Cabin Fears – Chapter 88: Kentucky Speedway

Saturday at Kentucky Speedway

Regan’s well-wishes for a good day started out on point as she was running up front through the early stages of the event, having made her way through the field.

Though with 50 laps to go, the smoke began to trail out behind the car, as a series of disappointed faces filled the pit box. Just like that, their day was over and just like that, she was in a hole in the standings. They knew she had to get a win in the next two races or else their championship dreams were officially vanished.

“You ran good at both Dover and Charlotte in the spring,” Chase reminds her. “You still got a great shot at doing this.” She smiles back in return, simply nodding her head.

“We just gotta do what we know how to do, right?” She asks and he couldn’t agree more. If anybody could win under pressure, it was this group right here as they’d done it before.

“The roval at Charlotte should fall right into your wheelhouse,” Kevin Meendering adds, referencing her success a couple months ago. “But either track should be perfect for a win.”

“I haven’t lost a drop of hope, yet…”

As she broke down the discussion with the team, followed by a series of interviews, Chase couldn’t help but wonder from a distance as he watched her. Had he thrown her game off with what happened? But of course, that couldn’t be blamed as it was a mechanical failure, not driver error.

His mind also filled with a flew of thoughts, thinking back to his conversation earlier with Regan, and the past couple of weeks, as he found himself balancing the positives and negatives.

“I’m sorry I rambled on earlier this morning,” he finally speaks, catching Regan’s attention.

“What? Those rambles about your fears and frustrations?” Regan questions and Chase simply nods his head in return. “Don’t be. I’d rather see you get that out of your system, see some answers, then let it eat at you. I’d had no issues handling that this morning.” Chase was glad that he found that trust in Regan, but often wondered about other people.

“I know it’s the anxiety bugging me more than anything, but I just worry about things like that. How will other people see it? Will I get that same acceptance when I get back? Am I truly who I think I am? I just found myself worrying and wondering and asking so many questions…” Regan wasn’t about to end the conversation, actually glad to see his friend continuing to open that door.

“It’s understandable as a lot of has gone on, and I can see why that’s happening. I can’t say that everybody is going to be the most positive like myself, Dale, Alyssa, and others. There will be some that want to tear you apart at the seams. But in the end, do their opinions matter? Absolutely not. All that matters is the confidence that you have in yourself, and the confidence those around you closest to you have.” Chase knew that, even though the questions lingered once in awhile.

“But how do I stop myself from worrying?” Regan wasn’t quite sure he knew the answer, to be honest.

“I think you just need to focus on the positives. Focus on what’s happening, yourself, what you’re doing, and not try to let your mind wander outside that world. I know part of that worry comes with the fear, wondering if something else is going to happen. The only way to overcome that is to face the world and convince yourself that’s not going to happen, and you’re doing that slowly. I mean, you’re standing out here in the garage in a sea of people. As you convince yourself, put that into practice, and continually remind yourself that it’s over – it’ll come.” Chase hoped that Regan was right, but knew there was still one piece of unfinished business.

“I also worry about completely blacking out, or going through that phase where I just do stuff and don’t remember. I don’t want to do that at the wrong time, but I often wonde-”

“Hey, that’ll come with everything that I just said. As you get more comfortable and retrain the brain so to speak so it doesn’t go hide, it’ll come to be where you’re comfortable. I mean, we’ve been out here all day yesterday and today and nothing has happened, not even a flinch from you despite all the chaos. That’s progress, right?” Chase nods his head, but wasn’t about to say he was home free.

“But I’ve also been having someone look over my shoulder every single minute.” Regan knew the feeling of being ‘babysat’ didn’t quite sit well all the time with Chase. Here, a grown adult, was having to be watched by someone 24/7. It just didn’t seem right when you thought about it in that way.

“But you haven’t had to turn to that person to bail you out, or help you. Besides, what’s wrong in having a friend there to look over your back all the time?” Chase knew nothing was wrong with that, except that missing adulthood independence feeling.

“But you could’ve been hom-”

“I would’ve been here anyway. I just would’ve been watching like a normal fan, rather than down here in the midst of the Alyssa circus.” Chase chuckles, remembering they nicknamed the sea of reporters and photographers that just seemed to follow her around for whatever reasons due to being a princess.

“You know I really appreciate having you as a friend, right?” Regan smiles.

“You’ve told me a time or two, and that feeling is mutual.”

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

Friday at Kentucky Speedway

With Alyssa on track for the second practice of the day, Chase retreated back to his familiar perch on top of the hauler, fingers crossed it went smoother. Ultimately, that wish didn’t come true as smoke came out the back of the No. 88 Chevrolet as she went to go in the corner on her second run.

“Son of a bitch!” He lets out as he climbs back down the steps, knowing what that meant. Blown motor equals end of practice for the day due to having to change it, and starting at the rear on Saturday with a car that was handling worse than ever. Certainly going as planned…

“Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing?” Chase hears and immediately rolls his eyes without a glance towards Jeff.

“Is everybody going to ask me that every single hour today?” He responds back, the combined annoyance of the question and Alyssa’s issues obviously nagging at him.

“It’s because we care, Chase…” Chase stopped, took a deep breath, knowing that Jeff was right. So maybe he could give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, like I’ve told everybody else, I’m alright. I’m taking it easy, just out here supporting Alyssa, but following all orders that I was told. I don’t need everybody turning into my babysitter.” Jeff nods his head, accepting, as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“I get it, and you’re right. But just remember…” Chase nods his head, accepting, only so that way Jeff would carry on his own marry well.

