The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 61: “So about this weekend….”

Thursday April 5, 2018 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Chase walks in the house, freezing immediately by the door as he sees the familiar pair of cowboy boots sitting there. He was certain that Sarina put them in her bag the night before so why were they sitting out now?

He then makes his way up the stairs, hearing some noises coming from the bedsroom. He enters slowly, stopping in the doorway as he sees the open suitcase on the bed. He notices the items immediately – normex underwear, sponsor t-shirt, jeans, long socks. He then watches Sarina emerge from the closet with her firesuit, folding it carefully.

He smiles carefully as he knew exactly where she was headed, and couldn’t find an argument against her going. In her shoes, he would’ve done the exact same thing; he actually did the same thing while running his limited truck schedule and the XFINITY Series.

“So about this weekend….” Sarina starts as she glances up, noticing him standing there with his arms crossed. Even just a simple t-shirt and jeans, she found herself resisting the urge to prance right over and jump him.

“You’re going to Nashville?” He questions and she slowly nods her head. “Kyle let you play with the late model this weekend?” She nods her head once again.

“He only gave me a heads-up about doing it today as he wasn’t sure if the team would be ready to go. I’m sorry. I should’ve told you sooner, other than that false hope from last nigh-”

“Why are you apologizing?” She was now confused. “You’re a racecar driver, just like me. I know the first thought that goes through that pretty head of yours – going as fast as you can as many times as you can. I’ve been in your shoes, Sarina. There’s nothing like a good late model short track event, and the Fairgrounds is great for putting on a show. I have no issue with it – as long as you bring me back a guitar.”

“Don’t you have one of your own that you haven’t even learned to play yet?” He nods his head, remembering the exact year that he won there. “So what you’re saying is we need a matching set?”

“Exactly, and I believe in your talent.” He then walks in the room, lightly kissing her lips. “I’m going to miss you being in my arms this weekend and supporting me, but my heart will be with you all weekend, believing in you, waiting to hear back some good news.”

“I expect the same from you, too. I’m also going to be there for Sunday anyway. I already talked to Kyle.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as while he was willing to let her explore and have fun, there’s no replacing having her there with him at the track.  “Oh, and Marcus is crew chiefing this weekend.”

“A small reunion of sorts?” Sarina smiles as she leans back against the bed, keeping her arms wrapped around Chase’s waist.

“Rudy is focused on the truck program, so Kyle figured it’d be fine to let me and Marcus have a fun weekend together for a change. He knows the friendship we have, so might as well have some fun. It doesn’t change what I told you the other night, though. I’m willing to make it work with Rudy because I believe in him and we’re getting there, together.” Chase nods his head, having seen the progress firsthand at Martinsville.

“Like I said, I expect to hear that you got a guitar…”

“A guitar to play while I check out that cowboy hat on your head?” He laughs, nodding his head. “I still say you’re absolutely adorable with it.” He could only roll his eyes back in response.

“You’re cuter with one if that makes this discussion any better.” She then just chuckles back in return.

“Two days apart, can we honestly survive?” He nods his head.

“You promise to call and text, right?” She nods her head back in response.

“Constant updates, just like I expect from you too. Alan and Jordan have my num-”

“Just like Marcus has my number. I love you.” He then kisses her lips.

“I love you, too.” She then glances down at their fingers intertwined together. “If Alison com-”

“You told me that we were done with her and she wasn’t going to hurt me again. I’m standing by those words as she’s getting caug-”

“Chase, listen to me, please…” He could feel her voice quiver a little, immediately silencing his thoughts. “If she does, though, please don’t hide it from me. Please tell me what happened and the details, or at least get Jordan or Alan, too. I’m strong enough to hear about it and I want to be there for you – just like you’re always here for me.”

“I promise I’ll be honest with you – but you have nothing to worry about.” She nods her head, slowly, trying to tell herself that over and over, but feeling a tinge of nerves in being separated. “I have my guys, and you have your guys. Everybody has an eye out for her. She’s going to be caught sooner than later and be locked far away with Chris.”

“I know…” He then puts his hand underneath her chin, tipping her head up so his eyes could see into hers.

“You can tell me what’s on that pretty little mind of yours. I know this hasn’t been easy for you…” She takes a careful deep breath, as she tries to look away. “Sarina…..”

“I’ve just got so many mixed thoughts about Chris, still. It hurts me as much as I mean it when I say that I miss my brother and I love him. How can I say that after what he did, Chase?” He rubs his hand slowly over hers as he motions them to the bed so they can both sit down.

“In your eyes, he’s the same brother that you grew up with, played with, went to the playground with, shared fun times together, and all those memories that you talk about. Whenever you look at him, into those eyes, you see those memories. It’s okay to miss those times and that brother you knew – it’s understandable. I don’t fault you for that, and it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.” She then takes a deep breath, trying to compose her thoughts.

“But he hurt us beyond anything we could imagine.” She then slowly looks back into his brown eyes. “I could’ve lost you that nigh-”

“But you didn’t, did you? All we can do is be thankful that we’re still here and we’re both strong as ever. We can carry those memories that you have, but also recognize that we’ve done the right thing for our future based on his actions. We also know that we tried to do right by him and give him a chance, and he failed to accept that.” She slowly nods her head.

“Do you think Shelley will ever come around?” Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I mean, I don’t care if she does or doesn’t. I was so done with family that it doesn’t bother me because I don’t want that toxicity in my life anymore. I’m thankful to have Lindsay back, but I’m glad the rest of the drama is gone.”

“I don’t blame you one bit based on what you’ve told me. Besides, I think you have it pretty good with your current family.” She nods her head in agreement.

“I don’t know what I’d do without Sam some days. As much as everybody says Kyle is the boss, she’s just as much as he is – and even better at times for me. I mean, I don’t know where we’d be without her after what happened…” Chase knew she was referring to New Year’s and the miscarriage, remembering how tore apart they both were in that moment. “She hasn’t given up, by the way. She’s gotten everything looked at more by the way. She actually called me to her office to let me know that she has some more ideas surrounding it. They can’t give us a definite answer, but if we did want to get pregnant, there’s certain things that we can do so we don’t have the same thing happen.”

“That’s good. I’m glad that she’s been able to do that as it makes me feel better in knowing that you have your answers, and we’re going to be able to do it safer – if we want to one day.” Sarina smiles a little as she looks down towards the ring.

“Who knew that one day I’d be engaged, and thinking of having a baby…” She then looks back up into his eyes. “I’ve told you this countless times, but I will tell you again – thank you for everything, and changing my life beyond what I could imagine. I know you keep telling me that my talent and ability and strength got me here, but I really couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I couldn’t do this without you, either. I would’ve gone insane over Alison without you.” She then squeezes his hand a little tighter as their eyes lock together.

“You can talk to me if you need to. I know she’s a insane psycho witch that’s driven you to your wits ends.”

“I’m fine, really, but I appreciate the offer. As long as I have you, I can do this.” He then leans in and kisses her lips once again.

Friday April 6, 2018 – Texas Motor Speedway

Chase walks over, scanning over the faces, before a glance towards Alan.

“Is Ron not here?” Chase questions, expecting to see Ron Malec filling in for Josh Kirk as they did two weeks ago at Martinsville. It made sense to have Ron fill in based on his car chief experience over the past several years with Jimmie.

“Ron couldn’t do this week,” Alan explains, without much of explanation as he wasn’t told much from Kenny Francis anyway. “Kevin Hulstein is going to fill in. He has experience with the guys, and he knows what the role entails. We’ll be fine.” Chase nods his head as he glances over the group once again.

“I’m not worried. I trust you guys and will always trust you guys no matter what.” Alan nods his head in agreement.

“So where’s Sarina?” One of the engineers, Matt Barndt, asks, catching everybody off-guard.

“Isn’t that Jared’s job?” Chad Avrit wonders as Alan could only roll his eyes.

“I thought I got rid of this when we got rid of Jared,” Alan comments, although half-joking as it wasn’t his choice to remove Jared from the team. However, NASCAR’s new pit road requirements had done that for him.

“She’s racing a late model this weekend for Kyle at the Fairgrounds,” Chase answers, earning a simple nod back in response.

“We can all go back to work with ease as grumpy driver alert is turned off,” Matt adds, which simply caused Chase to give him a glance. “What? If you’re fighting with the girl, you’re a little off edge. I didn’t want to push the buttons if that was the case.”

“They’re over their differences and have grown up – unlike most of this team,” Alan comments, earning a chuckle from Chase as they walk off together. “I’d be worried about adding all of these guys to your wedding guest list.”

“Woah, woah, easy there….” Chase says as they enter the trailer together. “We haven’t even began planning a wedding. One step at a time, please.” Alan turns back around with a smirk.

“I know how much she loves you, Chase. It’s only a matter of time…” Chase could only roll his eyes as Alan now sounded like Jimmie and Dale.

“Can we focus on why we came in here to begin with?” Alan nods, pulling out his notes.

“So I was thinking we’ll do a qualifying run, and then back it up with two race runs….” Chase glances over the notes.

The pair emerged themselves in conversation about the various notes across the page as Alan explained some of his different set-up ideas based on what they had learned so far that year, as well as previous years at Texas. He also broke down some of the crew chief discussion they had during the break and changes that were made on the cars as a result.

Completely focused on their conversation, they were both caught off-guard when they heard a series of loud knocks on the door. A glance at each other in confusion – perhaps a brief flashback to a couple weeks ago – Chase got up off the couch and opened the door.

“So where’s your girlfriend?” Lindsay asks without a single greeting or anything else first.

“She’s in Nashville racing a late mod-” Chase begins to explain.

“Why doesn’t anybody tell me these bloody things?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“I only found out last night after she found out yesterday morning. If you have a problem, you have her number. Sorry.” Lindsay just lets out a sigh as she glances over at Alan, before turning back to Chase.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt an important meeting. It’s just a feel a little lost here without her. I don’t know anything here!” Chase couldn’t help but chuckle. “What?”

“You grew up a racing fan, and you’ve been to some races already this year. Just go with the flow and have some fun. Hang out with Ryan, hang out with his guys – you’ll be surprised.” He then places a hand on her shoulder. “If you’re totally screwed over there, it’s also okay to betray your boyfriend and hang with us.”

“Careful Chase, she may pass over some secrets,” Alan interrupts, earning a stern glance in return from Lindsay. “Hey! I was kidding! Lighten up a little….”

“How do you guys all work together, and then yet you go hang out with the Kyle Busch Motorsports boys?” Lindsay wonders as Chase shrugs his shoulders. It’d almost come second nature now.

“We just respect boundaries and have an understanding,” he offers as Alan nods his head back in agreement.

“Sarina isn’t able to take a single glance at this notebook – same way I know Chase hasn’t seen any of Kyle’s notes,” Alan adds.

“Alright, I’ll try to make this work…” Lindsay offers, before turning on her heels and leaving.

“That’s it? We don’t even get a good luck wish or a goodbye?” Chase shakes his head no as he closes the door once again. “Dude, what did you do to her this past weekend?”

“I did nothing, okay?” Chase pleads. “We all hung out and had a really good time.” He then sits back on the couch with a glance over at Alan. “Trust me – I didn’t do a single thing. I guess she’s just pissed that Sarina isn’t here and I’m getting the brunt of it. Oh well….”

“Anyways, let me try and get back to what I was saying…..”

Chase lets out a sigh as he glances up pit road. Was this really happening?

