Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 173: “I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy or be sad.”

Monday, November 20 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

As she had done plenty of times before this season, Sarina made her way into Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was time for the classic Monday morning meetings to reflect on the weekend that was, and look forward.

This meeting, though, would be a little different in knowing that the focus forward wasn’t on the next truck race, but rather the Snowball Derby. Even though she was ready for what the future was set to deliver in her NASCAR career, she knew late model racing would always have a piece of her heart, and things would never be complete without a Snowball Derby victory. Maybe this year it would be time to celebrate.

As she made her way down the hallway destined for the meeting room, she immediately stopped partway, glancing into an office. She watched as Christopher packed a series of boxes, obviously collecting his various belongings. Of course, today was his last official day here as he’d be making the move over to Joe Gibbs Racing and the XFINITY Series.

“I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy, or be sad,” she comments as she glances in the doorway, catching his attention. Truthfully, he sympathized with the array of emotions. He was ready for the next opportunity, set to make the most of it, and hopeful that it’d result in more success. However, he knew he would miss each of the guys.

“Why?” He asks, wondering why was she was feeling the emotions, too.

“You’re leaving….” He thought he covered this on the weekend when they met in the garage. However, he could understand her drive for assurance given how trust wasn’t her strong suit due to her past. He admittedly was surprised at how much they had grown to trust each other.

“I’m always a phone call or text away, if you want to talk. I cherish our friendship. We will always be friends, okay?” She hoped that went more than just words, but couldn’t help but wonder just a little bit. Why couldn’t she just trust him?

“Honestly?” He then wraps an arm around her shoulder.

“Honestly, always.” She smiles, watching as he goes back to his boxes.

“So that’s why you wrecked me….” He then rolls his eyes, knowing he’d never live it down. He was actually waiting for Kyle to give him a dish of it, too.

“I told you that I didn’t mean to do that. Going to hold it over my head forever?” She just smirks back in return. It was nice to have something to bug him about.

“Maybe…” He then looks at her with intrigue as she just laughs. “Nah, I know you feel bad and I fully accept your apology. Just don’t do it, again.”

“Never, ever. I promise.” She nods her head, accepting. She then looks at him surprised as he drops a box at her feet. “Since you’re here, can you help me out?”

“I would, but I have another appointment…” She then turns and heads down the hallway, destined for the meeting hall.

“You didn’t seem so set on leaving before I gave you the box…” She laughs as she just smirks back in response. “Whatever, I see how it goes….” He then retreats back in the office as she continues down her way.

***********

Tuesday, November 21

“So how did you manage to get out of the house without her knowing, again?” Alan questions from the backseat of the airplane.

“She’s in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Josh answers alongside the crew chief. The crew chief nods his head, accepting.

Chase, meanwhile, was focused forward, following the flight path they had designated earlier in the day. Now armed with the master of searching, a crew chief and a car chief, he was set to get them some answers. They were off to Michigan to visit the address and see what they could learn about Sarina’s family. Hopefully it went smoothly because he didn’t want to have to return with bad news.

“Shelly Dryer,” Chase speaks out mid-air. “That’d be next our lead. She mentioned how her middle name is based off of her mother and aunt Shelly’s friend Samantha.”

“I will look into her background next,” Tom replies back. “I still say that we didn’t need to bring Alan and Josh.” Chase didn’t even glance up or back at the pair. He knew exactly why he had brought them. Perhaps Josh had a point with his concerns after everything that had gone on.

“They both had a day off, and I’d rather safe than sorry.” Tom went back to his notes, flipping back and forth.

“So who are we going to see first? Uncle Mike or cousin Lindsay?” Chase wasn’t sure, nor did he care – as long as they got answers either way.

“I vote for cousin Lindsay,” Alan suggests. “I’d be afraid of my ass being kicked by a strange man.” Josh chuckles as Alan glances over, a little confused.

“You obviously haven’t seen a catfight, or pissed off your wife lately because woman can be more dangerous sometimes,” Josh counters as Alan shrugs his shoulders. “Uncle Mike, please.”

“I say we just let Chase decide…” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Flip a coin – I don’t care,” he answers. As long as they got answers and got somewhere in this quest, it didn’t matter to him.

Once they landed in Michigan and flipped the coin, tails determined they were off to see Lindsay first. Plugging the address into the rental car, it didn’t take them long to get there as they now sat in the driveway with a mix of thoughts.

“Are you ready for this?” Alan questions as Chase shuts the key off. They couldn’t sit in a stranger’s driveway all day long.

“Why would I be here otherwise?” He asks back in return, climbing out of the rental car.

He led the group to the front door of the house – which was rather large as you could easily classify it as a mansion. Taking a deep breath, he knocks on the door, silently praying things went smoothly.

He watches as a blond female opens the door dressed in a tight t-shirt and leggings. It was clear that she worked out, and probably was involved in something fit related – either some sport, or dance. Or maybe she just took good care of herself.

Her face lights up immediately as she recognizes the man before her, jaw dropping in shock. Why would Chase Elliott be standing in her doorway right now?

“You’re Chase Elliott….” She finally speaks slowly and he nods his head in response. “Okay….” She then glances around, expecting to see someone holding a video camera. Instead, she just notices three men standing behind him. “And you look like Alan Gustafson….”

“Hello,” Alan simply replies, not sure what was the next step right now.

“Did I win something? I mean, I don’t remember entering a giveaway, but maybe a friend entered me. it just seems strange that you’re here….” Chase knew it was awkward, but at least she wasn’t running away or kicking his ass.

“No, you didn’t win a giveaway and it isn’t for a candid TV show,” he explains to her. “But if you’re Lindsay, I’m here to see you because I want to tell you about something.” She felt a wash of confusion hit her immediately. What would a famous NASCAR driver have to tell her at her doorstep?

“Well I’m Lindsay,” she replies back in response and he nods his head. He figured as much, given the address and age range that he was certain she fit.

“I’m sure you know Chelsy Dryer…” It felt weird for him to say her old name, but he figured as much that she’d have no clue about why he was there if he said Sarina Ott.

“Do I know Chelsy? We were the best damn friends you could imagine until our early teenage years when she moved away. I mean, of course I know Chelsy. So wait, how do you know Chelsy?” Chase was surprised by the question as if she was a NASCAR fan, hadn’t she read the news? It was already out there about Chris Dryer, and any family should put the pieces together.

“She moved away when she was 15 after her father was sho-”

“Yeah, of course, everybody heard that. It was like gone without a trace. What are you getting at?” He could tell that she was very intrigued, either for reasons of hating they got separated, or maybe anger that she left without reason.

“The detectives and police forced her, her brother and her mother to do so, in hopes to protect them from another possible incident. They went to California and changed their names for identity sake. Unfortunately, they were tracked and her mother did not make it. She then moved to North Carolin-”

“Why am I not surprised?” Chase then stops, intrigued by Lindsay’s comment. She hadn’t said anything until now. “She was interested in racing, wanting to possibly drive herself. They say if you want to be a stockcar driver, North Carolina is where to go.” Chase nods his head.

“Sarina Ott. Do you recognize the name?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “How do you recognize me but not recognize that name?”

“Listen, I’ve gotten away from my NASCAR interest for the past five to seven years. Dirt tracks are just way better to watch, no offense. But, I recognize the faces because you were just starting to enter the fold and being Bill’s kid, and he was working with Jeff Gordon.” Chase glances back at Alan, who simply nods in response. The story made sense. “So why should I recognize the name?”

“Sarina Ott is Chelsy Dryer’s new name. She’s my girlfriend for two years, and she drives for Kyle Busch in the truck series.” Lindsay’s jaw drops immediately.

“Holy shit….” She just shakes her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe it. She actually made it.”

“She won a race this year in her rookie season, and finished top-10 in points.” Lindsay just continues to look back at him in disbelief.

“Should we dare mention her brother now?” Josh questions, causing Chase to look back instantly. “Bad timing?”

“What did Chris do now?” Lindsay asks as Chase looks back towards her. He wasn’t looking forward into revealing these details. “Sorry, I don’t follow nothing. I’ve been too busy focused on practicing and performing dance routines. It’s actually strange how timing worked out because I’m normally not home.”

“Maybe you should just read this…” Tom suggests, handing over a piece of paper. He could tell that Chase wasn’t in the warrant of wanting to tell the whole story himself.

“This is insane but not surprising. He was always one strange dude, caught up with the wrong people. It’s why Chels… I mean, Sarina and I grew so close together. I was like her escape from the insanity of her house with her brother and her mom. I’m glad that you’re okay, and he’s locked away – finally.” Chase nods his head, accepting, surprised that went smoother than expected. “So, why are you here? Did something happen to her?”

“She’s actually in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Chase comments, which causes a little confusion on Lindsay’s face. “You don’t know the Snowball Derby?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “A race fan that doesn’t know the biggest late model event in the United States; I’m going to have to change that immediately. If you’re available Sunday December 2, I can make that happen.” Josh and Alan both shake their heads with a laugh immediately. They wouldn’t expect any other reaction from Chase.

“I am available but you didn’t answer my question,” Lindsay tells him and he can only smile in response. He wondered if the Snowball Derby would mark a good re-introduction.

“Obviously, you can see how family and Sarina don’t get along very well, and she mentioned at some point she wonders what if and misses everybody. I was hoping to surprise her with something positive.” Lindsay could only grin back in return. She had always wanted to see her best friend, again.

“I’d be all for that as I miss our fun times together.” Chase smiles back in return, as things were going well. He just hoped that the cake topper fell nicely.

“Are you available on Thursday to come to Georgia? And what about your dad, Mike?” Lindsay glances down at the ground at the mention of her father. “I’m sorry….”

“No, it’s okay. It’s just…” She wipes a stray tear as she takes a deep breath. “He passed away from cancer a year ago. I lost both of my parents within three months.” Chase could only nod his head in response, almost in disbelief.

“I can’t imagine going through that….” She glances away, taking a deep breath, before looking back towards Chase and the group.

“I threw myself into my work as a dance instructor and performer, not wanting to think about it. You standing here today, being able to say you can connect with family, my best friend, it means the world to me. I know you’re just trying to be caring to her – and she deserves it, but thank you so much.” He nods his head, accepting her praise. Who knew this would be helpful in more ways than one. He just hoped he got the same praise from Sarina. “I’m available to come to Georgia, though.”

“Perfect. I’ll pay for your flight in, and then I can welcome you to Thanksgiving dinner on a surprise reunion. Is that a deal?” Lindsay nods her head, accepting.

“Can I show you something, first?” Chase was caught off-guard, but curious at the same time. He follows her inside, through the halls of the house, into a small room in the back corner. “When they left, they didn’t take anything with them. As family, I asked if I could get some stuff which they easily allowed. I’ve been waiting for a chance to give it back to her.” He smiles as he follows her into the room, recognizing the first object immediately.

“The toy box your father made for her.” Lindsay then glances back at him, surprised. “She told me about how he made each of you a toy box. She also talked about how amazing your dad was, and how sweet he was. She mentioned how you took her to a race, sparked that interest. That’s why I reached out to you first.”