Chase makes his way into the garage stall, waiting patiently as he watches Alyssa interact with the team.

“Did the car feel better that run?” Kevin Meendering asks and Alyssa rolls her eyes.

“Before the motor blew? Yeah, it did as I think we found the handle a bit better,” she answers. “I mean, I did pop up to fourth on the speed chart, right? But hey, I guess that doesn’t matte-”

“It gives us somewhere to start from going into tomorrow. Now, if we can start there and are at least close on the set-up, you can gain some ground and put it in the top 10. That’s all we need here. Solid consistency will get us to round two.” She lets out a sigh as she leans back against the car.

“So why does it feel like I’m climbing a freaking mountain? Nothing has gone right, Kevin. What makes you so sure about tomorrow?” Kevin then spins around, eyes focused straight on her.

“Because I believe in my team, I believe in my driver, and I damn well know that we can win this championship. Now, are you in or are you out?” She then looks at him, eyes turning a dark navy blue laced with determination.

“I wouldn’t be here if I was out, Kevin. I wouldn’t schedule an important surgery around my racing career if I didn’t believe what was possible. That said, we better bring our A-game tomorrow.” She then puts her sunglasses on, walking out of the stall. Chase could only let out a sigh as he goes to follow, not saying a single word, just there for support for when she finally said something.

“Did I hit a nerve or something?” Dale nods his head as he watches Alyssa and Chase walk off together.

“Never question her determination, desire, or drive,” he starts, glancing back to the crew chief. He knew exactly what she was going through from his own experience as she was like him more and more each day. She hated to have someone question her desires; she hated to be surrounded by people with doubt. Confidence was everything to her, and sometimes determined just how far she would go. She needed that positive energy, even if the world was imploding, to get to that next step. “Just be positive and a cheerleader, no matter how she gets. She’ll be fine tomorrow.”

Dale then follows suit, knowing that he wanted to go give her a boost of confidence – if Chase hadn’t done that already. He also pulls out his phone, sending a quick text message to Steve LeTarte. Stevie had always been good at knowing what to say and boosting him up. Now maybe he could translate that to his daughter.

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

Saturday – Kentucky Speedway

After a quiet night filled with simply watching movies and playing video games as a distraction, it was time for a new day – race day. All that mattered today was getting something good out of what had been a disastrous past couple of days.

Alyssa had woken up early, sneaking out to meet up with the team. She immediately apologized to Kevin for her attitude, which he accepted with an apology of his own. He also followed the advice of her father with some quick works of encouragement, with the pair set to do what they could that day.

As they headed out for qualifying, their goal was simple – use it as a test session to shake down the car, and see where they stood on set-up, but not go beyond the limits since they were starting last anyway.

Chase had slept in a little late, with Regan taking the role of hanging out with his friend for the day. Regan didn’t have any obligations, having finished what he needed to do on Friday. Thankfully, he turned a long Thursday night into a solid Friday with a third-place finish in the truck race.

Now he was ready to focus and help his friend….

“I can’t do this,” Chase’s words catch his attention away from the television screen as he looks towards the small kitchen table where Chase stood.

“Can’t do what?” Regan wonders, watching him closely. After hearing positive things from Friday, he was shocked by the words.

“This, all of this…. It isn’t me.” Regan felt a wash of confusion, but his eyes didn’t leave Chase. Was he talking about the situation? Was he talking about needing someone? Was he talking about the pain? Or was he talking about the white capsules in his hand?

“What? Struggling to find answers? Lacking that perfection? People run into issues-”

“No – these pills.” Chase holds up the small white pill, which Regan knew was for the anxiety. “Anxiety pill, sleeping pill. It’s not me. How did we get to the point where I need these to get through every day?” Regan takes a deep breath, not expecting to turn into consult this early in the day.

“By a series of traumatic events that are out of your control.” Regan then stands up, walking over to where he stood, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Chase, like everybody has said, everything is okay. We get why you would struggle. We get the emotional breakdown. And like Eric said, this is just temporary till we find the right strategies that will work for you.” Chase had heard those words over and over since July, but yet seemed to be further away from the point he wanted to be at now more than ever.

“Do you think we will ever find them?” Regan had grown used to the uncertainty, knowing it was the anxiety playing tricks on his mind, as well as lacking what he desired the most right now.

“Absolutely. I haven’t changed my viewpoint since day one.” Chase knew that, and appreciated the confidence from Regan. However, he also began to wonder some, though.

“What if I don’t?” Regan didn’t want to process that thought as he wanted his best friend back, totally.

“Let’s not think about tha-“

“But what if?” Regan takes a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t escape the question.

“So you have a case of anxiety, so you have a case of the nightmares – do you realize how many people deal with that? There are some that you don’t even hear about. Don’t even dare look down on yourself one bit because you have to take that pill or that pill. Don’t ever think it’s a bad thing if that you have to do. It’s understandable. The important factor is that you – you know who you are, your desires, your wants, and you’re striving for that. We haven’t lost you in the midst of this, despite thes-”

“Sometimes I wonder….” Regan shakes his head, keeping his hand firmly placed on Chase’s shoulder.

