?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I think I’ve covered everything,” he offers.

“Does it feel better now that we’ve talked, cried, let off some steam and explained things?” Darrell questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “Think you’ll be able to sleep for a couple of hours?” Chase glances at the clock, seeing that it was 3 in the morning.

“I think I’ll be okay to sleep.” Chase then stands up and heads for the stairs. “You boys can head home if you wan-”

“No way, we’re staying here for the night. It’s late and I don’t feel like moving.” Darrell then glances over at Ryan, who shakes his head in agreement. Darrell then looks over at Chase. “Besides, if you wake up at all, we want to be here for you to offer an ear to chat off, a shoulder to cry on, or whatever else you may need.”

“That’s fine. You know where the spare blankets are, right?” The boys shake their head yes.

“Go get some sleep, Chase,” Ryan tells him as he stands up, flopping back in the chair that Chase had previously occupied. “Go get some sleep and take care of yourself. We’ll be fine down here.” Chase then goes all the way up the stairs as Ryan get comfy. “Hey Bubba?” Darrell then looks over at Ryan. “Are you okay?” Darrell shakes his head yes.

“Are you?” Darrell wonders, seeing the concern in Ryan’s eyes.

“I never realized just how much he went through, or how much it affected even us till tonight.” Ryan then glances up the stairs. “I just hope that he’s able to work his way through everything – you know, emotion-wise.”

“He’s a strong kid and he’ll make his way through it, Ryan. He’ll be okay. Hell, he’ll be kicking our butts come February.” Ryan laughs, knowing that Darrell was probably right as he got comfy.

 

Chapter 57: The Boys

January 11, 2016

Following the discussion with Chase, things had seemed to move along smoothly.

Chase was able to get into a ‘decent’ sleeping routine, getting some sleep. It wasn’t perhaps as much as he wanted, but it was something and the nightmares were getting easier. It had certainly helped discussing things with the boys. Beyond that, the distraction of getting set for the upcoming season were obviously playing a par for the course.

The boys had each gotten busy with their own racing plans for the upcoming year, as Ryan was set to run the full XFINITY schedule for Penske while Bubba was set for another year with Roush Fenway Racing. That meant long days at the shop with crew chief discussions, and trying to lock down final sponsorship business.

All put together, the boys weren’t getting as much hang-out time as they would’ve hoped.

Since the discussion with Chase, Ryan and Darrell had kept quiet about what they had heard, not wanting to dwell on what happened as the key was helping their friend move forward. However, as they both admitted that night, it had affected them moving forward. They realized just how much it tugged on their heart strings, and how much the images stung in their mind.

It seemed to be the case for Ryan more so than Darrell. Ryan found himself thinking about it more than he realized that he would, and even found himself laying sleepless at night in disbelief over everything.

Almost a week removed from the discussion, Ryan takes a deep breath as he finishes up doing the dishes after dinner, looking over at Darrell. With Darrell home and Shelby out with her friends, it gave the boys an opportunity to talk alone.

“Hey Bubba, can I ask you something?” Ryan questions, catching Darrell’s attention. Darrell could tell by the tone of Ryan’s voice that it wasn’t going to be easy as he hit the ‘mute’ button on the TV remote.

“What is it?” He questions as Ryan wipes his hands off, hanging the towel back on the stove.

“The discussion with Chase, it has left me thinking about a lot of things. There’s nights where I lay awake thinking over everything that he’s been through and just shaking my head in disbelief.” Darrell shook his head, sympathizing. He had been through his own version of reliving it.

“There’s times where I will drift off and all that will fill my mind is the image of him laying on the floor with the blood around him in the hotel room from the leg wound. It just dangles there haunting me, reminding me how close things came.” Ryan swallows the lump that had formed in his throat as he walks into the living room, sitting in the chair that was beside the couch.

“I thought we could both just move forward. I thought we could take the conversation with him, realize that things are going to be okay and move forward. Why is it still bugging us?” Darrell takes a deep breath, having talked about it with Trevor earlier that week. About two days after the discussion, he made his way into Trevor’s office at RFR and discussed some of his feelings. He didn’t reveal any exact details, just the general specifics, in which Trevor had some advice for in return.

“It’s because he’s our best friend and we care about him a lot. It’s because we’d do anything for him. It’s because we hate to see him go through this and we wish that we could simply make it disappear. It’s because it’s tugged on our heart more than we realize. We both keep wondering what we would’ve done if we would’ve lost him.” Ryan glance down, closing his eyes with a deep breath. He wasn’t going to bare that thought.

“Bubba, we can’t think that….” Darrell shakes his head, knowing that Ryan was right. He had told Trevor the same words.

“I know we can’t, but we still are even though we won’t admit it. That’s why it keeps bugging us.” Ryan then glances over, curious as to why Darrell had all this knowledge. “I talked to Trevo-”

“Darrell, he said not to tell anyone!”

“I didn’t tell Trevor any of the details, but just that I was having some thoughts after a discussion with Chase. Everybody knows what Chase has gone through – pieces of it, anyway. With that basic knowledge, he was able to offer some basic advice.” Ryan felt himself calm a little, but the worry picked up. Darrell was right as everybody knew a good part of the details. What would happen when they returned to the track in February?

“So what did he say?” Darrell takes a deep breath, remembering Trevor’s advice.

“He said that we just have to remind ourselves that he is okay, and he will get through anything that is lingering from it. We also have to not dwell on what happened, but rather focus on the fun times that we will have in the future. Basically, the same advice that we told Chase.”

“Then why is it so hard to follow?” Darrell shrugs his shoulders, having asked himself that since talking with Trevor.

“I don’t know. I guess because there’s a lot there. But, like we told him, let’s take it one day at a time and move forward. That’s all that you can do.” Ryan shakes his head in agreement.

“And also realize that if either of us want to talk about something – a certain detail or lingering dream, we are there for each other no matter the time of day, right?” Darrell shakes his head yes.

“Absolutely, even that means being grumpy in the morning due to no sleep the night before.” Ryan smiles, remembering how he was the next morning after staying up half the night with Chase at his house.

“Darrell, I just have one more question. Do you think he will honestly be able to move forward without this bugging him at all?” Darrell glances down, thinking about it honestly. He wanted to say yes and move forward, but he knew that probably wouldn’t be the case given the amount of tears that had flowed that night and the fear he had seen.

“It’s never going to leave Chase completely. He will find his way to move forward and go through each day with ease, eventually. But, there will be moments where it stings and affects him. It’s just about how he deals with it.”

“So we’re going to living this over and over?” Darrell shakes his head yes.

“I think that we’re going to see pieces show up here and there. Hopefully, they won’t show up a lot – but perhaps once or twice every so many years. Like, what will happen when he starts dating a girl and it gets serious? He’ll think about Demi and what happened there, and maybe be afraid to sleep with that girl.” Ryan shook his head, understanding. No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t believe that Chase slept with Demi.

“But assure me this – he will be okay, right?” Darrell stands up and walks over to Ryan, giving him a pat on the shoulder.

“Everything will work out, Ryan. As we told him that night, he’s a strong kid and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’ll find the way that he needs to find to cope with this moving forward.” Ryan gives Darrell a small smile as Darrell heads to the kitchen to the grab a snack.

 

Chapter 58: Media Day

Late January, 2016

They say that time heals wounds. It seemed to be working as the further removed from the events, the easier it was to deal with. Ryan and Darrell had found their own ways to think through everything that Chase had told him, which included Ryan having some in-depth conversations with Chase.

Chase, meanwhile, was finding his way of moving forward. Everything had seemed to subside except a nightmare here or there. When they struck, he either got himself a warm glass of milk and got back to sleep, and called a friend to chat it out for a bit. Either way, it seemed that the healing process was indeed in full swing.

Preparing for the season was also in full swing and rather than counting weeks till the year started, they were down to days on the calendar. They were also reminded that it was closer than ever when the notification came down as to which day of the last week in January would be their media day.

Media day was always interesting in answering the media’s questions about the upcoming season – pressure, expectations, anything lagging from the previous year. It helped everybody get back into the swing of things, while just growing that anticipation.

Of course, media day would officially be the first time that Chase would face the media ahead of his rookie season, and more importantly, following the events of December. While Chase was in the process of moving forward, that didn’t mean that he was set to discuss the details of what happened.

The media knew he had been kidnapped in Canada, they knew who had kidnapped him and the fact that he had gone through a recovery period in hospital. Beyond that, the details hadn’t been leaked as it was none of their business.

“Chase, I want to talk to you before we go out there,” Rick starts, catching Chase’s attention, as well as his fellow teammates. Dale, knowing the most, had an idea as to why Rick was calling for his attention. Jimmie and Kasey, they had an idea as to why but weren’t as familiar.

“Okay,” Chase simply says as he takes a deep breath. He could tell by Rick’s tone that it was something serious, and had already narrowed down his options.

“We know that someone is going to try and bring up what happened. I’ve made it clear to my staff that you’re not tackling questions surrounding what happened. We’re here to focus on the upcoming season, not the attack or anything else. Furthermore, it’s none of their business. An opening statement will be made to tell the media that, but if they bring anything up, don’t feel obligated to say anything as we will brush it off.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. It helped him relax as he had a couple nerves surrounding what he would do should the issue arise.

“Okay. Thanks Rick. I appreciate that.”

“I told you that day in my office that I had your back and would be there for you. That hasn’t changed.” Rick then pulls him into a quick hug, before they get back set to head out on stage.

After hearing the general introductions and the warning about not bringing it up, the drivers were each introduced on stage, followed by their opening remarks on the upcoming season. Following the opening statements, the floor was opened up for questions to be asked by various members.

