Friday, February 23, 2018 – WellStar Spalding Regional Hospital – Griffin, Georgia
Alan and Chase walk down the halls, double checking the directions. Kyle had been doing a good job thus far, keeping them both informed on their way over as to where Sarina was so they would know upon arrival at the hospital.
Reading the room numbers down the hall, they stop at the room as listed in the last text message from Kyle, entering together slowly. Alan and Kyle share a simple nod back and forth in return, as Chase immediately goes over to Sarina, taking her hands into his.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” he tells her, pulling her into a hug as she lays her head against his chest immediately. “She didn’t do anything too terrible did she?” Sarina shakes her head no.
“One minute I’m walking with Rudy, next minute I woke up there alone,” she recalls. “Kyle showed up about three minutes later.” Chase just quietly rubs her back, saying his thankful prayers under his breath, as he glances over at Kyle.
“Thank you…” Kyle nods his head, accepting.
“You don’t need to thank me because I’d do it over in a heartbeat,” he tells Chase.
“Chase, I’m fine…” Sarina repeats, feeling his nerves against her as he stayed there, rubbing her back, taking a couple deep breaths as he calmed himself down. “Easy baby…” She reaches up, rubbing his side as he looks into her blue eyes.
“You don’t get it, do you?” He questions, causing confusion around the room. “She went after you to get to me. She went after you to mess with my head and get under my skin. The notes weren’t enough that now she’s resorting to going after those who are closest to me to bug me. It’s because of me that you’re in this mes-”
“It was Bethany that got her involved with the plan initially, and that’d be my cousin, Chase.” Chase lets out a sigh as he knew that was true, but that didn’t excuse what happened.
“But this incident, what she’s been doing, it’s solely focused on me and me alone, and now this was meant to get under my skin. I hate to watch you get hurt because of someone going after me-”
“What if this would’ve turned out different?” Sarina felt every fear that he was expressing as she reached for his hand, gripping it as tightly as she could.
“But it didn’t, Chase. I’m fine. Let’s be thankful about that, and focus on the future. Let’s focus on being more careful, watching our boundaries, doing the right thing, and not letting it happen again. We can’t change what happened, but we can plan for the future.” Chase knew that, and it was why he had set on a plan before coming over to see her. Taking a deep breath, he knew saying it would be harder than coming up with it.
“I think until everything is sorted out and she is caught, we need to stay apart. I feel it is the only way to keep you safe so that way she comes straight after me and not those around me…” Shock came over the whole room in his revelation, as both Kyle and Alan fought against interrupting the pair’s discussion.
“Seriously?” Chase slowly nods his head yes, holding back the tears. “Do you honestly hear yourself right now? I can’t believe you said that to me at all. After everything we’ve been through, this is what you have to tell me?” Chase knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, but it was the only thing that he could think to do in his mind. “Remember when Chris started to go after you to get to me? Do you remember that hell we went through and survived to get to here? I remember a time that I wanted to walk away from you to save you in my words, but you wouldn’t let me. You told me that no matter what, you loved me, stood by me, and wanted to help me. But now you expect me to walk away from you? Like hell! I could never ever do that, nor will I ever do that. I’m in this for the long haul. I’m going to help you just as much as you helped me.” He takes a deep breath, trying to find the energy to fight against it.
“I don’t think that’s a goo-”
“I don’t care. Listen to me, Chase Elliott. I accept the danger that comes in being with you and facing the likes of Allison, just like you accepted the danger of facing my brother. You dealt with being poisoning, almost killed in a plane crash, all because you loved me and wanted to be there for me. I can’t walk away from you now. I need to do this for you.” He slowly lets out a sigh as he lets her lean her head back against his chest, wrapping his arms around her again.
“Thank you, I guess. I just…” He takes a deep breath, once again forcing the tears back. “I’d just hate for something to happen to you because of me. I’m more afraid that I realize, and frankly, she’s doing a damn good job screwing with me because I can’t even think straight about this…” She looks up into his brown eyes, wiping away the couple of stray tears.
“Nobody blames you for feeling scared, worried, confused, whatever. I would feel the same way in your shoes, Chase. I know it’s hard to withstand giving her that power. That’s why you need me, and Alan, and everybody in your corner. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure she goes down, okay?” He slowly nods his head as he pulls her back close to him. “I’m okay, Chase…”
Thankfully, she was cleared with no further issues from the incident, set for tomorrow’s truck race without issue. just in case, Kyle had assured her that both Christopher and Erik would be around if needed.
