Saturday, February 3 – Kern County Speedway – Winter Showdown
Sarina walks out of the bathroom, putting her hair up in a ponytail as she takes a glance at herself in the mirror.
“You should’ve woke me up,” she hears, turning around with a smile. A simple glance at him brought happiness to her.
“I figured you could use the extra sleep,” she comments as he stretches out a little, instantly regretting it as he feels the familiar pain in his knee. “And you should be relaxing, considering….”
“But we could’ve gotten a shower together. After all, I’m going to need a little assistance.” She couldn’t help but chuckle at the grin that had formed on his face in response.
“Oh but Chase, that would not follow along the guidelines of being careful because gloves slip in the shower.” He wanted to stay serious and flirty, but couldn’t help but bust out a laugh in response. “So how sore is your knee, truthfully?”
“About the same…” He then lets out a sigh as he goes to stretch a little more once again, sitting up in the bed. “Really, everywhere hurts now…” From his shoulders to his back, to his legs, it seemed that every spot had grown sore over night. If there was a muscle to be found, it was sore.
“Well, what can you say? You fell down a flight of stairs after all.” He nods his head with a sigh. “If you want to just stay back and relax all day, I’d be fine wit-”
“Are you serious? Do you really think that I’d miss your race because I’m a little sore? Clearly, you don’t get me sweetheart. I’ll be fine. I can come out to the track, and relax while watching you kick some ass.” She smiles back in return, walking over and leaning over the bed as she kisses his lips.
“How about I run you a nice warm bubble bath to relax in while I go get us some breakfast? Then maybe before we head out to the track, I can give you a nice massage…” He couldn’t argue with that as anything that’d help the pain right now would be worth it.
“I can’t believe this…” Sarina comments as they make their way through the infield – carefully, as she didn’t want him to further stress himself out.
A glance at the time had told her she was running late, knowing that she’d be showing up to the trailer for the pre-race team meeting a couple minutes late. But, seeing how much the massage had helped Chase, she wasn’t about to complain. She’d just flash a smile and Kyle would get it go, right?
“You’re late,” Rudy states as she walks over and she immediately nods her head in acceptance. Considering her and Rudy were just starting off their relationship together, this was now the second time she was late in a couple of weeks. It was either going to be a good way to get the hiccups out of the way, or proper training for handling crap while during the off-season.
“I know and I apologize,” she immediately says as she helps Chase sit down. “I was giving him a massage as he was sore after yesterday and I lost track of time.” She watches Rudy just roll his eyes as Kyle watches the pair closely.
“Is there all you were doing, Ms. Ott?” He questions as her jaw drops immediately as Rudy couldn’t help but chuckle at seeing her cheeks go red in front of all the crew members.
“That’s not an open topic for discussion in a room of this many peo-” Kyle’s grin widens as he looks over at Chase, before turning back to her.
“When you’re late for a meeting, the reason for your lateness is certainly a topic of discussion. Plus, you’re making yourself appear very guilty in not denying the accusations. I assume that you used the glove.”
“Kyle!” Kyle just chuckles as Sarina’s cheeks were now the darkest shade of red he had seen to date.
“Kyle, we were not having sex for your information,” Chase state as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “She was simply taking care of me because I was sore with a massage – nothing else.”
“Trust me bud – I know how girls take care of their men,” Kyle adds as Chase can only roll his eyes. “Now, let’s get to the topic at hand – winning today.”
The meeting went smoothly, finishing off with the crew members heading out to do their assorted jobs, which just left Kyle with the couple.
“I could kill you,” Sarina starts after the last person had left the trailer, causing him to laugh even harder.
“You made yourself appear more guilty with your comment,” Kyle offers, sticking his tongue out as he grabs a NOS Energy drink from the fridge. “I knew you were innocent and telling the truth, but can you blame me for taking advantage of the situation?”
“You’re just lucky I started those anger management classes….” Kyle chuckles as he leans back against the counter.
“I’m your boss, remember? Kicking your boss’ ass is not in your best intere-”
“Oh really? Because frankly, that’s what I was planning to do today – all 300 laps long.” Kyle looks at her intrigued.
“You got to catch me first, princess.” He then glances over at Chase. “Glad to see your feeling a little better and moving around. Anything else happen?” Chase shakes his head no. “That’s good. Did Ricky tell you that he flew back to North Carolin-”
“I sent him actually,” Chase cuts him off. “I’m a grown adult, and I shouldn’t be depending on him for everything. Besides, he has a job to do today at the Meltdown.”
“Good luck to him beating Bubba (Pollard),” Kyle comments before heading out of the trailer.
