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.

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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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 125: “Did you see that?”

Sunday, July 23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

“Did you see that?” Jared Erspamer asks as he glances back from the car. “Did you see what the stall looks like? We were just standing there….” The other crew members glance around confused, as they continue pushing.

“Where’s Josh?” Jordan Allen questions, noticing the car chief was missing.

“He went with Chase and Alan,” Chad Avrit informs them. “Chase didn’t look good….” Jordan then stops pushing as they reach the hauler, looking back at the guys.

“You know, something didn’t seem right pre-race, either. I mean, he was quieter than normal and a glance in his eyes seemed off, too. Plus, Josh stayed by the car when normally it’s just myself and Chase.”

“Are you saying that Josh and Alan knew something was up?” Jordan shrugs his shoulders.

“Regardless, it just all seems odd – especially after that.”

“We’re just supposed to load up, right?” Jared Seate questions and Jordan nods his head, remembering Josh’s words. “Okay….” Jordan then goes to head inside the hauler, when he stops and glances back.

“This is even more odd,” he summarizes, catching the crew’s attention. “Why aren’t the engineers looking over the notes?” Jared shrugs his shoulders. “Guess they will at the shop. Alright, not my responsibility…” He then continues into the trailer, set to go upstairs and open the door.

“Jordan?” Jordan then stops and turns around. “Text message from the boss…” Jordan then walks back to Jared, taking his phone as he opens the message. He then shakes his head in disbelief.

“Of course….” He then types a message quickly, before looking over the guys. “Load up quickly, please. We got somewhe-”

“Poisoned again?” Jared Erspamer questions, having that fear based on his own experience prior. Jordan just nods his head before going back into the hauler. “Ah shit…”

“Why do I have a feeling that was meant for us truly?” Jared Seate asks as he glances back at the garage once again, thanking his lucky stars.

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

The trip to the care center did not last long as they were immediately transferred to Methodist Hospital of Indiana. Alan and Josh could only feel their hearts pounding harder with worry.

Once at the hospital, the pair found themselves in a waiting room with six sets of eyes staring them down – Sarina and Chase’s parents. Alan takes a couple deep breath, and explained everything. He told them Chase’s original confession, followed by the plan, and followed by how things played out.

“I should’ve done something,” Sarina says quietly as she looks at the floor. “I knew something was off….”

“But you did nothing?” Cindy questions as she looks over. “Seriously, Sarina?”

“Cindy…” Bill warns as Cindy keeps her eyes focused on Sarina.

“I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was fine,” Sarina answers. “I asked him more than once, Cindy. It wasn’t like I just stood there and let this happen. I literally asked him last night, along with a couple times today. I thought maybe I was just off on radar, or something – I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve pus-”

“Oh now you think of that…” Cindy comments as she sits back in the seat.

“To be honest, I noticed something too,” Bill admits, causing Cindy to look his way. “And to be honest, I asked and he said he was a little sick. I suggested that he tells the guys, and have a stand-by driver. I just thought it was a stomach bug. I could’ve never predicted this.” Bill then looks straight at Cindy. “So before you chew up Sarina’s ass for no reason, think about that. Besides, that’s not what’s important right now…” Cindy then sits back in the chair, crossing her arms.

“I just can’t believe that we’re sitting in a hospital once again not even a month later and he’s fighting for everything that he’s got….” A stray tear falls down her face and she quickly wipes it away. “I just want my baby to be okay…” Bill wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“He will be, Cindy. No matter what…”

“Do you want anything?” Josh asks as he looks at Sarina and she shakes her head no.

“I just can’t believe this….” She comments with a sigh. “We knew shit was still possible with her and Bethany running around, but yet we let it happen. I should’ve went with him to qualifying.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alan assures her as he pats her shoulder. “To be honest, I screwed up, too, probably worse than any of you. I could see the symptoms right before me. I even suggested that we just throw the race totally and get him help. I should’ve done that. I should’ve never let him go through with this plan – no matter how clever Josh was in thinking it.”

“He’s right,” Josh adds. “I mean, there’s two hours there that we let it eat at him and make it worse. As they say, time is the most important in these situations – and we fucked up. We should’ve convinced him to tell the authorities, or to go about it another way.”

“Are the guys okay?” Bill wonders, having heard about the bomb going off.

“Everybody accounted for and safe. I had them moving away from there pushing the car to the trailer.” Josh then glances at the latest text from Jordan. “They’re curious already, by the way.”

