The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 194: Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, February 13 – Daytona International Speedway – 1 week, 3 days old

“You do realize that you can’t just stare at that image all day long, right?” Chase questions as he walks up behind Sarina, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

It wasn’t long ago that they’d landed in Daytona, ready for what the day had in store. Chase was doing media day interviews for the Daytona 500, while Sarina was supposed to go through photo shoots and video for NASCAR and NASCAR on FOX coverage.

With having landed in Florida, they both went and got changed into their firesuits, meeting up quickly thereafter together. Chase had no complaints about the sponsors having an all-black firesuit for Sarina this season.

“I know,” she quietly comments as she leans back in his arms. “I just can’t help it, Chase.” He smiles, knowing the feeling from just a couple days ago as he rubs her shoulders.

“She’s beyond adorable, and you know that she’s in good hands with the nurses, the doctors, and Brittany. Besides, my mom said if there was any issues at all, she or Brittany would call us immediately.” He then slowly pries the tablet out of her hands, turning the image off. “Relax, breathe, everything will be fine. Besides, the sooner you get done what you need to do and I get done my interviews, the quicker we can get on the plane and fly back.”

“Promise?” He nods his head as he turns her around to face him. “I mean, you will absolutely make certain that we will be back in Georgia tonight.”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t tell you otherwise, would I?” She shakes her head no, as he leans in for a small kiss. “Might I add, you are looking very mighty fine today.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I thought it was a little tight pulling it on initially.” Chase shakes his head no as he rests his hands on her hips.

“That just allows it to show off all your curves in the right places. I just hope the other guys aren’t staring too much today…” She then shyly smiles back in response as she wraps her arms around him.

“The same could be said for you darling, as I don’t need the ladies thinking they can steal you away from me. In case you haven’t realized, you’re all mine Mr. Elliott.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Mrs. Elli-”

“Sarina Elliott?” They hear, catching them off-guard as someone walks over to them. “We’re ready for you in the NASCAR on Fox stage shoot.” Sarina couldn’t help the smile that had formed on her face.

“It even sounds nice coming from someone putting me to work,” she comments as Chase chuckles back in response. “I’ll see you later, prince charming.” She then snags one more kiss before heading off for the photo shoot.

Chase, meanwhile, met up with Morgan before heading to where the media was hubbed together. First, he’d be doing a series of interviews for TV with an array of microphones before him. Then, it was time for a series of print reporters to stick their voice recorders out and ask the questions they desired. Then after that, as he understood, it was quick hits with some of the major networks, followed by FOX and NBC to complete the day.

As he got into doing the interviews, it didn’t surprise him when he was asked about the positive and negative reaction from the fans, especially since he had won the Most Popular Driver Award last year.

“There’s some interesting folks out there, man,” he commented with a half chuckle. “It’s interesting. But nonetheless, whether they like me or hate me, I appreciate them either way. They’re not going to hurt my feelings whether they hate me or like me. Happy to have them. ”

“We saw the announcement about the birth of your daughter Abigail,” one of the reporters catches his attention. “How are things going?”

“They are going well, thankfully. According to the doctors, she’s doing well and continuing to grow and get stronger. It’s just a matter of playing the waiting game in seeing what happens next. You could say that both Sarina and I are hopeful to have her at the track with us soon.”

“It is interesting to see Sarina here this weekend….” Chase nods his head.

“We’re racers. It’s what we do. As much as we both want to be spend every single minute, second of the day with our daughter, you can’t just give this up. We’re just one person on our respective teams. There are a lot of crew members who depend on us and the success we have together. I am here for them, wanting to thank them for their hard work and showcase that on track. I want to give them the best opportunity to run for a championship, and that begins with Daytona. Selfishly, I want the title and the Daytona 500 win too. I’m sure that’s what drives Sarina to be here, as well. That’s what drove her to race last season, too.” It felt odd in answering the questions about it, and truth to be told he could probably never admit every single feeling about it to them. However, it felt nice to give them some perspective.

“And what about everything that happened last season, and through the winter?” Chase takes a deep breath, not surprised.

“My stance remains the same. I am not going to discuss the details as they’re not necessary.” He then glances around, hoping to change the pace as he didn’t want to get stuck on that topic.

“NASCAR has began to discuss possible changes, whether it’s the schedule, bringing in new manufacturers. What most do you have your eye on? Any of that have your attention at all?” Chase takes a deep breath. It would be easy to come out and say certainly what he felt, and almost felt in doing so, proud of how Bubba Pollard had done so on the short track side. However, the comments from NASCAR post-test also reigned at the back of his mind.

“Man, no. I don’t write the rules. That’s not my job. I’m not sure. I used to get kind of fired up about stuff, be frustrated about different things here and there. It’s out of my hands, way above my position. I’m happy to be here and happy to be driving. I’ll keep focusing on racing on Sundays. If they seek out my opinion, want to ask me, I’d be happy to give it to them behind closed doors, but not here right now.”

“Do you think the schedule is a something?” Chase wouldn’t mind being asked about it, as he wouldn’t mind suggesting some more short tracks as well removing a couple of the boring intermediates. However, was that really necessary to say right now?

“My opinion is irrelevant on that.”

Wednesday, February 13 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center – 1 week, 3 days old

“I admit that I enjoyed today,” Sarina comments as they walk over to the incubator. “I admit that the photo shoot with NASCAR and Fox was entertaining. I admit that the simulator was probably the best part – and I probably did a better job than you…” Chase just rolls his eyes. “I also had fun catching up and seeing everybody. While I was apprehensive about leaving here today and going to the track, it was nice.”

“Really?” He questions and she nods her head.

“It was a good change of pace, distraction from my worries about the future.” Chase then places a hand on her shoulder.

“What have I told you about that?” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering the several discussions.

“I can’t help it, though. She’s so small, and there’s so many things that could possibly happ-”

“We’ve made it through 10 days without a problem. The majority show up in the first 48 hours. You can stop worrying. She’s going to be okay.” Sarina nods her head, letting those words soak in.

“As much fun as I had today, though, I am glad to be back here. It actually makes this moment even sweeter because I can tell her about the joys and fun that I had.” Chase smiles, having done the same when he had seen her yesterday. “I never did ask you. How did the interviews go?”

“Rutledge, Kyle and AJ are crazy as ever.” Sarina chuckles, not honestly surprised. “I hope Ryan doesn’t get too mad at me for that, but he deserves it for leaving me out.”

“Do I want to know what you said?” Chase shyly shakes his head no as she lets out a sigh.

“Most of it was your typical thoughts on your chances, thoughts on the style of racing, reflections back on last year, and how you feel things will go moving forward this year. They also of course asked me about the clash wrecks, and the fact that we’re not working with Josh this we-”

“Has that really been an issue, yet?” Chase shakes his head no. “So why are they worried?”

“It’s something to talk about and see if I can say something interesting that will spark a memorable quote, right? I mean, that’s probably why they asked my thoughts on the rules, and the schedule. They just wanted to see what they can claw out of you. Meanwhile, we know who is sitting on the other side reading those articles.” Sarina looks over slightly confused. “Your fans are critical, your sponsors are critical, but we both know what NASCAR feels about negative or constructive critics that they can’t handle.”

“Just like they wanted Kyle to quiet after he shared his honest thoughts after the Las Vegas test?” Chase nods his head as Sarina lets out a sigh. “NASCAR goes ‘boys have at it,’ but yet then gets mad when you say something. John Pro-”

“Is the vice president of innovation?” Sarina nods her head.

“So he basically stated that we get paid a good chunk of money to do what we do, and if we continue talking about not needing talent, it will hit us in the pocketbook, essentially that we need to be careful. That to me is a warning from NASCAR that we shouldn’t be spouting off our opinions.”

“Hence why I diverted around the topic, because I didn’t want to get into those muddy waters with NASCAR this early in the season. This isn’t worth it.” Sarina then pulls out her phone, loading a transcript.

“Read Brad Keselowski’s comments. He wasn’t as politically correct as you were.” Chase had to chuckle as he took the phone from her.

“Is he ever, though?” Sarina shakes her head no. “It is a very difficult scenario. The media has a lot of power in our sport. Social media has a lot of power in our sport. That comes at the risk of making a lot of people angry that actually run the sport. It is difficult. Sometimes you feel like you are pushing a sled uphill. It is just the way it is.” Chase smiles as he hands the phone back to her. “I don’t always agree with Brad saying whatever he feels whenever, and sometimes I do believe he should shut up, but he’s right. I’m proud of him.”

“But how soon will he be pulled into the NASCAR hauler now?” Chase had to chuckle as he knew it was only a matter of time.

Thursday, February 14 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center – 1 week, 4 days old

“You need to get going….” Sarina reminded Chase as they stood there together that morning, in their familiar spot by their daughter. Chase knew that as it was time for the Duels, but he also didn’t want to be away from his girls today.

“I wish Valentine’s Day would’ve been yesterday instead of today, so we could’ve spent the whole day together,” he replies as she nods her head in agreement, clutching his hand with hers.

“It’ll only take you a matter of hours to fly down to Daytona, win your Duel, and get your ass back here.” Chase smiles as he liked the thought of that plan.

“But first – I have something for you….” She then looks over, almost slightly confused.

“You do realize that I don’t need any more gifts from you, right? I mean, you’ve given me everything that I could’ve dreamed of. You gave me the snowball necklace, the locket, this ring that will never leave my finger no matter what, our daughter, and most importantly – that love.” She then places her hand on his chest. “What I feel from you out of here means more than anything that you could give me on Valentine’s Day to show your love.”

“I know, but I still want to give you this…” She then takes a deep breath, accepting the small bag from him. She then takes out the wrapping, revealing a small black box. She then follows suit in opening it, smiling as she sees the butterfly immediately.

“Chase….” He then smiles as she pulls it out of the box, flipping it over to see Abigail engraved on the back.

“No matter where you are, you can always have your baby girl with you.” She looks over, smiling. “I figured it was the perfect touch being an anklet so you could wear it underneath your firesuit and nobody would realize or complain.” She then flips it back over to look at the butterfly again.

“That matches the butterfly that is on the car…” He nods his head, remembering the request the custom order detailed.

“We always said that our first baby was with Casey and Victor, and they were always looking out for him, or he-”

“I believe that it was a boy, just like you told me that day…” Chase smiles, remembering the dream that he had that inspired the comment.

“A friend of mine told me that if a butterfly lands on you, it’s someone stopping to say hello. That’s why it just seemed fitting to go with a butterfly for the decal, and for this. Abigail isn’t the only one that’s always with you, giving you the strength and looking out for you.” She then feels a couple tears trickle down her cheeks, immediately reaching for a hug. It was easily accepted, as Chase let her bury her head into his shoulder.

“You’re the most romantic person that I know.” She then slowly lifts it up afterwards, wiping the couple tears away. “This means everything. Thank you.” She then leans in and kisses his lips. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She then walks away a little, returning shortly after with a bag of her own. “And you told me that I didn’t need to get you something.”

“It seems that we were both thinking the same thing…” He looks over slightly confused, but easily opens the gift. As he opens the box, the smile that formed on his face matched the gift perfectly. To go with the key to her heart locket that hung on her keys, he now had a butterfly locket of his own. Slowly opening it, he found a photo of Sarina and a photo of Abigail. “Now your girls are always with you, no matter where you go.”

“I love this photo that you chose. It’s beautiful…” He then closes the butterfly locket, pulling his keys out and putting it on with them. “Thank you.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day.” She then leans in, kissing his lips. “Now go kick some ass, Clyde.”