They had been decent in practice – not the fastest or the smoothest handling, but they were pretty fast as he was able to at least be seventh quickest. But now with lightening canceling qualifying after the first round, they were going to start 20th.

How does that happen?

“At least you can pass here,” he comments to himself as he pulls his phone out, looking for updates from Nashville.

“Don’t tell me you’re in a bummer mood…” He hears and glances up as Alan walks over. “I know starting 20th sucks especially when Jimmie is all the way up there in the top-10.”

“It’s like we’re taking one step forward, two steps backwards…” Alan nods his head in agreement as he was back to glancing over notes.

“I honestly thought the track was going to be a little slippery in the other end, but I ended up over-adjusting. Really, I think it threw a lot of teams for a loo-”

“Stewart-Haas swept the top-three spots. How is that possible?” Alan shrugs his shoulders.

“They’ve got something figured out, and I promise you we will do the same soon.” Chase nods his head, knowing that Alan was right. Despite his bummed out attitude at that moment, they were making strides.

“I know, and trust me – I believe in you and every one on this team as much as I ever have. I just am bummed out about qualifying a little.” Alan places a hand on his shoulder.

“That’s fine, because I’m bummed out too. We should be better than this, and I won’t stop until we are.” Alan then walks up pit road to meet up with the rest of the guys as they were pushing the car back to the garage.

Chase reads over Sarina’s message, seeing practice got cut short in Nashville due to rain but the limited amount of laps she was able to make felt pretty good. Letting out a sigh, he texted back a vote of confidence for her, while detailing his weekend so far.

He then stands up and goes to leave pit road when he spots an envelope. A shiver immediately escapes his spine as he texts Alan immediately, while slowly picking it up. He opens the envelope, sliding out the note as he shakes his head.

“Wha-” Alan starts, seeing the envelope and piece of paper immediately.

“Nobody had access to this spot on pit road except our own team and the official,” Chase cuts him off immediately. “If it’s none of our guys and trust me, I believe it isn’t because we wouldn’t do that, then it has to be an official working with her. The content simply says that I know you’re alone this weekend and I can’t wait.” Alan grabs it off of him, reading it over, before stuffing it in his pocket.

“I’m not letting you out of my damn sight for the rest of the weekend. You are not allowed to step foot anywhere alone and somebody is staying in the motorcoach lot with you.” Chase looks back at the crew chief with total surprise.

“So I need a babysit-”

“No, you need a damn guard and someone to protect you to make sure nothing happens to you, Chase. Right now, that’s me because I am going to do whatever it takes – whether you’re willing to accept my help or not.” Alan could tell despite defiance being written in Chase’s response, he was appreciative the offer.

“Thank you…” Alan wraps an arm around his shoulders as they keep walking down pit road together.

“It’s going to be okay. They’re going to catch her, and that damn official…”

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 32: “There’s no fun in that.”

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Sarina glances over at Chase as she lets out a sigh.

“Are you okay?” He looks over at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answers. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She scoots a little closer, laying her head on his arm.

“Because of what happened in California, and the note at the office.” He understood her concerns as he glances down at her eyes. Certainly it was having its effect and was on his mind. But, he wasn’t going to fall for the trap of letting some foolish notes and scares dictate his life.

“I know it’s not ideal, and we didn’t want to deal with this ever again – but I will tell you that I am fine. I believe that we safe together, and everything will work out. We’ve done what we need to, and all we can do is let it work out. There are people in place, and whoever is doing this will be caught.” Sarina wanted to believe his words, knowing that the Hendrick Motorsports security personnel was upping their number of people, and had one to stay with Chase no matter what if needed. However, she couldn’t help but wonder based on the past.

“Can you just promise me, though, that you will be extra careful?” He nods his head yes as he lifts his arm, letting her lay her head on his chest, wrapping the arm around her.

“I promise. I know what to look out for, and I’m not going to be fooled again.” She then glances up at him.

“Fooled?” He lets out a sigh as his eyes close briefly.

“Ricky and Alan both think that it’s Alison that is behind everything, and frankly, that makes sense. She played my weaknesses when we met before at the pageant, and then at Indianapolis. She knew I’d do anything for you and the team, even subjecting myself, because of how much I care about you guys. My vulnerability is my sweetness, I suppo-”

“It’s also why I, and so many love yo-”

“But when you have someone like her, they take advantage of it and make sure to cause as much pain with that as they can. That’s the mark of an evil genius, and a psychopath. Chris wanted to go after you, so he came after me and those friends close to you. Allison wanted to go after me, so she used those I love against me. This time if she comes around, I’m not letting her fool me into doing something stupid this time.” Sarina accepted his position, but just hoped his sign of strength didn’t fool him into something else happening.

“What time are we flying out tonight?” Chase knew that she had to be in Daytona tomorrow for ARCA  practice, and that meant leaving to go together. Not wanting to be flying in the morning of the session, they had agreed to leave the night before.

“Whenever you want, really. Once I get done at the shop and you do what you need to do, we’ll pack our bags and go.” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can’t we just stay cuddled like this until later?” He chuckles, but certainly wouldn’t mind that either.

“We don’t get any work done like this, and we need to get work done…”

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Hendrick Motorsports

Making his way into the shop, Chase knew the responsibilities on tap today before leaving. The first step included checking in with Alan to make sure everything was going accordingly with his notes.

“He’s here….” Chase hears as he makes his way through the shop, catching his attention. He immediately froze, almost set to burst out laughing, in noticing the three crew members together.

“I thought you were kidding,” he comments as the three walk over. As promised yesterday, Jared Erspamer had brought in a big roll of bubble wrap, while Chad Avrit now held some rolls of masking tape in his hand. To cap it off, Jared Seate was even available to film – as stated.

“I was – but the more I thought about it, I think it’s a good idea,” Chad says as he stops just before his driver. “We’ll make sure that we leave your face uncovered so you can see, speak, and oh yeah – kiss the girlfriend.”

“For all we know, Kyle may be a fan of this idea considering….” Jared Seate adds, causing a couple laughs as Chase gives him a complete stare down. “Suddenly I feel like I’m off your good side…”

“So, are we going top to bottom, or bottom to top?” Chase just shakes his head.

“How about none of the above?” Chase suggests, causing a sad look to form on Chase’s face immediately.

“There’s no fun in that,” Chad offers as he looks back at the bubble wrap. “Now what we are supposed to do?” Chase crosses his arms with a smirk as his eyes return to Jared Seate.

“Oh hell no….” Jared immediately protests as Chase laughs.

“Actually, I have a better idea,” Chase then starts as he looks out towards the parking lot. “We have a rookie teammate here. I think he needs to be welcomed in style.” He looks between the three of them. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”

“I’m on-board – as long as I get to play with the wrap,” Chad declares as the others nod their heads in agreement.

The objective didn’t take long to complete as they were able to wrap William Byron’s Tahoe in a short amount of time, including some special work on the door handles. The four of them then retreated back to their normal duties – with Chase completing his to-do list as required.

As he was finishing up for the day with a photo sent out on twitter, he couldn’t help but laugh in seeing William walk around the shop.

“Alex!” He heard William call out as Alex Bowman glances over at him. “Do you know anything about the bubble wrap?” Alex shakes his head no. “It’s like something Jimmie would do….”

“Jimmie hasn’t been here all day,” Alex comments as Chase just quietly chuckles.

“So then who would bubble wrap my car?” Alex shrugs his shoulders. “You honestly didn’t see anything?”

“Nope, not a thing. Sorry man.” William then continues to make his way through the shop, questioning others – but nobody gave up the secret as Chase just stood aside with his own chuckles. “He’s going to kill you when he finds out….”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea to bring bubble wrap in today,” Chase says with a smile before heading out.

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte Airport

With their bags all packed and in hand, Chase and Sarina had made their way to the airport, and were now traveling across the tarmac to the plane. Sarina was set to load the plane, as Chase would go over everything to make sure they were good to travel.

The pair reached the plane in good time, and a simple nod was set to begin things as usual. However, Chase’s feet froze in place as he noticed a wrench sitting by the back wheels, with the engine cover loose. Taking a deep breath, trying to push aside the sudden nerves, he makes his way over and takes off the engine cover.

“Are you kidding me?!?” He questions immediately, seeing oil all over as he shakes his head in disgust.

“What’s wrong?” Sarina wonders, setting the first bag back on the ground as she makes her way over. She then noticed the black liquid all over, followed by the wrench that was beneath. “Well, they made it painfully obvious, like they wanted to get caught….” Chase then notices a piece of paper, picking it up and slowly unfolding it. The same familiar black typewriter typing filled the small piece of white paper.

“Considering this a warning that I can get to you under your skin, and to your skin with a flick of the fingers…” He scrunches up the paper, set to chuck it away, when Sarina grabs his hand. “What are you doing?”

“This is what they want. They want the frustration out of you. They want you to be angry. They want to mess with your head. Remember when you told Kyle that? Take a deep breath, and calm down…” He does as instructed, slowly lowering his hand with the scrunched up paper ball. She uncurls her fingers, taking the paper out of it, dropping it down beside the wrench. “Don’t touch anything else, and let’s call this in. Maybe there are fingerprints on the wrench, or maybe there’s a security camera.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “Chase, talk to me, please….”

“I’m fine, and you’re right. We need to do the right thing here…”

The pair walked back to the airport offices, reporting the incident. It didn’t take long before they were met with an investigating officer, who took down their statement and went to see the plane scene for evidence. With some time to calm down, Chase also took the time to call the Hendrick security personnel to make sure they were aware of what happened – and they promised that they’d look into it, as well. He then made the decision to call his dad, asking for a favor.

About two hours after the incident, they were in the air and off to Daytona, landing down there in quick fashion.

“Thank you,” Chase says as he takes the final bag off the plane.

“Anytime,” Bill replies as he gives him a hug. “Be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “And I know you’re scared, but you have to know it will work out fine. They’ll figure this out, but you can also call me if you need to talk.”

“Yes sir.” Chase then walks away, bags in hand as Bill looks over at Sarina.

“Keep an eye on him. He’s not saying much and he’s trying to act like this is nothing, but you can tell that it is eating at hi-”

“I know, Bill. I can see that it is too without him saying a word. Trust me when I say this – I will do whatever it takes for him. He’s always done that for me, so now it’s my turn to return the favor.” Bill gives her a hug before watching her hurry to catch up with him, as he says a silent prayer that things indeed worked out.

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

Thursday, February 8 – ARCA Practice – Daytona International Speedway

Once she was done debriefing with the team, Chase walks over and wraps his arms around her shoulders, pulling her back close in his arms.

“Well that’s one way to make an entrance,” she offers, knowing right away it was him by the simple feel, without even a glance down at the arms that now wrapped around her waist.

“I take it that the practice session went well?” He questions and she nods her head. Throughout the three hours, she only had one single complaint near the beginning, but the team made the adjustments accordingly to get the handling where she wanted by herself. Once in the draft later on, there were no issues and the speed was there as she topped it off in the top-10.

“No scratches on the car, and I have to admit that she drives pretty well, too – actually better than last year, if you want to believe it.” Chase hoped that only meant good things as he wasn’t about to relive the Talladega experience once again. He just needed speedweeks to go as smooth as possible – win the clash, win the qualifier, win the 500, and watch her win both of her races. Considering everything going on, anything else to fry his nerves was not on the table.