“As expected,” Alan summarizes. “We’ll have to explain it to them and why we kept it a secret, even though it sounds so stupid now.” Alan then runs his hands through his thin hair, letting out a sigh. “I’m sorry Bill, Cindy, Sarina….”

“You did what you thought was right and what he’d allow you within the window he gave you,” Bill comments as he looks over at the crew chief. “Stop beating yourself up. It’s not going to help. Just focus on him. Focus on making sure he gets better.” Alan nods his head, knowing he wasn’t taking any more chances.

The group then glances up as they watch door open and see a female walk through, followed by calling over to them. She then takes a seat in the chair before the group, which could only add to the concerns that they were having. Alan knew that if the doctor was taking this careful measure entering, she’d have a lot to say and it wouldn’t be pretty.

“My name is Demetra Manning,” she states as she looks at each of the individuals. “I’m the toxicology expert for the hospital, and in charge of poison control. I can tell you everything that you need to know, and answer any questions that you may hav-”

“Just tell me how my son is!” Cindy snaps, just wanting an update as soon as possible.

“I understand that you guys have been in a situation like this before and actually, just a couple weeks ago.” Cindy rolls her eyes as she hated to hear the doctor spending time wasting energy on stuff they didn’t need to know this second. “I got a hold of Dr. Hanken in Daytona as we were looking over initial test results to discuss everything. We both confirmed that he was poisoned with the same substance, with it acting as a stronger stream due to the consistency, the fact that it was injected versus digested, and length of time in the body.”

“We should’ve said something….” Alan comments, feeling a bunch of regret in hearing how serious things had potentially come. It was a regret that he didn’t know if he could ever overcome, either.

“How much more serious?” Bill questions, feeling a tinge of worry himself now. Normally, it was Cindy’s job to panic and worry while he stayed calm – but that wasn’t happening.

“We’re not absolutely certain that he’ll fully recover, yet, or how long it will take him to wake up,” the doctor reveals, which pulled at every heart string for both Cindy and Sarina. “We immediat-”

“What do you mean by ‘wake up’?” Cindy interrupts. “Last time, they gave him a sedative to keep him asleep as his body fought it and he began to heal. Are you referring to that, or….” Dr. Manning takes a deep breath.

“Recall that he passed out on the way to the care center with Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Kirk. Well, he hasn’t woken up since then – and that’s what I am referring to. It may take him a couple hours, or it could be a couple of days. It just depends how the poison affected him.”

“But he will wake up, right?” Dr. Manning felt confident in nodding her head.

“As I started to say, we immediately started him on the antidotes and anti-epileptic medicine. He’s also on a ventilator like previously, too.” Cindy knew that shouldn’t affect her too much as she’d been here before, but she couldn’t help but cringe at those words. “We’ll wait to see when he wakes up and see where he is. If he’s really agitated, we’ll give him a sedative. If he’s not too bad, we’ll look towards the next steps – removing the ventilator, and checking everything over. Either way, it’s going to take a bit of time….”

“Can we go see him, though?” The doctor nods her head.

“I’d actually encourage that, as being surrounded by family and friends will help. Don’t be afraid to talk to him or amongst yourselves, either.”

The group then followed the doctor through the doors, down a short hall, before turning into a room. After a couple deep breaths trying to clear their nerves, Cindy and Sarina led the group into the room. They each took a seat in the first two chairs by the bed, putting their differences aside for the time being. Bill then sat back on the window sill, while Alan and Josh leaned against the wall.

One way or another – none of them were leaving the room until they knew he was okay.

“Kasey won…” Josh breaks the silence in the room that had fallen over a good 20 minutes.

“Really?” Alan asks as he looks over surprised and Josh just nods his head.

“Truex and Kyle wrecked racing for the lead and Kasey managed to get his ass to the front.” Alan shakes his head in disbelief.

“That’s great for Kasey, though. I know how frustrated he’s been.” Josh nods his head once again.

“We keep doing what we’re doing, and Dale manages to snag a win, we may actually get all four cars in the playoffs after all.” Alan could only hope that as he knew how much the guys would like that in the shop. After all, he had seen the frustration with how they’d all run lately.

“How can you think of playoffs at a time like this?” Sarina questions, catching the crew members off-guard.

“Casual conversation and hope for the future – just like the doctor recommended,” Alan summarizes.

“All I can think about is how much pain he’s in and how hard he is fighting…” Alan walks a couple steps forward, rubbing her shoulders.

