Friday, June 30
With a mostly quiet day on deck, Chase was surprised when he found himself up earlier than normal. However, perhaps that was because he had a lot on his mind.
After making a quick note for Sarina, he headed out off on a bike ride, hoping that it would clear his head.
Sarina’s brother had been something of discussion for the young man for awhile now – whether apprehension, fear, concern. As he rode down the hill towards the beach, he wondered why that concern seemed to grow more than he had hoped. Perhaps that was because the theory had continued to wrap around his mind over and over.
He debated with himself whether it was circumstance, or whether there was something to go with based on the discussion with Alan. He even thought about calling Jared to see what he truly had to say about Chris’ possible involvement.
He wondered as to whether Sarina could trust her brother, or perhaps she was letting her love and care for him overshadow what was right before them. Did he completely lie to her face without her knowing?
As he reached the beach, getting off the bike for a bit to dip his toes in the water, he could only let out a sigh. Why did it seem not a single question he asked himself had an answer to it? Why were the simplest things in life becoming so complicated now?
Perhaps it was because the things that Chris said at different times made it even more confusing. If he was set to move forward and regret what happened, why did he rehash the topic with Sarina? If he was glad to have his sister back in his life sincerely, why was he pushing her towards doing something she didn’t want to do?
“They’ve tried to fix me, but they never will.” “You can change your name, but you can’t leave behind your past.” “You’re trying to simply leave your family behind, because now you’re wrapped up in your new family. It’s a defensive mechanism in an effort to protect yourself from nothing.”
It seemed each comment that flew out of the guy’s mouth took up Chase’s thoughts, as he tried to dissect what was happening. Maybe it was just his concern and worry – could you blame him? But what if it was something more? He crossed his fingers and toes that wasn’t the case, as he didn’t want to waltz right into another trap.
Getting back on the bike, he had done nothing to clear the thoughts in his mind. However, there was no more time left to worry as he rode back to the track, set for a fun day. A qualifying session, followed by hanging out with Sarina, and then watching the XFINITY race should be make things interesting.
Sarina woke up sitting in the bed all alone, surprised by Chase’s note. Normally, he would wake her up and ask if she wanted to come. But yet today, instead, she got left with a note.
Letting out a sigh as she kicked the blankets off the bed, she could only wonder as to why. She grabs a towel before heading into the bathroom, turning on the water.
Standing on the hot water, her mind drifts back to the conversation the day before.
She found herself repeating the words from Christopher in her head over and over, wondering if maybe she had jumped the gun in yelling at him. It wasn’t like Christopher was the only suspicious person, supposedly, so maybe she could’ve given him benefit of the doubt for the warning. Instead, she had put her back up against the wall and flipped out on him. Wasn’t that always her defense mechanism?
She recalled the conversation with her brother, and how he denied the accusations. There was nothing in his words to tell her otherwise so she believed him. However, the comment on families still drew to her thoughts. Why would he release something like that? It kind of went along with the odd comment a week ago. Letting out a sigh, it was probably just him and his regrets for what happened on his part. She knew, whether he admitted it or not, there were some on his side of things.
She recalled the conversation with Chase, and how he paused in hearing a comment from her. He pushed it off as just being focused on a tweet – which was probably the case. However, the pause was certainly at an odd time and made her focus back to the comment.
She begins to wash the soap out of her hair, knowing that at this time she should be enjoying life. She was getting the opportunity she dreamed of, had a great boyfriend, and was in Florida for a vacation. What more could she ask for? However, instead, she found herself caught in her thoughts.
Climbing out of the shower and drying herself off, she knew she had to just let everything go. The key to moving forward was to always not focus on your regrets, but learn from those and focus on the future. Rather than mulling over these thoughts, why wasn’t she focusing on the fun day she was about to have?
A glance at the time, and Chase knew he had to be out to pit road soon. With his fingers firmly holding onto Sarina’s hand, the pair made their way out and walked down to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat. A glance at each other, words didn’t need to be said. It was Daytona qualifying – sometimes you end up well, sometimes you don’t. It didn’t matter end of the day, though, because of the nature of the beast. This was just a formality in laying down laps.
“I’ll be back,” Sarina comments as she gives him a quick kiss before letting go of his hand. He looks on confused, but easily accepts as he knew that she’d do this normally. She had her own life and people to see, and probably had spotted someone. He watches her walk away, immediately rolling his eyes and freezing up a little as he notices her walking in Christopher’s direction. Given their debacle yesterday, he wasn’t too excited about what could happen next.
“I don’t want to talk to you if you’re going to yell at me again,” Christopher comments as he rolls his eyes. She could only take a deep breath, remembering her morning shower thoughts.
“I actually came to apologize,” she starts, causing him to look at her surprised. “I may have snapped on you a little too quickly. Sure, you were wrong to accuse my brother of something, and sure you shouldn’t kept your big mouth shut. But that said, you were just trying to warn me of what others were saying as a friend, teammate watching out for me. I should’ve given you that benefit.” Christopher shakes his head accepting, having wished that apology would’ve went a little different though.
“Like I said, I understood that you’d probably flip on me and be really upset. It’s the nature of the topic, right?” She shakes her head, in agreement.
“I’m not used to people caring about me and doing what’s right, thanks to just how everything has played out. The only person who came close to that was my father, and well…..I’d rather not discuss that. It’s why it took me a while to open up to Chase and accept him and our love together. It’s why I’m still a little hesitant around Kyle, Marcus, and talking about things that are personal. I guess what I’m trying to say as I shouldn’t have let my fears control how I reacted to you.”