“You know, it is okay to ask for help sometimes – even being an adult,” Sarina starts as she places her hand on his leg. “Somebody else taught me that. You don’t need to face the world alone and try to carry it on your shoulders. That’s why you have friends, remember?” He nods his head in approval.
“Just promise me that you’re going to beat Kyle today,” he replies and she just laughs back in response. But with a kiss on his lips, he knew the promise was set to be kept.
Or so he thought.
Starting fourth, Kyle quickly proved that he had his stuff together the way he needed it as it wasn’t long before he took the lead. From there, it was a cake walk as he led the rest of the way en route to scoring the victory.
Meanwhile, Sarina was able to put together a strong performance, driving from 12th to the top-three in the first half of the event. She also kept herself in the mix of the front runners, simply letting the laps countdown as she waited to make her move. But with 30 to go, she began to lose a bit of power with a carburetor issue, ultimately ending up fifth.
“Considering the issues you had, I am very proud of how you handled it,” Chase tells her, giving her a kiss afterwards.
“That’s much better than hitting the wall,” she offers and he nods his head in agreement. “Next stop – Daytona. Ready to get the party started?”
“Absolutely. I see a checkered flag destiny in our future.” She smiles as she had no complaints about that – even if nerves would probably consume them both in the process watching each other.
Tuesday, February 6 – Hendrick Motorsports
Chase makes his way into the conference room, taking his seat at the long table. Glancing around the room, he couldn’t help but smile. Through the off-season, the meetings had grown quite dry and boring with not a lot to discuss. However, with Speedweeks kicking off that weekend, it was certain that there’d be more topics on-hand this time around.
“So I hear we can’t be kicking you in the leg,” Chad Avrit comments as he sits down beside him. Chase then glances over at the crew member confused.
“Why would you want to kick me anyway?” He wonders as Chad shrugs his shoulders.
“How does one slip on a banana peel in the grandstands and fall down a couple flights of steps?” Chase sighs as he still didn’t have a clear answer, except that someone was up to something as discussed with Kyle, Ricky and Sarina. He had already done the due diligence of mentioning something to the crew members and the media team at Hendrick on Monday. “Is it feeling any better?”
“The swelling has come down and it’s not as sore.” Chase then reaches down, pulling up his pant leg to show his knee to Chad, who immediately squirms a little.
“Dude, that’s every shade of color imaginable!” Chase nods his head in agreement as he puts his pant leg back down. “Least it wasn’t any worse. I mean, I’d take that over having broken ribs like the past two years.” Chase then gives him a look, matching the same one that Ricky got for a similar comment a couple days prior.
“There’s still time between now and Daytona.” Chad immediately freezes up, taking out his phone and going on Google. “What are you doing?”
“Seeing if I can have a human sized bubble wrap body suit shipped over night to stuff you in.” Chase rolls his eyes, but couldn’t help but chuckle in response.
“I think I could bring a big roll in for you tomorrow to wrap him in,” Jared Erspamer comments, and Chad looks over, nodding his head in approval.
“You bring that, I’ll bring the masking tape, and you sir just make sure you’re here,” Chad instructs as Chase just shakes his head in disbelief. How was this actually happening?
“Can I video tape this?” Jared Seate offers as Chase glances down the table his way.
“I thought you said that you’d behave this year,” Chase comments as Jared shrugs his shoulders.
“Now now, Chase, would that any fun if you didn’t have someone to cause trouble?” Chase lets out a sigh, shaking his head no, while also wishing inside that there was not another kind of trouble to deal with. “Besides, I could turn you into a human basketball if we make the shape turn out properly.”
“More like a snowball,” Chad offers as Jared shrugs his shoulders.
“How did we get stuck with this group, Alan?” Chase finally questions as Alan chuckles from the head of the table as he goes through his notes.
“I don’t know,” Alan answers. “Would you like me to see if I can trade them in?”
“Hey!” Everybody lets out together as Alan just chuckles.
“There is an important matter to address before we get started,” Chad begins as he glances at Chase’s hand, picking it up with his own, before setting it down. “Not engaged, yet.”
“Chad, what did I say about the engag-” Alan starts with an eye roll of his own.
“No, I would like to address this, actually,” Chase interrupts, catching the crew chief off-guard. “Guys, I appreciate your compliments and concerns about my love and my personal life. It’s flattering to see how much you care, actually. But, I can assure you, engagement isn’t something that’s happening in the next week, two weeks, or possibly month. Will it happen down the road? Absolutely, but not right now as the time isn’t right. Sarina and I talked about it and we agreed to hold off a bit. So knowing that, I’d appreciate if you guys didn’t ask me every single time I walked into a room with a smile on my face. When the time comes, don’t worry – I’ll gladly tell you.” The crew members nod their head in acceptance, as Chase looked around the room. Seeing their smiles in return, he knew that his words would only hold true for a couple weeks before someone started again.
