Thursday, November 2
Chase lets out a sigh as he finalizes getting everything packed for the weekend, glancing at the clock. It was early in the morning, but they had to leave shortly so they’d be there timely for Sarina’s pair of truck practices. He smiles as he looks towards the bed, seeing her lying there tangled in the sheets, sleeping. She had gotten back late from her appearance, so he was letting her sleep in a little.
“So, are you ready for the weekend?” He hears over the phone, which was on speaker. He wasn’t surprised to have received an early morning check-in call from Dad.
“Absolutely,” Chase replies. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He hears a small chuckle on the other end.
“I’m just wondering where your thought process is right now with regards to Denny.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that would obviously be a topic of discussion. He couldn’t wait for every person in the world to bring it up.
“I don’t really care about him. Like I said on Sunday, he ain’t worth the time of day. My focus is getting this team into the final four where we belong based on our performance, and that means winning either this weekend or next weekend. I’m ready to win, Dad.” Truth be told, Denny was in the thoughts a tiny bit based on his comments to Sarina yesterday. But, as Jimmie had told him earlier in the week, worrying about that wouldn’t help the cause he should be focused on.
“That’s where your focus should be. But what happens if you’re side-by-side on Sund-”
“Are you asking me if I’m going to pay him back? Are you asking if I’m going to wreck him?” Chase just wished people would come out with the question when they started to get curious.
“Yeah.” Chase takes a deep breath as he sits on the edge of the bed, thinking it over.
“I don’t flat out wreck people; you know that’s not my style. But, I’m not happy with what he did and he knows that.” Despite his feelings, he knew he could never bring himself to flat out turn Denny like Denny did to him.
“Well, just remember what Ricky would always tell you – race people how they race you. If they show you respect, then they deserve it back in return as you’re a respectful, clean driver. But, if they don’t, you need to show them how you feel and you won’t put up with it. Remember that…” Chase remembered hearing that constantly during his late model days, and even putting it into good practice a couple of those events.
“I’ll keep that in mind. Look, I got to go wake Sarina up and get ready. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Alright. Love you. Bye Chase.” Chase couldn’t help but smile.
“Love you, too. Bye Dad.” He then hangs up, setting his phone beside his bag on the dresser. He then works his way back up the bed, slowly untangling the blankets from Sarina. “Hey, it’s time to get up….”
“Well, well, look at that….” Sarina comments as they fly closer to Texas Motor Speedway. While the track was within sight, she couldn’t have cared less. Instead, her eyes landed on the billboard that was on the backstretch. “Eddie Gossage was supposed to be taking full advantage of what happened and he certainly did.” Chase glances over towards the direction that she was looking, shaking his head.
“Oh boy….” was all he could manage seeing himself 12 feet tall up there. Sarina could only glance over at him and chuckle.
“Oh boy? That’s all you can manage?” Chase focuses his eyes back forward, knowing the airport was coming up.
“I could also say unnerving and strange…” She just laughs a little harder as she takes her phone out, snapping a photo. “Really?”
“Not every girl can say that her man was on a big billboard.” He just rolls his eyes. “I can’t believe that seems strange to you.”
“What can I say? I’m a simple guy….” She just shakes her head, though takes a deep breath as she feels them descending. “Relax, I got this….”
“I always believe in you. I just hate flying.” Chase could sympathize, based on past experiences. He just hoped that it got easier with time for her as he couldn’t wait to show her some of his favorite places to fly over.
“Deep breathes; we’re just about landed.”
Sarina walks back into the motorcoach, closing the door, glancing over to Chase on the couch with smile.
He had joined her in the garage area for both her practices, watching atop of the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler as she put together a pair of successful sessions – second in the first one, seventh in the second. He then headed back once they were done, letting her spend some time debriefing with Marcus, followed by some time with her teammates.
“You have a good truck for tomorrow night,” he comments as she walks past him.
“Marcus always gives me good equipment,” she replies, leaning down and kissing his lips.
“If you could drive for anyone in the truck series, Kyle is the man.” She smiles as she slips off the top of her firesuit.
“You know, it felt different today in practice compared to other weeks…” Chase sits his phone down, stopping his random twitter scrolling, as he watches her grab a drink from the fridge closely. “I actually felt relaxed and chilled. I wasn’t stuck up or overly focused – it just felt right. I actually feel like this is where I belong, more so than I did before.” Chase smiles as he watches her sit across from him.
