Thursday April 5, 2018 – Charlotte, North Carolina
Chase walks in the house, freezing immediately by the door as he sees the familiar pair of cowboy boots sitting there. He was certain that Sarina put them in her bag the night before so why were they sitting out now?
He then makes his way up the stairs, hearing some noises coming from the bedsroom. He enters slowly, stopping in the doorway as he sees the open suitcase on the bed. He notices the items immediately – normex underwear, sponsor t-shirt, jeans, long socks. He then watches Sarina emerge from the closet with her firesuit, folding it carefully.
He smiles carefully as he knew exactly where she was headed, and couldn’t find an argument against her going. In her shoes, he would’ve done the exact same thing; he actually did the same thing while running his limited truck schedule and the XFINITY Series.
“So about this weekend….” Sarina starts as she glances up, noticing him standing there with his arms crossed. Even just a simple t-shirt and jeans, she found herself resisting the urge to prance right over and jump him.
“You’re going to Nashville?” He questions and she slowly nods her head. “Kyle let you play with the late model this weekend?” She nods her head once again.
“He only gave me a heads-up about doing it today as he wasn’t sure if the team would be ready to go. I’m sorry. I should’ve told you sooner, other than that false hope from last nigh-”
“Why are you apologizing?” She was now confused. “You’re a racecar driver, just like me. I know the first thought that goes through that pretty head of yours – going as fast as you can as many times as you can. I’ve been in your shoes, Sarina. There’s nothing like a good late model short track event, and the Fairgrounds is great for putting on a show. I have no issue with it – as long as you bring me back a guitar.”
“Don’t you have one of your own that you haven’t even learned to play yet?” He nods his head, remembering the exact year that he won there. “So what you’re saying is we need a matching set?”
“Exactly, and I believe in your talent.” He then walks in the room, lightly kissing her lips. “I’m going to miss you being in my arms this weekend and supporting me, but my heart will be with you all weekend, believing in you, waiting to hear back some good news.”
“I expect the same from you, too. I’m also going to be there for Sunday anyway. I already talked to Kyle.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as while he was willing to let her explore and have fun, there’s no replacing having her there with him at the track. “Oh, and Marcus is crew chiefing this weekend.”
“A small reunion of sorts?” Sarina smiles as she leans back against the bed, keeping her arms wrapped around Chase’s waist.
“Rudy is focused on the truck program, so Kyle figured it’d be fine to let me and Marcus have a fun weekend together for a change. He knows the friendship we have, so might as well have some fun. It doesn’t change what I told you the other night, though. I’m willing to make it work with Rudy because I believe in him and we’re getting there, together.” Chase nods his head, having seen the progress firsthand at Martinsville.
“Like I said, I expect to hear that you got a guitar…”
“A guitar to play while I check out that cowboy hat on your head?” He laughs, nodding his head. “I still say you’re absolutely adorable with it.” He could only roll his eyes back in response.
“You’re cuter with one if that makes this discussion any better.” She then just chuckles back in return.
“Two days apart, can we honestly survive?” He nods his head.
“You promise to call and text, right?” She nods her head back in response.
“Constant updates, just like I expect from you too. Alan and Jordan have my num-”
“Just like Marcus has my number. I love you.” He then kisses her lips.
“I love you, too.” She then glances down at their fingers intertwined together. “If Alison com-”
“You told me that we were done with her and she wasn’t going to hurt me again. I’m standing by those words as she’s getting caug-”
“Chase, listen to me, please…” He could feel her voice quiver a little, immediately silencing his thoughts. “If she does, though, please don’t hide it from me. Please tell me what happened and the details, or at least get Jordan or Alan, too. I’m strong enough to hear about it and I want to be there for you – just like you’re always here for me.”
“I promise I’ll be honest with you – but you have nothing to worry about.” She nods her head, slowly, trying to tell herself that over and over, but feeling a tinge of nerves in being separated. “I have my guys, and you have your guys. Everybody has an eye out for her. She’s going to be caught sooner than later and be locked far away with Chris.”
“I know…” He then puts his hand underneath her chin, tipping her head up so his eyes could see into hers.
“You can tell me what’s on that pretty little mind of yours. I know this hasn’t been easy for you…” She takes a careful deep breath, as she tries to look away. “Sarina…..”
“I’ve just got so many mixed thoughts about Chris, still. It hurts me as much as I mean it when I say that I miss my brother and I love him. How can I say that after what he did, Chase?” He rubs his hand slowly over hers as he motions them to the bed so they can both sit down.
“In your eyes, he’s the same brother that you grew up with, played with, went to the playground with, shared fun times together, and all those memories that you talk about. Whenever you look at him, into those eyes, you see those memories. It’s okay to miss those times and that brother you knew – it’s understandable. I don’t fault you for that, and it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way.” She then takes a deep breath, trying to compose her thoughts.
