Wednesday, November 29 – Wynn Las Vegas
After returning to the lobby dressed in his firesuit, Chase rejoined his fellow drivers, climbing inside a limo van. According to NASCAR, this was their ride to where the NASCAR Victory Lap would begin.
“I saw you saying goodbye to the girls,” Ryan comments, catching Chase’s attention as he glances over.
“Yeah, they’re off to Florida,” Chase replies. “I told her that she didn’t need to come back tomorrow night, but she kept insisting.” Ryan could only smile in response.
“She cares about you, man. She wants to be here to support you and celebrate the season. Take it as a compliment.” Chase knew that Ryan was right in his words, and he was glad. It was amazing to see how much things had grown since they met.
“Remember when I dragged your ass out to the track because I was afraid to talk to her?” Ryan laughs, remembering that.
“Aren’t you glad that I went down and sparked that conversation for you?” Chase nods his head, remembering how angry he was at first. But strangely, it worked out better than he could’ve expected. “Look, I’m glad that it worked out for you. I mean, you deserve it and she does too. I really can’t wait to see where you guys go from here.”
“I see the sky as the limit, to be honest. I mean, we both love each other so much, will do anything for each other, and truly trust each other.” He then glances out the window, taking a deep breath. He knew there was still one hitch in all of this, though. “I just hope that we don’t repeat the past events.”
“Chase, that’s not going to happen. Bethany and Chris are locked away for years, and out of your lives. Allison – she’s dealt with via a single piece of paper. You don’t have to worr-”
“What if something else pops up? I don’t think I can take her running away again, Ryan. I can’t describe how heartbroken and upset I was. it hurt me more than I realize to stand in front of her, cut her out of my life once, and then watch her run and turn her back on me. I can’t do that.” Ryan understood as he remembered the emotions, having helped them reconnect the second time.
“You guys were both young and there was so much going on. We’re not going to repeat those events, and Chase, even if you do, you both have learned. Like you said, you guys would do anything for each other and trust each other. If something happens, she knows that she can come to you this time.” Chase nods his head, accepting, believing Ryan’s words.
“Thank you.” They then stop as they pull up to where they’re getting out as a yawn escapes his lips.
“You can’t be tired…” Chase looks over at Ryan with a ‘really’ glance, which was met with a chuckle. “I thought you would’ve gotten enough sleep up on the rooftop.”
“You’d think, but I’m still feeling it.” Ryan wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders with a sly smile.
“Chase, let’s face it – you’re hungover. Just hope you don’t vomit after going around in circles.” Chase made a face as Ryan got out with a laugh, waving to the crowd as he headed to the tent where they were directed too.
Thankfully, things went smoothly as Chase went through the introductions with ease, and was able to do his donuts without anything escaping. Actually, it was better than smooth as the donuts were some of the best he had ever done, put together in perfect circles in the intersection. He also was able to avoid the motor issues and blown tires that seemed to plague his fellow competitors, shaking his head at some of the ridiculousness that ensued.
Once reaching the ‘official finish line,’ he took his walk up the make shift red carpet, taking his seat on the stage beside Ryan. Silently thinking to himself, he just hoped that the tell-all didn’t involve secrets that needed to remain hidden.
“Want a glass?” Ryan questions as Brad Keselowski was going around getting drinks for everyone. Chase shakes his head no, and Ryan could only chuckle back quietly in response. “Please tell me that you’re not done drinking over one night….”
“Probably not,” Chase confesses, before all focus turns forward with the questions starting to fly from Kim Coon and Rutledge Wood.
He had to chuckle at the thought of all the drivers being fine with Ryan babysitting their kids. Yes, Ryan was a great guy, but it was clear that they didn’t know some of his secrets. But still reaping for a nap, he kept himself quiet as he waited for the next shoe to drop.
He was then caught off-guard when Kyle confessed that he sucked at gift giving. How could he not even buy a gift for his own brother? That didn’t seem right based on things that he had learned through Sarina in how kind hearted the guy could be, combined with surprises for fans. Least he had Sam to keep him out of trouble.
He laughed as they teased Ryan about his hair – which he had to admit fit Ryan perfectly. He actually couldn’t imagine his friend without the long hair now as it just seemed to suit his style perfectly.
“You had some long hair for awhile there Chase,” Rutledge comments, catching his attention. “Any thought of bringing it back?”
“Maybe; we’ll have to see,” Chase replies with a smile. While it had grown a little frustrating to handle in the summer, from being out of control to sweaty, looking back he actually enjoyed it being a little longer than it was now. it looked pretty good, and how could he argue with Sarina loved to run her hands through the curls? Maybe that would be a good plan for 2018.
