The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 40: NextEra Energy Resources 250

Friday, February 16 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina glances over as she watches Chase get ready for another jam-packed action day at the track.

“You’re staring again….” He comments, despite having his back turned to her as she lets out a sigh.

“Am I wrong to worry about you?” She questions as he turns around to face her and nods his head. “I can’t help it, okay?” He lays on the bed alongside her.

“I know, and it’s okay because I understand. But believe me when I say that you have nothin-”

“How can you be so chill right now?” Chase lets out a sigh as he rolls over on his stomach, eyes locked on her.

“That’s just me. I don’t let myself get worked up or frustrated. But, you are right that this isn’t the ideal situation. I am worried. I am scared. I do wonder what could happen next. I will look over my shoulder more than I need to today.” He then closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “It’s just so hard to openly say it, and discuss why, but it is there.”

“That’s why you understood it taking time for me, right?” He nods his head. “Well when you are ready to talk, you know I’m here, and I will do whatever you need me to do. Just promise me you’ll be careful today?”

“Absolutely. Besides, today is simple – small drafting session in the XFINITY session, and a teammate only group for the Cup session. You don’t have to worry about me.” He then places his hand on top of hers. “Just promise me the same in return tonight.”

“Trust me, I’m going to do my best to create that magic you know so well.” A grin forms on his face as he leans in, kissing her lips, before getting up and heading out for the first session of the day.

The day started off smoothly as the sessions went well back and forth between the two series, with confidence rising in both cars. As long as he made the right moves come race time, it was going to be a good weekend.

Sitting in the lounge for a small break as he was sitting out the second XFINITY session, he was caught off-guard by a message on his phone. He picks it up, opening it with intrigue.

“There’s no denying that Bethany brought Alison into the picture for her own reasons,” he began to read the text message from the investigator. “But Bethany declares now that she has nothing to do in connection to the latest round of events, and prison records show no visitation between herself and Alison. It’s clear without a doubt that Alison is acting upon her intentions alone in trying to do whatever she has in mind for you. Still no trace of the lawyer or her, though.”

“How can people across the country be searching for two individuals and not see a single trace?” Jordan asks, having listened to Chase reading the message. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he quickly types back a reply.

“Crazy how someone can just hide in plain sight if you ask me.” Jordan nods his head, accepting, as a thought comes to his mind.

“Make sure no matter who you are around, you double check who they are and have no look-a-like to her. You asked how she has access to everywhere, but answered your own question at the same time.” Chase knew that as he stares at his phone blankly. Maybe he could erase the new thoughts and just focus back to their task at hand.

“You don’t need to remind me, Jordan.” Jordan knew that, based on their discussions already, but a reminder never hurt.

“I got your back, man, as always.” Jordan stands up, gives him a quick pat on the back before leaving the hauler. Chase could only lean back and let out a sigh.

The rest of the day went smoother than the discussion, and before anybody could predict it, race time was upon them. Just like Sarina had been the night before, he was now sitting atop his usual spot on the Kyle Busch Motorsports pit box, ready to cheer her on.

The race started out according to plan, as she kept herself in line, not giving up the bottom at all, en route to a solid ninth-place finish for the first stage. So far, so good.

The pit crew did their job on pit road, getting her out third for the restart, which saw her take the lead quickly to start off the second stage. With a continuous lap tap on the pit box, Chase watched as she maneuvered the lines, blocking with style just like he had done the night before. However, she made one wrong move to switch, which saw her get shuffled out, ultimately falling back through the field.

“Stick with it,” Chase whispers to himself as he lets out an aggravated sigh. He knew the discouraging feeling it delivered, but he also believed in her ability to work her way back to the front. Ultimately, she wasn’t able to make up as much ground as she or he wanted, though, finishing that stage in 14th.

Restarting 11th following a pit stop for right-side tires, she looked set to begin to make up the lost ground. However, contact ensued up ahead. She was in the right spot to avoid the mess, too, when she got sandwiched between a pair of other trucks as they tried to avoid.

“Ah shit,” was all Chase could say afterwards, seeing the front fenders pushed in.

“Both fenders got it,” she reports over the radio.

“Bring it in and we’ll get to work,” Rudy tells her. “We can still get back in this.”

The crew did what they could, pulling the fenders as much as they could out and back into shape, before sending her back out. checking the monitor and seeing her back in 28th, Chase takes a simple deep breath as he tries to keep himself calm. There was lots of time and she could make it up, even despite being a bunch of nerves to come.

However, she didn’t get the chance as another truck spun ahead of two laps later, and she would miss him – but caught the outside wall instead.

“More damage!” She barked on the radio, growing frustrated. In her eyes, that was totally her fault as she had totally missed the spun truck initially.

Losing two laps to make those repairs, she would miss the big wreck, but ultimately pulled behind the wall shortly after the restart as the repairs weren’t enough with more issues continuing.

“Ugh,” was all she could say as she climbed out of the truck. Chase walks over, rubbing her back. “That was ridiculous!”

“Daytona is always crazy,” he offers as he wraps an arm around her. “You were doing a good job. Everything that happened was out of your contro-”

“I over-steered when I went around him. I got behind on my steering trying to avoid him and got myself in the wall. That was my fault, Chase, because I didn’t keep up on my steering. If I had’ve missed the wall, and that wreck, we would’ve been right in the thick of it. Instead, we’re out of the race 20 laps early and finishing God knows where.” She then climbs the rest of the way out of the truck as he lets out a sigh.

