Marie and Dale stood on pit road together, waiting patiently for race time to be there as everybody was just set to get the day started.
“You feel almost tense, nervous,” Dale comments as he rubs Marie’s shoulders.
“Maybe because I am,” she replies as she leans back against him. Dale just continues to rub her shoulders.
“You know that she’ll be fine and can handle this. She proved that last week at Bristol.” Marie lets out a sigh, knowing that was true as she was proud of her daughter for that weekend. However, that didn’t change her feelings.
“I’m her mother. It’s my job to worry and wonder. There’s always the chance of something going wrong, whether her fault or not, and that just increases with what’s going on.” Dale understood where Marie was coming from, recalling his initial fears. Though everything had changed in the matter of a couple test laps and 250 additional circuits around Bristol.
“I know, but just try to relax and have fun. It’ll make it easier.” Marie smiles, knowing that Dale was right – no matter how hard that was actually.
“Do you worry when I race, too?” Robby questions, having got his start racing quarter midgets.
“Of course babes,” Marie answers. “I worry about all of you kids.” Robby then pats her leg.
“Well mom, you don’t got to worry about me. I’m going to be a champion and win every race.” He then hurries off to talk with one of the crew members as Marie glances back at Dale.
“And why did he have to inherit the need for speed, too?” Dale chuckles as he wasn’t sure.
“Because it’s in our blood,” he starts with a glance towards Elsa. “Look at it this way. Elsa can be your favourite as she’s the perfect little princess. I say she’s going to be a great dancer, or whatever she chooses to do.”
“Clothes stylist with some dancing on the side, Dad,” Elsa states as Dale looks back at Marie.
“See what I’m saying?” Marie just rolls her eyes, though points a smile towards Elsa.
“Don’t tell your siblings, but you’re the favorite. You don’t worry your mother.” Elsa just smiles widely as Alyssa walks up to them.
“I heard that,” Alyssa comments, shaking her head. “Luckily, it doesn’t matter because dad’s my favorite.” She then gives her dad a quick kiss before walking over to where Chase was standing.
“Did you hear that?” Marie questions as she glances over at the pair and Dale smiles, shaking his head yes.
“You had that comment after your comment, though,” Dale answers. He had to admit watching the pair together that he was full of disbelief on a couple different levels. It was crazy to see his first born all grown up, and in love with Chase. He never could’ve imagined those two getting together when she was born, but it was perfection regardless.
“She’s going to get mad at you for staring….” Dale then looks at Marie.
“She probably hasn’t even noticed with how engrossed she is in their conversation and the love for him.” Marie smiles as she now found her eyes locked on the pair, too.
“I hate to bring this up now, but do you think they’re moving past what happened?” Dale lets out a sigh as he keeps his arms wrapped firmly around Marie. He knew the events had bugged her more than anything.
“They’re working at it, if that means anything. I know she and Regan went up to the treehouse to have a discussion together, and I know Chase has been talking with some different people. It’s going to take time, but they’re making progress. You don’t have to worry and guard them…” It was Marie’s turn to let out a sigh as she looked back at Dale.
“I know, but I’m her mother, and you know that goes…” Dale chuckles and shakes his head yes.
Everybody hangs out together before the race, followed by standing together in formation for the national anthem. Once it was over, Dale and Marie gave Alyssa a hug each, followed by the siblings, before walking away.
“Remember what I talked to you about, and do your thing,” Graham tells her as he gives her a hug. “You’re going to do amazing.” She just smiles.
“Thanks Graham, and thank you for coming,” she replies before watching him walk away. Her eyes then focused on Chase, as she pulls him into a hug. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Chase replies as he holds her. “Be safe. Do your best. Focus on the goal at hand.” He then gives her a kiss before letting go.
He takes a couple steps back, allowing her to go through the process of buckling in and getting set with help from Adam. He watches her finger reach for the switch, allowing the car to roar to life before reaching in for a quick pound and heading to the pit box.
“Surprised to see you here,” he hears a pit reporter say, glancing their way.
“I’m here to support Alyssa – that’s all,” he replies. “And before you ask, I don’t know when I’m coming back. It could be in the next couple weeks, it could be a month.” He then steps over the wall, grabbing his headset off the pit box before climbing the steps.
With his eyes focused on his girl, he was ready to rid of the outside distractions and everybody’s questions about himself. For now, he wanted to use the time away to get quality time with Alyssa.
Throughout the event, she ran within the top-five and kept herself in solid contention during the race. The team played the right strategy which worked with the timing of the cautions, and it seemed they’d be set to contend late in the race.
As the laps neared the end, she put herself in the third spot, and was posting lap times quicker than the leaders. However, a caution flew with two to go, setting up an overtime finish.
“Son of a bitch!” Kevin Meendering let out on top of the pit box. “Save fuel, save fuel, save fuel. Do whatever you can to save fuel. I don’t know if there’s enough.”
“You don’t know?!?” Dale, Graham and Chase all said together as they looked towards the crew chief. Kevin then glanced at the engineer, nodding his head for a calculations update.
“We had enough gas to go to the end. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure. It all depends on cautions.” He keeps his eyes focused on the engineer, picking up the piece of paper after calculations are complete. “And yeah, we may just be screwed…” He puts on his headset. “Alright princess, here’s the deal. We’re about a half a lap short if we go green this time. Depending on what you saved, you may have enough. However, you also may run out. It’s up to you whether to pit as they go green.”
“We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” Alyssa starts. “Let’s gamble.” Kevin then starts chewing his nails as he watches the field double up for the restart.
She got a strong restart, taking the lead as the field went into turn two. As the nerves continued to build on the pit box, they watched her go through the next set of turns with ease. She made it through the moraine sweep, followed by the hurry downs and the carousel. While there was a small mistake entering the kink, she maintained the gap and kept the lead down through kettle bottom and into Canada corner. As she came out of the corner, the car sputtered a little. The nail biting increased as she kept going, but another sputter happened, followed by silence around her.
“We’re out,” she comments as she rolls to a stop entering the 14th and final corner on the track. “We’re done.” A mix of disappointment and swear words erupted from the pit box in response.
“I’m sorry princess,” Kevin Meendering starts immediately. “I should’ve pitted a lap later that last run to buy you some more fuel. You did an absolutely amazing job out there and deserved the win.” She didn’t know whether she wanted to curse herself or cry as she sat there in the corner, waiting for a push.
“10-4. That’s racing. It’s part of the game. Shit happens. We’ll move forward to Darlington and hope for better. Thanks for the amazing car this weekend, and the great support from everybody around. Least we know that I can turn both right and left now.”