“It’s amazing what a win can do for you and your confidence, huh?” She smiles, nodding her head.
“It just feels so right, but I don’t get why it’s different….”
“Like you said last week, the weight is off your shoulders and there’s no doubt anymore. You proved you belong, you proved you could get the job done, and you don’t have to listen that annoying question of when you’re going to win. Now you can just focus.” Her eyes lock into his as she reaches over, grabbing his hand.
“You’re getting your first win soon so you can feel what I’m feeling, and I mean that. Actually, I think it may come this weekend. I would say that you do look pretty hot when a cowboy hat.” Chase’s cheeks immediately turn red as he lets out a small chuckle. “I’m serious!”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing you wear one tomorrow night.” She smiles back in approval. “Now, what do you say you go get changed and I take you out?” Her smile fades as she just gives him back a shocked face.
“Like a date?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Chase, a little more warning would be more appropriate. I don’t even know if I have something to wea-”
“You don’t need to dress up fancy or anything. It’s not meant to be like that. Just go with a nice pair of jeans and t-shirt, as all I’m wearing is this. It’s just a casual outing.” She then lets out a sigh as she stands up, letting it soak in.
“Alright, fine. Give me 15 minutes, okay?” He rolls his eyes as he kicks his feet up on the couch.
“Take your time. I know you girls are.” She then stops, turning back with a glance.
“Excuse me?” He then looks over his shoulder with a smile.
“Hair, make-up, choosing outfit – I get it.” She could only roll her eyes in response.
“You can sometimes take as long as I do getting ready.” He shakes his head no as she nods her head in response. “But whatever…” He then laughs as she heads to the back for a shower.
Friday, November 3
Chase lets out a sigh as he heads out of the hauler, following Morgan through the packed garage area to the media center. He would’ve preferred to just skip this experience, get in the car, and focus on the task at hand. Instead, he knew he had to follow the obligations at hand.
He also knew the topic at hand would probably surround Denny and their contact from Martinsville. It was obvious what the media wanted to know – his reaction a week later, whether there’d be payback, and if he could overcome being behind to make the final four.
As he enters the media center, he could only think of the conversations that he had with Jimmie and his dad earlier in the week, along with Sarina last night before bed. She had asked him once again his thoughts, which he restated hadn’t changed but he could care less about Denny entering this weekend. Truthfully, he just wanted to focus on winning.
Though as he sat down before the microphone, he could only think about the words that she told him as they lied there, knowing how to choose his words carefully. He could stay focused on the task at hand and not do anything in the long run, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mess with Denny a little in the process.
“As far as last week goes, I don’t know that my thoughts today are a whole lot different than they were then,” Chase says as part of his opening statement. “I am still pretty frustrated about it and you know, as long as the week has gone along it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead. I think if anything else that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it. Definitely not happy about it and I don’t think a whole lot has changed.
“But no, I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not. Don’t even ask because you are not going to hear it from me. Just don’t go there. But yeah, I don’t think my mindset has changed from that standpoint. This is a point in this round where we are going to have to perform these next two weeks to have a chance at Homestead now. We are going to have to do just that.”
Sarina sat in the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler, smile firmly planted on her face as she watched the video feed on NASCAR.com with a smile. She was certainly proud of how he chose to go about that, wishing she could see Denny right now to see how much he was squirming and complaining. She actually wondered if Chase would get another text message as a result.
“You seem too happy about his comments….” She hears Marcus comment from the other couch in the lounge as he works through some notes. He had glanced up, noticing the growing smile on her face as Chase said his opening statement, caught off-guard in honesty.
“Because they’re just perfection,” she replies as Marcus felt confused now.
“How so?” She smiles as she kicks back, sipping on her Gatorade, roughly listening to the rest of the words he had to say.
“Mind games. Denny is one of those drivers that lets people’s comments get to him, and urge a response out of him. It’s easy to get under his skin. We saw that in years past, thanks to Kevin when they were fighting for the championship. Tony has done it to him, as well as Jimmie, Joey, and even Brad. You carefully word what you have to say, and boom – you’re in his head. Now rather than focused on his own business, he’s going to be wondering what Chase is thinking.” Marcus shakes his head as he couldn’t believe they had reached this point, but had to admit her observations were on point.
