Moving Forward – Chapter 43: Change in Plans

Steve walks into the living room, glancing between the couple, noticing the serious looks on their faces.

“This doesn’t look good,” he comments as he takes a seat in the chair. “Please tell me Randy is still in jail-”

“We didn’t call you here for an emergency crisis like that,” Marie cuts him off as Steve immediately lets out a sigh of relief.

“And the wedding is still on?” The pair both shake their heads yes. “Okay, that gets rid of my two biggest worries. So what is it?” The couple glances at each other, before turning to face Steve.

“We’ve had a change in plans in regards to you being the best man,” Dale starts, catching Steve by surprise. He hadn’t expected any changes especially after the reasoning given by Dale in detail as they sat together. However, he wasn’t set to be mad at all or anything. He knew Dale had a very caring circle of people around him and had someone great picked out for the spot.

“I can understand that, really,” Steve comments. “So who is the best man now?” Dale glances at Marie as she simply nods before Dale looks back to Steve.

“TJ.”  Steve shook his head, understanding. It was obvious by the friendship they had.

“He’s perfect, Dale. You guys have had each other’s back for a long time now so I’m not surprised. Have you told him yet?” Dale shakes his head no, knowing that was next.

“The reason why we’ve had a change in plans is I want you to walk me down the aisle,” Marie cuts in, catching Steve by surprise. He totally wasn’t expecting a request of that nature from Marie. He had expected her to make the walk by herself from everything that he’d seen and heard. Truthfully, it felt odd getting that request. “Say something, please….”

“I don’t know what to say, though,” Steve starts as he tries to put in perspective. “I was never expecting a request of that nature ever from you. I thought you would walk down the aisle by yourself, or with John.” Marie thinks back to the previous day, remembering her thoughts, now questioning her decision. However, a glance at Steve told her she’d done the right thing.

“I can’t do it alone, Steve. It just wouldn’t feel comfortable.  I also thought about John too as he’s been t here my whole life for me, but we aren’t really close and I want someone that I’m close with to lean on. Based on our history, I’d say we’re very close friends. You mean a lot to this family, more than words could describe or you probably realize. Dale and I have talked about it numerous times. It just feels right to ask you.”  Steve understood where she was coming from, and knew there was nothing he wouldn’t do for the pair. Perhaps it was more right than he could’ve imagined ever.

“Marie, if that’s your wish, then it’d be my honor to walk you down the aisle. You both mean a lot to me, Trisha and the kids. I don’t think there’s anything that could ever come between us. I know you keep giving me all this credit, but you’ve done a lot for my family over the years, too. I admit I was apprehensive at first, but I’m starting to see why and like I said, if that’s what you want, then I’d be honored.” Marie takes a deep breath, remembering her discussion with Dale the previous night.

“Trust me – I know for certain this is what I want. There’s nobody I would prefer over you, Steve. I mean, without you, we wouldn’t be where we are toda-”

“You’re giving me too much credi-”

“Who helped us get connected originally? Who dealt with his nerves of commitment and relationships? Who dealt with my nerves of love and being around racing?  Heck, I don’t know if we would’ve survived the first month without you handling our random rants.” Steve chuckles, remembering the various visits that he had with them both then. “You also saved Alyssa from the plane crash – something that I could never repay you for. You were there with Dale each day after that, helping him deal with his emotions, but also bringing him back to me. Who agreed to go with him to Pitronia first, Steve?”

“Do you know how complicated that argument with Kelley was? She was determined to not let you go. That’s got to be the longest convincing statement ever, and she still wasn’t sure.” Dale chuckles, remembering the discussion like it was just yesterday.

“But you guys still came, right? We got that moment together in the park, followed by reconnecting fully – all because you helped with the theories and chasing them. Once again, without you, there is no us. Then of course there’s Daytona. Remember my crazy blubbering emotions? Remember the tears and crazy fears? Remember how you had to calm me down in the midst of the craziness you were thrown? I don’t think I would’ve gotten through that weekend without you there.” Steve could only chuckle at some of her comments from then.

“I thought I was going to have to tie you up for the race with how crazy you were.” Marie chuckles, remembering how she went on and on in the care center.

“I think the nurse at the care center while we were waiting for Dale thought I was crazy.” Steve chuckles, shaking his head in agreement. “You also helped save, Chase. Heck, nobody knew he was missing till you said something. You noticed Dale getting in the car and put the plan in motion.”

“Remember – he has ninja skills,” Dale comments with a smile as Steve rolls his eyes, remembering that discussion with Kelley. “Steve, our lives wouldn’t be what they are without you – and that’s why we want you to have a big part in the wedding.”

“Promise to not leave each other at the alter alone crying?” He asks as Dale and Marie trade a glance. They both smile before turning to Steve.

“I don’t think I could ever do that to her. I love her too much.”

“Good – because you’ve both given enough emotional craziness for a lifetime.”

Moving Forward – Chapter 41: Groomsmen

TJ Majors walks into the saloon, glancing around as he notices Chase sitting on one of the stools.

He was surprised when he gotten the message from Marie to meet at the saloon that evening. He knew there was a lot going on, and wondered whether it pertained to Dale’s healing from the concussion. There was also thoughts and speculation in regards to the wedding, too. Regardless, he simply accepted the message and went to the saloon.

