Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 74: Texas

Recall Kristen Gibbons from “Catfished,” which set up the premises of this story at first with a reference to Sarina there. The England talk is then based on post-race comments from Ryan on how Chase cancelled their off-weekend plans (hehe)

Chase glances over at Sarina as they walk through the pits together.

“I’m surprised that you’re here,” Chase comments as she looks at him, now more surprised than he could’ve been with his comment.

“Umm, what girlfriend doesn’t come support your boyfriend?” She questions as he just shakes his head, wrapping an arm around her.

“I meant with everything going on with your brother. You told me that our time would be delicate due to concerns there, remember?” She shakes her head yes, remembering the conversation now from when she surprised him at his parents.

“After seeing how happy we were together at Auto Club Speedway, he decided that it’d be a good idea to give us space and time to spend together. He says he’s comfortable with Bethany, the couple others around and the nurses. As long as I come see him at least once a week, he’s not complaining. I told him I’m spending Monday thru Thursday with him, and then giving my weekends to you.”

“I like the sounds of that.” Chase then gives her a quick kiss as they reach the stall.

“Well well, someone is in a great mood,” Alan comments with a smile. “Let’s hope that carries over to practice now.” Chase shakes his head in agreement. “Being new pavement, a lot of people are saying to be careful and easy for the first couple runs till we see how the grip level is.”

“Saving the qualifying run till the last 15 minutes then?” Alan shakes his head yes as Chase leans back against the car. “That works. I’ll be careful and just push it further slowly. Jimmie said it may be an issue especially with the goo that they laid down. He says normally it makes it grippy there, but evil everywhere else.”

“I don’t know why we need to have these pre-practice conversations anymore as you’re already talking to the right people.” He then glances at Sarina. “Just make sure you don’t distract my boy, okay?”

“Trust me –  I know there’s nothing that can distract him from the task at hand,” she smiles with a wink. “I tried that tactic plenty times before.”

“It just earned her a bump and run for the win,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“And yet you still persist to never let that go?” He shrugs his shoulders.

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

Sarina stood on top of the trailer with Alan and the guys, watching over practice. The concerns were warranted as there had been cars slipping throughout the session, including Kyle Busch hitting the wall with the rear of his car for some damage. She also watched Denny Hamlin spin around, slightly thankful the trucks were off this weekend as the track just seemed evil – if that was possible.

She listened as Alan discussed this being their first qualifying run of the session, that only increasing her nerves. With a qualifying run, it meant that Chase would be pushing the car that much harder, making that edge of control even smaller. She just hoped that the boundary between disaster and things being fine was respected.

She feels her nerves clutch in her throat as her breath clutches her throat, watching the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet slap the backstretch wall, before turning sideways and catching the inside wall. She then takes a deep breath, reminding herself how safe the cars were and the reasons not to worry. Normally, wrecks wouldn’t cause her to worry.

However, that was her boyfriend – and that presented a new worry that she hadn’t ever felt before.

“I’m okay,” she hears over the radio immediately from Chase. “Car is killed. Sorry guys.”

“10-4 We have a good back-up car, we’ll be fine,” Alan says as he climbs down the steps.

Sarina watches the guys go into a fury of motion, already beginning to unload the back-up car and put their plan in action to switch over for qualifying later on that day. She then lets out a sigh, opening the door to the trailer and going inside. She walks through, going into the lounge and sitting back on the couch.

She shakes her head, trying to shake the feeling that had come over her. She was never nervous at the track as everything just seemed natural there – it was always her escape from everything in her life.

However right now, she felt more shaken up by the feelings experienced in the past 10 minutes than ever. Why had she gotten nervous? It was just a small wreck, not a big hit to cringe over. She knew how safe the cars were, she heard his voice. Why was she feeling the nerves? Was that what love did to you, and was she ready to handle this every single week when they were racing at different tracks? Why had this come over her now and not at anytime last year, including his wreck in the 500?

She sits there quietly, lost in her thoughts, till she hears the door open, looking up to see Chase standing there with the arms of his firesuit tied around his waist.