Thursday, February 14 – Daytona International Speedway – 1 week, 4 days old

“Have you seen Chase?” Ron Malec asks as he walks down pit road, meeting up with a couple of the crew guys. They immediately point up to the pit box, where Chase sat with a headset on. “Thank you.”

With being in the second of the pair of Duels, Chase elected to sit and take in the first duel from the pit box tuned into Jimmie’s channel. Considering how the Clash had gone, he was willing to take in whatever he could learn before his race. It was all about seeing how the runs happened, where they came from, and if there was a secret to making the right moves. It was also about seeing the mistakes not to make.

Ron quietly took a seat behind Chase, as he watched the action himself. All they could do was shake their heads as they watched Jimmie make contact with Kyle down the backstretch, causing him to spin.

“Apologize to the 18,” Jimmie immediately got on the radio. “I assume that’s on me. got to see the video first. I don’t know what happened.”

“Suddenly I don’t feel so stupid,” Chase comments as he slips the headset off slowly, referencing back to his incident during practice on Saturday. “That said, I have to put the blame fully on you, Jimmie, and I don’t think Kyle will be accepting the apology.”

“Are you seriously throwing your teammate under the bus just like that?” Ron questions, catching Chase’s attention. “I was surprised to see you up here watching the race from this vantage point.

“I got to figure out how to run up front and not wreck, right?” Ron lets out a sigh as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“You’re being too hard on yourself. I mean, Saturday was – well, what it was. We both know the left rear is not stable. And Sunday, there’s no way that you can blame that on yoursel-”

“Blame JJ?” Ron went to go say something, but let out a sigh as he knew it was going to get him nowhere. He loved Jimmie and they had been best friends for years, but he had to admit that Jimmie wasn’t the best restrictor plate racer.

“Anyways, that’s not why I came up here. I spoke to my buddy and I got the phone number for the security guards that he hired. Morgan and Associates is the name of the company. I gave them a call, and stated that I was calling on his recommendation. They told me that were fully open to handling everything, and that would include having someone with you, someone with Sarina, someone with Abigail, someone with your parents – whatever else you wa-”

“So Lindsay, Alan and the guys, too?” Ron nods his head, feeling a little unnerving about that as it wasn’t comforting to be a possible target. However, he knew where the suspicion came from based on last year.

“He just stated that he needs a full list of who, and he can make sure he has someone for each individual – handling the most importa-”

“Sarin-”

“Actually, yo-”

“No, she’s the most important. She and Abigail are why I am doing this, Ron.” Ron lets out a sigh, willing to accept.

“Anyways, he said that he’d handle priority one himself. He also has a crack team led by a great female private investigator and a computer tech. They’re looking into any leads as to where Carter could be located, as well as any connection with Damien Crane.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “I know you’re busy tomorrow, but he is willing to have the team down here and ready to go. We can set-up a quick meeting if you would like.”

“That’d be appreciated since Sarina is going to be down here.” Ron already knew that, having glanced at the Xfinity entry list.

“I’m surprised that she’s racing so soon after having the baby, but I know that’ll motivate her to do the best that she can. It’ll be fun watching you run as teammates.”

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 193: A Disney Engagement

Sunday, February 10 – Daytona International Speedway – 1 week, 1 day old

Alan pops into the hauler, seeing Chase laying on the couch. He felt a bit of relief in knowing that he hadn’t taken off yet, given the amount of rain that was falling.

“Please tell me that you’re being careful about your decisions,” Alan lets out, almost out of cue, which catches Chase off-guard.

“Excuse me?” Chase questions, and Alan takes a deep breath as he knew there was no way around it.

“I know you want to fly back and be with Sarina and Abigail, but be careful in your decisi-”

“Why do you think I am still laying here? Why do you think I have the radar loaded on my phone? Why do you think I have texted Sarina that I may be late, or come tomorrow instead?” Alan admittedly let out an immediate sigh of relief. “I told you that I was going to be careful, and I meant that. I thought you trusted me.”

“I do.” Alan then sits on the couch. “I just also worry about you. Can you blame me?” Chase shakes his head no as he glances back through his text messages.

“I also got a phone call that Carter Williams was spotted in the Florida area. The police are checking into the person who left the tip, and what they can figure out.” Alan had to admit made him feel even more nervous about the situation. However, it also explained his driver’s location.

“Is that why you’re here and not back at the motorcoach?” Chase shakes his head no as he holds his phone up.

“I didn’t want to get comfy there if I did end up flying out tonight, hence the radar. However, it looks ugly so I might as well give it up.” Chase then sits up, looking over at Alan. “How do you handle the time away from your family?”

“It gets easier with time, in trusting them and knowing that we make the most of the time we do spend together. My kids are also older, Chase, and that helps. I remember the first couple of months, and how after some races I just wanted to get home immediately to be with them.” Chase had to smile slightly as the words did offer some comfort given the situation. “I’m sure once she’s out of the hospital, it’ll be easier for both you and Sarina to handle together.”

“It’s only been a week – a whole week, and yet it seems like things are going too slowly at times. I know we’ve gotten to be closer, but nothing will replace the first chance to hold her, and knowing that everything for sure is okay.”

“I’m sure other people have told you this, but she’s going to be fine. Maybe babies are born a couple weeks early and they turn out fine. You’d be surprised with what modern medicine can accomplish.” Chase nods his head, having heard the re-assurances every direction he looked. However, it didn’t cure those small worries that he had in the meanwhile.

Monday, February 11 – Daytona International Speedway

Although the rain had stopped, Chase was still stuck in Daytona, Florida on Monday. Between constant threat of more weather, and worries about a breach of security at the airport with Carter in town, comfort in clearance to fly up to Georgia couldn’t be found.

He had thought about making the trip out to New Smyrna to watch the short track racing, however he had to admit that it was comfy staying in cuddling with Max on the couch. So rather than heading down the road to the track, he had loaded the races that night on FansChoice.tv.

Although he tried to stay focused on the action before him, the conversation with Sarina was earning his attention. He was focused on the video feed of Abigail, seeing her little fingers wrapped up in Sarina’s hand. The pair were also conversing back and forth about updates from the doctor, the current plan moving forward if things continued according to plan, followed by how much they missed each other.

“So you’re for sure going to fly up here tomorrow?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head.

“I have to,” he answers. “You’re due in Daytona on Wednesday for media day festivities, remember?” Sarina lets out a sigh. She knew that she could get out of those easily as everybody understood what was going on, however she wanted to stick by her words to Chase. She couldn’t expect him to drop everything and continue racing like normal if she didn’t do the same. However, that meant one more day away from her daughter.

“But you’re definitely coming up here to get me yoursel-”

“I promise you, Sarina, that I will make the trip tomorrow. I want to see Abigail for myself. It’s been three days now. I know we can’t do much, other than be near her and feel her fingers, but I miss it. I miss those little touches and being able to see her up close.” Sarina looks down at Abigail as the pair of them talk together.

“I think she misses seeing her daddy, too, if I’m being honest.” Chase wanted to believe in those words, but also knew that Sarina was projecting. Truthfully, he knew they were both missing each other just as much.

“Well you can tell her that Daddy loves her, and he can’t wait to see his girls tomorrow. I love you, Mrs. Elliott.” An immediate smile forms on Sarina’s face in hearing the name.

“I love you too, Mr. Elliott.” Chase then glances back up at the live stream from New Smyrna.

“And if it makes you feel better, Bubba Pollard is doing what he does best at New Smyrna. He set up the perfect late-race pass to snag the win by conserving his tires.”

“Are we honesty surprised, Chase? I told you that he’d be back to his familiar ways – even if that’s not his car.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtyXOhxBl-t/

A couple text messages later, and both puppies were on their leeches as the drivers headed out through the infield at Daytona. They reached the playground area, letting them both off so they could run around and play together.

“So I apologize for bringing up the engagement on Sunday,” Chase starts, catching Ryan’s attention. “I didn’t realize you hadn’t told your sisters yet.”

“You do realize what they’re both like when it comes to those things, right?” Ryan questions, and Chase nods his head as he had known Emma and Erin long enough to realize that. He also saw it firsthand as he was there when Ryan told Erin about the pregnancy. “I just didn’t want them on my ass about every small detail and everything until I did it. I also don’t know if Emma has completely come around yet.”

“I thought she was fully on-board midway through Lindsay’s pregnancy…” Ryan lets out a sigh, remembering the conversation that ensued.

“There’s no doubt that she loves Evelyn, and she can’t wait to be an aunt. I also feel that she trusts Lindsay to a degree. I just don’t think she’s on-board for the next step.” Chase wasn’t in agreement, but he was willing to entertain the idea if it made Ryan open up about the engagement plans.

“Doesn’t she realize that’s what comes next, though?” Ryan simply shrugs his shoulders. “But okay, what is your plan by the way?”

“The only reason you asked Sturgis and I to come with you is because you wanted to get the details out of me, right?” Chase wasn’t about to admit that straight out quite yet.

“There’s discussions that Carter is in the area and I didn’t want to go out by myself. It was either call you, or call Jimmie. Don’t you feel special?” Ryan wasn’t buying the act.

“I originally was going to do it on Valentine’s Day, but that’s so typical as you’d just expect it then. I don’t want to do something that everybody else wou-”

“Are you just putting it off because of cold feet, or your sister now?” Ryan shakes his head no. wishing his best friend had some patience right now. Normally, it was the other way around.

“We’re going to Walt Disney World tomorrow. I thought about it doing it then. I actually called ahead, too.” Chase actually looks over surprised, as he didn’t think Ryan would be one to fully put a plan together. “She’s my princess, my Cinderella. We’re going to go to dinner at the castle, and then desert. Part of that desert is going to be a glass slipper, which I will be set to present to her as my Cinderella. However, there will be a ring within those straps on the slipper. Do I need to say anything else?”

“That actually sounds magical, beyond anything that I thought you were capable of. I’m impressed.” Ryan didn’t know whether to appreciate, or slap him for the comment. “So you’re going to text me as soon as you know her answer, right?”

“Trust me – you and Sarina will near the top of the list.” Chase gives him a glance. “Okay, you’re at the top of my list actually. Lindsay wouldn’t want it any other way considering how close she and Sarina are, and the fact we met because of you both.”

“I still remember how you both kept putting off there being a connection and the fact you were just simple friends. However, from the first night you spent together – which would be my birthday party actually, everybody could tell there was a connection.” Ryan smiles as he remembers the dancing together, followed by going out for desert.

“I almost couldn’t believe it was happening because it felt too perfect. They say you know you have found the right person when you feel it – and it just felt too good to be true.”  Chase had to nod his head in agreement, remembering his first couple of days spent with Sarina. “And you’re flying back to Georgia tomorrow, correct?”

“That’s the plan. I have to go to the airport tomorrow afternoon as I have a pretty cool fun flying opportunity with a plane that I’ve always wanted to fly. Then after that’s done, I am taking the flight up to Georgia.”

Tuesday, February 12 – Daytona Beach International Airport – 1 week, 2 days old

“Thank you once again for the opportunity,” Chase thanks his fellow pilot that went up with him in the air.

While obviously his best way of spending the day would’ve been with his girls, he had to admit that passing up this opportunity would’ve sucked. It was only for a couple hours through the afternoon, by the height and speed they were able to reach and fun had with a couple small maneuvers in the process were worth it.

“You have my number; you know how to reach me if you want to do something again,” was the reply that he got in response which easily brought a smile to his face.

“I am going to hold you to that, actually,” Chase tells him.

He then makes his way to the hanger, sending a text message to Sarina in the process that he’d be there in a couple of hours. He also asked her what she wanted for dinner, knowing delivering her something would enable him to get his time with Abigail the quickest.