Chase accepted the questions that were addressed, easily answering with the same fluid ability as any other day with the media. The whole day seemed to be going as according to plan as they waited upon the next question to be asked.

“This question is for Mr. Chase Elliott,” the reporter starts, catching Chase’s attention. “I know it was requested that we don’t bring up what happened, but do you see it affecting your performance at all this year?” Chase takes a deep breath, figuring that somehow the question would be asked.

“Absolutely not,” he answers. “As I explained last year in the press conference when I came back, everything that is happening doesn’t affect my driving on track. When I’m on track and working with the guys, I don’t let anything else affect me. I also have been working my way through what happened and in no way will it affect me. I’m 100% ready to go.”

They then waited as the next reporter came forth, the drivers trading glances along the way. Dale’s eyes focused on Chase and with a nod in return, Dale knew that the young driver were fine to continue with issue. Though as Dale returned his eyes back to the next reporter, he knew that they were about to hit the fan.

“Mr. Elliott, why is it that the details of what happened cannot be releas-” The older female reporter starts.

“It’s none of your business,” Dale cuts her off before she can continue, catching everybody off-guard. “Some things should remain private and that is one of those things. Besides, this is a media conference set up for the NASCAR media to talk to us about the upcoming season. Why is a royalty reporter sticking her nose in here to stir up trouble?” Jimmie held back the grin in hearing Dale’s response, having become frustrated with this reporter the previous season.

“Sir, when there is a threat against a royal fami-”

“The threat is no longer, as you probably heard that Randy was arrested and put away in prison.” Chase took a deep breath, reminding himself of that fact. The police had promised a maximum security cell that would not allow Randy to escape once again.

“Sir, we were told that before but this individual esca-”

“That won’t happen, again. If you would please refer to the police report, you would see how the measures are going to take place so that doesn’t happen again.” Dale could tell that his attitude wasn’t going over well with the reporter, but he wasn’t about to care. It was getting frustrating dealing with individuals like this one there on one agenda – for the simple reason that he was married to Marie. All they wanted was some gossip to sell some rag magazines. He then glances over at Rick, hoping to get some back-up in removing the reporter.

“You seem confident in your answers, sir. However, in details leaked out, it would seem there was an attempted drowning of your friend. How would you feel if the drowning would’ve been successful?”

“That’s enough!” Rick calls it off as he motions for security to come and remove her from the premises. Though while Rick and Dale were focused on her, the eyes of the fellow drivers were focused on their young teammate.

“Chase?” Kasey questions, seeing that he had frozen up. Jimmie then reaches over, grabbing Chase’s hand.

“Chase, are you okay?” Jimmie asks, catching the attention of Rick and Dale. Chase lets out a shiver as the thoughts flood through his mind – the ice, walking along the ice, the push, falling into the water, shivering in the water, thoughts of it being the end, feeling so cold that he could barely think and feel himself…. “Chase?” Chase’s eyes snap open as he takes a deep breath. He then glances around the room.

“Excuse me…” He lets out, immediately heading off of the stage. The teammates then follow their young driver, leaving Rick and MC left with the media.

Rick, knowing the drivers had it handled, took the liberty of explaining Chase’s freeze up – letting on as little details as possible. He gave them enough information to understand why the events had transpired, and why the original request was issued, without giving them enough to feed their curiosity.

Meanwhile, the teammates followed the young driver, each calling his name along the way.

“Here!” Jimmie yells, catching all of their attention as he opens one of the office doors. He knew it was Chad’s office, but it was fine enough for the case being as it’d give them some quiet space. “Chase, go in here and take the time that you need, please. We can’t chase you around all day.” Chase then follows the instructions, taking a seat in the chair that was in the room.

“I’ll go get him a drink,” Kasey offers, knowing that Dale was probably going to handle it. “Anything in particular?”

“Hot Chocolate – he hates having a cold drink when he gets in these phases,” Dale says as he keeps one eye on Chase and one eye on Kasey. Kasey then heads off as Jimmie glances between Dale and Chase.

“Go talk to him,” Jimmie instructs. “I’ll hold off everybody as long as I can. You know better than us both what needs to be said.” Dale shakes his head as he enters the small office, reclosing the door behind him.

 

Chapter 59: Post Freeze Up

Late January, 2016

Dale then slowly moves over to where Chase is sitting, kneeling before him. He didn’t know why he was nervous, but his worry was pegged at all time high by Chase’s reaction. He had seen him freeze up before, but not like this.

“Look at me.” Chase then slowly takes his eyes off of the floor and looks at Dale. “Are you okay?” Chase slowly shakes his head yes before returning his eyes back down to the floor. “Chas-”

“I’m fine,” Chase cuts him off quietly. “I just – I don’t know. When she mentioned what could’ve happened, I just froze up immediately. I began thinking back to what happened, picturing each image over and over in my head, and it just caused me to freeze up till Jimmie snapped me out of my thoughts.” Dale shakes his head, understanding.

“It’s understandable,” Dale assures him. “You went through a traumatic experience. It’s reasonable that it still bugs you at times. There are times that I get nervous climbing on a plane because of what Mariella did to me. It’s okay.” Chase understood that. He heard the explaination many times. It didn’t mean that it made him feel better about it.

“I feel so embarrassed having it happen there, in front of everyone.” Dale then sits back, thinking it over. He kind of wished Rick was there as he’d probably have better advice on this front.

“You don’t have anything to worry about. The media will understand knowing that you’ve been through a lot. Perhaps it’ll give you a bit more space as they’ll lay off more. You don’t have to worry.” Chase wanted to believe what Dale was telling him. However, all he could picture was being bugged about it in Daytona.

“I wonder what they’re saying….”

“Don’t worry about what they’re saying. Just focus on yourself. Focus on feeling better. Focus on finding your way to handle it and move forward. You can’t let yourself worry about them as it’s not going to get you anywhere. It doesn’t matter what they say. All that matters is you.” Chase then looks up, again to hang his belief on those words.

“What about Jimmie and Kasey? What about Rick? What about Alan? What about the team? There goes any belief because everybody is going to think I’m still an emotional mess.” Dale shakes his head no, knowing that can’t be true.

“It didn’t change a thing about Kasey and Jimmie. They still believe that you’re one helluva driver. They were concerned and wanting to do whatever they could to help you, in their own way. Kasey should be back soon with a drink. As far as Rick, no confidence lacking there either, but I bet he’s more worried than ever about you and will want to see you once he calms things down in there – which don’t worry about. As far as Alan and your team, Chase, this doesn’t change anything. They spend everyday with you. They know your determination. They know that you’re going to do the best that you can and be incredible. They just understand that there are certain things that they can’t talk about with you.” Dale then pats Chase’s leg. “Everything is okay. Nothing changed today. Stop worrying, okay?” Chase slowly shakes his head yes.

“Thank you…”

“You don’t need to thank me. Just focus on yourself.” The door then opens and Kasey walks in, handing over a cup of hot chocolate with a smile.

“Dale said that you’d prefer a hot drink and I put the whip cream on top so you would smile,” Kasey offers as a small smile forms on Chase’s lips.

“Thanks,” he offers, taking a deep breath. “When I think about it, it gives me the shivers and I feel the cold again. The warmth of the drink somehow helps.”

“I can make you hot chocolates everyday if it keeps you smiling.”

“We’re all here for you,” Jimmie adds from his vantage point at the door opening. “We’re ready to do whatever you need us to do to help you. Remember that always.” Chase shakes his head, appreciating that.

“Thanks….honestly, thanks,” he tells them. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of teammates.”

“When you’re ready, we’ll head out and go back in there together,” Dale says. “And don’t worry – we’ll have your back and make sure they don’t say a word.”

“We’re here to talk about racing, right?” Kasey adds with a smile.

They took a couple more minutes in private, sharing a couple rounds of jokes to take the edge off, before returning. Whatever worked from Rick’s perspective worked as they were able to go back to answering the questions as normal without any issues.

Following the session, Rick assured them all that the pesky reporter would not be returning to any future events, and the right calls had been put in place to NASCAR to make sure that she didn’t randomly show up there, either. Either way, all the pieces were being put in place so they didn’t repeat this incident.

As they finished the day with dinner together, Chase could only smile as he glanced around the table. Surrounded by his parents, teammates and friends, he knew that he had the best support system around. Whereas he had doubt originally before about getting through everything, he knew that he could get through what happened with ease through not only his own strength, but also with the help of his friends.

The Bruises – Chapters 31 Thru 32

thebruises

Chapter 31: My Confession

Monday Evening – September – Charlotte Bullring (Dirt track)

Tony looked down at the stopwatch, surprised at he time before looking back at the car on track. He was there with his Sprint Car team as they prepared for the next race ahead. Following a not so race the previous weekend, it was time to get back down to business. His guys were off making adjustments while he was seeing what other teams that were there were running.

Glancing at the car number as it went by, he rolled his eyes. He knew exactly who it was – Kasey Kahne. Why was he surprised by the lap times? However, a glance down towards the pits, he saw Kasey standing there sharing some thoughts with Kale. Tony stood up, confused, walking over to the pits.

“Hey,” he said, interrupting the brothers. “Quick question. Who is driving your sprint right now?”

“My daughter,” Tony heard, instantly stunned as he recognized the voice. Turning around, he saw Dale standing there, watching the sprint go around the track. It was indeed Angelica driving. She had ran quarter midgets for the past two months with great success that Kasey wanted to see how she’d do in a full size sprint. “Kasey wanted to see how she’d do. Surprised?” Tony just shook his head yes as he watched Kasey with the stop watch.

“She’s not supposed to run till next year but they are talking about letting her run this event due to her wins in the quarters,” Kasey commented as Tony looked back to the track impressed.

“I don’t see how they could deny her doing it with the lap times she’s running,” he commented. “I thought for sure it was you or Darrin driving it. She’s definately a natural talented kid.”