“I know you’re frustrated. I would be as well. But hey, that’s Daytona. it’s a bitch. You will get them next week at Atlanta.” She glances back at him.

“Seriously?” He nods his head.

“You finished out the year strong on the mile and a halves. Now having Rudy setting up the truck, I don’t see any reason to doubt what’s possible. Just chalk this up to crazy Speedweeks and focus forward.” She accepts, giving him a quick kiss.

“Let me go see Rudy and the guys, and then we’ll head back.” He accepts as he watches her walk off.

Her time with the crew guys didn’t take long as they were back in the motorcoach shortly thereafter, with her changed out of her firesuit as they cuddled up together in the bed.

“Roll on your side,” she instructs and he does so, letting out small grunt in the process. “Sore?” He nods his head as he hated to admit it, but the ribs were more sore than he thought they’d be after today. She runs her fingers down lightly, rubbing as lightly as possible, as he relaxes a little.

“Look at this,” he starts. “You have the rough night, but here you are taking care of me.” She smiles as she kisses his cheek.

“That’s because I love you, and I want to help you, and I want to be there for you. It makes me feel better doing this for you.” She then takes a deep breath as she keeps herself cuddled up as close as possible. “I know everything you’re dealing with isn’t easy, from the pain to Alison looming over your head. I know it’s driving you crazy at times. I know it’s tough to talk about. But I want to be here for you throughout all of this, no matter what. Is that fair?” He nods his head, accepting.

“I appreciate it, too, more than you know. I’m glad that you’re not pushing me to tell you everything, to pour my heart out, to be perfec-”

“Because nobody is perfect, Chase, and I know what it’s like to be in your shoes, scared and unable to talk about it. Like I said to you before, it’s time for me to repay you back for that patience and understanding that you gave me. Now, close your eyes. You have a busy day tomorrow….”

They both just hoped it ended with them standing in their favorite spot once again.

*********

Saturday, February 17 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase heads out for XFINITY Series qualifying, walking out to pit road as he meets up with the guys. He was then surprised when he saw Amy walking over to him.

“I’m surprised you haven’t said hi yet,” he replies as she walks over, giving her a hug.

“I’ve been a little busy, okay?” She offers and he nods his head.

“You look good, though. Is she being nice to her mommy now?” She chuckles, but nods back in response.

“Besides the odd crazy craving for ice cream or something sweet, it’s going smoothly.” He smiles as it was nice to see both Amy and Dale happy. “Dale sent me over, by the way. He wanted to make sure that you’re still good to run today after what happened.” Chase was slightly caught off-guard by the offer, but also understood the reasoning.

“You can tell him I’m fine. I’m a little sore, but it’s not bad. I can handle it. I’m ready to get him another win.” She smiles back in response, as she wasn’t going to bet against him right now.

“I am still surprised by those moves you pulled off during that Duel…” Chase chuckles as he had caught himself a little off-guard in watching back the replay of the final laps.

“Let me guess – if I would’ve told you that I wasn’t sure about this, he would’ve drove instead?” Amy glances away a little. “Ah, okay, I get it. Retirement totally hasn’t set in for him yet…” She then looks right back at him.

“Actually, it’s the complete opposite. He’s fallen right into being comfortable knowing that he isn’t behind the wheel this weekend, having fun with the other stuff that he’s been doing. I admit being a little concerned in coming down to Daytona, knowing that he wasn’t driving, and it feeling weird, but he hasn’t said anything yet. Instead, he’s caught himself up with what he’s doing for NBC and being that team owner.” Chase looks down pit road, seeing Dale and Kelley talking about something together.

“I feel bad for Kelley. He’s probably chewing her ear off with questions now.”

“Chase!” He then chuckles as Amy rolls her eyes. “But really, let us know if it gets to be too much, and know that we’ve got your back too – well, I’ve got your back as much as I ca-”

“You just focus on keeping that little girl healthy, okay? I can’t wait to meet her.”

“Chase!” One of the crew members calls and Chase gives him a quick wave.

“That’s my call to get to work,” he states, giving her another hug before walking over to the car.

*********

Saturday, February 17 – California

“I thought you said you were going to be getting Chris free?” Shelley questions over the phone as she leans back against the counter in her kitchen.

“Patience, young grasshopper,” was the response that she received, causing her to roll her eyes.

“I’m sorry, but all it seems that you’re doing right now is torturing the heck out of Chase, and seeing how that affects Chelsy. It seems to have no connection or bearing in my mind in how you would be getting Chris out and away from being mistreated unfairly.”

“Can’t you just let a plan come together?” Shelley almost chuckled to herself.

“The only reason I agreed to not say anything is for Chris’ benefit because clearly Chelsy can’t seem to care about her brother or family. I suggest you make something happen or your plan is getting revealed.”

“You wouldn’t have the guts to do that.” Shelley was now actually chuckling.

“Watch me, bitch.” She then hangs up the phone, glancing over at the television.

She didn’t know why she had put on the Cup practice or why she was bothering with NASCAR, but it was the only thing she could do in trying to figure out what the heck Alison was up to.

Advertisements

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 39: Can-Am Duels

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 1 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina and Chase walk through the pits together, carefully.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” She questions as she wraps an arm around his waist. He glances over, nodding his head.

