Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 97: Michigan

Sunday, June 18

Chase wakes up the next morning, getting himself some breakfast.

Remembering how well practice went and how last year was, confidence seemed to come easy that morning. They just had to put together a solid 400 miles and perhaps today would be the day.

He was focused on eating his breakfast when he heard a knock at the door.

He gets up and walks over, half-expecting his parents. That would’ve been fine with him, considering it was father’s day and there was nothing wrong with seeing them anytime.

Though when he opens the door, he sees Alan standing there, catching him off-guard. They hadn’t agreed to any pre-race meeting.

“Good morning,” he says as he lets the crew chief in with ease.

“Morning,” Alan replies simply as he walks inside. He then sits on the couch as Chase walks by him to where his plate sat on the table. “Whatcha eating?”

“Bacon, eggs, toast and some orange juice. I would’ve made you some if you would’ve told me you were coming.” Alan chuckles, having grown used to some of their pre-race breakfast meetings. It was always a good weekend when they avoided those as that meant no last minute discussions.

“Sorry for the surprise visit. I actually came by because something came to my attention this morning, courtesy of Jared.” Chase then looks over, curious. It was never good when the crew members brought something to their chief’s attention.

“So why are we starting at the back this week then?” Alan looks on surprised by the response.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the racecar, actually.” Chase was now even more confused. First the surprise meeting, followed by a finding by a crew member. “Do you remember when Bubba passed out last week during his post-race interview?”

“He was dehydrated, pissed at himself. I texted him later on to see how he was.” Alan shakes his head, surprised at how underwraps it had been kept.

“Welcome to your latest incident under the poison investigation. Jared said they pulled him for more questioning on whether he recognized anybody that was seen around the RPM pit or Bubba post-race with drinks that had been around him a couple weeks ago.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief.

“No way….” Alan shakes his head yes. “You’d think Bubba would’ve said something, considering he knows one of my crew members had been affected already.”

“It seems as though NASCAR and Richard Petty Motorsports wanted to keep it under wraps. You want to see the headlines when it gets out that a driver was poisoned? Hello paranoia 101, especially considering all the headlines about him going into the weekend.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, as he had seen the comments already by people on social media. He wished people could just leave the racism behind them, and get with the 21st century.

“Well, they are doing a good job at it…” Alan watches Chase carefully as he notices the young man thinking. “What?”

“Speak, please….” Chase lets out a sigh.

“Christopher Bell mentioned to Kyle that Sarina’s brother has been at the track every time something has happened. They flew in for Sunday’s race once she was done racing at Texas. Again, it’s another time that it checks out. Plus, we still can’t place him for that one time remember.” Alan crosses his arms.

“So you’re starting to believe the theory more and more based on what he told you that day, which you haven’t told me yet, and coincidence? Just by chance, have you said anything to Sarina?” Chase shakes his head no immediately.

“What evidence do I have to go by? She’ll think that it’s coming completely from left field, that I’m paranoid, and shoot it back in my face. Heck, I might as well kiss the progress that I’ve made away.” Alan knew there was a good chance of that, but he couldn’t let his own guard down.

“And what if something happens to you, or this gets outta control? I mean, we’ve been alright so far with everybody being fine. But what if the worse happens?” Chase knew there was a chance of that, but he wasn’t changing his approach.

“Right now, I believe that it is my own paranoia just because of what happened and the fact that I can never trust him, ever. However, if there’s any sign of evidence, I will be the first one to be knocking at her door.” Alan shakes his head in agreement. It seemed like a good plan. “Now, can we focus on today?”

“Of course. We have some goals to accomplish, right?” Chase smiles and shakes his head yes.

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

Sarina takes a deep breath as she looks into the graveyard. She clutches the rose to her chest, taking another deep breath, before walking forward. She slowly walks down the walkaway, hearing the footsteps in toe. It had been last minute, but she was glad that she had company.

“Thank you for coming,” she whispers quietly as she looks back over her shoulder at Marcus.

