Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 129: Axaltra Pocono 400

Sunday, July 30 – Pocono Raceway

 

Chase lets out a sigh as he glances out the window of the motorcoach, tapping his finger on the window ledge. It seemed odd to be sitting there just a couple of hours before the race, but he had no choice in the matter this weekend.

He knew his body was still overcoming everything he put himself through the prior weekend. The fact that he woke up feeling a little sick that morning, combined with the random muscle spasm while getting dressed, were clear reminders. Well, that was if the pills he taking weren’t enough already.

He knew he made the decision to come that weekend to support Sarina, and rightfully so. He wanted to be there for her as he loved her a lot, and knew he would’ve driven himself crazy at home. But yet, sitting there that morning, the reality setting in that Justin Allgaier was going to drive his car, he didn’t know how to stomach the thought.

He fully understood the feelings people went through when they couldn’t drive their own racecars now.

“Hey, are you okay?” Sarina asks as she sits down on the couch beside him. He simply nods his head. “That doesn’t sound like you….” He then glances at her.

“I’d rather be dressed in my firesuit right now and getting ready to race than sitting here,” he comments as she lets out a sigh, reaching out to rub his shoulders.

“I know it’s tough. That’s why your parents suggested you stay home this wee-”

“I’m not regretting the decision to spend the weekend with you, one bit.” She smiles as she continues rubbing his shoulders.

“Trust me, I’m glad that you’re not regretting that as I love having you here. But, it’s those feelings that they were talking about.” She then pauses, glancing away from him. “And, like everything, that’s my fault…” He then looks at her confused.

“You didn’t do anything wro-”

“The only reason Bethany approached Allison was due to-”

“I accepted the deal, so with that, I accept the consequences. I’d rather deal with this than the alternatives.” She simply nods her head.

“You know, if you would’ve actually made the call to sleep with her, I wouldn’t have been too upset. I would’ve totally understood the fact that you had no other choice, and know you did what you had to survive – just like everything I’ve been through. It’s part of life.” Chase sighs as he reaches out for her hand.

“You may have been able to sit and live with it, but I never could’ve. It would’ve haunted me for months, years because I could never see myself ever doing that to someone. That’s why I made the decision that I did. I can deal with this – couple weeks feeling like crap is nothing new. But that, I don’t think I could.” Sarina sighs as she lays up against him.

“Have I told you today that you’re amazing?” He laughs and shakes his head.

“You’ve told me every day but today.” She then looks into his eyes.

“Well, I am telling you today, just like I’ll probably tell you tomorrow, and the day after that.” She then leans in and kisses his lips. “Whenever you’re ready, we’ll head out together. I just got to make sure to stop by and see Kyle and Sam. But, if you don’t want to head out, we don’t have too. I get it.” He nods his head, as he glances back out the window.

“I love my guys, and I said to them that I was here to support them. For that reason, I’ll head out and I’ll be fine. They’re going to do amazing. Justin is a good little driver.”

The pair relaxed there for awhile together, before keeping their word and heading out to the grid. They agreed to make their first stop at Kyle and Sam, before heading down to see his guys.

“Oh hey Kyle,” Chase says as he looks at the foam figure with a head twice as big as Kyle’s. “Whoops, you’re not Kyle.” He then turns around and looks at Kyle. “There’s the man…” Kyle could only look back with a face of confusion.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Kyle questions as Chase glances between the foam figure and Kyle.

“Does this thing creep you out at all? Because hate to say it, he’s creepy as ever.” Sam gives her nod of approval, remembering her first encounter with the figure.

“Hey, that thing is better than having myself as a blow-up doll or a dipstick.” Chase’s laughter immediately stops as Kyle just smiles. “Sarina, have you inquired about that doll yet?”

“Kyle!” She yells, giving him a smack as Chase looks at her with an intrigued glance. “I never ever did mention a comment about that before to him, ever, so you can tell him to kiss your ass.”

“I don’t feel like eating a terd before the race,” Kyle says as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Well unlike you, my ass is clean…” Chase replies as Kyle looks over, surprised.

“How would you know such detail?” Chase thinks it over, knowing the options were limited on comments.

“It stinks…” Kyle then smiles as he leans back against his car.

“My fans would say different, especially when I’m giving them my famous bow. I shall show you that post-race.” Kyle then pauses as he keeps his eyes on Chase. “And to be honest, I’d rather be having the chance to run with you than Justin. You make it more interesting.”

“Comment appreciated, I think….” Kyle gives him a nod.

“Are you going to be good to go for next week?” Chase nods his head.

“We’ll get to see if I can figure out the best way to turn left and right.” Kyle smiles, having already proven that he could do that quite well.

“Watkins Glen is easier to drive than Sonoma so you’ll be fine.” Chase could only hope as he knew there’d be significant ground to make up after this weekend. “So you’re getting a Chase waiver?”

“Special edition one at that.” Kyle was intrigued as Chase remembered the discussion with Alan and Rick. “It was technically a track staff member that poisoned me so it’s fault of the series and track, right? So they said that they’ll credit me with Justin’s points and if I am still in the top-16 by either points or win, I get in.” Kyle almost felt like arguing the point made, and probably would’ve – if it was anybody else.

“If you dare win the championship, be prepared to get your ass kicked because you saw how people reacted the year that I did it.” Chase nods his head, remembering the reactions. “But, we won’t get to see that because I see a good future ahead.”

“Oh really?” Kyle nods his head. “To be honest, if the guys in the shop don’t figure out the speed we’re lacking, you’re probably right. I mean, normally Jimmie slumps in the summer, but this is ridiculous.”

“So if you’re lacking so much speed, how did Kasey win Indianapolis?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“They figured it out there, which gives me hope that we got more good stuff coming down the line.” Kyle knew the other teams were working to close the gap, but that didn’t mean he was ready for that.

“Well, all I can say is good luck because right now, I’m liking how things are.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Of course….”

“Did you see this conversation happening and being so awesome at that?” Samantha wonders and Sarina shakes her head as she picks up Brexton.

“It’s actually amazing to be honest,” Sarina comments. “I mean, I didn’t see them getting along this well.”

“You’re spoiled…” Sarina nods her head, knowing that quite well. “And I think someone loves you…”

“You know, I’d babysit him whenever you and Kyle want a night out.” Samantha then looks at her surprised.

“Oh really? I didn’t picture you as the kid/motherly type…” Brexton laughs as Sarina tickles him.

“I’ve always loved kids, and they seem to always like me as I get along with them almost immediately. I mean, I could never see myself raising my own, but I am always open to watching someone else’s.”  Samantha almost asked her why she didn’t want to raise her own, but bit her tongue as she didn’t want to touch upon Sarina’s past. She heard from Kyle it wasn’t all roses, so she wasn’t sure where the boundaries lied.

“I’ll make sure to remember that because Brexton seems to love you, too.”

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

Chase watches as the race finishes, glancing over at Sarina, and giving her a nod.

The day hadn’t gone amazingly or perfect, but it was better than what they had seen recently with Justin Allgaier consistently running in the top-10 throughout the event en route to a solid 10th. He had been bullshitting Kyle earlier when he said he thought there was some better equipment coming down the line, but perhaps there was more truth than he realized there.

Taking a deep breath as he heads down the stairs, he couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel himself next week.

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Cabin Fears – Chapter 68: Frozen in Thought

Chase sits in the trailer, glancing down as his feet, taking a deep breath.

He was already halfway dressed, having slipped the bottom half of his firesuit on. Now he just needed to complete the process, walk out there, climb in the car, and go. It was that simple.

So why was he stuck frozen there now?

He knew his mind was going through a circus of thoughts. It was why the decision had been made to do the test prior to sending him into a weekend of full blown competition.

He wondered whether he was doing the right thing. Was this the right time, or should he wait? Was he forcing this upon himself too soon because he didn’t want to ponder his thoughts? Or, was he truly set to balance figuring the rest out while doing this?

He wondered whether he could handle everything that came with the job. He considered himself still physically fit and everybody said he was fully healed from what happened, but was he? Could he handle racing for four hours in the heat with the mental and physical stresses?

“Hey,” he hears, causing him to look up as he looks towards the door of the lounge. He could only smile in response as he watched her enter, closing the door behind her. “I came to see how you were.”

“That’s a loaded question,” he admits as she sits on the edge of the couch. “I came in here set to get ready and just head back out there and do my thing. But yet, here I sit, thinking instead.” She was intrigued by the fact that he was being so open about how he was feeling right now. This wasn’t his normal routine.

