“Green flag,” TJ Majors makes the call over the radio as the team watches on closely.
Chase felt his breath hitch in his throat, nerves filling him as he knew there was no way Alyssa was backing down as she went into the corner, set to begin her climb back to the front of the field.
Dale admitted he normally wasn’t nervous watching any of his kids race, though he could feel the same nerves that Chase was feeling in this moment. Would her desire to succeed end up costing her here by pushing it too hard? Would she be able to handle everything, given what she was going through? He had many questions running through his mind, even a small second in questioning himself for allowing Steve and Alyssa to go through with this. However, that was erased as he saw her continue to keep complete control no matter the situation put in.
She put in the drive of her life through those final 15 laps, crossing the line for the caution in 10th. It wasn’t what she originally wanted, but she’d take the single point and starting off the last stage there.
“We’re pitting with everyone here,” Kevin Meendering easily came over the radio. With her being in position to strike, there was no way they would play strategy here. Besides, there was no way you could make it on fuel here and make it worth your while anyway. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine, great, no issues,” she spats off in a slew of words. “What else would you expect?” Kevin just rolled his eyes as he glanced back at Dale, knowing that it was total attitude as she was still angry and frustrated. Dale just put his hands up in the air and shrugged his shoulders; there was nothing else he could do.
“10-4, just checking. I care about you, Alyssa.” They then watch as she comes in, with the team performing another flawless pit stop before sending her off with ease.
“10-4 ‘ppreciate that, but we have a race to focus on winning. By the way, where’s shithead?”
“Focus on winning and moving towards the front, and not him. He’s not worth it.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Kevin then glanced back at Dale again, who simply gave him the same reaction, before Kevin looked forward. It was going to be a long second half of the race, especially if they crossed paths with Dillon again.
The restart came for the final stage of the race – 125 laps – and the focus was on getting to the front. The team watched on as she made her way through the field, picking off one car at a time as she closed in on the top-five.
A glance towards the crowd saw some looks of amazement and cheers as for her. The ever loyal Earnhardt fan base, combined with some fans of her own and Chase, found themselves thrust into the moment in watching to see if their favourite darling was set to pull it off. Though matched with that were some who couldn’t care less about her before, or even disliked her for whatever reason, that now sat in amazement. How was she able to do that one-handed so easily? Did she have super powers?
If you were tuning into the broadcast, whether TV or radio, the compliments could be heard over and over with them gushing about the moves that she was making and the speed she was showing.
“How is she able to fight back now twice after issues?” was the question asked in the booth. Steve, supposed to be focused on his job as a commentator, found his eyes locked on her at times in the same amazement. He could himself continually thankful that he had gone about the steps he did to make this happen as he couldn’t had imagined her being away from the track.
“She’s amazing and talented, and is going to be a champion one day,” he simply answered the question with a smile on his face.
Her march through the field found her on the bumper of Dillon, as she wanted, with about 95 laps left in the event. Anger still trickled through her that his stupid bump earlier had caused her to have to drive through the field for the second time today. He had ruined her plans of battling up front all day with the best of the best throughout the race.
Going into the corner, she let her Chevrolet go right up close to his, giving him a bump, which immediately caused him to slide up the track. She took full advantage as she completed the pass through the bottom, while leaving him stuff with his sideways car.
“Payback bitch,” she simply said over the radio with her own smile as she focused forward, set to pas the next person and work towards taking the lead.
It was evident by everybody watching that she had the quickest car on track, and being able to roll the bottom so easily played to her advantage as she continued to pick off each car with ease. As the laps kept counting down, she found herself on the bumper of Leo, who had dominated to that point.
Going into the turn, she cut down to the bottom as she had done all day, letting it roll the center with ease, before picking up the throttle off the corner and clearing him for the lead.
“New leader – Princess Alyssa,” TJ says in his familiar tone, pumping his fist up in the air. “65 laps to go.”
She then led the next 10 laps with ease before the caution flew for an incident deep in the field, which was to the relief of Kevin Meendering. There was no worry about being screwed by a green flag pit stop or anything now. He just needed her to not speed and the flawless pit stops to continue so she could come out as the leader, and show the way for the rest of the event.
“Let’s do this guys and gals,” he said over the radio, fingers secretly crossed as he could only see something going wrong with how their day had gone thus far.
However, everything came together – the pit crew changed all four tires in 12 seconds, allowing her to easily get off pit road as the race leader.
“Give me 55 solid laps,” Kevin stated on the radio as she got set for the restart. “Focus on yourself. Focus on your race. Ignore everybody else, and take care in lap traffic. We can do this.”
The green flag waved and she punched the gas, allowing the car to take off with ease as she shifted the gears, having grown to really like the paddle shifter.
Over the final 55 laps, everybody sat on the pit box with nerves cursing through them. She just had to hit her marks. Nothing had to break. The handling had to stay the way it was. No cautions needed to fall.
Chase focused his eyes on the lap counter, watching the laps tick by one-by-one, even biting his nails at times as he was certain a caution was coming. It was a Bristol night race – wrecks always happened.
Dale glanced down at his feet, unable to watch as he saw the ticker get down to 10….5. A caution just had to be coming. It just seemed too perfect as she held a three second lead over the field and was set to cruise to the victory.
Marie had turned her eyes down sooner, telling Elsa and Robby to tell her when it was over. Elsa, who normally could’ve cared less to pay attention, was focused on the racing and cheering her big sister on. She knew what it’d mean to snag a victory this big.