Obviously with attention paid on him, it was no surprise when Kim brought up things at Martinsville with him and Denny. He didn’t even bother to glance down towards Denny as Denny rambled on about how things weren’t his fault. He bit his tongue a little, remembering his own words – let the talking on track do the work, and just race him like he needs to be raced.
He felt caught off-guard when Denny mentioned how Phoenix would change the game moving forward – clearly, he hadn’t learned a single thing. letting out a sigh, next year was going to be interesting.
But he couldn’t consume his mind with Denny. If he did that, he wouldn’t focus on making the most of the time off, or making sure his own ducks were in a row for success next year. It was time to just focus on his team, and make sure they would come out of the gate swinging.
“Here’s one that the fans want to know,” he continued to listen to the hosts ramble off questions from the fans. “Who do you guys think will be the next Most Popular Driver?” Chase then froze a little as a series of fingers pointed towards him. it was one thing for the fans to say so on twitter, another for the media to imply that, but now his fellow peers?
“I think he could possibly beat his dad’s record,” Kyle comments out loud, catching Chase off-guard even more. Was this really happening? “How many does he got, anyway?”
“16.” It was easy to know the mark as his dad took pride in those awards, and everybody also seemed to remind him when they got a chance.
“How old are you?” Was this question really being asked? Kyle should know his age and what he was allowed, as he had heard the stories of last night.
“Legal….” Kyle chuckles a little in response. He should’ve expected a response like that in return.
“No, I need to know how old…” Chase was slightly confused, but figured he’d go along with it. Given Kyle’s behavior so far that day, sometimes playing nice and sometimes picking on them, he could only wonder where he was going with this.
“22.” He watches as Kyle quickly appears to be adding some numbers together, sitting there curiously.
“You got enough time.” Chase knew that he was probably right, putting the math together himself to equal being 38 if he won 16 straight awards. Maybe there was something to be said here.
“Really? That means a lot man coming from you…” Kyle glances back with a smile and a nod, and Chase could only smile back in response. It was clear that a good level of respect had grown amongst the pair over the year, with balancing the relationship.
“Man, if I was Dale, I would’ve ran at least one more year – if not two – to beat the record.” Chase could only chuckle as Kyle went back to his ways.
Wednesday, November 29 – Pennscola, Florida
Sarina walks out to the infield of the track, joining the circle of drivers that had formed, with both crew chief Marcus Richmond and Lindsay standing over her shoulder.
“So how does this work?” Lindsay wonders as Sarina glances back.
“They call us up by the ordered we registered and we pull a number,” Sarina begins. “Whatever we pull is where we go out Friday night. Hopefully we draw a low number.” Lindsay looked at her a little confused. Normally, going out later in the session would be the key to setting the quick time – or at least that’s what she remembered from her days interested in racing. “Down here, you wanna go out early versus late because of the humidity in the air. It gets like dewy the later you go, making for a slick surface. Oh, and by the way, you’re drawing Kyle’s number.”
“What?” Lindsay thought she was just there to support her friend. Now she had to pull the qualifying draw number for one of the top contenders?
“No pressure,” Marcus comments, patting her shoulder with a smile. “Relax. Even if you pull some high number – like 50, he won’t be mad. It’s luck of the draw, right?” Lindsay nods her head, accepting, but couldn’t help but begin to feel the nerves.
“I can’t believe how many people are here,” Lindsay says as she watches the crowd gather. “This is just a qualifying draw, but yet there’s like 100s of people here.”
“That’s how big this event is,” Sarina explains. “People are invested in every single little thing about it. There’s 54 drivers here alone. This is the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 of short track racing. I want this as bad as I wanted to win a truck race this year.” Lindsay looks over surprised but is simply met back with a smile.
“So everybody here is like a top dog short track late model racer?” Both Sarina and Marcus nod their heads yes in return.
“I can point out 20 people quickly that have won either a big event or championship without thinking hard,” Sarina offers. “Take Bubba Pollard. He’s won every since big event around the country. But yet, in 14 tries, he has yet to win this race. He’s a favourite based on testing. You’ve also got the likes of Augie Grill, Jeff Choquette – both drivers have been racing for years. Fellow NASCAR up and coming drivers Chase Purdy, Brandon McReynolds, Harrison Burton – they’re all here, too. Chase wasn’t joking when he said this is the biggest race and it’s a who’s who field.” Lindsay shakes her head in disbelief as drivers begin to pull their numbers.
“I can’t believe you forgot your own teammate Cole Rouse,” Marcus muses as Sarina gives him a glance. “What? He has won some big events this year.”
“I’m pretty sure she’ll get to hear enough about Cole hanging with us.”