“I know when I went for my first test to see whether we could do this or not, I sat in the trailer pondering everything. I wondered if the work that Steve had put was worth with. I wondered if he was ready to make a comeback now. I wondered if I had the strength. I wondered if I could ever win a race, again.” Chase glances back down, as he thinks back to that afternoon.

“That was different, though. You were faced with a challenge…” She then scoots closer, nodding her head.

“It was different in that way, but some of the reasons are the same. You’ve been through a lot, too, mentally and physically. So certainly some of those mental questions that I was asking myself, I bet you’re asking yourself as well.” He nods his head, knowing that she’d read his mind perfectly.

“Did you ever fully put them out of the way before you climbed in the car?” She nodded her head. “How?”

“I put full belief in myself. Like we’ve always said in this business, you can’t have a shadow of a doubt. That’s when you make mistakes. That’s when you don’t push it all the way and do what you’re possible of achieving. Remember the great Denny Hamlin lines – it’s mental as much as it is physical.” He nodded his head, remembering the mind games that Denny was good at playing with everybody.

“Can I just openly admit that I’m not as mentally tough as I thought I was?” She nods her head.

“I believe that. I can see how everything has shaken up that mind. That’s why you’re having the panic, anxiety, worries, and keep pondering back. Chase, anybody would be the same way if they were in your shoes. There’s no words to describe how mentally taxing everything had to be on you through the years.” Chase glances down as she scoots a bit more closer, wrapping an arm around him. “But to come out as strong as you’ve been for the both of us, that shows that there’s a great bit of strength in there.”

“I just don’t want to come out today and screw up…” Sarina closed her eyes, trying to remember back to her own test experience.

“Fear is a good motivation to not want to do it. But, let’s remember – it’s just the crew, myself, your parents, Jeff, Jimmie, and my parents here. If say it doesn’t go according to plan, we won’t hold it against you. We’ll understand because you’re still working your way through everything and need to give it more time. That’s why Jeff wanted you to do the test – to see. If it doesn’t go right, we’ll give it more time and then try again. It’s okay to fail…” Chase smiles as he looks over at her, remembering the same piece of advice given when she was set to try something new as a little girl and afraid.

“Just like when you fell off the bike three times and I made you get back up and try again?” She chuckles and nods her head.

“Are you always going to remind me of that? I’m sorry I’m not like my perfect brother and get it in one try.” Chase chuckles, remembering how they teased Robby about that and he did it right away. “I mean, if you’re feeling so twisted about it, then why don’t you change back into your clothes, tell the guys and we’ll do this again in a couple weeks?” She then freezes, putting her hand over her mouth. “I mean-”

“No, no, you meant what you said, and that’s actually not a bad suggestion.” She then felt like cursing herself, knowing that came out of her own fear about what was possible.

“Chase, please don’t decide to not do this because of me….” He then looks over at her.

“If I took off this firesuit, it wouldn’t be because of you. Trust me, I was already contemplating that.” She then relaxes, though slightly surprised.

“Honestly?” He nods his head.

“If I can’t get myself mentally in the game, then I’m not ready. I know myself better anyone. It’s like I said – I can’t do this until I have everything sorted out. Admittedly, I don’t so do I see myself moving an inch? Probably not…” She nods her head, accepting, as she slowly stands up.

“Should I go tell the guys then?” Chase nods his head.

“Tell them I say sorry for dragging their assses out here on a day off…” She then walks out of the trailer, taking a deep breath of her own.

She immediately walked over and told Alan and the guys, before spreading word to everyone else around the pits, and making it to her parents. Everybody was surprisingly supportive and understanding, willing to wish Chase the best in hopes that they could do this properly down the road in a couple weeks maybe.

“You were in there for a bit with him,” Marie starts as Alyssa told her parents. “Did you tell him what you were thinking?” Alyssa shakes her head.

“We just spoke about his feelings,” she lies, not wanting to reveal that she perhaps persuaded his decision with a slight comment.

“Well, maybe in these couple of weeks, you should come out with your take right in the open so he knows.” Alyssa nods her head, knowing that’d probably be a good idea.

If she wanted him to be honest about things with her and open up, then she needed to do the same herself.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 128: Overton’s 150

Saturday, July 29

 

Sarina lays there, quietly, eyes locked on Chase as he lies beside her, sleeping away.

She had woken up a couple hours ago, grabbed some breakfast and a shower, before returning back to bed to lie beside him. She didn’t want to disturb him, knowing that he needed his sleep as the focus was put on him getting better.

Taking a deep breath, she couldn’t let everything that they’d been through escape her mind. Though despite everything, he put his full trust in her, promised to always love her, and would do anything for her. On top of that, he had convinced his parents to give her a second chance.

She couldn’t get it through her mind everything that he had done, for her. He stood up to everyone with her brother. He allowed Allison to inject the needle, instead of cheating. He always found the small time of day to reach out to her. Rather than be at home this weekend where he belonged after the week he’d been through, he was there with her instead.

Letting out a sigh, it was hard to believe this was happening before her. She never got this lucky in her life. It was always when one thing came together, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. But yet, here she was, under contract with the top team in the truck garage and dating the sweetest guy ever. For the first time ever, it felt everything with happiness was just within reach.

“Can I help you?” His voice freezes her thoughts as she looks into his brown eyes.

“No, I’m good,” she replies as a smile forms on her lips.

“You’re just staring at me for no reason?” She nods her head. “How long have you been laying here like this?” She was almost afraid to offer her answer.

“An hour or so. You were sleeping, I didn’t want to disturb you, but I didn’t want to leave you.” She then reaches over, rubbing his shoulder. “Relax, it’s fin-”

“You were spaced out at first, though.” He then brushes her brown hair out of her face. “What’s on that mind of yours?”

“I am just thinking how lucky and spoiled I am to have an amazing guy like you in my life.” He then looks at her with surprise as he rolls over onto his back.

“I’m just an ordinary guy who happens to go fast for a living.” She then chuckles, causing him to look back her way. “What?”

“Ordinary guy? Have you been outside of your own little universe lately, Chase?” His eyes widen even more surprise.

“Listen, just because I may be a little fam-”

“That’s not what I’m talking about, Prince Charming.” He then freezes, caught off-guard by the comment. “I’m talking about how sweet you are. I’m talking about how caring you are. I’m talking about how you’d do anything for me. I’m talking about how we’ve been through everything, and yet you’re still here beside me 100% committed. I’m talking about how you stood up to Alison, for us. There are very few guys in the world that can equal that level of charm and sweetness, honey. I’m gonna say that you rank up there in the 5% range.” He then rolls his eyes.

“Listen, I’m nowhere near perfec-”

“I didn’t say you were, Chase. But you’re damn close to that – at least to me, and a lot closer than a lot of people.” He then rolls back on his side so he can look right into her green eyes.

“So you’ve been lying here for the past hour contemplating all that?” She nods her head. “Why?”

“I’ve never ever felt this right and perfect in a moment with someone. I’ve never felt this type of love before, or felt that I was wort-”

“Excuse me?” He then scoots closer to her, wrapping an arm around her as he pulls her close. “Don’t you ever dare say that you’re not worthy of being loved. Sure, you had a rough hand. Sure, you had things go off plan. If anything, it makes you worthy so you can feel what you’ve been missing all these years.” She then lets out a sigh.

“I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, thoug-”

“I’ve made mistakes, too. We all make mistakes every day. Do you want to know my response? Accept your mistakes, admit that you were wrong, and learn from it so you do not do it again. That’s why when you lied to me under those circumstances, I gave you the second chance with the understanding to not repeat that mistake. Sarina, you’re a beautiful young lady and there’s nobody that could tell me different in loving you.” He then leans in and kisses her lips, as she smiles back in response.

“How do you always know what to say?” He smiles as he takes her hand, placing it on his chest.

“I speak from the heart with every bit of honesty that I have. It’s okay to open up and be honest. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to express feelings.  It actually feels good.” She then smiles, nodding her head.

“I’ll make sure to give it a try then.” He then lets her go, sitting up in the bed as he glances at the clock.

“Don’t you have to qualify soon?” She then lets out a sigh, nodding her head. As much as she loved racing her truck, she wouldn’t mind lying around with Chase all day.

“Yep.” She then stands up, heading to the closet to grab her firesuit, as Chase gets up behind her. She then spins around, surprised.

“I am coming to watch you qualify, followed by seeing the guys before final practice. Then we can chill and wait till your race, which I am sitting on your pit box.” She was even more surprised by the assertion in his voice.

