Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 1 – Daytona International Speedway
Sarina and Chase walk through the pits together, carefully.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She questions as she wraps an arm around his waist. He glances over, nodding his head.
“I’m fine for tonight – trust me,” he answers, giving her a quick kiss. She wanted to believe him, but her mind kept wandering to just that morning, those fears and concerns, and knowing how quickly he had gotten comfortable in their bed during her practice.
“As long as you’re confident and know that you’ll be fin-”
“I know what I can handle, and this is nothing.” She nods her head in return as they glance around once again. “Let’s go sit up on Johnson’s pit box.” She simply nods her head once again, accepting, as they make their way down pit road.
“Mind if I join you?” They hear, caught off-guard, as they glance between each other, before looking back at Lindsay.
“I thought you’d be on Ryan’s pit box,” Chase offers as Lindsay shrugs her shoulders.
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable there. Ryan never mentioned anything, and I don’t know the guys yet, and I don’t know what I’d sa-”
“It’s fine.” She instantly looks relieved, catching up to join them as Chase looks over at Sarina. “Remind me later to give the rookie a lesson.” Sarina can only chuckle in response as they reach Byron’s pit.
It didn’t take them long to get comfortable on the pit box in their choice of seating, following a round of hellos from the crew.
Their eyes were immediately drawn to the action on the track, as the field came to take the green flag. Immediately, Bowman pulled to the right after taking the green, letting the field go past him.
“What the heck?” Sarina questions as she looks over at Chase concerned. He could only smirk back in response. “By design to protect the pole?”
“And the fact the car isn’t set-up yet for drafting due to the impound and Greg’s plan,” Chase answers and Sarina could only smile. It now made sense why Chase hadn’t been able to qualify right up there with his teammates. They had gone for a more ‘qualifying’ set-up, versus sticking to their race package like Chase and Alan had. “Personally, I would’ve preferred to get as much learning as I could before Sunday, but that’s their style….”
“Yours makes me more nervous at the same time as I agree with it.” He chuckles as he wraps an arm around her.
It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, though, as it’d be Jimmie Johnson blowing a tire on Lap 9, taking Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola out with him.
“Jimmie’s luck sucks down here,” Chase comments with a sigh.
The troubles for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates continued, with William Byron going around on Lap 38, tapping the outside wall, after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had sidedrafted with him.
“You guys can stay here until race’s end as we can’t remove equipment until then,” Darian Grubb tells them and Chase simply nods his head back in return.
“That sucked,” he comments. “Hate to see that for you guys.” Darian packs up his stuff, before glancing back at Chase once again.
“It proves one thing – watch your left rear quarter as always.” Chase nods his head in agreement, remembering the old adage rule at Daytona – make sure you’re square when bump drafting and never get someone in the left rear as it makes them unstable immediately.
Their eyes remained focused on the rest of the action, feeling a little bit of dread at points in seeing the field simply run single file entering the closing stages. Chase watched closely in seeing if anybody was getting any runs, where a move could be made, studying the laps just in case his Duel fell into the same predicament later on that night.
It seemed the race was going to end with a bore, but Ryan Blaney popped out of line with four to go, set to make a move on Joey Logano for the lead.
“Come on Ryan!” All three shouted together, though felt paused immediately when another wreck happened.
“How do you do this every week?” Lindsay questions as Sarina just chuckles, rubbing her shoulders. “I could always watch before as a fan – not one freak out. But yet here I am on the verge of heart failure.”
“Ask Chase,” Sarina starts as she looks over at him. “I may be a driver, but I can freak out with the best of them.” Chase nods his head as he gets comfortable.
“Ryan should have this no problem,” he summarizes, catching the pair off-guard.
“No problem?” Chase nods as he looks over at the girls.
“Look at the moves he made all race long. Look at the moves he made in the Clash. He knows what’s he’s doing and he will beat Joey. Besides, he’s got a friend…”
As predicted, Darrell Wallace Jr. pushed Ryan on the restart, getting him out front. There were moves made as they came back around, but it was not enough as Ryan was able to come across with the first Duel win.
“That was awesome!” Lindsay lets out as she shares a high-five with Sarina.
“Girl, you need to get to victory lane!” Sarina instructs as they begin to make their way down off of the pit box.
“Are you sure about that?” Sarina immediately nods her head. “I mean, Ryan hasn’t told anyone that we’re together at all, and I don’t even know what to call us. Are you sure he’d want me there? I mean, I don’t even know what to do! Maybe I should jus-”
“Take her to victory lane, Sarina!” Chase instructs, knowing that Ryan would love having Lindsay there with him. He then wraps an arm around Sarina, pulling her close. “I love you, and don’t worry – I’ll be careful.”
“You better.” She then kisses his lips as the pair separate with Chase heading up pit road as the girls ran off to victory lane together.
