Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 110: Slowly Healing

Sunday, July 2

From the initial time he opened his eyes on Sunday, from the sight of the sunrise out of the hospital window, through the morning and afternoon, it was a repetitive cycle. He’d roughly wake up, say a couple words, comment on the pain with the doctors giving him what they felt was necessary, followed by more sleep.

He felt weaker than he could even describe and he knew his body was fighting against whatever he drank that day in the trailer. With that, the sleep was very welcome as he knew he had to take care of himself.

He found himself wanting to request Sarina in a couple instances when he woke up, but he stayed away from the topic for now. He knew that request would come with resistance and an argument, something that wasn’t worth having based on how he was feeling. He just hoped that the time apart wouldn’t kill their chances at a future as he still believed in them, despite what happened.

As the sun began to sat on Sunday, he finally found some more energy to stay awake longer, entertaining some light conversation with the occupants of the room. He spoke roughly of how he was feeling, while getting caught up on some things that he missed. Ryan left out that he was texting Sarina for the time being, knowing that Cindy would freak and wanting to avoid that.

“Alan….,” he comments the crew chief’s name aloud as they sit there. “Is Alan and Greg here? Or did they fly back to North Carolina yet?”

“The crew guys refused to leave till they knew for certain that you’d be okay,” Ryan starts. “They’re staying at the local hotel, and have been spending the days down the hall in the waiting room. That’s where Darrell keeps going down every couple hours.” Bill remembers when he took the walk down there, suggesting to them that they fly back and they’d get Chase to face time when he was up to it. However, the entire team shook their heads no as they wanted to make sure their driver was okay.

“Dude, none of us leaving till you’re okay to leave,” Darrell adds. Chase hated to mess up everybody’s schedules, but appreciated their support. Though he knew he owed Alan and Greg a visit now, too.

“Mom, Dad, you guys have been sitting here constantly all day and now night,” he starts. “Why don’t you go get something to eat? Darrell and Ryan can go with you and get something, too. I feel up to seeing the team for a bit. Send Alan and Greg first….” The boys accept easily, though reluctantly could be seen on the parent’s faces.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Cindy questions and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at her.

“You need to take care of yourself, too,” he answers as he lays his head back against the pillow.

“Come on….” Darrell stands up first, beginning the effort of leading them both out of the room. Bill goes next, followed by Cindy as Ryan watches closely. He sees them exit the room, giving Darrell a quick nod before focusing his eyes on Chase.

“Sarina came to check on you but your mo-” He starts as soon as they left the room.

“I heard everything,” Chase cuts him off, remembering the argument clearly as Ryan looks on shocked.

“I’ve been texting her updates ever since so she knows how you’re doing because she’s worried. I just felt it was best to listen to Cindy’s request for now.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Thank you. Please keep doing that…”

“Anything you want me to tell her, specifically?” Chase debated giving her a message aimed towards his hope for the future, but didn’t want her to take that as a welcome to show up just yet. So he shook his head no. “Alright. I’ll go get Alan and Greg for you.” Ryan then leaves the room, heading to where the crew continued to sit.

Chase glanced around the room, letting out a sigh. It was odd to be by himself for the first time since everything happened.

He glances up at the monitor, seeing all the numbers that flashed across the screen. He could only hope that those numbers meant something good, and he was continuing to get better. His eyes then glanced down at his arm, seeing where the IV was, followed by a shudder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with that, but he couldn’t deny that whatever they were giving him was working.

Laying his head back against the pillow, he lets out a sigh. He knew he was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t more serious.  Thankful that he was awake and feeling decent, considering. Thankful that Alan had found him when he did. Thankful that he could see the future, and strength was coming back.

“One day at a time,” he reminds himself, knowing that he couldn’t rush it. The thought of missing Kentucky pained him as he was looking forward to racing there, being one of the more fun ovals on the schedule. It was his goal to be healed by then. However, pushing to be ready and not fully letting his body do what it needed wouldn’t help him. Besides, he was meant to be thankful.

He hears the door open and immediately smiles, watching the two crew members smile in response. He could see the worry written all over Alan’s face, obviously struggling with everything in being the one to see how bad it was. He knew how close they had grown already in a year and a half, and wouldn’t expect anything else.

“Gosh, this is a sight that I’m glad to be seeing,” Alan comments as he walks over to the bed. He immediately goes in for a hug, which Chase easily accepts, knowing how frantic everything was in the hauler that night.

“You don’t look too bad,” Greg comments as he remains at the bottom of the bed, eyes focused on the young man.

“All the hard ass training that you put me through is certainly helping in trying to fight this off,” he replies as Greg smiles. He had no doubt that everything would be fine based on how strong Chase was.

“So, how are you feeling?” Alan questions as Chase looks back towards the crew chief.

“Still a little sore and still somewhat sick, but a lot better than I was. It’s coming, slowly….” Alan shakes his head, accepting. That’s all that mattered to him.

“That’s good. I’m glad, really. You scared me….” Alan didn’t mean to come straight out and admit it, but there was no denying what he felt.

“It scared the crap out of me, too. It’s the worst I’ve probably ever felt.” Alan could understand that after what he saw.

“Well then make sure you take your time, focus on healing, and let your body do what it needs to do,” Greg advises and Chase knew that for certain.

“Trust me – I’m not going far the next couple of days,” he tells them. “I know how hard everything is fighting. I can feel the weakness at times. I’ve been letting myself sleep as I need it. But, I had to see you guys. I mean, I had to say thank you. Thank you for being there, and doing what needed to be done.”

“We love ya, kid,” Alan says. “I would do it all over in a heartbeat. Just promise me that we’re going to damn well win a race finally.” Chase laughs and rolls his eyes. It was certainly getting frustrated not having broken through for their first Cup Series win yet.

“I promise that I’m going to try as hard as I can do that just for you.” He then lets out a yawn, laying his head back against the pillow. He knew he should give in and accept the sleep, but he didn’t want to yet. He had slept most of the day away already, and there were a bunch of guys who deserved some time. “Greg, can you go get the guys? I want to say hi before I go back to sleep.” Greg easily accepts as he leaves the room.

“Greg kept telling me that you were going to be okay. I wanted to believe him so easily, but man, I was worried. I didn’t know what to think with how much pain you were in….” Chase looks over at Alan.

“Trust me, that’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt. It felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It was torture.” He then looks at the crew chief in the eyes as he places a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m going to be okay, and we’re going to fulfill that promise.”

“I have no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” The door then cracks open, followed by a series of crew members making their way in. “Get ready for craziness….”

“I’m used to these guys.” Chase then glances over at the guys, with a quick wave.

“Easy boys. Let’s make this short and sweet as someone needs his beauty sleep.”

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

Sarina sits on the beach, reading the latest text message from Ryan, letting out a slight smile. It wasn’t much of an update, but it was something.

Ryan had simply told her that Chase knew about her being delivered updates, and the fact that he was doing better more and more throughout the day. He also told her that they were going to try and get him up on Monday, followed by some quick tests, to make sure things were panning out right.

She could only hope those tests and everything continued to go smoothly, followed by some interaction to follow with him. It was nice to see he was okay with the updates as that represented hope, but didn’t mean the same as being able to see him.

“We’re flying out soon,” she hears behind her, glancing to see Kyle standing there.

“I’m not going home yet,” she tells him as he lets out a sigh. “I’m not going home till I get a chance to see Chase.” Kyle knew he had to tread lightly as he took a couple more steps, before sitting beside her.

“What makes you certain that’s going to happen?” She then hands over her phone, letting him see the latest update from Ryan. “Okay….”

“He is okay with me receiving updates. That means that there’s something still there in the mark of feelings. If I’m patient, like he was with me before, I feel that we can do this together.” Kyle wanted to believe her words, though also feared worse as he could see everything changing based on the last string of events. Trust was a big deal with Chase, and she hadn’t trusted his judgment on Chris, or took it seriously, and now was in the hospital. What if that laid on his mind?

