Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 105: Coke Zero 400

Saturday, July 1

 

Chase walks out to pit road, sunglasses affixed on his face, as he makes his way by his fellow competitors.

If he wasn’t so hard on himself about commitment, he probably would’ve stayed locked in the motorcoach till everything shook itself out with how he was feeling.

Once he had finished the conversation with Sarina, he met up with the team for a discussion about the race that day. The conversation wasn’t needed – but it was a good distraction for him to have. He went through the sponsor appearances, and then forced himself to eat something as he knew racing on an empty stomach would not go well at all.  He retreated back to the motorcoach, hiding out as he waited for a text or something from Sarina, making sure to head out to pit road just before start time.

Now following his introduction, he was hoping it’d just be a matter of minutes before he was in his own world strapped in the car.

“Chase!” He hears, stopping and rolling his eyes immediately as he turns in the direction of the voice. He could only roll them again as he noticed it was Kyle Busch making his way over. “Dude, have you seen Chris at all today?” Chase shakes his head no. “Damn. I heard there’s an arrest warrant out for him?”

“Ryan says that Chris poisoned him,” Chase states, knowing it was just a matter of time before the truth came out. Like Ryan had done the good duty in warning him, he had done the good duty in warning Kyle with him being Sarina’s boss. “Combined with Jared’s comment, it’s added up to enough for a warrant.”

“Sarina wouldn’t say much, but I thought that was the case. I haven’t seen him either, and truthfully, she hasn’t seen him as she’s been hanging around Christopher and I all day.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that had to be a great combination as nothing like hearing another round of Bell worries. “She went looking for her brother, and couldn’t find him, so she found us instead. We convinced her that we’d help look, but also watch just because.”

“Glad you had better luck than I did.” Chase knew he shouldn’t say too much, but as he took off his glasses to truly face Kyle, he knew it was worth saying. “Look, I went to her after Ryan told me and flat out told her what I thought. I said what Ryan said, and I said how I agreed based on the facts. She wasn’t too pleased, denied it entirely, was mad at me for that and walked out.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“She had told me you guys had a disagreement about it…” Chase knew that was putting it mildly.

“Kyle, I love her. I really do love her and I want to spend as much time as I can possibly muster with her. I want to see us work this out and everything be fine for us. I know I was a little over baring in what I said, but it’s how I felt. Just promise me that you’ll keep an eye out for her, please.” Kyle shakes his head, accepting. He could see the emotions in Chase’s eyes as he told him.

“I will, without a doubt. None of this is her fault or your fault. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way back together. Good luck.” Chase smiles, glad there was an understanding. It felt better to be on the same page this time around, unlike last time.

“Thanks Kyle, and same to you.” He then puts his sunglasses back on, continuing the long walk down pit road to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat on the pole.

He then leans back against it, easily doing the required pre-race interviews without much emotion showing through. He then accepted a photo opportunity with the boss, Dale and Amy, though kept quiet the whole time. Alan had picked up on the events that had taken place, silently assuring the young man that he had his back.

Standing there for the anthem, Chase had to admit that it felt lonely standing there without a hand to hold onto from Sarina. It even felt worse climbing in the car without a kiss, yet knowing she was somewhere on the property.

Once buckled in the car with the window net up, he takes a deep breath and focuses his eyes forward. He couldn’t think about Chris anymore. He couldn’t think about Sarina anymore. It was time for him to win a race tonight.

As the field pulls off pit road, Sarina sat up near the top of the grandstands with Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland. She affixed her headset on, tuning it to listen into Chase’s radio transmission. She was mad at him, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t care as she wanted to see him have a good, fun, safe night. She also held her phone tightly to her, trying her brother’s number every 15 minutes in hopes that he’d surface; it was very concerning to not know where he was. She was actually surprised the police let her go after a half hour of questioning.

“Be aggressive like you were in February all night,” Alan tells Chase over the radio and Sarina smiles. She’d have no problem with Chase putting himself in the same position as he did in the 500, but with a win this time around.

“Yes sirey bob,” Chase replies, which earns a small chuckle from Sarina.

The race started off well with Chase solidly running up front through the first stage without any problems. He also started off stage two well, putting himself in solid position. Sometimes he right at the front of the pack, and sometimes he started to fade back a little – it was all about putting yourself in the right lane.