“Trust me – I would know if we were losing that, and so would Alyssa. I also know that you’re taking the right steps, doing the right things – and you will find your way through this. It will take time, it will be tough, but you’ll find your way. Sure, we’ve hit two steps backwards lately – but damn, look at the progress since then. It’s coming together…..” Chase nods his head, remembering some of the steps that he had taken, from various conversations to confessions. It had to mean something, right?

“I hope you’re right….” Chase then puts the pills in his mouth, followed by a big swig of water to wash them down. “For now, though, we have a princess to focus on….”

“I think it’s going to be a good day…” Chase crossed his fingers, hoping that Regan was right, as they both settled in to watch the remainder of the qualifying session.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 86: “It’s on me.”

Thursday night, Kentucky Speedway

Once the plane landed, it was a short trip to the speedway with the group immediately finding their way to the infield. Couple goodbyes said, and both Jimmie and William headed in their own direction. Dale and Regan stuck with Chase, wanting to make sure he got settled for the night with everything that went on.

They go to the motorcoach, with Chase unlocking the door, quietly walking in. It didn’t take long before Alyssa had her arms wrapped around him tightly, holding him. Dale couldn’t help but smile knowing that was classic her, remembering when she did that to him a couple times.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Cindy starts as she is the next one to hug him. “You need to be home, taking care of yourself…” Chase lets out a sigh, as it didn’t matter how old he was, Momma was always going to try and take care of him.

“I’m fine being here in Kentucky,” he assures her. “The doctor said it was fine for me to fly out as Regan asked. Besides, if I was home, I’d be worried even more over what was going on here. I’ll take it easy, okay?”

“Don’t worry Cindy,” Alyssa adds. “If he doesn’t take it easy, I’ll kick his ass for you.” Chase then looks at her a little skeptical as she just smiles back in return. “You heard me….”

“Well, I’m going to go get settled so I will see you later,” Regan states. “Chase, if you need me, just give me a ring. Take it easy, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Chase says once again as he gives him a hug. “I mean it – thank you.”

“I’m always just a text message away.” Regan then gives Dale a quick pat on the back, before heading out to leave the group by themselves.

“Alright guys, it’s time for you to give them some time to chill,” Dale instructs after awhile. He knew sleep was the best thing for Chase right now, and having the motorcoach crowded wasn’t going to lead to that. “He needs to relax, and she needs sleep before a busy day tomorrow. Time to say goodbye.”

“You’re going to be careful, right?” Cindy asks once again and Chase nods his head. “Alright. Take care of yourself and get some sleep.”

It didn’t take long before everyone cleared out, leaving Alyssa and Chase to themselves, as they both got ready for bed and got comfortable.

“Are you sure you’re okay right now?” Alyssa wonders, still worried about him. He just simply responds by pulling her close to him.

“It’s a little sore, but I’m fine,” he answers honestly. “You don’t need to worry about me.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was impossible.

“I always worry about you – I always have. You can’t think that a moment is going to go by where I’m just going to sit back and not worry. Give me a break, Chase.” She then lays her head on his chest, a bunch of thoughts running through her mind at what seemed like 100 miles per hour. “I can’t believe this happened, and it’s on me-”

“What do you mean?” She then lifts her head up, staring into his brown eyes.

“Well they stated it was stress related and it clearly happened after my appointment. You’re stressing out over me, which is nothing new.” He then lets out a sigh, rubbing her shoulders. Well she was certainly on his mind, that wasn’t the start of it.

“I’d been dealing with a couple of the signs before then, but chalked it up to nothing. Besides, I’m not stressing about what’s about happen for you. I know that whatever works best, whether amputation or another road, is for the right reasons. I also know that you’re strong beyond anything. You’re like your father in a lot of ways. The world may throw a bunch of bricks at you, but you don’t change; you keep that sweetness, honesty, and every great quality about you. I know you’ll get through it so I don’t stress about you.” She knew he was just trying to make her feel better with his advice, and make it not seem like it was her fault.

“And now you can cut the cra-”

“My stress comes with my anxiety and fears. I’m stressing about everything that I’m going through and feeling. I’m stressing about trying to do the right thing. I’m stressing about the worry in whether I can make things better, come back from this. I’m stressing about…. It’s me that’s causing my own issues, not you. This isn’t something that just started over night.” He then takes a deep breath, remembering the doctor’s words in trying to find some way to cope with it all. “I just need to find a way to cope with it all.”

“You’re going to find that, Chase. You will move forward. Everything will get better. We’re not going to be stuck in this situations forever.” He nods his head, hoping that she was right. But admittedly, there were times he wasn’t sure about that.

“I believe you, and I’m trying.” She glances back up at him, again.

“You’re doing a helluva job, admirable. Just take it one step at a time, okay?” She then reaches up, kissing his lips. “Now, I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t getting comfy and going to sleep.”

“Yes, Nurse Earnhardt.” She just smiles as they get comfortable together, set for a good night sleep.

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

Chase made his way through the garage, falling in suit with the crew members, ready for the first XFINITY practice of the day. So far, it was business as usual. Spend the morning hanging out with Alyssa, walk to the garage together, let her get ready to go, and head to the hauler to watch.

“Hey!” Regan says as the pair cross paths. “How are you feeling?”

“Alright,” Chase replies, and that was honesty. The pain had laid off with taking both the pain killers and other pills. It was just a matter of hoping things were starting to heal down there. He had also been keeping himself nice and relaxed, which came easily at the track, so he was following the stress rule so to speak.