He then flipped onto twitter quick, scrolling through a couple notifications, followed by some of the various tweets that had been sent out. He then stopped and paused, bringing up one of the group shots for a closer view.

He looks over the group shot, recognizing several faces, before closing it.

He then texts Ryan Blaney, “I thought you were doing a romantic surprise for Lindsay. How is that happening now?”

Ryan hears his phone go off while standing in line for Space Mountain, looking at the text message. He then replies, “Bubba saw us going, and suggested that we join him, Ricky, Daniel and Kenzie. It would’ve been a little suspicious if I said no.”

Chase could only shake his head – for a couple different reasons as he read the response.

He then sees another text message from Ryan pop up, stating, “I pulled him and Daniel aside after lunch. We’re clear for the dinner surprise, still. Actually, Bubba is going to take photos.”

Chase couldn’t argue with that as he knew how well Darrell’s photos turned out on a regular basis. He knew those would be some great shots of the proposal for Ryan and Lindsay to savor. However, that didn’t erase one snagging feeling.

He then sent, “So where was my invite? I feel lonely…”

Ryan was honestly surprised by the response as they moved up closer to the ride, debating what to send back in response. He then finally sent, “Guess Bubba thought you’d be in Georgia. I thought you were flying out now.”

Chase looks over at the plane, knowing his pre-flight checklist had gone smoothly as always. It was finally time to go see his girls. He then sends, “Going now. Text me Disney details later, please.”

Tuesday, February 12 –Northeast Georgia Medical Center

It wasn’t a long flight back to Georgia – one hour and 30 minutes in total, with dinner delivered in a timely fashion for Sarina. Upon arrival, he took to the immediate chance to spend time with Abigail. Hand through the little holes, letting his hand hold her tiny fingers, which he almost swore he grown in length since the last time he’d seen her three days ago.

“So Ryan planned all of this himself?” Sarina questions, as she looks through a series of photos on her phone.

As promised, Chase and Sarina were the first to find out that Ryan’s proposal had been successful, with Lindsay accepting to marry him – despite tears rolling down her cheeks the entire time. It was only a little while later before a series of photos had been forwarded to them from Darrell.

“In his words, she’s his princess so she deserved a Disney Cinderella treat,” he comments, bringing an immediate look of awe to Sarina’s face. “I thought I did a great job on our proposal, but I have to admit that he’s pretty romantic.”

“The glass slipper is nice, but I wouldn’t trade the roses and the cabin for it,” Sarina replies, leaning in for a quick kiss, as she continues to scroll through the photos. “The princess comment is almost fitting for her, though, as she is a ballerina dancer at heart so she’d totally be in love with that. It’s nice to see that he gets her at that level.”

“Like they say – you should only be with the person that understands you right down to your tippy toes.” He then looks down at Abigail. “And by the way, you have the cutest little toes in the neighborhood. Oh yes, you do…”

“I’m just glad that she said yes as I remember all of her original apprehensions of moving down to North Carolina and moving forward with him. I kept assuring her that it was for the best, as there were so many reasons to do it, and that she could stay involved in dancing at a different level.” Chase nods his head, in agreement, remembering the numerous conversations. “So when are they getting married?”

“Woah now, slow down….” She then chuckles as she sits back.

“I’m serious! I know how magical it felt to marry you so I can’t imagine what she’s going to feel in having that moment with Ryan, and having Evelyn there with them.” Chase admittedly couldn’t wait to see Ryan’s reaction, either.

“I don’t think it will happen as quickly as you’re thinking it’s going to. Ryan is still nervous about what Emma thinks.” The smile immediately wipes away from Sarina’s face. There was no hiding the mix of opinions that she shared about Ryan’s sisters on a couple different occasions – from Erin’s feelings for Chase, to Emma sticking her nose in everything.

“I thought we were over that when she accepted the pregnancy, and was ready to be the best aunt possible for Evelyn. Wasn’t it supposed to be great to see the Blaney cousins in Louie and Evelyn grow up together?” Chase nods, remembering that same discussion.

“I told Ryan about that, and he said that no doubt that was the truth. However, he doesn’t feel that she’s ready for the next step.”

“What else does she thinks comes next?” Chase lets out a sigh, remembering the same words he said to Ryan. “Anyways, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Ryan and Lindsay are happy together, and ready to raise Evelyn as a family. They’re going to do it when they’re ready, and it’s too bad if everybody isn’t on-board.”

“While I understand your perspective, I don’t see Ryan being as cut-dry as you’re being. His sisters mean the world to them and he’s going to want their approval and acceptance before the wedding.” Sarina takes a deep breath, glancing down as she lets the words sink in.

“I guess that’s something that I don’t understand, or have ever worried about with a lack of family.” Chase slowly lets go of Abigail, walking over to her, as he wraps both arms around her from behind.

“You may not have the traditional family, but you certainly have a family. You have me, Samantha, Kyle, my parents, Christopher, Morgan, Alan, Jordan…..I could go on for days, actually.” He then looks over at Abigail. “But most importantly, you have your daughter. You have Abigail, and you have me. We’re a family, and we’re never going to let you forget that. I love you, forever and always. I promised you that the day that I married you, and I am going to uphold that no matter what.”

“I love you, too, forever and always.” She then turns around in his arms, kissing his lips. “I could never ever forget that, or let you go. You both mean the world to me.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 192: Advance Auto Parts Clash

Sunday, February 10 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase helps the crew guys push the car up the grid, before standing by the back it. He then smiles as he watches Jimmie Johnson come over to him out of the sea of teammates.

“So which one of us is going to be the pole sitter this year?” Jimmie questions as they look up at the scoreboard.

Hendrick Motorsports had swept the first round of Daytona 500 qualifying, with Alex first followed by William, Chase, and then Jimmie. While it wasn’t surprising given they had swept the past four poles for the Daytona 500, Chase was actually admittedly caught off-guard by the Hendrick Motorsports presence. It was much better than watching his teammates up in the top-five last year with him eighth.

“Well I’ve done it twice, so I am going to have to say me,” Chase answers, knowing it was the obvious answer but what else did Jimmie expect?

“Didn’t your Momma teach you how to share?” Jimmie asks, causing Chase to chuckle back in response.

“See, that’s why you haven’t won lately as you’ve been sharing too much.” Jimmie was actually taken back by the response, surprised it was now his own teammate picking on him for the lack of wins. “But really, I think the pole is mine. I have the experience of doing it, and I deserve it for Abigail.”

“Oh, so now you’re going to play on our sympathy for your baby to get your way?” Chase just gives him a wink as Jimmie shakes his head in disbelief. “See, the way I see it is that you should feel bad that I haven’t gotten any wins lately, and give me a gift.”

“Well if that was the case, shouldn’t the gift go to Bowman? He was the quickest of us four the first round, and he won the pole last year.” Jimmie shakes his head no. “Of course you’d go with Byron if we’re picking teammates as he has Chad.”

“We’ve seen Chad work his magic down here before.” A smirk forms on Chase’s face as Jimmie was making the game way too easy today.

“Right as I do recall something about rear windows.” Jimmie lets out a sigh, still shaking his head in disbelief at the span of events that season. He admittedly was surprised when the appeals board overturned the suspension for both Chad and Ron after that happened.

“Hey, that’s a better thing to be said that you got caught cheating for than a lousy piece of tape.” Chase glanced down right away, not even wanting to relieve that moment back in the summer. How could they get caught cheating with a simple piece of tape? “Seriously, though, how is Abigail?”

“She’s doing good. The doctors are happy with her progress, and feel that maybe by the end of the week we may have the chance to hold her. Could you imagine if Sarina and I won Daytona, and then got to go home and hold her? I don’t think you’d ever wipe the smile off of our faces.” Jimmie had to begin chuckling right away, but admittedly wouldn’t complain if that happened as he knew Chase and Sarina deserved every bit of happiness they desired.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, but I am glad that she is getting to that point. Word of advice – don’t waste a single moment. They grow up quicker than you realize.” Chase knew that, hence savoring every single moment last night before flying back today for qualifying and the Clash.

“I can’t believe she’s a week old already. I don’t know what I’ll believe when we get into months, and years..” Jimmie smiles as it was happiness aura of the baby looked good on Chase.

The second round of qualifying would go just as smoothly, with Hendrick Motorsports sweeping the top-four once again. This time, it was William scoring the pole – as Jimmie predicted, ahead of Alex, Jimmie, and then Chase.

While he had hoped to be on the front row to eliminate the unpredictability of the Duels – and the chance of a wreck, he also couldn’t complain as this set him up to lead the second duel to green alongside Alex.

Now they just needed to repeat the same exact process that they did last year, both of them.

“Cool deal,” he admitted while speaking with the media afterwards. “Everybody knows qualifying down here is such a reflection upon the work over the off season and luckily, I know a lot of organizations don’t, but I feel like Hendrick Motorsports has always put a lot of effort into our speedway cars and why not? I mean, they all count and why not try for these things too. I know some people don’t like to, but we are trying to push in all areas and this is a good way to get started.”

Chase makes his way down pit road, knowing it was only a matter of time before the Clash was set to begin. Thankfully, another firesuit change session had gone smoothly as scheduled.

With Sarina back home in Georgia, Chase had already done the liberty of sharing pre-race text messages with her, just like they would do for the races they didn’t run at the same track. It was the same usual conversation they’d have on the grid if they were together, but unfortunately didn’t always give the same comfort as holding each other.

Though as he made his way to the No. 9 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, he couldn’t help but gush in seeing Ryan on pit road.

“Who knew you’d look like a natural holding a baby,” he comments as he walks up to him. “But that’s not your little girl.” Ryan smiles, nodding his head. He then glances over at Lindsay, who stood not far from him with Evelyn in her arms.

“I want to show Louie that I am going to be the best uncle ever,” Ryan replies, as Chase glances at the little face in total awe.

“I may be partial, but I have to say that Louie is the second cutest with Abigail at the top.” Ryan then gives him a look, knowing he had purposely laid it out that way in forgetting to include Evelyn.

“Could you imagine if Louie and Abigail got together?” Erin questions, earning an immediate shocked expression from Chase as Emma starts shaking her head no right away.

“Abigail isn’t allowed to date until she’s like 20, maybe 25 anyway,” Chase adds, which caused both Erin and Emma to burst out laughing. “What?”

“Ryan told is the same thing about Evelyn. We told him that Emma and me the same thing, and look what happened. Actually, Emma said that she’d never let him date ever, and well, next thing he’s a daddy.” Erin places a hand on Chase’s shoulder. “I’m sorry bud, but no matter what you do, your little girl is going to grow up and find a boy that loves her.”

“Maybe it’ll be Brexton,” Ryan comments as Chase lets out a sigh. It wasn’t the first time he had the comment with others referencing that due to Sarina’s friendship with Samantha. “Actually, I almost want Brexton to end up with Lydia. Could you see the look from Jimmie?”

“Speaking of Valentine’s Day….” Chase says quietly, earning a look immediately from Ryan. However, Chase had watched how loud he made the comment, not wanting to draw the attention of Lindsay as she chatted away with some of the crew guys.

“We don’t need to talk about it, Chase. I have it under control.” Emma and Erin then trade a glance, almost worried as to what was to come next in their lives.

“Is there something we should know, Ryan?” Emma questions, earning an immediate eye roll in response. Chase caught it, now understanding why Ryan hadn’t wanted the day mentioned.

“I want to go over some ideas with you afterwards that I had for Sarina and get your thoughts,” Chase tried to cover for what had happened, in hopes that Ryan would play around and the girls wouldn’t notice.