“I’m fine for tonight – trust me,” he answers, giving her a quick kiss. She wanted to believe him, but her mind kept wandering to just that morning, those fears and concerns, and knowing how quickly he had gotten comfortable in their bed during her practice.

“As long as you’re confident and know that you’ll be fin-”

“I know what I can handle, and this is nothing.” She nods her head in return as they glance around once again. “Let’s go sit up on Johnson’s pit box.” She simply nods her head once again, accepting, as they make their way down pit road.

“Mind if I join you?” They hear, caught off-guard, as they glance between each other, before looking back at Lindsay.

“I thought you’d be on Ryan’s pit box,” Chase offers as Lindsay shrugs her shoulders.

“I don’t know if I’m comfortable there. Ryan never mentioned anything, and I don’t know the guys yet, and I don’t know what I’d sa-”

“It’s fine.” She instantly looks relieved, catching up to join them as Chase looks over at Sarina. “Remind me later to give the rookie a lesson.” Sarina can only chuckle in response as they reach Byron’s pit.

It didn’t take them long to get comfortable on the pit box in their choice of seating, following a round of hellos from the crew.

Their eyes were immediately drawn to the action on the track, as the field came to take the green flag. Immediately, Bowman pulled to the right after taking the green, letting the field go past him.

“What the heck?” Sarina questions as she looks over at Chase concerned. He could only smirk back in response. “By design to protect the pole?”

“And the fact the car isn’t set-up yet for drafting due to the impound and Greg’s plan,” Chase answers and Sarina could only smile. It now made sense why Chase hadn’t been able to qualify right up there with his teammates. They had gone for a more ‘qualifying’ set-up, versus sticking to their race package like Chase and Alan had. “Personally, I would’ve preferred to get as much learning as I could before Sunday, but that’s their style….”

“Yours makes me more nervous at the same time as I agree with it.” He chuckles as he wraps an arm around her.

It didn’t take long for the first caution to fly, though, as it’d be Jimmie Johnson blowing a tire on Lap 9, taking Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola out with him.

“Jimmie’s luck sucks down here,” Chase comments with a sigh.

The troubles for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates continued, with William Byron going around on Lap 38, tapping the outside wall, after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had sidedrafted with him.

“You guys can stay here until race’s end as we can’t remove equipment until then,” Darian Grubb tells them and Chase simply nods his head back in return.

“That sucked,” he comments. “Hate to see that for you guys.” Darian packs up his stuff, before glancing back at Chase once again.

“It proves one thing – watch your left rear quarter as always.” Chase nods his head in agreement, remembering the old adage rule at Daytona – make sure you’re square when bump drafting and never get someone in the left rear as it makes them unstable immediately.

Their eyes remained focused on the rest of the action, feeling a little bit of dread at points in seeing the field simply run single file entering the closing stages. Chase watched closely in seeing if anybody was getting any runs, where a move could be made, studying the laps just in case his Duel fell into the same predicament later on that night.

It seemed the race was going to end with a bore, but Ryan Blaney popped out of line with four to go, set to make a move on Joey Logano for the lead.

“Come on Ryan!” All three shouted together, though felt paused immediately when another wreck happened.

“How do you do this every week?” Lindsay questions as Sarina just chuckles, rubbing her shoulders. “I could always watch before as a fan – not one freak out. But yet here I am on the verge of heart failure.”

“Ask Chase,” Sarina starts as she looks over at him. “I may be a driver, but I can freak out with the best of them.” Chase nods his head as he gets comfortable.

“Ryan should have this no problem,” he summarizes, catching the pair off-guard.

“No problem?” Chase nods as he looks over at the girls.

“Look at the moves he made all race long. Look at the moves he made in the Clash. He knows what’s he’s doing and he will beat Joey. Besides, he’s got a friend…”

As predicted, Darrell Wallace Jr. pushed Ryan on the restart, getting him out front. There were moves made as they came back around, but it was not enough as Ryan was able to come across with the first Duel win.

“That was awesome!” Lindsay lets out as she shares a high-five with Sarina.

“Girl, you need to get to victory lane!” Sarina instructs as they begin to make their way down off of the pit box.

“Are you sure about that?” Sarina immediately nods her head. “I mean, Ryan hasn’t told anyone that we’re together at all, and I don’t even know what to call us. Are you sure he’d want me there? I mean, I don’t even know what to do! Maybe I should jus-”

“Take her to victory lane, Sarina!” Chase instructs, knowing that Ryan would love having Lindsay there with him. He then wraps an arm around Sarina, pulling her close. “I love you, and don’t worry – I’ll be careful.”

“You better.” She then kisses his lips as the pair separate with Chase heading up pit road as the girls ran off to victory lane together.

Sarina carefully snuck Lindsay in, keeping her in the back corner as Ryan did his assortment of interviews. As soon as the final one was done, Sarina gave her a push forwards towards Ryan, standing back and smiling as Lindsay took the bait.

“Congratulations,” Lindsay says simply as Ryan looks over, smiling cheek to cheek.

“How was that show?” He questions as he pulls her close.

“That was great, beyond amazing. I just wasn’t sure if I should be here.” Ryan then looks at her shocked.

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else – well, except my team. But they don’t get one of these…” Ryan then kisses her lips as the flashbulbs go off behind them immediately. “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for inviting me, and thank Sarina and Chase for convincing me to come to victory lane…” Ryan looks over to where Sarina had remained hidden, giving her a wave, before focusing his eyes back on Lindsay.