“But he hurt us beyond anything we could imagine.” She then slowly looks back into his brown eyes. “I could’ve lost you that nigh-”
“But you didn’t, did you? All we can do is be thankful that we’re still here and we’re both strong as ever. We can carry those memories that you have, but also recognize that we’ve done the right thing for our future based on his actions. We also know that we tried to do right by him and give him a chance, and he failed to accept that.” She slowly nods her head.
“Do you think Shelley will ever come around?” Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I mean, I don’t care if she does or doesn’t. I was so done with family that it doesn’t bother me because I don’t want that toxicity in my life anymore. I’m thankful to have Lindsay back, but I’m glad the rest of the drama is gone.”
“I don’t blame you one bit based on what you’ve told me. Besides, I think you have it pretty good with your current family.” She nods her head in agreement.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Sam some days. As much as everybody says Kyle is the boss, she’s just as much as he is – and even better at times for me. I mean, I don’t know where we’d be without her after what happened…” Chase knew she was referring to New Year’s and the miscarriage, remembering how tore apart they both were in that moment. “She hasn’t given up, by the way. She’s gotten everything looked at more by the way. She actually called me to her office to let me know that she has some more ideas surrounding it. They can’t give us a definite answer, but if we did want to get pregnant, there’s certain things that we can do so we don’t have the same thing happen.”
“That’s good. I’m glad that she’s been able to do that as it makes me feel better in knowing that you have your answers, and we’re going to be able to do it safer – if we want to one day.” Sarina smiles a little as she looks down towards the ring.
“Who knew that one day I’d be engaged, and thinking of having a baby…” She then looks back up into his eyes. “I’ve told you this countless times, but I will tell you again – thank you for everything, and changing my life beyond what I could imagine. I know you keep telling me that my talent and ability and strength got me here, but I really couldn’t have done it without you.”
“I couldn’t do this without you, either. I would’ve gone insane over Alison without you.” She then squeezes his hand a little tighter as their eyes lock together.
“You can talk to me if you need to. I know she’s a insane psycho witch that’s driven you to your wits ends.”
“I’m fine, really, but I appreciate the offer. As long as I have you, I can do this.” He then leans in and kisses her lips once again.
Friday April 6, 2018 – Texas Motor Speedway
Chase walks over, scanning over the faces, before a glance towards Alan.
“Is Ron not here?” Chase questions, expecting to see Ron Malec filling in for Josh Kirk as they did two weeks ago at Martinsville. It made sense to have Ron fill in based on his car chief experience over the past several years with Jimmie.
“Ron couldn’t do this week,” Alan explains, without much of explanation as he wasn’t told much from Kenny Francis anyway. “Kevin Hulstein is going to fill in. He has experience with the guys, and he knows what the role entails. We’ll be fine.” Chase nods his head as he glances over the group once again.
“I’m not worried. I trust you guys and will always trust you guys no matter what.” Alan nods his head in agreement.
“So where’s Sarina?” One of the engineers, Matt Barndt, asks, catching everybody off-guard.
“Isn’t that Jared’s job?” Chad Avrit wonders as Alan could only roll his eyes.
“I thought I got rid of this when we got rid of Jared,” Alan comments, although half-joking as it wasn’t his choice to remove Jared from the team. However, NASCAR’s new pit road requirements had done that for him.
“She’s racing a late model this weekend for Kyle at the Fairgrounds,” Chase answers, earning a simple nod back in response.
“We can all go back to work with ease as grumpy driver alert is turned off,” Matt adds, which simply caused Chase to give him a glance. “What? If you’re fighting with the girl, you’re a little off edge. I didn’t want to push the buttons if that was the case.”
“They’re over their differences and have grown up – unlike most of this team,” Alan comments, earning a chuckle from Chase as they walk off together. “I’d be worried about adding all of these guys to your wedding guest list.”
“Woah, woah, easy there….” Chase says as they enter the trailer together. “We haven’t even began planning a wedding. One step at a time, please.” Alan turns back around with a smirk.
“I know how much she loves you, Chase. It’s only a matter of time…” Chase could only roll his eyes as Alan now sounded like Jimmie and Dale.
“Can we focus on why we came in here to begin with?” Alan nods, pulling out his notes.
“So I was thinking we’ll do a qualifying run, and then back it up with two race runs….” Chase glances over the notes.
The pair emerged themselves in conversation about the various notes across the page as Alan explained some of his different set-up ideas based on what they had learned so far that year, as well as previous years at Texas. He also broke down some of the crew chief discussion they had during the break and changes that were made on the cars as a result.
Completely focused on their conversation, they were both caught off-guard when they heard a series of loud knocks on the door. A glance at each other in confusion – perhaps a brief flashback to a couple weeks ago – Chase got up off the couch and opened the door.