“Oh really? Are you sure you’re up to all that?” He nods his head as he pulls the drawer open, grabbing a pair of jeans. “Are you sure that your parents will let you do that?” He then glances over surprised.

“I’m an adult. I can do what I want…” She then rolls her eyes.

“Cindy is going to put up a fight…” He then pulls the jeans up, before walking over to her and stealing a kiss.

“Tough for her. I’ll be fine.” He then goes to find a shirt, as she focuses back on getting ready for the upcoming qualifying session.

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

Chase stood on pit road, satisfied with the session as he took a glance at the scoring pylon. A solid eighth-place starting spot was a good start as it was going to be a long race, with drama all the way around. As long as she played it cool, and Marcus was good with his adjustments, she’d be there at the end in contention to win.

After sharing a couple comments between them, he gave her a kiss and headed away. He knew that she had to talk for a bit about Marcus in regards to the session and their race strategy, so it was time to take advantage of the time that he had. There was a crew of guys who needed to see their driver for themselves as he made his way to the trailer.

He gives a wave to a couple other Hendrick Motorsports guys hanging around, before opening the door and heading inside.

“So we’re going with this set-up, followed by this one?” Josh questions as Alan nods his head. “Got it!”

“Does that mean we have lots of work to do between runs?” Jared Seate wonders as Chase crosses his arms, clearly not noticed by the guys with his entry.

“Oh Jared, you never want to do much work, huh?” Chase then joins in, catching a bunch of surprised glances.

“Chase!!” A couple of the crew guys let go, before tackling him with hugs.

“Easy guys….” Alan tries to calm them off with a laugh.

“You know that for you, I’ll always put in a full day’s work,” Jared then comments as Chase rolls his eyes.

“What am I? Chopped liver?” Justin Allgaier, who was filling in for Chase, questions as Chase laughs.

“Please tell me that you’re here to get rid of this little short ass.” Chase laughs once again as he glances between them. He knew the pair had a history together as Jared came over from JR Motorsports.

“Unfortunately, you’re stuck with him for the rest of the weekend,” Chase comments as Jared lets out a sigh. chase couldn’t help but agree with him as he wanted to be racing more than anything. But given how he was feeling earlier that morning and knowing that the feeling would probably come back, he knew he wasn’t ready for 400 miles tomorrow.

“You’re stuck with me, Jared!” Justin says as he pulls Jared close, causing a series of laughs through the trailer.

“So if you’re standing here, you can’t feeling that badly….” Jared Erspamer then joins in the conversation, catching Chase’s attention. “Of course, a little birdie told me that you’ve been here all weekend.”

“He’s kidding, right?” Jared Seate asks and Chase shakes his head no. “And you just came to see us now? How rude!”

“Did you watch Full House?” Alan questions as Jared smiles.

“Oh puhleeeeze, who didn’t watch that show?” Alan just rolls his eyes.

“For the record,  I didn’t even leave the motorcoach at all yesterday so you weren’t just left out for no reason,” Chase starts, catching their attention. “I didn’t want to stay home because I wanted to be here to support Sarina. That said, I did not feel up to moving at all yesterday. As it is, this tour here, followed by the truck race, will probably eat up whatever energy I have made up. But I knew I couldn’t go a whole weekend without seeing you guys.”

“He loves us!” Jared Seate lets out, now taking a turn wrapping his arms around Chase.

“I thought you already would’ve figured that out a long time ago….”

“To be honest, speaking on behalf of everybody here, there’s nothing that we could do to make up for what you did last weekend,” Alan starts as he focuses his eyes on Chase. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart and we all discussed that when Josh and I told everybody. You put your ass on the line for us. That’s more than we can say for a lot of people that we’ve worked together, and we thank you.” The rest of the crew guys nod their heads in agreement with the boss.

“Well, you guys are like family to me,” Chase replies. “I mean, we spend the whole year together on this traveling circus, getting close, getting to know each other and each other’s families. You guys sacrifice all this time in your lives so you can make us the best that we can be on Sundays – basically, to the point where most people just give me the credit. I’ve always said that I wouldn’t change a single thing about this team, and I meant that.”

“So we’re not going to get traded around ever and sent away when the playoffs start like some teams?” Jared Erspamer questions and Chase shakes his head.

“Never, ever,” he assures them. “For the record, we work as a team and we do everything together – come high or low water. If things go wrong, we all accept the blame, work to improve, and go forward. That’s how it’s always been, right?” The guys nod their head. “So for that reason, you better give it your 110% for Justin on Sunday, okay?”

“Yes boss!” The guys let out together as Chase makes his way to the front of the group, wrapping his arms around Alan and Josh.

“And to both of you, don’t ever change. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for help with my absolutely crazed plan and thanks for getting me the help when I needed it – twice, now. It really  means a lot to know how much you both care. And Alan, let’s not meet like that ever again.” Alan nods his head.

“I don’t want to repeat that, ever,” Alan assures him. “I love ya, buddy. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“You’re coming back next week though, right?” Jared Seate questions, as Chase looks over at him.

“Are you really trying to get rid of me that badly?” Justin asks as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“There was a reason I was glad to be leaving JRM for Hendrick….” Justin looks on shocked as the guys let out a bunch of cheers and laughs.

“If everything goes according to plan, I will be back next weekend at Watkins Glen,” he assures Jared, who lets out a big yes.

“Can you please convince Dale that he should work with us both so I can torture him?” Justin asks as Chase laughs.

“Unfortunately, I can’t do that. He was the one that convinced Sarina to call me, so I ow-”

“Save me this weekend?” Jared interrupts as Chase rolls his eyes.

“You’re on your own, this time buddy,” Chase tells him. “Cash in your favor another week. I’ll see ya boys later.”

Chase then heads out of the hauler, a smile firmly planted on his face. He couldn’t wait until he was back in the saddle next weekend.

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

Chase sits on the pit box, intently watching the action on track as he watches the laps count closer to the end of the event. Sarina had done a great job all day, running with the front runners, keeping herself in contention for a good finish, and possibly a win. Though taking a deep breath, he knew anything was possible on a late-race restart – good and bad.

“Oh shit!” He lets out as he watches the No. 18 truck go sliding up the track in turn one, hitting the outside wall. He watched them go into the corner with Chase Briscoe taking her and Kaz Grala three-wide. Briscoe then caught the corner of Kaz, which caused Kaz to hit her and send her up into the wall.

“I’m okay….” Sarina lets out immediately on the radio, using every ounce of energy to not start blasting both Briscoe and Grala over the radio.

“10-4,” Marcus replies. “You did an amazing job all day. Nothing you could do there. Just one of those deals. We’ll get them in a couple weeks.”

“Thanks for the amazing truck, boss.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 127: Pocono

Friday, July 28

Sarina emerges from the bathroom, brushing her hair, before pulling it up in a pony tail as she glances at herself in the mirror.

“Sarina…” She hears from the bed, noticing a pair of eyes watching her. She silently curses to herself as she walks over.

“Hey babes,” she says as she leans over to him. “How are you feeling?” He shrugs his shoulders before lying back in the bed.

“Sick to my stomach…” She then reaches over rubbing his leg.

“It’ll get better, Chase. You took the gravol, right?” He nods his head.

“Where are you headed?” She knew the discussion was set to come.

“First practice starts in a half hour.” He then flings the blanket off of him and sits up, but she places his hand on his chest. “And where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m coming to support you…” She shakes her head. “That’s why I’m here this weeke-”

“You’re feeling sick to your stomach, and can barely right now. It’s just a practice, Chase. I’ll be back right after Marcus and I am done debriefing about the truck. You need to get your rest and work at feeling better.” He lets out a sigh, knowing that she was right, as he didn’t feel like moving out of the bed. “Besides, your parents will right outsid-”

“What about you? You’re going to walk through the garage area alone?” She shakes her head as she knew that there was no way he’d let that happen, already called in a favor.

“Christopher and I are going to walk there together, and then he’s going to walk back with me – just for peace of mind, okay? I knew you’d be worried about something happening…” He was almost set to put up a fight about staying there, but didn’t have the energy. So he instead sat up, leaned in and kissed her.

“I’ll see you later then. Be careful, but be fast.” She smiles, nodding her head.

“Just take it easy, okay? Maybe if you’re feeling better this afternoon you can come out for the second practice and see your guys, okay?” He nods his head as she puts the blanket back over him. She makes sure he’s all tucked in before leaving the room. “He’s going back to sleep. I’ll see you both after.”