“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. She’s also going to run the ARCA season finale at Toledo with Venturini. They saw some of her races and gave us a call looking to get in contact with her.” Tony shook his head in surprise as his eyes turned to Dale.

“She’ll be asking for my ride before we know it,” Dale commented as Kasey tapped Kale on the shoulder.

“She’s coming in,” Kasey told them. “We’ll see if we can make it faster.” Kasey and Kale then headed down to the pits. Dale turned to follow them, when he felt a hand grab his.

“Can we talk for a minute, please?” Tony asked as he knew this would be a good time to talk to Dale about things. Dale shook his head yes as they went over to the grandstands and sat down together.

“I’ve been wondering why you haven’t been around lately,” Dale started before Tony could speak. “So you lock Jeff up for me and then disappear?” Tony looked down and hearing it that way from Dale, he definitely felt bad now.

“I didn’t want to intrude on things with you and Lindsay. With her coming back after running there, I wanted to give you guys some space.” Dale rolled his eyes as he looked back out to the dirt track.

“A whole month?” He then looked towards Tony, waiting for an explanation “That seems a little excessive. Why else did you hide away?”

“I thought you and Lindsay needed some private time with Angelica as it marked your first time not being haunted by Jeff. It was your time to be free and I wanted to let you have that. Fuck! I know I messed up.” Dale then laughed as Tony’s awkward confession.

“You think?”

“Man, I’m sorry. I should have gave you a shout and came to see you.” Dale shook his head as he kept his eyes focused on Tony’s, his own thoughts filling his mind.

“Apology accepted.” Tony then took a deep breath, ready to say what needed to be said.

“There’s also another reason I stayed away. I was scared of getting too close to you and screwing shit up for you because how much I loved you. Being with you like we were there, it made me really understand those feelings that I felt deeply for you.” Dale looked down, knowing his cheeks were turning red.

“When you were around, I felt so safe in your arms, so caring, just perfect.” Tony smiled at those words.

“Then why did I screw it up by running?”

“You answer your question damn question.” Tony then shrugged his shoulders, holding his arms up high.

“I can’t.”

“Well, you didn’t screw it all up because at least you finally told me.”

“Why is that important?”

“Because the feeling is mutual.” Tony then smiled at those words, though the smile was quickly cut off when lips met his. The feeling of Dale’s lips so close tasted just right as the two shared a passionate kiss between them. “I love you, Tony.”

“I love you too.”

“And don’t worry, you can tell Lindsay.” Tony then gave Dale a strange look at those words.

“How do you know she’ll be coo-”

“Because I’ve told her about how I feel for you and she said that’s okay as long as I love her, too.” Tony smiled as it felt like the world had been lifted off his shoulders with those simple words from Dale.

“I’m glad.”

“Good, because we have a lot of time to make up.” They then stood up, ready to head to the pits. Tony had more laps to run while Dale wanted to go check on Kasey and Angelica.

“Are you free tomorrow night?”

“Absolutely. Why?” Tony then reached over and pulled Dale close to him, sharing yet another kiss.

“Because I want to come see you.”

“It’s a deal.” The pair then separated, smiling as they each went their own ways.

 

Chapter 32: Champion!

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Sunday Night

Lindsay then pulled him close once again, giving him yet another kiss. With everything that had happened throughout the year, it ended up the best way possible. It was official. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Sprint Cup Series Champion. With Jeff off his back, total focus went into the final three months of the season and he was able to come out on top.

“I’m so proud of you,” she told him as she gave him another passionate kiss.

“Thank you for sticking by my side,” he replied to her as he pulled her close once again.

“Can I get a hug?” They heard and Dale smiled as he recognized that sweet voice. He then separated a bit from Lindsay allowing Angelica to join them. “Way to go Dad!”

“Thanks sweetie. I just can’t wait to watch you next year. It’s going to be wild.” They all then smiled as it was officially announced that morning that she’d do some ARCA races for Venturini after her sixth place finish in her debut at Toledo, while running sprints for KKR.

“I’m excited though!”

“Am I interrupting a family moment?” Dale heard behind him as he felt arms wrap around him. Leaning back slightly, he knew who was standing there and it brought a bigger smile to his face. With the cameras off and all the press that needed to be done for the night, they could finally have their moment together.

“Nah – I can have his ass later tonight,” Lindsay commented as they all laughed.

“Then I shall reserve Monday night.”

“At that thought, I’m going to see Ashton,” Angelica commented as she walked away, shaking her head at the three of them. Ashton was a year older than her and with her run with Venturini, she had become friends with him. Shortly after that, he asked her on a date.

As Angelica walked away, Dale spun around and locked lips with Tony.

“Should I be leaving to?” Lindsay then wondered. “I could leave you two be and have my fun later.”

“You can travel with him – I can’t,” Tony then wined as he knew Dale had a full schedule of traveling ahead of him with appearances “I want my baby!” Lindsay then laughed as Tony gave her a pouting face.

“Please Linds?” Dale then begged. “We’ve got all week in New York and wherever else they send us.”

“Fine,” she gave him as she reached up and gave him one final kiss.

“Thank you. Love you.”

“Love you, too. I’ll keep your daughter out of trouble while you two…..well….get into trouble.” They then laughed as she walked away, leaving the pair alone.

“Damn we’re lucky that she understands us so well,” Dale commented as he pulled Tony close back to him. Once their bodies were close and touching, Tony went back to kissing Dale’s lips. “I’m so glad that we crossed paths like we did. I don’t think I could ever top what we have.”

“That’s cause I’m special,” Tony commented as Dale gave him a surprised look.

“You’re special?” Dale then hopped down from the wall he was sitting down and began the long walk back to the infield with Tony. “How are you specia-”

“I’m one of a kind, and I know how to take care of you. That’s got to account to something.” Dale then laughed as he reached over, giving Tony a kiss.

“Yeah, you do know how to take care of me really well.” Tony then spun Dale and stood behind him, wrapping his arms around him. “Thank you for everythi-”

“You need to stop thanking me for the last time. I did it because I care about you. I did what any sane person would do.” Dale shook his head as he knew that Tony was thinking back to things with Jeff.

“No, I meant what we have. Thank you for this.” Tony then kissed Dale’s neck, as they stopped by the entrance to victory lane.

“Well thank you for loving me so much in return. Now, about this special time we have planned together….” Dale then looked at Tony surprised as Tony motioned towards victory lane.

“Are you serious? Do you realize that we could get caugh-”

“Lights are off, right?”

“Yeah. But what if somebody is walkin-”

“Everybody has gone home! I’ve been waiting for this moment since I won the damn race.” Dale then pulled Tony back close, backing up into victory circle with him.

“If we get caught, I’m blaming it all on you.” Tony then kissed Dale’s lips, glad that he got his way, as Dale wrapped his fingers in Tony’s hair.

“I’ll take the blame.” Tony then began playing with the zipper on Dale’s firesuit as Dale ran his fingers lightly down Tony’s cheeks. They both then pulling each other’s zippers down as their lips met once again.

“Tony…..I can’t do this…..” Tony then looked at Dale stunned by those words. What was wrong? Dale then stopped, backing up slightly.

“What’s wrong?” Tony walked a couple steps closer to Dale as Dale kept his eyes focused on the ground.

“I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

“Is it because of where we are?” Tony knew if Dale wasn’t comfortable, they could wait till they got back to the motorcoach lot. Seeing Dale shake his head, Tony then pulled Dale close, pulling him into a cuddle. “What’s wrong bug? Why can’t we do this? Is it because of Lindsay?” Feeling Dale shake his head against him, Tony knew there was only one more reason why. “Dale, I know he hurt you. But I promise I will never do that. I’ll take care of you. I never want to see you hurt like that again. If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to. I understand. If you’re willing to take a chance with me, I promise to take things slow and take care of you. We can go back to the motorcoach and do that if you want. I’m not going to do something you’re not comfortable with.” Dale then looked up towards Tony, tears filling his eyes.

“Let’s go back to the motorcoach; I want to be able to trust you. I’m scared, all I can think of the pain I felt, but I know that you won’t do that.” Tony smiled at Dale’s words.

“Okay, let’s go back to the motorcoach then. And Dale, I promise, I won’t hurt you ever.” The pair then made their way back to the motorcoach as Tony knew to listen to instructions.

Once inside, Dale led Tony to the back of the motorcoach, closing the bedsroom door behind them.

“I’ll be honest – I haven’t done anything sexual related at all, even with Linds, since what happened,” Dale commented as he sat on the bed. “I’ve just been scared. But I really love you and I want to so badly with you. I’ve never felt so in love with anybody like I do with you. This is nothing close to what I had with Jeff or Jimmie.” Tony then sat beside him, rubbing his back.

“That’s because I truly care about you and that’s the bottom line,” Tony comments as he reaches over and kisses Dale’s lips. Dale then slowly lays back with him, continuing to lock lips as they once again pull the zippers down. Dale then slowly pulls Tony’s firesuit off of his shoulders. “If you want me to stop at anytime, just tell me.” Dale then shook his head yes as he kissed Tony’s shoulder.

“Okay.” Tony then slipped Dale’s firesuit off, keeping his eyes locked with Dale’s.

“I promise to take care of you.”

“Okay.” Dale then kissed Tony’s chest as Tony smiled, loving the feeling of Dale’s soft lips against his chest. “I thought Kevin was joking when he said you were hairy like a sasquash. It tickles though.” Tony then laughed.

“I told you I was special. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.” At those words, Tony let his hands lead him to the waistband on Dale’s boxers, pulling them off slowly.