“That’s good. Listen, just take it easy, alright?” Chase nods his head. “I’m serious. I don’t want to be creating some emergen-”

“I’m fine, Regan. It’s not that bad and I’m chilled out. Your truck looked good in practice so best of luck later on today. I’m headed to watch Alyssa.” Regan easily lets him go, though his eyes linger on him for a little while longer. He couldn’t help but worry.

The practice went smoothly, with no incidents at all. But that didn’t mean it was all smiles in the JR Motorsports camp as struggling wasn’t the word for it. No matter what they did to the car, it just seemed to be too loose all throughout the session and as a result, she timed in 24th quickest.

“This is ridiculous!” She comments as she runs her hands through her hair. First round of the playoffs and they looked like a bunch of idiots who didn’t know what they were doing. What happened to all the speed they had shown the past couple months?

“I am going to go see if Leo’s guys have any suggestions,” Kevin Meendering says, before walking away. She rolls her eyes in response, not believing that now they were having to rely on their teammate, their competition at that, so they could figure it out.

“Hey, you’ve started weekends like this before and they’ve turned out beautiful,” Chase reminds her as he wraps his arms around her shoulders. “Take a deep breath, think, and relax. You’ll be fine.” She wanted to follow those words, but the drive and desire to succeed was telling her otherwise. “Think about how you’re detailing of what the car is doing, and try to rerun those laps over and over in your mind. Was there something that you missed? Did you maybe not explain something how Kevin needed to hear you? Could you change up or give a bit stronger feedback to get the car where you need it?”

“Maybe it’s not necessarily loose, but tight on entry,” she finally says out loud as she glances over her shoulder at him. “Maybe I’m not realizing that, trying to overcorrect my line, and causing the other issue. So therefore, we’re not fixing what the real problem is….”

“Why don’t you give that a try in the next session?” She nods her head, accepting, ready to tell Kevin when he got back.

“Are you okay?” He immediately rolls his eyes, growing annoyed at every person asking him already throughout the day.

“I’m fine – just focus on getting the car better for tomorrow.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 75: Race Weekend

Chicagoland Speedway – Friday

Despite the turn of events on Wednesday, the pair remained quiet.

They spent all day just relaxing in each other’s company, playing a couple games and amusing themselves, followed by relaxing together watching some movies.

When they got to Thursday, it was like business as usual. Alyssa stopped by the shop to check in with the guys, while Chase handled some e-mails and tried to plan out the next steps.

Although both carried forward as if it didn’t happen, it was on their minds. Alyssa worried about whether they’d get to a point where they’d be past everything, while Chase worried that he’d never find what he wanted. He also contemplated running and hiding once again, though watching her caused the thought to disappear immediately.

It was why despite his own skeptical questionable thoughts, he was there that weekend with her at Chicagoland Speedway.

“Welp, last weekend before I go crazy…” Alyssa thinks out loud, before covering her mouth immediately, looking over at Chase. “I’m sorry! That just slipped out!”

“It’s fine,” Chase assures her. “Trust me – I get it. I know how the playoffs can be nerve-whacking, drive you insane, everything you can think of.” She then nods her head, accepting, but she still felt bad under the circumstances.

“Are you sure you’re going to be fine this weekend?” Chase nods his head as he wraps an arm around her, trying to reassure her.

“I get it, Alyssa. I mean, I’d be nervous after what happened. But, remember the rules put in place following Bristol. Besides, I wouldn’t want to miss being here for you.” While Alyssa appreciated that, she didn’t want to push him beyond his limits.

“I’d get it if you weren-”

“Alyssa, it’s fine.” She then stops, and nods her head, accepting.

“We do need to talk about what happened and what to do moving forward, though.” He lets out a sigh, knowing that she was telling the truth. Admittedly, he had probably avoided the topic purposely not wanting to discuss it again.  Hence his thoughts of wanting to just run away….

“We will, and I will handle it accordingly.  Now, stop worrying about me. You have a racecar to focus on today so that way you can be your best tomorrow.” She lets out a sigh as she looks into the mirror.

“Yeah, okay…” They both then head out to the garage together, set to start off the busy day that included a pair of practices for her.

The first practice went decently as she would time in 12th quickest on the speed chart, decently satisfied with how the car was handling. She knew a couple more adjustments before the next session and they’d be much better.

Her eyes found their way to Chase, seeing him catching up with Ryan and Darrell. She knew some time spent with friends was good therapy as it’d give him a break from everything that he was going through right now. She could only imagine the emotions, and found herself worried about a re-occurrence of Wednesday. It almost brought her to the point of saying something to someone….

“Alyssa?!?” Kevin’s questioning voice, catches her attention as she looks towards the crew chief. She hadn’t even realized that she had dazed off. How long was he calling her name?

“Sorry,” she apologizes, immediately facing him. “What were you saying?” Kevin crosses his arms, glancing in the direction she had been looking.

“What’s going on with Chase?” She immediately gives him back a puzzled reaction as he looks towards her. “You went off into your own little world staring at him. Something has to be going on….” While she had thought about talking to someone, Kevin wasn’t that person.

“Can we just not talk about it, please?” Kevin lets out a sigh, knowing that wasn’t good therapy.

“Promise me you’ll say something to either him, or someone else, though?” She nods her head, accepting. She knew it was coming to the point of not being able to avoid doing that. “Thank you. I was asking you whether the loose in was more annoying or the tight off.”

“Tight off. I want to be able to have that maneuverability off of the corner…” Kevin nods his head, looking over his notes.

