Rivals, chapter 2: Disney Racing

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Forty-seven-year-old Tom Disney, no relation to Walt, turned off Sheffield Avenue and onto a leafy, quiet street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. His radio, set to US*99, played some good Country tunes while he made another left-hand turn onto a residential street. The street was lined with cars, come of which had already emptied their parking spots to leave for work in the Loop. Tom praised his luck at finding one such spot near his target house. Well, it was across the street from his target house, but it worked, nonetheless. He was not a man who would give up a good parking spot for as silly a reason as that.

When he climbed out, he saw an older woman, close to 60 years old, running by on her morning jog. He stopped and waved, while she ran up to him. "Good morning, Tom!" she said, "I thought you were in North Carolina!"

"Change of plans, Beatrice," said Tom. "I just got in two hours ago."

"Oh, that's wonderful," said Beatrice, "What happened?"

"My team owner gave me the week off," said Tom, "It's alright, the Truck Series has enough old farts like me running around."

"I see," she said. "Are you here to see Kevin?"

"Of course," he replied.

"Oh, that's so wonderful!" said Beatrice. She looked over his car and chuckled. "Did the rental people have any newer cars?"

"Well, I like this one," he said. "I like 'em simple."

"Unlike Kevin," Beatrice said, eyeing a car to the side. Said car was a red-and-blue Chevy Camaro.

"Well, Camaros are powerful cars," said Tom.

"I think he should have learned more from you," said Beatrice.

"That's what I keep telling them," he said, brushing something off the sleeves of his grey T-shirt.

"Well, it was good to see you again, but I have to keep moving," said Beatrice. "So long!

"It was good to see you, too," he replied as Beatrice jogged off.

He looked back at his son's car while stuffing his hands in his jeans. He waited another moment while a car drove past, and after looking both ways, crossed the street over to the side where his son's house was. In the distance, a CTA Red Line train thundered past.

Tom dialed Kevin up, but did not get an answer. He scoffed and hung up. He must be asleep. Oh, well. He had an ace up his sleeve.

He pulled a key out of his pocket and walked up to the stoop of the building. He knew which floor Kevin lived on, as these houses had apartments that were pretty much the only thing on the floor.

He ran his hand through his salt-and-peppered gray hair and inserted the key into the door. He was in. He made his way up to the third floor of the building, where his son's condo was. Tom's brown eyes, framed by a weathered face and crow's feet, examined the door. Again, he inserted the key and walked in.

He scoffed and laughed. He may be rich, but it was almost as if Kevin had yet to graduate college, or at least looked like he had a college mentality. His condo was filled with simple stuff, aside from a really nice-looking flatscreen in front of three leather couches, hooked up not only to an Xbox, but a PS3 and Wii U. There was also a picture of Kevin and now-deceased driver Dan Wheldon above the TV.

Tom shook his head. His skin, while tanned, was not quite weathered with age, and didn't have a leathery look about it, either. He wasn't even 50 yet, after all.

His son's bedroom was next to the kitchen. He walked up and opened it up. He laughed again.

It was just past 10:00 in the morning and Kevin Disney was still sleeping. Tom's 22-year-old son was buried in a nice bedspread that he obviously spent a good deal of race winnings on. Strands of brown hair peeked out from the covers, though. It was like the days when Kevin was still a kid. He'd heard about the Trans-Am race he'd just returned from, which he'd come in at second.

"GET UP!" he shouted, grabbing what he thought—correctly—to be his son's shoulder.

"YA!" Kevin screamed while Tom tore his covers off the bed. He laughed when he saw that Kevin was wearing a t-shit and gym shorts. "Daaaad!" his son whined, "What'd you do that for!?"

"Don't you know what time it is?" asked Tom, "It's ten o'clock! Get up! You're acting like a kid again."

Kevin groaned and it got worse when Tom opened his son's blinds. "Jeez, dad, how'd you get in here?"

"It's called a key," said Tom. "Look at you, Mr. IndyCar stud."

Kevin groaned again and got out of bed. Just as Tom said, Kevin was a very good-looking young man. His youthful, Irish-ish features, highlighted by brown eyes, were just the tip. And his medium-length hair was cascading on both sides of his head. But, since he just woke up, he's not exactly a picture of perfection right now.

And just like his dad, he had a small, but athletic build. His skin tone wasn't leathery like his dad, but more creamy, but with some copper tone to it.

"When'd you get in?" he asked while he took some clothes out of his dresser.

"Two hours ago," said Tom. "My team owner gave me the week off. And I hear you had a good race yesterday."

"Yeah, but I hate the Barber track," said Kevin. "Can you please give me some privacy? I have to take a shower.

"Certainly," said Tom.