“What are you doing here?” He asks and as he walks to Chase, grabbing the stool beside him. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“I dropped the girls off at the house and Dale asked if I’d go down to the saloon, and he’d meet me in a couple minutes,” Chase answers as TJ looks on puzzled. Did Dale know of the request from Marie? Had he asked Marie to pass along the message? “What’s your excuse?”

“Do I need an excuse?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, once again. “Actually, Marie told me to come down here.”

“Really?” TJ shakes his head yes, taking out his phone to show the text message. “Don’t worry – I believe you. What’s up with that?” TJ couldn’t answer the question as he had no clue, either.

“If Dale shows up and I’m not supposed to be here, I guess I’ll text Marie and tell her that we can talk elsewhere, or whatever.”

“Well this is a surprise,” the pair hears as they look behind them and see Steve LeTarte standing there. “Ingrid tells me that Dale wants to talk to me, says to meet at the saloon, and I find you two.”

“I was told by Marie and he was told by Dale,” TJ states as Steve takes a seat on the couch in the corner.

“So we’ve all been pulled here one way or another, and there’s a wedding set to take place here in a couple months,” Steve starts. “Coincidence huh?”

“Well, that’s one way to ruin my surprise,” Dale starts as he stands up from his spot behind the bar. “Jeff here, yet?” Jeff puts his hand up as he walks in through the front door. “Glad to see you’re all here.”

“Can we ask first how you are?” Jeff asks as Dale lets out a sigh. He knew the question was coming. After all, he had spent the last month and a half in hiding without any contact with hardly anybody.

“I can happily say that I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past while. It’s pretty much almost cleared up from what I can tell, except for a couple lagging deals in some exercises and the simulator. If everything plans out right, I’ll be testing next month.” The group look on with surprise and smiles as it was great news to hear. It was perfect news to be hearing as they started November.

“So you got a month and a half till you marry a Queen, and yet you’re somehow squeezing a test and Christmas in before that?” TJ questions as Dale shrugs his shoulders.

“Welcome to my life – where we balance everything wild all at once,” he states. “That brings me to why you all are here. As you know, Marie told the bridesmaids that they were going to be part of the wedding – Kelley, Ingrid and Sherry, with Stacey as the maid of honor. Alyssa and Elsa are set to be the flower girls, surprise surprise, while Wyatt is the ring barrier.” Everybody could only smile as it sounded like the perfect combination for the wedding. “Since someone spoiled my surpris-”

“I’m sorry,” Steve quickly apologies as Dale rolls his eyes.

“This is the meeting of the groomsmen,” he states as the group trade glances. “Chase, you’ve been there amazingly for my family, especially Alyssa, over the past year more than I could ever ask. It’s only fitting that you’re part of the wedding.” He then looks over at Jeff. “And I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always been a close friend and someone to lean on. We made a pair of killer teammates, have a friendship for a life time, and I think it’d be fitting for you to be there in January.”

“It’d be an honor,” Jeff comments as he could only smile. Part of him was still in disbelief that Dale was getting married in just a couple months.

“TJ, I don’t think I need to explain why you’re here. We’ve known each other way too long, and you’ve always been my righthand man. There’s no question about you being part of the wedding, and I expect to see Madelynn there as I know Wyatt wants a dance.” TJ chuckles as he had gotten to see how close Wyatt was growing with his daughter.

“I’ll see if her schedule is open,” TJ teases as Dale gives him a smack. “Hey! I’m paying you back with the bachelor par-”

“There’s going to be no wild party before the wedding,” Dale sets the record straight as TJ looks on surprised. “There’s so much other important stuff going on that I just want to focus on what’s ahead, okay?” TJ lets out a sigh.

“I’m sure you can find another reason to plan a party,” Chase tells him as TJ just rolls his eyes.

“Of course, I’ve stated that everybody is in the wedding except for one important detail. Steve, I would like you to be my best man.” Steve looks on, partially surprised. “You’ve done so much for me, personally. You helped me grow as a person and change into the man I am now. You were also there through all the turmoil with Marie, whether it was flying cross the country or listening to my crazy ran-”

“Hey, you were right about that resemblance though,” Steve says, reminding him of the discussion about the Mariela and Marie scrapbook photo.

“Don’t remind me of that,” Dale comments as Chase shakes his head in agreement. “But you did everything you could during that time to be there for me. Then you also were there for Marie, helping her when I couldn’t. I mean, without you, sometimes I wonder just how that would’ve went down. Of course, I don’t even need to think about that anymore than the plane crash. My daughter is here today because you risked your life, and did what you had to do save her. I told you that day there was no way I could repay you for what you did, and I still don’t know how I could. I could go on for days as to my reasons, but please, be my best man.” Steve smiles and shakes his head yes.

“I’d be glad to stand there with you.”

“So what do us boys have to do to get ready for dream wedding?” Jeff asks, remembering protocol for groomsmen from other weddings.

“Buy tuxedos, white dress t-shirts, and please carry the light blue hankerchief to match the design and dress,” Dale states as Chase’s eyes open in surprise.

“Please tell me you haven’t seen her wedding dress,” Chase comments and Dale shakes his head no. “You know it’s bad luck to see the dress before the wedding, right? Like, please, no taking peeks. You don’t need to tempt fate.”

“I wouldn’t think of it, Chase. I want this day to go off without a hitch just as much as you do.”

