Cabin Fears – Chapter 69: Seeking a Release

Monday….

Alyssa glances at her feet, letting out a sigh. This was supposed to be taking the edge off.

Her eyes return back up to the punching bag, hand clenching in a fist as she throws one punch. She then brings her hand up again throwing another, and another, and another. Each punch represented a thought. Anger, fear, anxiety, Randy, Mariella, and then back through the list again. Each thought was supposed to disappear with each punch.

She then wounds herself up, set to throw another hard stiff punch, though misses and falls down on her face.

“Alyssa!” She hears yelled through the room as the door clicks closed, following by a furry foot steps coming to meet her. “Are you okay?” She nods her head as she sits up, catching her dad’s eyes.

“I’m fine – just missed my step,” she answers as she stands up, brushing her hand off.

“This is why we always say not to be in here alone and always have someone around in case something happens. How many times do I need to tell you that?” She then rolls her eyes, not believing that she was getting scolded like a child. “But based on that punch, I’m guessing you’re here because you want to get away from something.”

“Or maybe I’m pushing extra strength because I know I need it.” She then bites her tongue realizing how that came out as Dale holds the bag before her.

“Are we back to thinking that we’re weaker because we can’t use an arm? Is that part of your motivation?” She then lets out a sigh and shakes her head.

“I’ve come to realize that I’m fine as the one-handed bandit and can kick anyone’s ass. I’ve also come to realize that this is what I’m stuck with – a hand to do everything, and a hand to dangle at everybody. Oh wait, that dangling hand will eventually just be a stub right?” Dale nods his head as he looks at her with sympathy. “I don’t need a pitty party. I don’t need people feeling bad around me. It’s a fact of life, and I’ve pretty much figured out this so it’s not a problem.”

“So that’s not the fury behind the punch?” She shakes her head. “Then what is, because I know you better than you think. You’d always do a normal work-out routine with cycling, stretches, yoga – except when you’re angry. Then you come down here to old ring and let it loose.” Sometimes she cursed how well her dad knew her, after all.

“Feelings in general, okay?” He then looks at her puzzled.

“I thought you had that under contro-”

“I have it more under control than you probably realize. I got everything that I went under control with myself. I’ve dealt with it and handled it. I’ve put the shit that he put me through behind me. Actually, that’s damn motivation to win the championship this year.” Dale couldn’t help but smile at the determination laced in her voice.

“So then why is it feelings in general?” She then lets out a sigh as she leans back against the one wall, taking the bandages off her hand. She knew she wasn’t making it out there without a confession. Her mom knew already so why did it matter?

“Chase.” An even more puzzled look forms on Dale’s face. “Before you ask, we’re fine. We’re still happily in love, and happy together, and everything is good there.”

“Does it deal with yesterday?” She nods her head slowly. “Did he say something in the trailer?”

“He’s still dealing with everything accordingly – anxiety, panic, fear, lashing out. That didn’t do anything to affect me because I get that already and seen through that. It’s just focus on helping him in anyway that he’ll let me in moving forw-”

“So you’re frustrated because he won’t just open up?” She lets out a sigh and shakes her head.

“To be honest, I think mom gets this more than you’ll get this because she went through it with you. Does that help?” Dale then looks on confused as he sits on a stool.

“You told your mom before you told me? I’m surprised!” She then smiles.

“Let’s just say that she can relate and it just came out in a comment, okay?” Dale nods his head as a smile forms on his face.

“You’re as scared as Chase is about him returning to racing….” She nods her head as she focuses her eyes on the floor. “It’s understandable. You almost lost him a couple times. It makes you want to cherish life more, hold on to those moments, and be fearful that time will actually run out.” She then looks up at him, surprised. “That’s why I understood why your mom was afraid. That’s why I heard out her feelings, and talked her through them.”

“I haven’t told Chase, yet….” He then lets out a sigh, not surprised.

“Because he’s not the type to open up so you’re afraid of how he’ll take it?” She nods her head. “I can’t blame that, actually. However, I know how much he loves you and I know he’ll do anything for you. So therefore, I think it’d be a benefit for you to say something. He’ll want to talk and assure you and comfort you so he’ll give that assurance that you need. In return, it may be what he needs to tell himself to overcome his hurtle.”

“So you’re saying that I should just go home and say something?” Dale nods his head. “I guess….”

“You’re not going to move forward if you don’t, and you can’t be coming to my basement every day to punch it away.” She then chuckles.

“I’ve always wondered why you didn’t take this down…” Dale then stands up and walks over to the ring in the middle, leaning over the side.

“It’s good for anger management, as you say. A pair of friends can come here with gloves and get everything out of their system. I could also come down here and do what you’re doing. It’s better than punching that person in the face.” She then chuckles, nodding her head.

“So you won’t mind if I drag Dillon’s ass down here next time he pisses me off?” Dale laughs.

“I’d actually pay for that because I know you’d kick his ass.” She then chuckles as he walks over and wraps an arm around her. “Keep what I said in mind, okay? It’ll work out…”

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

Tony walks across the tarmac, stopping as he sees the young man before him. Taking a deep breath, he walks over, watching as the checklist continues.

“Where are you going?” He asks out loud, catching the young man’s attention as he looks back.

“A small flight to clear my head,” Chase answers as he focuses back on his list.

“Do you want to talk?” Chase shakes his head as he focuses on his list. “I heard you were at the track yester-”

“I didn’t make any laps, before you ask. I chickened out because of my fears.” Chase then stops, setting the pen down as he takes a deep breath.

“I think you did the right thing. It’s always good to know your limits and where to draw the line. Some people don’t know that, and they get themselves in trouble. I applaud you for realizing that.” Chase then looks up, looking over his shoulder at Tony.

“Thanks….I guess. Do you want to go tell everyone else in the world that?” Tony looks on confused.

“Backlash from the guys?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head.

“They won’t say anything to my face, but you have to imagine what they’re thinking.” Tony laughs and shakes his head. “What?”

“Crew guys are family. They care about you more than they care about that piece of machinery they work on. They all know what you’ve been through. That’s why they’re there to support you. That’s why they’ll go to a bunch of failed tests if it means seeing their driver back when he’s ready. That’s why they’ll have your back against any person who would say that. So do not say that again, got it?” Chase lets out a sigh, nodding his head.

“I thought I had my hands wrapped around everything. I thought I found the control that I needed over my anxiety, fears, emotions. I thought I could stop lashing out, put things into perspective, and find what I wanted – myself, again. But yet, sitting there in the trailer, I was completely frozen and stuck in that state again. Now looking back, it just fills me with so many thoughts…” Tony takes a deep breath as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulders.