“So where’s your girlfriend?” Lindsay asks without a single greeting or anything else first.
“She’s in Nashville racing a late mod-” Chase begins to explain.
“Why doesn’t anybody tell me these bloody things?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.
“I only found out last night after she found out yesterday morning. If you have a problem, you have her number. Sorry.” Lindsay just lets out a sigh as she glances over at Alan, before turning back to Chase.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt an important meeting. It’s just a feel a little lost here without her. I don’t know anything here!” Chase couldn’t help but chuckle. “What?”
“You grew up a racing fan, and you’ve been to some races already this year. Just go with the flow and have some fun. Hang out with Ryan, hang out with his guys – you’ll be surprised.” He then places a hand on her shoulder. “If you’re totally screwed over there, it’s also okay to betray your boyfriend and hang with us.”
“Careful Chase, she may pass over some secrets,” Alan interrupts, earning a stern glance in return from Lindsay. “Hey! I was kidding! Lighten up a little….”
“How do you guys all work together, and then yet you go hang out with the Kyle Busch Motorsports boys?” Lindsay wonders as Chase shrugs his shoulders. It’d almost come second nature now.
“We just respect boundaries and have an understanding,” he offers as Alan nods his head back in agreement.
“Sarina isn’t able to take a single glance at this notebook – same way I know Chase hasn’t seen any of Kyle’s notes,” Alan adds.
“Alright, I’ll try to make this work…” Lindsay offers, before turning on her heels and leaving.
“That’s it? We don’t even get a good luck wish or a goodbye?” Chase shakes his head no as he closes the door once again. “Dude, what did you do to her this past weekend?”
“I did nothing, okay?” Chase pleads. “We all hung out and had a really good time.” He then sits back on the couch with a glance over at Alan. “Trust me – I didn’t do a single thing. I guess she’s just pissed that Sarina isn’t here and I’m getting the brunt of it. Oh well….”
“Anyways, let me try and get back to what I was saying…..”
Chase lets out a sigh as he glances up pit road. Was this really happening?
They had been decent in practice – not the fastest or the smoothest handling, but they were pretty fast as he was able to at least be seventh quickest. But now with lightening canceling qualifying after the first round, they were going to start 20th.
How does that happen?
“At least you can pass here,” he comments to himself as he pulls his phone out, looking for updates from Nashville.
“Don’t tell me you’re in a bummer mood…” He hears and glances up as Alan walks over. “I know starting 20th sucks especially when Jimmie is all the way up there in the top-10.”
“It’s like we’re taking one step forward, two steps backwards…” Alan nods his head in agreement as he was back to glancing over notes.
“I honestly thought the track was going to be a little slippery in the other end, but I ended up over-adjusting. Really, I think it threw a lot of teams for a loo-”
“Stewart-Haas swept the top-three spots. How is that possible?” Alan shrugs his shoulders.
“They’ve got something figured out, and I promise you we will do the same soon.” Chase nods his head, knowing that Alan was right. Despite his bummed out attitude at that moment, they were making strides.
“I know, and trust me – I believe in you and every one on this team as much as I ever have. I just am bummed out about qualifying a little.” Alan places a hand on his shoulder.
“That’s fine, because I’m bummed out too. We should be better than this, and I won’t stop until we are.” Alan then walks up pit road to meet up with the rest of the guys as they were pushing the car back to the garage.
Chase reads over Sarina’s message, seeing practice got cut short in Nashville due to rain but the limited amount of laps she was able to make felt pretty good. Letting out a sigh, he texted back a vote of confidence for her, while detailing his weekend so far.
He then stands up and goes to leave pit road when he spots an envelope. A shiver immediately escapes his spine as he texts Alan immediately, while slowly picking it up. He opens the envelope, sliding out the note as he shakes his head.
“Wha-” Alan starts, seeing the envelope and piece of paper immediately.
“Nobody had access to this spot on pit road except our own team and the official,” Chase cuts him off immediately. “If it’s none of our guys and trust me, I believe it isn’t because we wouldn’t do that, then it has to be an official working with her. The content simply says that I know you’re alone this weekend and I can’t wait.” Alan grabs it off of him, reading it over, before stuffing it in his pocket.
“I’m not letting you out of my damn sight for the rest of the weekend. You are not allowed to step foot anywhere alone and somebody is staying in the motorcoach lot with you.” Chase looks back at the crew chief with total surprise.
“So I need a babysit-”
“No, you need a damn guard and someone to protect you to make sure nothing happens to you, Chase. Right now, that’s me because I am going to do whatever it takes – whether you’re willing to accept my help or not.” Alan could tell despite defiance being written in Chase’s response, he was appreciative the offer.
“Thank you…” Alan wraps an arm around his shoulders as they keep walking down pit road together.
“It’s going to be okay. They’re going to catch her, and that damn official…”