Marie smiled as she looked on from outside watching the boys interact together, knowing her thoughts were along the same lines as Dale’s.

As she heads back up to the house – Elsa in hand, Alyssa running up the hill, her mind was stuck on the words that Dale had shared about the past and why he made the choice he did.

She thought about the words that Kelley had told her. She didn’t need someone to walk her down the aisle, but if she wanted someone, then she could ask someone that meant a lot to her to do so –as Kelley had asked her brother.

She knew that Steve made perfect sense as the best man, but what if she needed someone for the walk to the alter?

Cabin Fears – Chapter 33: “Hold my drink, please.”

“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.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 26: Her Honesty

With all eyes locked on her, Alyssa knew that she was set to continue with what had to be said so she could move forward.

“As I made clear, I am returning to the driver’s seat this weekend,” Alyssa starts, as Chase glances over, interested to see where she was going. “I feel that I am ready, physically based on the test, and mentally in the right focus of mind, to make my return this weekend. I know this place is the toughest track on the circuit as some call it, but I need to start laying down some laps so I can be in my groove come September. Pure and simple, I am ready this and ready to race. I’ve been ready for a couple weeks now. Some people have said that I should take some more time to get my thoughts in order, but I can’t just sit on the sidelines and do that, without racing. I mean, this is my life. This is everything to me.”

Chase keeps his eyes locked on her, as his mind flashes back to his press conference when he came back after being stabbed in the leg. He remembered the words that he spoke, and how he was so determined to get back to racing because he couldn’t stay away from it. He remembered putting his mind into total focus on racing – in some ways, leaving every other thought behind. Taking a deep breath, he wasn’t making the same mistake himself this time. He wanted to make sure everything was in order – some way, somehow – before he made his return.

Now hearing these words from Alyssa, he wondered whether history was repeating itself, despite him and Dale trying to have stopped it. He knew that Alyssa had done some talking about her emotions, but wondered just how far she had gotten with them.

“This is my dream,” he hears Alyssa continue. “This is everything that I’ve wanted. Since I was a little girl being raised at the track, sitting in my dad’s car at times, watching him battle hard with everybody for race wins. There was also the fun times spent with Chase, and the jokes that we had, and how we grew closer. This is everything to me. Racing has always been a part of my life, in my blood and part of me, and made me who I am. You can’t see a part of me without seeing racing in it.”

She then glances down at the table, taking a deep breath. She didn’t want to get emotional in this. She was just set to walk in, say the facts, and then go watch Cup practice to help herself get closer to the racing groove before getting on track for her practice. However, there was no way to shy away from it now as she’d laid the groundwork on the table with those words.

“Despite everything, I had worked my way to getting the chance to drive for my dad’s race time full-time in the XFINITY Series,” she continues. “Everything was starting to come together as I wanted. I was getting the full rookie campaign, set for two years here and then getting to race on Sundays just like I had always dreamed. I mean, everybody is already putting together my future – knowing that one day I’ll either drive for Hendrick Motorsports or dad will finally take this team to the Cup Series.”

Dale knew of the discussions that were currently be had at to what they’d do in a couple years when she was ready to move up. It seemed there was no room for her to go to Hendrick Motorsports as originally planned with the line-up being set in stone with youth filling the halls. While he had talked about never wanting to go to Cup level – unsure whether it’d work, knowing the undertaking that was, and on and on – he was wondering if his hands were becoming tied and the next step was going to have to happen for his daughter.

“For a couple days in the hospital, you could say that I felt that I lost everything,” Alyssa carries forward. “I mean, I never thought I’d be able to race again for awhile. I thought my dream had been ripped away from me. There were times I wondered what I’d do for the rest of my life. Would I be happy being one of those to sit back and run a team, always questioning whether I would’ve made it? Would I do something outside of the sport? What did my future hold? You could say that the experience I went through just in that small period has really made me think, and now makes me feel even more grateful that I am getting to do what I’ve wanted to do. Damn, no matter how the rest of this year turns out, I know that I’ll be happy with the fact that I am just getting the chance to get back behind the wheel.”

Standing at the back of the room, supposedly there for NBC but also for personal reasons, Steve LeTarte just smiled as he listened to her. It made every bit of the support and effort he put into making the pieces come together that much more worth it and hearing her words. It was also nice for her to be recognizing these feelings before stepping behind the wheel, as he didn’t want to see emotions be the reason it all fell apart.

“Her words remind me a lot of my own,” Chase starts, catching her attention. He had been waiting for her to continue, as she was doing a tremendous job, but the long pause began to feel uncomfortable. Thinking that she was stuck on what to say next, he felt it was ready to go forward. “We’re racecar drivers, through and through. It’s the only thing that we’ve always known, being the one constant in our lives.” He then looks towards her. “When our lives are being flipped upside down and there’s 10 million questions we’re asking ourselves, being able to follow through with that one constant gives us peace of mind, reality check, and a reminder that no matter what’s going on it’ll work out because we have this. Like I said then to everybody and like I’ll say again, you could say it’s our escape sometimes.”

There was a reason for the words as he wanted to put reminder into what he had told her a couple weeks ago, about making sure to have emotions in check and not using it as a total escape tool because everything else will come back and bite you. He knew it wasn’t the fairest spot to give the reminder, but she needed to be put on the spot as he didn’t want her to feel what he did then.