Sarina carefully snuck Lindsay in, keeping her in the back corner as Ryan did his assortment of interviews. As soon as the final one was done, Sarina gave her a push forwards towards Ryan, standing back and smiling as Lindsay took the bait.
“Congratulations,” Lindsay says simply as Ryan looks over, smiling cheek to cheek.
“How was that show?” He questions as he pulls her close.
“That was great, beyond amazing. I just wasn’t sure if I should be here.” Ryan then looks at her shocked.
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else – well, except my team. But they don’t get one of these…” Ryan then kisses her lips as the flashbulbs go off behind them immediately. “Thank you for coming.”
“Thank you for inviting me, and thank Sarina and Chase for convincing me to come to victory lane…” Ryan looks over to where Sarina had remained hidden, giving her a wave, before focusing his eyes back on Lindsay.
Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 2 – Daytona International Speedway
Sarina climbs the usual steps, taking her seat as she glances between the boys, flashing a trademark smile. It then immediately fades as she looks down, crossing her fingers together, closing her eyes, just hopeful that everything went smooth as possible.
“Hey, are you okay?” Alan questions as he glances back at her. She simply nods her head back in response. “You don’t need to be nervous.”
“It’s Daytona,” she tells him. “Whether you like it or not, I’m always nervous at Daytona because anything and everything can happen. Given this morning, you could say I may be on a little edge..” Alan nods sympathically as he reaches back for her hand, giving it a squeeze.
“You know I wouldn’t give your boy a bad car to work with, so you know he’ll be fine that way. But, I do understand that worry. Just try and focus on the good and remember that if he feels confident that he’s okay, the-”
“Everything will work out as planned.” She then takes a deep breath. “I keep reminding myself of that, Alan. Thank you.” He simply smiles as he lets her hand go, focusing back on his job at hand.
The race started off smoothly as Chase put himself in position at the front of the field. That didn’t allow Sarina to relax, though, as she felt every bit of heart-pumping action eating at her core. She almost let out the first yell of the evening in watching Erik’s slide Chase’s bumper, getting him loose with Jones going around for a spin.
“Did he touch you?” Alan questions on the radio as Sarina works at calming herself back down with a couple deep breathes, glad that they’re still in one piece.
“No, he was sideways the whole frigging time,” Chase answers, knowing his bumper had not made any contact with Jones to trigger the incident.
Alan brought him down pit road, choosing to go with fuel only, before sending him back out. of course, the jubilation was shortly lived as they were penalized for the crew going over the wall too soon. Knowing they were restarting at the back, Alan called him back down to put four tires on it.
If Sarina felt her heart was going to come out of her chest before, then she couldn’t describe her current stage of emotions as she felt even more freaked out in watching Chase dice his way up through the pack, using whatever lane would move. Remarkably, whether due to tires or just a strong car, she watched him move back up into the runner-up spot at Lap 25, just seven laps after the incident.
She felt like she was going to jump out of her seat two laps later when he pulled underneath Denny, sliding by him and back up for the lead.
“Oh my gosh….” She lets out, trying to keep herself calm as possible, despite the drastic blocking before her. It was nice to see Chase in the lead, but she knew that this was just beginning now.
Her nerves got her break through the middle portion of the event as once again, they ran single file like they had done the previous Duel. However, as the laps counted down – 10 to go, eight to go, six to go – her heart began to pound harder and harder, knowing that everybody was planning their move. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, she hoped Chase could pull the bocks necessary.
With two laps to go, the move came as Kevin Harvick broke out of line, set to make a run. However, at the same time, the lines broke apart behind him, slowing the lanes, with Chase making the moves necessary.
“Come on babes….” She says quietly as they come to the white flag.
Eddie D’Hondt perfected his job on the radio, giving him the necessary information, as she watched him hold the gap perfectly, leading the field back around for the win. Immediately, high-fives and hugs filled the pit box as everybody joined in complete excitement for the victory.
“Was that worth the nerves?” Alan questions as he gives her a hug.
“I’ll handle it any day if that’s the reward,” she answers.
It wasn’t long before the whole team was in victory lane, fists pumped in the air with pride for the win. After standing up on top for photos, Chase hops down, immediately wrapping his arms around Sarina and giving her a kiss, before going through his post-race interviews.
That was followed by photos on stage, which culminated with Chase and Sarina taking one of their own together.
“You were absolutely amazing out there,” she starts as she glances into his eyes. “I mean, for the man that says he has to practice and get better at plate racing, that was beyond spectacular. I say you, Ryan, Ricky, Brad, Joey, Denny and Kevin are the only ones that can make moves like that. I can’t wait until Sunday!” Chase leans in for another kiss.
“Alan built one great hot rod,” Chase states, before the pair take a photo together. They then look back over, as she rubs his side.