“It’s okay. All is forgiven. I just like having you as a teammate, and think you’re a great person. I don’t want you to get screwed over or hurt because of something. Hence why I brought it up so you know what’s being said, and also watch a little.” She shook her head, accepting. It was the same thing that others had mentioned about her brother, too. She got the feeling based on Chase’s quietness at times, too.
“I appreciate that, and I will keep in mind what you said accordingly.” Christopher thanked himself for that as he knew any eyes on Chris were better than none.
The pair of teammates went back and forth for a bit, though all while keeping their eyes on the on-track action. It was no surprise when Chase made the final round of time trials, as he had done that at Daytona and Talladega earlier this year. Crossing her fingers, maybe it’d be nice to walk away with a pole today to put everything else in the rearview for a bit.
The final round seemed like it took forever, watching each car make two laps around the 2.5-mile oval, laying down the best lap that they could. Perhaps it was the anticipation that made it seem longer. Though as the checkered flag waved, there were no sad faces to be seen. Chase hadn’t gotten the pole, but he was set to start second in the race tomorrow night.
“Oops, I think I went a tick slower than I should have,” Chase commented as he walked up to Dale. “I just wanted to make sure you got a pole. You need to come run the Clash next year.” Dale then chuckles, remembering the comment he made about a possible comeback for the non-points show if he got a pole. There was no way to gauge speed and make sure he was slower than Dale to give him a pole, but it was worth a fun little kickback considering the chaos started yesterday.
“So you let me have that one?” Dale questions as Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I thought you said you wouldn’t be the guy to let anyone win.”
“That remains true for tomorrow night. Nice job, by the way.”
“Thank you.” Chase then heads down pit road, meeting up with Sarina as he gives her a quick kiss before they head out.
“Hopefully the rain stays away and we can enjoy our date night together.” She smiles as she cuddles up close to him through their walk, both smiling. It seemed every thought from earlier in the morning had escaped them in the simple bliss of spending time together.
The pair went back to the motorcoach, grabbing a bite to each together, before making their way out once again. They crossed the track, climbing up to their seats in the grandstands, set for a fun race that evening.
“I don’t get why you come up here to watch one of these races when you could be anywhere you want,” she comments as she looks over at him.
“It just brings me back to where I started,” Chase replies as he looks over at her. “It reminds me of my beginnings, why I got into this to begin with, and how fun it is. Besides, there’s no bad seat at Daytona to watch a race from.” She couldn’t help but agree with that statement, having tried a couple different spots during February Speedweeks.
“Well, you can always count on me to join you as you always pick good spots to sit.” He smiles as he wraps an arm around the back of her.
“I’m a trained professional, that’s why.” She then simply smiles as he snags a quick kiss as the cars head off pit road.
The pair got to enjoy the first 32 laps of the event from their seats, taking in the thrills with some cheers and some frustrated sighs. Chase found himself cheering for William Byron, impressed with how the young man had began to move forward after starting at the back. He also focused on the other JR Motorsports cars, seeing the same powerfulness in Elliott Sadler as always, placing bets that he’d probably win later on.
“Nah, it’s going to be Willy B!” Sarina had declared instead, causing a smile to form on Chase’s face. He couldn’t deny the youngster was talented.
Unfortunately, the pair did not get to watch the entire race as the skies opened, soaking them both through before they could get to cover and postponing the rest of the race till Saturday morning.
“I’d offer you a coat or something to keep you dry, but I’m just as wet,” Chase comments as they head down the steps together.
“What do you say we head back to the motorcoach, each get something dry and then watch a movie?” She questions, knowing how much of a movie buff he was. She had gotten her hands on “Drone,” which wasn’t supposed to be out for another couple of days. Knowing how much he liked a good action thriller, she hoped that it’d suit his fantasy that night.
“I’d have no problem with that, actually. It’ll feel nice to get out of these wet clothes.” The pair then head through the tunnel together, laughing as their feet sloshed in their shoes from how soaked they had gotten.
“I look like a drowned rat!” Chase chuckles as they continue running together.
“But you’re my cute drowned rat!” Sarina just rolls her eyes as she kicks a puddle of water at him. “Hey!” He then scoops her up in his arms, threatening to drop her in the puddle.
“Chase…no….Chase….” He just laughs as he lowers her a little bit more towards the puddle, though tips her back right side up before letting her go.
The pair continued laughing all the way back to the motorcoach, before entering together. Chase then takes his phone out of his pocket, drying it off as he sets it on the counter. He removes his t-shirt, which was clanged to his body being so wet, as he glances down at the phone and notices the three missed calls and nine text messages – certainly not normal for him.
He picks the phone up, seeing two of the calls came from Ryan Blaney while another came from his crew chief. He then opens the text message, seeing three from Ryan, three from his crew chief, one from Bubba, and two others he wasn’t set to place yet.
He opens the three from Ryan, curious as to why it seemed the young man had completely panicked on him.
“What the heck?” He questions, catching Sarina’s attention as she walks out of the bathroom from ringing out her hair. “Oh shit…” He then hurries past Sarina without a word, slipping off his soaked jeans for a pair of dry ones and grabbing the first t-shirt out of the drawer.
“What’s wrong?” She asks as she could see the panic on his face.
“Ryan was poisoned.” Her jaw drops immediately as she watches Chase grab another pair of running shoes out of the closet.
“I’m coming with you…” She then grabs her flip flops, slipping them on as she grabs the umbrella out of the closet.