“Listen, that’s certainly on my mind – bigger than Kasey’s win or anything Josh and I are talking about. Chase’s well-being is the most important thing that I can think of, so you don’t need to question that. We’re just trying to lightly pass the time so we can get to that point he is okay. Besides, you know he’ll be asking what happened and wanting to be in those playoffs.” Sarina sighs, nodding her head. It still didn’t feel right to talk about it all, though.

“Oh shit!” Josh lets out as he grabs his phone off the window sill, causing the entire room to glance over surprised.

“What?” Alan questions as he walks back over to the car chief. “Encumbered finish?”

“Don’t mention those dreadful words – but this is worse. Kasey is feeling crampy, almost dehydrated…but remember before the race in the driver’s mee-”

“Text Kenny right away!” Bill’s eyes then open in surprise as he hears the panic in Alan’s voice. “Kasey sipped from Chase’s water bottle because he was so thirsty. Chase tried to shrug him off from doing it, but couldn’t convince before he did.” Bill rolls his eyes.

“Of course…” He says as he glances over at Chase, feeling his heart break in seeing all the tubes and how he just laid there motionless.

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

Kasey makes his way down the hall, stopping as he reaches the door and glances in. Alan immediately notices him, excusing himself from the room as he goes out to the hall. It had been four hours since the aforementioned text had been sent.

“Nothing from him?” Kasey questions and Alan shakes his head no.

“Not a single movement,” Alan answers as he leans back against the wall, crossing his arms. “Dr. Manning says that could be a good thing, as his body is conserving energy to fight off everything. But she also warned that not waking up in the first 24 hours could be a sign of brain damage or something serious.” Kasey shakes his head in disbelief.

“Well then he better wake up….”

“How are you, though?” Kasey could only shrug his shoulders. It’d be a whirlwind from victory lane to kissing the bricks, to the infield care center and to the hospital.

“I didn’t get a lot in my system, thankfully. Dr. Manning gave me the same antidote that Chase is taking, and it’s starting to work. I’m about 80% right now, and she says I should be back to myself in the next couple of days.” Alan could only let out a sigh of relief.

“That’s good.” Alan then glances back towards the room, before looking at Kasey. “I’m glad you’re not in the same shoes as him. I mean, he shouldn’t be there, either. If he would’ve said something sooner, then he could be like you. If I would’ve convinced him to say something sooner, or I would’ve just done it myself, then we wouldn’t be here this serious. I can’t believe I didn’t say something. I can’t believe I didn’t go against everything. Why did I just sit there this morning and let him convince me about this absurd plan of Josh’s?” Kasey shrugs his shoulders, having not been there to see everything.

“You can’t beat yourself up over it, Alan. We all make mistakes. Heck, I’ve made some myself. It doesn’t help. You just got to focus on getting him bet-”

“Every time I look at him lying there, though, it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder that time is precious and I was an idiot for not remembering that. I mean, what kind of crew chief am I if let my driver get into this positio-”

“Alan, it’s not your faul-”

“But it is, Kahne! We’ve been here before! Damn it!” Kasey could hear the anger laced in Alan’s voice, knowing it wasn’t directed at him, but rather the situation. “I should’ve done something…” A couple tears fall as Kasey immediately reaches out, pulling Alan into a hug, rubbing his back. “I should’ve….”

“He’s going to be okay, Alan. It’s going to be okay…”

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

Saturday, July 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 99: Saturday @ Sonoma

Saturday, June 24

 

Sarina walks into the garage area, adjusting her lanyard as she lets out a yawn. With no sleep through the previous night, needless to say she was ready for a long nap somewhere.

After a busy day at the track yesterday, she flew home to North Carolina with the team. Right upon landing, she walked into the house and switched out her firesuit and a couple other items for some jeans and t-shirts, re-zipping the bag. She let herself grab a quick shower – she was sweaty and sticky and hated it – before heading out to meet up with Amy.

The girls then boarded the plane, making the flight out to California for Saturday morning. She thought of sleeping on the flight, but that didn’t happen as her fear of planes caused her to keep watch thorough the entire experience.

The pair landed in California, adjusting the three hour time difference, with plans set in motion. Amy invited Sarina to join her and some other ladies on a wine tasting tour, but she proudly declined. For her, she’d rather spend a day at the track than sitting around drinking fancy wine.

Now armed with a Mountain Dew Kickstart (perks of boyfriend sponsored by them), she had made her way to the track and was set to find the person of the hour.

She walked into the garage area, smiling as she noticed a familiar No. 21 Ford. Setting a smile on her face, she walks over, wrapping her arms around the driver by the back of the car.