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

Thursday, February 15 – Can-Am Duel 2 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina climbs the usual steps, taking her seat as she glances between the boys, flashing a trademark smile. It then immediately fades as she looks down, crossing her fingers together, closing her eyes, just hopeful that everything went smooth as possible.

“Hey, are you okay?” Alan questions as he glances back at her. She simply nods her head back in response. “You don’t need to be nervous.”

“It’s Daytona,” she tells him. “Whether you like it or not, I’m always nervous at Daytona because anything and everything can happen. Given this morning, you could say I may be on a little edge..” Alan nods sympathically as he reaches back for her hand, giving it a squeeze.

“You know I wouldn’t give your boy a bad car to work with, so you know he’ll be fine that way. But, I do understand that worry. Just try and focus on the good and remember that if he feels confident that he’s okay, the-”

“Everything will work out as planned.” She then takes a deep breath. “I keep reminding myself of that, Alan. Thank you.” He simply smiles as he lets her hand go, focusing back on his job at hand.

The race started off smoothly as Chase put himself in position at the front of the field. That didn’t allow Sarina to relax, though, as she felt every bit of heart-pumping action eating at her core. She almost let out the first yell of the evening in watching Erik’s slide Chase’s bumper, getting him loose with Jones going around for a spin.

“Did he touch you?” Alan questions on the radio as Sarina works at calming herself back down with a couple deep breathes, glad that they’re still in one piece.

“No, he was sideways the whole frigging time,” Chase answers, knowing his bumper had not made any contact with Jones to trigger the incident.

Alan brought him down pit road, choosing to go with fuel only, before sending him back out. of course, the jubilation was shortly lived as they were penalized for the crew going over the wall too soon. Knowing they were restarting at the back, Alan called him back down to put four tires on it.

If Sarina felt her heart was going to come out of her chest before, then she couldn’t describe her current stage of emotions as she felt even more freaked out in watching Chase dice his way up through the pack, using whatever lane would move. Remarkably, whether due to tires or just a strong car, she watched him move back up into the runner-up spot at Lap 25, just seven laps after the incident.

She felt like she was going to jump out of her seat two laps later when he pulled underneath Denny, sliding by him and back up for the lead.

“Oh my gosh….” She lets out, trying to keep herself calm as possible, despite the drastic blocking before her. It was nice to see Chase in the lead, but she knew that this was just beginning now.

Her nerves got her break through the middle portion of the event as once again, they ran single file like they had done the previous Duel. However, as the laps counted down – 10 to go, eight to go, six to go – her heart began to pound harder and harder, knowing that everybody was planning their move. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, she hoped Chase could pull the bocks necessary.

With two laps to go, the move came as Kevin Harvick broke out of line, set to make a run. However, at the same time, the lines broke apart behind him, slowing the lanes, with Chase making the moves necessary.

“Come on babes….” She says quietly as they come to the white flag.

Eddie D’Hondt perfected his job on the radio, giving him the necessary information, as she watched him hold the gap perfectly, leading the field back around for the win. Immediately, high-fives and hugs filled the pit box as everybody joined in complete excitement for the victory.

“Was that worth the nerves?” Alan questions as he gives her a hug.

“I’ll handle it any day if that’s the reward,” she answers.

It wasn’t long before the whole team was in victory lane, fists pumped in the air with pride for the win. After standing up on top for photos, Chase hops down, immediately wrapping his arms around Sarina and giving her a kiss, before going through his post-race interviews.

That was followed by photos on stage, which culminated with Chase and Sarina taking one of their own together.

“You were absolutely amazing out there,” she starts as she glances into his eyes. “I mean, for the man that says he has to practice and get better at plate racing, that was beyond spectacular. I say you, Ryan, Ricky, Brad, Joey, Denny and Kevin are the only ones that can make moves like that. I can’t wait until Sunday!” Chase leans in for another kiss.

“Alan built one great hot rod,” Chase states, before the pair take a photo together. They then look back over, as she rubs his side.

“Tell me the truth, please…” He takes a deep breath, squinting a touch as he lets it out.

“It’s tender, a little sore – but I’m fine. It’s nothing that I haven’t handled before, and it’s actually not as bad as last year.” She nods her head, accepting, before leaning her head against him. He immediately wraps his arms around her, just holding her. “I know I scared you this morning. Trust me, nobody knows that more than me. I’ve stated my fears of Allison before, but I can tell you right now that what she’s done has upped the game big time. I can’t stop looking over my shoulder, can’t stop wondering, can’t stop thinking, trying to figure what she’ll do next. So I get it, Sarina, and it’s okay to be afraid…”

“I’m not afraid, Chase.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “I know how strong you are because of what you’ve done for me, whether being there, or dealing with my brother’s crap. I know the type of character you are. I know that no matter what she throws your way, you’re going to be okay because you’re stronger than I can put into words. Right now, though, I am thankful…” She then gives him another kiss.

“Me too.”  He then lets out a sigh as he rests his head on top of hers, thinking things through. He wanted to stand tall and believe in those words that she was saying, but how could he do that when his world was constantly flipped upside down? The little fear that he had told Kyle, Ricky and his dad in the past about – that had grown to the point that he didn’t know if he could keep it under control.

“You’re still here?!?” They hear, glancing down to see Ryan and Lindsay standing there together. it was clearly obvious that the pair had gotten changed, and Lindsay’s hair being messed up a little had a smirk on Sarina’s face immediately.