“I was looking for you….” He says quietly as he walks over to her, sitting beside her. “Alan said you came in here.”

“I figured I’d just wait here for you till you got through medical and everything,” she lies, not wanting to reveal just how nervous she felt in that moment.

“You could’ve come over and met me there.” She had thought about that, but knew her shaken up emotions wouldn’t allowed her to easily make the trip over there. “You were worried, weren’t you?” She then looks up at him, intrigued by his comment. Was it that obvious? “I can read it on your face, in your eyes, the fact that you’re so quiet. That’s not like you, so I figure you were scared.”

“I shouldn’t be scared, though. I never get scared when someone wrecks at a race track, Chase. I know how well built these cars are and the types of hits drivers can get away with escaping any injuries. I’ve never felt that before.” She then glances away, trying to put her thoughts in perspective. “For the first time, I think I damn well realize just how much I bloody care about you and worry about you and everything.” She then looks back at him. “I really do love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then leans in and kisses her lips, lightly. “Listen, it’s okay to worry – that just means you care. Besides, weird things can happen. But I’m okay, perfectly fine, ready to go later today for quail-”

“Are you absolutely certain?” The double questioning caught him off-guard, but he easily accepted it. He knew that it was just nerves talking.

“I’ve been cleared to drive without any issues. I have no headache, or anything. I have no pain…”

“What about your ribs?” She then rubs his side as she scoots closer to him. “You just broke those about two months ago. What about the lingering effects or chance of re-injury that Greg mentio-”

“They don’t even hurt at all, Sarina. They haven’t hurt for a couple weeks. I’m fine.” He then wraps both arms around her, and pulls her close, holding her in a hug. “You can stop worrying about me. I’m fine.”

“I know…” She then lies her head against him, thankful more than ever that he had given her a second chance after everything.

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

Chase glances up as he watches Ryan walk over post-race, smile planted on his face. He had heard about the strong run Ryan had put in, dominating through the first half of the race before pit stop issues set him back late.

“So, are you ready for our English adventure?” Ryan questions as Chase freezes immediately. He had totally forgotten about their trip to England. “Oh no. You forgot about the trip, right? Gosh Chase, we spent months planning this.” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around. “I mean, it was our perfect off-weekend adventure plan. So you get a girlfriend and boom, you forget about your plans with the boy?”

“You also realize that a lot has happened in the past couple of months with Sarina, right?” Chase asks and Ryan shakes his head with a sigh. “I mean, I thought we had totally lost each other, and then the process of rekindling. To be honest, I’ve been ignoring a lot of things outside of us. It’s been mind focused on racing, or her, right now. I know it’s wrong because yes, you’re my best friend and I love spending time with you. But you have to understand with what’s going on.” Ryan lets out a sigh, knowing he couldn’t hold it against Chase that badly.

“So what am I supposed to do now?” Chase thinks it over, smiling as he gets an idea.

“What about going with Bubba?” Ryan shakes his head no, having spoken to Darrell lately.

“He has plans already, Chase.” Chase thinks it over, getting another idea.

“What about Kristen Gibbons? After the whole deal came out, her father has finally laid back and let you both talk about things candidly without issues.” Ryan knew it was a good thought, but saw immediate red flags.

“Dude – she’s 14. Can you imagine if I go ask her father to take her around the world and what he’ll think? Heck, what about everybody els-”

“Who cares what they think, Ryan? Do their thoughts really matter? Besides, her father would understand that you just want to give her a fun time away. It’d be a good way to get her outside of all the chaos and crap that she deals with. I don’t see how this would be an issue.” Ryan knew that Chase was probably right, but still didn’t feel right about going to England with this girl.

“You know I’m probably going to wait till the next off-weekend and then damn well make you promise that you’ll come with me. Deal?” Chase lets out a sigh as he thinks it over. That’d give him a couple months to make sure things with Sarina were on even footing, and they’d be at the point of needing some time away from each other of their own. Besides, she could spend the weekend with her brother and Bethany without a worry.

“Deal.”

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