“First adjustment we’ll aim to fix that. Second adjustment I want to try fixing the other half because it may fix it all. Then you can tell me what you like best. Deal?” She nods her head, accepting. “Alright. You got an hour until the next session…”

“Gotcha.” She then grabs her sunglasses, walking out of the stall as she takes a deep breath. She had to focus more. She had to keep her eyes on the car, and knock out the outside distractions. She couldn’t let Kevin see her off her game anymore this weekend. But Chase….

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

As usual per his race weekends, Chase made a stop at the 24 hauler catching up with the guys for a little bit. They were all polite in asking how he was, and telling him that they had his back. He assured them things were coming together – despite his own reservations, while assuring them he’d  be back before long.

With the conversation covered, he headed out of the trailer, wanting to catch XFINITY practice to see how Alyssa was making out during the second session.

“Did you mean what you said?” A voice causes him to freeze as he looks towards the source. Instantly catching Jeff’s eyes, he knew there was no way to lie.

“I’m trying to work through this,” Chase tells him. “Slowly, but certainly trying.” Jeff crosses his arms, knowing that from conversation. He wasn’t certain about the other part.

“I meant how you’re feeling…” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down.

“I could be better, really. It’s been a rough week.” Jeff nods, accepting. He already figured that after Chase texted saying he wasn’t going to check in on Wednesday as normal, changing to Thursday.

“You’re going to have those. Some days are going easier than others. I mean, it’s all about facing what you need to face and handling it, right?” Chase nods his head. “Look, I’m not trying to pry or anything. I could just tell something was off based on that, and how Alyssa has an extra eye on yo-”

“I told her not to worry and focus on her racing this weekend.” Jeff shakes his head, smiling. There were things both were missing about love.

“She loves you, Chase. She cares about you more than a lot of people in her life. That drives her to make sure you’re okay more than anything, and how you’re doing matters more than just a simple racecar.” Chase knew that, but it still didn’t make it easier. After all, he was certain that he’d find his way through his funk – he always did.

“I know….” Jeff walks over, placing a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“Don’t hold it in. Talk to someone. Figure it out. It’s just going to eat at you. You know that…” Chase nods his head, having been through that before. It was why the thought of running was there – escape the pain before it ate at him.

“I’m working at that, Jeff. I told you that alrea-”

“I’m not questioning that, Chase, but you also can’t just stall out and not continue working at it. Progress is only made by choi-”

“You don’t realize how hard that is some days!” Jeff pauses, eyes focused on his driver. “There are times where I want to work through it, do the right steps, talk to the right people. Then there are times where I just want to run away and not look back. I mean, there are things I don’t even know how to tackle or bring up or handle.”

“That’s why it’s important to tell someone…” Chase shakes his head, knowing that he couldn’t do that with this topic at hand. Nobody should know the feelings of those photos, and how was he supposed to explain what his brain had been doing lately? Letting out a sigh, it had to be done, though. Maybe like Alyssa said – Eric would be his best bet.

“I know it is, Jeff.  That’s why I told you that day after we tried to test that I needed some more time, so I could work this out, and do the right thing.” Jeff nods his head, accepting. He was actually glad that the test played out as it did – perhaps a wake-up call was in order.

“I’m glad that you’re doing what you need to do for you, and I will always have your back no matter what. Besides, Jimmie isn’t too upset about filling in…” Chase laughs as he watches Jimmie come out of the trailer with the guys.

“He still can get the job done. I wish I can be his age and say the same.” Jeff nods his head, agreeing.

“Besides, he doesn’t mind the chance to race on a weekend that his daughter is, too.”

“Could you see if a race came down between him and Lydia?” Jeff shakes his head, knowing that’d be interesting.

“It’d be entertaining, but more importantly, I can’t wait until you’re back with the team and kicking ass.” Chase smiles, agreeing.

“I know I can get the job done behind the wheel. I just have to get there…” Jeff nods his head. He never questioned Chase’s talent, ever.

“Do what you got to do, okay?” Chase nods his head as he watches Jeff walk off.

Thinking it over, he pulls out his phone and calls Eric’s office. It was time to set up that appointment for early in the week.

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

Alyssa leans against the post in the garage, shaking her head in disgust as she watches the crew work on the car. She couldn’t believe it happened. She thought she had it under control, but just like that, the car slipped out from underneath her and she backed in the wall.

Chase was the first person at her side after getting out of the medical center, in which she assured him he was okay. They then separated as he headed to meet up with Ryan for another chit chat, while she went to see the guys. She hated to see them having to put this extra work in, and also knew entering tomorrow without any laps on the back-up was going to suck.

“Hey,” Dale says as he walks up to her. “Are you okay?” She nods her head as she keeps her eyes focused on the crew.

“Just hate that it happened,” she answers as he stands there, accepting. “We were trying something and went just over that edge. I thought I had it, but obviously not…”

“Sometimes there’s spins that you can’t save no matter how hard you try.” She nods her head, accepting, having heard that advice plenty of times before. It didn’t make it easier, though. “I’m glad you’re okay, and truthfully, I know you can drive the wheels off of anything so I’m not concerned about that. I could actually see you working your way through the field tomorrow – if your head is in the right place.” She then glances over at him, curiously. “Kevin mentioned that you’ve been a little distracted today….”

“Really Kevin?!?” She shouts out, causing the crew chief to look over. He drops the tool in his hand, walking over to Alyssa and Dale. He didn’t want to yell it back as he knew there were probably cameras and reporters ready to pick up anything they could for a story.

