She walks down pit road, smiling as she waves to a couple different people throughout the garage area before reaching her stall.
The conversation with Chase earlier in the week seemed to set a lot of thoughts and things in motion, as she made the decision to come back racing sooner than expected. A simple phone call to Kyle and he was easily to put everything in place for her to be behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota Tundra for the rest of the season, as originally scheduled. The phone call had resulted in a slight grumble from Erik who had been told he’d get to run instead, but he was easily accepting as he was glad to see her get a shot.
“Are you sure you’re ready to come back this weekend?” Kyle asks as he walks over to her. She looks up at him and quickly shakes her head yes. “So everything is squared away with your brother?”
“My cousins have no issue with sitting with him during the weekend while I’m out racing,” she starts. “Then once he’s better, he’s expressed interest in coming out so I easily accepted.” Kyle smiles as he was glad to see everything work out, though admitted a tinge of worry on the second thought. There had been a lot of things that had happened through the past several months.
“And how’s things with Chase?” The question only caused her smile to increase in size.
“Let’s just say that we talked everything over – Chris included – and are back together. It feels just as wonderful as it was before, and just as close. I know there may be a couple hiccups of trust at times, but I trust in what we have.” Kyle smiled back in return as he had hoped the pair would find their way back to each other.
“Well, I’ll leave you to get ready for practice then. If you need any advice or anything, don’t hesitate to come over and ask.” She easily accepts as she watches him walk away.
She then leans back against the wall, waiting for her name to be called. Thus far, the weekend had gone amazing. She practiced well in each of the three sessions, and managed to qualify 10th for the race that afternoon. After watching how crazy the XFINITY race with the different grooves, and the strong performance by her boss, she was excited to get going that day.
“Nervous?” She hears as she glances over to see Christopher. She just shakes her head no as she glances out towards the track.
“I feel good about things going into today,” she comments as he simply smiles in return.
“That’s a good feeling, and you’ve looked great all weekend. Just remember to not get ahead of yourself, and watch when you’re making moves. You don’t want to be too aggressive early.” She then looks over, remembering how Christopher’s race went last year.
“Talking from experience?” Christopher shakes his head yes. He just wanted to forget about how last year went already. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”
“Anytime. I want to see you do well.” She smiles back, hoping for the same thing. It wasn’t every day you got to the opportunity to drive for a team like Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“So, did I do a good job in the booth?” She hears as an arm wraps around her shoulders. She looks towards the face, smiling as she leans in for a quick kiss.
“I’d say that you did a good job,” she tells Chase. She had to admit that she was impressed with how flawlessly he took to the job of being an XFINITY Race Analyst. “I’d give you an A+ if I was your teacher.”
“Adam made it easy, thankfully,” he replies as he glances over at Christopher with a quick nod. “I just wanted to stop by and see you, and say good luck if we don’t get to see each other before the race starts. Have fun, be safe, and take in every bit of this moment. You’ve earned it and I’m proud of you.”
“Thank you, and I hope you have just as much as an amazing day as I am about to have. Enjoy and have fun in front of the hometown crowd, superstar.” Their conversation is then cut short as Sarina is called out for driver introductions as the 10th place qualifier, with Chase following directly behind her as he qualified ninth. The pair then get into the same truck together before heading out for the lap around the track. “So much for worrying about not being able to see eac-”
“Sssh, take in the moment. Enjoy it. Look out to the crowd, see all the people, and enjoy the cheers.” She then glances out, before looking back at him.
“I’m guessing those are all for you superstar.” Chase knew that was probably the case in being home, however he seen a few that he knew for sure had to be for her.
“I wouldn’t say they’re all mine as have a look at that sign and t-shirt the little girl is wearing there. You’re inspiring a whole generation, Sarina.” She then glances towards the girl that Chase is pointing at, immediately smiling even more as she gives a wave directly in that direction, before looking back at Chase.
“That’s just an amazing feeling.” He smiles as he continues to wave to the crowd, while putting one hand on her shoulder.
“Enjoy it, sweetheart. You’re about to become a superstar.”
Following the race, she climbs out of the truck and lets out a sigh. It wasn’t the day that she envisioned, but at least she had come home with a solid finish.
While she had hoped to start off the race in a solid manner, she found herself sideways in the middle of three-wide, sliding down the banking of the track. She was able to get away without a lot of damage, though, restarting at the back of the pack easily for the restart. She then worked her way back towards the field, piece by piece, eventually crossing the line in 14th.
She glanced towards the scoring pylon, smiling at the fact that Christopher had won the race. From what she’d seen, he had a pretty fast truck all day.
She then notices Chase in fifth and couldn’t help but smile at that result as well, as she had seen him slowing with a tire issue during the first stage. She also remembered the point just after one of the restarts where the pair got to run side-by-side for position for a couple laps, with him eventually passing her with the quicker truck. She had to admit even getting beaten it was neat to have that quick moment during her series debut, and couldn’t wait till they raced again later on once she got to knows the trucks better.
She felt her heart gutted in seeing Kyle back in 26th as she knew that he had a fast truck as well, but saw the tire issue that he had on a late-race restart causing him to get up in the wall. Thankfully, she got down in the middle lane in time to not make contact as she went by.
“Solid debut,” she hears as Kyle walks over.
“Thanks,” she replies as she was pleased, but the small bit of rejection laced her voice. “I can’t believe I made that mistake on Lap 1. I mean, really?” He had heard from the team about the mistake that she had, but couldn’t be upset as he knew those would come with a rookie.
“You’re learning, Sarina. There’s going to be mistakes along the way. That right there was a lesson in positioning the truck, and what three-wide moves don’t work. As you make more moves, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. However, what matters is you were able to keep your head down, and focus on making a comeback, and were able to post a strong 14th place finish. For your very first truck series start, and on an intermediate track at that, you’ve impressed a lot of people including me.” She smiles as it felt nice to hear that compliment from Kyle, despite everything. Perhaps this racing thing was going to work out.
“Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“Now, you’ve got a month before the next race so I say you take this time and spend it wisely. Spend time with Chase, spend time with your brother, and relax. But also watch some videos from past Martinsville races, speak with the shop guys, and give me a shout for some advice. Knowing your short track background, I say you should do well there.” She hoped that he was right, as she had experience at Martinsville virtue of running some late races there and doing pretty well with a couple top-fives.
“Let’s hope it plays out, and again, thank you for the opportunity, the advice, and for everything that you’ve done. I mean, you’ve gone beyond what I ever expected, especially with what happ-”
“Sarina, you don’t need to go on with the thanks. It’s all part of looking out for my drivers and doing what I can so they have the best tools at their disposable to do well. If all this pays off in the form of success on track, than it’s good for you, good for me, and good for the whole company.”
“I’ll remember that.”