“And what if that doesn’t happen? I know things are crazy right now with your brother’s arrest and this, but there’s responsibilities for this weekend….” She knew that she had to be at the shop at least one day before the upcoming race.

“I was going to come by on Tuesday before we all headed out to Kentucky together. I need another day down here, not just because of Kyle, but because of my brother. I need to go check in to see where they are on things. I want to see him locked up and pay for what happened as he blew his second chance totally, and I need to make sure that’s right on course for happening.” Kyle easily accepted that. He didn’t want to see Chris ever again, either.

“That’s fine.” He then glances out to the water, before looking back at her. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know how Kurt and I argue at times, and sure he’s done some stupid shit over the years, too. But I can’t imagine having something happen like what you’re going through. But I want you to know that I have your back, this changes nothing about our agreement, and you can always come see me for advice.” She looks over, with a slight smile.

“Thank you, Kyle.” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“And Sarina, for what it’s worth, I hope you’re right about your future with Chase. I’ll see you later.”

She then gives him a quick wave before he heads off. She then lets out a sigh as she looks out to the water once again, letting every thought of her life flow through her mind. It didn’t matter what she did, she always found herself in some predicament.

“When am I getting my happily ever after, daddy? You always said I was your little princess and everything would come together. I wanna know when. I can’t keep doing this…”

She then wipes the tear off of her face as she continues to stare outwards, almost blankly.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 108: “He would want me to be here.”

Alan ran his hands through his hair, letting out a sigh as he leaned back in the chair waiting for an update. It’d been a couple hours since the parents had left them to go sit with Chase, and they hadn’t heard a single update yet. The doctors weren’t concerned, saying the rest would be good for him as he would wake up in the next couple hours. However, that didn’t seem to ease the concerns of the crew chief.

“Do you want anything, boss?” Jared Seate asks as he looks over at Alan. Alan shakes his head no as he sends another nothing yet text message to Jimmie Johnson, who had been messaging him every half hour. “Okay. A couple of us are going to grab some coffees and such. If you want anything, just text us.” Alan shakes his head accepting as he watches the crew chief walk away, before returning his eyes to his phone.

He was caught staring at the screen – lost in thought, perhaps worry consuming his mind more than he thought – when he hears the doors open to the private waiting room. He had hoped it would’ve been Ryan and Darrell with news that Chase had woken up, but was caught off guard when he saw a familiar female standing there.

Her eyes darted around the room, before locking with Alan’s as he takes a deep breath before standing up. The crew glanced over, seeing her, unsure of what to do, while the crew chief made his way over.

“Hey Sarina,” was all he could manage at first. He didn’t want to hold anything against her for what happened, but she was the one that put everybody in that position with trusting her brother despite everybody else’s concerns.

“Hey Alan,” she says quietly, feeling emotionally drained. “I came over as soon as I heard that Chase was poisoned. We were sitting at the police station waiting for the detective to come back and he came back and mentioned that Chase was poisoned, brought over to hospital right after. Is he okay?” Alan wanted to bite his tongue and not say anything to her as he didn’t feel she needed to know any details right now. However, taking a deep breath, he knew that wouldn’t fit his driver’s wishes.

“It was a high concentrated stream that he consumed and it affected him big time.” Alan stops, shaking the thought of what happened in the trailer, as he tries to focus on his words. “The doctors feel they caught it quickly enough and gave him the right antidotes and other stuff he needs, but we don’t know for sure the full effects yet. They knocked him out with a sedative as he was fighting it pretty hard, and he hasn’t woken up yet.” Sarina feels her heart drop in her throat in hearing the slim details of how bad it was, and the fact that he was still out cold despite being brought in a couple hours ago.

“Okay, thank yo-”

“What happened with your brother at the station?” Alan didn’t care if he hit a sensitive nerve or not, he needed the details after what he had witnessed.

“It was totally his fault. They found a couple vials mixed in with his things in the trailer when they conducted a search. Everybody telling me that it was him – from Blaney to Christopher to Brad to whoever the hell and even Chase, was right. I was totally wrong. I feel terrible. I know there’s nothing that I can do take it back. I don’t even know how to be forgiven for such a thing. I mean, I should’ve seen the signs. I should’ve done something more. I get if everybody is pissed off and hates me. I mean, who woul-”

“Save the pity trip, Sarina.” Alan wasn’t in the mood to hear a feel bad for me speech in knowing what Chase was going through right now. Besides, he had to admit his own advice for Chase through the process was floating through his mind and perhaps some of his anger towards her. “He’s your brother. He’s your own flesh and blood. You guys grew up together and trusted each other. Anybody can’t fault you for not wanting to see it for all those reasons, no matter how screwed up things may be in your family. Even Chase understands that, and I know he was willing to move forward with you when you made the decision to come back after everything that happ-”

“That was before he was poisoned himself, Alan.” Alan takes a deep breath, understanding her concerns. However, he knew Chase well enough that it would probably get brushed off down the road.

“I know, but I also know how forgiving he can be. You may be surprised at the chance that he will give you, again. Now, what else about your brother?” Sarina just wanted to go see him, but understood the want for answers. She could only wonder what they’d been through with everything going on.

“He’s been charged with procession of drugs, combined with all the counts of poisoning, attempted murder in some respects, and a couple other things. Needless to say, you don’t have to worry about him for a long time if that’s you feel better. I can also tell you he tried to pull the mentally instable line again, which they’re looking into. However, I can damn well tell you that I’m not letting him fall through the cracks again.” Alan felt relief in hearing those words, hoping that Sarina stood by them based on what Chase had told him from his past encounters with Chris.

“Thank you for the assurance, and I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. I know it’s got to be tough on you as I know how much you wanted to rebuild things with him.” She simply accepts his words, not saying much of anything, as she glances towards the doors.

“Which room is he in? I would like to go see him.” Alan took a deep breath, wondering if that was really a good idea given Cindy’s attitude. However, he once again found himself unable to deny her.

“Second door on the right. They’re keeping it down to four visitors at a time, and right now his parents are in there along with Bubba and Ryan.” She then takes a deep breath. She knew that Cindy would probably want to kill her the moment they crossed paths, but she had to see Chase for herself.

“Thank you.” She then walks by the crew chief, heading down the hall to the second door.

She then stops for a second, glancing down at her feet, before looking up. She enters the room slowly, one careful step at a time as she takes in the sight before her. If her heart could’ve dropped any lower, it probably did in that moment standing there, seeing him lying in the bed. He looked so weak with the IV, monitors and ventilator – something that she could’ve never imagined with him.

“And it’s all my fault for not believing everybody…” She whispers to herself, wiping a stray tear off of her face.

“Sarina?!?” Bill questions, surprised to see her there as he looks up from Cindy’s side.

“Hi,” she says very quietly. “I came to see him as soon as I got details that he was here.”

“What about your brother?” Ryan questions, still bitter about what happened to him and the fact that she didn’t take Chase seriously when he passed the message to her.

“Charged on procession and poisoning, and a couple other things, as they found the proof that I needed to see to believe it. I’m sorry Ryan, honestly. I should’ve took the concerns more seriously and done some checking myself. I should’ve done something sooner for both you and Chase’s sake. I’m sorry…” Ryan could only nod and accept her apology. Like Alan, he couldn’t find a voice to yell at her again as he understood her believing her brother.

“So is that assurance that this is the last time we’re stuck in a situation like this, Sarina?” Bill questions. He had been very patient with her through everything, always the first to forgive. However, standing there worried about his son again, he had to admit that he was getting frustrated with everything.

“I can assure you that he won’t slip through any crack and get what he deserves and/or needs for this,” she tells him with certainty in her voice. She knew that was the only thing she could do moving forward if she wanted to make it up to Chase and have a chance for a future.

“Well, I’m glad to hear but you can leave the room now,” Cindy speaks up as she looks away from Chase for the first time, sending a piercing stare through Sarina.

“Cindy, I care about your so-” Sarina starts.