“Sarina Ott!” The announcer states, breaking up their conversation. Sarina walks over, taking a deep breath as she reaches her hand deep in the bag. She swirls her hand around, feeling the balls, finally pulling one out. She hands it over to the announcer, scared to look at it. “14.”
“Beautiful,” she comments as she walks back over, giving Marcus a high-five.
“Kyle Busch!” Sarina then spins around, facing the announcer.
“Kyle isn’t here due to his NASCAR commitments. My cousin Lindsay is going to pick on his behalf.” The announcer nods his head accepting as Lindsay walks up. She reaches her hand in the bag, picking the top ball, handing it over. “10 for Busch!”
“Hell yeah!” Sarina gives Lindsay a big hug, as they trade a round of high-fives with Marcus. “So far, so good. Now let’s just keep this rolling….”
Wednesday, November 29 – The Chelsea
Dressed casual in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, Chase was ready to get in, follow his responsibilities, and get out of there. another yawn escaped his lips, and he knew that he was ready for bed. Besides, he wanted to spend some time talking to Sarina on the phone and didn’t want to go too late. He’d feel guilty if he kept her up with practice on the horizon.
He made his way to the Chevrolet VIP fan section, sharing hellos with the fans. He had to admit – some of them had some good stories to share, and the conversation wasn’t that bad after all. He went through a series of autographs and photos, before heading out, getting set for the next stop of the night.
He could only chuckle at the hilarity ensuing already on stage with Kyle sharing stories alongside Erik Jones. Strangely, as weird as some of those got, he could actually see them happening.
“Least we’re not the only ones that get people drunk off their ass,” Ricky comments as he walks over to Chase. Chase chuckles as he listens to Kyle recall a story from the last time he was in Vegas with Erik, having to save his ass after Erik was stumbling over, really drunk in a club. “Dude, you better be coming out tonight…..”
“Man, I don’t know,” Chase states as he lets out a sigh. He knew as soon as he said the words that he wasn’t going, he’d get a series of protesting from Ricky, and Ricky would probably get others on his case, too. But, he promised himself he’d stick to his guns. “You look like you’ve already been in the drinks.”
“I could go get you one…” Chase shakes his head no. “So you’re seriously not coming to party with us? Man, I thought you said you had a ball last night. You need to join us…”
“I’m still tired, and I want to call Sarina before it’s too la-”
“You could come see us afterwards, Chasey. You know your girl would want you to have fun.” He rolls his eyes, having expected this.
“Ricky, I’m fine. I’d rather have a quiet night..” Ricky then went to say something, but was pulled away as it was his turn to be on Ryan’s show. “Thank you…”
Chase relaxed back, listening to the fun ensuing on stage, almost bursting out laughing a couple times. Poor Ryan and Kim having to deal with drunken Ricky and drunken Brad at the same time. He had to wonder how Ryan was showing so much patience, and what was in Ryan’s glass based on that factor.
Taking a deep breath, it was finally his turn to make his way out to the stage, and have his turn on the show with Kyle Larson joining him. Hopefully it went smoothly as envisioned.
“Did you get your nap in?” Ryan asks as they sit down and Chase shakes his head no.
“No, I need one badly…” Chase answers and Ryan nods, knowing what that meant already for later. Letting out a sigh, he had hoped to have the whole gang united again.
Chase sat and listened as Kyle Larson talked about Owen and Santa, followed by a couple questions thrown his way from Kim. Thankfully, she kept it quick and simple without divulging too much.
“Alright, next round of guests…” Ryan states after 10 minutes of conversation, causing a shocked expression to form immediately on Chase’s face. He was called out here for just 10 minutes? He could’ve really caught up on sleep and relaxation otherwise.
“That’s it?” He questions, still surprised and Ryan nods his head. Ryan had wished to keep him longer, knowing the fun that could be had, but knew the regulations set in by both Kim and Chuck with everybody on tap to be on it.
“That’s it. Are you mad?” Chase shakes his head no, actually partly thankful. Maybe he could have that peaceful long night he desired.
“I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed.” Ryan gives him a ‘really’ glance, remembering the conversation from last night.
“That’s the worst thing you could say to me.” Chase knew that Ryan had caught the reference right away, and was playing right into his hand. But, he also knew that things were cool and it was just purely joking here.
“I’m sorry, man….” Chase could tell that Ryan was holding in a laugh as he sat there.
“Get off my show man!” Chase smiles back in response as he stands up, set to head off stage.
“I mean, I will. I was leaving anyway….” Ryan was about to say something in relation to the night, but instead simply let him walk off. While he wished he could have the full party group again for another night, he respected his friend’s decision to call it early.
Besides, he knew a good phone conversation with Sarina tonight would be the right ticket after their discussion earlier.