“Good luck,” Bill comments as she simply gives him a quick nod. “Watch the tunnel turn. It seems like it’s the easiest turn, but it’s got some corkiness. Then you’ve got the slipperiness of turn three.”

“Thanks for the tips, Bill,” she replies as she puts her shoes on. She then hears a knock on the door, grabbing her phone off the table and heading out.

“Ready to go?” Christopher questions and Sarina nods her head. The pair then head out towards the garage together. “Is Chase feeling any better?”

“A little bit, but still feeling pretty sick.” Christopher just shook his head.

“That sucks, big time. Hopefully everything subsides quickly for him.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. “You know, I’m glad that you texted and asked me actually. I was worried about you…” Sarina rolls her eyes immediately.

“Not again, Bell-”

“No no, please, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not meaning to start that crap again. Like I said – you and Chase are meant for each other, and everything is right there if you’re happy. I’m going to burst your love bubble.” Sarina smiles, glad that they were over that as she didn’t want to kick his ass today. Admittedly, she was more tired than she thought with all of her energy exhausted on worrying this week. “I just get what Chase is saying. What if something else happens? What if there’s more to the plans here? I feel the safety concerns….”

“I can’t deny that, Christopher. I mean, they haven’t located Allison yet anywhere, and Bethany is playing completely dumb. So with both at large, I can understand the nerves. I mean, Allison could be anywhere.” Christopher then stops dead in his tracks, catching Sarina off-guard.

“There’s a posting that won’t allow her anywhere near the garage area, right?” Sarina nods her head.

“NASCAR talked to track security and made it clear that she isn’t allowed on property and to be arrested immediately if spotted. There’s an arrest warrant out for her.” Christopher then lets out a sigh of relief, before continuing the walk. “You think the hell I’d let that what she did to him go easily?” Christopher shakes his head. “Actually, he could’ve avoided getting the needle.”

“How do you mean?” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation.

“No needle, and she would’ve blown the garage up that afternoon on Saturday.” Christopher looks over in shock.

“The crew guys. That’s why he did what he did.” Sarina nods her head.

“Their family, just like our guys are for us. We’d all do anything for each other, right?” Christopher couldn’t help but agree, having grown close to the guys over the past couple years. “The other option was that he sleep with her.”

“So instead of cheating on you and sleeping with her, he accepted a poisonous drug to be inserted into his system?” Sarina nods her head. “Holy, that’s the next level of commitment right there. Have I told you lately that you have a really special guy in him?” It was now Sarina’s turn to look at him in shock.

“I never thought I’d hear those words, Christopher…” He then shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s like everybody says – it’s hard to hate that guy as he’s the perfect sweetheart. Don’t ruin it, okay?” Sarina nods her head as they reach the garage area, going their separate directions.

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

Sarina begins the walk back to the motorcoach, feeling a little out of place as she glanced around side-to-side. She was supposed to head back with Christopher after just completing their second practice, but he was stuck longer due to media. Not wanting to wait around 15 minutes to see Chase, she made the trip herself.

She then hears her phone go off, pulling it out of her pocket and rolling her eyes as she read the number. She knew that she shouldn’t answer the call, but she wanted answers about Allison.

“Bethany?” She questions in a stern voice as she keeps walking.

“Hey sweetheart,” Bethany replies, causing Sarina to roll her eyes. “So I get when you phone about your brother – of course, put that on my shoulders because you can’t accept responsibility for actions, ever. But why the hell are you sending cops to my ass about this random chick, Ally or whatever?” Sarina chuckles, knowing the name mistake was supposed to be the perfect cover.

“Because I know the way you are, Bethany, and the games that you play. Besides, it’s odd that she shows up right after you make that comment to me about someone set to implode my life.” She couldn’t help but feel anger as soon as she thought about that day leaving the court room.

“Well news flash – I’m not behind her actions at all. She’s just some jealous girl who seems to have the hots for your boyfriend. Good luck with her.” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that Allison would be dead if they crossed paths.

“Sure, and if you do speak to her – tell her she’s dead to me. See your ass in court.” Sarina then hangs up as she reaches the motorcoach.

She then took the recording of the phone call, sending it over to the investigating officer, with questions about the timing of the call, and whether purposely done as a cover-up.

She then takes a deep breath, calming herself down, trying to forget every second of the conversation, as she heads inside the motorcoach, planting a smile on her face immediately.

“Hey!” She says as she sees Bill lying on the couch, with Chase sitting up on the other, sipping on some soup. “Chicken noodle?”

“Mother’s special homemade,” he replies with a smile as she slips her shoes off. “Nice job out there. Not bad for a rookie.” She then smiles, as she walks by, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge.

“There’s enough if you want some, too,” Cindy says from the kitchen table, catching Sarina off-guard. It was odd seeing the woman who seemed to completely despise her at one time now being this kind.

“Thanks,” she replies. “I’m not hungry right now, but I may warm some up after.”

“I’ll make sure to save you some then.” She then sits down on the couch by Chase as he finishes up his bowl.

“So I take it the advice to get a little more sleep helped?” Chase nods his head.

“Mama’s soup always does the trick when I’m sick, too,” he adds, as Cindy just smiles from the table.

“My dad would always make a special hot chocolate with extra whip topping when I was feeling down to cheer me up,” Sarina offers, as she leans back. “I bet it was just the same usual hot chocolate, but the fact that he said it was ‘special’ made it feel even better.”

“You were close with your dad, right?” Bill questions and Sarina nods her head as she looks over. “Is that where your love for racing came from?” Sarina shakes her head.

“That was my cousin Lindsay, actually. I was so annoyed with the drama at home between my parents and my brother, that she offered to take me away for a weekend to escape it all. That trip took me to Bristol, actually, and I fell in love immediately.”

“That’ll do it,” Chase comments, remembering some of his early trips there with his parents.

“Did you ever get close with your mom?” Bill wonders and Sarina shakes her head. “Bad relationship?”

“Me and my dad just connected immediately it seemed,” she starts. “No matter the topic, I just felt that I could go to him. Whatever was going on, he always knew what to do or say. With my mom, she was a good mother and good on the girly advice. But, I just didn’t have the same comfort with her to really grow close.”

“And you were close with your brother, right?” Cindy asks, causing Sarina to look over and nod her head. “So that’s why you could never get what everybody was saying….”

“Exactly. I mean, I got it and taking a step back, I could see what Chase was saying, Ryan was saying, everybody else was saying. But being close to him, I was blinded by that love and that connection that we had when we were younger. I guess I was longing that I could go back to that…”

“Are you okay?” Chase asks as he wraps an arm around her, and Sarina nods her head.

“If you don’t want to talk about it, you can just tell us,” Cindy offers as Sarina shakes her head.

“I have no issue speaking about it at all, Mrs. Ellio-”

“Just call me Cindy.” Both Sarina and Chase felt surprise wash over them in hearing that comment as they looked over. It wasn’t much, but it was a simple step that she was opening up a little to Sarina more.

“My brother was the last connection that I had to my life the way it was before. I’m not proud of everything that happened then, but I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the memorable moments of my childhood. I want to remember the fun times. I want to remember playing with my brother and my friends. I want to remember my father. I fear that I am going to lose that.”

“I can give you the same piece of advice that I gave Ernie.” Chase pipes up at the mention of the name, remembering the whole surreal experience he had. He hadn’t told anybody about what happened before he woke up. Not because he was afraid they wouldn’t believe him, but because he hadn’t come to full grips with it either. “He lost his son when Casey was only 21 due to cancer. He was worried that people would forget who Casey was. I told him that’ll never happen. Keep telling the stories of those moments, keep telling people what he was like. Go back to those photos and see where they take you back. Maybe even do yourself a little scrapbook. I can tell you that he’s never been forgotten, either.”

“Mom is right,” Chase speaks up, quietly. “I never got to know him, but I’ve heard so many stories from Uncle Ernie, my parents, and other family members. It’s all about telling people…” Sarina nods her head as Chase pulls her close. “If you want, tell me a story a day. If you want, I can help you with a scrapbook. But know, you’ll never lose that, ever. Your daddy is always with you.” He gives the top of her head as he takes a deep breath, remembering the conversation more clearly than ever. If only he had gotten to know Casey, and if only they’d gotten more time together.

“Thank you – both of you,” Sarina says as she stays cuddled with Chase.

Perhaps everything would work out – and maybe, like her father told her, she’d find her happily ever after right here.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 126: “Where am I?”

Monday, July 24

 

Chase sits up, glancing around as confusion immediately appears on his face.