The pair retreated back to the motorcoach that night, solely focused on cuddles together as neither wanted to let the other go from their arms. Closing their eyes for the night, they could only hope Saturday went better.
Saturday, February 24, 2018 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
“Are you sure you’re okay for today?” Chase questions as he and Sarina walk out to the grid together, holding hands. She glances over at him, nodding her head.
“I told you – I’m fine,” she repeats for what seemed like the millionth time since last night. “I’m feeling no pain anywhere, no after-effects – I feel like myself, okay? I’m ready to go for today.” He nods his head accepting.
“Just be careful, okay?” She accepts, kissing his lips lightly.
“The same goes to you. You may be acting all concerned over me – like you always do, but I’m just equally concerned for you. I know you’re still sore…” Chase couldn’t deny that as his ribs had been bugging him a bit more than warranted, with more ice sessions happening then preferred.
“I can handle it, okay?” She nods her head, accepting.
“Just promise me you’ll tell me if you get something on your mind again…” He lets out a sigh, but could easily accept that – even knowing how hard it could be to discuss sometimes.
The pair share another kiss, before separating as she heads out on pit road with her team, while he made his way back to the garage area to meet back up with Alan and the team. Following along with qualifying, he couldn’t complain about her qualifying third.
“Just so you know, I can’t stick around for post-practice debrief,” he tells Alan, who simply glances over his way. “I have the XFINITY broadcast to do.” Alan nods his head, having seen that on the schedule.
“If there’s anything we need to discuss, I will message you and we can meet up after the truck race,” Alan replies. He knew that Chase wouldn’t want to miss the truck race, which was taking place right after the XFINITY race in the unique double-header format.
“Thank you.” Alan goes over to where he is standing, eyes locked on the young man beside him. He still couldn’t get the events from yesterday out of his mind, from Chase’s reaction to the phone call, to his words to Sarina in the hospital room.
“You haven’t gotten any updates on the investigation, have you?” Chase shakes his head no. “Remember what I told you. I’m always here.” Chase glances over at the crew chief.
“Are you trying to instill something?” Alan takes a deep breath, knowing he had already said too much.
“I was just caught off-guard by your reaction yesterday…” Admittedly, looking back, Chase couldn’t deny it as the crew chief was right.
“Can you blame me after what happened, though?” Alan shakes his head no. “I mean, I know why Alison did what she did. Just like the plane incident for you guys, it’s a sign to me that she can get to who she wants when she wants, and do what she wants. It’s part of her puzzle, mind game to me in making me wonder what the hell she is thinking in that crazy head of hers. That, and the fact that I will have to make a decision in relation to those who I lov-”
“It won’t come to that, Chase.” Chase couldn’t be quite sure as so far, everybody had delivered empty promises since everything began. “She’s not going to get a chance to screw with you again.”
“I hope you’re right as I’m done playing games.” In Chase’s mind, he’d rather deal with her straight up and see his chances, rather than be dealing with what was dubbed the mind field of attacks.
Taking a deep breath, he makes his way over to the car, climbing in, set to go for practice as there was no more time to play around with debating Alison’s next move. Unfortunately, the session did not go as planned, as he finished the session 28th on the board, still unhappy with how the car was handling.
“Better than yesterday, but we’re still out to lunch,” he tells Alan before heading off to the trailer to get changed.
He goes into the trailer, slipping off his firesuit carefully, before grabbing the suit that had been hung in the cupboard before the day began.
“Have fun in the booth,” he hears from behind, smiling immediately as he recognized the voice. He turns around, kissing her lisps. “I look forward to hearing you drop your knowledge on the rest of the world.” He chuckles as he slips on the dress shirt.
“I don’t know about that,” he offers as she just rolls her eyes, helping him with the buttons.
“Oh trust me, you’re smarter up there than you think.” She gives him another kiss as he glances in the mirror, fixing the jacket and pants. “And you look damn sexy. Actually, you look way too damn sexy. All the other girls are going to be jealous seeing you….”
“But my heart only belongs to you.” He then turns around, giving her another kiss. “If I don’t see you before the truck race, I hope you have a great day.”
“Fingers crossed. That truck is fast this weekend.” He nods his head, having watched her practice and qualifying so far.