“I’m about to head to the media center for post-race intervie-” Chase starts, knowing that he couldn’t stay there forever in her arms, despite not wanting to move a single inch.

“Not yet!” Ryan and Lindsay then come up and join them on stage with a smile of their own.

“Group photo!” The girls let out together as they both wrap their arms around the guys.

“Dude, you’re wearing one of my shirts?” Chase questions as he looks over at Ryan, seeing the shirt that he had changed into.

“I’m your number one fan now!” Ryan lets out as he wraps his arms around him, causing a series of laughs.

Thursday, February 15 –Daytona International Speedway

With everything in the books for the day, everybody had met back together in Ryan’s motorcoach for some fun and they were joined by Darrell Wallace Jr., as well. Being the good friend, Wallace had brought both boys a beer to toast their wins.

“If you need more ice, don’t hesitate to ask,” Ryan offers as he hands Chase a bag, getting a simple nod in return. Whether Chase wanted to admit it or not, Ryan knew that he was probably feeling a bit of pain in his ribs and didn’t want to leave his friend hanging.

“How are you feeling, though?” Chase questions, catching Ryan’s attention. It was nice to see the concern go one way, but really, it was more warranted the other way. In Chase’s mind, Ryan never should’ve gotten stuck in the middle of this.

“I’m sore in spots where I’m blue or purple, but I’m fine. Nothing a win can’t cure.” Chase chuckles as he watches Ryan get comfortable across from him.

“So I heard back from the investigator, by the way. She says that the paperwork I received detailing everything – Allison was able to get access through Chris’ lawyer as he would’ve had it. They’re currently looking to track down that lawyer and get him to fess up and talk. They’ve also put a search out for Allison. Now, how is she getting the access to these places? Nobody knows…” Ryan nods his head, accepting. He glances over, seeing both girls joking with Bubba as they played a round of Mario Kart, before looking back at Chase.

“What’s your reaction?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances down for a second, before back over at Ryan.

“I don’t kno-”

“You have to have some reaction, Chase.” Chase takes a deep breath.

“I just hate that you’re involved, okay? I hate that you were there with me today and had to go through this. I hate that once again, a friend of mine has gotten hurt because of this. You went through enough last year with Chris drugging you; you didn’t need to go throu-”

“I wouldn’t change a thing, though.” Chase then looks over at him confused and puzzled.

“Are you serious right now?” Ryan nods his head.

“If I’m not there, you’re going through this alone. I would never want to have someone in a position to wake up on a beach after crashing a plane alone. Besides, what if things had been worse? What if you seriously needed someone to help you? I would’ve wanted to be there, Chase.” Chase almost wanted to smile in Ryan’s reaction.

“That means a lot coming from you. Thank you.” Ryan smiles back in return as he glances over at the other three.

“We’re always going to be friends and we’re always going to be there for each other, right?” He then turns back to Chase. “I’m here for you through this, thick and thin. Until she’s arrested and behind bars for her life, or dead, I’m going to be here by your side whether you are willing to accept that or not. And Chase, it’s okay to worry, or be afraid, or wond-”

“I kno-”

“Just don’t keep it bottled up, or it’ll drive you insane, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“Can you boys please come kick their girl’s asses?” Darrell breaks up their discussion. “I’m getting my ass handed to me here!” They both laugh as they glance at each other, before joining them to take a crack at it.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 38: “Are you sure we went the right way?”

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina heard her phone go off for what seemed like the hundredth time, and was almost set to chuck it across the room.

“What time is it?” She wondered, half-asleep, as she reached over for her phone. Seeing that there were eight missed text messages from Lindsay, she couldn’t help but feel concerned as she opened them. “What the hell?”

She calls Chase’s number twice, before hitting Ryan’s twice afterwards. She then resorts back to Chase’s number, dialing it over and over as she gets out of the bed, throwing a sweater and pair of pants on quickly. She makes her way out of the motorcoach, continuing to hit the number, as she makes her way down a couple more.

She knocks on the door, panic slowly building, as she was getting no answer, or sign of return from him.

“Sarina?” Bill questions as he opens the door, confused.

“Have you seen Chase or Ryan?” She questions and Bill shakes his head no, now intrigued. “He was supposed to fly down to Miami, pick Lindsay up, and bring her here. But I haven’t seen him, or Ryan, and Lindsay hasn’t been picked up yet.” Bill felt concern forming as he goes back in his motorcoach, grabbing his phone, looking for any messages or missed calls.

“Have you trie-”

“I’ve been calling his number over, and over, and Ryan’s too!” Bill didn’t want to panic because who knew, it may be a simple issue like he left late due to a problem, or there was still a problem at the airport. However, that thought was also accompanied by the reason he had come down there early.

“Stay here with Cindy and explain to her what’s going on, and I’ll be back. It’s probably nothing, but I’ll go by the airport and see if he’s there…” Sarina takes a calm deep breath, nodding her head as Bill walks over up to her. He wraps an arm around her shoulders. “He’s going to be okay, relax…” He then heads off as Sarina enters the motorcoach, ready to see Cindy.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Beach

The pair had been walking for what seemed forever, but it seemed to be leading them nowhere. They had passed by a couple buildings, but there weren’t open so there was no way to find people there.

“Are you sure we went the right way?” Ryan questions as he stops to take a small break. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he glances around.