“Inside the toy box, there’s some special photos, a couple of her go-karting trophies – things I knew she would’ve wanted to take with her if she could.” Chase was in total shock as he glanced in the box, immediately smiling. While this started as a journey to just help bring closure to family, he could already see it helping her in other ways. “Maybe we could get this down to her in Georgi-”

“She and I share a house in North Carolina. I’m just doing Georgia because I always do Thanksgiving with my parents. But I agree with your idea so I will definitely fund that, too.” She then looks back ,surprised.

“Are you sure?” He nods his head. “You’re certainly a sweet Georgia peach, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise…”

“I just can’t wait to see her reaction.”

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 170: “That’s all I had there, buddy.”

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

25 laps to go. 23 laps to go. 20 laps to go. The laps couldn’t count down quick enough in Sarina’s mind as she watched Chase continue to pace ahead of the field. Her leg began tap more, nails began to disappear, hand clutched the bears tighter – couldn’t they just drop the checkered flag right now?

She then felt her nerves pick up even more as with 15 laps to go, the gap between the No. 24 Chevrolet and No. 20 Toyota began shrink more and more. It was obvious that the handling was going away for Chase, as noticed how he was getting off turn two compared to just five laps earlier.

She just crossed her fingers – they couldn’t lose it now. Maybe they’d get a caution as they were better on the short run. Maybe Chase would find something. Maybe Matt would begin to struggle more as he got closer. Something, anything needed to happen now.

“10 more at the line here,” Eddie tells him over the radio as Sarina’s leg bounces more. “Track bar, dial brake in, whatever you need to do. We are fighting for our lives here.” She knew those tidbits of advice from Eddie were useless as knowing Chase, he was already exploring ideas for change in line or adjustments in the car. They didn’t need the obvious right now. “On you, half a lane lower, looking…” Just like that, anger and heartbreak began to course through her in seeing Kenseth get underneath, and pass him off of turn four for the lead. “Stay with him now….”

“Getting so damn tight!” Chase comes over the wall, as Sarina just looked down, shaking her head. This couldn’t be happening.

“Fighting for our lives here. Stay with it…”

She almost felt like throwing the bear – not caring which one – across pit road onto the track to create a caution as the seconds click by. How could this be happening, again?

She didn’t know what to feel over the course of the next eight laps as she silently prayed for a caution, or something to happen to Kenseth’s car, as the emotions just seemed to blur together. She kept her eyes focused ahead, watching Kenseth take the checkered flag first ahead of Chase.

She wanted to be happy for Matt. She wanted to express pride for him. He was one of the nicest guys in the garage. It was nice to see him go out with a win near the end of his career as it seemed to be happening.

But, there was no drop of happiness, as anger and heartbreak just sat there. Sixth runner=up finish this year alone. How does that happen?

“Ugh, that’s all I had there, buddy,” Chase comes over the radio and her heart breaks even more hearing the disappointment laced in his voice. “I’ll get it right one day there. I’m sorry.” Tears threatened to fall, combined with angry enough to punch something. If she wasn’t feeling it before, Chase’s words just cut it even deeper to the core.

“Don’t be sorry,” Alan says. “You did a helluva job. I think we overachieved with that second. We put ourselves in a position, so be proud of it.” Sarina couldn’t help but smile a little in the crew chief’s encouraging words. Certainly they couldn’t forget how far they fell behind mid-race, and the comeback they managed the final 100 laps.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, man,” Eddie adds. “You gave us a shot at it.”

She takes off the headset, placing it on the box where it belonged, before climbing down the steps. She just shook her head, trying to ease her own emotions, as she watched the cars roll down pit road, before making her way out to where Chase was.

She stood back, watching as NBC approached him for his post-race thoughts. She couldn’t believe how composed he was, easily giving them an explanation on those final laps. She knew if roles reversed, that interview wouldn’t had gone near that smoothly with anger searing off of her.

“What do you have to say about the contact with Denny?” The reporter asks and Sarina rolls her eyes. She knew that incident would be overplayed on every network this week.

“A wise man once told me that you race guys how they race you with a smile on your face, so that’s what I did today,” Chase replies and Sarina couldn’t help but form a grin. She had heard the same advice previously before in the late model shop, and almost wanted to send Ricky a praising text for his lessons because that certainly paid off today. “That’s about all I have to say.”

She watches as he does a few more interviews, before the media glob walks away. She then makes her way over, instantly wrapping her arms around him.

“You did a great job today – no matter the result,” she tells him. “You guys fought hard from struggling to being in a place to win. You did the best you could. Be proud of yourself…” He looks at her with a small smile, giving her a kiss.

“I just can’t believe it….” He lets out as he lets out a sigh. She knew no matter what she said, it wouldn’t change his mind or thoughts – just like her theory on Christopher on Friday. So, she took another approach.

“Your move on Denny was genius, by the way. It was nice to see him not make it either.” A small smile forms on his face as he glances back, wondering if Denny had hung around to pay a visit.

“Did I push it too far?” She laughs and shakes her head no.

“An eye for an eye, right?” He nods his head.

“I know what you’re doing, and it’s a very good attempt….” She then focuses on his brown eyes as he pulls her close. “I’ll get over this in a couple days. It just stings to come close. I’m going to say congratulations to Matt, go do some media room stuff, and then we can get out of here.”

“I wouldn’t mind that all….” She was actually beyond through with this weekend.

***********

“Unbelievable jackass!” Sarina lets out from the bedsroom, as Chase looks in, intrigued. He had just gotten out of the shower and was taking his time drying off. But obviously, her outburst caught him off-guard. He saw her phone in her hand immediately, almost rolling his eyes.

“What are they saying now about you and your brother?” Chase wonders, having grown used to the ridiculous remarks. He already half-expected another dosage when the trial finished off with the results and sentencing.

“Actually, this has nothing to do with that.” He then looked on confused as she normally didn’t over panic unless it was about that. “Denny’s spotter is about as dense as he is.”

“Chris Lambert? Really?” She nods her head, still shocked by the quote that she read in the article.

“So did you realize that Denny tried to let you go for two laps, but you were set to stay behind him, and supposedly accomplish what you finally did?” Chase almost broke out laughing as he hurried over, not caring that the towel came loose in the process, flopping down beside her.

“I’m sorry, but did you at any point see Denny give me the bottom fully?” Sarina shakes her head no. “I mean, he bumped me first. Why would I worry about wrecking him anyway when my focus was on winning?”

“He even says that Denny moved up to give you the bottom, and even slowed down to let you go – but yet you slowed down to keep with him.” It was now official; the laughter he previously held onto was in full blast as he just shook his head. Was this guy serious? He now understood why some people demanded sanity tests for NASCAR employees.

“Denny got put in the second line because I got underneath him, and Denny didn’t just move over because he tried pinching my ass. And slowed down lap times? Does one guy not realize we have data?” Sarina was now laughing herself as she just shook her head.

“Least we know that he and Denny go together quite well….” Chase nods his head. “To be honest, Denny didn’t hold back either. I actually wanted to hop off the pit box, walk down to the care center, and smack some common sense into him.” Chase looks at her surprised now.

“Oh really?” She scrolls up in the article, finding the quote.

“Each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing. I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is.”

“Is he for real?” Sarina holds out the phone, as if Chase should read it himself to let it set in.

“Clearly, he learned nothing because last I checked initiation and retaliation were two totally different things.” Chase nods his head.

“I would’ve raced him cleanly for the rest of my life if he done the same for me. But, that’s how it goes…” She then sets her phone aside.

“So, can I smack him for you?” Chase laughs, but shakes his head no. “Then I guess I am going to have to help you with that towel…”

“Oh really?” She then moves down closer to him.

“Well, you did do a great job taking care of me Friday night and Saturday, so I owe you a favor…” She then runs her hands down his chest. “Besides, you need a distraction tonight…”

“That’s not a bad idea…..”

*******************

Monday, November 13 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Sarina walks through the doors, coffee in hand, making her way up the stairs. Every Monday morning at KBM resulted in the same thing – meeting in the big office with all the crew chiefs and drivers, with the boss making an appearance.

Though having already checked twitter, she knew that Kyle wouldn’t be there due to being on the Championship 4 tour in New York fulfilling media obligations. If he was set to make an appearance, she was going to bring a combination of popcorn, ear plugs, and Tylenol for the butt-chewing that probably would’ve went down.

She makes her way through the doors, spotting Christopher already in his usual seat.

“You’re lucky he’s not here today…” She comments as she walks by Christopher, taking her spot. He just shakes his head, catching the reference already. When was she going to let this go?

“I know,” he replies. “You know I didn’t mean to, right? I still feel terrible. I love you, you’re my buddy. I take full blame once he does yell at us. But you know I meant the apology, right?” She felt herself crack a little, shaking her head as he looked like a little kid right now trying to say whatever would work.

“I love how you’re blubbering. You went full tilt on Erik, but here you’re acting like this.” He was almost set to yell back in response. How did the two teammate incidents even begin to compare? Clearly, Erik screwed up when he forgot to turn the wheel left or hit the brakes upon realizing a car was right in front of him.

“Because I really am sorry. That situation, I just messed up…” She couldn’t hold back anymore, shooting a small smile his direction.

“We were both going for the win, and we’d both probably do the same thing over again. I get it, Christopher. All is forgiven and forgotten, as long as you forget that I was willing to kill you on Friday night.” He then laughs, reaching over a quick hug.

“Deal. By the way, your boyfriend makes an impressive bodyguard.” She then laughs as she had to give Chase credit that he did a decent job handling things.

“I just wish he could get that dang win out of the way.” Christopher sits back, relaxing, smile forming on his face. He had a theory already.

“A win for Chase Elliott in a number other than 9 just wouldn’t seem righ-”

“Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, No. 94. Need I say more?” Christopher almost felt his plan was crushed, but could only smile back in return.

“No. 94 is an exception, though, as his dad ran that number for numerous years. McDonalds scheme, right?” Sarina smiles, nodding her head. It was nice to see Christopher getting to know more NASCAR history. “His dad ran the 9 for years, and Chase has run the 9 for all of his career – except those truck races and Cup Series. Elliott and 9 just go together naturally. HMS put it perfectly when they mentioned legacy. I have a funny feeling that he will win as soon as the 2018 season starts now he’s back where he belongs.” Sarina couldn’t help but admit that maybe Christopher was onto something. That didn’t mean she was giving up on this year, yet.

“We still have Homestea-”

“Kyle Larson is winning that one, and you can’t deny it – unless he blows a motor.” She actually couldn’t argue with that based on Larson’s statistics. “Besides, only one other driver has won in the 24 before – Jeff Gordon. It’s one of those number deals where you just know it’s not right.”

“So what about poor Willie B next year?” Christopher then smiled, already having worked that detail out in his head.

“Willie B has broken every mold since he entered the sport. Just four years experience in racing and he’s doing things that some of us wish we could do with 10 years of experience. He’s going to break this mold, too.” She smiles, as it was a decent way to solve the debate on hand.