“I wish some of that speed would translate to my Cup car.” Letting out a sigh, he couldn’t dwell on the frustrations of the weekend anymore as he gave her one more final kiss, before heading out for the trip up to the broadcast booth.
“Thank you for having me up here,” Chase says as he shakes both Adam Alexander and Michael Waltrip’s hands. “You made it easy as always…”
“You did a great job,” Adam tells him. “Are you going to watch the truck race?” Chase then glances back at him, surprised.
“Is that even a question, man? Of course!” Adam glances at his watch, followed by the sheet from NASCAR.
“Well, you got about 20 minutes…” Chase nods his head, having planned everything out already.
He heads out of the broadcast booth, back through the infield of the track to the trailer, making his way up to the lounge. He shares a quick wave for the crew guys, before grabbing a pair of jeans and t-shirt out of the closet.
“Does he have a whole wardrobe in there?” Josh questions as Alan just shakes his head.
“He’s a superstar – he has to be able to be dressed for any occasion,” Alan answers as Chase pops back into the lounge, hanging the suit back in the closet as he had gotten changed. “That’s record timing there!”
“I seem to be getting plenty of practice,” Chase comments, grabbing his phone. “You remember our dea-”
“I’ll text you if I need you.” Chase then heads out, making his way out to pit road.
Finding his way down to the No. 18 pit box, he climbs the steps, taking his usual seat behind the crew chief. Rudy Fugle glances back surprises as Chase sits down, grabbing his headset.
“Weren’t you just in the booth?” Rudy questions and Chase nods his head. “I swear you must have a twin or a duplicate to make that trip and be changed.”
“Nah man, I know magic,” Chase answers with a wink as Rudy just rolls his eyes.
“I still can’t believe Kyle gives you the access he does…” Rudy focuses back forward ready to do his job, as Chase settles in for a good race.
Off the drop of the green flag, though, he got the surprise of the day as he watched Sarina push Kyle Busch out front going into the first turn, before passing him to lead the opening lap. She then put together a solid first stage, picking up the checkered flag. Unfortunately, the pit stop did not go as planned, as she came off pit road in fifth following a hang-up with the left rear.
“Of course,” Chase muses himself to as he takes a deep breath. It just meant that he was going to be entertained with her fighting back to the front.
The stage did not start off as well as he hoped, though, as she dropped back to ninth in the first couple of laps. However, she made up some of the ground, ultimately finishing the stage in fifth – despite battling a tight truck.
She’d keep herself in a solid top-seven position – battling for spots just outside of the top-four in the third and final stage, all the way up until a final late race caution. While some teams elected to take two tires, Rudy put four tires on the Toyota Tundra, lining her up seventh for the final restart.
The four tires proved to be the right call, as she drove her way from seventh to third in turns one and two, before edging Johnny Sauter at the line for second.
“Nice, solid job tonight,” Rudy says as he and Chase reach the truck together. “You put together some nice driving throughout, and a really impressive restart at the end.”
“That restart was total perfection!” Chase adds, giving her a pat on the back as she nods her head in approval. She couldn’t deny that the final restart was everything about the race. However, that didn’t make up for the rest.
“We had a truck good enough to win tonight if we hadn’t gotten too tight there,” she comments, and Rudy nods his head in agreement. “We need to just work on putting everything together. The crew needs the pit stops, and I need to get to be able to tell you what you need to hear to make the adjustments.”
“Absolutely,” Rudy agrees. “We have the pieces to put together an incredible season; we just need to work on the small things. You work on your communication, and I’ll work on reading you better for adjustments, and we’ll be winning some races.” She smiles, nodding her head in agreement.
“It’s just how do I communicate that tightness to you without going too far? Ugh…” She lets out a sigh as she takes a long sip of her water. “It frustrates me to have a truck that strong to start and to actually end the race, but yet sit here in second. Am I asking for too much?” Rudy shakes his head no.
“Not being happy with second is okay. It means that you’re ready to push hard and do what it takes to succeed. It means you’re not willing to settle.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, having been in her position before.
“Just don’t get too lost in that feeling,” he tells her, though. “Sure, it’s okay to push and strive – but don’t let it eat you. Be thankful and glad to have the speed and finish you have, and the opportunity. Be happy with the success you’re able to have. Then use that as motivation moving forward.” She glances between the pair, wrapping her arms around both of their shoulders.
“Have I stated lately how much I love you guys?” She offers, as they glance each other, before focusing back to her.