“I hate to say it, but you just realized your human. Don’t feel so bad – been there, done that.” Chase then looks at Tony, surprised. “I thought I could just do it, too. I thought I was the all mighty, what we built me up to be with my attitude, and I could just get back to it. You’d be surprised how wrong I was and how many thoughts tormented with my mind. I wondered whether my leg was fully healed; I wondered whether I could push that limit and not be afraid of death. I toyed with my emotions for emotions, and like you – I felt like I was edge of control when I should’ve been in control.”

“So how did you do it?” Tony thinks it over as he keeps his eyes focused on Chase.

“I kept working on those feelings, like we talked about before. I talked to who I needed to talk to. I let myself open those doors that I wanted to close. Then I kept pushing the boundaries more and more. I kept challenging myself to the point where I proved that I could do it. Next time you go to the track, push yourself to at least get in the car and make a couple laps. Then the next time, push it a little more. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of, and how you can make that fear and anxiety just go away.” Chase nods his head, understanding.

“Thanks. I’ll remember that…” Tony rubs his shoulder.

“As long as you’re past what you were thinking before and know there’s a way out, it’ll be fine…” Chase smiles as he thinks back to then,

“Trust me, I’m beyond that. I know it’ll work out – one way or another. So, why are you even here at the airport anyway?” Tony glances over at the plane.

“Heading back to Indiana, home. I did what I needed to do here with the team so now it’s time to get out of here.” Chase rolls his eyes as he looks back to his checklist.

“You’re living the dream, man. Safe flight.”

“Same to you, kid.” Tony then heads off as Chase watches him, before returning back to his list.

Advertisements

Cabin Fears – Chapter 63: Confusion in Thoughts

Saturday…..

Tony crosses his arms as he stands back and watches qualifying, partially in his own world of disbelief. The array of throwback paint schemes saw a fluid of emotions and thoughts for everyone on pit road. The familiar look Alyssa had pulled off for Chase was cute, and he was impressed to see even a couple paint schemes serving as reminders to his yester-years. Admittedly, some people couldn’t forget the rough patches, but the respect and people who did admire for rightful reasons was always felt.

He watches as her lap around the tough track put her right up front, set to start fourth later on that afternoon. Shaking his head in disbelief, he knew it’d surprise a lot of people that she was mastering the track supposedly “too tough to tame,” but it didn’t surprise him. He could see her strength through everything, and knew she took very well after her family genes. If there was anyone that could win that afternoon, it was definitely her.

He stands back, letting her go through the post-qualifying debrief, followed by a couple interviews. He smiles as Chase greets her, obviously showing his own sign of approval. He then takes a deep breath, making his way over. A thought from Thursday hadn’t left his mind….

“So Ms. Alyssa, considering you can tame the lady in black, will we see you tame an open-wheel car soon?” He blurts out in question at the first sign of silence, catching a total look of surprise from both Alyssa and Chase. “Just a question, that’s all.”

“There’s nothing in the plans as of right now, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Alyssa answers as she locks her eyes on Tony. “Don’t tell me some of your ‘sources’ have been spouting knowledge to you?” Tony just shrugs his shoulders.

“I figured you’d be calling Graham by now and working something out…” She rolls her eyes as she leans back against the pit box.

“One thing at a time, Tony, one thing at a time….” He nods his head, knowing what she meant. It was obvious that there were other things on her mind – this championship battle, her future, her feelings, and Chase. Certainly that would come at a later date.

“Understandable, ma’am. Have fun tonight.” He then turns around to walk away, finished with the discussion for the day.

“I’ll be back…” Chase announces, before following Tony away from Alyssa. “Did you really have to go do that?” Tony glances back at the young man with a grin. “Of course because that’s typical Tony.”

“I got the answer to the question that we all kept pondering just like that,” Tony comments. “I always told the media that I could do their job. Maybe I could after all….”

“I don’t want to be at the other end of one of your opinionated columns.” Tony chuckles as he wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“Relax, I’ve always liked you. Now, is that the only reason you bugged me?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Considering you’re a master at mind games, and having seen them played in their own ways, I figure you may be able to help me here…” Tony then looks at Chase slightly confused. “Everything with Randy was a game, supposedly. He always twisted the cards around and wanted me to play into what he had going on. Sometimes I’d figure his move and be able to gain that advantage, but yet there was always a trap. Say, him getting into the hotel room – but I figured the upper-hand before it was worse. He trapped me into saving Alyssa without help in making me feel I was being the hero, but that just turned into something worse for us all.” Tony then crosses his arms.

“That’s why they say he was a psychopath – because he messes with the mind as much as he messes with you physically?” Chase nods his head.

“Some ways I can tell myself that I did what I had to do, and there was nothing I could do differently. Other times I find those moments in my mind and they just seem to drive me insane in a way because I want to do it differently. I guess I’m figuring I could’ve escaped it all if I would’ve been smarter, played a different move. The different ways have me…just…all…Ugh, I don’t know how to describe it!” Tony leads him over to a bench, where the pair sit down together.

“It drives you crazy because you think you could’ve avoided it all. It makes you wonder whether you could’ve done something different. You’re a natural perfectionist – we’ve discussed that previously. So this plays right into that because you feel that it wasn’t ‘perfect’ and keep shooting yourself in the foot. You’re in that predicament where you won’t be satisfied till you solve every riddle perfectly, and keep reminding yourself in your mistakes.” Chase nods his head.

“Finally, someone gets it! That’s what I’ve been trying to describe to everybody but they just keep saying to forget it, to ignore everything, and just focus on the future. My mind won’t let me do that, hence the psychological warfare of confusion.” Tony could understand where he was coming from.

“I questioned some of my decisions over and over. I remember lying in bed for weeks, questioning if I could’ve done something different that night in New York. What if I would’ve gone slower? What if I would’ve somehow checked my surroundings better? What if I would’ve thought about the possibility of him being there before I got there? I get it, Chase. You want to play every scenario because in your mind, it’s something that never should’ve happened because it doesn’t make sense. You don’t want to believe that’s your life.” Chase nods his head, before glancing down at his feet.

“If I could’ve done things differently with Alyssa and not listened to his pleads, she may not have gone through half of what she did. Heck, she wouldn’t be dealing with this whole ‘lack of feeling’ crap, either.” Tony places his hand on Chase’s leg.