Glancing back towards before glancing back at her in hopes for her to continue now, all of his reasons and how he went about things was why he hadn’t thought of putting his driver’s suit on yet. He knew that he had to get everything in perfect straight order first. Though first, he had to figure out how to accomplish that as it seemed this time things were five times worse than they were before.

Alyssa focuses her eyes on him, before glancing back out to the crowd, and back at him. She knew why he said what he did, and knew the meaning behind it. She hated the tactic, but understood it as she was beginning to realize more and more what he was saying. Was she coming back too soon? Had she taken the wrong approach a couple weeks ago? Should she figure out things quicker tthan she was allowing herself to? Perhaps she should talk to someone that night, perhaps arrange for a immediate Sunday meaning once the weekend was over.

Taking a deep breath, she knew that she was going to have take care of things quickly as she didn’t want to fall into that trap herself. However, for now this weekend, she had a job to do – one that was looking forward to.

“Chase is right on so many levels as it’s certainly a key step in the healing process and being able to move forward,” she starts. “It’s something to give me a bit of comfort as yes I’ve began to work through what I went through, but it just adds the next step so I can carry forward with everything else. But yes, it’s work in progress.” He simply gives her a quick nod of the head, glad that she got the message but also glad that she was able to find some of the steps towards peace in the situation.

“With those reasons in mind, I think it’s only fair to explain how this came together,” Chase suggests, knowing that it’d be best they move forward before he cracks under the pressure.

“Of course.” She then takes a deep breath, looking out to the crowd, smiling as she sees Steve standing at the back of the room. “I was released from the hospital a couple days after my attack, and I got pushed out to making a trip away from the hospital from some persuasive people. While I thought it was just a way to get me outside, they actually had another surprise for me – my camaro, customized with a paddle shift so I could drive with ease. The man behind that was Steve LeTarte, as he wanted to show me that I could do something special.”

She then takes a deep breath, detailing the first couple drives with Steve as she got used to the controls. She then goes into the details surrounding the test session at Darlington Raceway, and the careful process of interior stuff that her and Adam Jordan followed. She even mentioned how they forced her to drive it loose to make sure she could keep control despite feeling out of control sideways. She then explained how they got NASCAR’s approval, and the necessary steps they need to follow weekly.

“Needless to say, everything has gone according to plan thus far and that’s why I’m here,” she rounds it off. “I am here with the simple goal – to win, and get ready for the Chase because I know this team is capable of winning a championship. I’m not changing my goals because of what happened because I believe in myself, these guys, and what we’re bringing to the table this weekend. Hopefully I get to see you guys once again later on tonight.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 22: The Test

Going to go ahead in the timeline here – like a couple weeks. I can promise there’s a lot to come in the form of emotions, and lots to come in the form of at track activities.

 

Tuesday – post Indianapolis/pre Watkins Glen – 6 weeks before Chase

Alyssa glances at herself in the mirror as she lets out a sigh. It felt weird to be getting ready to go test at Hickory Motor Speedway two weeks after she had been told she could possibly never race again.

She had to admit the past week hadn’t gone badly. She had gotten more practice with the controls through Steve’s drives with her to the point everything seemed easy. The burns had healed enough that they bugged here and there like an annoying scratch, but not enough to cause a lot of pain. Emotions? Forget that topic. She hadn’t even touched on that, focusing on other things for the time being.

She was also glad that Chase was released on the Tuesday following, with strict instructions to follow the protocol of healing. Anti-acid medicine, pain medicine, and staying away from acidic food seemed easy enough. They stated if he kept to that protocol, as well as resting as much as possible with not a lot of movement, he should be healed up in about two to four weeks. Like her, though, emotions hadn’t been touched upon that much. She could tell signs, though, as he wasn’t comfortable in being by himself or far from her for a long period of time.

She then over to the couch, picking up her familiar firesuit as she slips her legs in. She then stands up, pulling it up with her right hand, before sliding her right arm down the sleeve.

“Do you want some help?” She hears and glances back to the couch to see Chase sitting there. She shakes her head no as she reaches for the left sleeve herself. “Are you sure? That looks challenging.”

“I’m fine, Chase,” she states firmly as she fights with it for a couple minutes, but manages to get her arm in the sleeve and pushed all the way through for her hand to be through.

She knew it would’ve been much easier to let him help as he wanted, but she was stubborn – like always.  He always wanted to help her out with things that she found tough, but she kept warding off his offers.  She was determined on figuring out how to do everything she had done always herself, just in a new slightly changed way. From putting clothes away, to chores around the house and daily responsibilities, each thing was like a test and she wanted to pass with flying colors herself. Thus far, she had to admit that it hadn’t been as bad as she thought – well, except for the morning she spilt milk all over the kitchen counter and floor.

“You look beautiful,” he says as he carefully stands up and makes his way over, wrapping his arms around her and kissing his cheek. “You look as wonderful as always.” He then reaches for her hair brush, but she puts her hand on it.

“Chas-” She starts.

“You can’t hold the hair in a handful and put the hair-tie in yourself so let me help you with just this one thing, please.” She then lets out a sigh, somewhat defeated as she lets him go about putting her hair up for her.

“I know I shouldn’t feel like this over a stupid pony tail but it’s frustrating, Chase. Here I am, a grown woman, and I can’t get myself ready to go out or racing. How is that fair? How is that right?” He knew of her frustrations, having heard the groans in trying to do stuff despite his offers his help.