“If you’re uncomfortable, just tell me.” Dale shook his head yes as he pulled Tony’s off as well. Dale then ran his tongue down Tony’s body, circling Tony’s belly button as Tony laughed. “Fuck that tickles!” Dale then laughed as he did it once again, seeing Tony squirm slightly. Tony then retorted, running his tongue slightly up Dale’s cock.

“That feels soo good……can you just do it already?” Tony then smiled at Dale’s request, taking Dale’s cock in whole in his mouth. “Oh fuck!” Tony then began sliding his mouth slowly up and down, enjoying the taste of it. He also kept looking towards his friend, making sure that he was okay with everything. “Damn Tony!” Dale then began playing with Tony’s hair.

“I told you I’d take care of you.” Tony then began picking up the pace lightly.

The rest of the night would be between them as the night would go way better than expected with it full of many moments to remember. As they laid in bed a couple hours later, arms wrapped around each other, they both smiled. Everything that had happened the last year was behind them and now it was all about them…..oh, and Lindsay and Angelica. But for both of them, the nightmares of what had occurred previously were over. They both just hoped they’d never have to go down that road again.

THE END

Redlined – Chapter 2: The Camaro

[kasey kahne]

“Night’s not over, Kahne – I might have another one for you yet.” Rei’s hands were in the window of my blue and white Chevelle, her pretty face filling my field of vision. “If I get this one, there’ll be a lot at stake. Counting on you, man.”

“A lot at stake?” I was admittedly skeptical.

 

“My reputation,” Rei snapped but took the sting out of her words with a sweetly sly grin. “You heard of Malcom?”

 

I shook my head. “Only racers I know are your crew.”

 

“Well, he’s been flaunting this new driver of his,” Rei said, jerking her head back in what I assumed was the direction of the potential challenger. “And you’re going to put him in his place.”

 

“What’s he got?” I couldn’t see clearly over the heads of the people milling about, but I knew it was over there somewhere. In the background, I saw a stunning green Trans Am, and further back the familiar matte black paint scheme of Rei’s own Challenger. “Is it the TA?”

 

“The Pontiac? No way, man. That’d be too easy for you.” She grinned again, leaning into my window. “Camaro SS, year older than your baby.” She patted my machine for emphasis.

 

“1969?” I asked.

 

She nodded.

 

“And what’s he got under the hood?”

 

“From what I’ve heard, the 7.0 liter 427, and I think he’s got a four-speed. I’d have to look again.”

 

I gritted my teeth. I had the superior engine, the 454 big block V8 running 7.4 liters, but the Camaro had the advantage of a lighter overall bodyweight due to the smaller motor. Should make for an interesting race and I’d have been lying if I said I wasn’t up for a bit of a challenge.

 

“Chevy versus Chevy,” I said with a nod. “He wants to, tell him I’ll take him on.”

 

“Atta boy, Kahne,” Rei responds with a chuckle. “Hang tight.” And with that, she turned her attention to a good-looking man approaching her. “You here to look pretty, or to race?” she called, striding forward with her hands on her hips.

 

And I was left here to think.

 

How far I’d come in the days since I first started this. I remember it well – I’d spent years pouring every minute of spare time I had into the restoration of the rusty old ’70 Chevelle I’d found wasting away in some desolate field. Its owner had no problems handing me the keys for a laughably low price. To be honest, I’m pretty sure he would have paid me to take the damn thing off his hands. So I hauled it home where it sat taking up my garage space for what seemed like way too long, and eventually I got it back into mint condition. I hadn’t kept her completely stock – what can I say, I’m a sucker for body molding kits, and my particular machine sported nice flared-out trim and extra chrome around the base of the car. Other than that, pretty much everything else was as close to stock as I could keep it.

 

And what does any self-respecting automotive enthusiast do after he finishes a project? He goes for a cruise, of course. Mine took me through the streets of Mooresville where I ended up at my favorite bar. I made sure the Chevelle was parked where I could see her reflection of the mirror behind the liquor shelves as I lazily ordered a beer in self-congratulation.

 

“You’re watching that Chevy like a protective dad might look out for his pretty daughter,” a woman’s voice had said to me, and that was the first time I met the mysterious Rei. And when I told her it was mine and that I’d restored it from the ground up, she smiled, pointed out her ’71 Challenger, and said she knew of a good place where I could test my metal for real.

 

And so I’d gotten roped into the world of street racing. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was in with some bad people, but to be honest I didn’t care. None of these guys seemed to know that I, known only as Kahne, was a NASCAR driver. I liked the thrill, so I stuck around. That had been over a year ago. And now, well, here I was, and so far my Chevelle and I had made it unscathed. We’d suffered a few bad losses, sure, but who cared when I was winning more than not?

 

“Kahne! You’re up.” It was Rei, tapping my Chevelle’s hood. I fired the motor and let the heavy muscle car roll in neutral to the designated racing strip, a flat, long stretch of weathering road surrounded by spectators and their machines. As my sky-blue Chevelle ambled past her, she thrust a finger at me. “Do not fuck this up.”

 

“Right.” Gotcha, sweetheart. Damn! One thing I knew is that you did not piss Miss Rei off or bad things would happen.

 

I rolled to the starting grid. This was Rei’s turf, so one of her guys served as the flagman. I was the last to the line. My competitor was already there, hidden within the armor of a ’69 Camaro. Its deep midnight blue color was almost invisible against the backdrop of night; the only thing that made the machine stand out was a pair of white stripes running the length of the hood. Huh, I thought. You don’t see ‘em that color very often.

 

In fact, I knew that I’d seen that machine before, tooling around the same streets I rode with my Chevelle. Probably’d seen it in the last few days, even, it seemed that familiar. I couldn’t see its plates from this angle as I eased my Chevy next to the other one, but I knew I’d seen it before.

 

The driver was nearly invisible through the tinted windows and what I could see of him was covered in an inconspicuous helmet. I guess this guy really wanted to keep his identity hidden, I mused. The Stig, they called him, right? After that crazy sonuvabitch on Top Gear? Nice. Well, if I could beat him, I figured I could take anyone on.

 

Rei’s guys began the normal pre-race checks. She had watchers keeping an eye on the perimeter for cops and other traffic who would radio back to the starters. I kept my eye on him but let my mind wander. The familiarity of this Camaro was really bugging me. I knew Jimmie Johnson had one like that but I was fairly certain that he wouldn’t be here. I mean, we talked about our cars all the time, and it seemed like he respected his Camaro too much to put it on the line like this.

 

Right?

 

One of the techs sent to look over our cars for any obviously unfair modifications flashed his light over the hood, briefly illuminating my competitor’s face. He was looking at me, I realized, and with the way I was angled he could likely see my silhouette through the window.

 

I saw his eyes in the burst of light.

 

And that was when my doubts about my NASCAR teammate became reality. “Holy shit,” I muttered as the man dropped his brown-eyed gaze. Dark eyebrows barely traced the upper contours of his helmet.

 

“Jimmie,” I muttered to myself, knowing no one could hear me over the throaty idling of these two American-made monsters. “What the hell are you doing here…?”

Mayday #9 – Chapters 11 Thru 15

Chapter 11: Spilling Emotions Con’t

“I think the biggest thing is just being honest with yourself, whether you like it or not. There may be days where you have to be honest with yourself and in the back of your mind you know you didn’t do something right or know that you could have done a better job. And I think you just have to face those issue.” – Chase Elliott, November 2014
Whether he liked it or not, he had to face that day. He had to face the events and be honest with himself about what happened. If he was ever to move on, he had to recall each event and see what happened. He had to recall each feeling he felt and why. It would be the only way to move forward.

Beyond that, if mistakes were made in his mind, he had to face those and learn from those moving forward to continue growing. It was why he had been disecting each moment clearly with Regan to make himself feel better.

He had already made one mistake – letting this tear him apart. He had perhaps made another mistake in letting his guard down.

Now sitting there recounting details, he knew this is what he had to do to even begin to move forward.

“So after you got over the initial shock, what happened?” Regan questions, snapping Chase out of his thoughts.

After what had been said, Regan was intrigued as to what the young man before him had to say. He wanted to know so that way he could help Chase through whatever he was dealing with from what had happened. Though the story also had his interest as he wanted to know how things were put in place with the events that happened that fateful weekend.

“Randy told us to hurry up and for me to hand over my suit,” Chase recalls as he sits, thinking about standing in the trailer hearing those comments. “He then closed the door and took his role, standing guard. I was so confused that I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock as to what was happening, confused as to what was going to happen.

“The initial shock still there….” Regan thinks out loud as he awaits for Chase to continue.

“Dale snapped me out of my thoughts, though….”

“Pull the suit off, and the shoes, and give them to me,” Dale instructs as Chase sits down beside him, beginning to do so, confusion clearly written over his face.

“What’s going on Dale?” Chase wonders. “Why am I changing out of my stuff?” Dale then looks down, taking a deep breath.

“They’re forcing me to run the 500 today and if I don’t win, Mariela is going to kill Marie.” Chase’s jaw drops immediately as he hands his stuff over, watching Dale get into the suit. “Little tight but oh well.”

“You can’t run this race.” Dale then looks over at the young man.

“I hav-”

“You can’t run this race, Dale. I can tell by looking at you how sore you still are from what happened earlier this week and this latter half while you have been kidnapped. You may think that you’re some kind of superman, but you can’t run this race.”

“I hav-”

“You can’t humanly do it!” Dale fixes the suit once again as he looks in the mirror at himself. He could see what Chase was saying by how he felt at the current moment. He knew that it was going to be hell trying to complete this, but what choice did he have?

“I have to – I have no choice. If I don’t go out there, she has Marie – she’ll kill her now.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief as he sits back in the lounge area.