“You’re pretty smart…” He just gives her a wink back in response as the crew chiefs enter, set to get things started.

********************

Wednesday, November 15

 

“You look like you found something to kill again….” Chase comments, looking over at her sitting at the kitchen table scrolling through her phone. After a busy day, they were set to relax with a nice home cooked meal and a movie.

“How do you know me that well?” She questions and he just shrugs his shoulders. “Mike Wheeler also goes well with Denny and Chris, too.” Chase could only roll his eyes as he walked over, set to snatch the phone out of her hands.

“Do you realize why I avoid twitter after an incident at the track now?” She nods her head as she holds her phone out of his reach. “You need to leave it alon-”

“Admit it – you want to know what he said.” He then lets out a sigh, walking back over to the stove. “I knew it.”

“Curiousity is the worst thing at times, but lay it on me. Besides, I need a good laugh.”

“I’m going to read his exact words and leave nothi-”

“Go ahead….” She then takes a deep breath, still shocked at Mike’s words.

“Even in Phoenix, I thought Chase was grown up enough to just move on and realize that it was just an accident at Martinsville, and we didn’t mean to wreck him – and Chase couldn’t get ove-”

“So basically he’s comparing me to a toddler?” Sarina laughs as she rolls her eyes.

“That, or your one of those gossip girls in a high school now…” Chase just shakes his head in surprise.

“Ridiculous!” Sarina then goes out of the message, sitting back in the chair. “What are you thinking because no, you can’t smack the crap out of Mike too?” She then laughs, but felt letdown. Every good plan she had….

“Nah, I’m not thinking about that at all. My Uncle Mike came to mind actually and how he’d always pick on my dad about having no policeman gossip like those TV shows.” Chase carefully eyes her, remembering the name was mentioned as one of her uncles in his search. It made sense that Mike would be one that she’d say easily, too, given that his daughter was Lindsay – her introduction to short track racing.

“Really? What was your uncle Mike like, anyway?” Casual conversation, just like the boys suggested…..

“He was amazing, Chase. I mean, he was the sweetest guy you could know. He built me a toy box when I was eight years old. It had my name on it, along with teddy bears, toy blocks, other toys – everything hand painted. I actually wish I still had that today. But oh man, the stories I could tell….” Chase brings over a pair of plates, setting them down.

There was no question where his search was going from here.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 169: “Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?”

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

“You seem like you’re in a happy mood….” Josh comments as he makes his way over to Chase in the garage stall. Chase simply glances over at the car chief with a smile.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Chase questions. “Second quickest, happy with how the car feels, ready to perfect it the next session. I have nothing to complain about.”

“That’s probably more than you could say about last night…” Chase looks on intrigued, but immediately caught the reference. He figured that the guys would bring up what happened with Christopher and Sarina eventually.

“I heard you were playing referee,” Jordan adds as he glances over at the group assembling.

“I don’t see Sarina anywhere either,” Jared Seate continues the comments as Chase could only roll his eyes. “Time out?”

“No, she was feeling a little sore this morning so I told her to relax today,” Chase comments. “And sure, I may have played referee…”

“Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?” Jared questions and Jordan nods his head.

“Are you honestly surprised?” Jordan asks back in response and Jared shakes his head no. Chase could only imagine the teasing if they knew the plan for later. “But I really want to know what happened when she and Christopher meant face-to-face.”

“He apologized right away,” Chase tells them. “No questions asked, simply said sorry. She accepted the thought, but admitted she wouldn’t feel perfectly right about what happened for awhile.”

“Can’t blame her,” Josh comments as Jordan still had his arms crossed. There had to be more to the story.

“No punches or shoving?” Jordan questions and Chase shakes his head no. “Man, you got to be lying. I mean, you’re covering for Kyle or something. You can’t tell me that nothing happe-”

“Go ask Christopher or Sarina yourself,” Chase cuts him off. “Look, they’re friends and even in anger, she knew that he didn’t mean it 100%. It’s hard racing, and sometimes contact happens.”

“So you’d be cool if same thing happened with, say Jimmie?” Josh questions and Chase rolls his eyes. Why were they still discussing this?

“No, I’d be mad as she was initially. However, I’d come to understand that it was hard racing.” Josh nods his head, accepting. “Alright, we got another practice to focus on….”

“Should we wonder if he has a treat to take care of the lady later?” Jared asks Josh as Chase walks away. Josh just gives him a quick glance.

“Did you not learn earlier this year to keep outta the man’s business?” Josh wonders and Jared simply shrugs his shoulders.

“They weren’t talking at one point. Who made the girl surprise him at home and get them back on the same page?” Josh rolls his eyes immediately.

“Are you going to hold that over his head forever?” Jared simply smiles in return as he goes to do his job. “You son of a bitch….”

************

With practice in the books, Chase made his way back to the motorcoach to see Sarina. Certainly, the second session did not go as well as the first as he was 17th on the charts – which meant that those experiments by Alan were a failure. Hopefully when they started the race on Sunday, the set-up was something they used in the first session.

He makes his way into the bedsroom as he slips off his firesuit, instantly smiling as he spots her immediately curled up in the blankets.

“Feeling any better?” He questions as he hangs the suit up in the closet.

“With this type of view, how can a girl think about any pain that she’s in?” She asks in response as he simply looks back with a grin. “I mean, the next best thing would maybe be a Magic Mike dance, or strip show…”

“That’s totally not happening.” She then pouts as he could only giggle back in response. “I’m serious….”

“I guess I’ll take what I can get…” Besides, how was a lady supposed to complain in seeing her man stripped down to boxers and an undershirt? The next best thing would only be to take that off, too. “And, actually, your relaxation idea worked perfectly. Muscles are feeling a little better and not as sore. Maybe once and awhile it wouldn’t hurt to take a step back.”

“So aren’t you glad that you listened?” She smiles as she grabs her hand, pulling her close to the bed.

“You did say, though, that you’d make it worth my while. Can I cash in my payment?” He then laughs as he flops back on the bed.

“I don’t know. Have you been a good little girl?” She then rolls her eyes.

“When am I not a good little girl? I mean, I did listen to you last night and didn’t kick Christopher’s ass. I mean, I could’ve snuck out today and kicked it while you were busy.” He then glances back at her surprised. Did he really just hear that?

“Please tell me that you’re not mad at him still…” She lets out a sigh. She wanted to be mad as she hated to lose as much as anybody – if not more, and hated how tore up the truck was. But, his apology was worthy.

“Why do some people make it so hard to stay mad at them?” Chase smiles, knowing what she meant immediately.

“See, you’re a good little girl. You’re beginning to see things…” She then moves a little further down to the bed to be closer to him at the bottom.

“So, what’s my payment cutie?” He looks over, his smile matching hers immediately.

“I was thinking I give you a nice massage while we watch the XFINITY race, and then I take you out for a nice dinner.” She smiles in response, certainly approving the suggestion.

“I say after dinner, we come back and cuddle up with a movie.” He nods his head in agreement.

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

After Chase had made his way to driver introductions, Sarina headed out to pit road, giving Samantha and Brexton a quick hello, before making her way to where the No. 24 Chevrolet sat.

It didn’t surprise her to see Hootie sitting up on the roof, perfectly placed after some of the pre-race Hooters photos; she even caught the sponsor representative taking a quick photo. She smiles as she reached into her pocket, placing a green beanie baby beside him.

“Did that just out of your pocket?” She hears and glances back, seeing Cindy standing there. She nods her head, feeling a tinge of nerves in wondering how Mommy would accept it. “He’s cute….”

“That’s my lucky buddy Shamrock,” Sarina reveals. “Let’s just say that he came from a friend one night, and gave me some extra luck that gave me a special victory. I figured someone could use him today.” Cindy could only glance back with a smile, as she snapped a quick photo on her phone.

“Hootie and Shamrock look great together. Hopefully your plan pays off…” Sarina holds up a pair of crossed fingers.

“You were ready to kill Hootie at one point,” she then hears as she takes her own photo of the pair, recognizing the voice immediately. She then feels a pair of arms wrap around her, and she instantly leans back in them. “And now I hear you given him a friend. Do I get an explanation?”

“When Hootie and I met at Talladega, you’re right – I was ready to murder him,” she tells him. “However, I took your advice and gave him a bath and tried to be nice to the little guy. Besides, he is kind of cute. Then last week at Texas, he redeemed himself with a decent run. So now I figure if I give him a lucky friend, he’ll make some magic happen for you.”

“I hope you’re right…” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before walking over to the guys for a last minute conversation.

********************

“Alright, it’s show time here,” Eddie says over the radio. “All we gotta do is do it all day long here.”

Sarina takes a deep breath as she takes her usual seat on the pit box, headset on her head, ready to endure a race that would probably seem like it was 24 hours long. She knew it was just another race, just another day at the track. However, what could possibly happen with the result of a good day didn’t leave her mind. What if today was the day?

Her hopes instantly opened up as she watched him take the lead on Lap 12, passing Ryan Blaney for the top spot. So far, so good, as the car seemed to be handling great with consistent lap times. But, it was early, so she couldn’t get ahead of herself either.

Everything seemed smooth until Lap 26 as she watched the No. 11 FedEx Toyota begin to close the gap to the rear bumper. Her eyes opened wide and she shook her head in surprise, combined with some anger mixed in probably too, as a small bump saw Denny go by for the top spot two laps later. She had to grin as she watched Chase give him a small bump in return entering turn one, putting himself back out front.

“That’s my boy,” she comments to herself. It was nice to see him standing his ground and not taking Denny’s crap. Though a sigh escaped her lips as Denny passed him back a lap later, beginning to pull away.

“Stay with it, nice and smooth,” Alan says over the radio, set to keep his driver focused on the bigger picture. Yes, it sucked that it was Denny leading. Certainly, Denny would be the worst person to see transfer to the next round or win today. But there was still a long way to go and they wouldn’t get there if they let him get into his head.

The first stage finished off solidly, as he crossed the line in third behind Denny and Kyle Larson. She then watched him come down pit road – tires off, tires on, fuel inserted, and pull off easily. Letting out a sigh, she almost let out a curse word in seeing him drop two spots to fifth

“Lots of time,” she reminded herself with a deep breath.

While she tried to stay positive and focused, admittedly her heart was almost set to break in watching the second stage. Fighting a loose condition throughout the run, he slipped back one position at a time, ultimately finishing the stage in ninth. Letting out a sigh, this certainly wasn’t helping their cause at all. Something had to change, and soon….

She somehow managed to keep her wits about her, and slowly things started to turn around. Alan’s adjustments paid off as with 100 laps to go, he was back to being happy with the overall balance, set to make his way to the front, already up a spot to eighth. Though closing the gap to those ahead wasn’t coming easy, with everybody’s times being so close together.

“What line are they running?” He asked a couple times on the radio, looking for anything to make up the ground.