Half an hour later, Tom was sitting at the kitchen table while Kevin walked in, combing his hair and walking over to his fridge. "How about some wheat pancakes?" he asked.

"I've already eaten, but sounds good," said Tom. So Kevin got to making pancakes while Tom had a sip of his coffee. "How was the race yesterday?"

"It was good," said Kevin, "The winner got lucky I couldn't catch him in the end."

Tom snorted. "The morning after a second-place finish is no time for your arrogance."

Kevin sighed. "I honestly could have caught him," he said.

"That's not what I heard," said Tom. "You've only been in IndyCar for what, 4 years? You're not Al Unser yet, so tone it down."

"Six wins in 3 years," said Kevin, "I think the hype is real."

"That may be, but a little humility goes a long way," said Tom. "So, what's on the agenda?"

"My agent sent me a schedule of appearances," Kevin said while pouring some of the batter on to his griddle, "I'll be on Windy City Live tomorrow and on WGN Morning News on Wednesday."

"You're a busy body, aren't you?" asked Tom. "By the way, have you heard of that new driver?"

"You mean the one from Germany?" asked Kevin, "And the reason why we're going there this summer?"

"What do you know about them?"

"I dunno, I think they're supposed to be good, but I'm not too concerned," said Kevin.

"Yeah, you're too busy worried about yourself," said Tom. His tone showed that he was ribbing Kevin's views of himself. "Are you sure you're not worried about that new driver?"

"No!" Kevin laughed while flipping a pancake, "Why should I be? They're probably gonna make some rookie mistake and I'll beat 'em anyway!"

"Confident, aren't we?" asked Tom. "When are you leaving for Indy?"

"Practice for the Grand Prix starts on the 7th," replied Kevin. "Now that I remember, I have to head to the shop today so we'll be able to move into the facility in Indy."

"Can I come with?"

Kevin paused and thought about it for a moment. "Sure, why not?"

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"Yeah, that Laguna Seca race was crazy," Kevin said as they were on their way to Kevin's race team shop. "I think we almost ran out of gas near the end, but we were able to keep it good until the checkered."

"Good move," said Tom, "You need to be careful about the gas you use; can't use it all up early on."

"Pfft! Of course I knew that!" Kevin replied. Again, Tom rolled his eyes and shook his head while rubbing his face.

"How's Reggie doing?" he asked to take the conversation away from him.

"He's doing good," said Kevin, "He'll probably be glad to see you again."

"I can't wait to see him, either," said Tom.

A car had pulled out in front of them and almost collided with another. But Kevin glided through the two cars, much to Tom's discomfort. But Kevin made it look effortless. "I hate it when you do that," he said. Kevin smiled at him arrogantly. Tom cursed how he let his driving skills get to his head.

"Come on, you're the one who always praised me when I was a kid," Kevin replied, "What happened?"

"Your ego," said Tom. Kevin sighed and turned his eyes back to the road like he should be doing.

The race team's headquarters, and garage was located on Goose Island. The Disney Racing race shop is located next to its sister organization, Disney Automotive, a green automotive tech company founded by the same man who started the race team, Robert Disney, Tom's brother. The headquarters for both are in the Disney Racing shop, and are run by the same person, who happens to be Kevin's boss and cousin. A couple things of note: Disney Racing is the only IndyCar team to be based outside of the Indianapolis area. Second, Disney Racing has NOTHING to do with the Walt Disney Company. If the family members are related, then it's most likely a very distant relation. In that case, the Disney Racing/Automotive group wanted nothing to do with the other Disney, unless the big guys came by and wanted to do some business that was mutually beneficial (and did not require selling the team and company, of course). To be sure, the threat of lawsuit is minimal, given that both companies are A), headquartered in different states and B) are in completely different industries.

Kevin and Tom parked out back and walked in through the front. The receptionist greeted them happily as they walked in.

"Tom!" A middle-aged African-American man built like a linebacker and wearing the biggest smile you'd ever see said as he walked up.

"Reggie!" Tom replied, giving the man a hug. "How've you been?"

"Things have been going great," said Reggie.

"How's Marcus?" asked Tom.

"Marcus just won his first Indy Lights race," Reggie replied with a bigger smile.

"Oh, that's amazing!" said Tom, "Congrats to him! Where's Skip?"

"He's here, he's just busy," Reggie replied, "We're getting the cars ready to ship to Indy, so it might be a little hectic around here. Hi, Kevin."

"Morning, Reg," Kevin replied. "Where's Erin?"

"You mean Ms. Disney?" Reggie asked in a very annoyed tone.

"You know I'll never get used to that," he replied.

"She's in her office taking care of paperwork," said Reggie. "Just sit tight, Skip should be here soon, and we'll find out when we leave for Indy."

"Fine," Kevin groaned.