“If you would’ve done something, we never would’ve been here. Did you ever think about that?” Sarina takes a deep breath, wishing that they weren’t having this argument right now.

“I’ve thought about that constantly since hearing the news. I realize it and it’s the biggest regret ever. I don’t know how to ever be fully forgiven or made up for it. I don’t know if there’s any coming bac-”

“There isn’t.” Cindy then stands up and walks over to Sarina, closing the gap between them as she stares at her. “Listen sweetheart, you’re done. I’ve been respectful and held back enough to let you stray and have fun. But that stops now. I can’t handle this and you can’t keep doing this to Chase. It’s unfair of you to take advantage of his sweetness, forgiveness. So why don’t you turn on your heels and march your ass out of this room?”

“Cindy….” Bill walks over, placing a hand on her shoulder. He knew she meant most of what she was saying, but the extra edge was obviously out of worry.

“He still cares about me and I care about him,” Sarina starts. “None of this changes that. We agreed to that in sticking together no matter what happened with Chri-”

“That was before your brother tried to kill him!” Cindy yells. “Now get out!”

“He would want me to be here, so I have a right to be here.” Cindy shakes her head no.

“Bill and I in charge of the situation in being the parents, so what I say goes. Get out of here before I call security!”

“Come on….” Ryan places a hand on Sarina’s shoulder and leads her out as Bill keeps a grip on Cindy, leading her back over to Chase.

“I don’t want to see her ever again….”

“Just take a deep breath, relax, and focus on what’s important,” Bill comments as he gets her settled back in the chair. He knew he would have a discussion with Sarina himself later, followed by some more to come. He didn’t know what direction it would go, still on the fence himself, but he knew this approach wasn’t right.

“Guys….” Darrell comments, noticing a twitch In Chase’s fingers and eyes, re-focusing the attention.

“He’s waking up,” Sarina starts as Ryan pulls her out of the room. “Please, convince her. Let me stay…” Ryan continues leading her way, before pinning her against the wall outside.

“There’s no way in hell that you’re going to get through to Cindy right now so stop pleading,” he states, cutting her off immediately. “Secondly, how would you feel if someone poisoned the person you love dearly and you couldn’t do anything about it? Put yourself in Cindy’s shoes. She’s doing what she believes to protect him. If you want to eventually have a future, I suggest you take a deep breath and consider some respect here. Based on everything that happened, I don’t fault Cindy for what she did.”

“Seriously?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“Chase’s opinion may have changed now. We also don’t know what the future holds for him. There could be brain or muscle damage, Sarina. This shit is no game and you already know how Cindy is from experience. Do us all a favor, and please just give some space. Let Bill and everybody focus on Chase, rather than wasting energy on this.” Sarina knew that Chase was priority as she took a couple deep breathes. Maybe she should’ve given space.

“You’ll text me how he’s doing regularly, right?” Ryan shakes his head yes. “And when he wants me to come see him, and says it with his own words, you’ll text me?” Ryan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s all I ask. Other than that, I guess I have no choice. That’s what I get for what happened….”

She then turns on her heels and walks away, passing by the crew that had stared down the entire scene before them, and out of the door. She clutches her phone in her hand, taking a deep breath.

She just hoped that she got the text message she wanted from Ryan, eventually. Chase was all she had left now.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 107: The Waiting Game

Saturday, July 1

Alan walks into the waiting room with the team in toe. He stops as he sees Bill and Cindy there, taking a glance back at the team with a nod, before continuing to move forward.

The team recognizes the gesture immediately, each taking a respective seat as they give Alan and the parents their distance. They were each worried about their driver, but knew the worry of a parent went further than that. They weren’t about to breach the rules of respect.

“Hey,” Alan says quietly, catching their attention. “Any update?” Bill shakes his head no as he rubs Cindy’s shoulders, who sat in the chair by him.

“They said they brought him in and took him to a room, and for us to wait here for when they had something to say,” Bill replies as Alan could only shake his head. Typically a motion like that meant it was severe.

“I’m sure they’ll have something to tell you soon. I can tell you that we caught it relatively quickly, so that’s always a good thing. Greg mentioned that he was pretty sure he’d be okay.” Bill shakes his head, accepting, but knew he nor Cindy would be relaxed till they saw that for themselves.

“How’d it happen? i mean, I thought Chris was the cause and he was arrested today.” Alan hated to bring up the explanation, and knew once thought about, Chase would probably kick himself in the ass for drinking the bottle.

“Chase normally brings a drink with him outta the motorcoach and sticks it in the trailer fridge till he wants it. The bottle he grabbed was something that he brought out Friday.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief, knowing what that meant.

“So is there enough evidence to keep Chris locked up this time?” Cindy questions, having growing frustrated with him and wanting to give Chris a piece of her own mind. The timing also couldn’t have come any worse, either, given that she had just started to warm up to Sarina some.

“I don’t know,” Alan comments. “Chase was waiting to hear from Sarina on some sor-”

“He still has a thing for her?” Alan stops immediately, having grown used to Cindy’s complaints. In his mind, he wished that she could separate the thoughts of Chris and Sarina from each other.

“Yeah, he does. He was hanging in the lounge, putting off leaving, in hopes of some message in return.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, but wasn’t about to worry about that right now. There were bigger fish to fry, anyway. “Listen, if you guys need anything, we’re all here for you. We’ll give you the space you need, but the second you need something just ask. We care about him and believe me – he’s going to be okay.”

“Thanks Alan,” Bill says as he gives the crew chief a quick hug before Alan heads over to where the team was sitting, taking a seat of his own.

It felt like forever as they sat there waiting for an update of any kind from the doctors in how Chase was doing. They watched as a female entered the room about 15 minutes later, but with no update in hand. Instead, she held a clipboard that she requested be filled out with the necessary information.

Given the emotions of the parents, Greg Morin took the board and sat down, filling out each question step-by-step. With being the team’s pit crew coach, he had gotten to know everybody’s health strengths and weaknesses so he could help them become better through training. It also didn’t hurt that he was keen on keeping files on hand, committed to giving the boys the best care possible should the worst situation happen.

The room then stirred when they saw the door open, with Ryan Blaney entering with Darrell, Erin and Emma in toe.

“You didn’t need to come,” Alan states as he looks towards the young driver. “You should be resting…”

“He stayed all Friday night for me, Alan,” Ryan comments as he takes a seat beside the crew chief. “I owe it back to him to do the same. Besides, I’m worried and I couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. You can ask the girls.” Alan shook his head, understanding, knowing how close Ryan and Chase were as friends.

“Why hasn’t there been an update yet?” Josh Kirk ponders as Greg glances up from his chosen position.

“Because they’re focused on giving him the best care that they can and reason that us worrying a little longer is okay as long as he turns out fine,” Greg comments, having gotten used to protocol through the years. “Just relax. He’ll be fine…” Josh hoped those words were the truth as he could only wonder as to what was going on behind the closed doors down the hall.

“I hate waiting….” Alan lets out as he flips his phone in his hands, having been using it constantly with being put in charge of updates. Dale, Jimmie, Rick and a few others all had requested that they be updated as soon as news surfaced on how Chase was doing. Every once and awhile, the phone would go off with one of them, or someone new, asking if there was any news. Alan continued to send out the usual greeting of nothing yet.

“I wouldn’t tell you that he’d be fine if I didn’t believe it,” Greg assures the crew chief as Alan glances over, shaking his head understanding. He trusted Greg’s judgment, but it was one of those the worry wouldn’t be cured till the words were spoken and he saw it for himself.

The room then goes quiet for the next half hour, followed by them watching closely as the doors open once again with a doctor making his way in, holding a clipboard in his hand. Greg gave a nod to Alan, knowing that an update was right there before them – finally.

“Is every one of you here for Mr. Elliott?” The doctor questions and they shake their heads yes. “Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, do you mind if they hear the update that I am about to give?” Bill shakes his head no, as he knew the news would get back to the team immediately anyway.