Everybody felt almost stuck in a routine, till she felt a tap on her arm from Jordan Allan and instantly glanced at the big screen, watching Trevor Bayne blow a tire and hit the wall. Perfectly timed caution as that’d help with the problem. Now if they could make something happen.

“Really used the brakes today,” Chase comments over the radio. “They’re used up. I don’t think heat is the issue, but they’re used up…” She felt her heart sink in the thought of a problem, but knew that she couldn’t panic. He was a big boy, and he could handle the brake issue.

“Come on Shamrock, come on Hootie…” She says, clutching tighter to the pair of stuffed animals in her hands. After he had climbed in, she had been put on babysitting duty for the pair, according to practically everybody on the team since Shamrock was hers anyway. She just hoped that it didn’t result in Hootie going flying off the pit box at some point.

The restart went perfectly, as she found herself on the edge of her seat, more impressed than usual as she watched him crack the top-five with a pass on Kevin Harvick.

“Keep it rolling, best lap times….” Eddie D’Hondt encourages, which was backed up by his performance on track as he got around Erik Jones to move up into fourth. Three more spots to go now. “All clear. We’re coming to the party, boys!” The smile only grew more as it seemed like destiny now.

It didn’t take long for another yellow flag to come out, though, as Chris Buescher blew a brake rotor and hit the wall with 61 laps to go. Perhaps another restart would be perfect….

“I don’t know what that was, but that was balls out!” Chase comes over the radio. “That was really good.” She couldn’t help but agree in watching him go from eighth to fourth in 10 laps. Maybe rubbing the pets was a good idea as she gave them both another rub.

“What the hell is that?” Jordan catches her attention, pointing to big screen. Her jaw drops as she sees the safer barrier on fire.

“Is that really happening?” She questions and Jordan nods his head. “So much for being fire retardant…” She almost had to laugh as if something would happen in these playoffs, it seemed to take place.

Once the fire was out and they lined up for the restart, she takes a deep breath. It was now or never, and anything was possible in Phoenix. She just hoped it played in their favor.

Once again, he got the restart of his life, going from fourth to second before the caution flew once again, now with 50 laps to go, for someone in the back hitting the wall.

“Our car likes these short runs,” Chase says over the radio afterwards. While these runs made her more nervous than she could take at times, she was willing to deal if he continued to move forward like this. Just make sure to have some gum and tums ready, too.

Unfortunately, this restart did not pan out as she wanted as he fell back to fourth. More importantly – Denny was now right there in front of them. Letting out a sigh, it seemed no matter what they couldn’t get away from each other all day. This was not what they needed right now.

She even found herself cursing a little, ready to punch Denny herself post-race, as she watched the pair trade contact back and forth. She knew if this kept up, the laps would just continue to tick away and everything they were truly working towards would not happen.

As Chase got underneath Denny through the dog leg, her hand clenched into a fist, pumping up and down on her knee, small cheers filling her in hopes that this time he would complete the pass. She ten watches them through turns three and four, followed by contact off the corner as Denny got into the wall. She couldn’t help but smile in watching Chase clear him.

“All clear,” Eddie goes on the radio, not even deterred by the contact. “Flip your bead fans on now. Nice and smooth…

“Well played Chase,” Sarina couldn’t help but comment herself as the smile remained in seeing the tire smoke off of the No. 11 Toyota. It wasn’t a direct payback or wreck that you’d replay over and over, and know it was purposely done. It was enough contact to send a message and do the damage – without going say overboard. Perfectly short track executed.

Of course, her smile only widened some more in seeing the tire blow out for Denny, followed by him hitting the outside wall.

“Oh snap!” Jordan lets out with a high-five to a couple of the crew members.

“Can I get that on replay please?” Sarina questions, almost to the point where she wanted to break out laughing. She knew there was going to be a reward for that move.

Though with Denny out of the picture, it was time to focus on what they were there to do. They had a fast enough car; now it was just making it happen.

Her smile didn’t even get a chance to fade as her eyes locked on the restart with 30 laps to go, seeing Chase take the top spot.

“All clear, all clear,” Eddie says over the radio. “Alright, nice and smooth now….”

She just needed to find a way to be calm and collected. 30 more laps. They could do this, finally.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 167: The Teammate Tangle

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

After a nice week away, it was just like clockwork as they were back to the daily grind at Phoenix Raceway. So far, the day hadn’t gone that bad. Sarina was fourth in the lone truck practice session, while Chase led the Cup session.

“So I take it those adjustments worked?” Alan questions afterwards as Chase nods his head.

“That was worth taking the time to do,” he comments as Alan glances over the notes, before setting them aside.

“We should qualify well later on today. Then I say we tweak on the car a little more tomorrow, and we’ll be fine for Sunday. We’re going to get this right.” Chase believed in the crew chief’s words as it was now or never to win that weekend.

“We’ve missed out on a couple different opportunities to win these last couple of months. I don’t see why we can’t win this weekend. I mean, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t make the final four.” Alan could understand that, based on their performance, but he wasn’t quite that far down the radar.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed as we’ve done a lot better this year than we did last year, and we’re starting to find our groove here at the end of the year. If anything, it makes me look that much more forward to next year – not that I’m writing off this season, yet.” Chase understood where the crew chief was coming from, but felt thinking of next year was pointless right now.

“Let’s just stay focused on the task at hand, and get the job done – deal?” Alan nods his head, accepting, but his eyes don’t leave his driver one bit through the whole conversation.

“You’re quieter than normal…” Chase looks over surprised. “I just noticed that you got something else on your mind. Would I be right?” Chase just smiles back in return. It should be obvious what’s going on.

“Well, you do realize my trip got cut short because we had to go to Florida, right?” Alan nods his head, having heard about that minor detail. It was the next stage in the trial against Sarina’s brother Chris for everything that had happened. It was Chris’ turn to testify against the charges laid in his favor. “To be honest, he was smart with what he said. He stated enough words that it would make you believe there’s doubt that he poisoned me and Ryan. Now if the jury sees that, and doesn’t consider the other evidence enough, you know what happens.”

“But okay, let’s say they find him not guilty on those two charges. There are five other counts of poisoning that he pled guilty to, along with two other minor charges. Isn’t that worth enough time in jail?” Chase nods his head, having already done the math as he tried convince Sarina things were going to work out in their favor.

“He’ll be away for at least 60 years, if not 80, depending how the judge sees fit – which is great as you’re right, that is ample time. The problem lies in the fact of parole and making sure that he can’t sneak out under psychological insanity. Both terms need to be clear as day so he can’t sneak around them, or that chance of him doing something again is always there.” Alan could understand the theory behind that, and one look into Chase’s eyes said everything he needed to know.

“And that worries you, right?” Chase looks up at Alan and nods his head.

“It’s not the easiest thing to say, Alan, but he scares the bloody crap out of me. There’s twice now that he almost has gone too far – the plane crash, and the pois-”

“Don’t remind me of Daytona, please…” Alan didn’t need a reminder of what he saw that day, and the panic that set in once he found Chase up in the hauler. He was fine moving forward without any reminders. However, he understood how that played with Chase’s thoughts right now. “I absolutely understand the fear, and trust me – it’s not something to joke about, or realize that it’s not coming from a good place. You have every reason to feel the way that you do. I hope for your sake, and Sarina’s, that it plays out the way you want. I know what it would mean to finally have that peace of mind.” Chase laughs a little. “What?”

“Peace of mind? Please, I don’t think I’m going to get that. It seems Allison is great at showing up at the loveliest of times.” Alan nods his head, having seen her appearance at Texas.

“Well, at least you’ll be one step closer to that if you manage to get Chris where you need to.” Chase could live with that statement. “That makes me wonder. Exploring her family and finding more people that have connections to her, Chris, and Bethany. Do you worry about uncovering something that doesn’t need to be?” Chase shakes his head no right away.

“The potential of closing that chapter for her, and helping her deal with those feelings by finding something, outweighs that entirely. By the way, we are getting closer to the first piece of the puzzle.” Alan looks over surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head, remembering the text message he received.

“I think I’ll have it unwrapped and really down that road by Christmas.” Alan smiles, knowing exactly what Chase had in mind already. But still, a tinge of fear was there in knowing what had happened so far.

“Just be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

************

Following qualifying, Christopher Bell made his way down pit road to where Sarina’s pit was, patiently waiting as she discussed things over with Marcus Richmond. He then smiled as he caught her attention, with her walking over right away.

“Hey,” he simply says. “Nice job.” She then crosses her arms, with a smile of her own. Truthfully, she wished it was role reversal but instead, he got the pole with her second.

“I should be telling you nice job there,” she comments as he simply smiles back in return. “We’ve got a pair of good trucks.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Look, I stopped on my way down here because I just wanted to check on you. Are you okay?” She then looks at him confused.

“Why would I need someone to chec-”

“Yesterday, your brother, and everything that happened.” She then takes a deep breath, as she glances away from Christopher for a moment.

“I was actually trying to put that out of mind, truthfully.” He then glances down at the ground. “But hey, it’s okay. I’m still pissed and upset at what he did. All I care is that he gets locked away so he can’t do it again. He said what he had to say and now we’ll see what happens. If the courts do their job, I won’t have anything to worry about.”

“Do you think they will?” He didn’t mean to press the issue too far, but he couldn’t help but ask. He knew while she wanted to avoid, getting her to talk about it some would help.

“I think so. It’s clear as day that he was behind the other attacks, and he has a past history with Chase. If you add that together, no matter what freaking story he tries to con up to cover the last two, a little kid could put together that he was responsible. I don’t see there being any problems.” She then flashes trademark smile. “Hence why I am focused on this weekend, tonight, and kicking your ass.”

“Oh really?” She nods her head as he could only look back with a grin. “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens tonight. By the way, I’m not going to take it easy on you just because you’re my teammate and having a rough stretch…”

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Good luck tonight.”

“Right back at ‘cha.” He then heads off to his pole award photos, while she makes her way up pit road, knowing Cup qualifying was next on the docket.

“Uh oh, someone looks like he’s got something serious on the mind…” Ryan comments as he watches Chase walk by him following the qualifying runs. The session had gone decently, with Chase ending up qualifying fourth. The fun factor was the front row being made up of Ryan and Denny. “Thinking about if you should wreck Hamlin on Lap 1?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Chase wreck someone on purpose? That’d never happen,” a new voice chimes in as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks over to the pair. “Sorry, but I don’t see you doing that ever…”

“Never say never. Danica did tell us she’d never date another driver, and she’s been with you for a couple of years.” Chase grins between them, impressed with those words. “She also said she’d never be one to hang around the dirt tracks and oh wait, isn’t she doing that now?”

“So are you really going to wreck Denny on the first lap?” Chase laughs, enjoying the suspicions about his plans for Sunday.

“I don’t have any plans to wreck Denny on the first lap or at all,” Chase reveals. “I’m actually going to be solely focused on winning so I can be part of the Championship 4. And for your knowledge, Mr. Blaney, Sunday’s race is not even what I am thinking about.” Ryan then looks at him puzzled, but immediately has his suspicions.