“I’m glad. A happy driver usually means a good race, so fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly on Saturday.” She then turns around to face him, kissing his lips lightly.

“I can’t wait to see you behind the wheel of the 9.” He smiles, as he had to admit he was over the off-season by any stretch now. It was time to get back to work – and have something for his mind to focus on.

“Seeing those cars on track today, I’m equally excited. Can it be Saturday already?” She chuckles as she wouldn’t mind the same thing, even knowing that she had another practice and qualifying tomorrow.

“Too bad you don’t have a time machine.” He had hoped for the same thing as he takes a deep breath. “Did they call you with any updates?”

“Nope, not a single thing actually.” She then rubs his arms as she keeps her eyes locked on his.

“You know you can talk to me about your fears, right?” He nods his head, accepting. Even still, though, he couldn’t find the words to say. It was one thing to feel it, but another to express it to someone else. “And just like you always told me, it will work out. As long as we have each other, we can do anything and we will get through this. They will find out who’s behind it, find them, and make sure they stay behind bars. They figured out Chris, they figured out Bethany and they did some damage with Allison; they can do the same again.”

“I know…” He then glances down as she keeps her eyes locked on him.

“But?” He takes a deep breath as he intertwines his fingers with hers.

“I just keep wondering what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to get played again, so I keep wondering what the next card they’re going to play is. I keep wondering how I can stay one step ahead so if something happens, I can do what I need to do about it. I also keep wondering what their end game is, and why they’re doing it, and what they want. I just have so many questions that I want answers to.” He then glances back up into her eyes. “Maybe that’s why I can’t wait until Saturday. With racing going on, I won’t have time to think and wonder, and drive myself crazy in the process.”

“Maybe I have a way we can take your mind off of it anyway….” He then looks at her intrigued, with his mind immediately heading for the gutter.

“You can’t always do that to distra-”

“I don’t see you complaining, though.” He chuckles, shaking his head no as she was right – he had no problems with their intimate moments together. “Actually, what if we go out tonight? What if we go to Volusia and watch some dirt racing?” A smile immediately comes to his face, knowing the World of Outlaws were in town, and it’d be nice to see Tony run for a change, along with some others.

“Why are we still standing here?” She laughs back in response, giving him a kiss, before hurrying in the trailer to get changed.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 31: Winter Showdown

Saturday, February 3 – Kern County Speedway – Winter Showdown

Sarina walks out of the bathroom, putting her hair up in a ponytail as she takes a glance at herself in the mirror.

“You should’ve woke me up,” she hears, turning around with a smile. A simple glance at him brought happiness to her.

“I figured you could use the extra sleep,” she comments as he stretches out a little, instantly regretting it as he feels the familiar pain in his knee. “And you should be relaxing, considering….”

“But we could’ve gotten a shower together. After all, I’m going to need a little assistance.” She couldn’t help but chuckle at the grin that had formed on his face in response.

“Oh but Chase, that would not follow along the guidelines of being careful because gloves slip in the shower.” He wanted to stay serious and flirty, but couldn’t help but bust out a laugh in response. “So how sore is your knee, truthfully?”

“About the same…” He then lets out a sigh as he goes to stretch a little more once again, sitting up in the bed. “Really, everywhere hurts now…” From his shoulders to his back, to his legs, it seemed that every spot had grown sore over night. If there was a muscle to be found, it was sore.

“Well, what can you say? You fell down a flight of stairs after all.” He nods his head with a sigh. “If you want to just stay back and relax all day, I’d be fine wit-”

“Are you serious? Do you really think that I’d miss your race because I’m a little sore? Clearly, you don’t get me sweetheart. I’ll be fine. I can come out to the track, and relax while watching you kick some ass.” She smiles back in return, walking over and leaning over the bed as she kisses his lips.

“How about I run you a nice warm bubble bath to relax in while I go get us some breakfast? Then maybe before we head out to the track, I can give you a nice massage…” He couldn’t argue with that as anything that’d help the pain right now would be worth it.

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

“I can’t believe this…” Sarina comments as they make their way through the infield – carefully, as she didn’t want him to further stress himself out.

A glance at the time had told her she was running late, knowing that she’d be showing up to the trailer for the pre-race team meeting a couple minutes late. But, seeing how much the massage had helped Chase, she wasn’t about to complain. She’d just flash a smile and Kyle would get it go, right?

“You’re late,” Rudy states as she walks over and she immediately nods her head in acceptance. Considering her and Rudy were just starting off their relationship together, this was now the second time she was late in a couple of weeks. It was either going to be a good way to get the hiccups out of the way, or proper training for handling crap while during the off-season.

“I know and I apologize,” she immediately says as she helps Chase sit down. “I was giving him a massage as he was sore after yesterday and I lost track of time.” She watches Rudy just roll his eyes as Kyle watches the pair closely.

“Is there all you were doing, Ms. Ott?” He questions as her jaw drops immediately as Rudy couldn’t help but chuckle at seeing her cheeks go red in front of all the crew members.

“That’s not an open topic for discussion in a room of this many peo-” Kyle’s grin widens as he looks over at Chase, before turning back to her.

“When you’re late for a meeting, the reason for your lateness is certainly a topic of discussion. Plus, you’re making yourself appear very guilty in not denying the accusations. I assume that you used the glove.”

“Kyle!” Kyle just chuckles as Sarina’s cheeks were now the darkest shade of red he had seen to date.

“Kyle, we were not having sex for your information,” Chase state as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “She was simply taking care of me because I was sore with a massage – nothing else.”

“Trust me bud – I know how girls take care of their men,” Kyle adds as Chase can only roll his eyes. “Now, let’s get to the topic at hand – winning today.”

The meeting went smoothly, finishing off with the crew members heading out to do their assorted jobs, which just left Kyle with the couple.

“I could kill you,” Sarina starts after the last person had left the trailer, causing him to laugh even harder.

“You made yourself appear more guilty with your comment,” Kyle offers, sticking his tongue out as he grabs a NOS Energy drink from the fridge. “I knew you were innocent and telling the truth, but can you blame me for taking advantage of the situation?”

“You’re just lucky I started those anger management classes….” Kyle chuckles as he leans back against the counter.

“I’m your boss, remember? Kicking your boss’ ass is not in your best intere-”

“Oh really? Because frankly, that’s what I was planning to do today – all 300 laps long.” Kyle looks at her intrigued.

“You got to catch me first, princess.” He then glances over at Chase. “Glad to see your feeling a little better and moving around. Anything else happen?” Chase shakes his head no. “That’s good. Did Ricky tell you that he flew back to North Carolin-”

“I sent him actually,” Chase cuts him off. “I’m a grown adult, and I shouldn’t be depending on him for everything. Besides, he has a job to do today at the Meltdown.”

“Good luck to him beating Bubba (Pollard),” Kyle comments before heading out of the trailer.

“You know, it is okay to ask for help sometimes – even being an adult,” Sarina starts as she places her hand on his leg. “Somebody else taught me that. You don’t need to face the world alone and try to carry it on your shoulders. That’s why you have friends, remember?” He nods his head in approval.

“Just promise me that you’re going to beat Kyle today,” he replies and she just laughs back in response. But with a kiss on his lips, he knew the promise was set to be kept.

Or so he thought.

Starting fourth, Kyle quickly proved that he had his stuff together the way he needed it as it wasn’t long before he took the lead. From there, it was a cake walk as he led the rest of the way en route to scoring the victory.

Meanwhile, Sarina was able to put together a strong performance, driving from 12th to the top-three in the first half of the event. She also kept herself in the mix of the front runners, simply letting the laps countdown as she waited to make her move. But with 30 to go, she began to lose a bit of power with a carburetor issue, ultimately ending up fifth.

“Considering the issues you had, I am very proud of how you handled it,” Chase tells her, giving her a kiss afterwards.

“That’s much better than hitting the wall,” she offers and he nods his head in agreement. “Next stop – Daytona. Ready to get the party started?”

“Absolutely. I see a checkered flag destiny in our future.” She smiles as she had no complaints about that – even if nerves would probably consume them both in the process watching each other.

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

Tuesday, February 6 – Hendrick Motorsports

Chase makes his way into the conference room, taking his seat at the long table. Glancing around the room, he couldn’t help but smile. Through the off-season, the meetings had grown quite dry and boring with not a lot to discuss. However, with Speedweeks kicking off that weekend, it was certain that there’d be more topics on-hand this time around.

“So I hear we can’t be kicking you in the leg,” Chad Avrit comments as he sits down beside him. Chase then glances over at the crew member confused.

“Why would you want to kick me anyway?” He wonders as Chad shrugs his shoulders.

“How does one slip on a banana peel in the grandstands and fall down a couple flights of steps?” Chase sighs as he still didn’t have a clear answer, except that someone was up to something as discussed with Kyle, Ricky and Sarina. He had already done the due diligence of mentioning something to the crew members and the media team at Hendrick on Monday. “Is it feeling any better?”

“The swelling has come down and it’s not as sore.” Chase then reaches down, pulling up his pant leg to show his knee to Chad, who immediately squirms a little.

“Dude, that’s every shade of color imaginable!” Chase nods his head in agreement as he puts his pant leg back down. “Least it wasn’t any worse. I mean, I’d take that over having broken ribs like the past two years.” Chase then gives him a look, matching the same one that Ricky got for a similar comment a couple days prior.

“There’s still time between now and Daytona.” Chad immediately freezes up, taking out his phone and going on Google. “What are you doing?”

“Seeing if I can have a human sized bubble wrap body suit shipped over night to stuff you in.” Chase rolls his eyes, but couldn’t help but chuckle in response.

“I think I could bring a big roll in for you tomorrow to wrap him in,” Jared Erspamer comments, and Chad looks over, nodding his head in approval.

“You bring that, I’ll bring the masking tape, and you sir just make sure you’re here,” Chad instructs as Chase just shakes his head in disbelief. How was this actually happening?

“Can I video tape this?” Jared Seate offers as Chase glances down the table his way.

“I thought you said that you’d behave this year,” Chase comments as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Now now, Chase, would that any fun if you didn’t have someone to cause trouble?” Chase lets out a sigh, shaking his head no, while also wishing inside that there was not another kind of trouble to deal with. “Besides, I could turn you into a human basketball if we make the shape turn out properly.”

“More like a snowball,” Chad offers as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“How did we get stuck with this group, Alan?” Chase finally questions as Alan chuckles from the head of the table as he goes through his notes.

“I don’t know,” Alan answers. “Would you like me to see if I can trade them in?”

“Hey!” Everybody lets out together as Alan just chuckles.

“There is an important matter to address before we get started,” Chad begins as he glances at Chase’s hand, picking it up with his own, before setting it down. “Not engaged, yet.”

“Chad, what did I say about the engag-” Alan starts with an eye roll of his own.

“No, I would like to address this, actually,” Chase interrupts, catching the crew chief off-guard. “Guys, I appreciate your compliments and concerns about my love and my personal life. It’s flattering to see how much you care, actually. But, I can assure you, engagement isn’t something that’s happening in the next week, two weeks, or possibly month. Will it happen down the road? Absolutely, but not right now as the time isn’t right. Sarina and I talked about it and we agreed to hold off a bit. So knowing that, I’d appreciate if you guys didn’t ask me every single time I walked into a room with a smile on my face. When the time comes, don’t worry – I’ll gladly tell you.” The crew members nod their head in acceptance, as Chase looked around the room. Seeing their smiles in return, he knew that his words would only hold true for a couple weeks before someone started again.