“Why would you go to him for love advice?” Chase glances over at Emma, glad that she was buying it.

“Because I have done it before with good results. Despite your attempts, he is a lover’s boy…” Chase then walks away, knowing that’d draw enough fun for Ryan and not wanting to put his foot in his mouth.

However, that didn’t mean he was dropping the topic as he’d be asking Ryan about it when they got some time.

Sunday, February 10 – Dawsonville, Georgia

“Is this real life?” Sarina hears, glancing over at Brittney a little confused. “Are we really watching this race together?” Sarina had to chuckle as she knew the reference right away, remembering where their first days spent together.

“Trust me – I was about to ask myself the same thing,” Sarina replies with a laugh.

“I mean, actually, I’m even surprised that I am watching.” Now it was Sarina’s turn to really look surprised. “Don’t get me wrong – I love my dad, and I love Chase, but racing isn’t my cup of tea so to speak. So I’d always only tune into the big races, or something significant like Chase’s championship night in XFINITY. Their love of flying wore off on me, but certainly not that.”

“Well, maybe we’ll make a fan out of you by the time Speedweeks is over….” Sarina then takes a deep breath, hoping her words played true as that was much better than the alternative.

“You’re nervous – but I get that because of the nature of restrictor plate racing at Daytona and Talladega. Cindy even says that she got a little more nervous at times.” Sarina slowly nods her head, surprised by the Cindy confession as she’d never saw that side of Cindy.

“I’m fine any other week, except for these two tracks. Then I am the worst bucket of nerves. I almost feel bad for Jordan when he has to watch me, so sorry in advance.” Brittney wraps an arm around her.

“It’s okay. We can handle this together.” Sarina could only chuckle in response, hoping that Chase didn’t kill her nerves completely.

“Ugh of course we’d get rain,” Sarina comments with a sigh as the caution flies for rain on the track just 10 laps into the event.

She was hoping that the race would go smoothly, and quickly, so she could get back to Abigail. It’d also mean that Chase would be home at a decent hour as he was supposed to fly home once done the event.

“So what happens now?” Brittney wonders as the cars begin to head down pit road on the TV screen before her.

“We wait,” Sarina replies as she glances over. “We wait, and we wait, and we wait. Once the rain stops, we’ll go racing. If it rains all day, we’ll race tonight. If it rains tonight, NASCAR still won’t call it early, making you sit your ass here and wait, and then run tomorrow.” Brittney chuckles at the response, as she loads the radar on her tablet.

“The good news is that the shower doesn’t look like it’ll be long…” Sarina now looks over, actually intrigued. Maybe it was helpful having Brittney there to watch the race with her for more than general nerves. “Maybe 20 minutes maximum as it’s just a small one. However, the fear is what lies behind it. There is more rain to come, some in blotches, but then a big huge blob that is yellow in parts meaning it’ll be long and a lot.”

“So in other words, we may only be able to race until the halfway point?” Brittney slowly nods her head. “Great….” That only increased her nerves as she knew weather made things crazier as her eyes focus back on the TV. “Better hope Alan and Eddie are watching that so Chase makes the move before the rain hits.”

“Shall we call and warn them?” Sarina had to chuckle, though already knew that Tom probably had the radar loaded on the computer screen on the pit box. She then watches the camera focus to the No. 9 car, seeing Alan standing by with the wedge wrench. “I thought you weren’t supposed to make adjustments to the racecar under red.”

“You aren’t supposed to normally…” Brittney then points to the screen, as the crew members turn the wedge adjustment bar.

“That’s an adjustment from what I know. So what’s the penalty since this isn’t allowed?” Sarina had to chuckle as she looks over.

“You aren’t supposed to….normally…” Brittney then freezes, catching the repetition of words.

Sunday, February 10 – Daytona International Speedway

“Is he seriously doing what I think he’s doing?” Chase questions, as the crew members nod their heads.

“You said that the car was dragging a bit so he’s adjusting heights,” Tom Gray summarizes as Chase nods his head. He remembered stating those adjustments. He figured that they’d head down pit road when the event went back to caution – not make them right now under the red flag.

“NASCAR rules state that you’re not supposed to work on the car under the red flag.” Tom then smiles, having noticed the odd glances from others. Even some of their own team members had originally questioned things when Alan walked over with Josh.

“You are correct – for points races.” Chase then glances over, intrigued. “If you read the rule book closely, you will notice that you are allowed to work on the car under the red flag for a non-points event. The rule was changed a few years ago in relation more so to the All-Star race and not here. Obviously, that occurred following the 2001 All-Star event wher-”

“They allowed Jeff Gordon, and the others who wrecked to bring out their back-up cars due to the accident being for rain.” Chase then looks back towards pit road, where Alan stood by the car with the official. “Once again, he’s reading between the lines. I’m impressed.”

“Let’s just hope that everybody else feels as good about it as you do.” Chase chuckles, having noticed some of the odd glances as well.

Sunday, February 10 – Dawsonville, Georgia

As Brittney stated, it was a short while before they were back on track and the racing resumed. Not much movement in the field occurred, though, with the only real shuffling happening once the drivers pit road. Unfortunately, Chase was unable to make up as much ground as he hoped.

Also as predicted, there was more rain as another red flag was displayed.

“Woah, half about wrecked…” they hear over the radio transmission as Sarina had loaded the NASCAR.com Raceday app to listen to Chase’s audio in the background.

“That caution took way too long to come out,” Brittney summarizes, seeing on television some of the windshields from the rain.

“Welcome to NASCAR and their desperation to get the rain in,” Sarina comments. “Even Jimmie was pissed about it. Someone tweeted that he said, ‘Who the fuck is on the switch up there? It’s fucking pouring!’”

“I don’t blame his panicking at all. Glad that Chase was able to hold onto that thing.”  Sarina looks over with a pure grin.

“Chase has talent, sweetheart…” Brittney couldn’t help but agree with Sarina’s assessment.

The race would get back going once again, and unfortunately did not go as the ladies would’ve hoped. Jimmie went to make a move on Paul Menard for the lead, making contact in the process that wrecked all of the cars in the race except three. Chase, unfortunately, was one of the drivers involved. The race was then called shortly thereafter for rain, with Chase scored sixth in the final rundown.

“I like Jimmie as he’s great personality wise and he can get the job done behind the wheel any day,” Sarina starts as she sends a text message to Chase. “But let me tell you something – that boy cannot restrictor plate race to save his damn life! He has no clue on judgment of space as he always is causing wrecks on these tracks.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 191: First Crash of 2019

Saturday, February 9 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase makes his way into the garage stall, high-fiving a couple crew guys as he walks by them. He makes his way over to where Alan is, leaning back against the pit box as he watches the crew chief go over the notes.

“So Sarina is going to run Daytona next weekend?” Alan questions, catching Chase by surprise.

“We have a practice in 10 minutes and that’s the first comment you have?” Chase offers back in response as Alan looks back at his notes.

“You already know how it works on the restrictor plate tracks, and you heard my lecture in the board room. Draft practice whatever you want for the Clash, but single and teammate runs only for the Daytona 500 practice. Why should I repeat myself? You’re a grown adult and should remember.” Chase could easily be satisfied by that, but he was still used to Alan going over everything briefly before they began as a simple reminder, and in case there was any changes made.

“You’re just using that as an excuse so you can ask the question.” Alan lets out a sigh, as he sets the clipboard down. It had been a decoy for trying to cover for his complete curiosity.

“I wasn’t surprised when you turned up down here, as I knew she wouldn’t let you get out of that and it’d be comforting with having her there with Abigail. Am I right?” Chase lets out a sigh, nodding his head. “And it also made sense that you were running her car since you tested with Dave Elenz – nice way around the rules.”

“I want to thank you for that, but at the same time not.” Alan could understand as he knew the test at Atlanta wasn’t just done by accident.

“But then the press release drops, and you’re in the No. 8 while she’s debuting her brand new Camaro in the No. 9 – which by the way, that car is stunning.” Chase nods his head as he had to agree. Flashy silver wasn’t always a good look, but the red and black seemed to accent it perfectly. “I was caught off-guard, as was practically everybody else. You’d think she’d want to take her time coming back with just having been through the pregnancy. You’d also think that she’d want to stay with Abigail as much as she could.”

“I was surprised when she told me that she was running too, okay? However, if you hear her reasons out, you understand. It’s the exact reason it makes sense for me to be here. We’re racers. This is what we do, Alan. You know better than anything that racing rises above anything else with her. To pull a racer away from what they love, watch someone else drive their car, it feels wrong, so you do whatever you can to be behind the wheel. Hence why she wants to run Daytona and I’m backing her all the way.” Alan then puts his hands up defensively.

“While I am asking you this question, don’t back me in a corner. I am only asking you out of curiosity, however I do support her if she is ready.” Chase had to smile as it was nice to have Alan back in his corner, again. “But what about Abigail?”

“Brittney said that she’d be around and keep an eye out for us, as well as the nurses and doctors. If something comes up, we’ll be notified and first flight back to North Carolina we’ll be taking. We’re also going to minimize the time that we are away, flying back and forth as much as possible.” Alan knew that was an understandable compromise. Sometimes it paid to be your own pilot.

“So you’re heading home tonight?” Chase nods his head.

“My original plan, and I am going to try to stick to it, is flying back each night. I am also going to fly Sarina back after the XFINITY race, too.” Alan felt a small tinge of fear in hearing the plan.

“What about weather? What about fatigue? I don’t want you pushing yourself too much because you want to make this work perfectly for Sarina.” Chase had looked at some of the radars and forecasts, knowing that rain was evident. He knew the high possibility of the plan falling apart.

“We’ll do what we can within the means possible. If the weather is bad, don’t worry – I won’t chance it. Secondly, Dad can fly if I’m tired.” Chase places a hand on Alan. “You focus on your job, I’ll focus on mine. That’s what makes us work, remember? I got this..”

“While that may have been the original groundwork of our friendship, the past couple of years have changed that. You could say that I worry about you a little more. Now, don’t you have a job to do?” Chase nods his head as he glances towards the Mountain Dew Chevrolet. He knew what he had to do, as promised to Sarina.

“Here’s to beginning the season on the right note…..”

Chase walks into the garage, glancing over the Mountain Dew Chevrolet. There was damage across the back end, with the left rear quarter panel bent too. He didn’t even to walk up the right side to know the fender was pushed in.

What happened?

He then lets out a sigh, continuing his walk up through the garage area as he runs the first, and lone 18 laps that he would get during the Clash practice session. Just like that, 18 laps into the year and he had a wrecked car.

How was that even possible?

“I don’t know what happened,” he says as he walks up to Alan with a face of confusion. “I knew the pack was coming. I tried to slot in the bottom, but that didn’t work. I was set to ride the middle until I could find a hole, or tag onto the back of a line. I was waiting for Eddie to tell me there was an opening, but there was nothing so I held my line. Next thing, it’s sideways and we’re in the wall.”

“Did you turn up in front of Ryan (Newman) at all?” Alan wonders, having watched the replay a couple times. Though the shake of the head from his driver brought forth intrigue. “Because if you watch the replay, it looks like you came up and the hole wasn’t ther-”

“Eddie hadn’t cleared me so therefore I didn’t go and make a move into a hole that wasn’t there, though.” Alan looks over at him, holding his hands out to emphasize what he saw on the replay.

“That’s what the replay showed, and I am wondering if maybe Ryan getting on your right rear pulled you up – sort of that aero push thing. Because by the replay, Chase, he was right there on your quarter. It’s not like he was trying to pack the air, but that may explain why we don’t know how it happened.” Chase was willing to accept the theory, as he took another look back at the car. He could tell by the crew members actions that they weren’t getting ready to fix the car, but rather be prepared to switch cars.