“It’s not a problem,” he replies as he pats her shoulder lightly, before giving her some space. “Your brother didn’t want to come?” She shakes her head no.

“In his mind, my father caused his own problems and only made my brother’s life worse.” She shakes her head as she stops, glancing down at her feet. “He could be further from the truth, actually. He was trying to help him, even if he went about it the wrong way.”

“Take your time. I’ll stand here and just watch over, or come closer if you want. I can give you a hug, hear you out. Whatever you need, Sarina.” She shakes her head, accepting, as she takes another careful deep breath. She then makes her way onto the grass, walking up to the stone as she places the rose on top.

“Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Just like every other year, I’m here to say the same thing – I miss you, and wish you were here with me every day. You always my inspiration, and the reason why I think I took the chaotic life that I did. I wish you were here to see where I am now, and watch me drive for someone as amazing as Kyle. Heck, I wish you could meet Chase. I know you were always a Darrell Waltrip fan and wanted him to wreck Bill one night, but heck – his kid turned out amazing.” Marcus couldn’t help but chuckle at that comment.

“So your dad wasn’t the biggest Elliott fan?” She shakes her head.

“He was one of those ones that desired the crazier personalities, like Waltrip. Maybe that’s why I’m a little hard-headed and stubborn sometimes, just like him.” Sarina stops, taking a deep breath. “I miss you. I hope you’re proud of me. I wish you were here. Thank you for everything….” She then turns around, wiping a stray from her eyes. She then keeps walking, feeling her legs to start to give out. Marcus instantly reaches out, grabbing her and pulling her close.

“Ssssh, it’s okay. I’ve got you….” He keeps her held close as he rubs her back. “I’ve got you….”

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

Chase unlocks the door, walking in the house and shutting it behind him. He slips his shoes off as he sets his phone on the table.

It had been a solid day, capped off with another runner-up finish. While he wanted to be disappointed, he couldn’t be as they finished better than they ran all day, and that’s all you could ask for. He knew if they kept working at it, his day would come.

He looks into the living room, smiling as he sees her curled up on the couch. Marcus had texted him earlier about their quick trip to New York. He makes his way into the living room, grabbing the blanket off of the other chair, and slipping it over her.

“Chase?” She says a little groggy, looking up at him. “Hey babes…”

“Hey,” he replies as she sits up. “How are you?” She then lets out a sigh as she looks around the room.

“How long have I been sleeping for?” He shrugs his shoulders, showing her what time it was. “Wow, five hours. I was going to watch the recording of the race and then I just zonked out.” He sits down beside her, wrapping an arm around her.

“It’s okay. I understand. Emotionally drained, it happens. Don’t fret. You didn’t miss much. I just finished second to Kyle Larson.” She then grabs his hand, rubbing it as she leans against him.

“Your day will come….” He looks into her eyes.

“I don’t care about that right now. All I care about is you. I totally forgot about how you would be feeling today, and I hate that. I’m sorry. I should’ve texted or called you, or something….” She shakes her head.

“I didn’t want to mess up your focus today, and it’s fine. You’re here now, and that’s what matters. I love you.” She leans in and kisses his lips.

“I love you, too. Wanna go upstairs?” She shakes her head yes as she gets up and follows him up the stairs.

“Can we just cuddle and watch a movie?” He spins around and smiles.

“That was my plan. I have someone you should meet – Chase Race-a lot.” She then looks on surprised.

“Oh really? Is he cute?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Wait, how do you have Cars 3 already?” Chase smiles as he pulls the DVD out of his bag, and places it on the bed.

“There’s perks to be one of the stars of the movie. Now, are you ready to see my staring role?” She then rolls her eyes as she flops back in the bed.

“Sure, but I heard that Inside Laney is cooler.” Chase rolls his eyes as he pops the movie in, before slipping his shirt off and climbing in the bed with her. He pulls her close, keeping her cuddled in his arms, as they take in the move together.

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