“You can’t blame yourself for that, Chase. It’ll just eat at you, like it seems to be already.” Chase then looks up towards Tony. “It wasn’t your fault. That was Randy’s decisi-”

“I put her in that position by falling for his plea-”

“Anybody would’ve done the same thing. Love drives us crazy sometimes, and that includes do things like that. You love the person so much that you’d do anything for them – including doing what you felt would save them immediately without second thought.” Chase nods his head, knowing that Tony was right.

“So how do I make this all go away?” Tony wasn’t sure of the straight up answer.

“I don’t know, honestly. You could possibly talk to someone, go through everything in your mind, and let it out as that may give it somewhere to go. You could maybe write it all down, work your way through every puzzle as maybe solving it all could drive away your need to perfect it. Maybe you could talk to Eric. Chase, you know yourself better than anybody. You know what helps more than anything….” Chase lets out a sigh as he sits back a bit.

“I wish there was a magic button I could press instead…” Tony chuckles.

“We all wish for that sometimes. Listen, since we don’t have that option, remember what I said and try your options. You’ll find a way – you always do. You’re already doing the right thing by taking steps. Now, it’s just about figuring what works and doing that. You’ll be okay.” Chase smiles a little.

“Thanks…” Tony gives him a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“If you need to talk again, anytime, just text or call me, okay?” Chase nods his head as he watches Tony walk away.

Tony kept walking, not turning his head back, but instead pulling his phone out of his pocket. He pulled up a pair of familiar numbers, remembering their conversation back on Tuesday.

You guys were right. Wait and see. He’s coming around, slowly. Regan, you may be on the agenda this week….

Cabin Fears – Chapter 60: “I was Concerned”

Thursday

Following their conversation earlier in the week, Tony wanted to do what he told the others they’d do – give Chase his space and only intervene if they felt the right steps weren’t being taken.

Though 48 hours later, and he had to admit his worry hadn’t died at all. Perhaps that was due to seeing the first panic attack himself at Bristol, and feeling totally lost in that moment.

Taking a deep breath, he pulls up to the house and turns the key. He knew he should probably turn around and leave, as everything was fine if there were no signals being sent from Alyssa or Dale, but he couldn’t convince himself to doing that. He had to see Chase himself.

He climbs out of the truck, and walks up to the front, taking another deep breath for knocking on the door. What was the worst thing that Chase could say?

He waits a couple minutes, before watching the door open before him, smiling at the sight before him. He didn’t look too bad, considering.

“Hey,” he says simply as Chase just gives him a simple smile. “Can I come in?” Chase shakes his head yes, moving back to allow Tony inside the house, before closing the door behind him.

“I don’t mind the impromptu visit at all, but did you mention anything about coming or did Alyssa ask you?” Chase questions as he focuses his eyes on Tony. He knew he had been out of it at the beginning of the week, but nothing clicked together with Tony.

“Nah, this is a total off the cusp, I’m in town so I’m heading over for a visit moment. If you’re busy, I can leave.” Chase shakes his head no as he makes his way back through the house to the kitchen.

“I was actually just putting dinner together so Alyssa and I could eat when she got home before heading out to Darlington.” Tony could only shiver at the thought of Chase going through another weekend of traveling. With everything, he kind of hoped that Chase would take some weekends to relax at home by himself and focus on healing. However, he totally understood the reason due to his concerns surrounding Alyssa. As long as they didn’t repeat Bristol….

“Think she’ll have the same luck you did there?” Chase simply smiles as he had full belief that Alyssa was going to do well this weekend. She had done well there in the spring, and backing it up this time around would be nice.

“Have you seen the throwback scheme that she chose?” Tony shakes his head yes, having seen the photos flirting around the internet. She had chosen to go with Chase’s rookie XFINITY scheme, which obviously had a good history at Darlington. “Although admittedly – it feels weird to see someone using me for a throwback. 16 years man….” Tony shakes his head in disbelief as he still remembered when Chase was embarking on his first season of XFINITY racing.

“Do you remember your Daytona debut and how you were going around the garage, picking the minds of everybody for advice? Your dad was throwing stuff at you, but then you had myself, Dale and Kevin and you picked our minds like nuts.” Chase shakes his head yes, remembering how he was trying to soak in whatever he could. “By the way, I never should’ve given you all that advice.” Chase laughs as he knew he had used some of it very nicely.

“I wasn’t always good at the plate tracks, though.” Tony chuckles, remembering some of Chase’s crazier moments.

“I like the fact that you bring Hooters back to the sport, and debut it by letting Hootie fly at Talladega.” Chase laughs, remembering that experience and how it turned into a slew of jokes on twitter. “Hey, it’s nice to see you actually, and the smiles by the way.” Chase pauses, glancing over at Tony.

“You came over because you were worried?” Tony shakes his head yes as Chase lets out a sigh. He was used to everybody checking on him. For the most part, it annoyed him as he would rather be left alone to focus on what he needed to do. However, when it guys like Tony, Regan and Dale, he would let it go because he knew how much they helped at times.

“I was concerned after hearing about how this week started. But based on what I’m seeing, I say we’re making progress, again?” Chase nods his head.

“I’ve been taking the pills as instructed, and been getting back to a normal sleep schedule, which obviously helps my mood. They’re doing what they should so I can get through each day, doing what I need to do.” He then stops, glancing down at the pot before him, before looking over at Tony. He didn’t want to go further, but he knew Tony was owed the explanation. It was always better to be honest, right? “There’s moments that I have including the anxiety and concern and nerves and anger beyond what the pills are meant to control. I’m still having a difficulty finding the right strategy to handle that, and make it subside. But it’s coming…”

“That’s good. I’m glad. That’s all that matters. Any progress is good progress.” Tony glances out the window, thinking back some time in his own life. “You know, I can think about how upset and down I was after everything happened in New York. I couldn’t believe what happened. How could I have done that to a young man who had a whole future ahead of him? Admittedly, I had days where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. I didn’t know how I could handle those emotions going forward. But Zippy was there with me and he told me I couldn’t do that. He kept reminding me reasons to move forward, and offer advice as to how to comprise every emotion. He also told me that if I could just keep a slim belief in myself, I could find a way. I was a fighter, and I could do it. You’re a fighter – just look at everything, so I damn well know you can do it.”

“I’ll try to always keep that in mind when I have those ultra tough days. Thanks…” Tony simply nods his  head.

“And know that you don’t have to force it to happen sooner than it will. You know the guys at Hendrick loves you and will always have a place for you at the team for when you’re ready to return. But if for some reason they forget about how awesome you are, just give me a call.” Chase chuckles, though offers a thumbs up for the owner before him.