“Listen to me…” He then spins her around after finishing up her pony tail. “I don’t want to hear that ever out of you, okay? You’re amazing and you’re damn special. You’re the greatest woman that I know. Sure, there may be small things that are issues, but look at everything else you’ve been able to do. Don’t let yourself worry about those small things, but rather focus on the bigger victories and goals that you have. And when it comes to those small things, that why I’m here – to love and care for you.” He then leans in and kisses her lips lightly.

The pair then walk out of the hauler together, carefully one step at a time as Alyssa didn’t want to aggravate Chase’s soreness at all. She had suggested for him to stay home, but that didn’t go over well as there was no way he was missing the test.

They make the short walk out to pit road, as she nears the car that she was set to drive that afternoon. Kevin Meendering being the sweet crew chief he was, allowed Steve to take Alyssa’s favourite short track chassis in the shop and do what he needed for the test. He figured it was the best way to make sure that she was comfortable taking on the day ahead.

“Are you sure about this?” Marie asks from her spot sitting on the pit road wall. Despite her apprehensions, she knew that she couldn’t wait at home for updates so she had made her way out to the track, reluctantly. Besides, someone had to keep an eye on the other two while Dale focused on Alyssa.

“Mom, how many times do I need to answer the question before you stop asking?” Alyssa asks, having heard the question many times.

She then glances in the cockpit of the car, taking everything in. She had already seen the changes, sat before them and drove the car around the shop parking lot a couple times prior to making it to the track. It was all part of Adam Jordan’s plan in making sure that she was as comfortable as possible before they left the shop.

She had to admit, it had been fun working with Adam on everything in regards to getting ready. Normally Adam focused on stuff over at Hendrick Motorsports in regards to the interior of the cars, but Dale had personally asked Adam to come help out his daughter. Dale spent many years working with Adam, knew the attention of detail he had and how he’d make sure it was absolutely perfect – which was the only option for his daughter in this situation.

“Well are you ready for this?” Adam asks as he leans back against the car. She could only look at him and smile, shaking her head yes. “That’s the answer I expected.”

He then takes her helmet and HANS out of the car, placing them on the roof. He went through the steps of placing the HANS on her shoulders, followed by the helmet and putting the right clips in place. He then picked the pair of gloves off the dash inside the car, holding each one out so she could slide her hands into them, needing some obvious help with the left one. Just because she couldn’t feel it didn’t mean that they weren’t taking the necessary steps to protect. What if they were able to make something work one day?

“Remember what we talked about in getting in,” he states as he stands back, giving her the room she needed to climb in the car.  Well he could easily help her, he knew that wouldn’t sit well with the NASCAR officials watching. They had to know that she could climb in and out without help, should the emergency need arise.

She then grabs on to the roll bar with her right hand, swinging each of her legs up with ease, feeling a tinge of pain from the lingering pains alongside her left side as she places them in the car. Keeping her left arm tucked close to her body (using the strength that she had in her elbow to do so), she slides down into her seat, wiggling a little bit to get comfy before looking up at Adam.

“I would call that successful,” she comments as Adam shakes his head yes. He then reaches in, helping her do up the belts, before kneeling by the car. He watches as she snaps the steering wheel in place, careful of the cords, giving it a tug before looking out.

“Can she easily climb out by herself?” The one official asked, catching their attention. Even though it was the first test, Steve had already put the call to NASCAR to see whether they’d be open to the idea. They said that they would be, under conditions, and stated that they’d like to witness any and all testing taking place.

“We practiced that about five or six times at the shop over the past couple of days,” Adam says as he looks over at the official. “She can pull the steering wheel off with her right hand, followed by pulling the quick release on the belts easily. She can fumble her body back and forth, climb up through the window the same way she climbed in no problem. It’s actually within seconds of the time that it took myself, Leo and Dale to climb in and out when we did it for comparison.”

The official simply nodded his head, making a note on his notepad as he looked over at his fellow official.

“TJ is up on the spotter stand,” Dale states as he had radioed up to check already with him. “Whenever you’re ready, I say you should give it a shot.”

“10-4 Daddy,” she answers as she reaches over and flips the switch, craving for this moment to come as soon as it could. Adam then puts the window net up, gives the car a quick pat on the roof before stepping back over to the pit wall.

While everybody thought there’d be hesitation, she immediately headed off pit road, set to make her way on to the half-mile oval.

“She certainly is your daughter,” Steve comments with a smile as Dale simply keeps his eyes locked on the car through the turn. Marie could only sit there and resist the urge to chew her nails off.

“Gonna start off slow to get comfortable, and go from there,” they hear over the radio, easily accepting.

“That’s what today is about – getting comfortable one lap at a time,” Dale replies, not letting his eyes leave the track.

They watched each lap with ease, seeing the speed pick up a little more with each time by. A glance from Dale towards the crew chiefs, and both Steve & Kevin had stopwatches in hand set to time. Seeing the speed increase, steady hand control as she wasn’t getting sideways that much and came off the corner with ease, a nod of the head meant to start timing. He knew the average lap time for the track – it was a matter of how close she was.

They let her officially complete 50 laps before calling her in to get a reading on how things were going, and add some fuel.