“They’re like family to Chase – they deserve to know,” Bill reasons as he continues his duty of rubbing Cindy’s shoulders, trying to keep her calm.

“To start off, my name is Dr. Blakely Hanken, and I am in charge of the poison control for the Daytona area, but better known as a toxicology expert. If you have any questions as to the job, I’m sure Mr. Blaney can help you out. By the way, are you feeling better?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“It’s subsiding more and more,” Ryan comments. “I just wish I wasn’t back here once again.” The doctor shakes his head, understandly.

“I didn’t want to see you on these conditions, either,” Dr Hanken replies, before looking back to Bill and Cindy. “Well I’m not supposed to tell you for certain yet or not due to possible complications and such, I can assure you that I’m more than certain your son will be okay.” Cindy felt her nerves twitch on the thought of complications, but tried to stick with believing the words that the doctor was telling her about being okay.

“Can we go see him, please?” Cindy asks, almost begging. She knew seeing him would be the quickest way to ease worries.

“I would like to explain how he is doing first, and then most certainly you may.” Cindy lets out a sigh of relief, glad that she was going to get her wish. She just hoped it came as quick as possible. “We did confirm that there was poison in the drink through testing, and the same type as Mr. Blaney had digested on Friday. However, Mr. Elliott’s symptoms were stronger as a result of a stronger stream being used.” Bill felt his anger boiling, knew that it had been the perfect set-up by Chris in knowing Chase’s common theme of behavior.

“Not surprised, to be honest,” Greg whispers to Alan as they listen in. “It had to be a pretty strong dosage for him to be like he was.” Alan shakes his head, in agreement, though wishes they could just get to the bottom of how Chase was doing.

“We immediately started him on two antidotes, counter-acting the effects immediately to try and ease the symptoms, as well as any other damage that could occur. We also gave him a dosage of an anti-epileptic medicine as a result of the twitching that he was going through. So far, the treatment is working as we’ve seen his heart rate steady out. However, it will take some time to fully work.” Greg knew the process, having seen it previously. He was glad that everything was stabilizing, though, as that meant that things were turning out alright.

“What do you mean by possible ‘other damage’?” Bill questions, now feeling the same worry that Cindy had in the word ‘complications’.

“Brain damage and muscle damage are among the two biggest things to watch for,” Dr. Hanken answers. “With any poisoning, it’s a risk of happening. Thankfully, Mr. Blaney had a low dosage and a quick action against it that he had nothing. With Mr. Elliott, the risk is a little higher based on the higher concentrate of the stream and bigger dosage. We believe that we caught it quick enough to prevent that, but we won’t know until we get into the full healing process.” Bill knew that meant they were going to be in a waiting game, and knew the patience for both him – but especially Cindy – would wear thin through the progress.

“And how long till we know for sure?” Dr. Hanken knew there was no answer to that question just yet.

“That varies depending on how he accepts the treatment and how his body heals. We’ll just have to wait and see. I wish I could snap my fingers and have an answer, but it doesn’t work like that. Now with the dosage, we did give him a sedative because he was quite agitated by the pain and motions it was putting him through. As a result, he is sleeping right now but should be waking up in the next two to four hours. Once he wakes up, we can begin to take steps towards finding everything out that you’re asking me about.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. He could only hope they were calm through it all.

“Can we go see him while he sleeps, though?” Cindy questions and Dr. Hanken shakes his head yes.

“I’m going to also warn you before you go in that he is on a ventilator right now,” Dr. Hanken adds, causing a shocked expression from both the parents. “With the fact that he was experiencing chest pain and stating it was difficult to breathe at times, we did that for precautionary reasons. Once he shows signs that the treatment is working and everything is returning to normal, we can remove and go from there.” Bill continues rubbing Cindy’s shoulders as she just shakes her head in disbelief. “For right now, let’s try and keep the visitor number at around four at a time maximum, please.”

“Bill and Cindy, you guys go ahead,” Alan instructs. “Ryan and Bubba, you guys can go to. We’ll hang back here and then once we wakes up, we can take turns. He needs you guys…”

“Okay,” Bill simply replies as he and Cindy stand up together.

“I’ll come out with an update here and there,” Darrell adds as he and Ryan go to follow the parents.

With each step, Cindy took a deep breath, reminding herself of the words that he’d be okay, everything was starting to work step-by-step, and the ventilator was for precautionary reasons. Though while her brain kept repeating it, her heart felt like it had sank as she thought the words over, and glanced in the room at him.

“Remember – he’s going to be okay,” Bill whispers, rubbing her shoulder once again as they walk into the room together, followed by Ryan and Darrell. Bill knew he had to be the strong one, despite feeling a need to crave to the same worries, having already seen how Cindy had reacted. He leads her to the chair by his bed, helping her sit down. “Remember that…”

“I just can’t believe this,” she says quietly as she wraps her fingers around his hand, bending down and kissing it. “I just can’t….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 106: “Chase, are you alright?”

Saturday, July 1

Chase lies back on the couch, glancing at his phone every five minutes. All he could do was hope for a ding and the fact that Sarina was looking for him to talk over what had happened.

He thought about making the first move to contact her first, but knew how that’d go. If she still believed her brother was innocent, that’d just push the pair of them further apart. If she had figured that her brother was guilty, she was probably coming to terms with it and he didn’t want to get in the midst of that. He knew she’d reach out when she was ready, as she had done that in the past for him. Again, it was motto and he had gotten used to it by now.

He thought about getting up and leaving, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. He knew the minute he got in the plane and flew home, she would probably text him in want to meet up. Hence why he continued to convince himself to wait a little longer. Besides, it wasn’t like he had any big appointment to get to right away.

He brings up another game on his phone, letting himself get lost in it. Though as he does, he feels the odd feeling as if his body is warming up more than normal. A little confused, he feels his head and realizes a fever has set in.

“Great…” he says to himself. He knew the lack of sleep from the night before, combined with lack of eating today due to the Sarina situation and pushing himself hard throughout the event had pushed his body to his limits. If he had to bet, he was probably coming down with something.

Knowing that he had to take care of himself, he shut off the game and set his phone on the small table in the middle of the lounge. He lays his head back, allowing his eyes to drift close, knowing that he should at least take advantage of the quiet waiting time to grab a nap. Perhaps he woke up later on, everything would be clearer.

Just as he was about to fall asleep, he got the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. Jumping up as quickly as he could, he runs outta the trailer into the closest porta-potty, instantly feeling relief as it seems everything was flying out of him. Yep, he had certainly pushed himself too far now. He knew that lots of sleep over the next couple of days, combined with a healthy regimen of good food would be necessary as he wasn’t about to let himself get sick mid-season.

Coming out of the porta-potty, he makes his way back into the lounge and lays back down. He thought about leaving, but the pondering thought of a possible text message, combined with the fact that he didn’t want to fly and have to go again resulted in a return to the trailer. Based on the guys outside, he knew he still had a couple hours to spare before they were leaving.

As he gets comfortable on the couch, he feels a severe pain in his stomach, causing both hands to immediately go there as he lets out a groan. He almost thought he had to go to the bathroom again, but knew that wasn’t the case.

“Oh man….” was all he could let out as he felt the pain through him. Forget trying to avoid getting sick as he could feel that he had already gotten himself sick. Given the pains in his stomach, he knew his body was either cramping up or set to unload the other way. Perhaps flying home with the team or his parents would be a better option when he decided to leave.

As he tries to relax himself, he feels his leg move suddenly, causing confusion to surface through him.

“Muscles, please…” He pleads, believing it was a combination of pushing himself too hard, combined with lack of nutrition and sleep. Perhaps there was some dehydration mixed in based on the fact he had drank the whole bottle of juice.

Reaching for his phone, he thought about contacting his parents, Alan, or Greg Morin to discuss how he was feeling. He knew that his parents and Alan would want him to get checked out, but based on the stomach cramps, that may be a good idea. He knew calling Greg would result in suggestions as to how to feel better, considering the guy was team genius.

