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…”

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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.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 92: “There’s something about you, and blue….”

Friday, June 9

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as he saw the crew guys all hanging around ready for a busy day of practice and qualifying. With the speed they’d shown lately, and a good run last week, it was time to keep the momentum rolling.

“Ready to go, superstar?” Jared Seate questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “Not missing the girl at all?”

“I’m confident that she’ll do well this weekend,” Chase answers, having followed the live updates from Kyle Busch Motorsports all-day Thursday on practice. While she wasn’t at the top of the time sheet, the fact that she felt comfortable and knew they’d be good in race trim was a good feeling. Now if they just borrowed a bit of Bell’s qualifying set-up, perhaps it’d be a stellar night for her.

“And let me guess – she’ll be here tomorrow?” Chase shakes his head no, remembering her plans.

“She’s going to stay back to watch the Stadium Super Trucks and the IndyCars. She’ll be here on Sunday, though.”

“I thought she’d be traveling back to be with you as soon as possible.” Chase laughs and shakes his head no, though partially wishing that a bit himself. He had to admit he missed her sometimes on weekends like this. Though, it was part of the schedule and he knew the summer brought that a lot with how the trucks did a lot of stand-alone events.

“We have our own lives, and our own desires. We both want to make this work. I respect hers just as much as she respects mine, so therefore we give each other space.” Jared crosses his arms as he couldn’t help but admire that.

“Then why is it your mother still has a problem with her? I mean, we’re four months removed and you guys have only grown more closer together. I mean, it’s the talk of the garage…well, besides Bubba getting a chance to drive for Petty. But still, it baffles me.” Chase knew the answer without saying much as he sat down beside the crew member.

“She still doesn’t trust her and fully grasp what happened there. She gets the reasons why she did it, and yes, she has a heart and understands. But I’m her baby and as she described to me, she’s supposed to protect me no matter what. It’s an underlying worry that she has still till she’s fully proven otherwise. It’ll take time, but it will happen. Besides, she admitted that she’s starting to grow on her….” Jared smiles, remembering that small detail amongst everything.

“I heard that comment at Dover, too – till she mentioned Sarina’s brother. It seems with her brother in the picture, it may not ever come though.” Chase knew that was a good possibility, having pondered that a bunch of times himself. It wasn’t like it was something he could brush aside either, recalling a couple recent conversations with Alan.

“I don’t blame her, honestly. I mean, look at what happened between us, right? I’ve told Alan straight out, too, that I don’t fully trust him either.” Jared watched Chase curiously, as he thought over his next question.

“Alan mentioned a worry about the poison deal being connected to him. Are you worried about that?” Chase wanted to straight out say no, however he couldn’t do that. He heard about Chris’ brief ‘fan zone’ disappearance, and seemed odd on the timing of the incidents. “I see some hesitation….”

“Let’s just say that I know what he said to me that day, and it has stuck ever since. Now, we have a job to do, right?” Jared shakes his head yes as he watches Chase stand up. “Let’s focus and do what we got to do.”

“Yes boss.” Jared then brushes his legs off, before heading the other direction as Chase lets out a sigh. Glancing at the car, he knew it was time to focus on the day at hand.

The team was able to put together a solid practice, with Chase ‘alright’ about the car after the session full of race trim runs. As they got ready to switch over for qualifying trim, he could only hope that it went accordingly to plan.

With some time to kill between the session, he made his way back to the trailer, snagging some lunch before relaxing in the lounge part of the hauler. Just as he was set to bite into his sub, his phone rang and an immediate smile formed on his face.

“Hey princess,” he says as he hit answers on the FaceTime request, instantly earning an eye roll from her.

“Oh, so you think that you can try that line on me since it worked so well for Christopher?” She questions as he laughs.

“But you’re my princess as I’d do anything to make you feel good.” She couldn’t help but giggle in response.

“Okay, that earns you a point Mr. Elliott. The only thing is I don’t know how I feel about you in orange yet. There’s something about you and blue…” He just rolls his eyes.

“Well, white definitely works for you, sweetie, as it shows off every curve – just don’t let people stare at that butt of yours.” She takes another round of chuckling.

“You’ll just have to win me over with that lovely orange….” He looks on intrigued. However, he couldn’t deny that he was loving the chat as it was nice to get in some quality flirting.

“Maybe when you’re here on Sunday I can do that. Better yet, you can show up a day early and make my weekend that much sweeter.” She then sighs. It was a big toss-up for her. One of the reasons she loved the trucks racing at Texas was the fact IndyCar and SST ran the same weekend. She loved watching both, and it was nice to get a chance to see them live for a change. However, she understood the pain of being separated for a couple days.