“She’s right down at the mark that we set here the last time,” Steve comments as he shows the stopwatch to Dale. Dale simply accepts, having a quick conversation with her, before looking over at Kevin.

“What set-up is in the car?” Dale questions as Kevin shrugs his shoulders. He hadn’t focused too much on that with everything else. “On the scale of 1 to 10, make it a 7 loose. We need to know if she can handle it.”  Kevin shakes his head yes, giving the crew members who had attended with them a couple instructions.

“Are you sure about that?” Marie questions, still feeling nervous.

“It’s better we know now, rather than while she’s 3-wide in a pack of cars. I want to test the hand control just to make sure for that situation. I’d rather do it here, and say she does spin than do it where she could get clobbered by others.”

“I still don’t know….”

“Mom, she’s doing amazing,” Robby starts. “You should give her a chance. I think she could win this weekend if they’d let her race.” Chase then looks at the youngest of the Earnhardt kids and shakes his head no, immediately. Sure, they wanted to see Alyssa go back racing as soon as they could. However, there were other things to make sure that were better before they entered that back into their lives.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 21: Her Excitement

Alyssa walks back into the room, smile proudly on her face, as she walks up to Chase, giving him a kiss as she hands over a smoothie.

“Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry and mango – as instructed,” she states as he simply smiles, sliding a touch over so she could join him in the bed. “It’s nice to see you allowed food.”

“It’s nice to be allowed something other than water, bread and jello,” he replies as he sips on the drink. “What’s up with that smile on your face?” Jeff could only smile in his corner, knowing the exact reason. He had wished he could’ve been downstairs for her reaction earlier.

“I take it somebody enjoyed what Steve did, huh?” Jeff asks and Alyssa simply shakes her head yes as the rest look on confused.

“He took my camaro and got it fitted with paddle shift gears so I could drive it,” she states as Dale looks over at Steve surprised. “It took some getting used to, but once I was, it felt amazing. You do not realize how much the thought of being torn away from racing bugs you till you’re sitting there, feeling that driving again. I will admit – I was scared and worried over that fact. I admit it killed part of me inside originally. But just those 15 minutes today were enough to regenerate everything.” Dale glances at Marie, remembering their discussion from the other night at the hotel. He knew there were some feelings going on for his daughter. He just didn’t realize Steve would solve their problems before they could be addressed.

“I also told her that we could possibly try it out with a racecar,” Steve continues, catching a mix of curious and surprised glances from the room. “If Dale would let us use one of the XFINITY cars, I could get the same technology put in that and see if she can run it, and then if NASCAR would approve it.” They thought caused a mixed of emotions throughout the room, ranging from fear to surprise to uncertainty to excitement. Everybody had their own opinions on Alyssa’s situation and what to do moving forward.

“What are your thoughts on this, Alyssa?” Bill asks as he looks towards her. It seemed fair to make the person who this affected most get her say.

“I can’t deny it – racing is my life, it’s my dream, it’s everything that I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “I grew up wanting to drive a stock car. I grew up wanting to be a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion. I grew up wanting to win at Darlington, Martinsville, Bristol, and one day the Daytona 500.” She then looks at Chase with a smile, before glancing over towards her father. “I grew up wanting to be a racecar driver and just as successful as the two people who mean the most to me – my father, and my boyfriend. It means everything to me and certainly being torn away from that sooner than getting my real shot at it would hurt. It’s why I know that I want to take the sho-”

“But sweetie, do you realize what you’re saying?”  Marie asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes as she then turns to her mother.

“I know it’s going to be tough. I know it’s going to be a test of strength and durability and whether I can simply handle driving with just one hand. I know there are people out there who do it at the short track level – there was this one guy I saw who always kept his right hand on the roll bar, just his left hand on the wheel.  I believe that I can do it. I also know there’s a challenge in getting NASCAR’s approval because this is out of the box of normal. However, I want to take a chance and see if I can do it before I close that chapter in my life, if I need to.” She then glances at Steve with a slight smile. “I don’t want to be stuck asking myself what if down the road.”

“I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with this….”

“Mom, it’s my life and my decis-”

“You’re my daughter, though. I care about you. I don’t want you to get hurt.  I don’t want you to do something that could cause more pain. It’s my job to worry about you. I mean, are you absolutely certain?” Alyssa knew there were no doubts on that, having thought about it since her discussion with Steve.

“Trust me, I’m absolutely 100% certain. Besides, if NASCAR doesn’t accept, there’s always sports car or open-wheel.” Marie’s eyes then widen, as she wanted her children to have nothing to do with open-wheel cars. Stock cars were scary and one thing, but open-wheel was whole other animal.

“Dale, help me, please?” Dale takes a deep breath, thinking of where he could start. He knew that he couldn’t deny his daughter the opportunity, having been in her shoes in a way before. He had his fears just as much as Marie, but that was part of being a parent. The racecar driver in him knew otherwise.

“There’s risk and there’s worries, but we don’t know anything till we take a chance,” Dale starts. “It’s worth looking into to see if it’s possible and go from there. If the test goes well, I don’t see why not. However if the test doesn’t go well, at least we know whether than questioning it.” He then looks over at Steve, knowing he was waiting for the seal of approval. “You have my permission to use one of the cars. Just let Kevin Meendering know what you’re doing, and he can tell you what chassis you can use.”

“Are you serious?”  Marie questions as Dale looks over at his wife, shaking his head yes.