“Hey Ryan,” she says with a smile as he jumps out of his skin, spinning around to face her.

“Hey!” He lets out as he glances around the garage. “Do you realize what Chase would say if he saw us together like that?” She shrugs her shoulders with a smile.

“Oh Blaney, oh Blaney, I guess Chase didn’t fill you in the details for tonight, now did he? We’re going to have our own little lifesaber battle. Hope you’re up for it, Jedi.” His jaw drops in shock as he takes another glance around, hoping nobody was hearing. “What’s wrong? Scared someone will hear of your dirty plans for tonight?”

“Are you sure that you’re the same girl that I met that day at Hickory? Wait – are you the same girl that I saw just a couple weeks ago? Are you sure you’re not some twin or something? And what have you done to Chase? I mean, this is….No, that can’t be happening.” She laughs as she notices the look on his face.

“Ah boy, this is going to be a fun weekend. I can’t believe that you actually fell for it. Nice seeing you, and good luck.” She then puts her sunglasses back on and walks away as he stands there, shaking his head in total shock, before walking back to his team.

She continues making her way down the stretch of garages, destination already in sight as she couldn’t wait to see her actual man of the hour. If there was anybody that keep her awake it was him.

“Sarina!” She hears and stops in her tracks, rolling her eyes immediately as she spins around. She wanted to avoid him, but it would rude to ignore the boss.

“Hey Kyle,” she says in the politest way that she could muster.

“I’m surprised that you’re here – well, sort of. I mean, I get wanting to be with Chase, but really after last night?” She shakes her head yes, wishing that she could just get the conversation over with.

“We have to take advantage of what time we can get together with our schedule, right?” Kyle couldn’t argue that.

“I just wanted to say great job last night. You handled yourself very well, and took what the truck was willing to give you. I was impressed by what I saw. We’ll talk on Tuesday about restarts so you’ll be better for Kentucky, okay?” She shakes her head yes, knowing that she was probably going to get enough advice from Chase already. However, it didn’t hurt to also listen to the restart master.

“I appreciate the tips and advice whenever you get a chance. Thanks for the compliments, and good luck today.”

“Thank you.” He then glances at her hand and shakes his head. “Really? I thought you would’ve been carrying around a NOS instead.” She then lets out a sigh, knowing the balance of everybody having their own sponsor commitments.

“Let’s just say easy access with flying out with Amy is my reason. Don’t worry – I still love you and your great drinks. See you later.” He then returns back to his stall, which was the only cue that she needed to keep walking as she had originally planned.

Taking a couple more sips of her drink and depositing the can in the garbage, she walks through the stall, passing crew members left and right. They each wave and go to say something, but she motions for them to be quiet as she makes her way to the front of the car. She stands back for a second, letting Chase and Alan talk about whatever was on their minds ahead of qualifying later on that day. As they finish up their discussion, she makes her move.

She walks up behind Chase, wrapping both arms around him, and pulling him close as she plants a kiss on his cheek. A smile immediately forms on his face as he spins around to face her, placing one in return on her lips.

“Gosh I missed you,” he says as he keeps her held close. “I love you, and thank you for coming.”

“Any reason to torment Blaney is a good reason for me,” she replies as he laughs.

“I feel bad for him already.” She laughs as she remembers the bag she had previously placed in the hotel room before heading over.

“Just wait till we get back to the hotel later on tonight.” He rolls his eyes, knowing that she was going to be up to no good.

“Suddenly, I feel better about this weekend,” Jared Seate comments from his vantage point, getting a curious glance from the pair. “Chase is always in a better chipper mood now that his girl is here. I say we’re going to have a great weekend and put yesterday behind us.”

“Awww was Chasey not smiling yesterday?” Sarina questions as she slips his sunglasses up, looking into his eyes.

“Would you be smiling if you wrecked your racecar?” He asks and she shakes her head no.

“Well, as the boys have said, you’re going to put yesterday behind you starting today. You’re going to do great. You know how to turn left and right. You proved that in Canada. You also proved that you can’t see a slower truck in front of you, too, or judge the closing gap well enough and hit it.” He then rolls his eyes, still in disbelief that some people bugged him about how he got his first win.

“I’ve said it time and time again – he cut me off, plain and simple. Do I need to show you my mom’s evidence?” Sarina just smiles in response, having seen the pictures and agreeing with what happened.

“Awww is mommy protecting her baby?” He then rolls his eyes.

“You can pick on me all you want. I’m just glad that you decided to come.” She glances around the garage, before returning her eyes back to him.