“So we’re rolling out the back-up?” Alan lets out a sigh, with a nod of the head. He didn’t want to make the decision to do that, having wanted to share that in case they needed it for the Daytona 500 after the Duels or practice. However, he knew by the survey of damage from Josh that repairs weren’t happening.

“We’ve got no other choice based on what Josh told me. While it looks cosmetic, I’m concerned about the back corner. I don’t know if there’s some stuff bent underneath, chassis may be shifted with how you slapped the wall, and you know that you can never get the fenders back straight to how they should be. So my decision was to go to the back-up, and then we’ll bring down a fourth car – whether take this back and properly fix, or another car – in case we need it after Thurs-”

“Please don’t say that…” Alan didn’t want to think about the possibility, however he knew the likelihood of a wreck at Daytona. He also knew no matter what they did, even leading, that sometimes you purely couldn’t escape the chaos.

“Ron said there’s not much work that needs to be done, so he’ll finalize that and get it through technical inspection with Josh. Then we’ll let the wrap guys do what they need to do to keep the marketing people from killing us.” Chase didn’t even want to think about everything that was involved.

“I just feel terrible. We’re only 18 laps into the season, and we’ve already wrecked a car..” Alan wanted to instantly erase the pain in that, however he felt that as well.

“It’s Daytona. What else can I say? It happens all the time down here, and congratulations, we got the short end of the stick this year.” Chase looks over at him.

“I am just going to pretend that we’re getting all of the bad luck out of the way early so we can do what we came down here to do.” Alan smiles, as he liked that positive spin – if possible, on the situation.

“We’ll start the Clash with no laps on the back-up car. Thankfully, it’s broken into two segments – 25 laps, and 50 laps. We’ll use the first 25 to learn the car and what we need to do so it’s tuned up ready for you, and then go get them in the final 50.” Chase could agree with the theory.

“Going to a back-up, we’ll start at the back no matter what you draw.” Alan couldn’t help but smile a little more.

“No pressure tonight!” Chase had to chuckle at the comment, despite trying to be serious with what happened.

“We know everybody is going to sit and ride through those first 25 laps, and then through the first half of the last 50. That’s plenty of time for us to figure out what we need to do.” Alan nods his head in agreement.

“Now, we have another car to roll out and get right. Actually, the one that matters…” Chase glances down at his suit, shaking his head.

“…which means that I have to go change, or else the marketing people will be after my ass.” He then goes to head out of the garage area.

“I thought you loved having to change. But oh yes, that was because you had some help last year.” A couple laughs and whistles escape the crew members who overheard the comment, as Chase spins around, flipping the bird quickly at Alan. “Love you too, kid.”

Saturday, February 9 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center – 6 days old

“You were looking mighty fine today,” Sarina comments as she flips through the latest batch of images that were uploaded. While she enjoyed spending time with their daughter, the other part missed seeing him dressed up in his firesuit for the first time this season.

“Green or blue?” Chase questions without letting his eyes leave the sight before him.

Once he landed in Georgia, he stopped to grab them both dinner, before heading straight to the hospital to see Sarina and Abigail. After sharing dinner and light conversation about the day, they made their way up to the NICU so Chase could spend some time with Abigail. Since walking in there, his fingers hadn’t left her little hand as he stood there admiring her.

“They both look absolutely stunning on you for that matter,” she offers, causing him to roll his eyes. That was a typical comment. “However, can I admit that the green brings out your best assets?”

“My eyes?” He asks, as he finally takes his eyes off Abigail to look over at her.

“No – your ass.” She then gives him a light slap, as he looks back down at Abigail.

“Look at your mommy. She’s such a naughty girl. I am going to need your help to keep her in line.” Sarina could only roll her eyes, but yet smile at the same time.

“By the way, next time, make Alan change out of the green. You look like you don’t belong on the same team – almost like you ‘clash’ together.” While he wanted to hold it in, the comment brought  a chuckle out of him.

“How original…” She then lets out a sigh as she glances back at the photos.

“So be honest – how is the Daytona 500 car?” Chase couldn’t complain as he shrugged his shoulders. “I was listening to the radio, but there wasn’t much to be heard.”

“There was really no complaints. It felt fine when I was running by itself, and Alan said the speed looked good enough to challenge for the pole tomorrow. What else is there to say?” Sarina wished she could just glance over it like he was. However, Hendrick Motorsports’ past history of wrecking cars at Daytona, combined with the Clash incident, didn’t ease her concerns. It also didn’t help that she wouldn’t be there tomorrow, either.

“And do you think you’ll be comfortable in the draft without any problems like today?” Chase looks over, nodding his head. While it was hard to explain what happened, and he was having to listen to an odd ‘engineer’ theory behind it, the actual comfort in the car felt good before then. Therefore, he had the same confidence in the back-up despite no laps. “Just promise me be careful, please…”

“Always.” He then reaches over, clutching her hand, as he keeps his eyes on Abigail. “You keep an eye on her tomorrow. Don’t let her freak out. Daddy is going to be careful for you both.” He then takes his eyes off of Abigial, only to give Sarina a quick kiss, before looking back at her.

“I knew that she’d steal your heart immediately….” Chase smiles as he watches her little fingers stretch.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed simple moments like this with you both until I walked in here tonight, and I just wanted to freeze this moment. We did it, Sarina. We’re parents.” Sarina places a hand on his shoulder.

“Trust me, I can’t believe it sometimes. I have to pinch myself sometimes.”

Sunday, February 10 – Daytona International Speedway – 1 week old

With not much to do, since he didn’t have Sarina to keep him company, Chase found himself in the garage earlier than normal already dressed in his firesuit. At least he was prepared for qualifying, right?

After catching up with a couple different drivers – sharing off-season happenings and fulfilling their warrants on how Abigial was doing, he made his way to his garage stall. He wasn’t surprised to see the hustle of the pit crew with the final preparations on the Clash car.

Though as he glanced over the various crew members, he recognized a couple missing. He then glances across the garage area, checking the hauler, as it’d make sense if Alan and Josh were there. However, that received no answers.

He was about to ask Tom Gray, though then he recognized the familiar NAPA uniforms as they stood talking with a NASCAR official. He watched in intrigue, trying to figure out the method of the discussion. He was then glanced in confusion as Josh headed towards the track exit, while Alan made his way back to the garage stall.

“Where is Josh going?” He asks, once the crew chief gets back to the stall. Maybe Josh had forgotten something, or needed to go get something that they needed for the back-up.

“Ejected from the garage area by NASCAR,” Alan answers casually, causing Chase’s jaw to drop as his eyes continue to follow the crew chief. He knew that Alan and the crew were always trying to push the envelope and could only wonder what happened this time around.

“Why?” Alan finally stops, realizing that he owed Chase a viable explanation.

“We failed pre-qualifying technical inspection twice. Per the new rules, car chief is thrown out of the garage for the rest of the weekend and we lose 15 minutes of practice on Friday. To be honest, the infraction wasn’t serious anyway, as we were just outside the tolerances by a little. So rather than harp on it, we’ve got the car legal per their standards and we’re going to focus on the weekend. That practice time won’t be too missed here, and Tom will pick up the slack with Matt.” Chase instantly felt the moment of paranoid escape, as he couldn’t blame them for pushing the allowances in their first trip through. Might as well find what you can do and can’t do before the race, right? He also knew the explanation from Alan was valid, too, and it wouldn’t be something to affect them the rest of Speedweeks.

“You realize that you just gave Josh a reason to become a beach bum. Let’s hope he don’t get sun burnt.” Alan had to chuckle a little at the comical relief that Chase had offered, almost worried as to what he was going to say next given the initial third degree.

“If he gets burnt, that’s totally his fault – and I plan to slap the hell out of that. Meanwhile, we have a Daytona 500 pole to chase, again…”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 190: Crane Security Industries

Friday, February 8 – Daytona International Speedway

“I appreciate you doing this,” Chase comments as they walk up into the trailer lounge together. “I don’t think this is what you had in mind when Rick sent you down here to help out.”

“Anything to help is warranted, and that includes looking out for you,” Ron replies as he sits down on the couch. “Besides, Alan is right. Someone from the team should sit in on the meeting, and everybody else is busy.”

With safety concerns prevalent with Carter Williams still on the loose, Chase was sticking to his word of not playing around this time. It was why he was looking into hiring security to watch out for him, Sarina, Abigail, and others close to them. With that, there was the task of interviewing possibilities.

Realizing it wasn’t his strongest suit of knowledge, he asked the investigator for a couple recommendations. After sifting through the three companies she suggested, he made a phone call to set up the meeting. Considering most of the work would be done at race tracks across the country, it made sense to have the meeting in the hauler.

“I bet it wasn’t easy leaving her this morning,” Ron comments, noticing Chase had loaded the monitor of Abigail on the Ipad.

“I’ve done it more than once this week, and it hasn’t gotten easier every time,” Chase replies as he looks over. “I just want to be there with her every single moment, watch her grow, and just admire her. Those little fingers held in on my own – I can’t get over it.” Ron smiles as he looks at the image.

“Are you close to being able to hold her yet?” Chase lets out a sigh as he wasn’t honestly sure if they were as close as he wanted to be.

“The doctors say she’s continuing to grow stronger and doing well, but yet they haven’t said anything…” His voice trails off as the door opens, with Morgan entering.

“As requested, Mr. Damian Crane of Crane Security Industries,” she states, backing away from the entry so he could enter. “I’ll be out here working on stuff if you need me.” Chase easily nods his head as she closes the door behind her.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Elliott,” Damian says as he shakes Chase’s hand. His eyes then trail over to the individual beside him. “I’m sorry, but I was told that this was a meeting for me and Mr. Elliott to discuss a future of working together.”

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Ron comments, as he gives the guy a glance over. He was already intrigued in how he had been approached by the gentleman.

“Since this is a private meeting, I would ask you to excus-”

“Actually, I would like him sit in on the meeting if you don’t mind,” Chase interrupts, having put the Ipad aside. He knew he could watch Abigail all day, but this needed his undivided attention. “Since you and your team would be performing these duties with me in the garage around crew members, I wanted to have one of the team members hear what you had to say. While I would’ve prepared it to be Alan Gustafson who runs my team, he was unavailable due to technical inspection.”

“It’s interesting how he chooses that over your safety,” Damien says as his eyes don’t leave Ron’s.

“He has a job to do, and that’s his priority when he is here at the race track working for his employer,” Ron starts. “ I can assure you that Alan cares about Chase’s safety as he has gone above and beyond at times to help him. Chase can even tell you that, too, as Alan has been amazing through this.” Chase takes a deep breath, nodding his head in agreement.

“Alan was willing to stand up to her for me despite her having a gun ready to shoot him,” Chase recalls, taking a deep breath. He honestly didn’t want to think back to that time.

“Since I was not necessarily needed, and I know what crew chiefs look for, I’m here to handle the situation on his behalf,” Ron continues. He then holds out his hand for Damien, still not sure if he even wanted to move forward from this stage. He was admittedly caught off-guard by the request to leave as the first impression didn’t sit well, and now even felt a tad offended about the comment in relation to Alan. “Ron Malec, Final Assembly Manager for Hendrick Motorsports.”

“That’s still odd for you to say that even a year later….” Ron chuckles, having heard that from a couple different people. However, the entire time, his eyes didn’t leave the man before him as they shake hands.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, and I appreciate the explanation for your presence,” Damien states before he takes a seat on the couch. “Mr. Elli-”

“You can call me Chase,” Chase cuts him off-guard, knowing that he couldn’t get used to that on a regular base.