“You heard the conversation that we had when racing was almost ripped away from me. You heard my thoughts on the situation last night, and you heard her thoughts today.  There’s always risk in racing. Let her at least see where she stands before you pull the plug, please.”

“It’s not like we’re jumping in without evaluation either,” Steve comments as his eyes lock on Marie.  He hated to leave it with her being disapproving. However, he figured that’d be solved once they were at the test together as he believed in Alyssa, as he always did.

“I can tell you that if it does work out for you, safely, I’d race with you any day on any track because I know that you can do it and win,” Chase tells her before he gives her a kiss. “I just hope you don’t a bump and run for the win at Bristol.”

“I just hope you don’t mind a door slam for the win at Martinsville,” she replies with a smirk in return. It was their normal teasing back and forth as they had done throughout the whole summer.

“I just worry about everything else, though, in everything that happened,” Marie adds, catching their attention.

“I can cover that knowing it from experience,” Chase starts as he takes a deep breath.  “In a racer’s mind, those two become separate. You’re able to throw everything into a bucket and forget about it for those hours that you’re driving; it’s why racing can sometimes be our escape, and trust me – I used it a lot before. But knowing her, the way she is, and her parents, she’ll work through everything that happened in between those weekends to where she can go each day without a single fear. If I was able to do it, then I know that she can.”

“Just don’t forget about doing that yourself,” Cindy reminds him, remembering the runaway stunt he pulled. Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head, understanding. He knew that fact. He just wasn’t looking forward to it as there were lots of thoughts swirling through his mind already.

“I know, trust me.  I’ll do what I got to do, momma.”

The conversation entered the mind of Alyssa as she laid there, head on Chase’s shoulder. She hadn’t thought about much in regards to what happened. She was focused on getting herself feeling better, along with him. She wanted them to both get out of there and home as soon as possible.

Though as she let those 72 hours flood through her mind, she felt the fear, anger, sadness, worry that everybody had talked about around her. She felt the emotions that Chase had discussed going through in his instances. She felt others in her mind.

She began to wonder whether she could make them all go away, like Chase had talked about that. How do you forget that fear you felt? How do you forget the pain? How do you go forward like normal and nothing happened?

Feeling him against her, she wasn’t sure how to answer those questions, but believed that she’d make it through as long as she had him by her side.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 20: The Surprise

For those who were trying to figure it out last chapter – Elladee Crafton. That should answer the questions J

Sunday – First Week of August

Alyssa takes a deep breath, before continuing her walk with Steve.

As expected, she was officially released from the hospital, with strict instructions to focus on getting rest and regularly changing the bandages on the burns. If anything, per the doctors, they should mostly be healed within 2 to 3 weeks.

Despite being released, she hadn’t traveled far from the hospital, spending all of her time with Chase as she focused on also helping him with her recovery. Despite some persistence from Marie, she told her mother that she wasn’t going to leave till he was also released, too.

While everybody agreed, Steve and Jeff pushed for her to head outside, knowing the surprise that lied there. Jeff suggested that she could go get herself and Chase a treat, or perhaps get him a surprise. He even used the classic ‘do some shopping, mix up your outfit’ line with her. After continued persistence – including Chase suggesting that some fresh air would do her well, she agreed to head out for a small trip with Steve.

“Why didn’t you head home?” She asks as they continued walking. On Friday, the drivers of the group – Regan, Ryan and Darrell – all left to make the trip to Indianapolis. Her and Chase had watched the race on TV, impressed Darrell’s domination en route to winning. It resulted in a very happy FaceTime chat afterwards.

“I’m not working with anybody, and I asked NBC to give me some time because I wanted to be there for those I care about,” he tells her with a smile. He remembered making the phone call to NBC, and their disappointment as it was their first race of the schedule. However, they accepted, noting that they could get a replacement till everything sorted out. Steve wondered whether the producer was truly accepting, or hoping that it resulted in the network getting an exclusive once Chase and Alyssa were ready to get back racing.  Either way, he wasn’t going to worry right now.

“You didn’t have to do that for me, Steve. I would’ve totally understood you heading back.” Steve smiles as he wraps an arm around her shoulders.

“I know that you would, but it wouldn’t feel right to me. Besides, I know your parents are going through a lot with this and Kelley & Jeff can’t always handle helping them. I did it just as much to help them, your parents, Chase, and his parents.”  She smiles as they continue to make their way through the parking lot. “Are you okay?” She shakes her head yes. “You’re not too sor-”

“I’m fine, Steve. So where the heck did you park?” Steve hated to make her walk this far, but he had hid the car in a tight corner because he didn’t want somebody else to recognize it.  He had even pondered covering the custom plate that she had on it.

“Right here…” He watches as she stops there, frozen, eyes locking on the car ahead of her. She then takes a deep breath, as she looks over at Steve. He knew the look that he was receiving well – the Earnhardt stare.

“You drove my car up here? You drove my car without asking me? No wonder your damn well sucking up to me! Like really, Stev-”

“I didn’t drive it up here, Alyssa. I got it sent up here – for you.” The frozen stare seemed to darken with his comment. She almost felt like she had been slapped in the face with the comment. Didn’t he realize something?