“I only mentioned it out of concern and it was before the incident,” he comments as Alyssa just rolls her eyes. “I figured if there was anyone you could talk to, it’d be your dad.”

“Alyssa?” Dale questions as she just glances away from them both.

“Like I told Kevin earlier – I’m fine,” she starts. “And I will talk about it with someone when I’m ready to do so. I don’t need you both hounding my ass. Besides, we have something else to be focusing on, right?”

“Your well-being is more important than a damn racecar and this championship.” She knew that as she glances back down at the ground. It also wasn’t pleasant hearing that tone in her father’s voice, either. She wasn’t someone to get lectured a lot.

“If there’s something on your mind, take the time now…” Kevin comments as she eyes her father carefully. She didn’t want to say anything, per Chase’s words to her. It wouldn’t be fair to go against his word.

“I can’t…” She lets out quietly, holding back the tears that threatened to fall.

“Why not?” Dale wonders as she focuses her eyes back to the ground.

“Chase…” Dale crosses his arms, almost tempted to go find him that very second.

“He cares about you. You make up his entire world, Alyssa. If there’s something bothering you, he would want you to tell me so I can help you and you can feel better.” She knew those words in general would be the right advice, but this wasn’t one of those cases.

“This isn’t one of those times…” Dale really wanted to go find him and kick his ass now.

“Why not?” She bit her tongue to stop herself from spitting it out as the tears trickled down her face. Kevin immediately stepped in, wrapping an arm around her and leading her out of the stall. He held her the entire way to the trailer, before leading her inside and closing the doors behind them.

“What the heck is going on?” Dale hears Chase’s voice, as obviously the scene had got his attention.

“Alyssa has some feelings or something, but says she can’t tell me because of you,” Dale starts in on him immediately. “Even though I told I could help her, make her feel better, and you would want that – she wouldn’t say it because of you. So you want to tell me what the hell is going on?” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing the answer immediately. He admittedly though was caught off-guard by Dale’s attitude.

“Let’s go inside, and I’ll explain….” Dale nods his head, accepting. The pair then go up to the lounge where Kevin sat with Alyssa. “Kevin, can you leave please?” Kevin nods his head, accepting.

“Chase, you don’t have to say anything….” Alyssa comments as Chase takes over where Kevin was sitting, wrapping an arm around her.

“Yes, I do. No matter how hard it is, I need to say something, talk to people, figure out what I need to do so I can continue moving forward. I can’t just sit in this funk and try and wish it all away. I’ll just be stuck here forever. Besides, I should’ve said something sooner. It’s not fair to let this eat at you, too.”

He then takes a deep breath, before recounting the tale of the past week.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 64: Her Dance with the Lady

The day seemed to go by quickly as just as it seemed qualifying was over, they were standing on pit road getting ready for opening ceremonies. Alyssa went through driver introductions, before coming to stand with the rest of the group.

A series of photos were done of Alyssa standing by the car, including one with her and Chase, along with her, Chase and her dad together. It was even nice to see Greg Ives make his way down pit road to see the car up close, himself.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” Dale comments as Chase glances over at him. “Who knew when we came here that we’d leave finally starting to show the world how much talent you had?” Chase chuckles, remembering the reaction from some people that night.

“They didn’t believe that you could go from sixth to first on a final restart and score a victory here, strangely,” Chase adds and Dale nods his head. “I mean, they forgot the value of new tires.”

“No matter when the caution comes out, what was the rule?” Chase simply smiles.

“New tires baby. Give me four fresh Goodyears and I’ll be set to dance with the Lady in the Black.” Dale chuckles, remembering the conversation that night on the radio with Chase and Greg. “You know, going to these races with Alyssa, I was fine sitting back and watching and being a cheerleader. Can I admit that tonight makes me itch a little to get back at it?” Dale could relate as he crossed his arms, eyes beginning to focus on Chase.

“There are few tracks that just make a driver’s skin crawl more than others. I went through that phase when I said that I was giving it up. I remember that, honestly. It gets easier with time – but there’s still the odd moment you wonder if you could still do it.” Chase nods his head, already having an answer for Dale on that question – for both himself and Dale. “Everything is healed stomach wise for you, right?” Chase nods his head once again.

“I’ve got the medical clearance already. The stomach lining and surgery and all that has healed, thankfully. I don’t want to think about that pain ever again.” Dale simply accepts, not wanting to reminders either. “But I know myself. I will go back racing and focus solely on that and Alyssa. I won’t focus on what I need to do for me. I want focus on figuring out my thoughts, getting back to where I should be mentally, because I’ll try and shove it away in a closet. I did that twice already. I’m not doing that again.”

“I admire you for that, really. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and state that’s what you need to do, even when the desire to be racing once again burns so deep. Let that desire be motivation. The desire to race, the want for a future, and the happiness you know you’re capable of – let it push you. I know it’s tough right now, but fight outside of your comfort zone and figure out what you need to do. You’ll figure it out…” Chase nods his head, hoping that Dale was right. It was nice hearing the encouragement from both Dale and Tony, but he knew it truly rested on his shoulders.

“I’m going to try and do what I need to do…” Dale then glances up pit road, before turning his eyes back to Chase.

“Then once you’re squared away, you’re going back racing for sure, right?” Chase smiles and nods his head.