“The smile just means that he did the wanky doodl-” Jared Seate whispers to Chad.

“I heard that!” Jared glances around Chase, sticking his tongue out. “You know, NASCAR has cut us down from six crew members to five. I could easily rid of you.” Jared then looks back in fear as the rest of the guys laugh.

“Remember I was the one that got Sarin-”

“To call you and reunite,” a couple of the other guys finish it off as Alan and Chase both laugh.

“Can you please get rid of him?” Chad wonders. “He’s annoying!”

“He also doesn’t know when to shut up,” Jared Erspamer adds as Chase chuckles.

“Sorry guys, but he actually is good at his job,” Chase offers as Jared Seate simply smiles in approval. “Now, Alan, please begin this meeting accordingly….”

Following the meeting, Chase retreated back to his office, knowing that Morgan had left him some fan mail that had come in while he was away during the winter. Admittedly, he was caught off-guard by how many packages littered his desk.

“Mr. Popular, huh?” Alan questions, peeking in as Chase sits down, grabbing the first package off the desk.

“It’s insane, really,” Chase answers as he reads over the first note. “It’s almost surreal. I mean, I know how they feel watching the Bulldogs, so to see someone that flattered over me, it just doesn’t seem real…” After reading the note inside, he autographs the item they sent to be signed, before putting it in the new envelope and setting it aside.

“Get used to it. You got a long career to go in this sport, and the fans aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, the fan base is only going to grow.” Chase knew that, having heard those familiar comments from everyone. But it still didn’t ease the feeling at all.

He continued going through the assortment of packages, signing what needed to be autographed along the way, almost halfway through the stack. As he picked up the next one and ripped it off, it immediately caught him off-guard.

He slowly takes the note out, seeing the same familiar type that was used on the note in the grandstands.

“Glad to see I got your attention,” he reads, causing Alan to glances over curious. Alan had been working in Chase’s office on his laptop, asking a couple questions here and there as he worked through his notes.

“What was that?” Alan wonders as Chase turns the note into a paper airplane, sending it over to Alan. “Wow, not only do you fly real airplanes but you’re a master of paper ones…” Alan picks it up and unfolds it as Chase digs further into the envelope. “Weird…” Alan looks back over as he sees Chase reading something. “What is that?”

“A newspaper article, dated January 2016. It details the plane crash that Sarina and I had.” Alan was now confused as he sets his laptop aside, walking over to the young man’s desk. “Then there’s also a DVD in here…” Alan looks over the case, reading the label.

“It’s a DVD of the security camera footage at the airport.” Chase nods his head, having seen that already as he dispenses the remaining contents on his desk.

“There’s also a full breakdown of how Chris tampered with the engine to cause the cra-”

“What the hell?” Alan picks that piece of paper up, looking it over as his eyes catch Chase’s. “Why would someone send something like this?” A thought immediately came to Chase’s mind as he glanced back to the original note.

“Someone who is trying to mess with me and get in my head. The same person who left me that note in California, and possibly said those comments in the hotel lobby. They could’ve also been responsible for the banana.” Chase looks over the scattered contents on his desk. “It’s someone that’s trying to drive me insane with reminders of what happened, and make me just lose my mind.”

“Clearly they don’t know who they’re messing with….” Chase wanted to feel as confident as Alan made him seem, but he couldn’t echo the same sentiment as quickly as his crew chief.

“This person isn’t just anybody, though. You just don’t come across that DVD footage or the diagram, Alan.” Chase bundles it all up together. “This is someone that has access to everything someho-”

“Allison.” Chase slowly nods his head as he takes a calming deep breath. There was no other person that came to his mind that would even have a chance at accessing this information. “Chase….”

“I don’t get afraid easy. I’m ready to take on anything head on as easily as anybody.  But I can damn well admit to your face today that she scares the crap out of me. She played my weaknesses perfectly the last time that we crossed paths. She knew I wouldn’t turn my back on Sarina, and she knew I’d do anything for you and the guys. You know what happ-”

“That’s not ever going to happen, agai-”

“How do you know that for sure?” Alan takes a deep breath as his eyes locked on the young driver before him.

“Because mark my word, me and this team will do everything in our power to protect you and Sarina, because I am never walking down that path ever again. There is no way. Do you understand me?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Now, what are you going to do with that?”

“I was going to take it down to Morgan, and then turn it over to campus security.” Alan couldn’t help but agree with the young driver’s initiatives as Chase stood up, stuffing it back in the original envelope.

“Chase, no matter what happens, you can always come to me with your concerns – no matter the time or day.”

“Thank you.” Chase then walks out of the office with everything in hand as Alan takes a deep breath. The crew chief could only shake his head in response.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 185: Christmas Cheer!

Friday, December 8 – Hendrick Motorsports

The next two days were for the most part quiet. Chase finished up the production shoots he needed to do ahead of 2017, while getting in some reading time to check a couple more pages off in the book. Sarina, meanwhile, focused her energy into planning how the Christmas decorating was going to go once they go to the cabin.

But once Friday hit, that was all put on the back burner as it was going to be another busy day for them both.

“I still can’t believe I’m here with you…” Sarina muses as Chase parks in the back parking lot.

“What do you mean?” He questions with a glance towards her.

“I drive for Kyle, but yet I’m here on Hendrick proper-”

“Kyle lets me stop by your shop to see you, and he did invite me to your Christmas party. We also spend a lot of time in each other’s haulers on race weekends. I don’t see how this is any different.” She lets out a sigh as they both get out of the car together.

“It’s like I’m stepping on NASCAR sacred ground. Hendrick Motorsports is one of those always been here, top teams no matter what, and damn Chase, its surreal for someone like me who never imagined that she’d have a chance to be here in this sport. Plus, I am breaking every single rule that they say about competition and how you’re not supposed to be on your competitor’s turf because they will say you’re spying.” Chase laughs, remembering how both Christopher and Kyle had teased him about that numerous times.

“Trust me – it’s fine. It’s not like the boys will be doing anything of the secret variety. Well, except picking on you…” She rolls her eyes as she follows him through the back door.

As she enters, her jaw drops immediately as she was amazed at the space, organization, how clean it was, how professional everyone looked. She just shakes her head, glancing around in amazement, as she follows Chase to where they were headed.

“Hey!” Alan notices them immediately, walking over and giving each of them a hug. “It’s nice to see that you could make it today.”

“And miss seeing you? That’d be evil,” Sarina comments as Alan simply smiles back in return. Sarina had always kept a special admiration for the crew chief. It wasn’t lost on her that he had saved Chase’s ass in a big way twice now, and one of those times was partially her fault to begin with. She never took for granted what he was able to do for his driver.

“Well I’m glad you’re not a Grinch…” Chase then wraps an arm around her, smiling.

“Actually, she’s like one of those crazy elfs,” he starts. “She can’t wait to decorate as she was blabbing my ear off in Florida about how she can’t wait to get a tree, and make it look pretty, and then make the cabin look absolutely insane Christmas-y with lots of decorations.” Alan crosses his arms as he looks between the pair.

“Cabin, huh?” Alan questions. “Are we off to Colorado next week?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, which only caused the crew chief to take a careful deep breath. He knew what the trip would entail. “Just promise me, and swear to me that you’ll be careful. With your luck, I don’t want to be getting a phone call that you went tumbling down the mountain and broke a leg, or a foot, or worse.”

“I’ll be careful – like always. I’m a seasoned pro.” Alan rolls his eyes, knowing how that went.

“Hey Jared, your favorite female is looking for you,” Jordan Allen then chimes in from his perch. “She’s hear to fulfill her promise.” Sarina just rolls her eyes, watching as Jared makes his way over to the group.

“Haven’t you learned, Jordan? We found a truce,” Jared Seate begins with a smile towards Sarina. “She actually admitted that she likes me, and I was part of the reason why she was able to get back with Chase. So rather than planning my funeral, you can kiss my ass because I have a new friend now.” Sarina laughs as Jordan rolls his eyes, walking away.

“I wasn’t quite that sweet about it,” Sarina confesses as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Okay, so maybe not. But admit – you like me…” Sarina could only roll her eyes back now as Jared looks at her surprised. “Then I guess I should’ve just not called you that night.” Sarina closes her eyes, thinking back to the beginning of the year and remembering how upset and angry she was. Taking a deep breath, Jared had a good point as she probably would’ve waited longer without his message. However, he could never know that.

“I appreciate you reaching out and for what you did. But, like Chase told you, he knew I’d reach out eventually. I could never go on without him.” Chase smiles, wrapping an arm around her to keep her held close to him.

“You guys are too sappy for your own good,” Alan offers, before walking away. “Can we get these games started?” Sarina then glances over at Chase confused.

“Games?” She questions and all he could do was simply nod his head in return. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I didn’t want to scare you off,” he replies, giving her a quick kiss. “Besides, these are fun games.” They all circle around Eddie, who has a list of the games for the day in his hand, eying the group with pride.  This was going to get interesting. “Who made you game commissioner?”

“I get the first two games, before we get the whole shop together,” Eddie offers. “I was given the list, so that makes me the boss. If you have any objections, all I have to say is bah-humbug.” Chase chuckles as he crosses his arms. “I am going to split you into four teams of three, as the first event is a relay race.”

“Oh lawdy….” Josh Kirk muses, knowing that this wasn’t going to go pretty, considering they all attempted to trip each other last year.

“Why can’t we choose our teammates?” Jared Seate wonders, earning a glance from Eddie.

“Because that’d be too easy,” Eddie replies, shuffling a bunch of names around in a hat. “I’m going to pull our names. First three are team one, next three are team two, and well, you get the damn idea.” Eddie reaches his hand in the bucket, pulling out three pieces of paper. “Team A – Josh, Chad, and Sarina.” Jared rolls his eyes immediately, as Chase silently curses to himself. “Team B – Jordan, Jared Seate, and Alan.” Jared’s eyes roll immediately.

“I get the worse team? Really?”

“Hey now!” Alan lets out, looking obviously offended.

“I can run, you know?” Jordan adds as Jared only rolls his eyes.

“Ah, the Christmas spirit is alive and well,” Eddie comments as he reaches his hand back in. “Team C – Jared Erspamer, John, and myself. That means the final team will be Nick, Travis and Chase.”

“You would obviously get the two best runners on your team, superstar.” Chase sticks his tongue out as they get all lined up ready to go.

“Rules are simple. Grab the Christmas tree, run to the other end of the shop, and run back without losing a single jingle bell.  If you drop a bell, you must stop, pick it up, and put it back on. Each team member must do one run. First team to complete and not lose their balls will be the winner.”

“Wait – some of us don’t have balls,” Jared cracks, earning a smack across the forehead from Alan. “Hey!”

“No, we just have them on our chest, and if you stare – you’ll find out how painful it hurts to twist your own,” Sarina offers back, causing a couple shocked glances.

“I like our new teammate,” Josh comments, earning a nod of agreement from Chad.

The relay started off smooth, but it wasn’t long before the balls were bouncing off trees, across the floor. Chase knew his team was out of it when he had to chase a ball halfway across the shop, dropping some more along the way. Sarina watched as Josh and Chad perfected the art, and she was able to get from the start to the other end without losing a single ball. However, on the trip back, one of them bounced off. She was able to quickly pick it up and put it back on – but it was too late. Eddie crossed the line with his tree perfectly in tack seconds ahead of her, handing his team the win.