The green grass surrounding him was the purest form of green you could imagine. The blue sky above him was perfectly balanced between shine, and perfectly white clouds. There was nothing for what seemed for miles, though.

Where was he?

He closes his eyes, trying to remember the last place that he was. He was at the race track. He had just purposely blown a motor – but why? He remembered climbing out of the car. Oh yes, that’s right – poisoned the day before due to stupid Alison. He remembered feeling very sick – absolutely sick at that. He remembered being surrounded by both Alan and Josh, and being led to the care center – he hoped.

Then everything just went black…..and now he was here? It just didn’t make sense! He expected to wake up in a hospital room.

He then stands up, looking around the open space, feeling more confused than ever. It was like there was no ending to the grass or sky, and nothing in-between but him. Why did nothing make sense?

“Chase?” He hears, instantly grabbing his attention as he watches someone appear about 20 steps from his current location.

He didn’t want to move – worry filling him. How he could he here, and where was he here? Though as he began to take a step forward, it was like everything fell in place. He was able to move as if nothing was wrong, feeling even better than what he would consider 100%.

“Chase?” The voice repeats itself once again as he walks closer to the figure, glancing up and down the person. He had seen this person before –he couldn’t place him exactly, but he recognized the figure. “Holy shit, it is you….”

“Who are you?” He questions, feeling frustrated that he couldn’t place the person somewhere. “And where am I?”

“You shouldn’t be here….” Chase could figure that out himself, feeling as lost as ever. “No, you shouldn’t be here. It’s not time for you to be her-”

“Where am I?” Chase was growing more frustrated in not having any answers.

“This is heaven….well, not really. This is sort of that in-between world, I guess.” Chase glances around, feeling even more confused than ever, before glancing back at the person. Was this what it felt like to be in limbo as the movies put it?

“So why are you here?” He figured an explanation from the person could explain the reason he was there.

“I was told to come here by a messenger and see someone, but I didn’t expect it to be you. I mean, I expected anybody but you. No, it’s too soon….this can’t be happening. I mean, I expected my dad Ern-” Chase’s jaw dropped immediately as he took a couple steps back.

“Ernie Elliott?” The figure before him nods his head. “Casey?” The figure once again nods his head.

Chase could only take a deep breath, and try to find every bit of composure he had.

He remembered his cousin’s story, as told to him by his parents when he asked about why there was a memorial race run in Casey’s honor at Lanier. His dad explained that Casey was Ernie’s son, and like every Elliott, he found himself involved the world of racing. He was a great racer, too, having started to make his way up the ranks with some success at the late model level. Unfortunately, cancer resulted in his cousin dying when Chase just a young lad – 1.

He could think about the stories that he had heard from his dad, mom, Ernie, other family friends, along with those involved in racing. Casey was the perfect sweetheart, as they described – maybe even sweeter than he was himself.

Taking another deep breath, he could only remember the stories and how his dad told him from that experience to never take anything for granted because it could all just be changed in the blink of an eye.

“Chase, say something….” Casey instructs as Chase looks at him, lost for words.

“I’ve heard so much about you, and a part of me wished that I got to know you,” Chase starts. “Now you’re standing here….” Casey reaches out and puts his hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“And for the record, I’ve never been far from you. I’ve had my eyes on you, always. I still remember the day you were born, and the happiness on your parent’s faces. I remember holding you when you were a little guy. I remember how your dad talked about all those first moments. And then of course, it happened… and I wished we could’ve gotten that time.” Chase could only nod his head, and accept those words.

“I wish things were different, too. I mean, you were the coolest guy according to everybody. It would’ve been fun to get to know you.” Chase then glances around, before looking back at Casey. “I don’t want to here, either.”

“Don’t worry kid, you’re not staying here. I’ve got that good authority.” Chase then looks at him with intrigue. “The big guy gave me a little sign. Relax….” Casey then pulls him into a hug, before letting him go. “This was just a chance for us to see each other quick, and for me to remind you of this – I’m always watching over you, kid. Whatever happens with Sarina, Chris – you’re going to be okay.” Chase nods his head, as it was nice to have that assurance – even despite the place. “Now all you gotta do is close your eyes, and you can go back to that bed, and then wake up and give a smile to your parents. I don’t think I can stand seeing Cindy crying an-”

“Casey, can I ask you a question first, please?” The man before him freezes, nodding his head.

“Of course…” Chase glances down, thinking it over, before looking up.

“Is it okay to be afraid?” Casey then crosses his arms. “I mean, everything that’s going on – it has me worried. I’m wondering what else could happen, whether Sarina and I can get through it, and when it will end. Is it okay to be afraid and worried?”

“Listen, you’ve been through a lot the past two years with that girl – and trust me, it’s worth it. She’s the perfect gal for you as I can see you both being together for a long, long time. So yes, it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to worry. But through that, you got to believe. Believe in yourself, believe in Sarina, believe in those around you. Like I said, it will be okay.” Chase nods his head.

“Thanks Casey.” Chase then gives him one final hug, before taking a couple steps back.

He then closes his eyes as instructed, feeling as though he is falling for a minute….

His breath almost caught in his throat as he felt everything in-gulfing him. There was the familiar sickness feeling – thankfully subsided slightly with whatever was going through his body. He also felt the familiar pain and clamminess, but it felt good to be back in his own body.

He then remembered Casey’s comment about his mom crying, and he knew he couldn’t let that to go on any longer. He then forces himself through whatever strength he has left to open his eyes, clinching the hand that laid in his on the bed as he glances to the left and sees everyone.

He wanted to say something, anything – but he fought the urge to do so. He had been here before with the tube down his throat, and knew the protocol. He wasn’t supposed to move or say anything until it was removed at the right time. Depending on how things were, he hoped that was sooner than later.

“It’s nice to see those eyes….” Josh speaks first in the room as Sarina simply claps his hand tighter back with her own, glancing back at him with a smile. “I’ll get the doctor.” Chase was fine with the car chief leaving to do that, as long as he didn’t see his girl leave the room. But he made a note to thank Josh later.

“I love you so much…” Sarina then spoke next, before standing up and kissing his forehead. He knew he was in for a slew of tender loving from Nurse Ott, and that didn’t bother him one bit. “Thank God that you’re okay…” Chase closed his eyes for a brief second, before re-opening them, saying a thank you himself to someone else.

The doctor then enters the room, going through the initial evaluation steps that they usually took.

He remembered the blinding light – and immediately shed away from it.

He shook his head no to the question of pain, not feeling anything that was out of question.

He nodded his head to the question of sickness, but wanted to make note that it wasn’t as bad as before, thankfully.

He then felt his leg move involuntarily, and wanted to scream. He knew that was the effect of the poison inside of him, and wanted to curse up a storm. Why did he wait so long?

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

Thursday, July 27

 

For much of Monday, he was left to lie in the bed quietly, with the ventilator still there as concerns were raised about his condition. However, with things looking steady, it was removed on Tuesday. It was a welcome sight for him as he was allowed to at least engage in conversation while stuck in the bed.

Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, the doctors continue to administer different drugs to counteract the effects. Slowly but surely, everything was taking effect. The sickness was disappearing, the twitching was becoming less and less, and he was feeling more like himself.

Though when the doctor came in on Thursday and told him that pending a series of tests, he could be released later on that day, surprise still formed on his face.

“Are you sure about that?” He questions as he looks over at the doctor.

“Yes, I am,” Dr. Manning answers. “If the CAT scan comes back clean in regards to brain activity, and your movement is where we feel not being affected, then I see no issue as to why you need to stay here longer. That said, I will have you taking the antidote for another two weeks, along with slowly taking less of the anti-epileptic over the next five days until the twitching is gone immediately. I would also recommend taking the Gravol as long as you’re feeling the sickness, too.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“And a strict regimen of bed rest?” Cindy questions with a glance between the pair.

“Of course, because healing is at the most importance. However, with that stated, I feel that you’d be in the clear enough to return to all normal duties – so yes, racing – next weekend.” Chase couldn’t help but smile a little. At least he wasn’t going to miss a bunch of racing because of this. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes to take you for the tests.” Chase nods his head as he watches her leave.

“Guess that means you’re coming home with us and not movin-”

“I’m still going to Pocono.” The response causes a series of shocked glances throughout the room. “I want to be there to support Sarina and my guys.”