“You cut into my beach and sun-tanning, but I guess I made the right decision.” He then smiles as he rubs her shoulders.

“Think about it this way – now you get racecars and a California suntan. Just promise me you put sunscreen on.” She then rolls her eyes, remembering the summer they were racing the same tracks in late models and she got a real bad burn one week and how he kept walking over, flicking it.

“Oh, so now you care about my skin? If you must know, I did put some on this morning and brought the bottle to put more on this afternoon, if I need it.” He smiles as it was always good to see her taking care of herself.

“Aren’t they just adorable?” Chad Avrit questions as he looks over Jared’s shoulder. “I’m wondering if we should start planning the wedding now….” Jared laughs as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Bachelor party at Jr.’s Whiskey River?” Jared asks and Chad shakes his head yes. “Of course, we don’t want to scare off our sweet innocent boy, so no strippers allowed. Unless Sarina has turned him….” Chase just rolls his eyes once again, all the meanwhile keeping his eyes focused on Sarina. The boys could say what they wanted as he didn’t care – he got his girl to join him this weekend.

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

The rest of the day played out decently. Chase had a decent run in qualifying for a solid starting spot, and the pair enjoyed the K&N Pro Series West show from the top of the hill, thrilled by the close finish between Kevin Harvick and Will Rodgers.

Following their fun day, Chase texted Ryan to tell him that he was taking Sarina out to dinner before returning back to the hotel that night, and to sadly inform him that he wasn’t invited. Ryan accepted, though, having already agreed to go out with his team.

Once the pair were done dinner, they retreated back to the hotel room, making it back before Ryan.

“Want to see how high we can make him jump?” Sarina questions as Chase rolls his eyes. He knew he was in for a troublesome night.

“What do you have in mind?” He asks, knowing that he couldn’t miss out on pranking Ryan.

“A bag of tricks…” She then pulls out a smaller bag from her duffle bag, sifting through it. She then pulls out two items, showing both of them to Chase. “Which would work better?”

“Is that what I think it is?” She laughs and shakes her head yes.

“And I know how to make it look the part, perfectly. Let’s just say that pranks on the road while racing were always fun.” He then rolls his eyes as he flops back in their bed.

“Go for it….” She then lets out a cheer of ‘yay,’ setting everything in motion. “Really? We have to go with all this?” She then jumps in the bed beside him, looking into his eyes.

“Just go with it, okay? Oh, and make sure the blanket is all the way up so he doesn’t know.” Chase rolls his eyes as he pulls off his shirt, flicking it off across the room. “And you could also do that….”

The pair laid there quietly, watching a couple different TV shows and using the time to get in some quality time. They then heard the lock on the door engage to unlock, causing the pair to look at each other. Chase reached over, switching the light off as he pulls her close in his arms. He began to giggle a little, with Sarina putting a hand over his mouth.

“Shut up!” She says quietly as they hear the door open.

“Chase? Sarina?” Ryan questions, noticing the darkness of the room with the TV turned off. “Well, guess someone was tired….” He then flicks the light on as he kicks his shoes off. His eyebrows then fuse together confused as he notices a trail of clothes. “Okay, we joked about this, but that was supposed to be all jokes. I mean, come on. Really, Chase?”

Sarina keeps her hand over Chase’s mouth to muffle his want to chuckle as Ryan walks across the room, shaking his head at the scattered clothes across the floor.

“Lace bra – I wouldn’t have pictured that,” he comments as Sarina resists the urge to wonder on the assumption.

Out of the corners of their eyes hidden by the blanket, they watch as Ryan sits on the edge of his bed, slipping off both his pants and t-shirt so he was down to just his boxers.

“Stop looking!” Chase whispers quietly into Sarina’s ears as he makes a motion to cover her eyes, but making it appear as if he was just moving in his sleep.

“Jealous?” She whispers back in response, keeping herself cuddled close to him.

They hear Ryan stand up and walk around the bed, grabbing the remote off the table as he turns to the bed. He pulls back the comforter, set to climb into the bed.

“What the hell?!? Ewwwwwww!” He yells out as he jumps, causing both Sarina and Chase to break out laughing. “Ewwww. Okay, that’s like wet. It’s milky white. That’s used…recently….in my bed. Ewwww.” The pair then break out laughing even more as Ryan spins around. “Really? I mean, okay fine you’re human so you did it before I got back. But really? In my bed? Why not in your own?”

“Who’s to say we didn’t? Let’s just say someone was horny tonight,” Sarina says, as she pulls one out from under the covers, set in the same form as the previous, flicking it at Ryan – which it hits him in the chest.