“Tell me the truth, please…” He takes a deep breath, squinting a touch as he lets it out.
“It’s tender, a little sore – but I’m fine. It’s nothing that I haven’t handled before, and it’s actually not as bad as last year.” She nods her head, accepting, before leaning her head against him. He immediately wraps his arms around her, just holding her. “I know I scared you this morning. Trust me, nobody knows that more than me. I’ve stated my fears of Allison before, but I can tell you right now that what she’s done has upped the game big time. I can’t stop looking over my shoulder, can’t stop wondering, can’t stop thinking, trying to figure what she’ll do next. So I get it, Sarina, and it’s okay to be afraid…”
“I’m not afraid, Chase.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “I know how strong you are because of what you’ve done for me, whether being there, or dealing with my brother’s crap. I know the type of character you are. I know that no matter what she throws your way, you’re going to be okay because you’re stronger than I can put into words. Right now, though, I am thankful…” She then gives him another kiss.
“Me too.” He then lets out a sigh as he rests his head on top of hers, thinking things through. He wanted to stand tall and believe in those words that she was saying, but how could he do that when his world was constantly flipped upside down? The little fear that he had told Kyle, Ricky and his dad in the past about – that had grown to the point that he didn’t know if he could keep it under control.
“You’re still here?!?” They hear, glancing down to see Ryan and Lindsay standing there together. it was clearly obvious that the pair had gotten changed, and Lindsay’s hair being messed up a little had a smirk on Sarina’s face immediately.
“I’m about to head to the media center for post-race intervie-” Chase starts, knowing that he couldn’t stay there forever in her arms, despite not wanting to move a single inch.
“Not yet!” Ryan and Lindsay then come up and join them on stage with a smile of their own.
“Group photo!” The girls let out together as they both wrap their arms around the guys.
“Dude, you’re wearing one of my shirts?” Chase questions as he looks over at Ryan, seeing the shirt that he had changed into.
“I’m your number one fan now!” Ryan lets out as he wraps his arms around him, causing a series of laughs.
Thursday, February 15 –Daytona International Speedway
With everything in the books for the day, everybody had met back together in Ryan’s motorcoach for some fun and they were joined by Darrell Wallace Jr., as well. Being the good friend, Wallace had brought both boys a beer to toast their wins.
“If you need more ice, don’t hesitate to ask,” Ryan offers as he hands Chase a bag, getting a simple nod in return. Whether Chase wanted to admit it or not, Ryan knew that he was probably feeling a bit of pain in his ribs and didn’t want to leave his friend hanging.
“How are you feeling, though?” Chase questions, catching Ryan’s attention. It was nice to see the concern go one way, but really, it was more warranted the other way. In Chase’s mind, Ryan never should’ve gotten stuck in the middle of this.
“I’m sore in spots where I’m blue or purple, but I’m fine. Nothing a win can’t cure.” Chase chuckles as he watches Ryan get comfortable across from him.
“So I heard back from the investigator, by the way. She says that the paperwork I received detailing everything – Allison was able to get access through Chris’ lawyer as he would’ve had it. They’re currently looking to track down that lawyer and get him to fess up and talk. They’ve also put a search out for Allison. Now, how is she getting the access to these places? Nobody knows…” Ryan nods his head, accepting. He glances over, seeing both girls joking with Bubba as they played a round of Mario Kart, before looking back at Chase.
“What’s your reaction?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down for a second, before back over at Ryan.
“I don’t kno-”
“You have to have some reaction, Chase.” Chase takes a deep breath.
“I just hate that you’re involved, okay? I hate that you were there with me today and had to go through this. I hate that once again, a friend of mine has gotten hurt because of this. You went through enough last year with Chris drugging you; you didn’t need to go throu-”
“I wouldn’t change a thing, though.” Chase then looks over at him confused and puzzled.
“Are you serious right now?” Ryan nods his head.
“If I’m not there, you’re going through this alone. I would never want to have someone in a position to wake up on a beach after crashing a plane alone. Besides, what if things had been worse? What if you seriously needed someone to help you? I would’ve wanted to be there, Chase.” Chase almost wanted to smile in Ryan’s reaction.
“That means a lot coming from you. Thank you.” Ryan smiles back in return as he glances over at the other three.
“We’re always going to be friends and we’re always going to be there for each other, right?” He then turns back to Chase. “I’m here for you through this, thick and thin. Until she’s arrested and behind bars for her life, or dead, I’m going to be here by your side whether you are willing to accept that or not. And Chase, it’s okay to worry, or be afraid, or wond-”
“Just don’t keep it bottled up, or it’ll drive you insane, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.
“Can you boys please come kick their girl’s asses?” Darrell breaks up their discussion. “I’m getting my ass handed to me here!” They both laugh as they glance at each other, before joining them to take a crack at it.