“I feel like shit,” Sarina comments as makes her way over to Josh and Chad. “You guys were perfect, and I blew it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Chad Avrit assures her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “You did your best, and that’s what matters. We’re here to have fun, right?”

“Besides, I was more entertained watching Chase run after balls all over,” Josh Kirk adds, causing a chuckle to escape her lips.

“That was amusing…” She offers as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite race – two to tangle,” Eddie announces, causing Sarina to look over confused. “The rules are simple – you will be divided into teams of two. You are to tie a left shoe lace to your partner’s right shoe lace, and each wear a hand-cuff. You must hop, run, whatever you can to stop one – where you must decorate five cookies together. Then you go to stage two, where you decorate the Christmas tree. And then you can go to stage three, where you have to untangle the lights for outside. If you can do all that, and make it to the finish first, you win. But the pair that comes in dead last must remained hand-cuffed together all day long – yes, including dinner.”

“He’s joking, right?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no, glancing over at Jordan.

“His mistake last year ended up resulting in us tied together all day long,” Josh reveals as Sarina looks over shocked. “When it comes to these games, we don’t kid around. This gets a little interesting….”

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head as he crosses his arms. He hoped he got a good partner that would allow him to complete the course with ease. However, if for some reason that failed, he wanted someone that he wouldn’t murder by day’s end.

“So here we go….” Eddie says, reaching his hand into the bag of names. “Team A will consist of Jordan and Nick.” A couple cheers escaped, as nobody wanted to be stuck with Jordan again this year for another mistake. “Team B will consist of Travis and Jared Seate.” Sarina said a quick thank you to herself as she was worried about being stuck with Jared. “Team C will consist of John and myself.”

“I would laugh if we ended up together,” Chase whispers to Sarina as she just smiles in return.

“Team D will consist of Sarina and Alan.” Chase let out a quiet sigh, as Sarina smiled. If she was going to be stuck to someone, it might as well be Alan as at least she knew him pretty well. Actually, he was probably the best person of the group to do this with – except for Chase, obviously. “Team E will Jared Erspamer and Chase, making Team F consisting of Josh and Chad.” Chase walks over to Jared, affixing a cuff to himself, before holding it out for him, as he takes a deep breath.

“Listen, I’m going to make sure to not screw this up,” Chase starts, catching Jared Erspamer’s attention. “I still feel rotten and terrible about what happened in Ma-”

“It’s not your fault that Chris poisio-” Jared interrupts him, but Chase shakes his head.

“He was after me and Sarina. He never should’ve touched you guys, or any of her guys, or Ryan, or Bubba. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.” Chase takes a deep breath. “Anyways, I owe you something – redemption. So let’s get ourselves a win, alright?”

“Just don’t be throwing the balls across the shop….” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing he would probably hear about that for weeks now.

As expected, the game turned intriguing right away with tons of laughs throughout as crew members tripped, items got dropped, and a couple cookies got eaten in the process. Despite Chase and Jared’s best effort together, it wasn’t their turn to pick up the crown. Instead the honor went to Sarina and Alan, who seemed to perfect their partnership immediately. The bottom of the pile – well, that honor went to Chase.

“Last in both games….” Jared Seate comments as he shakes his head. “Is this really happening?”

“I hate those damn balls,” Chase says as he places the last one of the lost balls on the table. He then glances at his partner with a sigh. “I’m sorry….”

“It’s my fault, too,” Jared Erspamer replies. “Looks like we’re stuck together….”

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

Friday, December 8 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

“Are you glad to be finally free of your partner in crime?” Sarina asks, having chuckled the whole way from Hendrick Motorsports to Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was hilarious watching Chase and Jared try to play some of the other games, and of course eating did not go smoothly, as predicted.

“Did you have fun at my expense, at least?” Chase wonders and Sarina nods her head. “Now I don’t know. Maybe I would’ve preferred to stay connected to my partner than be here…” Sarina laughs as they reach the door.

“I just hope Kyle didn’t go too crazy this year.” They then walk inside, meeting face-to-face immediately with Kyle, who was sitting on a big green couch with an evil grin on his face.

“My oh my, you guys have arrived…” Kyle muses as Chase looks at him with odd curiousity.

“This is somewhat creepy…” Chase comments as Sarina chuckles.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” she offers, giving Chase an immediate look of fear.

“I am not wearing this damn thing!” They hear yelled from behind the curtain and Kyle breaks out laughing.

“Come show off your new sweater, Bell,” Kyle requests as Christopher lets out a sigh.

“This is evil. I know we were bad this year and annoyed you, but this is ridiculous.” Christopher then emerges from behind the curtain, wearing a red sweater with a big bell attached to the back, including a string to be rung. “Ring my bell so I feel swell? How the hell did you come up with that?”

“I almost wrote ring my bell so I don’t go to hell – but I thought that was a little over the top.” Chase looks at Sarina, feeling even more fear and anxiety over what was planned now. What had he gotten himself into? “Now, my next victim – I mean sweet dear individual. Take this package and place it on.” Sarina takes the bag, glancing at Chase with a tinge of her own fear, before retreating behind the curtain. “After she is changed, I have something special for you.”

“It wouldn’t have to deal with base, would it?” Chase wonders, trying to rhyme every word he could in his head.

“I don’t play rhyme gam-” Kyle starts.

“Are you kidding me, Kyle?” Sarina interrupts them as she puts on the sweater. “I seriously tell you about that, and you make a sweater out of it?” Kyle smiles even more, causing confusion to be written over Chase’s face.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Sarina had other thoughts than that, including being set to land a punch on someone’s face. “Please, oh please, come share your prize…”

“I could kill you right now, Kyle!” Kyle chuckles as she emerges from the curtain. Kyle had gotten a navy blue sweater, which now had an enlarged snowglobe sticking out the front of it, with a picture of Chase inside of it. “Like, really?”

“What do you think, Elliott?” Chase shakes his head in disbelief. This was getting ridiculous. “Oh, and if you press the button right underneath it, there are some fake snow falling acti-”

“Are you doing this to get coal in your stocking this year?” Kyle looks over, surprised, as Sarina sticks her tongue out.

“Oh Sarina, I’ve been a good little boy all year long. Santa is going to make sure to treat me well. Besides, I thought it was adorable.” Sarina sits down beside Christopher, shaking her head.

“Want to meet me on April Fool’s Day?” Christopher laughs, but couldn’t help but agree.

“Mr. Elliott, are you ready for your package?” Chase looks on with fear on his face, but takes the bag gracefully. “I hope I got the right size.”

“Can I run away now?” Chase asks and Sarina shakes her head no.

“If I have to play along with this snow globe and deal with Mr. Seate teasing me all day, then you can handle wearing that for at least 15 minutes of jokes,” Sarina answers as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Figures…” He then retreats behind the curtain, opening up the box. “There is no way that this is happening!”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 159: Alabama 500

Sunday October 15 – Talladega Superspeedway

Sarina let out a sigh as she relaxed on the couch, flipping through a random magazine. She didn’t even know why she was awake that early, or still in the motorcoach. However, that’s where she was while Chase was off doing a series of appearances for the sponsors.

She flipped through her latest book of choice – just because it was the next in the stack, glancing over the pages without paying much attention. Though as a page came across her view, she froze immediately. It was an advertisement about NASCAR Champion’s Week festivities coming up next month – no surprise, really. However, the date caught her off-guard.

“November 30? That don’t make sense,” she comments to herself as she grabs her phone. The Cup Series banquet was always on a Saturday and she was certain that date was December 2, having made a note already in her phone due to Snowball Derby qualifying. Double checking the date, she hadn’t gone wrong. “Maybe they made an error…..”

She then opens up Google, typing in “NASCAR Cup Series Banquet 2017” in hopes of finding some sort of results to match her theory. Instead, she was caught off-guard completely. The magazine was right, as one of the first initial searches detailed how NASCAR had changed the date from a Saturday to a Thursday to make the Vegas week shorter on teams.

A smile immediately came across her face – that meant she could go to the banquet, and then head down to Florida for the Snowball Derby weekend festivities. Maybe even Chase could join her down there, too.

The smile left right away, though, as panic set in. She hadn’t planned on the banquet. She hadn’t planned on having to get shoes, her hair done that week, ready – she hadn’t even thought about dresses. What was she going to wear?

Remembering Ryan’s advice, she immediately dialed Emma’s number, in hopes of some answers.

“Well, the good news is you have a whole month to figure that out,” Emma offered after hearing Sarina’s panic story. “We already finalized your truck series dress options down to five different styles – each white in nature, but slightly different. I’m sure we can figure out something for you to wear as you accompany Chase just as well. I mean, he’s not a fancy guy nor would he be too upset by any choice you make so we can make this work. Give me some details you’re thinking….”

“Well, I don’t mean to be typical but let’s keep matching sponsors and go with blue,” Sarina starts, knowing it’d match with NAPA perfectly. “But not as dark a blue as they have – something lighter. I also want to go with something long, flowing, almost like a princess but not quite there. Oh, and not form fitting either. Does this make sense?” Emma laughs as she makes some notes, also including a citation to tell Chase he needed a blue highlight on his tux if he wanted to follow that rule of matching.

“Hey, it gives me somewhere to start with – if anything. Shoulders or no shoulders?” Sarina thought it over. It was her night to look sexy though, right?

“Spaghetti strap, please. I don’t like strapless for fear of falling off – but I don’t want something too thick.”

“Got it. I will look into what I know from some designers, and shoot you some ideas later on this week. Just take a deep breath, and relax. We got this – even if both you and Chase can’t remember that they switched the date. Hey, don’t go telling him that you realized. Let it be a surprise for when he does figure it out.” Sarina smiles, knowing his reaction would probably be priceless.

“Deal. Thank you. I guess Ryan was right after all….” Emma laughs.

“My brother isn’t so bad….”

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

Sarina wished she was back in the comfort of the motorcoach, relaxing, not having a single care in the world; she’d even take banquet dress worrying over this.

Instead, she sat on top of the 24 pit box, fingers crossed, legs crossed, trying to cross her toes, just hoping for a calm day at Talladega. After the drama that track had delivered in April, she wasn’t looking for a repeat.

Everything started out smoothly as Chase kept himself up front after starting second, staying in the midst of the lead pack while avoiding taking any chances. However, that all changed when it was time for pit stops.

As cars began to peel off for their stops with the stage coming to an end, chaos ensued with contact, followed by cars going every which way. She held her breath as she watched Chase avoid the chaos, darting down pit road as it broke apart behind him.

The 24 team did their stop as scheduled – cleanly, might she add – before he headed out, set to rejoin the pack. It all seemed to be going perfectly…..

“We’re going to have to restart tail of the longest line here,” Alan tells them, after getting word from NASCAR. “They say we pitted after pit road was closed.” Sarina could only let out a sigh. Sure, they had pitted – but how could anybody tell that NASCAR just randomly decided to flick the light from green to red due to a wreck? This also meant that he’d be back in the middle of the eye of the storm. “They need to move that line and light back so you can see it better in turn three. There’s no way that you would know.”

“It crossed my mind,” Chase replies back over the radio. “I thought about trying to get out but it was too late when I saw them wrecking.” Taking a deep breath, it was better safe than sorry – even if it meant there’d be nervous times once they got back going.