“Are you thinking about Chris?” He wonders, though knew if that was the topic at hand they should walk away from Ricky now.

“I heard he had the trial on Thurs-” Ricky starts, having seen something about it in his twitter feed.

“It’s not about Chris, either,” Chase cuts him off, even though he had thought about it a little since his conversation with Alan earlier. He figured he might as well tell the pair, anyway. It’s not like they could spoil the surprise and maybe they’d have advice. “So I’m trying to find Sarina’s family – real family that she ran away from. She had six uncles and an aunt. I had someone looking into the information and he’s located the majority of those people, and they check out to be decent. Now it’s figuring out the best way to reach out to them.”

“What if you just call them one day?” Ryan suggests, not seeing the big deal in this process.

“They may not answer the phone so I say you just show up on their front door,” Ricky adds as Chase rolls his eyes. This wasn’t quite the advice he was looking for.

“What if they’re crazy and attack him?” Chase then looks at Ryan full of complete shock, with Ryan just shrugging his shoulders in response. “What? It could happen.”

“Good point. Bring security with you…” Chase rolls his eyes as he couldn’t believe he had enlisted these two.

“Joshua suggested that the first person we reach out to be someone that Sarina really knew well, trusted, and liked,” Chase continues. “But she doesn’t talk much about her family – except her dad here and there. How do I find out that person?” Ryan and Ricky were caught off-guard by the question, but knew there had to be a solution eventually.

“How about you tell her about what you’re doing?” Ricky questions and Chase shakes his head immediately. He wasn’t ready to ruin the surprise, yet.

“That’d ruin the surprise.” Ricky almost felt like smacking himself in the head.

“What if you bring up some stories, and see if she’ll complement with some of her own?” Ryan suggests. “Or maybe ask about family vacations, and tell a memorable story of your own. Just try to bring it out in casual conversation.”

“Or you could talk to people that have known her longer than you have and see if they know,” Ricky adds. Chase nods his head, accepting the advice. It was certainly somewhere to start.

************

He knew those concerns could be worried about later, as for now, he had a truck race to focus on. Seeing how strong she was through practice and qualifying, there were some high hopes entering the evening.

Chase watched as she pulled ahead early, leading a chunk of the laps, before Christopher got back around her for the top spot, leading the rest of the way in the opening stage. The second stage went smoothly, as well, with Christopher leading the whole thing as she ended up second.

Chase watched the slew of pit stops, small fist pump in the air as the teammates came off pit road together 1-2. Could this go any better?

The start of the third stage worked out perfectly, as she pulled ahead, taking the top spot. A smile formed on his face as he watched her pull further away from Christopher and the rest of the field, destined for smooth sailing from here on out.

Of course, none of these races come that easily as the caution would fly with 27 laps to go for a truck slowing. Marcus immediately made the call for Sarina to stay out, sighting the importance of track position, lack of tire fall off, and having enough fuel to make it to the end.

The ensuing restart did not go smoothly, as a move by Austin Cindric, followed by a block from Ben Rhodes, saw Ben spin around and hit the inside barrier hard, before collecting Matt Crafton in the process.

“Are you kidding me?!?” Chase says out loud, disbelief forming between the late race incident to the fact the pair had collided in their battle for the final transfer spot in that way.

“Same thing that Carl and Joey did last year,” Kyle comments from his vantage point, referring to the wreck at Homestead while battling for the championship. “Ben never should’ve blocked.”  Chase nods his head in agreement.

“He had to know that would happen as soon as he went down. But, does Austin make that move stick with enough room if they get to turn one? We’d probably see a repeat of Kenseth and Bowman here last year.” Kyle smiles, as he thinks back to Martinsville a couple weeks ago.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Both were desperate to make a statement and get to the next round.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, and began to wonder if the same type of move would be what it would take to transfer tomorrow.

After a lengthy clean-up – including a red flag, everything was set to go for another attempt at the restart. This time, the green lasted a little longer as they were able to at least make a lap – but it didn’t take long for the caution, either. Six-wide through the dog leg on the backstretch resulted in contact in turn three, and several torn up trucks.

“That definitely wasn’t going to work,” Kyle comments after seeing the replay, shaking his head in surprise. “Ridiculous…”

“Are we ever going to finish this race?” Chase wonders, glancing at the lap count. Through the chaos, Sarina had managed to hold the lead with Christopher in second. There wasn’t much left now…

The restart came with 10 laps to go, and all eyes locked on the action in seeing Sarina and Christopher battle alongside each other for the lead. Both Chase and Kyle felt like they were going to jump out of their skin and nerves as they saw both trucks get a little sideways, followed by a little bit of bumping.

Neither driver lifted through the whole process, and finally with five laps to go, everything came to a head. Sarina got loose underneath Christopher off of turn four, truck spinning around, and backing into the outside wall, followed by Christopher slapping the wall with the right side of his truck. The wreck wasn’t over there, yet, as Justin Haley was left nowhere to go, hitting just behind the driver’s door of Sarina’s truck as it rolled across the track.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?” Kyle asked out loud, standing up in complete disbelief as he looked at the pair of torn up trucks. “They led all the laps to this point…”

Chase had his fair share of anger over the contact, almost set to give Christopher a piece of his mind, but that didn’t matter in that very moment as he sat there, eyes closed, waiting for the familiar words over the radio.

“I’m okay,” he hears after a bit, taking a deep breath to calm his own nerves.

He watches as she climbs out of the truck, taking a breather for a moment as she lays her head on the roof. Chase could feel each part inside of him ripping apart, concern filled in thinking about the pain that she could be in.

He felt somewhat relieved in watching her climb out the rest of the way, followed by walking with the official to the ambulance for the trip back to the care center.

Making his way down the steps and set to join her, he could only wonder as to what’s to come.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 163: Chase vs. Denny

Sunday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

She felt her leg tap nervously as she watched the restart with 39 laps to go, seeing him pull away. Taking a deep breath, everything was fine….

She watched as he didn’t get too far out, though, watching the No. 2 Ford close the gap, silently cursing to herself. If there was anybody she didn’t want to see win, it was Brad Keselowski. Her eyes kept focused, seeing him roll the center, watching as he made the move and got by for the lead with 28 laps to go. Letting out a sigh, so much for the dream….

She shakes her head. She couldn’t think like that. There were still 27 laps now and anything was possible. It had to work out….

She had gotten herself into a relaxed state, silently hoping that Chase was able to work his way back to Brad and get around, though also feeling alright about a runner-up finish. It was a good start to this playoff round, right?

Though like everything had gone throughout the day, the whole day changed once again when the caution flew with 10 laps to go for Joey Logano having a flat tire. Taking a deep breath, the butterflies began fluttering immediately, fingers and toes tapping, nerves a flowing. Anything was possible on a late-race restart at Martinsville.

Her eyes focus on the track with five laps to go, watching Chase and Brad go down into the corner. She watches the bump from the No. 24 Chevrolet to the No. 2 Ford, fist pumping in the air as Brad slides up out of the groove and Chase rolls on by.

“All clear, take it…” She hears Eddie on the radio, her thoughts echoing the spotter.

Her eyes didn’t leave the action before her, watching as Denny quickly moved into second with Kyle in toe. Taking a deep breath, there was nowhere over as Denny was right there, set to make a move. She just glanced down for a quick second, hoping whatever came that Chase held off.

4 to go…..3 to go, and so far he had done an impressive job at the helm. He was running the perfect line, diamonding the corner to perfection, rolling the bottom. He was doing what he needed to do….

“Pushing you,” she hears Eddie over the radio as Denny gets into the back of Chase off turn two, though Chase keeps it straight as an arrow. “2 to go at the line..” She watches as Chase goes into turn three, with Denny close behind. It didn’t seem as if Denny let off the gas or anything, though, as his front bumper immediately met Chase’s rear bumper, sending the No. 24 spinning around.

“Fuck!” Sarina lets out immediately in disbelief as he stands up, shaking her head in disgust. Did that just happen? Did he just dump Chase for no bloody reason at all? Denny’s reason had to do with having no brakes or something, right? There was no way that he would just go do that….

“Douchebag!” She had to agree with Eddie’s words as her body filled with anger. She wished she could strangle Denny and each of his crew members one-by-one in that single moment. She also wished Chase wasn’t such a sweetheart and wouldn’t just go ahead and wreck the dumbass under the yellow.

“Yep, he definitely wrecked me,” she hears Chase and knew that wasn’t even up for debate. It wasn’t like Denny tried to do anything else. The replay confirmed it, too, as his bumper was direct as they come, no slowing down at all. Who in their right mind lifts someone wheel’s up entering the corner?

“I feel your pain, bro….” Eddie’s voice rang through her head as she sat back down, shaking her head in disgust. She could see the reflections on each crew member on the pit box. it was immediate disappointment, almost brink of tears for some of the guys. She could only imagine how Chase was feeling, knowing that she’d be a mix of a heartbroken and anger – actually, she was. There was also disbelief there, too. Did that actually happen?

“Did what happen what I think happened, or am I skewed?” She then hears Chase question over the radio. She shakes her head immediately, knowing how he was at times. He was so hard on himself at times, always over-critical of his own actions, obviously right now questioning whether he did the wrong thing. Clearly, he had done nothing wrong….

“Nah, he drove over your bumper and crashed ya,” Eddie replies, which deserved no other explanation.

“That’s what I figured. 10-4. Good to know. Thanks….”

As the field gets ready to start, there was only one thing that mattered in that moment – Denny better not win this race. She didn’t care who won now, even if it was Brad, as there was no way she wanted to see that No. 11 in victory lane.

She watches the restart, instantly cheering her boss as she watches Kyle dive into the corner, tagging Denny off of turn two and sending him up the track a bit as he squeezes on by.

“Thank you Kyle!” She cheers, watching him take the victory. She was happy for him – if Chase couldn’t win, then let it be her boss. However, that didn’t even begin to eliminate the heartbreak and anger that was remained.

“I feel your pain, bro,” Eddie says over the radio as Sarina just lets out a sigh.

All she wanted to do was get down there, hug Chase, hold him, and assure him that win was coming – and then kick Denny’s ass from here to the other side of the world. Her eyes then find their way t to the monitor, seeing the screens focused on the backstretch. She couldn’t help but smile as she watched Chase run into Denny on the cooldown lap – perfectly deserved.

“Screw him!” Eddie cheers on the radio as Sarina could only laugh in agreement. A punch to the head would be fitting right now.

She watches as the pair come to a stop, both starting to climb from their cars, eyes focused on Chase. She knew how he was when he got angry. she knew the feisty side that he could show, if warranted. Anybody who raced him in late models knew that. She couldn’t help but cross her arms with a bit of pride watching.

“Alright, face-to-face guys, outside the car…” Eddie dictates the action over the radio as Sarina’s eyes stay locked on the screen.

How could this happen? Why did this happen? And what the hell was Denny Hamlin thinking?

Chase was in total belief of what had just transpired in a matter of a couple of laps. One minute, he could potentially see his first career victory; next minute, he was turned around backwards.

