It was hotter than hell outside. When she stepped out of the trailer and started towards the garage to find everyone she was glad that she remembered her water bottle. It swung from the over the shoulder carrier she'd picked up at the Aquafina tent a few rows down from where the trailer was parked. It slipped back and forth against her leg, leaving some of its condensation against her skin. She'd learned early on that water was important in temperatures like this. Even in the coolest weather, around the track temperatures seemed to spike and she knew that if she headed over to the garage the temperature would jump ten degrees above the already steamy southern weather.
She turned her head to find Larry McReynolds waving at her from near the ESPN courtesy tent. He wore his regular uniform of white shirt with a tie, untied, but hanging around his neck. She couldn't see his feet behind the small barrier that was set up around the tented area, but as she approached him, weaving through the crowd of people standing watching him she found him wearing the expected pair of "lucky" beaten up Adidas running shoes that he'd been wearing for what seemed the last five years. Sports personalities had the luxury of being casual at all times when it came to the lower half since most interviews were only blocked to show the shoulders up.
"With twenty five years behind you..." Jacqueline said as she approached him. She took the ends of his tie in her hand and swung them back and forth, "I would have thought that someone would have taught you how to tie your tie." She looked up. "And I thought you were working for FOX these days."
"I am," he said, "I came over this way to grab a drink with some of the old fogies." He motioned over his shoulders where a group of reporters were now eyeing them curiously.
"Oh really?" she asked giving him a little of what her father would call a sassy attitude. It wasn't really her place to flirt her way around the off track areas, but she'd known Larry for years and knew that he would laugh at her tone. "Drinking with the boys?"
He wiggled his dark eyebrows at her playfully. "You wanna join in?"
"Naw," she said knowing full well that the "quote boys" were whiskey drinkers and she wasn't about to have any of that. "I've got a new boy on my roster and I've gotta go check up on him.
"I heard about Dusty." He stepped back a little.
Her hands fell to her sides and one of her hands started to fiddle with the top of her water bottle, popping the drinking spout up and down nervously.
Larry's eyes searched her face as if he was looking to have any kind of a reaction to his clear distaste for Dusty. "Good luck with that project."
She sighed knowing full well that this wasn't going to be the first time she'd run into this kind of an attitude and it wouldn't be the last. She knew she needed to choose her words carefully, but she had to say something to defend her client. She was probably the last person in the world who should be standing up for him, but she felt that she needed to. Only she could see both sides of the accident and she didn't trust anyone else to be in charge of cleaning up the mess. "Dusty has come back from what happened. He's learned a lot from this and I think NASCAR in general has learned a lot."
"How's he taking things?" Larry asked. "I saw him spin out today."
Jacqueline didn't want to play into this line of questioning. She'd seen the race and didn't see anything too much out of the ordinary. Everyone had their moments and Dusty had things to work on, but nothing that any of the other drivers weren't working on too. "He's dealing with everyone and everything on a day to day level. If it makes him a lesser man to have a set back like he did, then so be it, but you know deep down none of these guys are out there to hurt each other."
"He's known to have a temper."
"True," she said, "But who else out there has been known to have a temper? I can't think of anyone out there that doesn't have some sort of attitude or temper when they drive. Tempers run a little quick throughout the sport in general, but I don't think NASCAR would allow anyone to be in the sport if they had even a slight worry about a driver being dangerous."
"Well they did ban him from--" Larry's eyes narrowed slightly as if he might be able to pull something exclusive out of her. She had to remember that even though they were friends, he was a reporter first and would bounce on any extra information she would supply him.
"He was advised to stay away and let tempers cool out--"
Larry clicked his tongue. "How can you defend someone who almost killed your brother?"
"I'm not defending anyone. I'm defending the sport that my brother loves. He wouldn't want me to turn my back on a sport that he fully intends to return to." She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. "He knows that Dusty didn't try to kill him and that Dusty isn't a bad driver. My brother knew that if he was ever going to show his face around the tracks again that he would need to make sure that whatever was being said or done to Dusty was truly deserved. He's not going to walk back in here to find everyone still talking about an incident that happened--"
Jacqueline turned her head when she heard her nickname being screamed out and looked towards where Greg Arnold was running towards her
"Greg?" she asked.
He waved towards her. "Dusty's with the paramedics."
Out of all the things that she'd expected, she never expected this. She couldn't see if he'd crashed. It was definitely mandatory if he'd wreaked the car. He hadn't wreaked. He'd driven the whole race and although she hadn't formally been introduced to him, she was proud that her team had finished the race. She'd seen him drive into the pits and hadn't seen flames or smoke from the car, so to hear that he was now with the paramedics made her heart jump. "The paramedics?"
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