“There I was, standing shock and confused not knowing what to do, but yet he sounded so confident,” Chase comments as he thinks back. “It stunned me. I couldn’t believe how confident he sounded in what was set to happen. It was like he was certain that he could do it no matter what, despite how he was feeling.”

“He had been through dealing with Mariela before and Marie’s father so it was probably just programmed memory,” Regan shares. “They also say that when you’re put in a tough situation that you’ll do anything for those you love. That what he was doing. He didn’t know what else to do. He did what he had to do, just like you had, too.” Chase knew those words seemed to be true, but he wondered how much truth was laced in them. What if he could’ve changed fate?

“I knew that arguing with him wasn’t going to get us anywhere. So I just told him that I hoped it turned out. I then shared the regrets in not saying anything earlier when Randy had confronted me.” Regan then crosses his arms, already knowing the answer that Chase probably recieved.

“And what did Dale say?” Chase looks over, knowing that the answer was easy.

“The same thing that you told me earlier. He also told me to be careful with Mariela and that everything would work out. He also promised me that mom and dad would find me.” Regan snickers, knowing that everybody knew Bill and Cindy really well. There was no way that anybody should go messing with momma bear’s cub. She may be quiet, but she’ll defend him top to bottom.

“They were right mad when they found out about you missing, let me tell you. They promised to do whatever it took to find you, also.” Chase smiles.

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Chase then takes a deep breath, as he goes back through his thoughts once again. “So then Dale left, simple as that. He left, confident, set to go about the business at hand. Meanwhile, I sat on the couch with Mariela, curious about my future…..”

“Well well, look at you cutie,” Mariela comments, her eyes immediately darting over to Chase. “Aren’t you just adorable?”

“Hurt him and I can promise you that you haven’t seen nothing yet from any of us,” Dale starts as he walks towards the door. “He isn’t part of this at all. Once I’m in the car, let him go and don’t hurt him, please. He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Oh don’t you worry about a thing dear.”

“Good luck Dale,” Chase states. “I believe in you.” Dale gives him the thumbs up before leaving with Randy, helmet in hand. Mariela then closes the door and flops down on the couch beside him, turning on the race.

“I guess we can sit here and watch this together to learn how fate goes,” she comments as Chase curls up in the corner, fear starting to enter more and more based on what he had heard about Mariela’s past stunts with Dale and Marie.

“I guess….”

“Oh don’t worry. I won’t touch you. Like he said, you’re not involved. There’s only one dear that really matters to me at the end of the day, and she has a good view of what’s going on as well.”

“Marie….” Regan lets out as Chase shakes his head yes. “That isn’t a surprise. They had her locked in a trailer, with her television to watch.” Chase had figured on that originally, and was pretty sure that it wasn’t far from where he was either. “I’m glad that she told you that she wouldn’t touch you.”

“Yeah…” Chase lets out as he tries to stay as relaxed as possible on the couch. “It didn’t give me any comfort at that moment. I mean, why would I feel comfortable with a person who knew how to poison someone and torture them? Have you ever seen anybody comfortable with a psychopath?” Regan shakes his head no as he knew that for himself. “But, she did stick by her word for awhile. We sat there watching the pre-race show. They showed Dale and Randy walking to the car. They showed him climbing in and Randy helping him. It felt right but yet so surreal at the same time.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s his car so it should feel right. But he was in my firesuit and he was hurting. He shouldn’t be driving. He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be able to walk by that group of people without anybody noticing or say anything.” Regan understood that feeling, having watched from the motorcoach. He hadn’t noticed it, himself, but he blamed that on being sick. However, if he had noticed it, he wondered whether he would’ve done anything to stop or change things with what was on the line.

“Steve said that he noticed it right away, but didn’t want to say anything out of fear. He knew if Dale was on the car, that meant that there was some plan up with you and Marie. He said that he said nothing out of fear that one of you, or both, would be hurt.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. It was the same reason that Chase had bit his tongue while speaking to Randy. It was the same reason why Dale had acted as if nothing was going wrong in the moment. How could they act different? There were lives at stake!

“That explains it, I guess.”

“But Steve didn’t keep quiet that long, though. He went to the one person that could help Dale – Jason. He told Jason because I noticed a change in Jason’s behavior once he found out. It was what gave me the tick off to come out to pit road and see what was going on….”

“Is it true that Dale is in the car?” Steve hears a voice, catching him off-guard.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest and not moving an inch out of your motorhome?” Steve questions as he looks towards Regan.

“I escaped Megan’s hold when I heard that Dale was in the car. Now, is it true?” Steve shakes his head yes as Regan lets out a long sigh. “So that means that Mariela has Chase. Great, that’s my fault. I should’ve been the lined back-up driver. I should’ve been standing there. I could’ve done something to stop it. I could’ve possibly caught everything in the act!”

“Regan, you don’t need to beat yourself up as I told you already,” Chase breaks into Regan’s story as Regan looks up.

“I know that now – it was just in the moment,” Regan states as he turns his eyes away from Chase. “I still feel terrible, though. You don’t deserve what happened. If I had been in the car, we wouldn’t been having this discussion tonight. Everything could’ve worked out differently….” Chase then reaches out and puts his hand on Regan’s shoulder, catching the older driver’s attention.

“I don’t want to hear another word of it. Things happened for whatever reason that they did and we can’t change them. We can only deal with it and move forward. You’re helping me do that by being here. By being a friend and helping me, it makes up for everything as I could never be mad at you.” Regan smiles slightly, reaching over to hug Chase.

“Alright….” Regan then take another sip of his hot chocolate before getting set for what he knew was to come. “Keep going. We’ve come so far that we can’t stop now.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing that Regan was right. While it was hard to talk about any of this, he knew that he had to continue. It was already easier on the heart with what he had already said and this was the easy stuff. What would it feel like to get everything out there?

“So we stayed quiet watching the race as it kept going on and on. Not a single word was spoken. That was till 50 to go when she finally piped up when he fell back a bit…..

“This is going to be interesting,” Mariela comments from her perch as she glances over at Chase.

“He can still do it,” Chase says.

“You sound so very confident, but we all know that you’re just a sweet little boy who is naïve of reality and admiring a hero.” Chase looks over at her as if she’s crazy.

“I’d have you know that it’s more like watching my boss and knowing how much that he has helped me and what he has done in his career to date. Beyond that, I’m not a sweet little boy as incase you forgot, I’m 19.”

“16, 17, 18, 19…..you’re still in your teens and that means sweet little boy.”

“Wait….doesn’t she know a thing about plate racing?” Regan questions, breaking Chase’s concentration. “Doesn’t she know to never question an Earnhardt?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Guess not because she was doubting that he’d able to do it,” Chase comments as Regan shakes his head in disbelief.

“She should’ve known already not to cross paths with him or question his ability to do what is needed to be done. Gosh, what a girl. Not only was she crazy but also delusional.” Chase laughs as it did bring some light to the situation as Regan clears his throat. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have interrupted your story. You may continue…”

“I was focused on watching the race and keeping her away from me. Then I heard noises outside – and I wondered if it was you guys. Maybe I rescue was ready for me….hopefully. She then also noticed them as well, and asked me who it was…”

“I didn’t hear anything…” Chase comments.

“Oh bullshit!” Mariella yells. “You wish that’s how I treat it!” She then grabs him by a piece of his hair to pull him over to her and force him to look out the window. “Recognize those people?” A smile came to be on Chase’s inside as he certainly recognized the group immediately – Steve LeTarte, Regan Smith and his parents.

“No….no clue who they are. Do you know who they are?” He wasn’t about to give in that it was them in fear that she’d pull some drastic measure in knowing that there was a chance of her being caught soon.

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

“I honestly don’t….” She then gives him a slap across the cheek, cutting off his words.

“I know one of those people is Steve LeTarte, sweetheart, so why don’t you just spill who the other three are?” Chase takes a nervous deep breath as he quickly evaluated his own options.

“Regan Smith and my parents – Bill and Cindy – are the other two. Happy?” Mariela just shakes her head in disgust as they both hear doors open, knowing that the group is coming close

 

Chapter 12: Diving into the Middle

I can’t stand the pain and I can’t make it go away. How could this happen to me? I made my mistakes, I’ve got no where to run. The night goes on as I’m fading away. I’m sick of this; I just wanna scream. – Simple Plan

As the February night crept into his mind once again, it brought an unbearable pain. It was a pain that could tear any person to shreds. There was no physical pain, but yet it felt worst. It tore at him from the inside out, bringing forth a tinge of tears to his eyes as he sat there on the couch with Regan.

It was a pain that had haunted him for nights on an end, bringing forth night of no sleep. It was a pain that he felt could never go away….or could it? it was why he had called his best friend.

In spending time recounting the fateful day, he kept asking him – why? Why was he involved? How could he be going through this? It didn’t seem fair. Perhaps he made mistakes along the way, but did he deserve all of this?

The pain brought forth the feeling of not being able to escape it, with the night sky fading away as the sun was trying to come up. He was annoyed and wanted it gone. Hence why Regan was joining him on the couch that day.

Taking a deep breath, he brings himself back to the day and continues to account the events….

“Chase?” A female voice calls out as Mariela keeps her eyes on Chase.

“That’d be my mother,” Chase assures her. “Ever wondered what happens when you kidnap someone’s baby?”

“Chase?” Chase just smirks at Mariela, knowing that his captive time was coming to an end in a matter of moments.

“I guess in the minute of having faith, all the fear that I had disappeared,” Chase comments as he looks over at Regan. “I thought that I was safe. I thought in a moment that it’d be over. They’d open the door, somehow grab a hold of her and it’d be over. Call myself cocky, but that’s how I pictured it in my mind.”

“You weren’t cocky – you were thinking of the best situation for yourself,” Regan comments as he thinks back to standing outside. “We thought that it’d be just being her in there that we could just break in, as you say grab her and then you’re free. You weren’t the only one.”

