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Chase glances down at the ground as he ponders things for that weekend, before glancing back up at Sarina.
The pair found themselves standing facing each other on a Wednesday night, discussing plans. While Chase was set to race that weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sarina was set to kick off her late model schedule, which meant heading to California to run the Winter Showdown.
“Are you sure about this?” He questions quietly as she shakes her head yes.
“My wrist is healed from the plane crash and I want to get started on my race season,” she answers. “We knew this was going to happen, Chase. I thought that was part of signing me.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that she was right.
However, there were many things that had changed since then. They had grown closer together and he felt spoiled in having her there every weekend with him. Furthermore, there was the other topic at hand and he couldn’t help but worry.
“They haven’t found the guy that sabotaged the plane yet,” he starts. “I’m just worried about him coming after you when I’m not there.” Sarina takes a deep breath, having known the thought to cross her mind. However, the need to race quickly erased it from her mind.
“That’s why I have a security guard and I have Ricky to keep my ass outta trouble. I also know that you’ll be safe due to your security guard, as well as having your entire team.” She then takes his hand into hers. “I know you’re worried, but it’s itching at me to get back to driving. Please….” Chase thinks it over and finally shakes his head in agreement. He knew that he couldn’t be selfish all season.
“There’s only one way that you’re heading out to California this weekend, though.” She then looks at him slightly confused. “You have to promise me something.”
“What’s that?” A grin forms on his face.
“Promise me a victory.” She then smiles as she pulls him close.
“I can’t promise you a victory, but I promise you that I’ll drive my ass trying, as long as you promise me that you’ll drive your ass off and get a good finish at Atlanta.” He smiles and shakes his head in agreement. There was no way that he was repeating the disappointment from Daytona.
The weekend had gone smoothly. He was disappointed with his qualifying effort, seeing as though he’d start 24th for the race that afternoon. However, he was pleased with how practice went and felt good about his chances for the day.
He was also able to catch some of Speed51’s highlights from the Winter Showdown Qualifying on Saturday, which caused an immediate smile on his face in seeing that Sarina had scored the pole. If there were any doubts before about him signing her to drive the late model, they were erased immediately.
Now sitting in the hauler ahead of the race that afternoon, his mind was split on where his focus should be. He was set to focus on his own day ahead and having a good solid day, but also kept wondering as to what would happen at Kern County Raceway Park with Sarina that day. He knew as soon as the race was over and he was done his obligations, he was going to find a TV and get the live stream working.
“Welcome to the life of a car owner, Chase,” he tells himself with a laugh as he kicks his feet up. He knew once he was in the car, all the worries and thoughts would disappear and the only thing that would be on his mind would be his own racecar.
“Ready to go?” He hears and glances towards the door with a smile as he sees Alan Gustafson standing there. He didn’t know much about the crew chief before the season, except that he was supposedly talented atop the pit box. He couldn’t complain so far in seeing how Alan handled business, how they had worked together, and how Alan’s demeanor hadn’t changed despite the disappointment of Daytona.
“Would you expect anything else?” Alan shrugs his shoulders as Chase gives himself a final glance over in the mirror and heads out of the hauler to head to the grid.
Like the week before at Daytona, everything on the grid went seamlessly well. There were a couple less interviews than he dealt with at Daytona, but they went easy as he described his hopes in having a much better day.
With the moments counting down before the race, he stood on the grid leaning against his car when he heard his phone go off. He took it out of his pocket, and smiled as he read the good luck text from Sarina. He sent her back one in return, reminding her of the promise that they made before heading their own ways, before handing the phone over to one of the crew members.
“I told her to send any updates to you as she has your number,” he starts. “But incase Ricky or her forget, don’t be afraid to open up a message from her on my phone. Also, answer any questions that she may have in not being here for updates.” He gets a simple shake of the head as the crew member pockets the phone.
With having spent some years at HMS, he was used to requests of that kind from drivers with their girlfriends or wives weren’t at the track. It just seemed weird in having a driver that had a girlfriend racing somewhere else now.
Chase then went through opening ceremonies with ease, feeling a little disappointed once they were over in having no final kiss to share before climbing in the car. He quickly shook that off, though, climbing aboard the car, set for a strong day.
As he had predicted post-practice, the car was strong and he was able to make his way up into the top-10 in the early stages. He also was able to keep himself up there, running solidly throughout the entire race en route to a solid eighth place finish.
Being the highest finishing rookie with his first top-10, there were lots of media to handle post-race, but he took it all with ease. He answered each of their questions, glad to talk about a positive day.
He was also able to get everything done quickly, retreating back to the motorcoach and getting the live stream loaded to catch the second half of Sarina’s race at Kern County.
Despite the strong qualifying effort, he watched as she struggled during the early stages falling back some spots. However, the adjustments that Ricky made at the mid-race break seemed to be the magic trick as she was able to make her way back to front, recapturing the lead.
Chase then found himself on the edge of his seat through the final laps as he watched Bubba Pollard continue to close the gap, closing right on her bumper and looking for a way around as the dwindled down. He wouldn’t be able to make it stick, as Sarina was able to hold him off to capture the victory.