“The sun always rises in the east, and sets in the west,” he recalls a saying that he learned during pilot training. “The track is west of the beach, so therefore if we walk away from the sun, we should find the track.” Ryan looks over a little concerned by the theory, as he glances around.

“Meanwhile, we’ve been walking for a while and found nothing!” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks over at Ryan.

“I didn’t say it was a short walk, did I?” Ryan shakes his head. “Besides, are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m not the one bitching that my side hur-”

“You’re also not in perfect shape, either..” Ryan knew that Chase was right as he tries to stretch a little.

“I’m not a big swimmer, man. That was probably the most I’ve gone, and will go, swimming in my life. I’m just sore everywhere.” He then stretches a little bit more before continuing to walk. “But standing around isn’t going to get us anywhere, so we better keep going…”

“Yeah.” Chase then continues walking behind him.

“Are you good to keep walking?” Chase nods his head as he catches up alongside.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Airport

Bill walks down the airport tarmac, surprised by the sight before him as there was no plane, bags, or anything to be found. It was clear that Chase wasn’t there, having taken off, now somewhere between here and Miami.

“Where are you?” He questions as he looks at his phone once again. He had followed Sarina’s lead, also dialing Chase’s number a couple of times, demanding an answer.

He goes to where the plane was parked and was almost set to walk away with no signs of anything, but stopped when he noticed an envelope. He walks over, picking it up, and quickly ripping it open. Before even reading the contents, he figured what was coming.

“You should be more careful as you know I’m always watching,” he reads, letting out an aggravated sigh.

Taking a deep breath, he pulls his phone back out, calling the phone number that Chase had given him for the investigator. His heart was panicking, but he had to do what was right. He just didn’t know how he’d tell Cindy and Sarina what he found.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona, Florida

“Now which way do we go?” Ryan questions as they seemed to be getting closer to where some hopeful civilization would be.

“This way,” Chase answers as he leads them down a path. Ryan almost wasn’t set to listen, given where they’d gotten so far, but he also didn’t have a single clue. “That hotel there – that’s where the crew guys are staying!”

“Wouldn’t they be gone already?” Chase knew that was a possibility, but whether they were there or not, he didn’t care. It was someone that could help them out.

They continue walking, both of them feeling some pain as those clothes clung tight being soaked, walking up to the edge of the Marriott property.

“Chase?” They hear, catching them by surprise. They could only wonder what crew member and team this person was fun, but it was nice to finally find someone who recognized them. They watch as the person immediately heads over their direction, and every reflex relaxed immediately. “We’re just about to come to the track. What the hell are you doing here? And why are you both soaked?”

“Crashed the plane in the beach,” Chase states, causing Jordan’s jaw to drop immediately. “We were going to pick up Lindsay and ran into a bit of a probl-”

“A bit of a problem? Are you serious? This is no little problem! I mean, I don’t know if you realize, but you’re both damn lucky to be simply standing here based on what you’re telling me. I mean, how lucky can one gu-”

“Look, can I call Sarina and my dad, please? They’re going to be worr-”

“Come with me….” Jordan gets the pair of them to follow him up to the hotel, causing some glances from a couple of the other crew members.

It didn’t take Jordan long to explain what was happening, causing more shocked glances from the various crew members. But in their true fashion, they each stepped in to help immediately. They led both boys inside, and back up to the floor they were staying on. They went down to the crew chief’s suite, with Alan letting them in immediately.

“Get out of your wet clothes,” Alan instructs as he goes into the closet. He didn’t have much, but threw a pair of pants and shirt at each of them. “Anything is better than being soaked.”

The pair nod their heads as they follow the instructions, getting changed quickly. Once changed, the crew members had already figured out their plan of action. Josh was set on making sure both of them were comfortable laying in Alan’s bed, having seen the signs of being sore. Alan had taken the action of calling Sarina, followed by calling Bill, while Jordan took the liberty of phoning it in to the investigator.

“Sarina, Cindy, and Bill are on their way over,” Alan states as he glances over the pair. “You both need to get checked out so they can take you. Ryan, if you want, we can call Roger, anybody you nee-”

“I’m fine,” Ryan cuts him off as Alan simply nods his head.

“Do we really need to get checked out?” Chase questions and Alan gives him a glare.

“You’re in pain right now as I can see that,” Alan starts. “You just crashed a plane into the water and want to go on as if nothing happened? Not happening, buddy.” Chase lets out a sigh as he rubs his side a little.

“I already know what they’re going to sa-”

“You’re not getting out of this – no ifs, ands, or buts.” Chase lets out a sigh as he tries to get comfortable.

“Yes sir.”

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

“I’m just glad that you’re okay,” Sarina comments as she cuddles up to him in their bed together.

It hadn’t taken long in the morning for the pair to be reunited, with shock being the number one item of discussion. Although he hadn’t been wanting to get checked out, it didn’t take as long as anticipated either.

Thankfully, he hadn’t actually broken any ribs, but rather just bruised a couple. While it’d take three to four weeks to heal, thankfully a bit of asprin and ice was helping right now. Other than that, some bruises in a couple other spots and rest to heal the tiredness and he’d be good to go.

Ryan had gotten luckier, only having some questionable bruises in spots, and needing some rest as clearly it had taken its toll.

After they were released, the pair returned to the track and their respective tracks. Bill had gone and picked up Lindsay so Ryan and Lindsay were able to spend their time together, while Sarina and Chase had each other.

“I don’t think you realize how luc-” Sarina goes to continue.