“You know I’m just a ring-a-ling a way if you’re that desperate for company, Chase. But anyways, I thought you could take care of yourself.” Chase chuckles.

“Oh I’m not worried about myself, dear. I know I can handle cooking and all that day. It’s you that I worry about.” She had to laugh, knowing that her cooking was questionable at times. There were also times that she forgot to eat totally when she got busy.

“Does it make you happy that I’m eating while talking to you right now?” He shakes his head yes. “Good. So see, I can take care of myself.”

“Just make sure you have a good safe, fun, clean night. I want to see what a cowboy hat looks like on that sweet head of yours.” She smiles, wishing for the same result.

“I’m going to try, buddy. Alright – I better go as Marcus wants to chit chat soon. Talk later?” He shakes his head yes. “Love you.”

“Love you, more. Bye Sarina.” He then hangs up as he kicks his feet up, eating the rest of his sub as he watched XFINITY practice. That phone call was exactly what he needed.

The relaxation lasted for a good hour before a knock at the door, and he knew it was time for qualifying. Making his way out of the trailer, he grabs one of the markers off the counter and heads out. Taking his time along the way, he signs some autographs for the fans as he heads out to pit road.

He makes his way out to pit road and the walk down to his stall for the session, set to lay down the best lap that he could imagine.

“I was wondering where you were,” he hears a male voice as he reaches there, surprised to see his parents. They had told him they were coming, but weren’t sure if they’d get there for Friday or not.

“I was taking my time, but knew I’d be here with time to spare,” he answers as he fixes his shoes.

“Any updates from Texas?” He shakes his head no, knowing the truck series qualifying session was scheduled around the same time that he was supposed to go out for his session.

“She’s supposed to text me when she’s done, just as I am supposed to do for her.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. It was the same agreement that they had in place when she was racing a late model for him.

“Her brother and that supposed cousin with her?” Cindy asks and Chase shakes his head yes, only imagining what his mom would say next.

“Well, Bethany actually isn’t with them since Sarina told her off this week after the family comment stunt,” he starts. “Bethany stopped by and made some other comment about that reunion. Sarina told her to fly a kite because she wasn’t doing family drama anymore.” Cindy rolls her eyes.

“But yet she still hangs around with her brother?” Chase lets out a sigh, having a feeling that was coming.

“We’ve talked about this, and that’s all I’m going to say. I’ve told you what she’s said about her brother. I’ve also told you that I’m being cautious and careful. Now, can we drop it, please?” Cindy shakes her head, knowing there were bigger fish to fry. Besides, as long as he aware, that was all that mattered.  “It is nice to see you both, though.” Chase then walks away, heading over to Alan as Cindy watches on.

“You need to relax a little,” Bill comments as he rubs her shoulders.

“But I’m Mama Bear and it’s my job to prote-” Cindy starts.

“But your cub is growing up, and learning to handle things for himself. Besides, you both are just going around in circles. You see how much he loves her. Respect that, embrace that. Give her a chance.” She then looks back at Bill.

“You’re just worried that he’s going to be mad at me and not talk to me, aren’t you? You don’t want to lose that…” Bill just pulls her back close. “Don’t worry – I won’t let it come to that. But I will not back down when it comes to protecting him.”

The debates of the afternoon were all put aside through the next couple of hours with the focus being on qualifying. Still fighting a loose condition, Chase was unable to lay down the lap he wanted and barely missed out on making it to the second round, qualifying 25th.

“I should’ve went further on that adjustment,” Alan comments after the session is over. “I’m sorry.” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“There’s a lot of ways to get to the front, strategy or passing,” Chase says. “We’ll work on the car a little tomorrow and be fine for Sunday. Don’t worry.” Alan smiles, liking the confidence from his driver.

“I believe you’re right as we know what we need to do now.” Chase shakes his head yes as he grabs his phone off the pit cart. “Any update?” He shakes his head no as he lets out a sigh.

“Pole!!!!” Jared Seate lets out, causing everyone to look over confused.

“Um, none of our cars on the pole,” Alan states the obvious as Jared laughs, shaking his head.

“Truck Series live timing and scoring – I have it loaded on my phone from NASCAR’s website. Someone is going to love-a-dub his update from his girl.” Chase then looks over at Jared with a face of amazement.

“Seriously?” He questions and Jared shakes his head yes, walking over as he shows Chase the scoring monitor.