“Chase, you don’t need to worry about me,” Sarina starts as she places her hand on his arm. “You need to focus on yourself, and maybe being at home is the best opti-”

“I’ll go crazy without you,” he interrupts her. “Anytime that we can be in the same state together, we’re taking full advantage of it. I love like you crazy and I want to be with you at all times.” He then looks over at his parents. “So if you’re going to be watching over me – since I figure you won’t let me just be myself, you are welcome to come, too.”

“Guess we’re going to Pocono….” Bill summarizes, knowing that Cindy wouldn’t let go easily.

“Besides, my guys deserve to hav-”

“They’d want you to focus on getting better,” Cindy comments as Chase nods, knowing that would be their answer for him.

“They put their lives on the line this past weekend,” Chase says. “If that bomb goes off any minutes sooner, we could’ve been looking at a bigger issue. Those guys would do anything for me, including dealing with weekends like that. Josh and Alan did everything they could in their power to make sure that I got attention immediately, and take care of me. It’s the least that I can do. Besides, I will make sure to take it easy, not do much of anything. I’ll just observe over the weekend, and get sleep amongst all that.”

“Promise?” Chase nods his head as he holds out his pinky with a smile.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 125: “Did you see that?”

Sunday, July 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Did you see that?” Jared Erspamer asks as he glances back from the car. “Did you see what the stall looks like? We were just standing there….” The other crew members glance around confused, as they continue pushing.

“Where’s Josh?” Jordan Allen questions, noticing the car chief was missing.

“He went with Chase and Alan,” Chad Avrit informs them. “Chase didn’t look good….” Jordan then stops pushing as they reach the hauler, looking back at the guys.

“You know, something didn’t seem right pre-race, either. I mean, he was quieter than normal and a glance in his eyes seemed off, too. Plus, Josh stayed by the car when normally it’s just myself and Chase.”

“Are you saying that Josh and Alan knew something was up?” Jordan shrugs his shoulders.

“Regardless, it just all seems odd – especially after that.”

“We’re just supposed to load up, right?” Jared Seate questions and Jordan nods his head, remembering Josh’s words. “Okay….” Jordan then goes to head inside the hauler, when he stops and glances back.

“This is even more odd,” he summarizes, catching the crew’s attention. “Why aren’t the engineers looking over the notes?” Jared shrugs his shoulders. “Guess they will at the shop. Alright, not my responsibility…” He then continues into the trailer, set to go upstairs and open the door.

“Jordan?” Jordan then stops and turns around. “Text message from the boss…” Jordan then walks back to Jared, taking his phone as he opens the message. He then shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course….” He then types a message quickly, before looking over the guys. “Load up quickly, please. We got somewhe-”

“Poisoned again?” Jared Erspamer questions, having that fear based on his own experience prior. Jordan just nods his head before going back into the hauler. “Ah shit…”

“Why do I have a feeling that was meant for us truly?” Jared Seate asks as he glances back at the garage once again, thanking his lucky stars.

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

The trip to the care center did not last long as they were immediately transferred to Methodist Hospital of Indiana. Alan and Josh could only feel their hearts pounding harder with worry.

Once at the hospital, the pair found themselves in a waiting room with six sets of eyes staring them down – Sarina and Chase’s parents. Alan takes a couple deep breath, and explained everything. He told them Chase’s original confession, followed by the plan, and followed by how things played out.

“I should’ve done something,” Sarina says quietly as she looks at the floor. “I knew something was off….”

“But you did nothing?” Cindy questions as she looks over. “Seriously, Sarina?”

“Cindy…” Bill warns as Cindy keeps her eyes focused on Sarina.

“I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine,” Sarina answers. “I asked him more than once, Cindy. It wasn’t like I just stood there and let this happen. I literally asked him last night, along with a couple times today. I thought maybe I was just off on radar, or something – I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve pus-”

“Oh now you think of that…” Cindy comments as she sits back in the seat.

“To be honest, I noticed something too,” Bill admits, causing Cindy to look his way. “And to be honest, I asked and he said he was a little sick. I suggested that he tells the guys, and have a stand-by driver. I just thought it was a stomach bug. I could’ve never predicted this.” Bill then looks straight at Cindy. “So before you chew up Sarina’s ass for no reason, think about that. Besides, that’s not what’s important right now…” Cindy then sits back in the chair, crossing her arms.

“I just can’t believe that we’re sitting in a hospital once again not even a month later and he’s fighting for everything that he’s got….” A stray tear falls down her face and she quickly wipes it away. “I just want my baby to be okay…” Bill wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“He will be, Cindy. No matter what…”

“Do you want anything?” Josh asks as he looks at Sarina and she shakes her head no.

“I just can’t believe this….” She comments with a sigh. “We knew shit was still possible with her and Bethany running around, but yet we let it happen. I should’ve went with him to qualifying.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alan assures her as he pats her shoulder. “To be honest, I screwed up, too, probably worse than any of you. I could see the symptoms right before me. I even suggested that we just throw the race totally and get him help. I should’ve done that. I should’ve never let him go through with this plan – no matter how clever Josh was in thinking it.”

“He’s right,” Josh adds. “I mean, there’s two hours there that we let it eat at him and make it worse. As they say, time is the most important in these situations – and we fucked up. We should’ve convinced him to tell the authorities, or to go about it another way.”

“Are the guys okay?” Bill wonders, having heard about the bomb going off.

“Everybody accounted for and safe. I had them moving away from there pushing the car to the trailer.” Josh then glances at the latest text from Jordan. “They’re curious already, by the way.”

“As expected,” Alan summarizes. “We’ll have to explain it to them and why we kept it a secret, even though it sounds so stupid now.” Alan then runs his hands through his thin hair, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry Bill, Cindy, Sarina….”

“You did what you thought was right and what he’d allow you within the window he gave you,” Bill comments as he looks over at the crew chief. “Stop beating yourself up. It’s not going to help. Just focus on him. Focus on making sure he gets better.” Alan nods his head, knowing he wasn’t taking any more chances.

The group then glances up as they watch door open and see a female walk through, followed by calling over to them. She then takes a seat in the chair before the group, which could only add to the concerns that they were having. Alan knew that if the doctor was taking this careful measure entering, she’d have a lot to say and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“My name is Demetra Manning,” she states as she looks at each of the individuals. “I’m the toxicology expert for the hospital, and in charge of poison control. I can tell you everything that you need to know, and answer any questions that you may hav-”

“Just tell me how my son is!” Cindy snaps, just wanting an update as soon as possible.

“I understand that you guys have been in a situation like this before and actually, just a couple weeks ago.” Cindy rolls her eyes as she hated to hear the doctor spending time wasting energy on stuff they didn’t need to know this second. “I got a hold of Dr. Hanken in Daytona as we were looking over initial test results to discuss everything. We both confirmed that he was poisoned with the same substance, with it acting as a stronger stream due to the consistency, the fact that it was injected versus digested, and length of time in the body.”

“We should’ve said something….” Alan comments, feeling a bunch of regret in hearing how serious things had potentially come. It was a regret that he didn’t know if he could ever overcome, either.

“How much more serious?” Bill questions, feeling a tinge of worry himself now. Normally, it was Cindy’s job to panic and worry while he stayed calm – but that wasn’t happening.

“We’re not absolutely certain that he’ll fully recover, yet, or how long it will take him to wake up,” the doctor reveals, which pulled at every heart string for both Cindy and Sarina. “We immediat-”

“What do you mean by ‘wake up’?” Cindy interrupts. “Last time, they gave him a sedative to keep him asleep as his body fought it and he began to heal. Are you referring to that, or….” Dr. Manning takes a deep breath.

“Recall that he passed out on the way to the care center with Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Kirk. Well, he hasn’t woken up since then – and that’s what I am referring to. It may take him a couple hours, or it could be a couple of days. It just depends how the poison affected him.”

“But he will wake up, right?” Dr. Manning felt confident in nodding her head.

“As I started to say, we immediately started him on the antidotes and anti-epileptic medicine. He’s also on a ventilator like previously, too.” Cindy knew that shouldn’t affect her too much as she’d been here before, but she couldn’t help but cringe at those words. “We’ll wait to see when he wakes up and see where he is. If he’s really agitated, we’ll give him a sedative. If he’s not too bad, we’ll look towards the next steps – removing the ventilator, and checking everything over. Either way, it’s going to take a bit of time….”

“Can we go see him, though?” The doctor nods her head.

“I’d actually encourage that, as being surrounded by family and friends will help. Don’t be afraid to talk to him or amongst yourselves, either.”