“Guess we were both wrong?”

“It seems like it. So….take a deep breath…continue….” Chase does as requested, looking towards the ground as he thinks it over.

“Thinking that she couldn’t stop me now, I immediately darted for the door. I figured that I could get it open, I could easily escape and you guys would be right there. Plus, the door was probably locked on the outside….or though I thought…so I wanted to get it open.” Regan knew where they were going, having remembered the position that the young man was in when they had reached the door.

“But…”

“As my hand touched the door handle, she placed her hand on my shoulder and pulled me back – suddenly, forcely, surprisingly – and I flung back into the couch, back first. I caught the edge of my back on the couch and it stunned me for a second. My easy plan was thrown away.” Chase then glances up at Regan. “What if I hadn’t reached for the door?”

“What if it was locked and we couldn’t have gotten in? What if you would’ve reached the handle? You can’t fault yourself for trying. When we’re stuck in a situation that we can’t control, we try to take control.” Chase shakes his head yes as he returns his eyes to the floor. “Take your time….” Regan reaches over and rubs Chase’s back, knowing that each word spoken was becoming harder and harder.

“My mom heard it so she yelled for Steve and Dad. She knew that I needed help. Mariela then started walking towards me saying that ‘them being here is going to make things worse’. I thought she was just playing cocky. I thought that she was trying to be her all powerful self. I figured that she would try and make me hurt more, but it wouldn’t last because you guys were right there. I knew that the longer I could keep her back, the less pain would be caused…or so I thought.” Chase then takes a deep breath, feeling a couple tears trickle down his face. “I twisted her words on themselves, starting to get up, surprised how much my back hurt…”

“…..I remember the bruises. Those were awful.”

“They felt worse than they looked, honestly.” Chase wipes the first couple tears away, keeping his eyes focused on the floor as Regan continues to rub his back.

“Take your time. You can do it. You can tell me what happened…it’s okay…” Chase takes a couple deep breathes, ignoring the panicking thoughts that are entering his mind as he thinks back to the panic that went through him that day.

“As I focused on getting up and trying to keep her busy with a couple jabs back and forth, I watched her hand reach into her pocket. My mind immediately flashed as to what could possibly be there, as it could’ve been anything. The first thing you think of is a gun because hey, you see that in every horror mov-”

“Thankfully, she wasn’t that nuts, or armed and dangerous.” Chase then looks over at Regan.

“She was still, dangerous.” He then focuses his eyes down. “As I tried to focus on that, I noticed a bit of a silver shine and knew that it was a knife. I couldn’t find a word to say or anything that I could do. All I saw, in my mind, was an object that was ready to bring me misery. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what to say. I immediately began to back up from her, wanting to get as far as possible, but yet unable. The wall, the couch – I had nowhere to run. That brought forth a state of panic because I didn’t know what to do and while I was dealing what, she grabbed a hold of me…and….well….you know….” Regan shakes his head, remembering the thoughts that went through his mind when he entered the room that day.

“I understand. I would’ve been scared as well. I mean, everybody knows that knives hurt, knives pierce body parts and result in major injury or death. It’s okay to admit that you were afraid and you panicked. Anybody would’ve in that situation.” Chase shakes his head as he knew that it was logical. It was also probably why it was the one moment that had haunted him the most since the day of the attack and was present in most of his dreams.

“No matter what I do, I can’t forget that moment or erase it from my mind. It’s the most haunting thing that I have ever seen – worse than any scary movie that you forced me to watch.” Regan could only chuckle as he thought of all the scary movies that he made Chase sit through, and how many times the popcorn had gone flying. “That’s the moment that stands out for me, in my dreams, in my thoughts.”

“It was the biggest moment that happened.” Regan takes a deep breath, as he knew that he was ready for what was to come. “The only way you’re going to move forward is if you face that day and talk about it. tell me about that day. Give me more details about what happened. Tell me the emotions that you felt that day, and the emotions that you feel as you look back.” Chase closes his eyes and feels the tears trickle down his cheek, emotions boiling over inside of him as he knew there were a lot of different things that he could – each resulting in him being more upset than ever.

“Sometimes in my dreams I am in my own body, going through the emotions. Sometimes I’m a third party watching the person that is being held. I feel as though I’m watching to try and see if there was something that I could’ve done anything different.” Chase looks up at Regan. “You know I’m a perfectionist – always looking back at every situation and seeing what I could’ve done better. I look back at each race and find every single mistake that I make and find out how I could make sure I don’t make it in the future. The same goes here. I keep wondering what mistakes I made, and whether I could’ve changed what happened.” Regan shakes his head, understanding, as he had gotten to know that side of his teammate. Through their time together last year, Regan helped Chase look at each situation easier, understanding that mistakes happen as a rookie and that rather than focus on those, focus on the positives of the race as well. Through the coaching by Regan, Greg and Dale, Chase had gotten better as the year went on leading to the championship. However, the element was still there and part of him.

“We talked about the initial push….” Chase shakes his head.

“I know, and I get that. But, Regan, what would you have done?” Chase keeps his eyes locked on his teammate, intriguingly. “When she approached with the knife, reached to grab – I want to know if there was anything that I could’ve done to prevent it!” Regan takes a deep breath as he thinks over the best words to say in response. No doubt he had been put in a tough situation.

“As she pulled out the knife, I probably would’ve been shocked – but if not totally panicked, I may have tried to push her back or kick my foot out to trip her. Anything that I could to throw her off her game so I could buy time, knowing people were there to rescue me. If she had gotten as far as pulling the knife out and reaching, I would’ve done anything to try and get away – as you did. However, there’s only so much that you could do in a small place and you don’t want to do too much because you don’t want that thing sticking in you.” Chase focuses his eyes back on the ground, thinking over Regan’s words as to the situation.

“So in other words, there was nothing else to do?”

“You took perfect advantage of the situation. Sometimes you are dealt situations that you can’t do anything about. That’s life – she’s a bitch sometimes.” Chase rolls his eyes as no doubt that statement was true.

“I just…..Can I make it disappear?” Regan shakes his head no.

“You tried that before and did it work?” Chase shakes his head no. “Why won’t it disappear? Tell me….”

“The fact that I wish I could’ve done something – the fear that creeps into my min-”

“She’s dead and gone. She can’t hurt you ever again.” Chase shakes his head as he had reminded himself of that fact each night.

“But there’s others in the world that could do the same….”

“Those are rare people as most people are sane and know that it’s wrong to do that. You don’t need to be afraid. You’ve got people around you who have your back no matter what. You’ve got people who will protect you if for some reason someone of that nature steps into our lives again. Look at the weekend as you always have your crew with you. Look at living here at the pool house. The best security is here, thanks to the boss, and you’ve got others right around here that would stop anything. Actually, nobody would try anything as Brad would shoot them with his bloody tank.” Chase chuckles as he could picture Brad doing that. “Your panic and wanting to change the situation – you got to face it and understand that you did what you could. Anybody would’ve done what you did….”

Chase would continue to dish bits and pieces of the emotions for the next hour with Regan responding to each, finding anyway to comfort the young man. the result would be tears shed, hugs shared and emotions lied on the couch that night.

Feeling confident that everything was out on the table and set to move on with no problems, the issue was put to bed – with Chase promising that anything did come up, he would contact Regan once again.

“Thanks for coming, by the way,” Chase says before glancing towards the clock. “I’m sorry I called you at like 4…”

“It’s fine,” Regan assures him again. “You needed to talk to someone and I’m fine with being that person for you, if it helps you.” Chase then glances back at Regan.

“Even if it means that we talked for three hours?” Regan looks over at the clock, surprised that it was like 7.

“Even if it means that it’s morning.” Regan then turns to the young man, knowing what needs to be done. “Now that we’ve talked about everything, you can go to sleep and Chase, you need sleep.”

“Bu-” Regan shakes his head no, not wanting to hear it.

“I don’t want to hear it. Go up to and go to bed. I won’t go anywhere; I promise. I’m going to put my feet up down here and get some sleep myself.” Chase knew that Regan was right. He was needing sleep due to lack of sleep the last while, and no doubt felt more wore out than normal with divulging everything. However, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“I have to go to the sho-”

“You’re not doing them, today. You’re tired and you need sleep. If you don’t get your ass some sleep, you’re going to get sick again. chase, take care of yourself and go get some sleep. Dale will understand when I explain things to him and be fine with it. I’ll handle him and keeping him off of your ass, if you’re so worried. But trust me when I say that he will understand and things will be fine. Go.” Chase then slowly gets off the couch and heads for the stairs, walking up them to head to bed. As he reaches the halfway mark, he stops and looks into the living room.

“Regan, you’re truly an angel.” Regan laughs as he looks over at him.

“Riiight….”

“I mean it. Thanks for being here.”

“No – thank you for doing the right thing and handling the situation. Now go!” Chase then focuses his eyes back on the stairs and takes a couple more steps, though freezes.

“Regan?” Regan rolls his eyes as he wishes that Chase would simply listen. He looks over, though, catching the eyes looking back at him. “Promise you won’t leave?” Regan shakes his head yes.

“I promise.” Chase then continues the walk to his room, flopping on the bed.

Pulling the blanket over himself, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. for the first time in a longtime, he felt a peaceful feeling in knowing that he had released everything that was buried inside. As he closes his eyes, there was no way that any negative thought could cross his mind.

 

Chapter 13: Post Discussion

A knock startles Regan as he jumps, rolling off the couch on the floor.

“Shit!” He yells as he then turns and goes to get up, hearing another knock. “I’m coming. Stop knocking!” He then makes his way over to the door, opening it, not surprised when he sees Dale standing at the other side. He figured it was probably Dale based on Chase’s comments before heading upstairs.

