Dale sat back as he watched the car go through technical inspection, impressed with how well Kevin Meendering and Steve LeTarte had explained the additions made to the car for Alyssa.
He then glanced over, smiling as he watched Alyssa and Chase sit on a bench, joined by some of their closest friends, simply shooting the breeze. After seeing the pain the pair had been through over the past couple of weeks, it was nice to see a carefree attitude between spread around by both of them. He knew he had fought Alyssa on coming back, perhaps harder than he did for Chase, but the smile her face said it all. The return to racing, emphasized by winning, had done more for her than anything else could.
Standing up and walking away from the area, he puts his hands in his pockets as he takes a deep breath.
He was the first to admit that he was worried about Alyssa coming back to racing. He may not have appeared it when Steve suggested it in the hospital, or when the idea was brought up to NASCAR. He also may not have appeared that way when they made the original test laps prior to the weekend.
However, it was the complete opposite from the truth.
He found his stomach flip flopping through the process, wanting to yell out ‘freeze’ or ‘stop’ or ‘impossible,’ just the same as Marie had in the hospital room. How was something this crazy going to work?
He knew how evil racecars could be when they weren’t handling correctly. He knew how ruthless competitors could be if they saw a single weakness in someone – they were quick to use that to their advantage. He knew the feeling of a car twitching sideways at 200 mph, and the fight a driver had to goo through to save it from spinning around or hitting a wall. There was also the fact of avoiding walls or other cars when you were sent sideways, unable to stop, too. The unpredictability factor was there.
Looking across the dimly lit track, he found himself admitting these worries to himself, even perhaps fear. He even thought about the other night when he dreamt of something happening, resulting in her being hurt badly. He thought of her maybe getting stuck in the car if it was to catch fire. Taking a deep breath, he knew those thoughts were only there because of what he had been through.
Though instead of that, the weekend had gone better than imagined. The team unloaded the best package that they could’ve dreamed of and she had the quickest car throughout the weekend, capping it off with a win despite two separate incidents in the race.
It’d be hours since the checkered flag had flown, but he still found himself in disbelief as to how she had done that. How’d she have the strength to handle steering the whole time with just one hand? How was she able to fight back against the adversity? How was she able to put everything aside and fight back?
Now, instead of those earlier fears, he was wondering if he’d be set to handle 10 weeks of her battling for the championship and stay calm through that. He also found himself thinking about the future.
It was a brief thought before, having crossed his mind after her first couple of wins and even after complimenting her at the test. Though before it had just been a quick thought scuffed to the side.
Was JR Motorsports ready to go Cup racing now?
He had discussed it previously, expressing to Kelley and others who asked that he’d never take his team up to the premiere series, comfortable to where they were in XFINITY. Besides, there were other things on his plate outside of racing, too, as he and Marie were still busy as ever with Pitronia.
However, he knew there was no room at Hendrick Motorsports for Alyssa and he wasn’t sure if he’d be comfortable with her driving for another team, given the connections. He thought about Richard Childress Racing, but wasn’t too keen in her being teammates with the Dillon brothers. There was the thought of Chip Ganassi Racing, but that wouldn’t seem like home.
In the best interest for the future of his daughter’s career, was his team set to make the next big step?
He knew they had the talent to make it happen. He knew they had the resources to put forth. He knew everything would fall together as soon as he gave the order to make it happen.
But was he ready to pull the plug just yet?
“I was wondering where you ran off too,” Dale hears, glancing behind him as he sees Marie standing there. She then makes her way over, wrapping an arm around him. “What are you thinking about?”
“A lot of different things,” he tells her honestly, knowing he couldn’t lie to her. “From Alyssa to the race team and the future.”
“Care to enlighten me?” He then glances over at her, before looking back out to the track. It wasn’t worth asking her as she didn’t know just how big of a step this would be. Her answer would just be solely based on Alyssa’s future in racing.