“Read it and weep, baby. Sarina Ott just got her first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole at Texas Motor Speedway. How does that feel?” Chase immediately smiles as he lets out a small woohoo.

“That’s awesome!” He then grabs his phone, texting her immediately to say congratulations, knowing she’d get it once done with all the photos and such.

“So, where are you watching this truck race tonight?” Chase looks over at Jared, intrigued. “We were stealing Alan’s suite at the hotel tonight because he’s got the 70 inch screen in there. That’d allow you to see her full screen…”

“Do you really want a panicking boyfriend ruining our viewing experience?” Chad Avrit questions as Chase laughs.

“Me? Panicking?” He asks and Chad shakes his head yes.

“I saw you at Talladega. You’re nervous watching her.” Chase chuckles, though knew that the crew guys were right.

“Regardless, I think it’d be fun if you join us…” Jared continues as Chase thinks it over, figuring company was perhaps a good idea since Ryan and Darrell had ditched him.

“Fine, just so I can drive Chad crazy,” he comments.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 86: “Are you and Chase Elliott dating?”

Chase walks into the trailer, smile on his face as he makes his way by the guys, sliding the snack drawer open and stealing a bag of Reese’s before closing it. He then hops up on the counter, opening the package as he sits back.

“Someone is a little happy today…” Jared Seate comments as he looks over his shoulder to notice his driver.

“Get lucky last night?” Jared Erspamer questions, causing Chase to choke on his candy. He then chucks one at the crew member as laughter erupts from everyone.

“I swear you guys think you’re in high school still sometimes,” Alan says as he makes his way through the crowd to the far end of the trailer.

“For your information, that is not why I’m smiling,” Chase comments with a look towards Jared. Anybody that knew him well enough, they knew that wasn’t quite on his radar yet.

“But the girl did make you happy, right?” Jared Seate asks and Chase looks over with a wink.

“Or it’s just the fact that I know we have a good car for tonight and we’re about to have some fun.”

“The last time you said that, you went flying through the air at Talladega if I recall,” Jared Erspamer comments. “Just because you’re a pilot doesn’t mean you can fly a racecar.” Chase then looks over at Jared.

“You’re just full of jokes today, aren’t you?” Chase questions. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be on relaxation mode? Why are you dressed up for tonight?”

“I’m here to support my guys – that’s all. I haven’t touched a tool all day.”

“Actually, you handed me a wrench…” Chad Avrit reminds him as Jared rolls his eyes.

“Jared, what were you told?” Alan’s voice reigns through the trailer, catching everyone’s attention. They knew when the crew chief spoke that they were supposed to pay attention.

“I just handed him the wrench – nothing else, sir,” Jared pleads. “I am behaving as best as I can.”

“I’m sure Chase would say different,” Nick O’Dell comments, earning a glance from the crew member.

“Just make sure you’re behaving Jared,” Alan says as he approaches the group. “Now, let’s leave high school and focus on the actual race here, okay?”

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

“So where are you guys going to watch the race from?” Sarina questions as she glances towards her partners in toe.

“I liked the view from up top on the roof so I was headed there,” Bethany says.

“I was going to join her,” Chris adds as he glances around pit road.

“Alright, that’s fine,” she tells them. “I’m off to see Chase and sit with Alan. Have fun!”

She then makes her way down pit road, giving Kyle a quick good luck wish as she walks by, before walking over to the 24 car. She slips her sunglasses off, leaning back against it as she watches him interact with some of the guests.

“Are you Sarina Ott?” She hears, turning her eyes forward and shaking her head yes. “Are you and Chase Elliott dating?”

“Yes we are,” she replies, confused as to who the person was.

“Well I have news for you – he’s not your type. You should leave him right away.” Sarina could only chuckle as she watched the girl before her.

“Really? That’s odd, considering that last night Chase told me that he loved me a lot, wanted to be with me as much as possible, and we really understood each other. But hey, what do we know?” The comments causes an angered glance on the girl’s face.

“Yeah, you just wait and see what happe-”

“Why are you talking to my sister like that?” Chris’ voice cuts off conversation as Sarina looks towards her brother surprised. “How about you start walking up pit road?”

“Oh, so you’re my boss now?” The girl questions. “Real cute having your brother protect you.”

“Listen here swee-”

“What are you going to do?” Chris closes the gap between them, catching the attention of everyone around them. Sarina immediately pulls her brother back as Chad Avrit puts his arms around the girl and pulls her back.