“Ewww ewww ewww! Oh my gosh! Ewww! There’s not enough showers that I could take to get rid of that. Ewww!” The pair laugh even harder as Ryan keeps his eyes locked on them. “And you think this is funny?” Sarina and Chase shake their heads yes as they sit up in the bed.

“I was wondering if you’d take me up on my earlier offer next…” Ryan’s jaw drops as Chase looks at her confused. “Oh Chase, I forgot to tell you what I was planning….”

“I don’t think I want to know,” Chase comments as he pulls out his phone. He watches the video, cracking up laughing. “All I know is that Bubba is going to kill himself laughing when he sees this.”

“You recorded my reaction?” Ryan asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “Why?”

“Because you’ve just been punk’d!” The pair let out together as Chase sends the video to Darrell.

“I’m confused….” Chase kicks off the blanket, revealing that he’s still in his boxers, with Sarina wearing her PJ shorts and one of his t-shirts.

“We got back about an hour ago,” Chase starts. “We’ve actually just been chilling here, watching TV, enjoying America’s Funniest Home Videos actually. Sarina wanted to see how high you could jump so she planted the evidence – the clothes, the used condom. By the way, that wasn’t used at all. That’s just a nice look-a-like prank liquid sprayed on it.” Ryan then looks around the room, before looking back at them.

“So this was all just a prank?” He asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “You’re mean!”

“I couldn’t let you off with nothing after last night’s comments,” Sarina comments as Ryan just shakes his head.

“Payback is a bitch, sweetheart. Remember that.” She shakes her head knowing that, as she pulls Chase back close to her.

“Yeah, but just remember that I have my knight in shining armor to protect me, always.” He then rolls his eyes as he goes back over to his bed, flopping in it. “You have to admit – I got you good.”

“Well played, actually. I give you credit…” She then lets out a yawn as she cuddles back up against Chase, laying her head on his chest.

“Tired?” Chase questions and Sarina shakes her head yes. “Close your eyes. I’ve got you, and I promise Ryan will stay over on his side of the room. I love you.” He then kisses her forehead, rubbing her back as she closes her eyes, finally glad to be able and snag some sleep after the past 48 hours.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 93: A Watch Party

Everybody meets up in the hotel room, taking various spots on the pair of couches and floor with snacks and drinks spread out. It was going to be an entertaining night….

“Calling it now – Johnny Sauter for the win!” Alan proclaims, causing a couple surprised glances.

“You’re seriously saying that in front of Sarina’s boy?” Eddie D’Hondt questions as Alan shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m going to win….”

“In your dreams,” Chase says, having a good feeling about that night.

“I’m taking Bell,” Eddie comments, causing Chase to roll his eyes. “We all know who Chase is taking.”

“BKR trucks deserve a win – Briscoe or Cindric, I don’t give a damn which one,” Jared Seate comments.

“How are you guys betting against Crafton on an intermediate track?” Chad Avrit wonders, noting down everyone’s picks on a piece of paper.

“Well you guys are unfair in taking all the good picks, but I’ll snag Rhodes,” Jared Erspamer says.

“Guess that leaves me Nemechek,” Nick O’Dell figures as he glances through the driver’s list. “Can we come up with a better picking order next time?”

“Long as I get Sarina each time, I don’t care,” Chase says as the boys just roll their eyes.

All the eyes focused on the screen, watching Sarina lead the first several laps ahead of the field to Chase’s joy. Though as they got into the run, there was no stopping Johnny Sauter as he made the pass, taking the lead with a smile forming for Alan.

As the guys focused on various parts of the event, Chase focused on Sarina and how she was running, watching her fade back a couple spots. He watched as she dropped back to eighth by the end of the stage, knowing some adjustments were needed for the long haul.

“You’re not growing nervous, are you?” Jared questions, eyes focused on Chase. “There’s still quite a bit to go….”

“I’m confident in Marcus and know that they’ll get her working better,” he comments, knowing that Marcus was always good in adjusting for Timothy Peters through the years and had grown a good reputation with Sarina so far. He just hoped that paid off tonight.

“I told you that I’d win!” Alan comments, as he steals the chip bowl from Chad, earning a stern look from him.

“That’s just a stage – doesn’t mean shit,” Chad says as Alan looks on, intrigued.

“Do you realize how much that one playoff point could come into play come November?” Chad knew that Alan was right, but wasn’t set to give in.