It was one thing to bump a guy, give them the bump-and-run, rough them up a little. However, the key was that you didn’t totally wipe the guy’s chances of a decent day or result in heavy damage to his car. You also gave him a chance, should he save it and get back to you, to return the favor.

It was another thing in entirely just wipe a guy out no questions asked – and that’s what had him riled up. He wasn’t going to stand for that, no matter who it was that did it to him to begin with.

That’s why following the event, he made sure to go looking for him, set to send a message and tell him he wasn’t happy and wouldn’t put up with that bullshit. Driving into him was satisfaction for the frustration that he was experiencing.

Following the bumps and seeing Denny stop short of pit road, it didn’t change his views at all. Instead, he was set to actually give him word for word what he thought of him. Throwing the steering wheel on the dash, and the belts off whatever direction they’d go, he began to climb out, set to meet him eye to eye. It was time to be a man and face the consequences of what he did…

“That was bullshit running into me after the checkered!” Denny yells to start, not even fully climbed out. Chase had to chuckle to himself and look back in disbelief. Was this guy serious?

“You’re kidding me, right?” Chase questions back in return as he finishes climbing out, watching Denny come walk up to him face-to-face.

“No matter what, that was ridiculous…..” Chase couldn’t believe this at all….

“You wrecked me….”

“I had someone right on my bumper…” Chase almost laughed back in his face, knowing that wasn’t true as he had glanced up in the mirror once Denny had bumped him off of turn two. He knew exactly where they stood entering the corner.

“There was two car lengths between you and the other guy…”

“I just tried to move you….” Chase almost laughed again, really not believing he was hearing this, especially from someone who had been racing as long as Denny had been.

“You wrecked me, plain and simple…”

“I did not mean to wreck you. I just meant to give you a bump….”The intentions of the actions didn’t really matter at this point. Besides, if you’re going to attempt to use the bumper, you have to know it’s a possibility. Why wouldn’t Denny just own up to it already?

“But you just wrecked me!”

“You got into the 2 car. What’s the difference?” Chase really wanted to laugh in his face now. This was unbelievable….

“Come on man….”

“I got into you just like you got into Brad…” Except Brad wasn’t turned around backwards.

“Come on man…..”

“You know it was just hard racing.”

“You had my back wheels lifted up going into the corner!”

“Whatever…” Denny then turns on the heels, heading back to his car at the request of the NASCAR Official as Chase just shakes his head in disgust.

*******************

Chase rolls up to where he was told to stop on pit road, sitting back in the seat, shaking his head. He almost broke out laughing as he thought about the excuses and reasons that Denny tried to use for his part in what happened. The anger also hadn’t left him at all, either, along with the disappointment. It was another week that he had been mere inches of winning, and come up short again.

“I want you to be smart here,” he hears, glancing out the window to see Jimmie standing there. “Be smart, watch your words, and don’t lose your true self. Don’t stoop to his level because he’s an ass. You did a great job, and you will win.” He gives Jimmie a simple nod, used to receiving the odd tip of advice here and there.

He climbs out of the car, giving the couple of crew guys a quick hand-shake and nod as he turns around, crossing his arms. There was no way he was just letting this go and moving on as anger was certainly not leaving him no matter what he tried. There was also that sense of disbelief.

His eyes wandered over to where the TV cameras had stopped, getting Denny’s side of the coin first. He actually brought himself to laugh in hearing the amount of boos that were being let out by the crowd. You know you royally messed up when your own home track is mad at you…

He patiently stand there, set to give his take on the action, knowing it was going to be kept simple and to the point.

“My mom always said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. He’s not worth my time,” he tells NBC.

Sarina couldn’t help but smile off to the side at the comment, as her heart remained torn in pieces at what had transpired. It was taking every urge to stop herself from going over and kicking Denny’s ass.

After the interviews were done, she walked over and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, just holding him, as the crew joined her.

“Hey, if he wants to race that way, you know what to do next time,” Alan tells him. “I’m sure he’ll be fine when you lift his back wheels going into the corner at Texas.” Chase lets back a small smile, knowing what Alan was thinking.

However, that wasn’t his style. Revenge and anger and dirty driving were not morals that he had grown to know. Instead, it was focus and driving as hard as you could to put what happened in the rearview.

“Hey, I just wanted to say I hate what happened to you guys,” a new voice pops in from Denny’s crew chief Mike Wheeler. “That was bad…”

“Go tell your smartass driver that,” Sarina spits out, keeping her arms around Chase.

“Excuse me?” Chase then wraps an arm around her in return.

“You heard her,” he starts. “All Denny could do was give me 20 million excuses. Go…” He then turns around, facing away from Mike, but letting his eyes land on Sarina right away.

“I’m so sorry,” she simply says, pulling him close as she puts her head against his chest. “Denny is an asshole. You’ll get that win soon…”

****************

“That was utterly insane!” Ryan comments from his seat in the plane.

Following the race, it was a short flight back to North Carolina from Virginia with Ryan, Chase and Sarina all boarding together. For all of them, it was great to just get out of Martinsville as soon as possible.

“But I got to say, I’m proud of you,” Ryan continues as Chase keeps his eyes focused ahead.

“Why is that?” He questions as Ryan smiles, reading over the various tweets on twitter.

“You made the world proud, too. You did a great job from your interview to standing up to him. That’s what you need to do. I’m impressed…” He then glances up from his phone. “Although, you should’ve punched him on behalf of the whole field. He freaking turned down across me and Kurt!”

“So why did you punch Kevin?” Sarina asks, referring to Ryan’s visit with Kevin Harvick. She had been scrolling through twitter herself before they left, and saw a clip of Ryan giving Kevin a small punch. “Well according to him, I brake-checked his ass off the corner earlier in the race and fucked him over at the end of the day. I proudly told him that I wasn’t doing that at all during the race, and it was all freaking Denny’s fault at the end. Needless to say, we disagreed and had a small punch fest.”

“Crazy….” Ryan didn’t care about his deal with Kevin, though. He knew that was going to be forgotten within days. On the other hand, that wouldn’t be the case with Denny….

“So what are you going to do about Denny there, Mr. Pilot?” Chase had been toying with a bunch of thoughts since the conclusion of the race. He wasn’t a dirty racer, but payback was certainly entering his mind big time for what had happened. He wouldn’t mind something happening at Texas….

“I don’t know,” Chase answers. “We’ll just have to wait and see….”

“How about we just forget about it for one night and have some fun?” Sarina suggests, knowing that she could use a good distraction after the chaos.

“Isn’t that why we’re going to Blaney’s epic Halloween party?”

***************

Chase glances at himself in the mirror at Ryan’s house, shaking his head. How did he get himself into this mess wearing this costume? He had seen Ryan’s Woody costume and Jordan’s Buzz Lightyear costume and both felt more comfortable than this.

He had totally forgotten about the party, and had not gone costume shopping. So prior the weekend, he informed Ryan in hopes his best friend would help him out. Certainly, Ryan did as he had an extra costume and would allow Chase to borrow it. He didn’t expect it to be this, though.

He almost felt scandalous, a little ridiculous, and knew for sure there was too much skin showing below the waist. Feeling a little shy, he knew every person would probably be analyzing his package.

“Damn….” He hears, recognizing Sarina’s voice and smiling. “I know you bike a lot, but holy damn tone in those legs…” He had to laugh to himself, as he spun to face her. An immediate smile formed, liking her voice – Batgirl. They’d be Batgirl and Robin that night.

“You look just as sexy right now,” he answers back in response. The black leather of the outfit clang to every sweet dear curve on her body, with the skirt long enough to cover but short enough to tease everything below.

“As soon as I heard Ryan had a Robin costume for you, I got Samantha to run a small errand for me. I figured we could match.” She then walks over closer, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “You make one amazing superhero, but damn, I didn’t expect you to show off as much….”

“Is it too much? I almost feel like chang-”

“No, it’s fine; it’s absolutely fine. Besides, everybody down there will be too caught up in the party to realize. Now, are you ready to go have some fun?”

“Absolutely…” He then takes her by the hand, leading her out of the room and to the stirs with a smile.

It was time to leave behind the Martinsville disappointment and frustration for a night…..

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 162: “It feels amazing!”

Saturday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

Following the slew of post-race interviews, they immediately went into the sea of photos that were necessary after a win. From full team photos, to individual photos, to a few of her and the boss by themselves. The entire time, Sarina couldn’t help but smile as she stood there in total disbelief.

Was this really happening?

“That’s everything we nee-” Andy starts, in relation to all the photos.

“Not quite,” Kyle cuts him off, as he motions for Chase to go up on stage with her. “Go on…”

“It wouldn’t be a complete collection without you getting a photo,” Sarina says as he walks up with her, standing beside her. The pair both smile, as the flashbulbs go off multiple times.

“I haven’t seen that smile leave your face since you got out of the truck,” Chase comments afterwards. She just glances back, smile still firmly planted there.

“It feels amazing!” She then snags a kiss, which results in some more photos being taken. “I can’t even describe it. I can’t believe it.” Chase then laughs as he pinches her arm. “Ouch!”

“Believe it, enjoy it, and savor it. You deserve this beyond words…” She then pulls him back close into a hug. “I’m so proud of you. I’ve told you that before, but I mean it. You fought for this, and deserve it…”

“Thank you for dealing with my rough moments, including before quali-”

“You don’t have to mention it. I get it…” He then kisses her lips once again.

“Hey, you both can celebrate later!” Kyle yells out. “We have media center business to attend to!” Sarina turns to face the boss, wrapping an arm around Chase.

“But I don’t want to leave my boo…” She whines as Chase just laughs.

“Actually, I think you should go tell the world how you kicked Matt Crafton’s ass,” Chase suggests as she just glances back with a smile.

“That was the icing on the cake, really. I mean, he’s a veteran. He’s been doing this for so long. To come out here and beat the guy whose a veteran, done this many times, supposed to be ultimate here – it’s just amazing.”

“Not to mention that your boss was quite happy after Christopher got spun…” Sarina rolls her eyes, still not believing that. She was actually looking forward to getting the chance to race Christopher for the win. “Go on; we can celebrate later….”

“You’re comi-” He shakes his head as he points towards pit road.

“Cup practice, reme-”

“Kyle is coming and he has to qualify, too. There’s enough time….” He didn’t want to leave her as he wanted to savor the moment, but he also didn’t want to be late for qualifying. However, a quick glance at the time and text to Morgan and sure enough, time was on his side.

It wasn’t long until he was standing in the back of the media center, watching as her and Kyle fielded questions about the race from the various media personnel in the room. He could only smile with pride, glad that everybody was seeing what he saw in her from the beginning.

For the most part, everything was going smoothly with the same usual questions that they always asked. What did it mean to you? How did you make the move? How did you know it’d stick? It seemed like it’d be a nice, smooth day in the media center, until a comment caught his attention.

“Based on your reaction post-race and how chummy you have been with a fellow driver – plus the sickness last week, one has to ask – are you pregnant?” A reporter asked, which immediately caused Sarina to break out laughing. Chase could only look on surprised from his location, shaking his head. Of course….