“I told Jeff that it’d be at least another 2 weeks, probably a month. I don’t know….”

“What about waiting till next year?” Chase looks over and shakes his head no. “How come?”

“That’ll make me go crazy through the winter.” Tony chuckles, knowing the feeling.

“You could always get a late model fix.” Chase thought it over, knowing it’d been awhile since he had ran the Snowball Derby. “You could also try a sprint car.”

“As tempting as that is, I don’t think I have the balls to do that like you and Kasey.” Tony chuckles once again, easily accepting.

“There was once a time that we almost Alyssa signed for a year in World of Outlaws for Kasey. But instead, she just did the quarter midgets only.” Chase looks on surprised as he didn’t realize that.

“Really?” Tony shakes his head yes, remembering the discussion with Kasey. “I always thought stock cars were the number one destination for her.”

“Yeah, but the age restriction almost changed that path. She’s always had an affixation for open-wheel since she did the midget deal.” Chase then thinks it over, remembering the rumors that he had heard.

“So would it surprise you if she ran the Indianapolis 500 one year?” Tony shakes his head no. “That’s what I thought. She put off the rumors earlier this year like they were nothing to her parents, but I figured there was some merit there.”

“Graham (Rahal) eventually got his shot in a stock car for JR Motorsports after going back and forth with Dale for years. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a sort of return the favor here.” Chase knew that was possible, based on the fact that they had Graham come out one week already this year to help with teaching paddle shifting. “Am I sensing some apprehension from you on the idea?” Chase shakes his head no.

“I know those cars are safe, and I know their probably a lot of fun to drive. I also know it’s a great opportunity and something that she could excel at. I’d have no nerves or issues if she did it. Now her parents, well, that’s another story.” Tony nods his head in agreement.

“Either way, if she was given the opportunity, she’d take it Chase.” Chase knew that was the truth, knowing parental concerns wouldn’t be enough reason to stop her.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 59: The Afterthought

Tuesday morning

 

Regan knocks on the door, glancing around. He had been over here too many times to count through the years – almost too much it seemed. However, he was willing to do whatever it took.

He watches the door open, immediately smiling as he sees Marie standing there. She backs up, easily letting him inside as she was expecting him.

“Dale is out back with Tony,” she states simply as he nods his head.

He makes his way through the house, giving Robby and Elsa a quick wave along the way. He takes a deep breath as he opens the door, walking out onto the porch as he catches the boy’s attention.

“How are you?” Dale questions as Regan takes his seat with the group.

“I’m alright,” he answers. “The bigger question is how you are.” Dale knew the answer to the question was simple.

“I’m fine; that’s not why we’re here, Regan.” Regan shook his head, knowing exactly why Dale had called them. “So as I told you both on the phone, he had a bit of an episode yesterday. He snapped at Alyssa, and then I had a good discussion with him. A lot of mixture of thoughts from anger to frustration to blame to….well, the usual that he always get with Randy. But it was heightened more than I’ve ever seen it. That’s when I suggested he go to see Eric and he did, and Eric gave him a mild anxiety drug till he figures it out.”

“Glad that he finally listened to that advice,” Tony comments, remembering his discussions with Chase. “I told him that he should seek out help if he needs it. I mean, I know the feeling…”

“So do I,” Dale says, remembering the time he looked towards help after his experience with Marie’s family. “From what I get, this isn’t the first time he’s almost snapped, is it?” Regan shakes his head no, remembering their discussion at Bristol. “I don’t want to get overly crazy but we all agreed that we’d watch out for both him and Alyssa because we care. I think Alyssa is handling it slowly and right, as I know she’s taking steps in talking to people and getting her feelings out there.”

“She talked with me twice about things, actually,” Regan announces, remembering their discussions clearly. He remembered her concerns expressed about Chase.

“But what about Chase, guys? Should we be more concerned than we are? I mean, we’re trying to give him space and let him handle as he may because yes, he is taking steps slowly. But what if this is worse than that?” Regan thought back through the years, remembering his late night confessions with Chase and seeing all the signs of breakdown with him. He found himself comparing them to now.

“I think the emotions are worse, but I think we’re still handling it accordingly. He is slowly taking steps and he’s accepting advice when it is given to him. He’s doing more than he did before. If we keep seeing that, I’m going to lay off and let him do this the way that he wants. However, if we start backtracking with nothing done, you can hit the panic button and I’ll be there with you.”

“I haven’t been around him in other times like you both have,” Tony starts. “So I don’t know what he gets like. However, hearing the words that he wants to give up at times and he’s right at his edge, that’s concerning. If you’re going to get better, you have to believe in yourself without a shadow of doubt and focus on the steps to improving. If you have any doubt, where’s the effort coming from?” Dale and Regan both shook their heads, understanding what Tony was saying.

“I think that was the anxiety talking though,” Regan comments. “That’s why I feel what Dale did in making him go see Eric for a mild-anxiety drug will help keep that at bay as he works through the rest. Once he comes at peace with what happened, he typically stops panicing and worrying. So I think we let him get through it, and then see where he stands with regards to the other.”

“And what If our wait and see approach doesn’t pan out?” Dale didn’t want to think about that. He knew the previous two runaway activities by Chase had gone totally wrong.

“Let’s just not picture that, plea-” Dale pleads.

“It’s a possibility, and something you should consider if you’re going to do what you’re doing,” Tony cuts him off. “I know you hate the thought, but come on Dale…” Dale lets out a sigh as he looks out to the field.

“It’s not going to come to that, Tony,” Regan says as Tony looks over at him. “I’ve helped him through everything in the past. I know how he is. It won’t come to that. We just have to make sure he keeps making progress, slowly, whatever that may be. Keep making sure that he’s talking to people, working through his thoughts. If that happens, we’ll be fine.”

“100%?” Regan shakes his head yes, believing his words fully. He always knew to give Chase more credit than perhaps others would because he had seen what he’d been through.

“Alright, fine. But just promise me that you’ll keep watch and make sure it doesn’t go further.”

“100%,” Regan and Dale say together without a shadow of doubt.

While the boys were talking on the back porch, Alyssa had made her way over and met with Marie in the living room.

She remembered her own words last night of not wanting to make conversation. She remembered her own thoughts of avoiding what was going on. However, in the same thought, she was pushing Chase to talk about what was going on with him. So it was only fair that she actually did something instead of doing nothing.