“It doesn’t matter who is leading now, but who gets the white and black flag at the end of the race, and I told you who’d that be.”

“It’s not going to be Crafton tonight,” Chase comments. “Notice how much he is struggling on the get go of a run? He loses too much time.” Chad rolls his eyes, but he knew that Chase was right in his comments.

“Junior Joiner can make just as good as an adjustment as Marcus so don’t be counting your chickens yet,” Chad states. “Besides, I think he’s running better than your girl, and that’s how the night is going to go…”

“Those are fighting words,” Nick O’Dell comments, holding up a pillow as he peeks from around it, causing laughs.

“I don’t want any food fights tonight, okay?” Alan declares. “I don’t want to tell Rick that I had to void the security deposit due to needing them to clean the room since I had a bunch of rowdy kids as crew members get into a food fight, again.” The boys laugh, remembering the last time they got together to watch something – hockey – and the result being food flying across the room as they debated penalties.

“I still say that call against Crosby was unfair,” Chad states as Nick rolls his eyes.

“Will you let it go already?” Nick questions. “Your team is in the finals. Shouldn’t that be a big enough reason to forget?” Chad shakes his head no as Nick lets out a sigh. “Ridiculous. I hope Nashville kicks his ass.”

“And I hope you choke on your chips.” Nick looks on shocked as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Boys, they’re going back green,” he says. “Let’s just focus on the race, please…..”

Everybody quiets down as the race goes back green for the second stage. Just like the first stage, everything went smoothly without any major incidents. While Sauter led throughout, it’d be Christopher Bell snagging the stage victory with Sarina finishing eighth as she ran just outside the top-10 throughout.

“Come on Marcus,” Chase comments, fingers crossed that Marcus actually adjusted the truck enough this time.

“Any comment, crew chief?” Eddie asks as he looks over at Alan, in reference to Christopher beating Johnny.

“That’s not the final checkered on the night so like they said, no counting chickens yet,” Alan says. “She seems like she’s loose. If he would go up on the trackbar or adjust the air pressures, she’ll probably be fine.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, hoping Marcus got the idea based on what they were seeing.

“Isn’t it tricky though with the turns configured a little differently?” Jared Seate questions and Alan shakes his head yes.

“But we got it trickier with Pocono having three different corners. By the way, Chase, I want you to jot down after what you felt each corner and scale it so I can think it over tonight.” Chase shakes his head accepting as he takes the piece of paper from the crew chief.

“Chasey got homework….”

“Jared is still a little brat,” Chase comments, causing some laughs amongst the group.

Everybody turned serious as the race went back to green, with Christopher leading as Chase Briscoe moved into the second spot, looking for every way he could around the No. 4. All eyes were focused on the battle for the lead – well, except for a pair, who were watching for some progress out of the No. 18.

With about 65 laps still on the board, though, a grasp of shock escaped Chase as he watched the No. 18 make an abrupt turn off the track on to pit road.

“Not again,” he comments out loud, referencing the fact that it seemed each week, trouble found them. He watched as she made the pit stop, before returning back to the track.

“Loose wheel,” Chad Avrit reads off of twitter as Chase looks over in surprise.

“Seriously?” Chad shakes his head yes. “Of course because what else would it be? I mean, it’s not like anything can just go normal for a night. Oh no, that’s been her season with one thing after another. If she could just knock out some solid quiet nights, then maybe she could be like Mr. Bell and winning and leading. But oh no, we got to find issue after issue after issue.”

“She was also speeding so she has to come back down.” Chase then rolls his eyes, ready to head out then and there.

“You’re kidding?” Chad shakes his head no. “Why oh why, Sarina? You should know better. She got busted for that some place else. You’d think she’d remem-”

“She thought she had a serious problem and turned quickly. It’s understandable if she speeds a little.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“You’ve done it, too,” Alan reminds him as Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Alan was right. However, it didn’t make this any easier watching as he watched her slip two laps down, sitting back in 19th.

Chase was set to give up entirely on the night when the caution flew about 20 laps later for Stewart Frisen hitting the wall. He immediately put faith in that they’d take the wave around to at least get one lap back.

“She won’t make it on fuel if she does that,” Alan concedes, watching her head down pit road. “Remember she pitted about 10 laps shy. If we get no more cautions, she’s screwed worse than already.”

“Besides, there’s still vibration complaints per twitter,” Chad adds.