“Regan?” Dale asks confused as Regan motions for him to come in.

“Just keep your voice down, please.” Dale shakes his head as he follows Regan into the front room, where Regan flops back down on the couch.

“Where’s Chase?” Regan points upstairs as Dale looks on. He then goes to leave the room when Regan grabs his hand.

“Don’t go disturbing him, please.” Dale then stops and looks towards Regan, confused. “Listen, the kid couldn’t sleep last night. He called me at 3am, crying, unable to sleep. He wanted to talk about what happened and get it out of his system. I came over right away.” Dale then walks back towards the couch, sitting in the chair by it.

“Meg-”

“I left her a note, okay? I got here about 3:45 we’ll see and we talked all the way till sunrise through the night about what happened. He got it out of his system – which he needed to do a long time ago.” Dale shakes his head in agreement as he takes a glance towards the stairs.

“So he’s sleeping?” Regan shakes his head yes.

“I sent him upstairs and told him to get some rest because he obviously needs it with not being able to sleep and all that emotional baggage that he was carrying. He complained, saying that he needed to go to the shop, but I made him go upstairs and told him that I’d handle you.”

“You did the right thing. He needs to take care of himself and then we can worry about everything else. I’m sure all the meetings can be done tomorrow. Regan, thank you for coming over and helping him.”

“Just like I told him – I don’t need to be thanked. I did it as a friend because I care about him. When everything went down back in February, I was so worried about him and scared for him. I’m just glad that he’s okay, and I’ll do whatever it necessary to help him move forward.” The pair glance at each other as they knew the next step was getting through the trial that was set to happen next month. “When’s the trial?”

“Right after Daytona.” Regan rolls his eyes as he knew that was just great timing as they’d be going back to Daytona for the first time since February, and then have that followed by the beginning of the trial immediately.

“I have confidence that he’ll be fine now we talked about it and went through his emotions. I’ve always said that’s what he needed to do.” Dale looks down, remembering the discussion that he had with Chase after what happened.

“I came over here that night and told him that he needed to talk to someone, eventually, when he was ready. I didn’t realize that it’d take till June.” Regan looks over at Dale and watches him curiously. While Chase’s emotions were their own separate discussion, Dale had his own layers with what happened on the plane, in Pitronia and then in Daytona.

“For some people, it’s a lot harder than others – or so they say. He also needed to find the right comfort in the perfect person to talk to. What matters is that he did finally speak.” Dale shakes his head, understandingly, as he knew that it helped him in the same respect after he had got down talking to Rick about things. While he had talked to Bill the night of, he wentt to Rick a couple weeks later and sat down with him to get his feelings out. Between that and discussions with Marie, the events were becoming more distant.

“Like I said, thank yo-”

“I don’t want to hear it. Just like I don’t want to hear nay blame passed around, either.” Dale looks up, surprised.

“Do you get cranky when you don’t sleep?” Regan lies back on the couch and shakes his head no.

“I just don’t want to hear it. That’s all.” Dale then stands up and grabs a blanket, throwing it over Regan.

“Yeah, whatever. Get some sleep. I’ll tell the boys that you’re both not coming in today. Even if he wakes up around noon and tries to come in, don’t let him. Tell him to take the day to himself.”

“Yes boss.” Dale then leaves, quietly shutting the door behind him as Regan falls back asleep.

The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon went by smoothly.

Chase was able to catch up on some much needed sleep with ease, as he found no thoughts crossing his mind. Sure, there was a slight attempt at disruption of sleep, but the young man was able to erase the thought immediately and go back to positive dreams.

After grabbing a quick shower and a bite to eat, Chase leaves Regan a note on the table before heading outside. He could hear a familiar engine sound in the backyard and knew that someone was there and up to something. It was a sound that he enjoyed hearing as he knew that laughter and a sweet voice came with it.

He smiles as he reaches the go-kart track, watching as she pilots the mini sprint around, sliding the corner with perfect precision, picking up the throttle just past the center to get the right drive down the straightaway. She may only be four, but she was picking up on driving technique immediately.

Chase smiles as he watches over, joining Kasey Kahne by the edge of the track as the older driver – car owner in this case – keeps his eyes on her. He watches as she makes lap after lap, clicking off the stop watch, watching as she continues to dive in harder.

With approval in what he’s seen, Kasey grabs the checkered flag and waves it as she immediately slows. She goes for a slow lap around before stopping the sprint infront of Kasey and Chase. Slipping the helmet off and climbing out the top, she instantly lays her eyes on Chase.

“Did you see how fast I was going?” She asks and Chase shakes his head yes.

“You looked really good,” he comments as Kasey smiles.

“Her lap times are just beyond impressive,” Kasey says as he checks the chart over. “Best run of the afternoon.”

“Practice makes perfect – and she’s got the corners down.”

“I didn’t even have to teach her. I just told her to slide it a little and after a couple spins, she mastered the right turning.”

“Am I good racecar driver?” Alyssa interrupts the pair of adults. They both stop talking and look towards her and shake their heads yes.

“I think you’re going to do awesome on Wednesday!” Kasey comments as Chase looks over. “Oh, you haven’t heard?” Chase shakes his head no confused as Kasey looks back at Alyssa. “Alyssa, want to tell Chase?”

“We going racing!!” Chase smiles as that definitely was great news. “Kasey taking me to ‘illbridge with Anutie Kelley, Karsyn, Kennedy and Wyatt.”

“Millbridge,” Kasey states as he looks back towards Chase. “Figured I’d let her get started as she looks great.”

“Chasey, you come?” Alyssa questions as she sets her eyes on Chase. Chase then looks over at Alyssa as a big smile forms on his face.

“Of course,” Chase comments. “I’ll come cheer you on.”

“Yay!” Alyssa then hurries over and wraps both arms around his legs. “I lub mah buddy.”

“I love you too, Alyssa.”

 

Chapter 14: Millbridge

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Chase hears and immediately rolls his eyes as he glances over towards his left. It was a question that he had been asked a bunch of times since Monday and was ready to punch the source in the head if he didn’t stop.

“Dale – I’m fine,” Chase assures the boss. “I got caught up on my sleep on Monday, and I have slept well both Monday night and Tuesday night. You don’t need to worry about me. I can come out and have some fun tonight.” Dale lets out a sigh as he knew that he was being too pesky about it. However, given how serious things had gotten, he wasn’t about to take chances.

“Just making sure, man.” The pair then keep walking, knowing the direction of where they were headed.

Dale had been there before to watch his nieces and per Kasey’s explanation, Alyssa would be parked right near them. So for that reason, they considered it rather easy to find where their munskin would be.

“Chasey!!” Alyssa yells as she looks their direction, taking off running towards the pair. She immediately wraps her arms around Chase’s leg and hugs him before looking up with a smile. “You came!”

“I promised, didn’t I?” Chase asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I so glad you here.” She then hurries to the truck, grabbing a shirt before returning to see him again. “You wear this.” Chase then looks over at Dale, who shrugs his shoulders, before laying his eyes back on the shirt. Chase then unfolds the shirt, smiling as he sees her number and name written on it, with a small car. He then flips it over, glancing at the back to let a bigger smile form on his face as he recognizes the drawing. “I made for you. Mommy help. Mommy do front, me do back.”

“It’s beautiful sweetheart.” He then slips it over his head, letting it cover the black t-shirt that he had chosen to wear with his jeans that night. Twirling around, no doubt there were people making comments around them about how it looked – but he didn’t care, for he was there to have fun with his buddy that night. Seeing the smile on her face at him wearing the shirt made it all worthwhile. “Do I look good?”

“You look grrrreeaaat!”

“Where’s daddy’s loving?” Dale interrupts the pair as Alyssa looks over at her dad, still smiling away.

“I love daddy,” she tells him before giving him a hug and reaching up for a kiss. He kneels down to her level and she kisses his cheek. “But Chasey specal. He need feel better. I make him better.” Dale smiles as he looks between the pair, seeing that she was having a good effect on Chase as the smile on his face was the biggest that had been there all week so far.

“That’s very sweet of you, princess.” Alyssa then stands up straight and tall with a smile.

“I Princess Alyssa. I help everybody.”

“And look super cute while doing it,” Chase adds as she takes a bow before hurrying back over to Kasey. “She’s the most adorable princess that I know. Those Disney princesses have nothing on her.”

“That’s my amazing daughter,” Dale comments as they walk over to where Kasey is working on the car as Alyssa sits on a tire, sipping a juice box. “How’s the car, crew chief?” Kasey looks up and over at the pair with a smile.

“It’s perfect – just double checking tire pressures and stuff,” Kasey says as he leans back and takes a small break. “She looked good during practice. Couple more laps and she’ll have this place figured out.”

“Already?” Kasey shakes his head yes.

“She’s so good that she has impressed the senior regulars already.”

“I a natural,” Alyssa states with her brows fused together. “They say that. I don’t know but it sound….good?” Chase shakes his head yes as he takes a seat on the tire beside her.

“That’s a great complement to receive,” Chase assures her. “That means that you are easily becoming a great racecar driver since you’re so good already. That’s because you’re picking up on the knowhow from your daddy.” Alysas smiles as she catches her dad’s eyes before looking at Chase.

“And you!” Chase shakes his head yes, figuring that it’d be easy to let her think that for now, since understanding family genes wouldn’t come for a couple more years in her life. “And Gramps.” They each shake their head yes, once again, knowing that she was right. Her fierceness and tackling the track without any fear was something that Dale had immediately attributed to her getting from his dad. No doubt she had a touch of each Earnhardt in her – with some Elliott teaching – and it was making her a very talented young, princess, racecar driver.