“So what do you want to talk about?” Marie questions as Alyssa takes a deep breath.

“I’m having my nightmares again,” she confesses as Marie lets out a sigh. She hated the thought of her daughter suffering from anything.

“Well, that’s understandable with what you went through.” Alyssa looks down, remembering everything clearly. She could think through the trail of events without panicing now, thanks to careful conversation with some people.

“I’ve talked through that. I’ve handled that. I can look back at that and not worry a single bit. I talked to Regan, Ella, and a couple others. I’ve come to grips with what happened. I get that I couldn’t had done anything different and it is what it is. There’s no doubt there.” Marie was proud of the progress her daughter had made, knowing how much that meant to her. However, she was still concerned.

“But the nightmares….” Alyssa looks over at her mom, taking a deep breath.

“There’s nights that I close my eyes, and I see an assortment of scary images. Some of them are trying to kill me, or I’m watching someone I love be killed. There’s pain other nights. There’s also repeats of a plane crashing, or images of what happened like a movie.” Marie lets out a sigh as she reaches over, rubbing her daughter’s back.

“The last time you had these, it helped to talk through each nightmare that you were having. Have you done that, yet?” Alyssa shakes her head no. “Do you want to do that this afternoon?” While she loved her mom, she was never good at breaking everything like that down with her.

“I’d prefer to not do that with you, actually. It’s just…..I can’t explain it….I can’t tal-”

“It doesn’t come easily because you’re more comfortable with your father or Chase?” Alyssa shakes her head yes. “That’s fine, sweetheart. You have nothing to worry and I’m not offended. I understand being closer to someone else more. So, have you talked to Chase at all?”

“I admitted to them, but didn’t push the topic any further. With everything that’s going on for him right now, I didn’t want to make those thoughts worse.” Marie shakes her head, understanding.

“That’s fine, sweetheart. Just remember that you need to take care of yourself. So before sooner than later, you need to have that necessary discussion. Whether it’s with Chase, or if you feel that’s not ready then with your father or someone else. You need to work through this as it’s not healthy and we know that you need your sleep. You got a busy schedule coming up….” Alyssa knew that was for certain with plans to race for the championship and win it.

“I know. That’s why I’m trying to figure out the best thing to do….” Marie gives her daughter a pat on the back.

“You’ll figure it out – you always do. Keep believing in yourself; everything will be fine.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 50: A Trip to SHR

Thursday

Chase waits patiently, glancing around the foyer.

It felt weird to be standing in the gift shop of another race team’s shop. It felt weird being at another team’s shop, period. After spending the past several years between Hendrick, GMS and JRM, walking into a shop that ran a different manufacture just felt strange.

However, he was there for a reason. He knew there was something that he needed to do before he and Alyssa boarded the plane together and headed off to Road America for the race that weekend.

“Mr. Stewart will see you now,” he hears, catching his attention. “Just go through the doo-”

“Is his office in the same spot that it’s always been?” Chase cuts her off, remembering one of the few times he had walked through the halls before SHR switched to Ford. The female shakes her head yes. “I’ve got this. Thank you, though.”

He walks through the store, catching a few curious glances from fans who were there shopping, before going through the set of doors. He walls up the steps and takes the walk down the hallway, glancing around in surprise of some of the changes made to the shop since his last visit there.

He reaches the office door he wants, glancing into the office and knocking on the door.

“Come in,” Tony says as Chase follows instructions, walking up to the desk. “You better not be here to steal secrets, and I’d be damn surprised if you were here asking for a ride. I mean, I know Jeff and Marshall can be crazy, but that’s extreme.” Chase chuckles as some days, he wanted to fling Marshall across the room.

“Negative on both of those actually,” he states. “I’m leaving for Road America in a couple hours, but I wanted to stop by and say thank you.” Tony then looks at him, surprised. “I’m serious, Tony. Our discussion at Bristol may have been by random chance, but it’s shoved me in the right direction quicker than I probably was going myself. It forced to take a step back, put things into perspective and do something. That’s something that I’ve never done, ever.”

“Chase, you don’t need to thank me. I’ve known you my whole life. You’re an amazing ki – well, I can’t say that anymore as you’re actually an amazing man. You’ve grown to be a great guy.  I did that out of courtesy and friendship for you. You were one of those who stood by me through everything that I did, despite some people’s comments, and I simply repaid the favor. I know what it’s like to go through hell and come back stronger on the other side.  I wanted the same for you.” Chase smiles as the hope for the future was nice to hear, especially considering at times it was tough to just take one step each day.

“Well, regardless, thank you. I appreciate it.” Tony couldn’t help but smile as it’d only been a week since their discussion, but he saw the change before him.

“You’re welcome. I wish you and Alyssa the best – just make sure my wedding invitation doesn’t get lost in the mail.” Chase laughs as he could only smile at the thought of marrying her one day down the road.

“I’ll make sure to hand deliver it when the day comes.”

“And I don’t want to hear of any crazy incidents this weekend. Know your limits, don’t test them, and take things at whatever speed is necessary – whether that’s time by yourself, how you spend your days in the garage, or anything.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. He knew there was going to be no self trips through the garage this weekend or any till he got the anxiety and nerves under control. He wasn’t willing to repeat that incident, again.

“Yes sir.”

“By the way, how have you been dealing with that anxiety, if you don’t mind me asking?” Chase didn’t mind the question, knowing that he could trust Tony with everything he said.

“I haven’t really gotten to dealing with that yet. I’ve dealt with fears, remembering what happened and worries.  I haven’t touched the anxiety. I think it’ll start to settle as I deal with everything else so I don’t think it’s something I necessarily need to focus on. However, I know if it doesn’t then I need to express that to someone, and maybe go see Eric again.”  Tony shakes his head, understanding. He could see where Chase was coming from in the steps that he was taking.

“Well, I wish you the best and know that you can always talk to me. You’ll figure it out.” Chase smiles and shakes his head in agreement.

While Chase was at Stewart-Haas Racing, Alyssa was also doing her own work. She made a phone call to Regan while getting ready to go, asking for him to come over. The pair then made their way down the backyard, climbing the steps up into the treehouse.

“When I was younger, I’d come up here when I needed a spot to think or be alone, and it just seemed to always calm me down,” she states as they walk inside. “I’d come up here, just lie on the floor, and put my thoughts in order.” She then goes to her usual spot, sprawling out as Regan sits on the couch.