“Can we have security, please?” Alan questions, pointing towards the girl. The officer then takes the girl and escorts her away as Alan looks towards Chris and Sarina. “Are you both, okay?” They shake their heads yes. “As annoying as she can be, you can’t be approaching her like that. It’ll get Chase in more shit than good. I suggest you just calm your jets next time, got it?”

“Sorry Alan,” Sarina apologizes as she turns her eyes on her brother.

“Why is it such a big deal?” Chris questions as Sarina puts her arms around her brother and leads him away from the group.

“Because Chase has a certain image to maintain and can’t be having stuff like that associated with it. When it comes to those types, they’re every where in this garage. You just have to deal with what they’re saying calmly, respond fairly, and then let security handle it. Please…” Chris then looks away from her.

“You’re disappointed and he’s mad….” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering what was discussed in his recovery and such.

“Not at all. He was just concerned and I’m just explaining. There’s nothing wrong here. Why don’t you go catch up with Bethany and we can discuss later, okay?” He shakes his head yes. “Have fun!” She then watches him head off before returning to the group.

She noticed Alan and Chase off to the side discussing things, knowing her brother was probably topic of conversation.

“I’m just telling you what happened,” Alan states as Chase lets out a sigh. He didn’t need this, especially when there were concerns already.

“I’m sure nothing was meant by it and I’m sure Sarina straightened it out,” Chase comments as he looks over towards Sarina. “It’s fine, Alan….” He then goes to walk away as Alan places a hand on his shoulder.

“Remember what we talked about. You said it yourself that things seemed off. Don’t forget that…” Chase shakes his head yes before walking over to Sarina.

“Everything okay?” She questions and he wraps his arms around her as he shakes his head yes. “You’re not lying, are you?” He lets out a sigh, eyes focused down pit road wondering where Chris was headed off to. He couldn’t help but worry at times.

“Alan just mentioned what happened and to address accordingly with you,” he starts. “I told him that it was handled by you taking him aside. You don’t have to worry…” He then looks into her eyes, kissing her lips. “We’re going to have a good night.”

“I hope you’re right about that.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 85: Saturday

Jared Erspamer walks into the garage, glancing around as he sees the guys going about their usual business. Letting out a sigh, maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

He wanted to come and see his guys. He wanted to spend time with them and support them. However, it just felt wrong being put in a position where he wasn’t supposed to be doing any work at all. He knew that feeling would only grow more following the first round of pit stops tomorrow night.

“What are you doing here?” Jared hears over his shoulder, causing him to jump out of his skin as he spins around and sees Alan standing there. “I thought you were told that you were supposed to take it easy this weekend without doing much. Do you know what that requires, Mr. Erspamer?” Jared shakes his head yes, remembering the instructions given by the doctor, Alan and Greg.

“Not doing any work whatsoever that would be required of me, sir,” Jared replies, going with a formal tone in voice. “I am not doing any work at all, sir. I just came to say hello and see how you were guys doing since I’m loose. I figured I’d come say hi, and then go relax somewhere through the XFINITY race, before coming back tomorrow night to watch. I’m just here for support.” Alan smiles, glad that Jared wasn’t going to be stubborn and push it, like he had seen some crew members do in the past.

“It’s nice to see you out and about, though. I’m glad you’re doing better. When Greg told me, I was pretty worried.” Jared looks on surprised as he hadn’t heard the caring tone out of Alan before. “What? I do actually care about you guys, even if I yell and bitch constantly.”

“Well, I can tell you that I’m doing pretty good considering. I just wish that I knew more about what happened so we could put an end to this. I mean, I have no idea where it came from – whether something I ate, drank, whatever.” Alan shook his head, understanding.

“The main thing is that you’re going to be okay and I’m sure they’re going to figure it out.” Alan then leads Jared to a chair, motioning for him to sit down as Jared lets out a sigh while listening. “Now, you’re going to behave and I don’t want any arguments, got it?” Jared shakes his head yes. “Good. Now, excuse me while I put these guys’ butts in gear.” Jared laughs as he watches Alan head off.

“So how does it feel to be a toddler?” Greg Morin comments as Jared laughs.

“Now I see why children argue when you put them in time out,” Jared replies as Greg gives him a glance over.

“If you run into any issues, get a hold of me right away. I don’t want you messing things up, got it?” Jared shakes his head yes.

“You know, seeing you stuck in the corner is fitting, considering,” Chad Avrit comments as he looks over from his spot underneath the car.

“Why do you say that?” Jared questions as Chad sits up.

“Didn’t Chase want to kick your ass when you called Sarina behind his back to get her to come around?” Jared lets out a sigh, knowing that was an interesting set of circumstances. He was surprised neither kicked his ass when it all came out.