“Trust me, I know how lucky I was,” he cuts her off as he runs his fingers through her hair. “Jump any later than I did, or if we weren’t over the water, and we would’ve been in trouble. I get it. I haven’t lost sight on that – especially considering it’s my fault.” Sarina then looks at him confused. “I was running late, and didn’t bother to look everything over. The note was right – I should’ve been more carefu-”

“You couldn’t kno-”

“I should’ve known that it was possible, because of the notes, because of the threats, because of the way the notes have gone. When something like that is going on, you need to be more careful than usual, and I should’ve been. It’s my own fault, and worst of all, I feel terrible for Ryan.” She then lays her head against his chest as she debates what to say next. How was she supposed to make him feel better about this?

“Ryan isn’t mad at you, and you can’t beat yourself up over it. Like you always tell me – learn and more on. Next time, it’ll serve as a reminder to be careful. Be thankful you’re alright and focus on the future.” She then glances up in his eyes. “Besides, don’t you have a race – are you even running the Duel now?” He nods his head.

“This is a whole new package. I learned a lot in the Clash, but I need to figure out some other things. Alan needs the data for the car, too. I’m running it.” She nods her head, accepting, swallowing the lump in her throat as she lays her head back against him.

“Just promise me you’ll be careful, okay?”

“I’ll do my best.” He then kisses the top of her head as he goes back to running his fingers through her hair. “I’m sorry I scared you this morning.”

“It’s not your fault. All that matters to me is that you’re okay.” He shifts a little, getting comfortable.

“I’ll be okay…” She then glances at the clock, and lets out a sigh. “Go practice. I’ll be here when you come back – I promise. I’m probably going to go to sleep for a bit anyway.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call your pare-”

“I’m a big boy, Sarina. I can take care of myself.” She then kisses his lips, before slowly standing up and reaching for her firesuit off of the dresser. She gets changed, snagging another kiss before starting to head out. “Sarina?” She ten glances back. “Can you get me another bag of ice?”

“I thought you said you could take care of yourself. Maybe I should call your pare-”

“Once you get the ice and I put it there, I’ll probably fall asleep shortly after. If I need them, though, I’ll call.” She lets out a sigh, nodding her head. It didn’t take her long to grab the ice, giving it to him and making sure that he was nice and comfortable. “Thank you.”

“Be careful. I love you.” He grabs her hand with his, pulling her close, and kissing her lips.

“I love you, too, and it’s you that needs to be careful. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” She takes a deep breath, slowly turning on her heels and heading out.

She hated to leave him like this, but she knew she couldn’t give up the first practice of the year, either.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 37: Media Day

When people want to play the game of mixing words and things like that, you turn us into robots. We can’t say the things that we want to say or do the things we want to do because it gets us in trouble or gets us in a bad light. It’s really unfortunate.” – Kyle Busch

Wednesday, February 14 – Daytona International Speedway

Sarina lets out a long stretch and sigh, before glancing over at the empty spot beside her in bed.

It was the day of love, but it was like that had disappeared with yet another day of work on the horizon. She actually wished he would’ve woken up before he left.

She then slowly gets up, making her way to the kitchen half-asleep, knowing that she’d have to go in a bit herself. Letting out a sigh, a day of photos and talking to the media just seemed perfect.

As she reaches the kitchen, a smile immediately blossoms on her face as she walks over to the small dining room table. She sees the dozen pink roses lying there, along with box of chocolates and a card. She picks up the card, quickly opening it as she leans back against the desk.

“I love you no matter and always,” she reads out loud. “You’ll always be my girl, no matter what anybody says. Have some fun today, ignore the hatred that you’re going to receive, and just be you. I’ll see you later…”

She then picks up the roses, smelling them as she gets out a make-shift to vase to put them. As she gets them settled, she was caught off-guard by a knock at the door. She was a little taken back, but wondered if it was possibly either her PR rep thinking she’d be running late, or maybe even Chase’s parents.

She makes her way over, slowly opening the door, relaxing as she sees her boss’ face immediately.

“I was wondering when we’d actually see each other after last night,” Kyle states as he enters the motorcoach. Sarina could feel the lump foaming in her throat as she closed the door behind them, slowly following him to the living room area.

“Kyle, I can explai-” She starts, hoping that she could somehow muster her way out of this.

“You don’t need to explain yourself.” She then looks at him confused. “Anybody knows that you didn’t know anything about it. Considering that Chase sent out a tweet supporting your statement, and the fact that his sponsors haven’t said anything, why are you thinking that?” She felt relieved immediately, but taken back by his words at first.

“I just thought that I’d be in shit considering the messages I’ve gotten back in return.” Kyle had to chuckle as he had read through a bunch of them last night before falling asleep.

“And you don’t think I’ve gotten worse? Do I need to show you what I received when I wrecked Dale?” She lets out a sigh, shaking her head no. Perhaps Kyle showing up was actually the best thing. “I like the personality and spark that you have. It’s one of those reasons why I felt you were perfect for KBM, beyond your talent. I thought Chase would’ve pushed for you to stay in the Hendrick/GMS family, but I can see watching you how he felt that you were perfect under my wing, too. I actually stopped by because I wanted to offer my hand in support, in case you thought I was mad at you.” She smiles back in return as it was nice to actually here, even if originally implied.

“I just don’t know how to handle everybody today after what was said…” Kyle crosses his arms as an idea comes to mind immediately, with a twinkle. “Oh no….”