“Are you seriously asking me that right now?” She questions, which fit the surprised glance from Kyle.

“Well, based on what we’ve seen-”

“I can assure you that I am not pregnant.” She bit her tongue as soon as the words escaped, though, remembering that night – and smile returning once again. However, she knew that couldn’t had resulted in something because they were careful, right? Besides, she had her period last week.

“I really don’t even think that’s a question that should be asked here,” Marcus Richmond comments as he looks between Sarina and Kyle. Kyle could only shake his head, though found himself giving both Sarina and Chase double takes. It wasn’t a bad theory….

“It’s honestly none of his business to ask that,” Kyle adds, knowing even if it was a good theory, it had no business being discussed in this moment. “Kerry?”

“It seems you guys are trying to divert the topic immediately…” The report continues on, which catches Sarina’s attention. Was this seriously happening right now?

“I have nothing to hide as I stated, I am not pregnant,” she repeats once again, beginning to grow frustrated. She wanted to focus on the key today – winning. “Would you be damn well satisfied if I placed a stick in your hand with a big negative on it?” Kyle was caught off-guard by her comment, but understood her frustration as he placed his hand on top of hers.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again, hoping this would be a situation that NASCAR would handle swiftly.

“Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave, please,” Kerry Tharp requests, following Kyle’s lead.

“Hypothetically, let’s say that you do get pregnant,” the reporter continues despite the pleas. “Is there a plan in place? Have you discussed the possibility with Chase, your team?” Sarina immediately rolls her eyes, as Chase could only shake his head. It was taking everything he had to not say something himself right now as he kept his own eyes locked on Kyle.

“Am I hearing these questions correct?” Marcus questions as Kyle looks over at Kerry once again. He could feel the frustration boiling off of Sarina, and the resulting piercing eye glare from Chase.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again.

“Sir, I am going to ask you to leave once again,” Kerry repeats. “If you do not leave, we’ll have security remove you.” It did not take long for the request to be followed accordingly, thankfully to all in the room. “I apologize for that out of line questioning.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that one stupid reporter didn’t matter at that time. This was her moment, her time to celebrate, her victory. There was no way she was letting him spoil it…

“It’s not your fault,” she states. “For the record – that is personal, and will be kept between those who need to know. If I am ever pregnant, I’m sure you’ll find out in the proper time.” Kyle felt a nerve in those words, once again glancing between the pair, hoping he wouldn’t be getting that news anytime soon. While he wanted to see them have a great future together, he wanted to see Sarina reach her full potential with a championship, which he saw happening next season.

“Now, can we get back to talking about how awesome this win is?” Marcus questions, trying to get things back on track. “I mean, I want to know everybody’s reaction to that final restart. She was absolutely amazing!”

************************

They walk into the bedsroom together, flopping back on the bed together as Chase rolls over on his stomach, eyes locked on her.

“You still look like you’re on cloud 9….” He comments as she laughs, glancing over with a big smile.

“I can’t believe it still,” she tells him. “I’m in total disbelief. It just doesn’t feel real. It feels like a dream. I know I climbed the fence – and I know I had a moment there….” He chuckles as he had caught full glimpse of that.

“First win, being overwhelmed – it’s understandable….” She knew that, but of course there were some fans that had their share of comments, along with the reporter.

“And yes, we took all the photos and all the interviews – but it just doesn’t feel real. I mean, did I actually pass Matt Crafton on the outside on a late race restart with 10 laps to go to win?” He laughs, nodding his head. “I, a rookie driver, passed a series champion on the outside at Martinsville. You’re not supposed to pass on the outside here!”

“Well, you made it work – and that’s because you’re absolutely amazing.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “Do I need to hold you and pinch you and tell you 100 times over for you to realize that this is actually happening?” She laughs and shakes her head.

“You know, I feel almost like a 100 times lighter today now. I feel like the world is off my back. I don’t have to sit there and tell people anymore. I don’t need to sit and hear people whine, moan, and make excuses. There are no longer those that say I’m just here because I’m a pretty face or dating you. There are no more comments about how I don’t deserve this opportunity, or how my hard work is purely worthless. It’s like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can be free almost…” Chase smiles as it was actually absolutely amazing to hear those words from her, considering the amount of relentless pressure she put on herself on a weekly basis. It was nice to see her letting go now.

“Kyle wouldn’t hire you for a simple reason because you’re pretty or because of me. He hires drivers that are talented, and can be molded into stars one day. Sweetheart, that’s yo-”

“I know that now. I believe in those words. But I will admit, there were times this year where I questioned whether I belonged here. Was this the right time for me to be here? Now, I don’t even know what to say…”

“Then don’t say a word….” He then curls up closer to her, kissing her lips lightly.

“Why is that?” He looks at her with a smile, his hand finding it’s his way to the zipper on her firesuit. “What do you have in mind, Mr. Elliott?”

“We need to celebrate your win, Ms. Ott…” He then gets up, moving so he was over top of her, kissing her lips once again as he toys with the zipper.

“Oh really?” Her fingers immediately find the way to his zipper, as they both begin to pull each other’s suits off.

“Oh yeah. I need to spoil you…” She then grins as they carefully slip each other’s firesuits off, tossing them aside, before he reaches for her undershirt.

“I wouldn’t mind that, either…”  He then grins as he keeps his brown chocolate eyes locked on her blue eyes.

“Good, because you’re not going anywhere…” She then grins, putting her arms up above her head as she relaxes on the bed.

“I’m not fighting for your offer, am I?” He then laughs as she slips off her undershirt.

“Then what are you waiting for?” She then points towards him. “Me?”

“You said you were going to spoil me because to the winner goes the spoils, right?” He laughs as a simple grin forms on his face. “As long as we don’t give Kyle a surpris-”

“Did you see the look that he gave me when the reporter asked that question?” She laughs, nodding her head. She had watched the glances that Kyle was giving them both carefully then. “For that reason, you’ll be glad that some important shopping was done this week…” He then reaches over to his nightstand, slipping the drawer open, reaching his hand in a box, throwing a small package on to the bed.

“I’m glad you did because I don’t want to see my boyfriend dead before year’s end…” She then gives his boxers a tug, bringing him back to her. “Now, where were we?”

“I was about to spoil you…”

**********

Sunday, October 30

The joy of victory didn’t fade on Sarina the next day, either, as the smile remained on her face throughout the entire morning as she spent time at the Toyota Racing display answering questions, and signing autographs.

It didn’t fade when she made her way out to pit road before the Cup race, accepting an array of congratulations from various drivers and crew members along the way. She politely accepted each of them, still in disbelief at times.

As she stood there holding Chase’s hand during the national anthem, her focus immediately shifted away from her own joy to the task at hand that day for him. The goal was to have a solid day, no mistakes, and continue to lock down the top-fives to work towards punching their ticket to Homestead. She knew the day came with pressure and unease, as Chase was the first to say that Martinsville wasn’t his best track. While he had finished well there in the spring, he still hadn’t grown comfortable in finding the line he wanted to run there. She almost chuckled to herself on the thought as he had qualified third earlier that morning. Now it was just about turning that starting spot into a great day.

“Good luck,” she tells him, kissing his lips. “Be safe. I love you.”

She then walks away as he climbs in the car, making her way over to the 24 pit box. She climbs the familiar steps, taking her usual spot behind Alan Gustafson, flashing a quick smile to Josh and Jordan.

While Chase would insist that Martinsville wasn’t his best track, that didn’t show at all through the first half of the race as he kept himself in the top-five, battling for positions, looking as comfortable as the others around him. It especially didn’t show as he challenged for the lead, taking the top spot for the first time that day from Brad Keselowski on Lap 385.

“Watch the cross over,” she hears Eddie D’Hondt over the radio, but Brad’s attempt to get back by was to no avail. “Nice work, nice and smooth.”

Glancing down, she couldn’t even fathom the amazement and joy that would be if everything played out accordingly today. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they both got their first wins the same weekend?

Taking a deep breath, she had to get the thought of her mind. There was still a long way to go as plenty could happen in 115 laps.

“You’re doing a great job out there,” Eddie’s words fill her ears once again, and he spoke the truth as Chase began to build a gap between him and Brad. “Just keeping show a little more discipline. That diamond looks good there….”

She kept her eyes locked on the track, trying to ignore the thoughts of what could happen knowing that’d just cause nerves and knowing how crazy things could go. However, her heart couldn’t help but wonder as the gap continued to grow more and more.

Then it happened……

Caught right in the midst of lap traffic with 63 laps to go, Chase tried to make a move to get by one of the many cars that he was working his way through. However, a little contact, and you could see a bit of smoke off of the fender immediately.

“Got a left rear tire rub here,” Eddie reports back to the crew as Sarina feels her heart sink immediately. If the tire blew out or they had to pit under green, that’d certainly end all hopes….

“Try to adjust your track bar up and down to see if it’ll clear up a bit,” Alan suggests and Sarina crosses her fingers, hoping that Chase could do something to survive here.

The smoke would soon fade – causing a mix of concerns. That could be good as the rub may have gone away, but that could be bad as next thing they may end up with a punctured tire and a big mess.

She was then caught off-guard another way when the caution flew with 43 laps to go for Carl Long spinning. She hated to see the field bunched up, but she knew the caution was the perfect opportunity. Now they could fix the fender…

Her eyes stay locked on pit road, focused down below the pit box as the crew goes to work immediately. She watches the tires go on and off, fuel dumped into the tank, along with a careful tug on the left rear quarter panel to pull it back out. She watches him peel out as soon as the work is done, lifting her fist in the air immediately as she watches him lead the field off pit road.

Taking a deep breath, her leg beginning to tap on the pit box, she knew the nerves were going to pick up from here on out.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 160: The Photoshoot

Wednesday, October 18

Chase emerges from the change room, smoothing the suit out as he flashes a quick smile to Morgan.

He would’ve preferred to be at the shop. He would’ve preferred to be biking, hanging out. He could’ve even spent some time hanging out with Sarina. Instead, it was another day of work for the sponsors – this time, being a photoshoot for Hooters.

“Okay, so let’s get this started,” one of the many sponsor representatives says as he comes down the hall. “Chase, this is the girl that you will be taking the photos with…”

Chase glances over his shoulder, his breath catching in his throat immediately. There was no mistaking that face anywhere as it was one to never, ever forget no matter what happened moving forward. Sure, she had changed some of her appearance since their last meeting – but it was her without a shadow of a doubt.

Was this really happening?

“Alison?” He finally finds her voice, as she glances up to finally meet his eyes.

“Chase?” She asks, puzzled as ever, as Chase felt confusion wash over him immediately. Maybe that was restraining order wasn’t looking too shabby now….

“What the…..?” She puts her hands up immediately, knowing that his thoughts were probably flying a hundred miles an hour as they stood there frozen.

“This is total coincidence….” Morgan then glances up from her phone, seeing the tension immediately.

“Do you know her?” Morgan questions, and Chase looks at her with a total face of surprise. How could Morgan not recognize her? Didn’t she remember the chaos endured?