“I have unfinished business, in case you’re not aware.” Dale chuckles, knowing that a couple more championships wouldn’t be out of the question. “Besides, someone has to keep her in line when she moves up next year.” Dale rolls his eyes, as he lets out a sigh.

“Don’t remind me. I never thought I’d be taking JRM to Cup but here we go.” Chase puts a hand on Dale’s shoulder.

“It’ll be fine, trust me. You have the right people in place to make it go off without a problem.” Dale glances over with a smile.

“Thanks…”

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

“Come on Alyssa!” Chase lets out as he stands on top of the pit box, watching her closely.

She had been fast throughout the event – dominating, actually. However, in classic Darlington style, a late race caution shook everything up. She followed the famous rule of coming to pit road for tires, but now had to make her way back to the front.

Chase’s eyes focused on the No. 9 car, then to the scoring monitor, and then back to the car on track. He let the laps count down, focusing on the lap times, knowing that she was catching the leaders. It just about making the move in the right amount of time.

Just as they suspected, she caught the leaders and made her way to second with ease. However, now the challenge of passing Erik Jones for the win wasn’t going to be easy.

Through turns three and four on the last lap, she finally got her run, diving to the bottom of him. The pair then bounced off each other a couple times coming to the line, but by the skinny edge of a blue bumper, cheers erupted from the pits.

“Woooohooo!” She screamed over the radio as Chase high-fived Dale with big smiles on both their faces.

“Now that’s how you bring that baby back to her playground,” Kevin Meendering says as he feels Chase’s arms around his shoulders, giving him a hug. “Heck yeah!”

“You danced well with the lady tonight,” Dale takes his turn. “Well done, princess.”

“I don’t care what else we do from here to November – this is the best victory ever!” She lets out, before laying down a huge burnout down the frontstretch.

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

Sitting down on the steps following the last photo, Alyssa lets out a sigh as she glances out towards the track. She feels someone sit down beside her, glancing towards her right and smiling.

“Everything okay?” Chase questions and she nods her head.

“I just can’t believe I pulled that off,” she answers. “I mean, this is the toughest track on the circuit and here I am, sitting in victory lane. Nobody believed that I could come back and be myself, winning races. But yet, we’ve won two races since I returned – and one of them here. I can’t believe it…” He wraps an arm around her, pulling her close to him.

“I believe it. I knew you were strong enough to overcome anything, whether it be what Randy threw at you or whether it was critics or this. You’re a combination of your parents and that makes you the strongest person that I know. You’re amazing and I knew you’d prove that to everybody. Believe it or not, you’re the inspiration for everyone. You’re showing them strength, drive, desire for success, and how to push against the boundaries people are faced with. I know that we talk about how frustrating this can be, but really, it makes you even more special.” He then gives her a kiss as she smiles in return.

“I remember how upset I was sitting in the hospital room. I remember telling the universe it was so unfair and wondering what I’d done wrong to deserve such a horrible thing to not feel anymore. All I wanted to was feel touch, grab things, simple things that people take for granted with their hands. I even remember how frustrated I was over a simple pony tail. But sitting here, and then hearing the comments from people like you’re saying, it makes everything alright.” He looks at her slightly puzzled.

“Alright? I thought sitting in Darlington victory lane would be amazi-” She could only laugh in response.

“It is, trust me. But I mean, about my arm. They say things happen for a reason. Maybe this happened to teach myself a lesson about everything we’re talking about. Maybe this happened so I could teach others a lesson because God knew I was strong enough to show them. I don’t know. But where I was frustrated a month ago, now I’ve come to grips with it and am okay.” He smiles as he rubs her shoulders.

“That’s a very mature, grown-up thing for you to say. I can still see you as the little girl sometimes, but I also see you growing up right in front of me. I’m proud of you, and I love you.” She then looks into his eyes.

“I love you, too.” She then takes his hand with her own. “And Chase, just as I am finding my peace, you will find yours. I’ve got you through it all.” He nods his head simply as she lays hers back against his shoulder.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 53: Race Time

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.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 52: The Encounter

Chase leaned back against the wall, knowing in the room behind him was the pre-qualifying debrief between crew chief, driver and team. After such a strong ending to yesterday’s practice, he hoped things continued on a high today.

“So you’ve been fine all weekend?” His mind focuses back to the phone call as he rolls his eyes. He knew why his mom was calling, and couldn’t blame her after the recent events. That didn’t mean he’d rather not be having this conversation right now.

“Absolutely fine mom,” he tells once again. “I haven’t had a single issue at all so you can calm down.” He hears a sigh on the other end, knowing the speech was coming.

“I’m your mother. It’s my job to worry, Chase. But you’ve been sticking by the guys and not venturing on your own right?” He knew of her nerves and rightfully so after the incident at Bristol. However, eventually, he would have to see how he could handle things on his own so he was prepared. He knew he wasn’t there yet, with some stuff to still work through.

“Yes, mom. I’ve practically been by Alyssa’s side all weekend, except during practice when I was with Kevin and the team.”

“Okay. Just checking. I love you, and I wanted to make sure you were okay.” As much as the call annoyed him, he couldn’t get mad as he understood the concerns.

“Well, I’m fine so you don’t have to worry about me. Listen, Alyssa is going to coming out soon so I will talk to you later, okay?”

“Okay. Bye Chase.” He then smiles.

“Bye mom, and I love you.” He then hangs up, letting out a sigh as he glances around. He waits a while before seeing the door open, and seeing the group come out. His eyes immediately lock on Alyssa, wrapping an arm around her. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” she replies as she kisses his lips. “We’ve only been away from each other for like 15 minutes. What’s got you all like this?”