“Okay, so come on down now and we’ll get the left side tires so we’ll be penalized for doing the best job that we can.” Sarina had to chuckle at Alan’s approach to handling the chaos at hand.

Hey, least they’d have four new tires compared to some only having two.

Despite her nerves shot up a couple places, Chase was able to hold his ground quite well, and work his way back towards the front of the field into the top-10, getting up to six as the stage was set to come to a close. Another round of stops began, though, and the same chaos ensued, this time involving Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. Taking a sigh of relief, she was just glad they had avoided trouble so far.

“If we get in a position where we have to pit under green, don’t put yourself in harm’s way,” Alan advises. “Just take another lap.” Sarina couldn’t help but agree as it was about surviving, scoring as many points as possible, and getting to the next round today.

The third and final stage started, and as he had all day, Chase was right in the mix of the battle for the lead. Though with each move he made, it just seemed to not come together. As the caution flew for debris with the laps counting down, she hoped the reset would present the perfect opportunity.

“We will get this,” Eddie D’Hondt encouraged. “We just haven’t found the right dance partner.” She couldn’t help but agree, but saw potential in those starting around him.

Her breath caught in her throat as they went back green, knowing the action was about to pick up with the race nearing its conclusion. She found herself in a mix of nerves, with some cheers even escaping her lips, as everything began to came together. The search for a dance partner came out to be complete, in the form of Ryan Blaney, as the pair went back and forth for the lead with the Penske teammates. It was also a calming sensation seeing that No. 24 Chevrolet lead laps, as he was ahead of both wrecks that took place behind them removing multiple cars.

Taking a deep breath under the latest caution, she knew the intensity was set to ramp up and it was now or never. She just hoped Chase made the right moves.

She watched the shuffle on the restart, seeing Chase just behind the leaders. Down the backstretch with 12 to go, her eyes focused on the television monitor before her. Her breath then hitched in her throat as she watched Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez battle side-by-side for the lead, with Chase diving from the top lane behind them to the bottom to go by them both entering the third turn, before sliding back up to the top to hold the momentum.

“Holy shit!” She let out in disbelief, placing her hand on her chest. “That was damn sexy! Hot damn! But damn, Chase, don’t be doing that to me….”

She hoped that he could just simply stay ahead of them, no more challenges for the lead, just a smooth sailing from here to the end.

That wasn’t meant to be, though, as she watched Joey get a run, followed by Chase getting shuffled back to fourth with eight laps to go. Taking a deep breath, she partially just wanted the race to be over so nerves could return to normal, but she also felt herself on the edge, fingers crossed, knowing what could happen today – finally.

“Come on Chase!” She lets out, hoping it all came together.

With six laps to go down the back and entering turn three, the opportunity to make a move came up. A hole opened up between Kyle Larson and Daniel as they battled for the lead, and Chase had the momentum. He immediately shot for the gap, though before anybody could realize – that hole closed, contact happened. Sarina immediately wanted to throw up, panic, cry, scream as she watched the No. 24 Chevrolet shoot from the bottom of the track to the top, making contact with the outside turn three wall.

“Oh shit!” She lets out as she feels arms wrap around her from behind, glancing over her shoulder to see they belonged to Jordan Allen, who was rubbing her shoulders. “Oh gosh….”

“Breathe, relax….” Jordan encourages as he continues to rub her shoulders. “You heard the radio transmission…” She nods her head, having heard him say the words that he was ‘okay.’

“I can’t believe this…” She tried to take a couple deep breathes, and relax, but the sudden angle of impact, the speed, and seeing the crumpled up car, she was beyond disbelief.

“He’s okay…” Jordan then slowly stands up, holding out a hand for her to grab hold. She grabs it, slowly standing herself. “I’ll walk you back so you can see him….” She simply nods her head, following Jordan’s lead, going through the motions without questions.

She carefully climbs down the ladder from the pit box, glancing at one of the team’s televisions screens in the process. She watches him slowly get out from where the car stopped in turn four, slowly walking down the banking. She takes a couple more deep breaths, saying a couple silent prayers of thanks, before following Jordan’s lead quietly.

The entire walk to the infield care center was quiet as she didn’t know what to say; she almost felt numb in that moment. The wait for the ambulance to come back, followed by them checking him over felt like it was going on forever – even if it was just a span of perhaps 15 to 20 minutes.

After feeling like an eternity had passed, she watches the doors open and he walks out, instantly walking over to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

“I’m okay,” he simply tells her, knowing how freaked out she could get about wrecks from the last Talladega experience. “I’m okay…” She looks up into his brown eyes, feeling every emotion run through her, as she wraps her arms around him to hold him close.

“Are you sure?” She questions as he lays her head on her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t lie to you. I’m fine. It took my breath away for a minute, but I’m fine…” He then lets go, which she follows suit slowly. She watches as he goes over and answers some questions for the reporters, before swiftly returning back to her arms. “Ready to go back to the motorcoach?”

“Absolutely. It’s time for me to take care of you…” He then rolls his eyes as they begin the walk together.

“I told you, I’m fin-”

“You’re going to be sore as hell tomorrow after how hard you hit, whether you want to admit that to me or not. You also did an incredible, beyond admirable job, dealing with my issues this weekend. It’s time that I repay you. For once, let me take care of you…” He nods his head, accepting, knowing he wasn’t going to win this fight.

Once back in the motorcoach, she got him a bottle of water, helped him change out of his firesuit, made him a nice snack, followed by a full back massage.

“I’m spoiled….” He lets out as she continues to work the muscles.

“You deserve it,” she tells him, kissing his cheek. He then glances up at her with a smile.

“You absolutely deserve to be repaid for your hard work and dedication, and I just want to love you that much more…” He then lets out a sigh as he lays his head back down. “But that soreness is creeping in…”

“Then let me do all the pleasuring…” She then rolls him over so he’s on his back, facing her directly, as he looks on intrigued. “Besides, I owe you…”

“You don’t owe me a single thing. I would do what I did for you 10 times over, sweetheart.” She smiles, kissing his lips lightly.

“That doesn’t mean that I can reward your hard work in taking care of me, and your hard work in coming oh so close today…” She then reaches for the edges of his boxers, slipping them down. “Now, relax…”

“How can I relax when I know….where….you’re….going?” She then laughs as she rubs his shoulders once again, brushing her body against his. “Sarina….”

“Yes, Chase?” He then takes her hand, placing it over his crotch, knowing her plan already.

“Stop being a damn tease and deliver on your promise. Help make the pain of Talladega disappear, please…” She then smiles, kissing his lips as she rubs him lightly.

“Your wish is my command, sweet dear…”

*******

Monday, October 16

Sarina makes her way to the back door of the 5/24 shop, knocking on the door.

With concerns still stemming from how he was feeling, she had taken the liberty of dropping him off at the shop while on the way to Kyle Busch Motorsports herself. Now that she was done everything for the day, she had come back to grab him – but also make a stop of her own.

She watches the door open slowly, flashing a million dollar smile immediately.

“No matter what you say or do, you cannot sneak in through the shop,” Chad Avrit tells her as she just laughs.

“I can’t even seduce you to do that?” She questions, causing an intrigued glance to form on his face.

“You’d never….” She laughs and shakes he head.

“You’re right, but I may seduce your driver.” Chad knew that quite the possibility as he crossed his arms.

“Chase is still upstairs doing whatever Chase does….” She figured that as she knew that she was early.

“Is Jordan around?” Chad glances behind him, seeing Jordan working on the interior section of their car for Martinsville in a couple weeks. “Can he come see me, please?”

“I’ll go ask…” Chad then closes the door, leaving Sarina to stand there and wait by herself.

She knew she wasn’t taking the smoothest approach in doing this, but she had to say something after Sunday. Lost in the chaos, she never spoke to Jordan after he led her back to the care center.

“Hey Sarina,” Jordan comments as he opens the door, closing it behind him as he steps outside.

“Hey,” she replies. “I didn’t get you in trouble, did I?” Jordan shakes his head.

“I hadn’t taken my break yet…” She then takes a deep breath, debating the best way to say this.

“I just wanted to stop by and say thank you. I mean it – thank you so much. Thank you for holding me, thank you for your words, thank you for comforting me, thank you for leading me there, and thank you. I was totally lost in the moment and didn’t say a single word….” Jordan looks at her with eyes of sympathy. He understood where she was coming from.

“I knew you were scared and worried; I could see it by your reaction when he hit the wall. Hey, it’s understandable, though. You love and care about him. I knew the best thing in that moment was to offer support for you.”

“But you went above and beyon-”

“Any of the guys would’ve done the same on this team. We’re family, and we’re there for each other. Alan was there on the radio for Chase with Eddie, and I was just the first one to step in for you. Josh mentioned to me that he was about to grab you and take you, but realized that I had you already. You don’t need to thank me. I’m glad as much as you are that he is okay.” Sarina nods her head, having said a couple more thank you prayers since.

“You do a great job at making sure the interior of that car is done right and he’s kept safe. It shows. Thank you…” He smiles as he pulls her into a hug.

“It’s part of the job, and I love him just as much as anybody. But you’re welcome.”

They then separate, talking for a bit longer, before she lets him go so he doesn’t get in trouble for too long of a break.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 148: “Guilty.”

Friday, September 8 – Richmond International Raceway

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Richmond

Chase lets out a sigh as he leans back against the tool chest in the garage stall, having just checked his phone for what seemed like the millionth time that day. All he wanted was the perfect update, and a decent result from where Sarina was, and he would be pleased. It was supposed to be a simple process, anyway.

“What crawled up your ass?” Chad Avrit comments, noticing the glance on Chase’s face. “I mean, we weren’t that bad in practice…” Alan glances over, picking up the same vibe from Chase – which just didn’t seem right in how well he knew him. However, he also knew boundaries, too.

“Chad….” Alan says quietly, catching a look from Chad. Alan turns his glance back even sterner, before looking towards Chase with a look of concern. He knew that Chase knew he could bring any concerns to him, no matter what.

“Hey, where’s Sarina anyway?” Travis questions as he climbs out from underneath the car. Chase just rolls his eyes, preferring to not talk about it with the crew guys.

“Oh gosh….” Jared Seate lets out, having caught the eye roll. “You guys better not be fighting again. I will scream. I mean, what is it gonna take for you both to realiz-”

“We’re not fighting or anything like that!” Chase lets out as he takes another glance at his phone. He then takes a deep breath, as he sees no updates yet, putting it back up.

“Dude, I didn’t mean to tick you off,” Travis starts. “I just was asking casual question wise. I mean, I would expect her to be here. I mean, it’s not like her to miss a weekend when she’s off….” Chase nods his head, understanding that, relaxing himself. Perhaps he should’ve given the guys a benefit of doubt.

“It’s fine – I’m sorry I snapped. She’s not here because she has court today.” Travis nods his head, understanding. The guys could all get behind the frustration with that after what they witnessed together. “Bethany is filing her plead today for charges of conspiracy and forcing Allison. Sarina went to witness it so at least one of us were there. Christopher and Marcus went with her.”

“So why aren’t you there?” Josh questions as Chase looks his way.

“Cause I’m here,” Chase answers and it was Josh’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Obviously, smartass. But I mean, you should be there, too….” Chase knew that, but that wasn’t in the cards.

“I couldn’t miss practice and qualifying for tomorrow.  I did even bring up missing one of the practices and let’s just say – never again. Sarina about cut my head off. She told me my focus should be here making the playoffs.” The crew nods their head in response, split in what they would’ve done.