“It’s a peaceful spot so I can’t blame you,” Regan tells her. “I used to go to this nature conservation area with these winding paths and hike through them when I was younger. Nature just has that calming effect.” She shakes her head in agreement as she looks over at him. “So you called me because you wanted to talk?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. I mean, I know that you and Chase talk all the time and we’ve known each other a long time. I’ve heard you’re good for advice, and I just thought this topic was perfect for you.” Regan wasn’t sure about that assumption, but was willing to go with it.

“I’ve always said the door is wide open to talk whenever you both need to.” She was glad for that assumption.

“You know Chase pretty well, so you’ll understand where I’m coming from with what I’m going to talk about. I mean, I hate that this is bugging me because it doesn’t feel right due to how well I know him. But, I can’t stop thinking about it as it’s been on my mind all week.” Regan felt his nerves growing with her words, wondering what could be going on as the possibility was endless.

“Okay….”

“He snapped at me on Monday.” Regan takes a calming deep breath, remembering Chase had mentioned something about that in a brief exchange they had. According to Chase, everything was worked out – but  Alyssa’s demeanor said otherwise.

“What happened to cause it?” Alyssa thinks it over, shaking her head now. It felt ridiculous looking back on it.

“Elsa called me to ask how he was doing, since he tripped over a rock in the Hendrick parking lot. I said fine because he hadn’t said anything otherwise. I then asked him about it, and he brushed it off immediately. I then pushed the issue, knowing there was something on his mind and he kept denying it. I kept pushing, though, and he then said he was going to go for a walk.  I then pushed again, and he snapped – just telling me to leave him alone.” Regan shakes his head, understanding. He got where Chase was coming from in snapping, and knew that was typical response for him when pressured from experience.  However, he also got how that’d make Alyssa feel.

“Have you guys talked about it since?” She shakes her head yes, remembering the conversation afterwards.

“I immediately began crying, feeling hurt. He then reached out to me, immediately apologizing.  He then explained that he didn’t mean to hurt me, and how he doesn’t like to talk about what happened and avoid it. Instead, as you probably know, he bottles it up and tries to avoid the topic – as he was with me. He brought up how he made himself so sick one time, and then when he ran away. I then  instantly felt fear, demanding he never run away, which he said he never could do that to me.” She then stops, glancing away, as she didn’t want to think about that being a possibility.

“I know how much he loves you, Alyssa. He cares about you so deeply.  Hence why he apologized immediately and why he immediately explained why – wanting you to feel better. You don’t need to worry about him running away or anything – trust me. And as far as what happened, I know he didn’t mean it.” She looks up at Regan, shaking her head in agreement.

“I know he didn’t mean it, and I don’t hold it against him, Regan. I could never do that, really. I mean, we talked about it more in developing the right ways moving forward. He expressed the want to change how he handles things, and I apologized for pushing him knowing that I was wrong. We worked it out, perfectly.” Regan then sat there confused as it seemed everything was fine – which he was glad to see. However, it didn’t explain why he was sitting in the treehouse.

“It’s great that you worked it out and got through that. I applaud you both. But if everything is okay, why did you call me?” Alyssa knew the exact reason as she sits up, pulling her legs close to her body.

“I know he’s hurting. I know what he’s like when he’s hurting. I know this is difficult.  Regan, I want to help him. I don’t want to see him suffer through this pain and everything. You’ve always been there, great for advice and seemed to help him move forward on a variety of topics. How do I help him?” Regan knew the answer without even thinking.

“Be there for him. When he feels the need to cry, be there to hold him. When he feels the need to lash out or talk about things, listen to him. When he wants some space, let him have it but assure him that you support him and love him. All you can do is be supportive. When the time is right, he’ll come around and work his way through this. But you can’t force or push him –he needs to do that on his time. Till then, you need to be supportive.” Alyssa wanted to scream as it seemed like nothing. She could only wish there was a magic button to hit and make everything better.

“And what about when he is talking, though? What about the advice or response to tell him?” Regan knew that at times it could be difficult to come up with a response, having been there before.  However, it was another easy piece of advice.

“Speak from the heart. Tell him the truth and tell him what your heart tells you. It may scare you at times or not feel right, but it is right. I’ve always just been honest with my responses and it has worked. That’s all that you can do. Tell him advice based on your own experience, and be honest. If you really get stumped, then you can then suggest speaking to someone who may be better to talk to. I’ve done that a couple times.” She shakes her head, understanding.

“Thank you.” He then smiles as he pats her shoulder.

“But in the same way, remember to take care of yourself. You can’t just focus on making his world perfect. We all know that you went through a lot as well, and you need to work through that too. Make sure you take time for yourself, and work on things, okay?” She shakes her head yes.

“And you’ll always be here to listen if I need you?”

“Absolutely.” She then stands up and walks over, giving him a hug.

Cabin Fears – Chapter 42: The Meeting

Tuesday Evening

Chase pulls up the driveway, turning the key off as he sits in the car taking a deep breath.

After a series of thoughts heading many directions, he found himself fixated on one person in particular to talk to. He realized just how much he was able to let out that past weekend, combined with the fact it was a fresh slate so no re-judging from past meetings. Though, he still found himself questioning whether he was doing the right thing.

He knew he was just questioning himself once again to try and avoid it as he grabbed his phone and stepped out of the car. He made the short walk up the driveway, hoping this went as smoothly as envisioned in his mind. He just needed to speak of some details, and start relieving himself of the pressure on his mind.

He knocks on the door, before taking a step back as he waits for it to be opened. His eyes fall to the ground as he debates turning and running – though his eyes immediately flash forward when he watches the door open.

“Come on in,” Tony says simply, before stepping back to let Chase in the house. Tony closes the door behind him, before leading him into the living room and gesturing towards the couch. “Do you want a drink or anything?” Chase shakes his head no as he sits down, nervously. Why was he suddenly feeling nervous? This was just a discussion between friends. “That’s fine.” Tony then takes his seat beside Chase, eyes fixated on the young man before him. “I’m all ears, Chase. I told you that I’d be here to listen to you whenever you wanted and I’m here to listen.”

“I want to thank you for helping me for starters,” Chase starts off, knowing simple would get him talking and maybe lead to complicated. “I want to thank you for the advice about Alyssa – that really helped towards our small discussion we were able to have. I know we’ve got more to discuss, but we’ve got started at least.” Tony shakes his head, glad to hear it. He had wondered how smoothly things went when Alyssa went to see him before anybody else.