“The smile just means that he did the wanky doodl-” Jared Seate whispers to Chad.
“I heard that!” Jared glances around Chase, sticking his tongue out. “You know, NASCAR has cut us down from six crew members to five. I could easily rid of you.” Jared then looks back in fear as the rest of the guys laugh.
“Remember I was the one that got Sarin-”
“To call you and reunite,” a couple of the other guys finish it off as Alan and Chase both laugh.
“Can you please get rid of him?” Chad wonders. “He’s annoying!”
“He also doesn’t know when to shut up,” Jared Erspamer adds as Chase chuckles.
“Sorry guys, but he actually is good at his job,” Chase offers as Jared Seate simply smiles in approval. “Now, Alan, please begin this meeting accordingly….”
Following the meeting, Chase retreated back to his office, knowing that Morgan had left him some fan mail that had come in while he was away during the winter. Admittedly, he was caught off-guard by how many packages littered his desk.
“Mr. Popular, huh?” Alan questions, peeking in as Chase sits down, grabbing the first package off the desk.
“It’s insane, really,” Chase answers as he reads over the first note. “It’s almost surreal. I mean, I know how they feel watching the Bulldogs, so to see someone that flattered over me, it just doesn’t seem real…” After reading the note inside, he autographs the item they sent to be signed, before putting it in the new envelope and setting it aside.
“Get used to it. You got a long career to go in this sport, and the fans aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, the fan base is only going to grow.” Chase knew that, having heard those familiar comments from everyone. But it still didn’t ease the feeling at all.
He continued going through the assortment of packages, signing what needed to be autographed along the way, almost halfway through the stack. As he picked up the next one and ripped it off, it immediately caught him off-guard.
He slowly takes the note out, seeing the same familiar type that was used on the note in the grandstands.
“Glad to see I got your attention,” he reads, causing Alan to glances over curious. Alan had been working in Chase’s office on his laptop, asking a couple questions here and there as he worked through his notes.
“What was that?” Alan wonders as Chase turns the note into a paper airplane, sending it over to Alan. “Wow, not only do you fly real airplanes but you’re a master of paper ones…” Alan picks it up and unfolds it as Chase digs further into the envelope. “Weird…” Alan looks back over as he sees Chase reading something. “What is that?”
“A newspaper article, dated January 2016. It details the plane crash that Sarina and I had.” Alan was now confused as he sets his laptop aside, walking over to the young man’s desk. “Then there’s also a DVD in here…” Alan looks over the case, reading the label.
“It’s a DVD of the security camera footage at the airport.” Chase nods his head, having seen that already as he dispenses the remaining contents on his desk.
“There’s also a full breakdown of how Chris tampered with the engine to cause the cra-”
“What the hell?” Alan picks that piece of paper up, looking it over as his eyes catch Chase’s. “Why would someone send something like this?” A thought immediately came to Chase’s mind as he glanced back to the original note.
“Someone who is trying to mess with me and get in my head. The same person who left me that note in California, and possibly said those comments in the hotel lobby. They could’ve also been responsible for the banana.” Chase looks over the scattered contents on his desk. “It’s someone that’s trying to drive me insane with reminders of what happened, and make me just lose my mind.”
“Clearly they don’t know who they’re messing with….” Chase wanted to feel as confident as Alan made him seem, but he couldn’t echo the same sentiment as quickly as his crew chief.
“This person isn’t just anybody, though. You just don’t come across that DVD footage or the diagram, Alan.” Chase bundles it all up together. “This is someone that has access to everything someho-”
“Allison.” Chase slowly nods his head as he takes a calming deep breath. There was no other person that came to his mind that would even have a chance at accessing this information. “Chase….”
“I don’t get afraid easy. I’m ready to take on anything head on as easily as anybody. But I can damn well admit to your face today that she scares the crap out of me. She played my weaknesses perfectly the last time that we crossed paths. She knew I wouldn’t turn my back on Sarina, and she knew I’d do anything for you and the guys. You know what happ-”
“That’s not ever going to happen, agai-”
“How do you know that for sure?” Alan takes a deep breath as his eyes locked on the young driver before him.
“Because mark my word, me and this team will do everything in our power to protect you and Sarina, because I am never walking down that path ever again. There is no way. Do you understand me?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Now, what are you going to do with that?”
“I was going to take it down to Morgan, and then turn it over to campus security.” Alan couldn’t help but agree with the young driver’s initiatives as Chase stood up, stuffing it back in the original envelope.
“Chase, no matter what happens, you can always come to me with your concerns – no matter the time or day.”
“Thank you.” Chase then walks out of the office with everything in hand as Alan takes a deep breath. The crew chief could only shake his head in response.