“So how am I supposed to drive and shift in my condition? You really thought this through, Steve.” So far, it seemed the surprise was blowing up in flames in his face. Perhaps he should’ve explained things differently to her, rather than doing it this way.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, actually. Take a closer look and then see what you have to say to me.” She then looks at him confused, though slowly makes her way closer to the car, glancing in at the steering wheel, before glancing back at him.

“Paddle shift?” He shakes his head yes, slowly closing the gap so he was standing right behind her. It seemed safe to approach now.

“The disappointment that I knew you had to be feeling about everything got me thinking. Jeff also said, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ which really trigged the thought process. How could you shift and drive with ease with just your right hand? Then after talking to some people and realizing the technology out there, it came to me – paddle shift.  You can keep your right hand on the steering wheel, slightly reaching a finger over to shift either up or down – like you see in open-wheel but with a twist. Given that you’ve tested an Indy Lights car, I figured you’d get it.” She didn’t know whether to turn around and hug him, cry, or what emotions to feel as she felt a bunch of emotions go through her in that very moment.

“Steve…..” She then runs her hand along the steering wheel, before looking back at him. “You thought of all this for me?”  He shakes his head yes.

“I know you really well. I know the instant that they said you couldn’t do anything with your left hand or arm, the first thought would be not being able to drive, or race. I mean, that’s all you’ve ever known or wanted to do. You also didn’t say anything, but rather focused on Chase and everything. I knew that was actually, just like your dad, avoiding the obvious thought on your mind. I wanted to help you out as I know you’re both going through a lot right now.” She felt a couple tears trickle down her face as she felt the sadness she’d hidden since learning the news begin to surface, as well as the gratefulness in knowing someone all of her life that cared this much.

“I don’t know what to say, Steve. I know that I owe my life to you in a way, and now this definitely puts me forever in debt to you because this is beyond what I could’ve imagined.” He smiled as it made the fury, along with the debates through the process, worth it in seeing her reaction.

“I know it’ll take some getting used to, but I have a feeling once you do it’ll be natural as ever and you’ll be cruising just like you were before. Heck, we could even take it for a bit of a spin today.” A smile formed her face on the thought as she looked back, shaking her head yes.  Perhaps getting back behind the wheel would allow her to get more at ease with everything.

It was a rough start as there were some ill-timed shifts, untimed turns and comfort issues – but she was able to overcome those in the first 15 minutes of the drive. As they hit the 15 minute mark, it seemed that she had mastered the art of driving while using the paddle shift as Steve had set-up. He could only look over and smile as she guided them through the streets.

Feeling some pain up her left side, she pulls back into the parking lot, parking the car back in the spot that Steve had it as she looks over with a smile on her face. The smile he saw made everything worth it, for sure, as it was the first true smile that he’d seen since showing up there.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed this…” She lets out as she reaches up, flipping the key off. “I mean, I knew that there’d be issues – from writing, to doing some daily chores – but I never let it hit me on the surface, so to speak. However, as soon as I sat here and got into the first five minutes, it made me realize just how much I was missing this feeling, and worried that I’d never get to feel it again. There’s nothing that could replace the feeling of sitting in this seat, being able to drive, going for a simple crui-”

“What about tackling the high banks of Daytona?” Steve asks her, catching her gaze of surprise. “What about finding the right groove at a track like Michigan? What about the right timed bump-and-run at Bristol? I bet being behind the wheel of a racecar would be even better.”  She couldn’t disagree with him. However, seeing the technology implemented, she knew her possibilities were limited now.

“Unless it’s in a sportscar, I don’t see Daytona being in the future. Heck, I may even go for the open-wheel drea-”

“What about the NASCAR dream and following in your da-”

“Do you honestly see this happening in NASCAR, Steve?” Steve knew it was a tall order, but he had sold Jeff on the idea so perhaps he was good enough to keep it going.  He also knew a couple salesmen tips from Rick couldn’t hurt before visiting with NASCAR.

“I think before you give up on that entirely, especially since that’s the core of your racing dreams, we should set up this same technology in a stock car, go to a test and see if we could get NASCAR to come out and approve it. It’s not a performance advantage and they can monitor the system fully to make sure it doesn’t come one. It’d also open doors in their marketing department in being able to showcase any driver, no matter what, can come and race on their stage and win.” She still wasn’t sold on the idea, though, wondering if this was just a thought of false hopes. Besides, if she focused towards the open-wheel side, she could work at getting that right ride for next season now while recovering from her injuries.

“I don’t know, Steve…” Perhaps he wasn’t the best salesman after all.

“Listen, I know it may seem like a long shot, but what do we have to lose? I say we give it a shot and see where it goes. Then that way you’re not left wondering what was because you know you gave it a shot.” Perhaps he was right; perhaps it was worth a shot. There was nothing that could replace her love for stock cars and the want to win the Daytona 500 one day. Anyways, she could contact those open-wheel teams while Steve was putting this in order and develop the back-up plan if needed.

“You have my permission to go forth in putting the pieces together, Steve.”  Steve smiles as he knew it was a great step.

“I just have to also convince your parents, especially your dad since he’s your boss. Can’t prepare the car without his permission.” Alyssa didn’t know what to think on that topic. She knew her mother would throw a fit, wanting to put her in a bubble and protect her after everything. However, with her dad, she couldn’t decide. She knew he’d understand her desires, but wondered if the worries over everything would overcome that thought.

“I’ve got your back the whole way, but we better have some luck on our side.”