The group then followed the doctor through the doors, down a short hall, before turning into a room. After a couple deep breaths trying to clear their nerves, Cindy and Sarina led the group into the room. They each took a seat in the first two chairs by the bed, putting their differences aside for the time being. Bill then sat back on the window sill, while Alan and Josh leaned against the wall.

One way or another – none of them were leaving the room until they knew he was okay.

“Kasey won…” Josh breaks the silence in the room that had fallen over a good 20 minutes.

“Really?” Alan asks as he looks over surprised and Josh just nods his head.

“Truex and Kyle wrecked racing for the lead and Kasey managed to get his ass to the front.” Alan shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s great for Kasey, though. I know how frustrated he’s been.” Josh nods his head once again.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and Dale manages to snag a win, we may actually get all four cars in the playoffs after all.” Alan could only hope that as he knew how much the guys would like that in the shop. After all, he had seen the frustration with how they’d all run lately.

“How can you think of playoffs at a time like this?” Sarina questions, catching the crew members off-guard.

“Casual conversation and hope for the future – just like the doctor recommended,” Alan summarizes.

“All I can think about is how much pain he’s in and how hard he is fighting…” Alan walks a couple steps forward, rubbing her shoulders.

“Listen, that’s certainly on my mind – bigger than Kasey’s win or anything Josh and I are talking about. Chase’s well-being is the most important thing that I can think of, so you don’t need to question that. We’re just trying to lightly pass the time so we can get to that point he is okay. Besides, you know he’ll be asking what happened and wanting to be in those playoffs.” Sarina sighs, nodding her head. It still didn’t feel right to talk about it all, though.

“Oh shit!” Josh lets out as he grabs his phone off the window sill, causing the entire room to glance over surprised.

“What?” Alan questions as he walks back over to the car chief. “Encumbered finish?”

“Don’t mention those dreadful words – but this is worse. Kasey is feeling crampy, almost dehydrated…but remember before the race in the driver’s mee-”

“Text Kenny right away!” Bill’s eyes then open in surprise as he hears the panic in Alan’s voice. “Kasey sipped from Chase’s water bottle because he was so thirsty. Chase tried to shrug him off from doing it, but couldn’t convince before he did.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“Of course…” He says as he glances over at Chase, feeling his heart break in seeing all the tubes and how he just laid there motionless.

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

Kasey makes his way down the hall, stopping as he reaches the door and glances in. Alan immediately notices him, excusing himself from the room as he goes out to the hall. It had been four hours since the aforementioned text had been sent.

“Nothing from him?” Kasey questions and Alan shakes his head no.

“Not a single movement,” Alan answers as he leans back against the wall, crossing his arms. “Dr. Manning says that could be a good thing, as his body is conserving energy to fight off everything. But she also warned that not waking up in the first 24 hours could be a sign of brain damage or something serious.” Kasey shakes his head in disbelief.

“Well then he better wake up….”

“How are you, though?” Kasey could only shrug his shoulders. It’d be a whirlwind from victory lane to kissing the bricks, to the infield care center and to the hospital.

“I didn’t get a lot in my system, thankfully. Dr. Manning gave me the same antidote that Chase is taking, and it’s starting to work. I’m about 80% right now, and she says I should be back to myself in the next couple of days.” Alan could only let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s good.” Alan then glances back towards the room, before looking at Kasey. “I’m glad you’re not in the same shoes as him. I mean, he shouldn’t be there, either. If he would’ve said something sooner, then he could be like you. If I would’ve convinced him to say something sooner, or I would’ve just done it myself, then we wouldn’t be here this serious. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. I can’t believe I didn’t go against everything. Why did I just sit there this morning and let him convince me about this absurd plan of Josh’s?” Kasey shrugs his shoulders, having not been there to see everything.

“You can’t beat yourself up over it, Alan. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’ve made some myself. It doesn’t help. You just got to focus on getting him bet-”

“Every time I look at him lying there, though, it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that time is precious and I was an idiot for not remembering that. I mean, what kind of crew chief am I if let my driver get into this positio-”

“Alan, it’s not your faul-”

“But it is, Kahne! We’ve been here before! Damn it!” Kasey could hear the anger laced in Alan’s voice, knowing it wasn’t directed at him, but rather the situation. “I should’ve done something…” A couple tears fall as Kasey immediately reaches out, pulling Alan into a hug, rubbing his back. “I should’ve….”

“He’s going to be okay, Alan. It’s going to be okay…”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 124: Brickyard 400

Sunday, July 23 – Indianapolis

Chase lets out a yawn as he makes his way through the infield, knowing that he had a pre-race meeting with the guys.

He admittedly hadn’t slept well last night, tossing and turning and worrying about everything. He even began to wonder if maybe there was nothing in what she injected – and it was just done to scare him more than anything.

Though beginning to feel a little sick in the morning, he knew that was a lie. It wasn’t terrible – sort of reminded him of how you feel with the 24 hour stomach flu. He felt a little nauseous, but other than that he was fine. Saying his own prayers in his mind, the day would be over soon and they could get to the bottom of it.

He makes his way into the trailer, taking his usual position amongst the guys, paying attention as Alan goes over the notes for the day. He then chimed in with his own ‘pick me up comments,’ and the team felt more than confident in the day ahead.

With the meeting done, he headed out of the trailer, knowing he had to go see some sponsor VIPs, and then he would have a couple hours for himself. Maybe he could get some sleep, or perhaps stomach at least some soup.

“Hey, are you feeling okay?” His dad asks as they head to the last appearance. With how it’d been set-up, the pair was supposed to attend together and do a quick Q&A with the guests.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Chase answers quickly, hoping to finish up this string of events quicker than ever so he didn’t have to deal with questions like this. Bill, meanwhile, had his eyes locked on Chase, knowing that his comment was an immediate lie. If there was one thing, he could never tell a lie, ever.

“Chase….” Chase then lets out a sigh, debating which way to go with his excuse.

“Alright, I’m feeling a little sick. I think I picked up the bug that was going around – one of the other crew guys had it. I’m fine.” Bill then looked at him with raised eyebrows, but figured he could trust him. Besides, Cindy could handle strangling him later.

“Just be careful and make sure to tell Alan incase, okay?” Chase nods his head.

While he hadn’t planned to say anything to Alan and didn’t really want to have a back-up driver – someone else involved in this chaos, it did give him another idea though. Maybe there was a way out of this quicker, after all.

Once he was done the series appearances, he made his way back to the team trailer. He knew that Alan and Josh would be there going over some final notes of the day with the car having gone through pre-race tech inspection already. He just needed to find the courage to tell them.

“You’re back here?” Josh questions as he sees the door to the lounge open up.

“Yeah,” Chase answers as he closes it behind him. “I needed to talk to you both before the race. It’s important…” Josh and Alan glance at each other a little confused, before setting their eyes back on their driver.

“I’m all ears,” Alan says as he sets his notes aside. He knew if Chase was interrupting them, it was important.

Taking a shaky breath, Chase went into detail of the series of events over the past week involving Allison. He told them about what happened at the beauty pageant. He told them about the photo getting sent to Sarina and how that broke down. He then told them what happened yesterday in the garage area, which caused both of their jaws to drop.

“I’m starting to feel some symptoms – very minor at that, though,” he reveals, bringing an even bigger shock to Alan’s face. “Feeling a little sick, a little clammy – but nothing that I can’t handle. I figure I’d let you know so we can do something post-rac-”

“There’s no way you’re racing toda-” Alan starts.

“Alan, we have no choice. If we go say something, then that bomb goes off. Do you know how many people are around there right now?” Alan lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “And sure, you could tell the cops and the bomb squad and whoever you want. But if she gets word that someone knows, she won’t take any chances.”

“So you’re just going to let this crap eat at you, while trying to race 400 miles today?” Chase sits down, knowing that was the only option that they were left with. He just figured the team knowing would be a good step for after the race.

“Alan, I know we’re trying to point our way into the playoffs, but could we just give up this one?” Josh questions, causing a shocked expression from Chase immediately.

“That’ll clue her in righ-” Chase starts as Josh shakes his head no.

“Not if we do this how I am thinking, Chase.” Chase then looks at him puzzled.

“He’s not wrecking the car purposely at the start for that reason,” Alan states, beginning to read the car chief’s mind.

“Does anybody not have a clue to what I am thinking?” Josh questions as he had to laugh at their responses. “Of course, I wouldn’t want him to do that because what if he gets hurt? I’m not stupid, Alan. Remember – you hired me.” Chase had to chuckle at the response as Alan rolls his eyes. “But what if we had an engine failure?” Chase and Alan glance at each other, before turning their eyes back to Josh.

