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“Were you serious the other night?” Chase asks as he pulls into the Hendrick Motorsports packing lot. He had made it up to North Carolina for Media Day, and Sarina had decided to tag along for a couple of days rather than being stuck in Georgia with Ricky. It was nice to be able to spend time with Chase.
“Absolutely,” Sarina answers as she looks over at him. “I meant it, Chase. I feel it’s the right time as we’re getting close and the rumors are out there. Why should we pretend to be something that we’re not just because they’re people around?” He then puts the truck into park as he glances over at her.
“What about your fears of people finding you and such?” She then takes a deep breath, knowing that was still at the back of her mind. Though, she couldn’t let it bug her. It was time to stop letting it control her life and decisions.
“I’m 21 now. It’s been six years, Chase. If they were going to do something, they would’ve done it already as my name has been out there with my success. I need to stop worrying and wondering, and start living. A friend shared that advice, and I think I’m going to stick with it.” He smiles, remembering in discussion after she had revealed more about her past and certain feelings.
“So with that in mind, do you mind if you meet my teammates today?” She felt herself cheer a little inside as she had always been a Kasey Kahne fan for the longest time. She just hoped that she didn’t embrace herself.
“I don’t see why not. Want to share with them that you have a girlfriend?” Chase then laughs as they meet outside at the back of the truck together.
“I like you a lot, I’m proud of the woman that you are, and wouldn’t mind letting you to get to know my friends. If you’re going to hang around North Carolina with me, it’s important that you meet them.” The pair then headed inside together, as Sarina took a deep breath hoping it went well.
Inside of the shop, the other three had gathered together already, and were awaiting the arrival of Chase and then to be joined by Rick. Once the boss was there, the plan was to head out together with the PR reps to go over to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to talk with the media and do their job.
“Whoa,” Dale lets out as he notices Chase walk through the doors with a female close behind. “Chase has a girlfriend.” The comment immediately gets the attention of Jimmie and Kasey, who look over at the girl in toe.
“I’ve seen her face before…” Jimmie muses out loud quietly as he tries to place where he had seen the face before. He remembered seeing it somewhere on twitter as somebody else shared a photo and a news story. “Hey Chase.”
“Hey guys,” Chase states as he wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders. “Guys, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Sarina Ott. This is Dale, Kasey and Jimmie, but you probably know that already.” A smile forms on her lips as her eyes immediately lock on Kasey. It was crazy to think that she had his poster on her wall, admiring him for the longest time.
“It’s nice to meet you all,” Sarina then speaks up quietly as Jimmie keeps his eyes locked on her, still trying to place why he had seen her face.
“Sarina, you’re a racecar driver, right?” Dale questions and it immediately comes to Jimmie as he remembered reading the story about the Snowball Derby, and how the win fell into Chase’s lap.
“So she gets caught cheating, you get the win and then you ask her out?” Jimmie spits out, causing a shocked glance from the group. Chase had to shake his head at the thought, but knew it probably wouldn’t be the last time that he heard that comment, either.
“The disqualification was something that her crew chief did without her knowledge or consent to do,” Chase starts explaining. “As far as us, we were already starting to see each other before then, as in back in the summer. It more so turned into a relationship near the end of November.” The group could only glance at the pair surprised, as they hadn’t suspected Chase to be in a relationship at all. Though Dale could only smile as he thought it over, remembering some of the odd trips that Chase was taking without much details. He kept thinking Chase was going to Georgia to see his parents, but it was really for a girl.
“I should’ve known that you had something up your sleeve,” Dale comments as Chase shrugs his shoulders. “As long as you’re treating him right, his parents are alright with you and he’s happy, then it’s fine with us. However, I should warn you that if you cross him, you better start running immediately.” The smile immediately fades on Sarina’s face in hearing the comment as she takes a careful deep breath. She didn’t expect the harsh reality quite in that second.
“I understand, and I can assure you that will never happen as I love him, a lot,” Sarina says as she looks at Chase, before returning her eyes back to the group before them.
“So, how did you meet?” Kasey then asks, curiously, catching Sarina’s attention. It was all the strength that she had to not reveal how big of a fan she was through the years.
“Racing against each other,” Chase answers. “We’ve raced against each other in late models for a while now, and have gotten to be good friends over the past four or so years. I’ve always had a crush so I made my move, and she accepted.”
“Smooth,” Jimmie comments as he glances at the other two. “The kid actually has some game.” The group lets out a laugh as Chase rolls his eyes, knowing the teasing that he had already heard from them and Jeff included.
“So I overheard Christian saying he heard rumors that you’re putting a developmental driver program together and you’ve hired a driver,” Dale then starts. It was obviously supposed to mean a change in topic, and a way to simply discuss as they would always. However, Chase knew with the answer that they wouldn’t venture far from the actual topic at hand. He could only now wonder how Dale’s new late model driver had heard the rumor.
“Ricky is in charge of the program and it was announced last year that it was coming together,” Chase informs him, rememebering the press release that they put out. He had gotten applications from across the country, a couple that he could’ve probably accepted and been fine with. “As far as the driver, that driver will be making her debut at Speedfest.”
“Her debut?” Kasey questions as he keeps his eyes on Sarina. “I think I may know the name of the driver, Chase.” Chase glances between them as Sarina’s smile widens.
“It’s alright that they know – they’re close friends and will keep it quiet till your surprise.” Chase then looks back over at the group. “Sarina will be driving the car this year. She has always performed well, despite being in sub-par equipment, even beating me on a couple occasions. I figured she deserved a chance to truly herself in good equipment. It was something that I was thinking of even before we got together.” The group shakes their heads understanding.
They knew the assumption – everybody would believe that she got the ride out of the relationship. However, they knew Chase better than that and knew Bill’s hand in the team was better than that. Besides, Dale knew of Sarina and heard about her before so he could agree that it was a good idea by Elliott.
“The boss says he will meet us there,” Laura interrupts the group of drivers. “Are we ready to go?” They all shake their heads yes as they walk down the hall together.
As they’re heading down the hall, Dale pulls on Chase’s shoulder and pulls him back to where he is, away from the others.
“It’s a big step to take in going from driving your own equipment to having someone drive for you,” he starts quietly. “My only piece of advice is don’t let your relationship with her and love affect the business decisions.” Chase then looks over at Dale.
“I didn’t hire her due to the relationship, Dale,” Chase states clearly and Dale shakes his head, knowing that Chase was right in their words. Everybody on that team knew better than to do that, ranging from Chase to Bill and Ricky.
“I know – I believe you and trust the judgment made. I’m just giving that advice moving forward, should the program grow to something bigger or not go as well as you’re hoping. They always say that you shouldn’t mix relationships with work, or have a relationship at work. There’s a reason why due to issues that can come up. I’m just warning you to be careful – that’s all.” Chase shakes his head, understanding the advice. He hadn’t even thought about the possibilities of issues, but then he just believed it’d all fall in place. He was going to stick with that theory as there was no way that he could deny her talent and Ricky’s ability as a crew chief.
“Thanks for the advice, Dale, but I don’t think we’ll have any problems.”