Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 69: Auto Club 400

Throughout the whole weekend, things had gone smoothly.

The first practice on Friday wasn’t as good as he hoped, but he pulled off a decent qualifying effort. He also couldn’t complain about the valuable time that he got to spend with Sabrina. The pair caught each other up on what they’d missed, including Chris’ recovery and Chase’s west coast adventures with Ryan and Darrell. They also discussed some future ideas in relation to the late model program, having confidence everything was back together there.

On Saturday, everything started off awesome. He had a great first practice, and started off the second practice just as well. Though something broke going into the corner, resulting in contact with the wall and ending the day early as the team needed to make repairs. Letting out a sigh as he stood in the garage, you could say it affected his mood for the rest of the day.

“Are you okay?” He heard amongst the commotion from Alan and simply shook his head yes. He knew the crew chief’s reason for asking, knowing of the prior rib injury. However, besides a little tick of pain here and there, everything was healed – thankfully.

While he was set to be bummed out for most of the day, Sabrina was able to pick up his mood a little with some more quality time spent together. They traded jokes back and forth, playing a couple video games throughout the afternoon. She double checked before leaving if everything was still okay for Sunday, and he simply shook his head yes as she headed off.

Getting up on Sunday, Chase went through his usual motions – breakfast, shower, get ready and head out. He attended the list of sponsor appearances that were in place, followed by the driver’s meeting.

He and Sabrina hadn’t set any particular meeting time to cross paths, as she had told him she wanted to show Bethany and her brother the sights. All she had promised is that she’d come see him before the race, as well as standing with him for the national anthem.

Once the driver’s meeting was complete, he retreated back to the trailer to spend a bit of time with the team before getting changed in his driver’s suit. As he was getting changed, he received a text and simply smiled, before sending back a response. She had kept her promise.

He made his way out of the lounge, working his way through the trailer and out the front door. He smiled as he saw her walk over, followed by Bethany and Chris. While he had been a little nervous Thursday about having some ill-feelings towards her brother, he felt nothing creeping in as they walked closer to them.

“Hey Chase,” Sabrina walks over, immediately pulling him into a hug and giving him a quick kiss. “I’d like you to meet my cousin Bethany, and well, you know my brother Chris.”

“It’s great to meet you both,” he simply says as he shakes both their hands. He had to admit it was awkward with Chris, especially having attached his face with an another identity, one that had intentions to kill him and tried a couple different times. However, it was a thought he was able to quickly wipe from his mind, reminding himself of the trail of events.

“Sabrina raves about you a ton and I can see why,” Bethany comments as Chase could only smile with a glance towards Sabrina. “Although I have a feeling we’ve met before.” He then looked back at her, thinking back through the memory bank before smiling.

“Winchester. I came over to see Sabrina to talk to her casually, and you chased me away because she was busy with the car and you thought I was distracting her.” He then looks over at Sabrina. “Except the truth was she distracted me every week.” Sabrina could only laugh as she wraps an arm around Chase’s waist.

“Let’s just say that the feeling was mutual a couple weekends,” she tells him. “My crew chief about shot me a couple times for that, too. But yet when it came on track, I just put out of my mind how amazingly cute you were.”

“So that’s why you gave me the bump and run at Nashville.” She shakes her head yes, remembering that win fondly.

“I was racing for everything that I had so I could make it – you just got in my way.” He knew that they could laugh now, but he remembered just how mad he was with her post-race that afternoon.

“Chase, I’m sorry,” a new voice chimed into the discussion as Chase glanced towards her brother. The apology was unexpected, totally random, but felt nice to hear the words spoken out loud. “I feel bad. I hurt you. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry. I wasn-”

“Chris, you don’t need to say anything else,” Chase cuts him off. He had heard the apology that he knew his brain wanted for everything that happened; he didn’t need to push the kid into rambling for no reason. “Sabrina explained everything – from childhood to adulthood to the tumor. I get that there was a lot going on. I’m willing to let it go and pretend nothing happened. But, I do appreciate the apology.”

“Thank you.” Sabrina smiled as she glanced between them, actually surprised how easily things were going.

“It’s nice to see you here, actually. Glad that you’re getting better. Having fun?” Chris shakes his head yes.

“Lots to see, lots to do. Sabrina showing everything. Seeing inside Kyle’s car was cool.” Chase smiles as he was glad that they were having fun.

“That’s great. Perhaps one week you could come out and cheer your sister on.” Chris shakes his head yes.

“Chase, do we need to call security?” Chase hears and turns to his PR rep. “I mean, if I’m not mistaken, doesn’t he fit the descript-”

“Morgan, stop,” he tells his PR rep as he looks straight at her. “It is who you think it is, but you don’t need to worry. It was as a result of some other things going on in his life, but he’s sorted those out. Stop worrying. I’m fine. Just focus on your job.” Morgan didn’t know if she felt as comfortable as Chase did, but that didn’t matter to her anyway.