As the pain continued to increase his stomach, he felt it extend to his chest as he tried to sit up, attempting to take deep breaths.

“Holy crap!” He lets out as he flops back on the couch, hands finding their way back to his stomach with the pain making it seem as though his stomach was on fire. He closes his eyes, focusing on deep breathes, knowing that the phone call was probably in the best interest.

“Chase?” He hears, not even glancing up as the door to the lounge opens. Alan sees the man sitting there, arms wrapped around his stomach, eyes squinting as he immediately rushes forward. “Chase, are you alright?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Fever….diarrhea….stomach cramps….chest pain…” He then twitches once again as Alan wraps both arms around the young man. Chase then looks as though he’s set to vomit so Alan grabs the garbage can, placing it between his legs as he watches him kneel over, emptying whatever was left in his stomach in the pail. “Oh man…”

“Guys!!!!” Alan had his theories on Chase – thinking he could be sick, combination of everything, but also knew the one thing that was stuck in his mind. “Guys!!” The lounge door opens once again as four of the crew members stand there, facing the boss, eyes then going in shock as they look at their driver. “One of you go get Greg out of Kahne’s hauler, please. Someone else go to the infield care center. Hurry!” The crew members glance at each other, pointing in directions as they take off in groups of two. “Chase, it’s going to be okay….”

“Oh my gosh!” Chase lets out as he feels the pain in his stomach growing even more, with the chest pain even increasing just a touch. It was while holding him that Alan noticed the bottle on the table.

“Your just drank that, right?” Chase shakes his head yes. “Chase, where did it come from?”

“My motorcoach. I brought it over on Fri….Oh shit!” Alan immediately felt his suspicions coming true as he kept his arms around Chase, holding him, letting him throw up once again.

“You’re going to be okay….” The lounge door opens once again as Travis Gordon leads Greg Morin into the lounge. Greg takes one look at Chase, before going over and kneeling before him. “Pretty sure he’s been poisoned, thanks to that..” Greg immediately gripped Chase’s wrist with his hand, eyes focused on the young man before him.

“What’s bugging you, Chase?” Greg asks in the most sympathetic voice he could muster. Chase then closes his eyes, biting his tongue as he feels the pain increase. “Chase?” Greg then glances at Alan. “Talk to me…”

“He says he has a fever,” Alan starts as Greg feels his forehead with his free hand, confirming the theory. “He ran off to the bathroom once already quickly and he’s thrown up twice. You can add stomach cramps really bad, he’s shook in my arms at least twice, and he says he’s got chest pain.” Greg knew they could handle the list for the most part till help got there, having heard that two other guys had headed off the care center. However, the last concerning piece bugged him.

“Chase, is your chest really sore?” Chase shakes his head yes as he wraps his arms around his stomach tighter. “Does it hurt to breathe?” Chase shakes his head yes as Greg tightens his grip on Chase’s wrist a little. “Okay, buddy. I need to focus. I need you to stay with me. I need to focus on taking deep breathes and trying to relax as much as possible. We’ve got help on the way…”

“Breathe, Chase…” Alan rubs his back as Chase tries to focus on their words, though feels blinded by the pain. “Breathe buddy….”

“Focus on those deep breathes, please.” Greg then counts the pulse that he feels on the wrist, making a mental note as he knew it was lower than normal, based on knowing Chase’s levels from training. “Stay focused on us. I know it hurts, but you’re going to be okay….”

Greg and Alan remained in their positions, continuing to coach Chase, till they heard the door open once again, with Chad Avrit leading two of the infield medical officials in.

Greg quickly briefs them on the list of symptoms and what he had realized as Alan backs away, giving them their space with him. It wasn’t long before they had him on a stretcher and out of the lounge, as Alan leans back against the wall, wiping his hands down his face with a deep breath.

“Greg, is he going to be okay?” Alan questions as Greg goes to leave. Greg looks at the crew chief and shakes his head yes.

“If you catch these things early enough, he’ll be fine,” Greg answers. “Call Cindy and Bill. Tell them to go over. it’s going to be a long night, probably, but he will be okay.” Alan shakes his head accepting as he watches the pit crew coach leave.

“Do you want me to call Bill?” Chad Avrit questions and Alan shakes his head no. “Okay. We’re almost done loading up and then we’re going to head over. Is that okay?” Alan shakes his head yes, knowing the team would want to be there for their driver.

“Wait for us and you can come with one of us,” Travis adds as he goes to follow Chad out. “You’re in no shape to go over by yourself right now.” Alan knew Travis was right as he immediately accepted the offer.

Once the boys were back outside finishing up their duties, he picks up Chase’s phone from the table and places it in his pocket as he knew he’d want it later. He then takes his own phone, taking a deep breath, as he begins the necessary phone call to Bill, followed by Rick.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 105: Coke Zero 400

Saturday, July 1

 

Chase walks out to pit road, sunglasses affixed on his face, as he makes his way by his fellow competitors.

If he wasn’t so hard on himself about commitment, he probably would’ve stayed locked in the motorcoach till everything shook itself out with how he was feeling.

Once he had finished the conversation with Sarina, he met up with the team for a discussion about the race that day. The conversation wasn’t needed – but it was a good distraction for him to have. He went through the sponsor appearances, and then forced himself to eat something as he knew racing on an empty stomach would not go well at all.  He retreated back to the motorcoach, hiding out as he waited for a text or something from Sarina, making sure to head out to pit road just before start time.

Now following his introduction, he was hoping it’d just be a matter of minutes before he was in his own world strapped in the car.

“Chase!” He hears, stopping and rolling his eyes immediately as he turns in the direction of the voice. He could only roll them again as he noticed it was Kyle Busch making his way over. “Dude, have you seen Chris at all today?” Chase shakes his head no. “Damn. I heard there’s an arrest warrant out for him?”

“Ryan says that Chris poisoned him,” Chase states, knowing it was just a matter of time before the truth came out. Like Ryan had done the good duty in warning him, he had done the good duty in warning Kyle with him being Sarina’s boss. “Combined with Jared’s comment, it’s added up to enough for a warrant.”

“Sarina wouldn’t say much, but I thought that was the case. I haven’t seen him either, and truthfully, she hasn’t seen him as she’s been hanging around Christopher and I all day.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that had to be a great combination as nothing like hearing another round of Bell worries. “She went looking for her brother, and couldn’t find him, so she found us instead. We convinced her that we’d help look, but also watch just because.”

“Glad you had better luck than I did.” Chase knew he shouldn’t say too much, but as he took off his glasses to truly face Kyle, he knew it was worth saying. “Look, I went to her after Ryan told me and flat out told her what I thought. I said what Ryan said, and I said how I agreed based on the facts. She wasn’t too pleased, denied it entirely, was mad at me for that and walked out.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“She had told me you guys had a disagreement about it…” Chase knew that was putting it mildly.

“Kyle, I love her. I really do love her and I want to spend as much time as I can possibly muster with her. I want to see us work this out and everything be fine for us. I know I was a little over baring in what I said, but it’s how I felt. Just promise me that you’ll keep an eye out for her, please.” Kyle shakes his head, accepting. He could see the emotions in Chase’s eyes as he told him.

“I will, without a doubt. None of this is her fault or your fault. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way back together. Good luck.” Chase smiles, glad there was an understanding. It felt better to be on the same page this time around, unlike last time.

“Thanks Kyle, and same to you.” He then puts his sunglasses back on, continuing the long walk down pit road to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat on the pole.

He then leans back against it, easily doing the required pre-race interviews without much emotion showing through. He then accepted a photo opportunity with the boss, Dale and Amy, though kept quiet the whole time. Alan had picked up on the events that had taken place, silently assuring the young man that he had his back.

Standing there for the anthem, Chase had to admit that it felt lonely standing there without a hand to hold onto from Sarina. It even felt worse climbing in the car without a kiss, yet knowing she was somewhere on the property.

