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Chapter 8

Imagine, if you can, being immensely rich, nothing of the material world beyond your reach. Flying to Paris for lunch, shooting off to Rio for the weekend, you see something that catches your fancy, you buy it, no hesitation, no thought about the expense, and it’s yours. For people that have spent their lives in a quest for material things, this description sounds like heaven.

Now, think of a different sort of people, people that have spent their lives in the pursuit of excellence in their chosen craft. People who have striven to achieve the most, to be the best, to be recognized as top in their field. These were the sort of people that Rhoad and Steele were and they had tried, often meeting success and sometimes failure. They had both been bloodied in their battles, suffering greatly at times, saying “If I had only done this…” or “if it had only held up a little bit longer…” Yes, they had run the gamut of emotions created by their chosen profession, that is, except what they felt now after complete and total annihilation of the competition at Road Atlanta and the response of the world to their accomplishments. Now they felt as the material people do when they are rich.

Steele felt as though it was all a dream. Reflecting back on a skinny little kid with a dream and nothing else whose ignorance of what it takes to make it in the harsh sport, that takes no pity on any person was the only reason he had pursued that dream. Now that kid was an old man and he had achieved that dream, total domination, through hard work, tenacity, and application of experience and inspiration from that intangible force that always drove him onward into the unknown.

Steele looked at his trophy setting there on his messy desk and he thought of the cost… Steele mixed himself a strong gin and tonic with a slice of lemon, and then set back in his chair, staring at that trophy. The shop was closed and only the desk light illuminated the trophy looking out of place on the piles of email print outs, faxes and letters of congratulations from friends, many he hadn’t heard from in years. All telling him how happy for him they were.

Crickets were serenading him just outside the walls… Steele thought about how he felt, no exhilaration that came and went… What he felt was numbness. The wind was picking up. He could hear the pine needles whistling softly, giving him their subtle message… where from here? This event had not gone as expected, where was the struggle? Where was the battle? Of course, the battle had begun thirty years ago and now was his time, his and Jake’s, to show the world, these were their fast days.

Steele sipped at his bitter drink and stared off into the darkness and thought again about the cost a life dedicated to achieving a goal, no family, no meaningful relationships, no friends… well, Jake was his friend, yes now Jake was his closest ally and as close to a true friend he would ever have. The cost? It wasn’t too much to sacrifice ones life to become the best at something, was it? What was wrong with him? This was his time, why wasn’t he happy? That’s easy my friend, he said to himself, you need someone to share this moment with. “Well that’s not hard,” he said out loud and downed his drink.

Jake sat at the back bar of the ‘Corkscrew’. Reese could sense Jake wanted company and was talking quietly with him about the business, telling Jake all that had happened while Jake was away.

The place was really hopping tonight; a roar came from a table way down in the front, laughter and shouting, someone with something to celebrate, no doubt. The band was good, playing hot country tunes from several decades; people were dancing and having a great time. Jake got up and went walking down front; he spotted Eddie Hoffman, Irving, Bob and all the gang from Rhoad/Steele. He makes his way over to their large table, just in time to hear Joe brag about his uncanny driving ability. Well, that’s ok; Jake thinks as his face takes on a questioning demeanor, let Joe have his moment. There are enough people in this world who will try to put him in, what they think is, his rightful place, blue collar dirt drivers shouldn’t be whipping up on our social elitist, let him have his fun.

Searching the faces of his team, his gang, Jake tries to commit to his memory their faces, the good cheer and fellowship that being successful in a gut wrenching endeavor can bring to a person’s face. Jake prays to himself, “Lord, let these boys forever feel this, let them always believe in themselves and each other.”

Jake passes by headed for the kitchen. Well, Jake old boy, you picked a group that can win, yes they win well. Now let’s see how they handle adversity, anyone can be gracious when winning, but losing… now that takes a bit more character to handle. When you’ve just had your ass handed to you, you’ve been beaten, stomped on, and no one wants to know you, then can you look the competition in the eye? Can you toe the mark? Well, I guess we will find out.
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