“Nah, it’s okay. I’m sure I’ve got it sorted out, or got the right people to contact to make sure I do.” He knew that would involve getting some thoughts from the key players at JR Motorsports before he made his final decision.
“As long as you have it handled, I’m not going to fight you on that.” She then lets him go and walks up pit road a little, before looking back at him. “Remember all the fun moments that we had here together?”
“Bristol has always been magical. She just worked her magic a little extra hard tonight for Alyssa.” Marie smiles as she walks back over, pulling Dale close.
“She needed that, Dale. Chase needed that. It’s the first step to moving forward. We both know that better than anyone.” He shakes his head yes as he wraps his arms around her.
“We were able to do it, Chase has done it before. They’ll be able to do it again, I’m certain.” He then kisses the top of her head as they stay there for awhile together.
Back at the picnic table, the jokes continued amongst the friends.
“So she like literally threatened to kick Ty’s ass today?” Lydia questions and Chase shakes his head yes, with Alyssa rolling her eyes.
“I just stated that I was purely angry – nothing else,” she answers as Chase glances at her.
“It was more like, ‘he’s still a silver spoon fool’ or something like that,” Chase comments as the group just laughs.
“Kevin is never going to live down that comment,” Ryan Blaney says and Chase couldn’t agree more. He had his additional run-ins with Ty, beyond their issues at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
“He spoke the truth that day, though. I could kill at him times, too – and that says a lot coming from me, as you know. But man, he ticked me off a couple years ago at Richmond.”
“Is that when he dumped you for the win?” Leo asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “No surprise.”
“That was the night that Alan and Jared both held you back, and it was my dad who ended up coming by the car to get you and lead you off pit road,” Alyssa remembers as Chase smiles.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he went spinning into a wall tomorrow with the way he’s been driving.”
“If Chase was in the race, he would’ve done that,” Ella comments as Chase shakes his head no. “Really?”
“Alyssa can handle her own battles as she’s the strongest person that I know,” Chase says as he wraps his arms around her. “I don’t need to that for her. Besides, she did get back to his bumper.”
“So, when are you coming back racing?” Elladee Crafton asks, catching everyone’s attention as they look towards Chase. Chase lets out a sigh, unsure how to answer the question. He knew he’d be physically healed from everything soon, but that didn’t cover the mental aspects of what he was going through. He knew that more significant than anything, especially with the flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks.
“I don’t know, honestly. It just depends on how everything goes moving forward. The doctors say I should be fine in a couple weeks, but I don’t know if I’ll be ready then. There’s still a lot that I have to think about, and work my way through.” Ryan and Darrell traded a glance back and forth, knowing what the comment was in reference to.
“You know you can call us anytime you need to talk, right?” Ryan reminds him and Chase shakes his head yes. “I mean that, too. I don’t care if it’s 3 in the morning.”
“And girl, well they have his back, we have yours,” Genieve says to Alyssa as she reaches over, grabbing her hand. Alyssa simply shoots her back a smile and a nod of the head. She knew that she had a lot to talk about, like Chase, but just wasn’t sure who she wanted to turn to on that respect, yet, if anybody.
“We’ve always hung out together so just cause we’re older that doesn’t mean we don’t have each other’s backs and will do whatever it takes,” Lydia adds as the group simply smiles.
“Crazy how we were running around causing chaos in the infield, perhaps driving Chase and Ryan crazy, and now we’re kicking their ass on track.” The younger ones just laugh as Ryan looks on shocked.
“Hey, that’s not nice!” He proclaims as Lydia simply gives him a look.
“What are you going to do about it, Blaney?” She asks as he just smiles.
“I’m going to beat your sister tomorrow and win.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Sorry, I’ve already proclaimed that I am winning so you’ll have to wait till….umm….I’m retired,” Darrell states as Ryan looks over.
“Well, considering you’re a poor old man who requires constant back rubs from Shelby, that’ll be soon,” Ryan teases back in response.