Once buckled in the car with the window net up, he takes a deep breath and focuses his eyes forward. He couldn’t think about Chris anymore. He couldn’t think about Sarina anymore. It was time for him to win a race tonight.

As the field pulls off pit road, Sarina sat up near the top of the grandstands with Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland. She affixed her headset on, tuning it to listen into Chase’s radio transmission. She was mad at him, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t care as she wanted to see him have a good, fun, safe night. She also held her phone tightly to her, trying her brother’s number every 15 minutes in hopes that he’d surface; it was very concerning to not know where he was. She was actually surprised the police let her go after a half hour of questioning.

“Be aggressive like you were in February all night,” Alan tells Chase over the radio and Sarina smiles. She’d have no problem with Chase putting himself in the same position as he did in the 500, but with a win this time around.

“Yes sirey bob,” Chase replies, which earns a small chuckle from Sarina.

The race started off well with Chase solidly running up front through the first stage without any problems. He also started off stage two well, putting himself in solid position. Sometimes he right at the front of the pack, and sometimes he started to fade back a little – it was all about putting yourself in the right lane.

As the second stage drew closer towards the end, the pack continued to close up more and more and chaos seemed to be happening more with nerves on edge. Contact was happening through the field as everybody seemed to want to bump draft. Going down the backstretch, trapped on the bottom lane, Chase felt a bump from behind, followed by the car going sideways as he went sliding through the grass. He managed to gather it up without a lot of damage, but felt frustration immediately in knowing who had turned him.

“That damn 95 (Michael McDowell) wrecks me one more time…..Damn it,” he starts off on the radio. “What in the hell is that MFer’s problem man? That is the biggest dumbass I’ve seen in my life. That dumbass can’t drive a wooden screw. Damn it.” Alan takes a deep breath, surprised at how quickly Chase went off as that certainly wasn’t like their driver. However, he understood that some of that frustration certainly wasn’t directed right at McDowell.

“We got a long way to go here, calm down and get back into it,” Alan instructs over the radio as he sits back on the pit box.

“Not much damage at all – maybe splitter a little,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt reports from his vantage point as Alan looks towards the crew, knowing that they had to put a game plan in action so they could fight back through the second half.

“Alan,” Alan hears after feeling a tap on his shoulder. He slips the headset off, looking over at Josh. “Is everything okay with Chase? I mean, he normally doesn’t flip that bad.” Alan could only let out a sigh.

“You’ve heard about the arrest warrant for Chris, right?” Alan questions, making sure not to cue the radio by accident as the car chief shakes his head yes. “Well, how would you feel if your girlfriend’s brother poisoned your best friend? Let’s just say that they had a little bit of a fight.”

“Do you think they’re going to work it out?” Alan shrugs his shoulders, as he wasn’t exactly sure. He believed in them, though, and had hopes that they’d be back to their usual togetherness next weekend at Kentucky.

“We’ll see. Right now, though, we have a race to focus on.” Josh shakes his head yes as he puts his headset back on, watching as the pit crew goes to work to fix the damage.

The second half of the race went smoother as Chase found his way out of trouble, working his way back to the top-10 to run 11th with three laps to go. However, all their hard work did not pan out as he would get spun just past the overtime line, resulting in a 22nd-place finish.

With the race over, Chase made his way back to the garage, parking the car in front of the hauler and climbing out. He shakes his head in disbelief as he glances back at it, before looking towards the guys heading his way.

“You did what you needed to do behind the wheel,” Josh says as he walks over first, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Nothing you can do about rotten luck and circumstance here.”

“I know – I just hate it because we had a good car,” Chase comments as he lets out a sigh.

“We’ll get them in Kentucky. Good effort, considering.” Chase shakes his head as he walks by the rest of the guys, giving them each a quick high-five or shoulder pat, before coming face-to-face with Alan.

“Relax, take a deep breath, and chill,” Alan tells him quietly. “I know you have a shit ton of bullshit going on right now. It’s going to work out, if it’s meant to be. Just don’t do something you regret.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Did they find him?” Chase wonders, referring to Sarina’s brother and Alan shakes his head yes. “Did he take it easily?” Alan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s good. Have you seen Sarina?”

“One of Kyle’s guys came and told me that she went with her brother for support.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“She still doesn’t believe it….” Alan then watches Chase closely.

“Would you believe it, in her shoes?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Like I said, don’t do something you’ll regret. Let her stand by him and do what she needs to do. Everything is going to come out and then afterwards, if it’s meant to be, you’ll find each other again.” Chase knew that Alan was right.

“I know…” Chase then heads up into the hauler, stopping at the fridge on the way by.

On Friday, he had grabbed his usual bottle of juice and placed it in the hauler so that way it was there to drink when he wanted it. Considering that he didn’t get thirsty yesterday, it was still there.

Taking off the cap, he takes a mouthful and lets it go down his throat as he lets out a sigh. He was sweaty and hot, but it was nice to have something cold to cool himself off, and hopefully find some sort of relaxation.

With the bottle in hand, he heads up to the lounge in the hauler, lying back on the couch as he takes a couple more sips. He figured he could chill out there for awhile, waiting to see how things shook out, before actually getting ready to head home.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 101: Suspicions and Villain?

Thursday, June 29

Christopher Bell takes a deep breath as he sits back, watching the pair hang out together. He knew the promise that he had made Sarina about keeping his distance, but he couldn’t help but wonder right now.

He watches as Chase heads off, set to begin his duties for the day. He then takes a deep breath, making his way over to where she was.

“Sarina!” He lets out, catching her attention as she gives him a quick smile.

“Hey Christopher,” she replies as he shoves his hands in his pocket, nerves building. “I’m surprised to see you down here on an off-week.”

“Figured I’d get to know the guys a little that I am going to work with later on this year.” Sarina shakes her head, having seen the announcement that Christopher was going to run select XFINITY events this season.

“I can’t argue with that logic, especially considering this weekend normally produces a great race.” He glances away, debating whether he should open his mouth or not, before looking back towards her.

“You can yell at me if I’m crossing the line or whatever, but I’m going to say this because I’m damn well worried. How much can you trust your brother? It just seems when there’s been poisoning incidents, he’s either been hard to trace. There was also mention from Jared that he was around then. I’m just wondering if history is repeating itself.” Sarina crosses her arms, looking at Christopher in the eyes, doing everything she could to not punch him then and there.

“So you’re saying that my brother is behind this?” Christopher didn’t know if he could say that exact quite yet.

“I’m saying it could be a possibility. I mean, KBM crew member, followed by JGR crew member, and then Hendrick crew member. You also add in Darrell Wallace, and there’s just some odd connections there, along with what I said already.” Sarina was really resisting the urge to punch him now.

“And for what bloody reason would he be doing this, Bell?” Christopher then put his hands up, defensively.

“Look, I don’t know. Jealousy? Spite? I’m just saying that we should consider all avenues. I mentioned it to Kyle and he said it was nothing. Chase has heard, too, and he said it’s nothing either. I just thought I’d be the polite one to warn you of the thought incase it is reality.” Sarina then takes her sunglasses off, closing the gap between the pair as she looks at Christopher in the eyes.

“What did I tell you a couple weeks ago? Do you remember?” He shakes his head yes.

“To stay out of your life.”

“Then why don’t you start doing that, jackass?” She then puts her sunglasses on, turning around and heading the other direction as she lets out an aggravated sigh.

She made her way through the garage area, trying to shake off the conversation with Christopher. However, as she thought about it more, she couldn’t help but see what was being said. Besides, there was the odd comment that he made before.

Instead of heading into the 24 hauler as she had originally planned, she went and found where her brother was hanging out.

“Can we talk?” She asks him as he looks over and shakes his head yes. “There’s suspicion about you surrounding the poisonings. People are saying that your location has been hard to place at time of events, combined with your questionable past. I don’t want to be an ass, but do you have something to say?” Chris shakes his head no.