“That’s good to hear, Chase. I’m glad that you’re making progress with her – and I told you, you don’t need to than-”

“You don’t understand, though. Your belief in me that day and reminders that it’ll work out, and somehow I’ll find a way to do this – finding strength, the right people – it was perfect in that moment. With that in mind, it sort of started a wave of momentum for me. I spoke to Regan about a couple details on Demi and let him in to my faults. I let him understand that I feel lost at times, that I can’t work out in my mind how to deal with this, and his thoughts on when I do decide to come back raci-”

“First and foremost, you need to focus on you, and your mental health. Everything else can be worked out later. That first statement there is the key, Chase. Don’t let racing and everything else cloud your judgment.” Those words reminded him of the discussion with Jeff and Rick that week, too.

“I know – and I’m sticking by my word that I’m not returning back to racing till I’m absolutely healed – just cause I know that’s my best way to deal with this. Hence why I talked to Jeff and Rick, and they’re both supportive.” Tony wasn’t surprised by that, based on how well he had gotten to know both through the years. “I also talked to Ella a bit, as well as Dale. To be honest, I think last night made me realize more than ever that I need to get things under control as I snapped at Alyssa, by accident. We talked it out, and she understands, but it scared me. It really forced me to take a step back further than I had been and figure something.” Chase looks up at Tony, knowing there was no way to avoid it anymore. “That’s why I called you.”

“I’m all ears, Chase. I told you that I’d be willing to hear you out whenever you need it.”  Tony knew how much having someone to talk to meant through tough times – having spent time with Kevin and others previously.  It was why he was willing to give Chase the benefit of the doubt here and listen.

“I spoke to Alyssa about things. We came to the understanding in our words that it wasn’t my fault, and we’d both be okay. But Tony, I still worry about her. I find myself wondering about her more than ever. I keep relieving the image of her getting hurt over and over in my mind and cringe every time. She also keeps saying that the arm thing is no big deal, but I can’t help but look at her and feel bad immediately. there’s so many things that she won’t get to do her way now because of that. We try act like nothing has changed, but so much has.” Tony could understand Chase’s feelings as he had some reservations from what he’d seen from Alyssa so far.

“You’re only having all these thoughts because of how much you care and love her. When you care about someone so much, you want to take the pain and anger away; you want to make them feel better right away. I know the image haunts you daily, and that’s understandable because you want to make that never happen. And of course you want to fix what she’s faced because you want things to return to before like nothing happened. As her boyfriend, you feel you’re her protector and that’s why it hurts because there’s shame in not doing what you’re set out to do.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that fit his feelings exactly.

“There’s time I try to help her – with some of the simplest tasks as that. She immediately blows me off, saying that she has it handled. It hurts because I just want to help, make that go away. I can’t erase what happened so I can’t fix the mistake, but I can make it better by helping her handle it.” Tony understood the perspective, knowing there were plenty who wanted to help him when he dealt with his broken leg.

“She’s stubborn – you know that from spending time with Dale. That doesn’t surprise me. I get that you want to help her and I can see the therapy in doing that, Chase. But you have to understand that she’s dealing with it, too. She doesn’t want people to look down on her, see her as weak, see that she’s changed from what happened. By being able to accomplish those simplest tasks as you call them, it gives her strength to know she can handle what life throws her way.  It gives her independence, assurance. There’s got to a balance in that for both of you so you can both heal.”  Chase knew that Tony was right, as much as he didn’t want to admit it – since he wanted to be there for her.

“It’s kind of like when I got stabbed. I wanted to do everything – walk around, get back to racing immediately, and not have anybody doubt me. I think it’s why I may have pushed myself a little too far at that late model test so I could get Dale’s approval.” Tony chuckles, remembering when he heard details of the test. He was betting money that Cindy was going to kick Dale’s ass.

“So you get where she’s coming from. We’ve all done it. We’ve stubborn to a fault, not wanting anybody to see weakness as we feel that’s going to bring our world crashing down. Now if you combine being attacked and feeling helpless, you have to get where she’s coming from.” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

“See, that’s the problem. I understand it too well with her. I look at her and see a reflection of the way I was at times. I remember going back to racing so quickly.  Well, you know how that turned out as I didn’t handle things like I am now and I ran away to try and escape it. I’m scared that she’s going to do that because she’s not handling it accordingly. I feel that she’s gone back too soon.” Tony shook his head, knowing otherwise by what he seen out of Alyssa thus far. However, he could see the similarities as discussed by Chase.

“It’s  obvious to have that fear because you’ve been there and know the situation from your shoes. However, each person handles things differently and I don’t think you have a single thing to worry about. Has she talked to anyone about things?” Chase had heard rumblings of that nature, but couldn’t confirm them.

“Her dad a little,  as well as myself. She’s slowly divulging details.” Tony then looks at Chase, eyesbrows intrigued.

“Different than someone else we know?” Chase looks over and shakes his head, letting out a sigh. Perhaps his worry wasn’t needed.

“Okay, so I don’t have to worry about her in that regard. I just wish she didn’t have to deal with this at all, Tony. I thought this was done and gone and never to be thought of again – but yet, here we are. She doesn’t deserve it, just like Marie and Dale don’t either. I remember when Randy had us in separate rooms, all I wanted to do take her pain away, make it stop for her, let her go. It tore me apart more than anything to hear her screaming, feeling as though she couldn’t do anything and in so much pain.” Chase then takes a deep breath, wiping a couple tears as Tony scoots closer, wrapping an arm around him.

“I know it hurts. I know it’s the worst feeling you will know, Chase. But you have to remind yourself that it’s okay now, you both made it through that, you’re both strong to move forward, and your happily ever after will come eventually.” Chase smiles as he hoped those words played true, remembering his joke with Dale the night before.

“You know, I have to thank you more than anything beyond this. You were one of the first people to truly believe in Alyssa and I together. I remember you came to the track one week to try and keep Cole out of his constant trouble, and made mention to us that you believed in us. That meant a lot, Tony.” Tony rubs Chase’s shoulder as he lets out a sigh.

“Everybody deserves to be happy, no matter who they decide to do it with. I could see the smiles on both of your faces, and how easily you could talk to each other. I wasn’t going to stand in the way of your happiness. And Chase, you’ll get happiness completely one day without a thought of this.” Chase looks up at Tony, a bit of hope fulfilling him in those words.

“I hope you’re righ-”

“No – I know that I’m right. Just promise me that you’ll both invite me to the wedding.”

Cabin Fears – Chapter 37: Food City 500

Despite the fact that he wasn’t racing and should’ve been home taking care of himself, Chase made the decision to stick around for the Cup Series event on Saturday night. Alyssa had easily agreed to join him, knowing that a night race at Bristol Motor Speedway was always fun to watch.