“As I was saying, Chase makes a valid point in having everybody work together across the board to make sure that there are no problems. I also applaud both of your comments in regards to Mr. Gustafson, and I look forward to meeting him when the time is right. Actually, though, your commentary doesn’t surprise me given what I was able to read in the files I had gone through about things that have happened so far.”  Chase lets out a sigh, not even wanting to read through those himself as he didn’t need to relive that chaos once again.

“That’s why I am hoping that you can offer the protection needed so I can make sure that Sarina and Abigail are safe.” Damien nods his head, accepting.

“I absolutely feel that I can put a team together to travel with you, your wife, and child – as well as others you feel as necessary, that will work for everybody.” Damien then lays out a couple files of his own, breaking down how he normally handles situations of this nature when hired to work for someone. Despite his initial apprehensions, Ron had to admit that he was intrigued by the explanation given.

“And you’re willing to travel the country to make sure that this is done correctly?” Damien nods his head.

“Absolutely.” Damien then sets down the files. “Look, I know who you’re dealing with. Carter Williams is no one to play around with. He’s a master criminal. He knows the ways in and out of places without being detected. He knows how to fool some of the best systems in place. He knows how to play the law to his advantage. He can get the job done with many others can’t. That’s why obviously why Alison hired him.” Ron watches the guy carefully, beginning to get those suspicions once again. Everything seemed to make sense, but yet something seemed off. “If you want someone that knows how to make sure that doesn’t happen, my team is who you need. We know the tricks that he is going to play, and we’ll make sure they don’t happen. We’ve dealt with him before, so we can make sure he’s handled accordingly.”

“I’m sorry, but did you just say that you dealt with him before?” Ron questions, glad that he hadn’t let his guard down yet.

“I heard that, too,” Chase comments, trading a glance with Ron.

“We have crossed paths once or twic-” Damien starts.

“So if you’re so good at your job as you claim to be and can supposedly handle someone of his nature, why is he still running around?” Ron asks. “Why wasn’t he locked away upon your last encounter with him? Why wasn’t he prevented from acting up once again? Why didn’t you keep tabs on him after that, and then warn when he began to act again? By you stating that you dealt with him, and then let him go, you’re not giving me much faith in your services.” Damien immediately turns over to Chase.

“And what do you think?” Chase’s eyes hadn’t left Ron, as he was thankful for having him there to set the record straight.

“I think you should answer what Ron sai-” Chase starts.

“I am asking what you think, not what Ron thin-” Damien interrupts

“I am telling you that I want to hear what you have to say about Ron said. That’s what I am thinking about.” Damien takes a deep breath, having not expected the attitude he had just witnessed.

“I can get you in touch with past clientele and they can testify to the fact that we kept them safe from Mr. Williams and made sure he did not approach them again.”

“They could just be friends that you’re paying to say that,” Ron comments as he rolls his eyes. “How do we know for sure?” He then looks over at Chase, taking a deep breath. He was supposed to be there to offer his opinion, and he wasn’t going to hide it right now. “I’d rather have someone who has no connections to the man so I don’t have to worry about being double-crossed.”

“Are you saying that you don’t trust me?” Damien questions, as Ron lets out a small chuckle.

“How about you be the judge of that yourself?” Damien takes a deep breath, focusing his eyes on Chase as he didn’t need to get into an argument with Ron. It wasn’t Ron’s approval he needed.

“At the end of day, it is your opinion and decision. You can accept, speak to my references, check my background, or sadly deny my services that I promise will suit every need you have.” Chase takes a deep breath, as the decision was easy.

“I have to decline and ask you to please leave right now,” Chase states as he slowly stands up. He walks over to the door, opening it. “You stated that you know Carter, and I can’t handle someone having connections. Been there, done that, and got my ass handed to me in the process. Furthermore, you’ve been rude about the questions that we both had for you, and frankly, your attitude towards Ron sucked. I can’t have that. We’re done.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Damien states as he collects his belongings. “If you change your mind, you have my number. Have a nice day.” Damien then leaves, with Chase shutting the door behind him.

“Can you believe that?” Ron shakes his head no as he picks up his phone. “What are you doing?”

“Texting Morgan,” Ron answers. “I don’t want him having access to the garage area with the connection that he has to Carter. Furthermore, I think the police would like to speak to him about that.” Chase smiles, nodding his head in agreement as he sits down beside Ron.

“Thank you, for everything,” Chase comments as Ron looks over at him.

“Let me handle getting you security, okay? You have enough on your plate with the upcoming race season, Sarina, Abigail, and everything that happened. I have a friend that needed some security, and the company they used did the job superbly. Let me get in contact and see if they can help you out.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

Making his way through the garage, Chase stops in his stall. He knew he had some time before having to be in the infield for the USAC.25 Series appearance, so he might as well spend it wisely.

Three practices tomorrow – Clash, followed by a pair of the Daytona 500. Sponsor demands meant that he had change firesuit and helmet in-between the two sessions, while sneaking in lunch somewhere. Oh, and since it was practice, he knew he couldn’t miss the debriefs with Alan and his teammates.

Knowing it was always easier to be prepared, he knew it would be a good idea to go over things.

Stopping at the car, he takes his helmet and gloves out of the bag, setting them on the roof. He then glances over the visor, checking it closely for scratches. While he had checked before packing, it never hurt to double check. It was also part of making sure that he had the right tint for the conditions that they would have for tomorrow’s practice.

Once he was satisfied, he sits them both on the roof, snapping a quick photo to send out on Twitter. He then sends it to Sarina in a text, “Getting your favorite colors ready for tomorrow. Missing you and Abby. Love you. See you soon.”

He then takes a deep breath, before setting the helmet inside of the car carefully, along with the gloves. All he needed tomorrow was change into his firesuit, come to the garage, and he’d be ready for the first practice. He then hears his phone ding, taking out to read the message.

“You know Hootie is my favorite but that green is a damn close second,” she had replied. “Miss you, too. Abby can’t wait to see you.” He smiles as he knew he couldn’t wait for those little finger touches. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

Placing his phone back in his pocket after checking the time, he takes a glance to see where the guys had ended up, knowing they were going through technical inspection. With having gotten the Clash car through, it was time for their second round.

He begins to head over to where they are, slowing as he makes his way through the garage. He then stops, taking a deep breath, closing his eyes briefly.

It was just a year ago they were separated, busy in different spots. Even with having someone there for her, Alison had managed to kidnap her. He remembered the trail of events, hearing them repeated and remembering the worried phone calls, and days that followed. Those events would forever change himself. Now there was one person who probably knew where she was, and another that may have a connection that was undesirable. He didn’t want to go through this again.

“Just stop,” he tells himself, taking a deep breath as he tries to erase the thoughts from his mind.

He was over-thinking it, letting his mind play tricks on him out of worry. This wasn’t before, and like he had said, it wasn’t going to happen again. Besides, she was at the hospital with Abigail, surrounded by security cameras and officers, along with nurses. Nobody would get away with something like that.

Even though he had managed to put his mind at ease, it didn’t stop him from pulling his phone back out to send a quick “be careful” text to her.

Friday, February 8 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center

“Were the kids as amazing as we’d expect?” Sarina asks as she wraps an arm around him.

After he was done his appearance for the USAC.25 Series, he made the flight back up to Georgia to spend the night with his girls.

“There are some really talented drivers in there,” he answers, having watched a couple of their races. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were racing against them down the road.” She shakes her head as she glances over a couple of the photos.

“It’s crazy to think that we’re the ones inspiring that next generation after we spent all this time looking up to the likes of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and others,” she comments.

“I say those kid have a great role model in you, though.” She then gives him a smile in return, half-expecting the flirting comments. “I’m serious, actually. There were some of the young ladies that asked me where you were, and wanted me to tell you to keep winning races as you’re amazing. They also couldn’t wait to see you race next weekend.”

“You’re just saying that to flatter me….” He shakes his head no, pointing out one of the images that had a young girl wearing a Sarina Ott shirt. “Have you seen the new shirts for this year, already?”

“I may have purchased one…” She then rolls her eyes, loading the group photo on her phone.

“It’s like the Where’s Waldo Chase Elliott edition.” He then chuckles as she glances over the many faces. “But I am going to tell you that I immediately found you…” She then points to where he is in the photo, before glancing up at him. “I always have my eyes on you.”

“I can’t lose sight of your beauty, either.” He then leans in, giving her a little kiss.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 189: “We’re going to be teammates instead.”

Wednesday, February 6 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center

Chase walks over to where Sarina was sitting, handing over her coffee and bagel, before sitting down beside her.

“What are you reading?” He asks with a bit of curiosity, noticing the wide variety of pamphlets that sat with the IPad. He half-expected her to be reading about preemie babies, what to expect, and the dangers. He remembered her doing that through the beginning stages of her pregnancy.

“The process of harvesting eggs, and getting your tubes tied afterwards,” she answers, causing a bit of surprise on his face. “We talked about this, Chase…” He nods his head, remembering the brief conversation at Atlanta.

“We spent five minutes on the subject. That seems barely enough for a subject this important.” She knew that he was right, however she didn’t feel the need to discuss further as his advice had been right on point.

“You told me that at the time, I didn’t need to make a definite decision. I could get my eggs harvested, and then we could decide later if we wanted more children, to go through with surrogacy, or adoption. You told me that I should do the procedure to keep my opti-”

“I didn’t mean that you had to do the procedure, though. I just suggested a mere way of keeping your options open. That doesn’t mean you have to do this.” She nods her head, understanding. However, she was feeling confident based on her conversation with Dr. Grayson and what she had read.

“I want to do this, though. I think it is the right step as the procedure isn’t that bad, and we have the door open.” He then picked up one of the pamphlets, flipping it open. He might as well learn about it if she was going to do it.

“It doesn’t sound bad. You’re in and out, and just need to make sure to take it eas-”

“That’s literally impossible with you.” She then gives him a smack, as he glances over. “I’m serious. How many times did I have to remind you to take it easy during the pregnancy? And who was biking about two days after they twisted their ankle at Talladega?”

“And I was fine, thank you very much. I was told to use it as I felt necessary but not push the boundaries and I didn’t.” He rolls his eyes as he goes back to reading. “I was thinking of doing it the week before an off-weekend for me, in case there is any issues.”

“You can do it whenever you feel comfortable. Just make sure you let me know ahead of time the date so I can make sure my schedule is cleared.” She nods her head, accepting, as she knew she wanted him to be there no matter what.

“Do you think it’s my fault that she came early?” Chase sets down the pamphlet, taking another glancing over. “You just said that you had to remind me multiple times to take it easy during the pregnancy. What if I pushed it too much?”

“You didn’t do anything wron-”

“But what if I did, Chase?” She then looks over to meet his eyes, finally. “What if her being here weeks early is my fault? What if something happens because of me? I was selfish and raced through the first couple months of the pregnancy, and then I wouldn’t listen to what you said and she came early.”

“Then I guess it’s my fault, too, since I was fully supportive of you racing through those months.” He then wraps an arm around her, pulling her close. “We said it was meant to be. If it’s meant to be truly, she’s going to pull through with flying colors, and we’ll be able to grow old together as a family. You can’t beat yourself up for what happened. I should know. I’ve done that enough…”

“And you do know, as I’ve told you several times, that nothing that happened is your fault, right?” He nods his head, having heard the words over and over. Truthfully, they were finally sinking in. “So where are you off to today, again?”

“Atlanta Braves. We’re meeting up with NAPA marketing representatives as they’re trying to do a promotion that ties my love for Braves and the sponsor together.” Sarina sits back, thinking it over.