“Hey, it worked as they’re happier than ever. I mean, look at those love birds…” Chad then glances over, seeing Chase walking to the garage stall with his arm wrapped around Sarina, stealing a small kiss.

“Don’t let your mind go there….” Jared then looks back at Chad with a surprised look. “I know what you’re thinking and no, he won’t be doing that. He’s a good boy, remember?”

“The ones with the best image on the outside seem to always have the dirtiest secrets, sometimes.” Chad just rolls his eyes as he stands up, grabbing his to-do list off the car.

“Nice to see you out and about,” Chase comments as he gives Jared a quick pat on the back, walking by to go see Alan ahead of practice, with one hand tightly holding Sarina’s.

“Nice to see you flirting with the competition,” Jared says as Chase looks back at him. “Better hope princess isn’t telling Kyle your secrets.”

“I would never dream of doing that,” Sarina replies, wrapping her arms around Chase. “If anything, I would share Kyle’s with him but Kyle keeps those locked with a key.”

Sarina stands back as she lets Chase and Alan have their usual pre-practice discussion, going over notes from the weekend so far, combined with what they wanted to accomplish over the next hour. She smiles as he walks back over, wrapping his arms around her.

“I say later we go out for a night of fun,” Chase comments, leaning in for a kiss.

“Really?” She questions and he shakes his head yes.

“We’ve been so busy that we haven’t any our time lately. I’ll take you to dinner, and then we can go do something.” She then smiles, easily accepting, as she knew anytime they spent together was always fun.

“I’m not going to get in trouble with Alan for busting your curfew?” He then laughs as he looks over at the crew chief, before turning his eyes back to her.

“I didn’t say we have to stay out late, but it’d be nice to do something…” She shakes her head, agreeing. She knew she hadn’t been the best girlfriend over the past couple months with her concern over her brother and racing schedule getting in the way.

“You have total decision on what we do. I’m just happy as long as I’m with you.” He smiles as he snags another kiss, before getting set for that practice.

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

 

As planned, the pair went out after practice. They went out to dinner, before going for a couple arcade games. They then ended their night by getting sundaes together and walking along Lake Norman.

“You know, there’s something I need to tell you….” Sarina starts, causing Chase to look over at her.

“Does it deal with the sundae?” He questions as she laughs and shakes her head no.

“But that does taste really good and oh my gosh they put so much syrup.” He then smiles as he reaches over, wiping a little off her cheek. “Am I that messy?” He laughs and shakes his head no.

“I’m sure I’ll get some all over when I get into the strawberries here.” She smiles as she returns back to eating hers as they sit on a bench looking out to the water. “So, you were going to say something….” She shakes her head yes as the smile fades.

“I want to apologize for being a shitty girlfrie-”

“I’m over what happened, Sarina. We talked that over alrea-”

“I’m not talking about that, but that just adds insult to injury.” He then looks on confused as she sets the sundae aside for a moment. “Since we’ve got back together, what have we truly done together? I’ve been so busy with my own racing schedule and my brother that I haven’t given you the proper attention you deserve. This is like only the third date that we’ve had in four months. Meanwhile, you’re doing a whole ton for me – whether regarding my brother, giving me the second chance, the late model deal which I’ve wrecked twice in a row. I feel terrible…” He then sets his sundae down, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close so her head was lying on his shoulder.

“You don’t have to apologize one bit. I mean, I haven’t been the best boyfriend either. I’ve been so focused on doing well and working with the guys that I haven’t given you the honest time of the day. Sure, I’m there to support you when you’re racing on the weekend, but during the week we barely have the time at home. That’s not just for your fault. I could easily take a day or two and come home ear-”

“You don’t need to do that, Chase. I mean, I get why you spend the late nights going over stuff with Alan and the guys.” Chase shakes his head as he gives her a slight smile, while running his fingers through her hair.

“Our relationship works because we understand each other. We’re both determined as ever racers who will do whatever it takes to succeed. We don’t accept failure easily and are always looking for ways to do better, whether we should fault ourselves or not. We’re perfectionoists at times. You get my late nights at the shop, just like I get the time spent with Marcus and Kyle reviewing video for you. I know things have been crazy over the past couple months, but it doesn’t change a single thing. I love you, and will still do anything for you.” He then lifts her head up off his shoulder, leaning in for a kiss.

“I love you, too. Thank you….” She then wraps her arms around him, pulling him close as she leans in for a continuation of the kiss. Perhaps Marcus was right and things were going to work out for her, finally. “Thank you….”