“Why would I do such a thing?” He questions. “I told you before that I felt bad for everything that happened during that time, and I didn’t mean it. Why would I go back to those ways?” Sarina felt confident in his answer, as that was she had tried to tell herself when Christopher approached her.

“It’s just you made mention how I can never let my past go and it will always be a part of me.” He shakes his head, remembering the comment.

“I meant that you can’t just change your name and try and forget what happened. It’s something that’s part of who you are, and shapes what you do. Just because you try and forget it, or escape those people, doesn’t mean that it never happened as it may seem. I was trying to get you to think about coming to peace with everything and agreeing to the family reunion, possibly.” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was still never a possibility.

“I told you what I thought about that, so can we not talk about it?” He shakes his head, accepting.

“You asked, I answered. I just wonder whether you’re forgetting your own family because you feel your new adopted family is better since there’s not all this chaos in members who you don’t agree with. I actually asked my psychologist about that one. He said it’s possible, but not true. Who knows…” Chris then walks away, as Sarina looks on confused.

She then shakes her head knowing that had nothing to do with her thought process. Her reason for ignoring the reunion was simple – she didn’t want to involve with the people that twisted her life upside down to begin with, as there were no words they could say to bring her parents back, or forgive themselves for what had happened.

Taking a deep breath, she reminds herself of the advice heard from those around her and decides to put it at the back of her mind, focusing instead on the upcoming day ahead.

The same couldn’t be said for her brother, who was now wondering whether the plan he and Bethany had put together was really going to pay off. If they were being found intriguing now, how were they going to pull off the next couple of rounds?

He then took out his phone, dialing her number, hoping for some reasoning.

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

Chase walks into the trailer, flopping back on the couch as he rolls his eyes.

“Well you look pleased…” Sarina comments, noticing his actions as he looks over at her.

“Media center availability – such fun, huh?” He questions as she looks on confused. “Oh, did you not see the lovely questions that they decided to go with?” She shakes her head no.

He then pulls out his phone, pulling up the transcript before handing it over to her.

YOU ARE SECOND TO DALE ON THE LAST LAP HERE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
“I am just hoping I have the right push to get around him.”

NO HESITATION TO PASS HIM?
“Absolutely not. I wouldn’t think twice about it if I had an opportunity to pass him. I am not going to let anybody win. Would you?”

“Why would they even ask if you would think of finishing second to someone?” Sarina questions as she hands him his phone back. “I mean, that’s just ridiculous! Everybody knows that every single racecar driver is going to go for the win, no matter who the hell is in front of them and what it means to that person.”

“Thank you,” Chase accepts her comment.

“So why the aggravation?” He then lets out a sigh as he opens up twitter.

“It’s just hearing the question to begin with, as you expressed, and now the local media is turning it into a big deal in how I’m the mean butthead that won’t help my teammate.” She then chuckles as she couldn’t believe it.

“Chase Elliott the villain? What has happened?” He shrugs his shoulders. “To be honest, that’s just ridiculous. I mean, I don’t even get how that happened. That person whoever they are should be banned from media centers for the rest of their life. By the way, is today ridiculous day or what? It goes along the lines of everything else today.” Chase then looks over, confused. “Would you believe that Christopher Bell thinks that I should be worried about my own brother hurting people?”

“Really?” She shakes her head yes.

“He came up to me today and made mention of it, trying to convince me and playing his damn worry card again. You can tell how far that went.” Chase could only imagine the drawback that Christopher got, but wondered if it was really warranted as he had his thoughts about her brother, too.

“I wouldn’t want to be him….”

“Of course, I did talk to my brother. By his answer, I say there’s not a thing to worry about – except the fact that he may be attending the family reunion. He also made mention that I may be avoiding my family because I don’t think of them that way anymore, due to having become a part of this adopted racing family and only thinking of that. Like, I’m using an avoidance measure.”

Chase about opened mouth on the comment as it only added to the theory about her brother being involved. By poisoning people, he could be taking charge against her new adopted family out of jealousy. It went along perfect with him saying that nobody could fix him and his other previous comments.

Shaking his head, he knew that it was probably just his own fear talking based on what had happened in the past. He had to remember that was all gone now, thanks to the great work of the doctors.

“Chase?” She questions, caught off-guard by his silence as he looks over.

“Sorry, just got busy reading a tweet,” he lies, not wanting to say something. He knew that she’d flip on him. It was why he was going to stick to what he had told both Alan and Kyle – concrete evidence before suspicion discussed. “Based on what you’ve been through, I wouldn’t blame you if you are using it as an avoidance measure because I would be doing that, too. However, to be fair, your reasons for not going are logical and you don’t need to defend yourself. If he’s really making you pick sides, then he’s not the sweet caring brother that you need in your life – no matter how you put it in needing each other. Don’t let him upset you, okay?” She shakes her head, accepting.

“And what do I do about ding-a-ling?” Chase had to laugh at her nickname for Christopher.

“The police have leads and interest into everything. Once it’s solved, you can rub it in his face that he was wrong and to stop doing what he’s doing. For now, just try and keep things work related between you guys, and if a problem arises speak to Kyle.” He then sets his phone down, wrapping an arm around her. “I thought we were supposed to be enjoying being in Florida together, getting a chance to soak up the sun rays and have some fun.”

“You’re the one that came in here all sulky because of a dumb reporter….” He then smiles, knowing that was true.

“Well, what do you say we forget about that and your ding-a-ling problem, and we focus on having some fun? I’m going to go run this practice session, and then we should go to the beach.” She smiles, liking that idea.

“Can I bury you in the sand?” He knew he’d hate that with how it would tickle, but it’d be a nice change in pace.

“I don’t see why not.”

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

Chase relaxes back in the trailer, glancing over at Alan as he types up the last bit of notes.

“I thought you’d be long gone to the beach by now,” Alan comments as he notices Chase sitting there.

“Actually, I need to tell you something instead,” Chase says, catching the crew chief’s attention. “Bell approached Chris about all of our concerns in him being involved, by the way. Sarina told me before practice. She said that he mentioned how there’s suspicions, playing the worry card, and wondering if maybe she could look into it.” Alan was hoping something would be said, but obviously didn’t want to be the one to do it because he didn’t want to get in the midst of their relationship. He knew he should buy Christopher a Christmas card now.

“What’d she say?” Chase rolls his eyes, remembering the response.

“She said she talked to her brother, actually. By his answers, though, she’s not worried about anything as she feels he’s innocent and same deal that we’ve said about coincidence.” Alan then closes his laptop, focusing on Chase. The notes could wait as safety was paramount – especially considering there had been talk of a bomb threat around Daytona, with police even investigating it at one point during the day. Like everything else so far, those cops found nothing.

“Coincidence was something we discussed, but you also said there were worries with what he said to you, too.” Chase knew that, as those words continued to haunt him.

“He told me that nobody could fix him, no matter what I did in trying to catch him as they had tried before. It’s the stupidest line, but I guess it makes me question the whole tumor theory and whether it’s a fix or not.” Alan shakes his head, understanding.

“You know, I’ve heard about people in his situation that have changed after having a tumor removed. So it’s not too far fetched. I also get why you’re worried, though, because of what you saw and your own fear speaking. Now, did Sarina mention anything else?” Chase shakes his head yes.

“He told her that she may be avoiding her family reunion because she doesn’t think of them in that way no more, due to having found a new family in racing. I don’t want to sound strange here, Alan, but what if he’s behind the attacks and the reason is he wants to eliminate her new family piece by piece out of jealousy? He’s so fixated on rekindling what they had, the past, not holding a regret against actions made – what if this is out of spite?” Alan knew the theory could be on to something, and was glad he hadn’t changed his thought process.

“Now do you see why I told you to be extra careful?” Chase shakes his head yes. “Promise me that will continue?” He shakes his head yes, once again. “Have you thought about talking to the authorities?”

“I don’t want to say anything right now till we have some sort of proof. I don’t want to throw the trust that Sarina and I have away because of a fear and theory that I have. I’d rather make sure I’m right, first. Besides, they already have him on their list.” Alan knew that, having heard what Jared had told them.