As the second stage drew closer towards the end, the pack continued to close up more and more and chaos seemed to be happening more with nerves on edge. Contact was happening through the field as everybody seemed to want to bump draft. Going down the backstretch, trapped on the bottom lane, Chase felt a bump from behind, followed by the car going sideways as he went sliding through the grass. He managed to gather it up without a lot of damage, but felt frustration immediately in knowing who had turned him.

“That damn 95 (Michael McDowell) wrecks me one more time…..Damn it,” he starts off on the radio. “What in the hell is that MFer’s problem man? That is the biggest dumbass I’ve seen in my life. That dumbass can’t drive a wooden screw. Damn it.” Alan takes a deep breath, surprised at how quickly Chase went off as that certainly wasn’t like their driver. However, he understood that some of that frustration certainly wasn’t directed right at McDowell.

“We got a long way to go here, calm down and get back into it,” Alan instructs over the radio as he sits back on the pit box.

“Not much damage at all – maybe splitter a little,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt reports from his vantage point as Alan looks towards the crew, knowing that they had to put a game plan in action so they could fight back through the second half.

“Alan,” Alan hears after feeling a tap on his shoulder. He slips the headset off, looking over at Josh. “Is everything okay with Chase? I mean, he normally doesn’t flip that bad.” Alan could only let out a sigh.

“You’ve heard about the arrest warrant for Chris, right?” Alan questions, making sure not to cue the radio by accident as the car chief shakes his head yes. “Well, how would you feel if your girlfriend’s brother poisoned your best friend? Let’s just say that they had a little bit of a fight.”

“Do you think they’re going to work it out?” Alan shrugs his shoulders, as he wasn’t exactly sure. He believed in them, though, and had hopes that they’d be back to their usual togetherness next weekend at Kentucky.

“We’ll see. Right now, though, we have a race to focus on.” Josh shakes his head yes as he puts his headset back on, watching as the pit crew goes to work to fix the damage.

The second half of the race went smoother as Chase found his way out of trouble, working his way back to the top-10 to run 11th with three laps to go. However, all their hard work did not pan out as he would get spun just past the overtime line, resulting in a 22nd-place finish.

With the race over, Chase made his way back to the garage, parking the car in front of the hauler and climbing out. He shakes his head in disbelief as he glances back at it, before looking towards the guys heading his way.

“You did what you needed to do behind the wheel,” Josh says as he walks over first, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Nothing you can do about rotten luck and circumstance here.”

“I know – I just hate it because we had a good car,” Chase comments as he lets out a sigh.

“We’ll get them in Kentucky. Good effort, considering.” Chase shakes his head as he walks by the rest of the guys, giving them each a quick high-five or shoulder pat, before coming face-to-face with Alan.

“Relax, take a deep breath, and chill,” Alan tells him quietly. “I know you have a shit ton of bullshit going on right now. It’s going to work out, if it’s meant to be. Just don’t do something you regret.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Did they find him?” Chase wonders, referring to Sarina’s brother and Alan shakes his head yes. “Did he take it easily?” Alan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s good. Have you seen Sarina?”

“One of Kyle’s guys came and told me that she went with her brother for support.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“She still doesn’t believe it….” Alan then watches Chase closely.

“Would you believe it, in her shoes?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Like I said, don’t do something you’ll regret. Let her stand by him and do what she needs to do. Everything is going to come out and then afterwards, if it’s meant to be, you’ll find each other again.” Chase knew that Alan was right.

“I know…” Chase then heads up into the hauler, stopping at the fridge on the way by.

On Friday, he had grabbed his usual bottle of juice and placed it in the hauler so that way it was there to drink when he wanted it. Considering that he didn’t get thirsty yesterday, it was still there.

Taking off the cap, he takes a mouthful and lets it go down his throat as he lets out a sigh. He was sweaty and hot, but it was nice to have something cold to cool himself off, and hopefully find some sort of relaxation.

With the bottle in hand, he heads up to the lounge in the hauler, lying back on the couch as he takes a couple more sips. He figured he could chill out there for awhile, waiting to see how things shook out, before actually getting ready to head home.

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