“Can’t I just tell my girl how much I love her and want to see her do well today?” She then smiles, knowing not to take any moment for granted. There’d be times next year where she’d be wishing for moments like this when they were traveling to different places.

“Well just cross your fingers that I remember what I learned yesterday, okay?” He holds up his hand, crossing his fingers with a smile.

“I’ll do it if it makes you feel better, but I know that I don’t have to. I believe in you more than you realize.” They then head out of the trailer together, making their way out to pit road with a couple people in toe, all eyes watching those around them.

The popularity from her father had carried on to her, with fans asking for autographs the entire way. She takes her time, signing a couple as they walk together, with Chase also joining in the signing.

“When are you going to come back racing?” “How are you doing?” “Are you ever going to race again?”

Chase could hear the numerous questions along the way, though simply kept signing. He knew if he started to answer that he’d get stuck there with a demand for more answers.

Besides, there was no straight-up answer to the questions asked. He hadn’t decided on a time to come back, and he wasn’t about to bare his soul to them with everything on his mind. He hated to deny them answers and keep quiet, but it was the only way to go about this.

“Chase!!” A female scream rings out, with a hand reaching out and grabbing his arm. “Chase oh Chase, when are you coming back? I miss seeing you every week. I am big fan. I just want to see you race again. When are you racing again?” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as possible as he feels his heart rate rise in being cornered by this fan. He kept reminding himself that she was only doing this probably out of her worry.

“I’m going to come back racing when I am ready,” Chase answers in a calm matter as he looks into her eyes. “I don’t know when that is.  Now, can you please let go of my arm, ma’am?” He feels her grip loosen bit by bit, as she finally lets go fully, pulling her hand back to her side of the fence. Chase takes a calming deep breath, glad that he had cooled down the situation. “Thank you. I appreciate your co-operation.” He then keeps walking as Alyssa wraps her good arm around him, placing his marker back in his pocket.

“Take care of her as that was uncalled for,” the PR rep tells security before catching up with the pair.

Chase and Alyssa walk out to pit road in silence, Alyssa still firmly holding him close to her, before stopping in her stall for the session. She immediately looks at him, turning herself so she’s facing him square.  She could tell that he froze up a little, and could tell the nerves in his voice earlier. It wasn’t hard to forget about what had happened just a week prior, either.

“I’m fine,” he tells her, seeing the worry written on her face as he leans in for a kiss. “Yes, she scared me and yes, she caught me off guard. But I’m fine. Focus on qualifying, okay?” Alyssa simply shakes her head yes.

“I love you,” she tells him, stealing a quick kiss before letting go and walking to the car. She wasn’t 100% sure on his answer, but knew his reason for even keel regardless – he wanted her to concentrate on the task at hand. Furthermore, she also knew of his technique in avoiding discussion. Resting her hands on the roof of the car, taking a quick glance back at him, her mind refreshed back to the conversation with Regan. “Be there to support him, stand by him, hug him, let him cry, and let him rant. It’ll be okay…”

“Ready to go?” Adam Jordan asks as he walks over to her. Alyssa takes one final deep breath, trying her best to place the whole incident out of mind before looking at the interior mechanic and shaking her head yes.  “Good luck this weekend.”

“Thank you Adam.”

Throughout the qualifying session, Chase’s eyes locked on the screen in their pits, double-checking her position on the chart.  He knew they had the speed based on practice, so it was just about laying down a solid lap in each round.

The first round went clean as a whistle, no issues at all, with her easily transferring to the Round of 12. She then laid down another solid lap in that round, placing herself fifth on the grid when it was said and done.

“Not bad for someone that was freaking out yesterday,” Kevin Meendering comments, causing Chase to jump a little from his spot. Kevin immediately freezes, facing him. “Woah, are you okay?”  Chase lets out a sigh, taking a couple calming deep breaths as he looks at the crew chief. He should’ve known it was just one of the guys.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he answers simply as Kevin keeps his eyes locked on him.

“I just spooked you….” Chase knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere without an explanation.

“I had a weird encounter with a fan that caught me off-guard. Let’s just say I haven’t calmed down all the way from that, yet, and I didn’t realize it was you. Sorry.”

“It’s okay, no worries. As long as you’re fine, then I’m fine.” Kevin then walks away, giving Alyssa a pat on the shoulder as they walk past each other. “Nice qualifying effort, princess.”

“Thanks Kevin,” she replies, keeping her eyes focused on Chase the entire time as she continues making her way over to him. She had seen the discussion with Kevin. She knew that wasn’t supposed to push the boundaries with Chase as that’d set him off and make him uncomfortable, but she couldn’t go forward with the rest of her day without saying another word. “Hey, I know she spooked you earlier. I know it got you frazzled and probably spunked your anxiety level a bit. If you need to talk about it, I’m willing to listen – no matter what. I can help you while focusing on what I have to do today.” Chase looks in her eyes, shaking his head in acceptance.

“I know,” he replies. “But I’m fine. I just needed to calm down, relax, and remind myself everything is okay. Besides, she was just an overzealous fan.” Alyssa smiles as she wraps her arm around him.

“Well let me assure you that I will protect you from any crazy fans that come after you because boy, you’re stuck with me.” He then laughs as he wraps his arms around her.

“I have no problem with that at all.”