“Yeah….” He states, as if to try and implicate that it should be obvious.

“Well?” Chase couldn’t believe he was having to explain this outloud.

“She’s the one that went after me at Indianapolis….” Morgan’s face turns serious immediately, as she takes another glance at Allison once again. The hair or contacts didn’t fool her anymore as she found the recognizable facial features.

“Oh hell no, there is no way this is getting done…” Allison then glances at her, surprised. Who was this person to say what happened in Chase’s life? Wasn’t that the duty of Chase himself? Besides, she looked nothing like Sarina. Had something happened? Did Bethany and Chris finally get their wish.

“Who are you? His assistant or something?” Morgan then looks at the brunette in immediate surprise from her tone. She knew there was no chance around it – she needed to be thrown out of there as soon as possible.

“I am his media and public relations representative,” Morgan states firmly as she crosses her arms. “I am supposed to handle everything when it comes to those departments to protect him, and our marketing partners.”

“She’s also there so I don’t have to shift through pointless requests,” Chase adds, though Morgan shoots him a glare right afterwards. She knew she needed to get this handled right away. there was no way that she could let this go any further, or she might as well kiss her job goodbye immediately.

“Now, where is the boss so we can get this cancelled?” Chase was still caught off-guard by seeing her standing there, remembering her words in the court room. Didn’t everything that happened in Las Vegas ruin a chance of this ever happening?

“I thought you lost your role with Hooters totally. You also said you didn’t mean what happened. Why are you here?” Morgan rolled her eyes, wishing Chase wouldn’t even give her the time of a day.

“Chase, I can explain…” Allison starts, followed by taking a deep breath. “I had no idea that you would be here. And yes, I lost the pageant but they keep every  girl’s name on file. They liked my modeling work so they called and asked me if I do a photoshoot. They didn’t explain the details at all. I can give you copies of all the paperwork for proo-

“I’d like to see those, plea-” Morgan interrupts, not believing a single drip of her story. She knew how stalkers worked and wasn’t about to let this go through at all.

“Morgan….” Chase states, caught off-guard by Morgan’s tone as she looks over at him.

“Liability, Chase. I have to per the terms of my contract with Rick.” Chase really didn’t know her contract, but figured that may be along the lines. Still, he wanted to at least hear what Allison had to say.

“Listen, I’ll let you see them, no problem,” Allison immediately offers. “They’re my change room in my bag actually. But anyways, I took the job. I’m short cash, and I need money, so I took the job. I had no idea you were involved. If I knew, I would’ve said no for obvious reasons. I never wanted to see you again, cause anymore problems, violate any conditions  from the trial…. I’ll go tell John and he can get one of his other girls.”

Chase knew that would solve all the differences of opinion here, but he also knew how that’d go over. John would have two million questions, they’d need to spend time explaining, and then it’d create tension moving forward.

He also remembered her statement from the court room, her regrets, the fact that she never meant to do it. What if she truly meant that? He had gotten to know how insane Chris and Bethany could be.

Besides, he had a date planned that night with Sarina and knew any delays here would cause him to be late. While he knew that she’d forgive him, he didn’t want it to come to that.

What was the harm in taking a couple photos together for promotional reasons?

“No, it’s fine,” Chase speaks, catching both Morgan and Allison off-guard. “We can do this.” Morgan’s shocked expression lands directly on Chase, arms still firmly crossed. She had expected Chase to throw Allison out after everything.

“What?” She questions as Chase takes a deep breath.

“It’s going to take forever for them to find someone else right now at this moment. Let’s just do the photos, and get it over with. I want to get back home.” Morgan glances around, not believing this. Was this really happening?

“Can we talk alone?” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that it was a waste of time.

“Of course,” Allison answers, before Chase can say anything. “I’ll go get you the papers…” Allison then leaves, as Morgan locks her eyes on Chase in the hallway.

“Chase, I am so sorry,” Morgan immediately begins. “I should’ve checked into these conditions and everything. I should’ve asked about who they were making you pose with. I shou-”

“It’s fine, Morgan,” Chase cuts her off immediately. Why were they having this discussion? “It’s not your fault.”

“No, it is! I’m paid by Hendrick Motorsports to do your public relations, media relations, and damn well security through that. I should’ve been on the ball knowing that sleezeball was walking around. I mean, I didn’t even recognize her and I was sitting in the damn court room with you! I should’ve done a background check!” Chase could see that she was beating herself, perhaps worried that she’d be fired in a matter of days. However, Chase didn’t see it that way. These slip-ups were possible, and he was willing to give Morgan the benefit of the doubt, for now.

“Look, you do a great job. We’ll just get these photos over with, and then we can talk to them, okay? If we try and hold this over, it may take hours and that messes up schedule and I want to get home. Can we just go forward, please?” Morgan hated the thought of moving forward, but felt obligated to listen to him.

“Sure….” Chase smiles a little, as he places a hand on her shoulder.

“And Morgan, please lay off a little….” She gives him a ‘really’ glance.

“I’m just doing my job, Chase.” They both watch as Allison walks over, handing a couple pieces of paper over to Morgan.

“Here are those papers. I’m sorry once again….” Allison says as her eyes find their way to Chase.

“Thank you,” Morgan replies, as she begin to look them over.

“Are we ready?” The representative looks down the hall, having grown tired waiting.

“If you are?” Allison asks, eyes locked on Chase. Why had she screwed things up so badly?

“Let’s get this over with, please….” Chase simply states, before following her to where they needed to be.

The representative got the pair to stand back-to-back, her flowing hair brushing his shoulder, eyes locked forward. The shutter closed a couple times, with flashbulbs around them

“Chase, relax a little man,” the camera man requests. “Let’s try and make these look natural….”

Chase takes a deep breath, trying to follow suit with the request, though he couldn’t help but feel the nerves Morgan previously warned of creeping in. He wasn’t sure about her story in the court room now…

********************

Friday, October 20 – Kansas Speedway

Sarina makes her way down off of the 24 hauler, making her way across the garage, signing a couple autographs for some fans that recognized her. She flashes a couple smiles for some photos, too, knowing her destination in mind.

“Don’t you ever spend a weekend away from the track?” She hears a familiar voice, seeing Kyle immediately as they cross paths with him headed to the 18 hauler.

“Once upon a time, there was a guy who rarely spent time away from the track, too,” she reminds him of his younger self as he just chuckles. “You know why I’m here…”

“It doesn’t surprise me one bit that you’re here supporting him, actually. Just make sure you’re having and kicking it loose. This is your last break before the end of the season.” She nods her head, accepting. She was actually excited for the next four weeks as they were going to be four really good tracks, hopefully producing a win or two.

“Of course, boss. Any other advice for the day or am I escaping your butt chewing?” He then glances back surprised, as he looks back towards the garage.

“Go cheer up your man….” She then crosses her arms.

“How about you share those secrets that make you so fast?” He then laughs right away. She was good…

“Not happening, but good try….” They then separate as she walks into the garage stall, waiting back patiently as she sees Chase standing here debriefing with Alan and Josh. It had been a decent qualifying run as he would start Sunday’s race in 15th.

Taking a deep breath, she just quietly asked for a nice, clean, quiet race day come Sunday.

***************

Saturday, October 21 – Indiana

“This is ridiculous!” Chase lets out as they climb out of the car, bound for the familiar court room once again. “I thought we told them that we didn’t want to do these things on race weekends?”

“The judge is trying to expedite the process,” Sarina comments as she wraps an arm around his shoulders. She understood and sympathized with his frustration. He had finished practice that day all the way back in 22nd, and now ad to fly from Kansas to Indiana just to see Bethany. She had suggested that she just go herself, not wanting to add more to his day and also giving him time to talk with Alan, but he wouldn’t allow that to happen.

“The judge is also an asshole…” Sarina nodded her head as they walked inside, taking their familiar seat.

They just hoped that the process went as quick as possible. Thankfully, they were just there to hear how long she would spend behind bars, hoping that it was for a long time.

“Ms. Bethany Adams, I would like to throw you away for a long time given what you’ve done – but I can only do as the law allows,” the judge begins. “You pled guilty to coercion against Ms. Allison Reynolds. Coercion in the form of a Class C felony because it involves threatening with a deadly weapon gives you up to eight years in prison – which you’re receiving completely as words cannot describe the level of actions you caused Ms. Reynolds to follow suit with by your actions. The level of fear experienced to the amount of people involved – it’s unfathomable.

“You also pled guilty to poisoning Mr. Elliott through coercion since you put the method in motion, while supplying the vile that was injected into his system. That’s a class C felony of coercion, equaling another eight years. On top of that, a charge of poisoning at a degree to where life was without reasonably a doubt threatened based on medical record findings – actually, attempted murder is more like it for Mr. Elliott was on the verge there for a period of time. That right there brings you another 10 to 15 years – which I am placing 15 years, once again.

“Therefore, if I was to add everything together, you will be spending a total of 31 years behind bars for your actions against Mr. Elliott and Ms. Reynolds. You will also have no chance at parole for you showed no remorse for your behavior during the court proceedings. Court adjourned!”

Satisfied with the results and how quickly the events took place, Chase and Sarina immediately make their way outside, taking the back door to escape the media field of questions that surrounded the main gates.

“Feel better now?” Chase questions as he rubs her shoulders.

“I’d feel if she was dead and I had no chance of seeing her face again,” she answers as Chase lets out a sigh. He could sympathize with her feelings as they climbed in the car together.

“Both of us would feel better. But hey, 31 years behind bars isn’t too sha-”

“You will be 52 and I will be 51 when she gets out. We’re both easily able to be found, Chase. Do you not realize we’re never going to get away from this?” Chase runs his hands across the steering wheel, finding patience in her words despite his own frustrations. That thought wasn’t lost on them.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For all we know, seeing how she’s unruthless, she could get herself in trouble in prison to earn more years or get killed. We don’t know what the future holds. All we can do is focus on each day ahead, and put that out of mind. When she does get out later on, if she does, we will handle it. We will get the right papers and details put together.” She wanted to firmly believe in his words as she nodded her head. “And I’ve put in for that restraining order against Allison.”

“Really?” He nods his head. The more he moved away from Wednesday, the more nervous he felt about the whole ‘random coincidence’ meeting.

“I don’t want to take any chances. I know she felt, and I know she says she didn’t mean it – but what if?”

***********

Sunday, October 22 – Kansas Speedway

“Nice job!” Alan gives him a high-five post-race following a fourth-place finish. “You did a good job sticking with it all day.” Chase smiles, as he was certainly proud of the effort.

They hadn’t started out as strong as they wanted, fighting the balance of the car from start to finish. However, they kept working at it, getting it a touch better, and found their way to the front in the late stages using a bit of driving know-how and strategy. It wasn’t the day they may have envisioned, but it was enough as they were now off to the Round of 8.

“We just got to keep working at it….” Chase tells him and Alan nods his head in agreement.

“Let’s just go survive next week at Martinsville, and go from there, okay?”