"So, what are you doing here, buddy?" Reggie asked Tom, hoping to continue their conversation.

"Ah, my boss gave me the week off," he said, "I guess he thinks there's enough old farts like me in the Truck Series already. A rookie's taking my spot."

Kevin tuned their conversation out and took out his phone for a moment. That changed when he saw another figure entering the shop. "Bonjour, comment ca va, mes amis?"

"Deschamps!" Kevin laughed, standing up and giving the new guy a fist bump. This was Sebastien Deschamps, a Frenchman who drives for Disney. Deschamps, from Les Mans, was about the same size and height as Sean, but was in his mid-20s. His short dark hair reflected the lights in the shop and his green eyes looked around.

"Are they busy?" he asked.

"Yeah, they haven't seen each other in a while," said Kevin. "You want to see everyone else?"

"Of course," said Deschamps. They both walked away from the two old farts who were busy talking about their Aprils.

Kevin and Sebastien were surprised to find things were not as busy as they had been told. Their cars sat in their little stalls, surrounded by toolboxes, aero kits and heavy equipment. There were multiple cars all over the place, mostly back-ups in the assumption that something might happen in practice or qualifying. Kevin's car was blue and white with a few red highlights. The sponsor, Old Style Beer, was plastered on the nose, sidepod and the wing. Sebastien's was mostly white with blue and white highlights and sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. Since both beers are brewed by the same company, it only made sense for Pabst Brewery to sponsor the same team.

Besides the IndyCars, Kevin's blue-and-white, Disney Automotive-sponsored Trans-Am series Mustang—more specifically, a third back-up, since his main car wasn't back from California yet—sat idle. Another car, a Daytona Prototype, also with a blue-and-white livery, sat beside the Mustang. The team used this car in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar championship, which all three drivers operated, because IMSA rules require three drivers per car per race. Each driver takes turns behind the wheel.

Some mechanics were working on the cars. Just a couple tune-ups here and there, no big deal. It happened after every race. Sometimes there were little adjustments and repairs to make in the case of damage. Of course, since IndyCar is not NASCAR, bumping and grinding on the track is not recommended. Trans-Am cars are like NASCAR stock cars, and Daytona Prototypes are… hard to describe, but they're not open-wheel, so it's not uncommon for either car to come back with a little damage.

"I didn't know you two were here," a man with a North Carolina accent said. Jonathan "Skip" Thomas walked out of his office towards the two drivers. "Disney, Deschamps."

"Bonjour, Skip," said Deschamps, "Where's Ozzie?"

"He's in his office," said Skip. "And he's busy."

"And you're not?" asked Kevin.

"I'm taking a break," said Skip. Skip was in his 40s and wore a moustache reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt Sr. Blue eyes and red hair completed his look. He was Kevin's "Crew Chief", as he put it, given his NASCAR background. "By the way, Erin wanted to discusssome things when we were going to Indy."

"Sounds good," said Kevin.

"Is she ready yet?" asked Deschamps.

"You two know her well enough by now to answer that question yourselves," said Skip.

"In other words, she's not," said Kevin.

"Typical," said Deschamps.

"I prefer to be ready on my own term and time, Deschamps," a young woman's voice cut through the garage.

Erin Disney strode up to them, carrying a clipboard in her arms. The three drivers snapped at attention and saluted. Erin rolled her eyes. "Again?" she said. "Put your arms down… at ease." The trio playfully moved into an at east position, like in the army. "Congrats to Kevin on his Trans-Am in at Laguna Seca. We will be leaving for Indianapolis in a few days. We won't have a garage in Indy for the Grand Prix, yet."

"At the Speedway, or—"

"Of COURSE, we'll have a garage at the Speedway, Disney."

"Okay, then," Kevin sighed.

"Moving on," she said. "We'll be expecting some major competition this year, what with that new German team coming in."

"Are they any good?" Tom asked.

"We know that Kathrin Mueller is highly regarded," said Erin. "I forgot which series she's won, but she is definitely a prodigy. She might even be better than Disney."

"Thanks a lot, chief."

"Now, we have to get ready to depart for Indianapolis in a few days," she continued. "I expect all of you to be on your best behavior."

"You mean we're not?" Sebastien asked.

"Rumor has it, Kathrin Mueller is a lesbian," said Erin. "Obviously, none of you are going to say anything homophobic, but I'll make sure you regret it if you do."

"Come on, she's not gonna last," said Kevin. "Maybe she'll start the 500 and then go back to Europe."

"I think her coming here's a good thing," said Sebastien. "She could help IndyCar get more popular over there. We could use it, especially since we're better than F1." A round of chuckles rippled through the team.