“I’d be fully willing to give up today as someone’s health and safety is more important…” Josh then pulls up his laptop, opening some of the engineering numbers.

“Dale has blown a couple motors this year, and we have past data from other years. I can construct the perfect formula in steps for Chase to follow to make that motor blow up in the first 50 laps.” Chase then looks on surprised.

“That easy?” He questions and Josh nods his head.

“Certain missed shift on the start, certain missed shift on a possible restart afterwards, and hitting certain revs would cause it to go big time,” Josh reveals as he looks over the numbers. “Of course, you’ll have the engineers and engine tuners willing to kill yo-”

“Wrong choice of wording!” Alan yells as Josh freezes.

“Right, sorry.” He then goes back to his notes. “But I mean, I’d rather deal with them on your ass then something else.” Chase couldn’t help but admit that the car chief was pretty smart after all.

“Give those numbers, please…” Josh then sorts through everything, jotting some numbers and notes on a piece of paper, before handing it over to Chase. “After it goes and we’re don-”

“Clearing the garage area immediately, telling the guys to load up and not even bother reviewing,” Alan cuts him off, reading his mind. “We’ll have it sorted out. You just focus on coming back to the garage, getting out, and going to get help.” Chase nods his head as he takes a couple deep breaths. “Chase?”

“I’m fine,” he tells them as he stands up, snatching the piece of paper off the table. “By the way, Sarina doesn’t know. Someone will have to tell her.” Alan nods his head, knowing that would be on his conscious.

For the rest of the morning before the race, things went like normal and Chase found himself standing on pit road, counting down the minutes. He glanced around, silently telling him what he had read off the paper 50 different times over and over in his head, just hoping that it’d work out as smooth as Josh said it would.

“Ahh, my favorite people,” Chase hears, as he glances over and sees Ryan walking over with a box. He would rather just be left alone, but he knew that’d be too suspicious.

“And how’s Ryan?” Chase questions as Ryan just smiles in response.

“Ready to go and have a great day.” He then looks over at Sarina. “My team had a couple extra donuts so I thought I’d bring you a snack.” Sarina then looks at him, surprised.

“Any specific occasion?” She wonders and Ryan shakes his head no. “Well, everybody knows I love a good Krispy Kreme donut…” Ryan smiles as she takes the box from him.

“I’m good,” Chase comments as Sarina holds the box out to him first. He had already heard about the contents, but also knew that it’d turn his stomach once again and he may actually throw-up this time.

“Suit yourself…” She then opens the box, and her smile immediately disappears as she sees a mix of raw cabbage and broccoli, shaped into little donuts. Ryan began laughing immediately as she looked at him. “Really?”

“Nice job on the ringtone,” he tells her with before turning on his heels and walking away. She then takes one of the pieces of broccoli, chucking it down pit road at him, causing him to spin around in surprise. “Now, now Ms. Ott, you shouldn’t be throwing things on pit road. That’s against the rules.”

“This is cruel!” She replies as he only laughs harder. Chase just shakes his head between them, knowing that this was probably just the start of what was to come. They seemed to have a good knack now for pranking each other. “Did you see what he di-”

“It’s a good prank,” Chase cuts her off as he leans back against the car. If he had to be honest, the heat was getting to him a little, combined with the sickness increasing. He could only hope the plan that Josh had in place worked real quickly as there was no way he could do 400 miles feeling like this. Maybe he should’ve taken the back-up driver approach, instead.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I’m still saying something is off….” He then looks over at her, giving her a small smile.

“Just ready to get this started. I would’ve preferred to be in the car by now….”

It wasn’t long until opening ceremonies kicked off, followed by Chase climbing in the car. Josh had stayed there to make sure he was buckled in, and go through everything once again. As he put up the window net, Josh had to resist the urge to yell something there as he could see it in Chase’s eyes that things were getting worse. However, he followed normal protocol, before retreating back to the pit box.

Chase went through pace laps as if nothing was different – though felt everything wrong in that moment. He felt sicker to his stomach, felt clammy, felt a headache coming on, and knew what was coming if they didn’t get through this sooner than later.

On the drop of the green flag, he remembered what Josh said – skip from gear 2 to gear 4 by accident, letting the motor hit the higher revs as that’ll damage some inner components. He could only curse what he was doing, knowing it’d just increase everybody’s discussions about him doing crap on restarts.

He pushed like usual, keeping himself in solid contention, though silently wishing that it would go sooner than anticipated. He knew the caution at Lap 11 and restart six laps later would help his cause, too, as he went through another of the messed up processes.

“Something is off here,” he reports afterwards, starting to feel the beginning of the valve train giving up. Obviously, Josh’s numbers were right on target.

“10-4,” Alan replies, giving the car chief a nod on the pit box. “Just keep an eye on it.” Alan knew that they should actually look at it under the next possible caution, but knew that’d go against the plan in place.

They got another caution, and another fumble through the gears to hit different RPM numbers began to work its magic, with things getting even more off basis.

“Next caution, we’ll take a look,” Alan states, following protocol of cover-up as he glances at Josh. It was only a matter time now.

“It’s flashing these codes,” Chase alerts them as Josh smiles, knowing that the process had worked perfectly. He knew those were the error codes of the fuel pump.

“Read them off…” Chase bit his tongue as that’d be tougher than imagined. He was already having a hard enough time ignoring how he was feeling, concentrating on racing, and following the necessary steps in place. Now he had to read a series of numbers off the dashboard?

He began to read the first set of numbers as Josh compared them to other notes, seeing as though they were following the error process that he wanted. Sure enough, it came together with smoke begin to come out the back of the No. 24 on Lap 43.

“Bring it in,” Alan states as he immediately closes up his notebook. “Guys, to the trailer and load it up. We’re done.” He glances at Josh, remembering that crucial step as Josh nods his head in response.

“You take Chase as Sarina will follow,” Josh whispers once they’re down off the pit box. “I’ll make sure all the guys are there. Alert the guys if you need them – I’ll make sure everywhere else is clear….” Alan nods his head as they began the quiet walk through the garage area.

They turn the corner and see the car sitting by the garage stall, causing both of the crew members to look at each other confused. They then walk a little faster, with the rest of the team in toe.

“She wouldn’t roll the rest of the way,” Chase says quietly as he leans back against the car after climbing out.

“It’s fine,” Alan assures him as he wraps an arm around his shoulders. “We got this regardless.” Chase nods his head as he lets out an aggravated sigh. “Talk to me…”

“I feel like shit. I never should’ve let her do that. I never should’ve let gone along with this. I should’ve said something sooner, did something different. I shouldn’t even started that race.” He then pauses, taking a careful deep breath. “I feel like total shit, Alan. I feel like I’m going to throw up, I feel so clammy but sweaty and hot, headache, fever, and can barely move…”

“I knew something was up….” Sarina says as she crosses her arms.

“We’ll explain later,” Josh tells her as he glances between Chase, Alan and the crew.

“Come on, I got you…” Alan forces Chase to lean against him, leading him away from the car as he takes a glance at Josh.

“Guys, let’s push it to the trailer…” Josh instructs, rallying all the guys.

The guys begin to follow the instruction, pushing the car through the garage with confused glances at each other as they each take turns in seeing what direction Alan headed with Chase. Josh had headed that way, showing up on Chase’s other side, before another look towards Alan. They had only one destination in mind.

As everybody heads in different directions, they hear a big boom behind them, causing the whole crew to freeze and look back to the stall that they were just standing in a couple minutes ago in shock.

“The guys…” Chase says as he leans against Alan through their walk.

“I got them out of there, heading to the hauler with the car,” Josh assures Chase.

“Do I want to know?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no.

“Like I said – we’ll explain later….” Sarina could only fear in finding out the truth of what was going on, with thoughts of Allison, her brother and Bethany floating through her brain. Why did this keep happening? She had done it again to him, and now the guys, too….

“Just focus on continuing to go forward, and focus on yourself,” Alan tells him. “Keep walking, keep moving forward, and keep fighting. We’re almost there…”

“I’m trying…” Chase says his legs give out a little, which causes Alan and Josh to grab him a firmer grip. “I can’t…” They then go give out again.

“Chase!” Alan tightens his grip even more, if he could, before feeling the young man fall against him. “I got you, I got you buddy….”

“Hold his shoulders and head,” Josh instructs as he picks the lower half up. The pair then continue moving as quickly as they can, shuffling into the care center. “We need help – ASAP!”