“So instead you’re here, nervous about what’s happening, waiting for updates, hoping she’s okay?” Chad wonders and Chase nods his head as he glances back over at him. “I totally get that, and I apologize for my comment. It wasn’t my business…” Chase smiles, as it was nice to have the crew all on his side.

“It’s fine,” he tells them.

“We’ve got your back, by the way,” Travis adds as he pats Chase’s shoulder.

“Chase!” They hear, causing them to look straight at Morgan. “Media availability now…” He lets out a sigh, walking out of the garage to follow her to the media center.

“Don’t push him to give an update later or on how he is feeling, got it?” Alan questions, looking at the various crew members. They all nod their heads accepting in response, before focusing back on their jobs.

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

Friday, September 8 – Indiana Court Room

Sarina sat there watching as Bethany Adams stood up before the judge, full eye stare turned on as she wished she could get up and slap her across the face. It was ridiculous to be even here right now.

When did this things go chaotic like this?

“Are you okay?” Christopher whispers and Sarina nods her head.

“Just resisting the urge to kick her ass,” Sarina answers and Christopher smiles. He wouldn’t blame her if she did, truthfully.

“I’ll pay your bail if you do.” Sarina laughs as that was a nice offer – and tempting enough.

“Don’t give her ideas,” Marcus joins in. “We already got enough anger management going on with Kyle…” Christopher and Sarina both smile, knowing the boss’ reputation.

“In fairness, he has chilled out some since Brexton was born,” Sarina comments, causing a surprised glance from both Marcus and Christopher. Though admittedly – Kyle hadn’t been any face-to-face confrontations lately. “And I’d have an excuse because I could say I learned from the best, too.”

“But how are you supposed to win next weekend if you’re sitting in jail?” Sarina nodded, knowing that the crew chief had a point.

“I am going to ask you on each the charges whether you’re guilty or innocent, and simply want a picture perfect answer,” Judge Mansions states, causing all attention to focus forward. They could plan how to kick Bethany’s ass later. “On the charge of coercion against Allison Reynolds, how do you plead?”

“Guilty,” Bethany answers, causing jaws to drop throughout the whole court room. Maybe their luck was turning around.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people through coercion, how do you plead?” Sarina knew if Bethany pled guilty to this, she would ultimately laugh. Truthfully, she hadn’t planted the bomb and just wanted Allison to do something to Chase. It was Allison who took these other steps.

“Not guilty.” Marcus wraps an arm around Sarina, knowing the case wasn’t a slam dunk and there were more dates to come. He could only imagine how it was tearing at her through the days she attended for her brother.

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Elliott through your coercion, how do you plead?” Now this one Sarina expected the guilty plea to come out immediately – and it made sense. Bethany was determined to split up Sarina and Chase due to her own anger.

“Guilty.”  Christopher smiles as he knew that’d be comforting to both Chase and Bethany moving forward.

“Thank you,” the judge states. “A date will be set for Ms. Adams to state her reasoning behind the guilty pleas and how she went about her crimes. It will then be determined whether the prosecution will proceed on the not guilty charge or move forward to sentencing. The defendant will be held without bail. Court adjourned!”

The threesome quickly filed out of the court room together, pleased with the outcome.

“So what happens now moving forward?” Christopher wonders as they get in the car to drive to the airport. They all owed an extra thank you to Kyle for sending his plane down to fly them there, and back up to Richmond once complete.

“Bethany will state how she went about the steps of her actions,” Marcus starts, knowing Sarina was in the process of texting Chase. “A sentence length will be determined based on what she did, and like the judge stated, they can choose to chase the last charge or not.” Christopher nods his head, as that was obvious.

“What about Allison?” Marcus takes a deep breath, knowing there was a lot left there.

“She has to go up on her trial and state what happened. It is then the prosecution’s decision whether more testimony needs to be heard, like Chase. The jury will then decide if she should be found guilty and serve some time in jail – even if very minor at that, or if she should be let off on every single char-”

“I’ll kill her if that happens,” Sarina interrupts, even more angry at Allison than she was at Bethany. She understood that Allison was forced in some way, but it didn’t make up for how far she had taken the events. To suggest those ideas on Chase, followed by what she did, there was no way she could just be forgiven like that – no matter what.

“My offer about bail still stands,” Christopher comments from the backseat, causing Sarina to simply smile. It was nice to see the pair able to get along solidly now without issues as Christopher’s friendship was nice at times.

“Are you sure you got enough in the bank account to cover these offers?” Marcus wonders and Christopher shrugs his shoulders.

“Guess I gotta start winning some more races then….”

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

Friday, September 8 – Richmond International Raceway

“Wow….” Chase lets out as he reads the text message while standing on pit road. He had just gotten done qualifying ninth for Saturday night’s race.

“What’s up?” Alan questions, knowing Chase wouldn’t mind him being intrigued. They had a close enough relationship to where Alan, Josh, Jordan and Chase shared everything. Beyond that, it was hit and miss with the crew guys.

“She pled guilty to coercion and poisoning me through that coercion.” Alan’s jaw drops in shock as he hadn’t expected that no matter what anybody else said. “So they’re going to convene later, hear her story, and then decide the next step.”

“And that means Allison was telling the truth?” Chase nods his head as he lets out a sigh. “What are you thinking, Chase?”

“Depending on how Bethany went about this – and we know Bethany is just as bad as Chris, maybe Allison had no other choice. Maybe what she did was totally forced and no way around it, and maybe….” He shakes his head, knowing it was a bad idea immediately. They had already tried to play forgive and forget with Chris.

“You think that maybe she shouldn’t go to jail? With all due respect, there’s a way out of anything. Heck, if you would’ve just kissed her, you wouldn’t had gotten the need-”

“There is no way I could’ve cheated on Sarina.” Alan nods his head, knowing Chase was very strong about his morals, and respected that.

“I’m just saying that she could’ve done it differently. She could’ve confessed to you that she was being forced and got you to play along. She didn’t have to plant the bomb in the garage. That’s why I feel she should get at least something for what she did….” Chase nods his head, understanding. Perhaps the crew chief was right – just to air on the side of caution.

“Yeah, you’re probably right….” Chase then thinks it over some more, as he texts Sarina back. “Alan, I just thought of something…”

“Does this deal with Bethany and Allison?” Chase nods his head as Alan crosses his arms.

“What if Bethany didn’t force Allison? What if they’re all working together – like a great conspiracy? What if this is perfectly being set-up so Allison gets off easy?” Alan thinks it over, knowing they could be something worth mentioning here.

“Allison gets off without much jail time, and then she can fulfill the plan that Bethany has in stor-”

“Bethany did mention to Sarina that she was going to complete the plan, one way or another, and to the full extent. That basically meant either splitting us up or….” By the sounds of Chase’s voice trailing off, Alan knew there was only one thing to do – before warning the crew and stepping up security moving forward. There was no way they could be too safe.

“Mention something to the lawyers so they can explore the chance.” Chase nods his head, as he makes a note.

“Lawyers? Should I be worried?” Ryan questions as he walks over, and Chase just shakes his head no.

“I’ll see you later,” Alan states, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Text me if you need me…” Alan then walks off as Ryan crosses his arms.

“Are you sure that I shouldn’t be worried?” Chase looks up from his phone, already knowing why Ryan was there.

“It’s just a note regarding the trial,” Chase offers as Ryan nods his head, accepting. He heard things continued to be hectic in Chase’s world.

“Are you absolutely certain you don’t want to come tonight?” Ryan questions and Chase rolls his eyes. This was the same question that he heard all week from Ryan.

“There is no way under any circumstance that I am going to see IT with you.  I don’t care what you try to bribe me with or say. I will never, ever watch that movie in this lifetime.” Ryan lets out a sigh as he had hoped Chase would’ve said yes out of feeling sorry for Ryan going alone.

“I got nobody to go with me….” Chase shrugs his shoulders. He knew if Ryan really wanted someone to come, he could ask one of his crew guys or a couple other drivers.

“You know that I don’t do scary movies. I’ve told you that from the beginning. Heck, you convinced me to watch Saw that night. Do you remember the nightmares and how I could barely sleep?” Ryan chuckles at the memory.

“That was good….” Chase could punch Ryan right now.

“Still, I’m not going – I don’t care. You can have fun with the clowns…” Chase then walks away as Ryan lets out a sigh.

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

Saturday, September 9 – Richmond International Raceway

Chase makes his way through the garage area and out to pit road.

It was almost time to start the race that night, and he just wanted to buckle in the car and get going. It was the last race before the playoffs and the goal was simply to make sure he qualified. They were in a good position, just needing a good solid night and they’d make it on points. However, that didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous as anything was possible at a short track.

“So how’s our driver tonight?” Chad Avrit questions as he walks over, leaning against the car with him.

“Alan told us to not bug, remember?” John questions as Chad lets out a sigh. He couldn’t help but worry about Chase at times.

“I just want to get this started tonight,” Chase says as he looks over at Chad. “I just want to get the race started, put in a solid 400 miles, get in the playoffs, and kick this thing off.” Chad nods his head, reading through the nerves.

“Well you can relax because the lady is here to take care of you,” Jared Seate offers as he motions for Sarina to join her man beside the car.

“Has he been annoying you?” Sarina laughs and shakes her head. “I know how he can be at times. If he ever gets a little crazy, just let me know and I’ll kick his ass.” Jared just flips the bird quickly as Sarina and Chase both laugh.

“I’d actually pay to see that sometimes,” Chad adds, causing a glance from Jared. “What? He’s right….”

“But we still love ya, somehow,” Nick joins in with a smile. “We’re going to do great tonight – don’t worry.”

Nick’s prediction was close to right as while they didn’t contend for the win, they managed to stay out of trouble all night, getting up inside the top-10 early and staying up there throughout. In the end, Chase crossed the finish line with a decent 10th place finish – which was alright. Though more importantly, he was one of the 16 drivers in the playoffs.

It was now time to chase a championship!

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 147: Return to Normalcy…..

Friday, September 1 – Darlington Raceway

“He’s here!” Chad Avrit announces proudly as Chase walks through the back door of the trailer. “Boy gets home Tuesday and doesn’t come see his boys till race weekend…”

“I’ve been busy – sorry,” Chase immediately apologizes as he gives each crew member a quick hug.

“Look at the tan!” Jared Erspamer comments, noticing how Chase’s skin was visibly a couple shades darker than before he left.  “You could seriously hide in plain sight….”

“No no – look at the hair!” Eddie adds before giving it a quick flick. Chase knocks his hands away with a sigh. One of the many reasons he couldn’t wait to cut it that week. “I’m surprised your parents haven’t said anything…”

“Dude – he’s over the age of 18. He’s allowed to make his own decisions now.” Eddie rolls his eyes, obviously knowing that. He had been working with Chase for a couple of years now.

“I know, but he also takes his parent’s opinion into consideration, and they haven’t actually said much.” Chase smiles, as he pulls up a photo on his phone.

“That’s because Dad had the same hair at one point so he can’t do much,” Chase comments. “And they both know the reason for doing it.”

“Those photos are going to turn out amazing!” Alan lets out, having heard the means behind Chase’s plan. “Glad to see you’re doing well. I was a little worried that you’d get lost in Amsterdam.”

“Surprisingly, we never did….” Alan looks on shocked.