“Go to NAPA and spend x amount of dollars, and be entered to win tickets to go see the braves with you?” He looks over as a smirk slowly forms on his face.

“Well Mrs. Elliott, I may just need to make you in charge of my marketing endeavors from here on out.” She then chuckles.

“It’s the simplest idea, but it’d get the fans attention.” Chase wasn’t sure if that was always the best idea.

“My luck, it’d be some crazy stalker chick that would get to go because her daddy bought the money.” She just shakes her head in disgust.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, as there’s some crazy people out there. Do you believe that there’s still some who only believe we’re together because you can’t see through the fact that I slept with you to get a racing dream?” He had seen the messages from the ladies on both Instagram and Twitter, trying to be kind and warn him.

“I must be dense to go through four years of pure hell at times with you and not see that.” Sarina lets out a sigh as she glances down. “I didn’t mean anyth-”

“I know, but it still stings. Sometimes I can’t believe how much I turned your life upside down.” He wipes a stray hair out of her eyes, causing her to look back at him.

“But I wouldn’t change it because I’m glad that I’ve gotten to know you, and watch you grow into this amazing woman. I love you.” He then leans in, lightly kissing her lips.

“Even if supposedly they say I have crazy eyes?” He then breaks out laughing, remembering the random comments they’d stumbled upon. “Ryan goes ahead on Glass Case of Emotion and says that he told a buddy that their girl has crazy eyes, and they assume he’s talking about me.”

“Meanwhile, he’s dating your cousin. What are they going to say when Lindsay and him are engaged?” She didn’t actually want to wonder, as she was already surprised by what she saw. “For the record, remind me to ask him what buddy he was referring to. I’m actually curious now.”

“I think I have an idea, but I will ask for certainty…”

“Are you sure that this won’t do any harm?” Sarina questions as she and Chase follow the nurse.

Chase had gotten back from the trip up to the Braves, bringing back dinner for them, when the nurse offered a surprise for them afterwards.

“If we believed there’d be potential harm, we would not allow you to do this,” the nurse tells her as Sarina clutches Chase’s hand, almost not believing this was happening. “It’ll still be a couple weeks before she can come out of there entirely and you can hold her, but she is doing well for being as early as she was.”

“I told you she was strong,” Chase emphasizes, remembering their discussion.

“I can’t believe this…” Sarina lets out as they walk over to the incubator, right up close. “I don’t know if I can do this, even.”

“It’s okay to be nervous,” the nurse comments, catching Sarina’s attention. “I’ve met several parents who just want to be close to their baby, sitting there watching hours of the day, and then freeze up at this moment. They’re afraid the smallest touch is going mess things up, end the dream experience that they feel they’re going through. However, like I said, we wouldn’t allow this if we were worried. Now, have both of you washed your hands?”

“I wouldn’t chance it otherwise…” She then looks back at Chase. “She’s so tiny…”

“But I think she’s just like already – tiny spit fire, ready to fight anybody like a spider monkey,” Chase comments as Sarina chuckles, remembering when Samantha used that line after one of Sarina’s first confrontations while at KBM.

“Take your time,” the nurse instructs, slipping one of the doors open as she takes a step back.

“Would you rather I go first?” Sarina slowly nods her head. Chase had originally planned on letting Sarina go first, knowing how badly she wanted that touch on Monday. While he was nervous right now just as she was, he was willing to bite the bullet for both of them.

“I want to, but I just can’t,” Sarina confesses as her eyes remained locked on the little being below her. Was this really happening? It was still hard believe that she was a mother to this little girl.

“Hey sweetheart…” Chase says quietly as he slowly reaches his fingers inside, brushing them against her little hand. It was like his heart swelled immediately, as his eyes lit up with a big smile on his face. “I have your mommy here with me.”

“Your fingers make hers look that much more smaller…” Chase had to smirk at the comment, as he lightly held her hand with his. Taking a deep breath, feeling that touch, it was almost like the world was complete in that moment.

“I promised you that I’d protect you and your momma, and I mean that now even more. You’re going to stay safe, and get stronger, and be amazing.” Chase finally takes his eyes off of her, looking back at Sarina. “You’ll be spectacular, just like your momma.”

“Make sure you give yourself some credit there, as she’s going to be as sweet as you are.” Chase looks back down, slowly taking his hand out. He didn’t want to let go just yet, but he knew what was needed to be done.

“Your turn…” Sarina feels her breath hitch, though calmly takes a deep breath. She slowly reaches through, brushing just the tip of her index finger first.

“Is this really happening?” Chase nods his head as he runs his hand across her shoulder. “Hey baby girl…” She watches the little fingers stretch, almost begging for more touch, which Sarina slowly gives her.

“She knows that you’re her mother. She wants to feel you.” Sarina smiles, feeling a couple tears run down her cheek in the process.

“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t even describe this…” Sarina looks over at the nurse. “Can I just stay here all night like this?”

“Unfortunately, we cannot allow that,” the nurse confesses, hating to break her heart in this moment. “However, I can allow you to come in throughout the day and do this for awhile at a time. Building that connection with her parents is just as important as her growing and improving, so we want to make sure that’s set.”

“I think you’re going to get used to seeing her then,” Chase comments, trying to break a bit of the tension in the room. “I’m proud of you, both of you. I just can’t wait to see you hold her for the first time.”

“Oh gosh…” Sarina lets out as she looks down at Abigail. “She’s so small. I hope I don’t drop her.” Chase gives Sarina’s shoulder a squeeze, followed by a small kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there with you every step of the way…”

Thursday, February 7  – Northeast Georgia Medical Center

Just like they had done the night before, the pair were back in the NICU, trading finger touches with Abigail in pure amazement. In a combination of disbelief, thankfulness, and love, every minute felt better than the last. It further helped solidify that everything would work out for them, and this was just the beginning of a life together.

In the midst of it all, they had also decided to announce the pregnancy finally across social media. They knew it was a matter of time before news spread with Daytona on the horizon, and they wanted to be the first to say something.

Sarina also knew if she didn’t do it, there’d be a fury of confusion to come. Settling on a photo of a Chase holding Aibigail’s little finger, she opened up Instagram.

SarinaElliott9: Winning is a great feeling, but I found something even more greater than that. Someone else didn’t want to miss the start of the race season, as @chaseelliott9 and I are proud to welcome Abigail Victor Casey Elliott. Born at 29 weeks, she’s certainly here earlier when we expected, but she’s doing well according to the doctors. We’re hopeful that everything is going to be smooth sailing here on out, and can’t wait to spend forever with her. I guess that’ll only be when she’s not paying attention to Chase, as they’ve already captured each other’s hearts. ❤

As Chase had instructed, she took his phone out and sent the photo out with a similar caption in his account. The image also went across twitter and facebook, captioned accordingly.

“The world knows now,” she tells him as he finally takes his eyes off of Abigail.

“I guess we couldn’t stay in our bubble forever,” he comments and she shakes her head no.

They stayed for a little awhile longer, before finally heading back out of the NICU – warning the nurse that they’d be back after lunch, which earned an easy acceptance.

“The comments are already starting,” Sarina states as she takes out her phone, seeing a series of text messages, and comments across the different social media platforms. “Even the snarky ones are being nice today.”

“Nobody can deny how cute Abigail is,” Chase replies, leaning in for a quick kiss. He then begins to flip through some, choosing select ones to reply back to in the process. “That’s weird.”

“What’s that?” Chase then glances once again at the number, followed by the message.

“I just got a text from a number, the person saying they’re Taylor Moyer, and congratulations, and he’s looking forward to working with me…” Sarina glances over at his phone, comparing the number to what was in her contacts. Upon the crew chief line-up being released at JR Motorsports, she had done the liberty of getting everyone’s number in case.

“That’s Taylor’s number…” Chase was still staring at it, as if it was an alien.

“When Kelley asked me about Daytona, I agreed to drive your car and work with Dave Elenz.” He then slowly looks over at Sarina. “Taylor is crew chiefing the No. 8 entry, isn’t he?” Sarina nods her head, remembering the details clearly. “So why would I be working with him if I’m driving your car?”

“Because we’re going to be teammates instead.” He then freezes immediately, which causes her to stop and look back after a couple steps. “Is there a problem? They didn’t have someone for the No. 8 ca-”

“They could’ve Jeb (Burton) or Ryan (Truex), or even Spencer (Gallagher). But yet they chose me? Meanwhile, who is driving….” He then takes a deep breath. “Teammates, huh?”

“Yes, teammates like I stated.” She then walks back to where he was standing. “And before you say anything, nobody is twisting my arm or forcing me. I called Kelley to talk to her, and she said that it’d work perfectly as she’d shift you to the 8 due to a couple issues coming up.” Chase wasn’t quite convinced as he crossed his arms.

“It was agreed upon by all parties that you’d miss the beginning of the season due to the pregnancy. Instead, you called Kel-”

“I called her yesterday while you were out because Chase, let’s face it – I’m ready for this season.” She then takes a deep breath. “Remember when we started talking about Daytona? I practically shoved it down your throat that you were going, no objec-”

“You were righ-”

“But it was hypocritical thinking if I wasn’t going myse-”

“You just had a baby. That’s going to take time to heal from.” She shakes her head no as she takes his hand with hers. “I’ve had almost a full week, as well as most of next week before practice. I’m going to be fine to drive, Chase. That’s why I called Kel-”

“You don’t have to, even if you think it’s hypocritical.” He then glances back to the NICU where they came from. “What about Abigail?”

“I can do the same thing that I told you to do – follow the monitor closely, and make sure the time spent away is limited to as much as possible. I also called your sister and she said she wouldn’t mind watching her for us.” Chase had to smile as that didn’t surprise him. He knew how excited Brittney was to meet her niece. “Call me selfish, call me crazy, but I can drive and I know it would make me go insane to miss the beginning of the season. I don’t know what it is, but it’s that same fuel and desire that drove me to race the final three months last year. Am I crazy? More than likely. But I hope you understand, just like you did then.”

“Taylor isn’t a bad guy, and it’d be nice for him to have a familiar face for his first race as a crew chief.” A smile slowly forms on Sarina’s face as she knew that he was beginning to see her perspective. “I also can’t complain about having a teammate like Justin, and Michael, and I guess you’re not too shabby either.”

“Not too shabby? We’ll just have to see about that…” He then chuckles as he wraps an arm around her.

“It’ll be different, but it’ll be fun. I look forward to working with you, sweetheart.” He then gives her a kiss as they continue on the walk that they originally planned.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 188: A Team Meeting

Tuesday, February 5 – Northeast Georgia Medical Center

With having moved around yesterday and steadily eating, Sarina was released from the hospital with orders to take it easy for the next couple of days.

That didn’t mean that she wasn’t back there the next day, though, eyes once again locked on her little girl.

“Do you think she’s grown at all?” Sarina questions as Chase rubs her shoulder.

“It takes time to grow, you know,” he tells her and she nods her head. That didn’t make things easier, though.

“I just want to touch her, hold her, be with her. This distance is killing me.” He then gives her shoulder a little squeeze to offer some comfort.

“I know, but it’ll be over before you know it and then you’ll have all the time in the world with her. Let’s be thankful right now that everything is going fine.” Sarina couldn’t argue with that as she remembered the fears going through her mind on Sunday.

“I won’t ever stop thanking my lucky prayers, Chase.” She then takes a deep breath, thinking it over. “I still can’t believe how afraid I was. I had you, the doctors – everybody doing everything righ-”

“Woah easy now, I wouldn’t say it was going perfectly to plan. I was freaking out inside.” She then glances over at him.