“So in reality, Chase is going to do nothin-”
“How do you know that?” Marcus then gives her a surprised glance in return.
“We know Chase. That’s not his style, Sarina.” She smiles, glad that was clear. “But anyway, he’s just making Denny think that something may happen to try and throw him off these next two weeks.”
“Genius, right? Meanwhile, what Denny doesn’t get is that Chase is solely focused on winning one of these two races. He’s focused on what his team is doing, and making sure they get to the championship 4 somehow, whether this week or next. Like he says to me, you can’t get yourself thinking about other things because they’ll eat at you. For example, when I was worried about what everybody was saying about me – why should that matter? While I’m worrying about that, I’m not focused on my own game.” Marcus nods his head, accepting, as that seemed pretty reasonable.
“I got to say, you got a pretty good advice system between him and Kyle.” She smiles as she glances over.
“I don’t take it for granted ever, Marcus. Kyle is amazing for giving me a chance, letting me drive for him, letting me prove to the world that I could do this, and for being a good close friend. Chase, on the other hand, I can’t even begin to describe how much I love and care about him. I mean, I don’t even know where to sta-”
“So I’m invited to the wedding, right?” Her jaw then drops as Marcus just laughs. “Oh come on now. We know that the wedding is coming eventually. I mean, you guys have been together for two years.”
“Sherry and Martin have been together for 13 and they’re not married.” Marcus then stops, watching her closely as he crosses his arms.
“Are you scared of marriage?” She then stops, glancing down at her lap, realizing that she said too much. “Hey, it’s okay to be scared of the word. I get it and understand why from your background. I’ve seen it with other people. Just go ask Dale as it terrified him due to his parents and everything, until he finally got up the courage to ask Amy. You can admit it and hey, if you don’t want to officially be married, that’s fine too. All that matters at the end of the day is that you’re happy.”
“What if Chase proposes one day and I can’t bring myself to say yes?” Marcus could hear the fear laced in her voice as he kept his eyes focused on her.
“Then you tell him that you’re afraid, and explain why. Knowing him, he’ll get it and understand it. I also know he’ll accept it because he loves you so much that he couldn’t stand to be without you. I also know that if anybody can help you work through that, it’s him. I mean, look what he’s done for you already.” She smiles back, nodding her head, accepting.
“Thanks Marcus…” He smiles as he watches her stand up, taking a quick glance in the mirror. “I’m going to head out and watch Cup practice. I’ll see you later?”
So far the day had been going smoothly from that point. It was like the frustrations from Martinsville were in the rearview and set to stay there. Chase showed speed in practice, popping up sixth quickest on the board, while she qualified second for the truck race behind Justin Haley.
But of course, the weekend couldn’t just go smoothly.
Sarina stood in the corner of the garage, watching as Chase stood before the camera, debating what to say next.
He had a car quick enough to qualify up front for the race, but of course – things couldn’t go that smoothly. Thanks to being stuck in inspection longer than planned, he did not get through in time, failing to make a qualifying attempt, set to start 37th on Sunday and miss 15 minutes of practice tomorrow.
While frustration boiled through her at the situation, she watched as he took it in stride. He spoke about how they had a good car, could make it even better in tomorrow’s pair of sessions, and had plenty of time to work their way from the back to the front. She even smiled as he referenced Jimmie driving from last to a win in the spring.
She watches as he finishes up, walking over to where she was standing.
“How do you do it?” She questions simply as he just shrugs his shoulders.
“I believe in my guys and this team,” he answers as he gives her a kiss. “I’ll be fine Su-”
“Are you going to tell me how you really feel, or what?” He then looks at her surprised. “What?”
“This is how I really feel. 80 laps is plenty of time to go from 37th to the top-10. Besides, I don’t need stage points as that doesn’t matter right now. Winning is what matters, so as long as I’m leading by the final lap, that’s what counts. I got lots of time to do that. I just made it more entertaining.” She rolls her eyes, knowing that was going to translate into her nerves going crazy. “Now, I love you and good luck toni-”
“Aren’t you joining me on pit road?” He shakes his head, almost set to smack himself as he had forgotten to tell her earlier.
“I have a Hooters appearance at the same tim-”
“You’re missing my race? Are you kidding me?”