“Did you get drunk by chance?” Jared wonders as Chase glances over his way. “Well, if you didn’t get drunk, you can’t get lost – but being in Amsterdam, you better have drank.” Chase laughs as clearly the crew member followed the Ryan Blaney philosophy.

“Trust me, I had my fair share of drinks but never went over-board,” Chase comments before stealing a snack out of the drawer. “Now, we have a job to do….”

Alan clears his throat, flipping open the notebook. He figured they could go over vacation notes at another time.

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

Chase leans back against the counter in the hauler, smiling as he heard her voice over the phone. They’d only been away from each other since she left in the wee morning hours, but he was already missing her. Perhaps that’s because they’d been spoiled lately with schedules aligning and an amazing vacation.

“So what are you doing?” He wonders as she kicks her feet out on the mountain.

“Watching the Pinty’s Series go around the track,” she answers. “I’m trying to see if I can pick up some more about the lines and such by watching them.” Chase knew that process, having down it himself.

“Keep an eye on the likes of Tagliani, Kennington, and Klutt. They normally run up front.” Sarina had heard the same advice from the boss.

“Kyle actually mentioned going to see Gary (Klutt) if I got a chance…” Chase understood that, remembering Gary drove for KBM last year in his series debut.

“You’ll figure it out pretty quick. It’s not like you’re a total road course rookie, and it’s not one of the hardest courses. It’s just all about momentum, especially the back half. That’s where I beat Dillon.” Sarina chuckles, remembering that finish.

“You mean dump-”

“He came across my bumper and had slowed up due to being worried about fuel. What else did he expect on the last lap?” Sarina lets out a sigh, knowing she would’ve done the same thing.

“Alright, enough about me. How did you make out in practice?” Chase glances over at the time sheet, pleased with what he saw.

“Seventh quickest. Surprisingly, would you believe Truex was 18th?” Sarina was shocked in hearing the news, based on the No. 78 team’s dominance.

“That’s insane, but nice job yourself. Did the car feel good?” Chase knew that wasn’t the full truth as he glanced in Alan’s direction.

“We could use some improvement, not going to lie…” Sarina almost crossed her fingers upon hearing the comment.

“Well, get ‘er done as I know you’ll do amazing this weekend. I love you….”

“I love you, more…”

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

Saturday, September 2 – Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

Sarina walks into the garage area, leaning on the back of the truck with a sigh. The focus today was all about laying down laps, and getting used to the feel of the truck on the road course. She knew she could get the job done – she just needed to follow everything in particular order.

“Uh oh, someone is seriously lost in thought…” She hears and smiles as she watches Christopher Bell walk over. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” she replies. “How are you?”

“Ready to rock and roll.” She nods her head, knowing that if she was going to win, he probably would be one of the drivers she’d have to beat.

“Think you can win?” Christopher felt confident, but had concerns. He did come from a dirt racing background without the road course experience.

“I have no doubt I’ll be fast. I just worry about Cindric….” Sarina followed the eyes to where Austin stood talking with a couple crew members. Based on his background, it was no secret that he was someone to watch this weekend.

“I’m confident that I can beat him if I get that feel I want during practice.” Christopher nods his head, having heard shop discussions about her background. The pressure was on this weekend, so to speak, with the races counting down before the playoffs.

“Just don’t let it get in your head, okay?” She nods her head, accepting. “You just came back from the dream vacation, but yet nobody would know looking at you. Are you okay?”

“I’m just focused on having the best weekend possible no matter what. I don’t want to give it away or make a dumb mistake. I need a win, Christopher. I want to make the playoffs.” Christopher nodded his head, understanding.

“I think you can do it – but, remember what I said. Don’t let it play havoc with you in the mind. Just try and do things as you can.” Sarina nods her head, knowing that he was right. Extra pressure had caused the issues at Bristol just a couple weeks ago.

“So I got to sit in Romain’s car right before the F1 race…” Christopher looks on shocked.

“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head. “Damn, you’re completely spoiled as I’m guessing someone pulled a favor…” She laughs.

“Is it that obvious?” Christopher nods his head. “I don’t know how to describe it, Christopher. All I keep wanting to say is he’s perfect, there’s no way around it. I can’t begin to describe every other emotion that I feel….”

“Love is one of those things that it’s hard to describe. I get it – I felt that when I met my girlfriend.” Sarina nods her head, having seen the blond with Christopher a couple times. “I don’t want to say love at first sight, but it was….”

“Don’t tell Chase but when he first asked me to join him at the Michigan Cup race, I wanted to immediately say yes and spend as much time as I could. I just held back because I was scared.” Christopher nods his head, understanding.

“And now?” She smiles as she looks at him square in the eyes.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for the world. He means everything to me, more than I want to admit myself sometimes. Based on how we connected even closer on our trip, I’d say it’s perfect.” Christopher then raises his eyebrows. “Oh hell no…no…no….no…..That didn’t happen!” She then smacks him as he laughs.

“Admit it – you want him…” She rolls her eyes immediately.

“Most girls would say that and I guess that’s how love is supposed to work, but I don’t. I don’t feel that need to strip all the layers away and show that passionate love. For me, I rather accept what we have right now. I like the slow pace that it’s growing at. I love the connection that we’ve built emotionally, and how we can always lean on each other. It’s just perfect the way it is that I don’t find myself asking for more, ever.” Christopher could only shake his head.

“You are so spoiled – but you’re perfect for him, because anybody can tell how reserved he is about certain things…” Sarina nods her head, knowing that he didn’t hide much.

“It’s one of the reasons why I love him, though. He gets having the right reason and not just throwing it out there. He gets waiting, and knowing it’s meant to be.” Christopher then places a hand on her shoulder.

“I get it. You’re in perfect love. Enjoy it, embrace it, and make the most of it – while doing your thing this weekend, okay?” She smiles, nodding her head. With that out of her system, it was time to get serious and focus on winning.

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

Sunday, September 3 – Darlington Raceway

Chase glances at himself in the mirror, taking in the whole appearance. From the shoes to the suit to the gloves, it just seemed perfect. The hair was also long enough, too, but something seemed off.

“Ugh!!” Chase lets out as he grabs the brush once again, playing with his hair.

“Frustrated?” Cindy questions as she glances in the bathroom. “You look great, bud.” Chase looks over, letting out a sigh. It was nice to look great – but he wasn’t perfect, yet.

“I can’t get it to curl like Dad’s. I want to have that curl in the back, poof on the sides. But no matter what I do – even advice from Ryan, and I can’t do that.” Cindy chuckles as she snatches the brush off of him.

“It’s not happening naturally for you because son, you got blessed with your Mamma’s hair – which is okay as you may not want that puff all the times.” Chase rolls his eyes, not knowing where his mom was going with this. “And asking Ryan for hair advice?”

“He has the longest hair in the garage….”

“Whenever you want hair advice, you need to go to a woman as we always have the most hair and probably know the tricks. Since yours isn’t co-operating, I have a way to do it.” He glances back, surprised.

“Really?” She nods her head. “Focus forward, don’t move…” He does as instructed, eyes focused on the mirror, as he watches her comb through the hair, followed by grabbing a couple other things from the drawer.

“When you met Dad, did you like the hair?” She chuckles as it was strange to think back that far.

“Back then, that was the greatest style and everybody wanted to have that look. I just couldn’t believe how natural it came to him and how it fit him. That, combined with his sweet southern charm which he obviously passed on to you, along with a couple other things, and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get to know him more.” Chase smiles as it was always nice to recount those memories from when his parents met.

“I still can’t believe you had no interest in racing at the time, and were just there because you were forced to shoot photos.” She nods her head, as crazy as that seemed now.

“Once I got to know more details, see the behind the scenes, I started to fall in love. Then watching your father, it just came to me automatically…” She then sprays a bit of spray before taking a step back. “How’s that?” Chase turns his head side to side, impressed. Between the brush, small curls with the curling iron, more brushing and a bit of spray, he looked pretty good now.

“Thanks Mama.” He then turns around, giving her a kiss. “Now, let’s see if we can squeeze this schedule together….”

He headed out that morning, attending the round of appearances that he had to do for the sponsors. Each stop, they were impressed with the look that he had pulled off, admiring the commitment and how closely it resembled the styles of that time. There were even some representatives that had a story or two to tell, which Chase always appreciated.

However, he couldn’t deny being equally happy when it was all done so he could retreat back to the team hauler, set to watch the final 30 laps of the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

Sarina put herself in a good position as the race neared a close, running in the second spot. She even began to close a little on Kaz Grala, causing some cheers to escape Chase. However, just in that moment, it faded and Cindric slipped by for second.

He then watched in disgust as Cindric caught Grala, spinning him in turn six, before taking the win. Sarina was able to sneak by the spun out 33 truck and get second, which was certainly a strong run.

He stayed long enough in hopes of seeing her post-race interview to hear her thoughts – and felt her heart fall apart immediately. There she stood on pit road, putting all her emotions on the line of the pressure to win and pressure to succeed, wanting to be apart of the playoffs, with tears trickling down her face. As she admittedly choked on her words, his heart lunged to reach out to her, hold her, and assure her like always it would be alright.

Knowing he needed to head out for driver introductions, he dialed her phone number on the way, hoping that someone picked up.

“Hello?” He hears Marcus’ voice, glad that he had her phone.

“Give me Sarina…” He requests, without a pause. He knew that time was limited.

“Chase?” He hears a quiet voice not so long after, stopping right there in the middle of his walk.

“I just wanted to call and tell you how proud I am of you. You did an amazing job today. You ran up front all race long, you battled with the top guys, and you raced your heart out. That was one of your best performances to date. I’m proud of you.” He wasn’t about to dwell on the tears – limited time meant focus on picking her up.

“Thank you. I just wish so badly that I could’ve won….” She felt the emotions flooding back up once again as she leaned back against the truck.

“I know – trust me, I know. The first is the hardest to get and it hurts so much each time you lose. Remember how I was at Michigan? You just have to remember that you’re doing a great job, you’re a rookie, you’re out-performing expectations, and you’re getting there. You will have that win soon.” She felt that, too, but still worried.

“I need that win now, Chase. I want to be in the playoffs. Not making the playoffs is a failu-”

“Look at how you’ve ran, though. You’ve been fast everywhe-”

“Playoffs define a season, and with KBM, you know how that is. Look at William, Erik, Christo-”

“What have we talked about? You cannot compare yourselves to them. Your background is totally different. They had other racing opportunities. They didn’t have the odds stacked against them like you do. I say based on your performance and how you’ve learned, improved, and gotten close to that win, there’s no reason to cry and hang your head. You’re doing an amazing job, and I know everybody around you thinks that. Just ask Kyle, Christopher, Marcus, whoever. I know it hurts, but your day is coming…”

“Thank you…” He was glad to hear that as he resumed walking.

“Now , I need to let you go. I will send you a photo from pit road later on and I will speak to you after the race. I love you, I care about you, and I’m proud of you. Sarina, I mean every single word. I would repeat it a 100 times over but I hav-”

“Just let me go, Chase. I get it. Have a good night!” He then hangs up, rushing to the driver introduction stage.

Once he was done instructions, he took the famous photo by the car, exactly matching the same image taken by his father years earlier. He was beyond satisfied when he looked over what the photographer captured as it was beyond perfect.

Following another series of images, opening ceremonies took place, followed by the race. Chase was solid during the night, keeping himself in contention for a top-10 from the halfway point on. Though in the end, he came up one spot short, finishing 11th.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Darlington