As she crossed the stripe for the checkered flag, the entire pit box erupted into a series of cheers, with hugs being traded between everybody.
“Way to go!!” Kevin Meendering yelled over the radio. “Awesome, awesome driving out there sweetheart. Welcome back. Great job everybody. Great job Alyssa. Great job team.”
“Welcome back to victory lane, princess,” TJ says as he trades a couple high-fives with some of the fellow spotters on the roof. “Way to go!”
“Wooohooooo!” She yells out over the radio as she couldn’t believe it. “Thanks for the amazing car, and thanks for all the support. Thank you…thank you. This is just amazing. Bristol!!”
“Way to go, Alyssa,” Dale says as he sits there in belief. “Soak it in, enjoy the moment. Glad to see you come back in style.” He then slips the radio off, and looks over at Chase. “No pressure for when you come back, kid.”
“She’s amazing,” Chase simply comments as he trades a quick hug with Dale.
The team then headed to victory lane, chants and cheers being traded the whole way as they watched her snag the checkered flag from the flagman before performing a burn-out down the whole front straightaway.
She then pulled into victory lane, flipping the switch as she sat back in the seat in total disbelief. She then reached for the belts, followed by the steering wheel, slowly working her way through everything.
“Need some help?” She hears, half expecting either Chase, Kevin or Adam. Though a smile immediately forms as it’s her dad putting the window net down, and reaching into to help her. “I’m proud of you, really proud of you. I’ve always been proud of you, but this is just amazing. I had no idea you had this in you.”
“It proves you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” she replies with a smile, before wrapping her good arm around him for a hug and kissing his cheek. “I love you daddy.”
“I love you, too.” He then steps back, set for the full celebration to take effect. Taking a deep breath, she pulls herself out, sitting on the edge of window as she puts both hands in the air with a cheer. The confetti shoots off all directions with any beverage the team could find being sprayed.
“Help me?” Dale shakes his head yes as he steps forward a bit. She then grabs the roll bar with one hand, pulling her legs up, working towards standing up.
“Screw this. I got you.” He then places a hand under each of her arms, pulling it up and holding her till she gets her legs placed on the door bar, before pushing her a bit forward so she grab the roof bar, and pull herself straight up. Standing on the edge of the door – Dale with a hand on her back, still nervous – she lifts both arms in the air once again, soaking in every bit of the moment.
She then jumps down, immediately coming face-to-face with Chase as she leans in for a kiss, perhaps a little longer than initial intended, as he wraps both arms around her and lifts her up.
“You’re amazing!” He lets out, before letting her go and bending over a little, letting out an aggravated sigh.
“Are you okay?” Alyssa asks, immediately going into worry mode, some of the amazing feeling fading as he looks up and shakes his head yes. “Remember what you’ve been through, and are going through. Take care of yourself and leave doing that till you’re feeling better. I love you, Chasey.”She then kisses his cheek before turning to face the cameras, set for the post-race interview.
Following the interviews, official ceremonies and official team photos, it was now down to the last couple of photos. She had gone through everything with the ‘special guests,’ followed by the standard driver and crew chief, driver and owner, driver with both, etc that she was required to do. She also even included a photo of her with both siblings, and her parents.
“I’m surprised you’re both here,” she says as she looks between Elsa and Robby. “You’re normally tormenting me, and you’re normally not giving a care about this racing thing.”
“You’re my big sister; I care about you,” Elsa comments as Alyssa could only smile.
“I never want to lose you, either,” Robby adds, before wrapping her arms around her. She simply wraps her arm around him as she takes a deep breath. Two little comments and everything in the moment was put into perspective.
“I love you both, too, and I couldn’t imagine life without you,” she tells them before letting Robby go.
“Does that mean you’ll buy me ice cream for your win?” Alyssa then looks at him intrigued.
“Already back to your old tricks, huh?” She then reaches over, messing up his air as he fights away from her. “You know the answer already.” The pair of them then hurry off, as she locks eyes with Chase. She gives him a quick motion, as he immediately makes his way over. “I can’t do victory lane without this photo.”
“I was going to yell at you if you forgot,” he comments, before wrapping an arm around her as they both look at the cameras. “I love you so much.” He then kisses her cheek, causing even more flashbulbs to go off.
“Just imagine if we locked lips right now; they may be able to see us on the moon,” she jokes back in response as he turns her to face him.
“Let’s try it.” He then leans in for a kiss, as they watch all the flashbulbs go off and laugh.
“One more…” She then pulls out her phone, holding it up for a selfie with him and the trophy. She then puts her phone down by the trophy, facing him. “This is amazing. This is everything, Chase.”
“I’m proud of you, and I’m sorry I doubted you at all.” She then grabs his hand with hers.
“Listen, you only doubted me because you cared about me, and I appreciate that. I wouldn’t want you to change that. This is a step, this is assurance to me that I can do this and not have to worry. Now it’s focusing on everything else that’s going through this mind of mine, as well as that mind of yours. We can focus on healing ourselves, and each other, and working our way through what happened. We’re going to be okay, Chase.” He simply shakes his head in agreement as he pulls her close, placing his head on her shoulder.
“I know, I know that we will. I just don’t ever want to go through the thought of losing you ever again.” She wraps her one arm around him, holding him as close as she can.
“You won’t ever have to. I promise, Chase.”