“Listen, sweets, you’re just the perfect mix of everything together.” Kasey wipes his hands off before looking at Alyssa and motioning for her to come over.

“Bu-”

“Come here for a minute, please,” Kasey requests as Alyssa lets out a sigh. She hops off the tire and walks over to Kasey, sitting on his knee. “We need to talk about something, don’t we?” Alyssa shakes her head yes, slowly.

“Kasey…”

“I don’t want to hear any explanations or excuses. I told you earlier that you can’t go running off without telling me where you’re going and letting me come with you if its far. You can’t go to the bathroom by yours-”

“But I had to go!” Kasey knew that was coming.

“Then you tell me.”

“But you’re a boy.” Dale and Chase chuckle as they watch Kasey with her.

“Right, but I can still walk you to the bathroom and wait for you outside, right?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “You also can’t go see Karsyn, or Kennedy, or Wyatt unless you tell me first.” Alyssa shakes her head, understating. “I told you that twice earlier and then you ran off with Chase and Daddy got here.” Dale crosses his arms, knowing where this was going.

“Alyssa, what were you told?” Dale questions as Alyssa looks towards her daddy.

“’isten to Kasey,” Alyssa states before turning her eyes to Kasey. “I sorry Kasey. I be good. I ‘ell you now on.”

“Thank you sweetheart,” Kasey says before giving her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I just don’t want you running off and losing you, okay?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “Now go get your helmet and gloves because it’s almost time for you to race.”

“Okay!” Alyssa then hurries off in the trailer as Dale smiles, glancing between Kasey and Alyssa.

“You need to have kids, you’re so good with her,” Dale comments as Kasey shrugs his shoulders.

“I want to have kids but why does it have to be so hard to find Mrs. Right?” Kasey questions as Dale pats him on the shoulder.

“Give it time, give it time. She’ll come along with the time is right.” Dale then lets his eyes go back to Alyssa as he watches her find her gloves and helmet before returning. He keeps his eyes on her as she gets ready – with Kasey’s help – in getting her helmet and gloves on, and getting belted in the car.

“Okay – you’re ready. Go lien up behind that green kart with the big number 55.” Alyssa shakes her head yes as Kasey starts up the midget and sends her off to get lined up for her first big race.

With her set to head out, the three of them walk towards the grandstands, ready to meet up with the rest of the clan to watch her race. The whole walk there, both Chase and Kasey could tell that the mind of the person between them were clouded with thoughts. Kasey pondered as to what they could pertain, narrowing it down to one little girl. He wondered whether Dale’s fears of her being safe were there, or whether something else.

“She’s going to be fine, Dad,” Kasey assures him as he gives Dale a pat on the back.

“I know – I know that she’s safe,” Dale replies as they reach the grandstands. Dale pauses for a second as he glances over to where she’s lined up, before laying his eyes back on Kasey. “It’s just – you don’t realize how much you love your little girl till the worst possible thing happens. Hearing you talk about her not leaving you and stuff, stirred up memories.” Kasey shakes his head, understnaidng, as he wraps an arm around Dale.

“I’m sorry – honestly. I didn’t mean to do that.” Dale shakes his head as he knew that wasn’t the point.

“No, no, you did the right thing. She had to know that so she behaves. I’m glad that you did that with her as I want her to know stuff like that.” Dale lets out a sigh before he continues walking, the pair in toe. “It’s just – flashback, that’s all. Just let’s forget about it and focus on tonight. Tonight is about having fun, right?”

“Isn’t that why I’m wearing a pink and purple shirt with a design on it?” Chase questions as Dale looks over with a grin on his face.

“You do look cute, honestly,” Dale comments as Kasey shakes his head in agreement.

“Pink is such your color that I think you should maybe color your hair purple with pink highlights,” Kasey adds with a laugh.

“Oh you’re both jealous that she made me a special gift and didn’t share with you boys,” Chase says before heading up the stairs and sitting down behind Marie as Dale sits beside her.

“Nice shirt,” Marie comments with a smile as she looks back at Chase.

“Thanks. Did you have to choose this color?” Marie chuckles as she glances back towards the track.

“Her choice – not mine. It suits you, though.” Marie then takes a deep breath as they watch the quarter midgets come on the track. “Here we go. Let the nerves begin….”

 

Chapter 15: Millbridge Part 2

“Why did I let you both convince me that this was a good idea?” Marie comments as she sits in the grandstands, watching her daughter race around the track against other children her age and a couple years older.

“Because you knew that you couldn’t deny her a shot at her dream?” Dale questions as Marie glances over at him, with her eyebrows raised.

“Because the midget is prepared by my team and you know that it’s safe should something happen,” Kasey added as Marie lets out a sigh, turning her eyes back down to her feet.

“I can’t watch this!” She lets out as she covers her eyes, bouncing her knees up and down as she feels nerves take over her.

“Will you relax? She’s fine,” Chase comments as he keeps tabs on how she’s doing.

“Forget fine – she’s awesome!” Kasey compliments as he continues jotting down lap times.

“She’s leading with an advantage,” Dale starts as he looks over at Kasey’s notes. “Why?” Kasey looks up.

“Even if you’re winning, you still have to look for places to improve. That’s why I’m keeping track. Plus, ask Karsyn…”

“The western US has a stronger midget racing background with stronger drivers,” Karsyn starts. “To win there you have to be even better than you do here. That’s why you need to strive for improvement to do better out there. Remember my first trip?” Chase grins as he remembers Karsyn’s comment from when she got back from going out west.

“What did you tell Mike for the thing that you learned how to do?” Chase asks as Karsyn rolls her eyes.

“Of course you’d remember that. I learned how to lose, graciously, in accepting defeat and looking at how I could become better. It was a good learning experience.”

“How many more laps?” Marie questions, still not watching the action on the track.

“Only a couple more till you’re out of your misery,” Karsyn answers as she rubs her aunt’s back.

The race so far had gone perfectly for Alyssa. She started mid-pack and easily worked her way to the front of the field. Now leading with a healthy advantage, it was all about no mistakes over the next five laps and keeping the lead till the checkered flag was dropped.

As Kasey continued to watch her ride the high line, sliding the back end perfectly, no fear in being close to the wall, he knew that she was definitely, really good. It sort of reminded him of a couple other young drivers who had gone on to do big things.

The laps quickly ticked away – anticipation for the end building more and more for the crowd in the stands. And before Marie knew it, the checkered flag was dropped and Alyssa had done it. She may had been a rookie, she may had been making her first start – but she was officially a winner.

Excitement took over the group as they hurried to victory lane set to meet up with their winner and celebrate the job that she had done.

“Way to go!” Kasey screams as he was the first person to reach the car, helping her take her helmet and gloves off. “Way to go!”

“I go fast?” Alyssa questions as she looks up at Kasey and all he could do was smile.

“Sweetheart, you went super fast! Faster than anybody else has ever gone here. Can you believe that?”

“I super fast! I number one!” Kasey shakes his head yes as he sets the helmet aside.

“Now are you ready to climb out and celebrate?” Alyssa shakes her head yes as she climbs out and stands by the midget, looking around, looking slightly lost. “What’s wrong, princess?”

“Where my flag?” Kasey smiles as he knew that she wanted the checkered flag to wave around, just like she had watched everybody else do in the NASCAR ranks.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” Marie says as she hands her the flag, having collected it from the flag stand on the way to victory lane. Marie wanted to keep it as a keepsake to remember the night. Her plan was to put the flag and trophy in a very special place, still in disbelief.

“Thank you!” Alyssa replies before grabbing the flag and waving it back and forth with a big smile on her face.

“Can we see you do that with the crown?” One of the photographers asked from the crowd. Alyssa then looked towards her mom, and all Marie could do was smile.

“Do you want your crown?” Marie asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes. Marie then walks away, quickly returning with the crown and placing it on her head. “Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe it. My Princess is a winning racecar driver.”

“I can believe it – she’s an Earnhardt,” Kasey comments as he takes a quick snap shot of his own on his phone. “Way to go, Princess Alyssa.”

“Thank you Kasey,” Alyssa says as she continues to wave the flag back and forth.

“I love you sweetheart. Congratulations!” Marie tells her before wrapping both arms around her for a hug. “You’re amazing. Way to go!”

“I lub you too.” Alyssa then kisses her mom on the cheek as she watches the announcer walk over.

“Go ahead, sweetheart. Tell the gentleman how much fun you’re having and why you love winning.”

“Okay!” Alyssa then walks over to the announcer and does as instructed, as the group stands back and watches with a big smiles on their faces.

“She’s adorable,” Kasey comments as he takes another photo on his phone.

“Make sure you send those to me later,” Dale says and Kasey shakes his head yes. There was no doubt that he was going to make sure they had plenty of photos from this night.

“Who do you want to thank for helping you?” They hear the announcer ask her, as they watch closely as Alyssa thinks it over.

“Um, mommy and daddy – I lub ‘em and they special,” Alyssa starts as Dale and Marie smile. “Kasey – he help me. He build car. Kasey special, too.” Alyssa then looks over at the group and smiles as she notices that Chase is still wearing the shirt. “But my buddy is specialist. Chasey came and wear shirt. Chasey is good luck. I lub my buddy.” Alyssa then runs off rom the announcer and over to Chase, wrapping her arms around him. He smiles as he picks her up in his arms. “You special. You wear shirt. You ‘ucky charm.”

“You’re special, too, sweetheart,” Chase replies. “You’re an amazing kid, and you’re a great racecar driver. Way to go, princess.” Alyssa then takes the crown off of her head and puts it on Chase.

“You no dirty rascle. You’re a prince – my prince.” Chase then looks at her, surprised, as he glances towards Dale and Marie.

“I don’t mind being your prince, at all. You’re my little princess – always.”