The pair hung out for the most of the day, before heading out as pre-race ceremonies kicked off to pit road. They stopped by and saw each of their friends, giving them well wishes while accepting their ‘take care’ ‘feel better’ messages in return. Alyssa also got the honor of hearing tons of congratulations messages in return.

The pair continued to make their way down pit road, knowing their final stop was going to be at Chase’s car. He wanted to see the guys again to say hi and wish them the best. The conversations all started off smoothly, with positive messages back and forth. Chase eventually made his way through the group, before setting eyes on the driver that night.

“You know, your fitness routine may have paid off after all,” Chase starts as Jimmie simply smiles in return. “You’re still in as good as shape as ever.”

“Still biking everyday like usual,” Jimmie replies. “When you start feeling better, I have some trails that you should check out.” Chase simply shook his head, accepting, knowing the spots Jimmie normally sent him were always fun. Some of them were a challenge, while some produced breath taking views.

“Triathlons as well?” Alyssa asks and Jimmie shakes his head yes.

“And by the way, Chani still says I’m as competitive as ever as I wasn’t too pleased with coming second the other week. But, it was good day regardless as I had fun.”

“Is it fun being back behind the wheel?” Chase wonders and Jimmie couldn’t help but smile in response with a nod of the head.

“It’s weird not working with Chad or Ron, but it’s still been awesome,” Jimmie comments. “You don’t realize how much you miss it till you make these odd appearances.”

“And it seems you still got it,” Alyssa adds, referencing last week’s third place finish.

“So how much longer till our favorite superstar is back?” Chase hated hearing the question over and over. It was annoying as it seemed 80% of people asked it, but it also felt like a load of bricks with the pressure amounting. Everybody wanted to know for sponsorship, contractual, and a sort of other reasons – not connected to himself, personally. He knew it was different with Jimmie – he was a friend and probably asked for those reasons. However, what if it was wondering how much longer he’d be racing himself?

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Chase answers, repeating the statutory answer he had been giving. “I got stuff to work through before I come back and I don’t know how long that’ll take.”

“Hey, I totally get it,” Jimmie starts. “No worries on that. I’ll keep your seat warm as long as you need me too, but I can promise these guys can’t wait for you to get back and will welcome you back immediately. Besides, it’s kind of neat getting to race against the girls.” Jimmie then glances down pit road where he sees Genieve with her team. “I never thought my girls would race – either of them. It just didn’t seem like it was in the cards. But when she turned eight, my gosh I couldn’t slow her down no matter what we did.”

“So where’s Lydia this week?” Alyssa wonders, as she had seen Chandra down by Genieve, but hadn’t seen the youngest Johnson.

“She is off in Paris doing a fashion show for one of the big designers that she’s working for. I actually was facetiming her before I came out to the grid.”

“So in other words, she’s totally like her momma?” Jimmie laughs and shakes his head yes. “Hey, she’s got the looks and she pulls off those dresses like I could only dream of.”

“I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit,” Chase comments as he wraps his arms around her. “I think you’re certainly beautiful.” He then kisses her cheek.

The rest of the pre-race festivities went off smoothly, with Chase and Alyssa remaining by the 24 car the innovation and national anthem. After a quick fist pump for Jimmie afterwards, the pair headed off towards pit road. Following pre-race discussions with Alan, it was agreed that they’d both sit on Chase’s pit box for the race.

“Chase!” Chase hears his name called, almost set to roll his eyes till he notices the source.

“I’ll catch up with you,” he says as Alyssa heads towards the pit stall while he turns and heads down pit road. He meets up partway with Tony. “What’s up?”

“I’m surprised you’re here.” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he looks around.

“It’s Bristol. Would you ever miss a fun night at Bristol, Mr. Stewart?” Tony laughs and shakes his head no. “Besides, I’m taking it easy so like everybody else, you don’t got to worry about me tonight.”

“I know you can take care of yourself, Chase. I just wanted to see how you were after what happened yesterday.” Tony takes a deep breath, debating his words. “To be honest, that scared me more than I let you know in what you told me. I was worried more than I let on, and why I called the immediate meeting with those closest to you. I don’t know what it was about that, but it just got me thinking and worr-”

“Tony, it’s fine. Listen, I’m glad that you told them so that way they know and understand. It also opened the door for Alyssa and I to begin discussing things. It also put it right in my face that I need to start doing something, whether then making up excuses to avoid it. It’s why I talked to Regan a bit last night. I appreciate what you did, so thank you.” Tony smiles as he glances over Chase’s shoulder towards Johnson.

“So does it feel weird watching someone else drive your baby?” Chase looks back towards the car and shakes his head yes. “It’ll feel even stranger as the day goes on, and especially since you’re sitting on your pit box. I went through those feelings when I was healing from injures, and then when I totally gave this up. I thought I was totally ready to walk away from NASCAR, and in the most part I was. But there was a touch of me that remained there, reaching out, for a good bit in the first couple months.” Chase knew those feelings all too well, having experienced them already.

“There’s part of me when Alyssa went testing and then watching Jimmie run the car that is doing that. There’s part of me that’s wishing, and wanting to drive as soon as possible. It’s all I’ve known, Tony. I want that need for speed that we all crave. Admittingly, though, that is just a small piece right now because in my heart and brain I know I’m not ready till I handle things.” Tony shook his head, understanding.

“There’s always the balance of trying to come back when you’re ready, but not too soon. As long as you’re keeping both sides of the coin in mind, you’re doing the right thing. Just make sure to remember that. You may be in your 30s but you’re still young, Chase. You got a lot of years of driving in, and you got lots to go. Make sure you fully do what you got to do before you come back so you take advantage of that.” Chase knew that Tony was right in those words. It was why he had made the personal promise to himself, already.

“I know, and thank you.” Tony then wraps an arm around him.

“You’ll always be the little rugrat that was running around the garage when I showed up to drive in this series so know that you can always look to me if you need someone else.” Chase smiles.

“Alright. I’ll remember that.”

“Hope Jimmie has a good race for you.” Tony then puts his headset on, heading off to one of his team’s pit boxes. Meanwhile, Chase heads back the direction he was going originally, climbing up on top of his pit box to watch Jimmie.

This was going to be one strange night.

In the end, though, it didn’t end with them celebrating. Jimmie ended up crossing the line second, at the hand of a well-timed bump-and-run from Cole Custer (SHR) for the win.