“Well speaking of my job, you need to be at the stage for introductions in like 10 minutes. Ready?” He then lets out a sigh and shakes his head yes.

“It was nice catching up, but I got to go. See you by the car?” Sabrina smiles and shakes her head yes before giving Chase a quick kiss. Chase then heads off with Morgan, set for the next step in the pre-race festivities.

“Are you sure about him?” Chase then looks at Morgan a little puzzled, though understood the concerns.

“It was easy talking to him and spending time with him, knowing everything that I know – which trust me, you’d understand if you knew the whole story.” Chase then takes a deep breath, knowing he had to be honest about it though. “I will admit that it doesn’t feel absolutely comfortable, and perfect family mesh situation. I wouldn’t want to be alone with him right now as that’d feel off. But this is baby steps, and it’s progress, and I feel fine with what I’ve done so far.”

“As long as you’re staying safe, that’s all that matters to me.” Chase knew that as he gave her a smile.

“You don’t have to worry, Morgan.” As she watched him head into the crowd of fellow drivers, she couldn’t help but let out a sigh. She just hoped that his judgment was right about Chris’ character, having seen what he went through last year and knowing the piercing eyes of Cindy.

***********************

Chase leaned back against the car, post-race. They had ran in the top-five throughout the entire race, but an ill-timed strategy call by Alan put them behind the eight-ball. From there, they were able to make it work for a 10th place finish.

“We knew we didn’t have the fastest car,” Chase starts as he looks over at Alan. “So you tried something to get us out front. Sometimes those calls work, and sometimes they don’t. If there’s no caution, we could’ve been in the catbird seat. Don’t sweat it. It happens. We still fought back for another good finish, and we’ll move on and get ourselves a clock next week.” Alan smiles as he was glad to hear the pep talk from his driver.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I’m sorry it didn’t work,” Alan comments. Chase knew the crew chief felt bad, but he couldn’t fault him for trying – same as Alan couldn’t fault Chase when he tried something on track. They were a team – you win together, and you lose together.

“Nice job today,” they hear as Bethany walks over, followed by Chris. “You were up there all day – even leading some laps. You’re amazing out there.”

“Not as amazing as Kyle (Larson), but I guess I’m alright,” he replies with a smile. “Did you enjoy the race?”

“It was a memorable experience and I can’t wait to go to another one.” He then looks over at Sabrina as she comes over, wrapping an arm around her.

“I say you should bring your family out for the All-Star weekend. They can see you kick some ass at Charlotte and then watch me on Saturday.” Sabrina shook her head in agreement, knowing how fun that weekend normally was having attended last year with Chase. She also knew it’d work out with Chris’ schedule as he should be released and allowed to travel as much as he wanted as of mid-April.

“She doesn’t have to go behind your back and ask Kyle (Busch) this time?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no. “Well then I’d say we made progress.”

“Wait – Sabrina had to ask Kyle for credentials for her family, not you?” Alan questions as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Let’s just say that there were some nerves about the situation, so she wasn’t sure of how to approach me,” he comments as Alan shakes his head understanding, his eyes catching Chris. The crew chief wasn’t quite sure what to say yet. How do you just forget everything that happened in the span of a year? He still remembered the fear he felt when he heard about the plane crash initially. “Do you think that’s a good idea, Chris?”

“Great idea,” he answers as Chase smiles. It was still awkward conversation – only small comments back and forth, but it was baby steps. It was further than he thought they’d get initially.

“I’ll be sure to make sure Morgan has you both squared away for the weekend – unless you do want to go through Kyle.” Sabrina shrugged her shoulders. As long as they were there, what did it matter?

“We’ll see how it goes as I know you guys always have a lot of people at the race there,” Sabrina says as Chase simply agrees.

The pair hung out on pit road a little longer, before Sabrina headed off with Bethany & Chris in toe to go find Kyle and say thank you for the weekend.

“Are you sure everything is okay there?” Alan questions as he looks over at Chase.

“Yeah,” Chase answers as he looks over at the crew chief. “We’re pretty much back to where we were, and I can handle her brother.” Alan smiles as it was nice to see, knowing how much it seemed Chase cared for her.

“My only worry is when the potential for her to stab you in the back comes up, again. How do you make sure the trust is there?” Chase knew the question, having heard the same from his father already. However, he wasn’t ready to worry about that.

“She knows how much she hurt me when she lied to me. I know why she lied to me – the fear, paranoia, everything that was happening in her life. We’ve got the foundation now that we didn’t have then. It won’t happen again, Alan.” Alan shook his head, believing Chase as he heard the confidence in the young man’s voice.

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