“You didn’t let that show at all.” Chase had to give himself credit, remembering how hard it was hold that all together. However, it was all about doing what mattered for her and Abigail.

“I knew if I panicked, I would make you panic more – and that’s not what we needed. So I bit my tongue and pushed on.” She then glances down.

“The same way you kept the secret despite it tearing you apart…” He then lets out a sigh, just wanting that to disappear already.

“Are you still mad at me?” Sarina’s eyes don’t even leave the ground as she thinks it over. She wanted to be mad, everything inside of her told her to be mad. He broke her trust. Didn’t that give her a right to be angry? However, she also understood his concerns and worries, and it restricted her urge to yell at him in return.

“Part of me is upset, but part of me is understanding of your reasons.” She then finally lets her eyes look over at him. “That’s why I’m willing to just move on and forget. It won’t do us any use fighting about it. I’d rather focus on doing what’s best for our daughter, and making sure we stay safe.”

“I told you – nobody is touching you or Abigail.” She nods her head, remembering how sternly he had repeated those words since revealing the secret.

“Abigail is going to be fine, no matter what Chase. She has a pair of angels that are watching out for her always.” Chase smiles as he caught the reference immediately, as he wrapped an arm around Sarina’s shoulders. “The more I think about that, the more it gives me comfort. I sometimes believe that my father is holding our first baby. I daydream, wondering if it’s a girl or a boy, but either way I know the baby is safe because my father – and Casey for that matter, are there.”

“I like to think that it would’ve been a boy.” She then looks over, actually intrigued by his comment. However, she caught the reference right away, remembering his daydream of them having a boy and a girl one day.

“Do you have any idea what name you would have for a boy?” Chase shakes his head no as he looks over at Abigail.

“I never got the chance then to think about names, and I knew you were having a girl from the moment that you got pregnant so I stuck to that. I never could’ve thought of a name as beautiful as Abigail, though.” Sarina then leans her head against him.

“I actually looked up the meaning of her name the other night when I was bored – out of pure curiosity. It has Hebrew origins, and it means “father of joy” when translated. So it’s almost fitting because she has brought you pure joy from the moment that you knew I was pregnant.” Chase had to smile as it made perfectly sense.

“And don’t worry – she’s going to bring me joy for the rest of my life.” Sarina had to chuckle. “What?”

“I hope you’re right on those words, but I’m waiting for the day that she doesn’t want to listen to something you tell her, or when she wants to dat-”

“I thought we made this clear – she’s not dating until she’s at least 18, possibly 25.” Sarina then begins laughing even harder. “Oh, so you don’t believe me that’s going to happen?”

“She has a bit of me in her, remember. I wasn’t always the perfect squeaky clean girl and I bet those teenage years are going to be fun.” Chase then lets out a sigh, though he had to wonder what was to come at that point.

“Thankfully, we have a long time to wait until then. Let’s just hope that she doesn’t take after Blaney too much in spending time with Evelyn.” Sarina could only roll her eyes as the possibilities as the children grew older. “Speaking of Evelyn, her parents should be engaged by the end of the month.”

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head, remembering the text messages that he and Ryan sent back and forth last night. After he divulged in the latest update on Abigail, along with his feelings surrounding the secret now that he could reveal to everybody, Ryan had gone back in discussing Lindsay.

“Somehow Ryan is planning a special Valentine’s Day surprise for both him and Lindsay after the Du-”

“Is he seriously going to ask her?” Chase once again nods his head. “Has he picked out a ring yet?” Chase shook his head no, remembering the conversation.

“He asked me for my advice, and then said he was going to ask Erin and Emma for their thoughts before going shopping.” Sarina then glances down at her ring finger, seeing the engagement and wedding ring together.

“I have a feeling that you gave him some good advice as you picked out a beauty.” Chase smiles, as he glances over at her hand.

“I’m just glad that you liked it because for a minute, I thought I screwed up majorly.” She shakes her head no as he looks at the time. “Are you sure you’re going to be fine by yourself?”

“Once again, I made you already promise that you were going to go to Daytona. That’ll have me by myself for a couple of days. If I can handle a couple of days, I’m can certainly handle a couple of hours by myself. I’ll probably go down to the cafeteria, grab myself a bite to eat, and then come back and just chill here.” Sarina knew there was no way that she was going to be spending time at home if her daughter was here.

“I could call-”

“I’m going to be fine, and if I run into any problems, I have a phone and can make that phone call.” She then leans in and grabs a kiss. “Go, and do what you got to do. I’ll be here when you get back tonight. I love you.”

“I love you, always…” He then leans in to kiss her lips once again, before reluctantly heading down to the hall to the elevator.

Tuesday, February 5 – Hendrick Motorsports

Chase walks into the conference room, finding his familiar seat empty as he takes his seat. He had double checked the time, making sure that he actually got there when he was supposed to per the schedule. However, seeing the glances from those around him, you’d think he’d done something wrong.

“Did I miss something?” He asks, earning a couple head shakes. “Then why are you staring at me?”

“What are you doing here?!?” Alan and Josh ask together, almost in unison.

“Shouldn’t you be at the hospital with Sarina and the baby?” Tom adds, as Chase lets out a sigh. He wasn’t surprised by their reaction as he even questioned making the trip himself. However, he knew if he was going to be at Daytona that weekend, this meeting was necessary.

“Sarina was actually released yesterday,” he starts. “Abigail is doing fine so far without any issues. I can’t do anything right now except wait for her to get bigger. While it’d be the best case scenario to be there with her every minute of the day and watch her, life goes on and that includes this weekend. Sarina is insisting that I run Daytona, and I can’t argue with her.”

“Is there something that I am missing here?” Alan questions, earning a shrug of the shoulders. “Your daughter was just born 11 weeks early. Are you sure that you’re in the right frame of mind to be here?” Chase was actually surprised to hear the question from the crew chief.

“I thought we trusted each other, and just went about our own busi-”

“Just answer the ques-”

“If I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, I wouldn’t be here. I also wouldn’t be heading down to Daytona this weekend to go full throttle around that place with the goal of winning. Sure, life has thrown me a curveball – or two. However, I can handle it and I know that I am very well capable of getting the job done this weekend.” Alan then sits back in the chair, thinking it over. He wanted to let it go, but part of him wasn’t quite set on that yet.

“I just don’t want you doing something that you’re uncomfortable with. I know what you’re like in using distractions, and just shifting through as if nothing is going on.” He then finally looks down at the table at Chase. “I trust you, and I care about you. That’s why I am asking. I am just trying to look out for you.”

“I appreciate it, and maybe I was a little harsh with those words. But Alan, I am fine.” He then pulls his phone out of the pocket, remembering the app and how to load the feed. “Besides, if I catch any nerves at all, this image right here settles everything down…”

“Is that your daughter?” Josh questions, earning a simple nod from Chase. “She’s so tiny..”

“She’s adorable, though,” Tom adds, as Chase glances between the crew guys with a smile.

“You guys are my extended family, and we stick together no matter what,” he starts. “If I couldn’t give you everything that I had, I wouldn’t be here because that’s what you deserve. However, I know that once we’re down there this weekend and I am in the car, I am going to do whatever it takes to win for you guys. So, how about we focus on that and talk about what we need to?”

“That’s as good as a pep talk that we could have,” Alan comments, earning up the binder to the notes he wanted to go over. “Let’s talk about the clash first, briefly. Smaller field, same package as last year……”

Over the next couple of hours, the meeting went as it normally would with everybody sharing their thoughts. They talked about the strengths and weaknesses from last year’s restrictor plate races. They talked about what they’d worked on since then. They broke down their game plan for the three practices that they would get on Saturday. They talked about strategy for the Clash with the small field. Josh walked them through the game plan for Qualifying Day in what the team needed to do to make sure everything was in line to take a shot at the pole. Alan mentioned what the pit crew had been working on with Chris, and the things that they needed to look out for.

They also ventured down a couple other paths, including a debrief of what they could learn from the Las Vegas test from Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Meendering about the next package. It was all about putting a game plan together for the first race weekend of the year, and the beginning of the season. They knew each of them could get the job done. It was just about doing it right, and putting together the pieces for success.

With everything laid out on the table and discussed, the meeting was drawn to a close with everybody heading off in their respective directions. Josh headed down to the shop to check on final car prep, hauler loading, and the team, while Tom and Matt went to meet up with their fellow Hendrick Motorsports engineers.

“Alan?” Chase says as he watches the crew chief gather all of his notes back together following the meeting. “I’m sorry…”

“Excuse me?” Alan asks, actually caught off-guard by Chase’s words as he glanced up from the table.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you at the beginning of the meeting. You had every right to ask me what you did as it’s your responsibility as the crew chief to make sure everything is in line, including me.” Alan then lets out a sigh as he looks back down at the table, thinking the whole sequence of events over.

“No, I’m sorry for even questioning you actually.” He then looks back up at Chase. “I did it because I care, but I should’ve trusted your judgment having worked with you for this long. I should’ve known that if you weren’t ready, you would’ve called me.”

“I almost didn’t want to go to Daytona, though.” Alan watches him closely, seeing that Chase hadn’t even moved from his spot yet. “I almost wanted to just stay there and be with her. I was so worried that something would happen and I wouldn’t be there for her.” Chase thinks it over, wondering if he should change his mind after all. “But Sarina insisted that I go. She insisted that I go down there, and do what I can to win for her and Abigail. The more she talked about it, the more I knew that she was right. Abigail is in good hands with the doctors. They’re going to take care of her. I’ll get my chance to spend as much time with her as I can when she’s ready, and I can always watch this if I need to.”

“The only question I have is what if something does happ-”

“I’m only a phone call away. Sarina can call me, or the doctors, and I can fly back up to Georgia. But Alan, I don’t see that happening. We’ve said this was meant to be, and I feel that clearly. I know it’s going to work out for her. I just wish….” He then runs his hands through his short hair as Alan watches him. “As much as I want to move forward with her and think about the future, I can’t.”

“Because you’re nervous about her well-being?” Chase shakes his head no as he looks over at Alan.

“Carter. This is the guy that helped Alison manipulate and come up with every crazy plan and execute them to their full extent. This is the guy that took a purpose shot at me. This is the guy that supposedly messed with the truck.” He then takes a deep breath. “I was ready to leave everything in the rearview mirror about Alison. However, knowing that he’s out there somewhere, it brings every single nerve back to the forefront. What if? I had a flashback a week ago with Sarina. I find myself thinking about it more than I should.”

“That’s understandable…” Alan then sits back down, knowing that he couldn’t leave the discussion like this. “We’ve talked about this. Everything that you went through, it was huge, it was traumatic, and frankly, that doesn’t ever leave you. You’re going to carry that for the rest of your life. You will find ways to make it easier – as you have, but it’s going to stick with you. It’s understandable that knowing Carter is out there, it brings those feelings back to yo-”

“How am I supposed to protect Sarina and Abigail if I’m stuck like that, though?” Alan understood where Chase was coming from with those words. It was all about keeping them safe – he was the last piece of the puzzle, as always.

“I’d say that you’re doing a fine job of that, actually. With everything that happened before, you kept them safe. You did what you had to do for Sarina, and you did what you had to do for your parents as well. If that moment ever comes, Chase, you know what to do and will do it. But we’ve all learned from what happened. Higher security, better search measures – so I can promise you that you won’t go through that again.” Chase glances down at the table.

“I want to believe you, Alan….” Alan then wraps an arm around his shoulders.

“Believe me. Alison was a complete psychopath. Nobody can compare to the woman that she was. Carter doesn’t have it in him to do what she did, and therefore it won’t ever happen. They’re going to find him.”