"That is the attitude we're looking for," said Erin. "As for the rest, it will be the usual for us; we're going to run this race like we always have, although I'll leave strategy up to the drivers and crew chiefs. You know more about racing than I do."

"Then why'd you have Kevin's dad pick him up like he was going to school?" Reggie asked, shit-eating grin on his lips. Kevin rolled his eyes amidst a chorus of snickers.

"Because we're not paying for Disney's tickets anymore," said Erin.

"Come on, you guys don't trust me?" Kevin whined.

"You got a speeding ticket on the Mag Mile," said Erin.

"I was in a Mustang!"

"That's why," she said. "Sorry we can't afford a chauffeur."

"You can afford one, you just won't hire one," Kevin retorted.

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Tom read an issue of Crain's Chicago Business while waiting for Erin outside her office. The article was about Erin teaming up with a local lawyer to start another sports ownership group that had not gotten off the ground just yet. Their first target was the Fire, which he admitted he did not know much about. But he grinned when he read a passage discussing how she wanted to keep her father's business alive.

He heard footsteps approaching and looked up. A young, about Kevin's age, lean black woman strolled up to him, carrying some files and smiling. "Hi, Tom," she said, opening her arms.

"Jasmine! Good to see you!" he said, standing up and hugging her. "I see Reggie's still talking about Marcus."

"Oh my god, dad just won't shut up about him," she laughed, rolling her eyes. "I was like, 'dad, we get it, Marcus won a race', but he was like, 'Can't I be proud of your brother'?"

"Well, what do you expect?" Tom asked. "You should've heard me after Kevin won his first race."

"UGH, I was there!" she groaned, but smiling. "You and my dad really are, to quote a cliched phrase, 'brothers from another mother'."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," said Tom. "I see you're working here, now?"

"Yeah, I'm graduating from DePaul in a couple weeks, actually," she said, smiling proudly.

"Oh, congratulations!" said Tom. "Will you make it to Indy?"

"I should!" said Jasmine. "Oh, I almost forgot. Ms. Disney's ready to see you now."

"Right, sorry I distracted you," Tom laughed.

"Right this way," she said, gesturing. She led him down to the end of the hall, where Erin's office was, the door open. He peeked inside, saw her doing some paperwork. Jasmine knocked, Erin looked up and gestured for Tom to enter. He stepped inside but didn't sit down. She looked up, as if expecting him to sit. Instead, he was looking around the walls. Photos of previous race teams were scatted over the walls but were outnumbered by photos with business and technology figures, awards, certificates, and her U of Chicago diploma.

"You didn't tell me you were just visiting," she said.

"Sorry, forgot to mention that," said Tom.

"The crew just returned from Monterrey last night," she continued.

"The Trans-Am race, I assume."

"Correct," she answered.

"Kevin didn't get enough sleep," Tom continued, "I had to wake him up."

"Good for you," she said. Putting the pen down, she looked up at him. "What do you think of our operation?"

"Do you want my approval?"

"Absolutely not."

"Okay, I think you're running a nice little operation," he said. "Your dad would be proud of you. But I do think you need to lighten up just a little."

"I hope you're not implying anything," she said, looking at him above her glasses.

"Not at all," said Tom. "What I mean is," he pointed at all the paperwork on her desk, "I think you might be overworking yourself."

"Thanks for your concern," she said. "But I can handle it."

Tom was a race car driver, not a businessperson, so he had no other response except to shrug and drop his hands to the side. "Maybe I should be more worried about Kevin. Taking part in 3 series might be a bit much for him."

"You're a full-time NASCAR driver," she replied. "Glass houses."

"You got me," Tom laughed. "You know, I do mean it when I say your dad would be proud of you."

"Thanks," she said, smiling.

"Not sure he'd like your demeanor, but I'm not him," Tom continued, making her scowl. She looked older than her real age, 22 years old, because of the way she wore her hair, glasses and carried herself. When seen in casual clothes, it was assumed she looked her age. Tom knew this to be true, at least to an extent, which was the last time he saw her in a casual getup, getting a selfie taken with Kevin and Jasmine at a high school graduation party. It was also the last time Robert saw all of them together. It was hard to believe just a couple of weeks later, Tom was at his brother's funeral being offered condolences, along with Robert's daughter.

"Thanks, Uncle Tom," she said.

"Is there anything else you need?" Tom asked.

"No," said Erin. Tom nodded and turned to leave. Then he stopped and turned back to her.

"By the way, I overheard complaining I had to pick him up. Are you sure you can't afford a chauffeur?"

Erin grinned, nudged her glasses back against her head and leaned forward, chin in her hands. "We can afford one," she said.

Tom scoffed a laugh. "Then why'd you tell him you couldn't?"

"I just like messing with him," she answered.

"Like I haven't heard that before," Tom sighed, then exited her office.