“Of course there is,” Chase says as he rolls his eyes. “They should be putting on a wheel spacer as they probably fucked the studs.” The comment catches a couple of the crew members off guard as they look back at their driver. “It’s true…”

The race goes back to green, with the caution flying once again sooner as Myatt Snider gets into the turn two wall and spins. Chase could only let out a sigh, wondering what Kyle was thinking between the issues for both Sarina and Myatt now.

“The way this is going, Bell is going to get taken out by Briscoe,” Chase comments, barely even wanting to pay attention.

“Hey!” Eddie and Jared Seate both let out at the same time as Chase rolls his eyes.

“Nothing would surprise me anymore.”

“Wheel spacer is on now,” Chad comments, having read the latest tweet from KBM.

“Now?” Chase questions. “So they didn’t do that before? Geez, what are they? A bunch of rookies? I bet Kyle is fuming in his motorcoach right now.”

They watch the race go back to green, eyes focused on the battle up front between the leaders, along with seeing Justin Haley get loose, sliding up to Nemechek with Nemechek getting in the wall heavily for the caution.

“There goes my bloody pick, thanks to Haley,” Nick O’Dell comments. “I told you being stuck with Nemechek was shit.”

“He should’ve had ran down as close to Haley’s door then,” Chase replies as Nick could just roll his eyes in annoyance. “On a brighter note, thanks to your buddy for getting me my girl a lap back.”

“Feeling a little better there?” Jared Seate questions as Chase perks up a little.

“Just need one more caution and with the way these guys drive, that shouldn’t be hard.”

“Can I have a new pick, please?” Nick questions and the boys shake their heads no. “So first I get last pick and get stuck with crap-head, and then now I don’t even get a second shot?”

“Cheater cheater pumpkin eater,” Chad teases as Nick flips the bird.

“Boys….” Alan warns as he glances up from his notes at them.

“Just because your guy is still in it, you can’t be an ass for us,” Nick says as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Remind me that this is the last time that we do this.” Jared then pouts, having ideas for next weekend already.

“But I wanted to have a get together for Gateway,” he states as Alan rolls his eyes, again.

“Do it somewhere else, but not with me involved, please. Oh, and Sauter is going to win because jackass 1 and jackass two are going to wreck each other like Chase said originally. They’re driving each other too hard to keep it clean.” Eddie and Jared then both laugh as they watch the field get ready to go back green.

The green flag flies with eyes set on the battle for first between Bell and Briscoe. The battle didn’t last long, though, with the caution flying once again for smoke pouring out the back of Grant Enfinger. It brought a smile to Chase’s face, though, as he knew that meant Sarina was back on the lead lap with 14 laps to go.

“I’ve never seen someone smile at someone blowing up,” Alan comments with a glance over towards Chase.

“You obviously haven’t seen those who hate Kyle Busch when he has a bad day,” Chase says. “But everything’s great now that Sarina is back on the lead lap.”

“Should we remind you of when you were throwing in the towel?” Jared Seate questions and Chase rolls his eyes.

“I never give up on my girl.” The boys then chuckle as they think back to his words.

“You almost left….”

“You figured it was all over with no hope in the kitty,” Chad adds as Chase lets out a sigh. Perhaps he did over-react, but you couldn’t blame him. He was passionate about how well she was going to do that night.

“Well maybe I’ll get a top-10 after all,” he comments, eyes focused as the restart was set to take place.

Over the final stretch of laps – and two more cautions, eyes never left the screen as they watched Sarina battle back, crossing the finish line in seventh for another solid top-10. Meanwhile, among the controversy of the last lap caution (Timothy Peters flipped), it was Bell snagging the win ahead of Briscoe by a nose.

Down in Texas, Sarina climbed from the truck with a smile on her face. It certainly wasn’t the win or top-five she had envisioned after setting the quickest time, but she wasn’t going to complain. If you would’ve told her that she would’ve had a top-10 after going two laps down, she would’ve said you were nuts. However, with high fives for all the guys and a hug for Marcus, she knew they’d put in a good nights work with a well-deserved finish.

“Sorry about that loose wheel there,” Marcus apologizes once she’s done media interviews. “I got to get these guys in line as we can’t be having that.”

“It happens as we all make mistakes,” she comments. “I’ve made my fair share this year. One mistake by the guys is going to happen. As long as we can come back stronger, that’s what matters. We’ll go get them at Gateway.” Marcus couldn’t help but smile with her positivity, knowing that she could be hard on herself from Chase.

“I’m confident about Gateway and Iowa. We have a good short track program at KBM, and I know you have ran well there previously. It’s just about putting it all together.”

“We’re going to make magic happen…..” Marcus could only smile, liking the sounds of that.