“That’s fair and understandable, and for your sake – I hope he is not the one behind everything.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 97: Michigan

Sunday, June 18

Chase wakes up the next morning, getting himself some breakfast.

Remembering how well practice went and how last year was, confidence seemed to come easy that morning. They just had to put together a solid 400 miles and perhaps today would be the day.

He was focused on eating his breakfast when he heard a knock at the door.

He gets up and walks over, half-expecting his parents. That would’ve been fine with him, considering it was father’s day and there was nothing wrong with seeing them anytime.

Though when he opens the door, he sees Alan standing there, catching him off-guard. They hadn’t agreed to any pre-race meeting.

“Good morning,” he says as he lets the crew chief in with ease.

“Morning,” Alan replies simply as he walks inside. He then sits on the couch as Chase walks by him to where his plate sat on the table. “Whatcha eating?”

“Bacon, eggs, toast and some orange juice. I would’ve made you some if you would’ve told me you were coming.” Alan chuckles, having grown used to some of their pre-race breakfast meetings. It was always a good weekend when they avoided those as that meant no last minute discussions.

“Sorry for the surprise visit. I actually came by because something came to my attention this morning, courtesy of Jared.” Chase then looks over, curious. It was never good when the crew members brought something to their chief’s attention.

“So why are we starting at the back this week then?” Alan looks on surprised by the response.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the racecar, actually.” Chase was now even more confused. First the surprise meeting, followed by a finding by a crew member. “Do you remember when Bubba passed out last week during his post-race interview?”

“He was dehydrated, pissed at himself. I texted him later on to see how he was.” Alan shakes his head, surprised at how underwraps it had been kept.

“Welcome to your latest incident under the poison investigation. Jared said they pulled him for more questioning on whether he recognized anybody that was seen around the RPM pit or Bubba post-race with drinks that had been around him a couple weeks ago.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief.

“No way….” Alan shakes his head yes. “You’d think Bubba would’ve said something, considering he knows one of my crew members had been affected already.”

“It seems as though NASCAR and Richard Petty Motorsports wanted to keep it under wraps. You want to see the headlines when it gets out that a driver was poisoned? Hello paranoia 101, especially considering all the headlines about him going into the weekend.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, as he had seen the comments already by people on social media. He wished people could just leave the racism behind them, and get with the 21st century.

“Well, they are doing a good job at it…” Alan watches Chase carefully as he notices the young man thinking. “What?”

“Speak, please….” Chase lets out a sigh.

“Christopher Bell mentioned to Kyle that Sarina’s brother has been at the track every time something has happened. They flew in for Sunday’s race once she was done racing at Texas. Again, it’s another time that it checks out. Plus, we still can’t place him for that one time remember.” Alan crosses his arms.

“So you’re starting to believe the theory more and more based on what he told you that day, which you haven’t told me yet, and coincidence? Just by chance, have you said anything to Sarina?” Chase shakes his head no immediately.

“What evidence do I have to go by? She’ll think that it’s coming completely from left field, that I’m paranoid, and shoot it back in my face. Heck, I might as well kiss the progress that I’ve made away.” Alan knew there was a good chance of that, but he couldn’t let his own guard down.

“And what if something happens to you, or this gets outta control? I mean, we’ve been alright so far with everybody being fine. But what if the worse happens?” Chase knew there was a chance of that, but he wasn’t changing his approach.

“Right now, I believe that it is my own paranoia just because of what happened and the fact that I can never trust him, ever. However, if there’s any sign of evidence, I will be the first one to be knocking at her door.” Alan shakes his head in agreement. It seemed like a good plan. “Now, can we focus on today?”

“Of course. We have some goals to accomplish, right?” Chase smiles and shakes his head yes.

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

Sarina takes a deep breath as she looks into the graveyard. She clutches the rose to her chest, taking another deep breath, before walking forward. She slowly walks down the walkaway, hearing the footsteps in toe. It had been last minute, but she was glad that she had company.

“Thank you for coming,” she whispers quietly as she looks back over her shoulder at Marcus.

“It’s not a problem,” he replies as he pats her shoulder lightly, before giving her some space. “Your brother didn’t want to come?” She shakes her head no.

“In his mind, my father caused his own problems and only made my brother’s life worse.” She shakes her head as she stops, glancing down at her feet. “He could be further from the truth, actually. He was trying to help him, even if he went about it the wrong way.”

“Take your time. I’ll stand here and just watch over, or come closer if you want. I can give you a hug, hear you out. Whatever you need, Sarina.” She shakes her head, accepting, as she takes another careful deep breath. She then makes her way onto the grass, walking up to the stone as she places the rose on top.

“Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Just like every other year, I’m here to say the same thing – I miss you, and wish you were here with me every day. You always my inspiration, and the reason why I think I took the chaotic life that I did. I wish you were here to see where I am now, and watch me drive for someone as amazing as Kyle. Heck, I wish you could meet Chase. I know you were always a Darrell Waltrip fan and wanted him to wreck Bill one night, but heck – his kid turned out amazing.” Marcus couldn’t help but chuckle at that comment.

“So your dad wasn’t the biggest Elliott fan?” She shakes her head.

“He was one of those ones that desired the crazier personalities, like Waltrip. Maybe that’s why I’m a little hard-headed and stubborn sometimes, just like him.” Sarina stops, taking a deep breath. “I miss you. I hope you’re proud of me. I wish you were here. Thank you for everything….” She then turns around, wiping a stray from her eyes. She then keeps walking, feeling her legs to start to give out. Marcus instantly reaches out, grabbing her and pulling her close.

“Ssssh, it’s okay. I’ve got you….” He keeps her held close as he rubs her back. “I’ve got you….”

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

Chase unlocks the door, walking in the house and shutting it behind him. He slips his shoes off as he sets his phone on the table.

It had been a solid day, capped off with another runner-up finish. While he wanted to be disappointed, he couldn’t be as they finished better than they ran all day, and that’s all you could ask for. He knew if they kept working at it, his day would come.

He looks into the living room, smiling as he sees her curled up on the couch. Marcus had texted him earlier about their quick trip to New York. He makes his way into the living room, grabbing the blanket off of the other chair, and slipping it over her.

“Chase?” She says a little groggy, looking up at him. “Hey babes…”

“Hey,” he replies as she sits up. “How are you?” She then lets out a sigh as she looks around the room.

“How long have I been sleeping for?” He shrugs his shoulders, showing her what time it was. “Wow, five hours. I was going to watch the recording of the race and then I just zonked out.” He sits down beside her, wrapping an arm around her.

“It’s okay. I understand. Emotionally drained, it happens. Don’t fret. You didn’t miss much. I just finished second to Kyle Larson.” She then grabs his hand, rubbing it as she leans against him.

“Your day will come….” He looks into her eyes.

“I don’t care about that right now. All I care about is you. I totally forgot about how you would be feeling today, and I hate that. I’m sorry. I should’ve texted or called you, or something….” She shakes her head.

“I didn’t want to mess up your focus today, and it’s fine. You’re here now, and that’s what matters. I love you.” She leans in and kisses his lips.

“I love you, too. Wanna go upstairs?” She shakes her head yes as she gets up and follows him up the stairs.

“Can we just cuddle and watch a movie?” He spins around and smiles.

“That was my plan. I have someone you should meet – Chase Race-a lot.” She then looks on surprised.

“Oh really? Is he cute?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Wait, how do you have Cars 3 already?” Chase smiles as he pulls the DVD out of his bag, and places it on the bed.

“There’s perks to be one of the stars of the movie. Now, are you ready to see my staring role?” She then rolls her eyes as she flops back in the bed.

“Sure, but I heard that Inside Laney is cooler.” Chase rolls his eyes as he pops the movie in, before slipping his shirt off and climbing in the bed with her. He pulls her close, keeping her cuddled in his arms, as they take in the move together.