“Does it make it worth it now letting her to go to Kern County?” Bill asks, knowing of Chase’s initial worries as Chase shakes his head yes with a smile.
“I told you that she was the right driver to sign,” Chase comments as Bill shakes his head yes, remembering the discussion. He remembered how much he had questioned the decision by Chase, but seeing those final laps left no more questions in his mind.
Chase waited for a while before face-timing Sarina as he sat in the back of the car headed to his parent’s house.
“I’m so proud of you!” He immediately lets out as she pops up on the screen.
“I’m so proud of you too,” she offers. “I heard about how you did today. That was quite impressive, boss. Nice job on a top-10 run. It’s just the beginning of some great things for you.”
“Who cares about my run today. Let’s talk about what you did today! You did an amazing job holding off Bubba. I thought he was going to get by you with how quickly he caught you.” She then gives him a shocked, hurt expression.
“Did I just hear my boyfriend not believe in me? How mean!” She then laughs. “Actually, I admit it. I was getting worried with how he was riding my bumper, but I knew that I had a great car underneath me. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“Thank you for allowing me to prove that I was right. See you tonight to celebrate?” She glances around and back at Ricky, who gives her back a smile in return. She felt every nerve in knowing that getting back to Georgia quickly from California meant boarding an airplane. However, she wanted to be back in Chase’s arms immediately.
“That sounds like a plan.” She then glances around before turning back to her phone. “Listen, I got to go. The quicker I get through all these post-race interviews and photos, the quicker I can come see you. Bye Chase.”
“Bye Sarina. Love you.” She then closes off the conversation, placing her phone the pocket of her suit.
There were no words to describe the emotions that were going through her mind as she stood in victory lane. She was beyond excited to capture her first win of the year. She was relieved to have proven to everyone she deserved this ride. There was also a sense of pride in knowing those whom said she only was good at the Snowball Derby due to the cheating were proved wrong by how she drove today.
She also had to admit that there was some self-pride in knowing that she had held off Bubba during those laps near the end, despite him having a strong car. She had earned herself that win.
“I guess all those who said that Chase only signed you because he loved you were proven wrong today, huh?” She hears and smiles as she glances over at Bubba. She knew that he didn’t mean anything wrong by the comment due to their friendship. But, he was right in those words for about the other half of the pits.
“If you say that I proved them wrong, then I have to go with it since it was you that I beat,” she replies as he simply smiles.
“You did a great job today – I’m going to admit that. I thought I was going to be able to easily clear you, but you made that impossible. Congratulations. It makes me regret it that much more that I didn’t sign you before Chase.” She smiles. There were times that she wondered what would’ve happened if she would’ve accepted Bubba’s offer. However, that didn’t last long when she considered the great relationship that she had with Chase, despite everything.
“Thank you, and thank you for making an honest race out of it today. It’s nice to race with someone that doesn’t simply dump you for the hell of it.” He shakes his head in agreement, having been on the other side of that in many races before.
“See you later this year?” She shakes her head yes.
“Don’t worry – I plan on running as many races as Ricky and Chase allow, and I plan on kicking your butt each time.” He then chuckles.
“We’ll see about that, Ms. Ott.”
“What time was she supposed to be in?” Chase questions as he looks over at his dad. They were sitting at the airport later that night, set to pick her up once her flight landed.
“She was supposed to be about 45 minutes ago,” Bill answers as he glances over at Chase. He could see the nerves written all over the young man’s face in asking the question. “Hey, relax. Everything is fine.” Chase knew his dad was probably right, but couldn’t help but ponder every scenario.
“I know. She probably just got hung up with luggage or something. It’s just…” Chase takes a deep breath as Bill keeps his eyes locked on him. “I was worried about her going because that guy is still out there, and we know nothing about where he could be or why he did what he did. I don’t get how we don’t know anything as it’s been four weeks now. Normally police are able to locate people quicker than that. I just can’t help but ponde-”
“Chase, you can’t let yourself get caught up in those thoughts. Besides, it’s highly unlikely that will happen. She has a security guard with her, as appointed by Kendall. There’s probably some other logical explanation.” Chase wanted to believe his father, as he had believed his father on everything else through the years. But this year, he couldn’t find the ability to trust in those words.
“Probably, but it’s still on my mind…” They then hear the door open and a head pop-in with a smile on her face. “If I hadn’t caught a glance of your hair, I was going to snap around and punch you.”
“Not a good way to surprise people.” Sarina then climbs in and closes the door behind her.
“Sorry – thought I’d be surprising,” she offers as she puts on her seatbelt. “Sorry about being late. There was an issue when we landed about the gates. I was going to text you but my phone died.” Bill gives Chase a glance as Chase lets out a sigh. “Oh, my dear car owners, I have something for you…” Chase then smiles as she slips him a small envelope.
“That’s yours as you earned it,” Chase comments as he slips it back to her, while glancing back at her. “There’s something that’s more important than that, though.” She smiles as she points to the other seat, where the trophy proudly sits and Chase simply smiles. “Now you can officially say that you’ve won an event that I haven’t gotten the chance to win yet.”
“I’ll take whatever bragging rights I can have right now.”