“I’ve done it, but it’d be perfect…..”

Chase had been busy all morning, going through the required stages of the media day. From the radio interviews, to the TV interviews, to now sitting before a bunch of people talking his butt off.

Didn’t they have anything else to talk about, though? It was just about first win and the prospect of being the next most popular driver. Why did they want to make a big deal out of it?

“Your tweet last night in relation to Sarina surprised some people,” a media member speaks up, catching his attention. “We haven’t seen you speak out much about things…”

“I speak out when necessary, answer questions as they’re asked, and go about my business,” Chase offers. “But last night, it was clear that a lot of people took her comment the wrong way. Nobody associated with me, or myself, had any ill-feelings, but you could see yourself the comments. I just wanted to show my support.” He just hoped they left it at that.

“What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?” He smiles, shrugging his shoulders.

“I can’t tell you that, man. She’s around here somewhere and may hear my answer. That’d ruin the surprise.”

Sarina was also busy doing her rounds at the same time, and found herself before the same people later on. Taking a deep breath, she couldn’t wait for the fun to begin. She trusted Kyle’s judgment in doing this.

“What are your thoughts going into this weekend?” One reporter asks and she just smiles.

“Everything’s great,” she answers, noticing Kyle watching out of the corner of her eye.

“What is your reaction to the backlash from last night?” Another wonders.

“Everything’s great.”

“What about your relationship with Chase Elliott?”

“Everything’s great.”

“What about Valentine’s Day? Chase mentioned a possible surprise….”

“Everything’s great.” Kyle couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched the reactions on their faces.

“Is that all your going to say today?” She then glances over, and nods her head.

“It seems that when you guys get to know me, it’s gets twisted or torn apart. I’m the girl who’s probably crazy, maybe even insane, and can’t crack a simple joke, right? That’s sarcasm, if you don’t get that, because I am not those things. But I am sick of people twisting things on their face.”

“Does that mean all of your answers are going to dry from now on?” One of them wonders and she shrugs her shoulders.

“We’ll just have to see what happens, right?” She questions as she sits back in the chair. “If I have to be honest, though, I was taken back by the responses last night to the tweet that those clearly directed to got right away. I mean, I’ve talked with those girls before at races and we have no problems. Secondly, obviously I’m excited for this weekend to get back racing and get back behind the wheel. Hopefully I can snag myself a win and start off the year well. As for your other question, Chase and I – well, everything’s just great.”

Kyle also took his time before the media, seeing as though things had been taken care of accordingly – even if some people didn’t appreciate their tactic used.

“What is your take on the situation with Sarina’s tweet?” Busch was asked about halfway through.

“Everything’s great, right?” He offers, causing a series of chuckles. “My take is simple. When people want to play the game of mixing words and things like that, you turn us into robots. We can’t say the things that we want to say or do the things we want to do because it gets us in trouble or gets us in a bad light. It’s really unfortunate.”

Despite starting after he had started, she was officially done for the day and was now doing the liberty o standing back watching him finish up the last couple of photos.

“I can’t believe you’re not down here for Valentine’s Day sucking up to Ryan,” she says on the phone, having dialed up Lindsay. She wanted to make sure her cousin was still coming as promised.

“I couldn’t get out of doing this dance recital no matter how hard I tried,” Lindsay confesses as Sarina lets out a long sigh. “Besides, it’s not like Ryan and I aren’t close yet…” It was now her turn to chuckle.

“You don’t need to keep lying to me and Chase….” It was clear that chemistry was growing as she had on good information from Chase that Ryan had been texting Lindsay.

“I’m being serious! But okay, let’s talk to you now. It must suck working on the one day where you two could truly spend to yourselves, cherishing that special love….” Sarina couldn’t find herself to agree, though, by the sight before her right now.

“There are certainly perks to this job…” She licks her lips with every thought that comes to her mind, as he lets out a quick blink her way. “I have an excuse to just stand here, stare, and not be creepy.”

“Do I want to know what you’re doing right now?” Sarina almost chuckled, as she kept her eyes locked on Chase’s.

“I’m just watching him do the photo shoot for Fox. Needless to say, we’re going to be spoiled as they are doing quite the job…” It was Lindsay’s turn to chuckle as Sarina watched as he shifted positions.

“Are you sure you want to share that with the whole world?” Sarina knew the answer that should be offered, but she didn’t need to be one of those girls.

“They can look, but at the end of the day, we both know where his heart lies….”

Once they were done their photos together, they headed back to the motorcoach.

Chase goes in before her, retreating to the back as he finds a pair of good pants and a polo shirt, heading into the bathroom without saying a single word.

Sarina makes her way in, shutting the door behind her, as she comes up through. She finds herself frozen at the table, caught off-guard. She had put the card and flowers up, and eaten the chocolate, before she left, with nothing there. However, now a big box laid there with her name on it.

She slowly opens the box and her jaw dropped immediately as she saw the dress inside. She slowly pulls it out, holding it up as she glances it over.

“Do you like it?” She hears as her eyes turn his direction, seeing him peaking out of the bathroom.

“It’s stunning…” She lets out as she lays it back on the table. He makes his way over to her, just wearing his pants right now, as he wraps his arms around her.

“After you left, I got my mom to sneak back in and set this here for you. I love you, and I want to spend this day properly with you. I’m taking you out to dinner tonight. Why don’t you get that on and show me just how beautiful you are?” He then kisses her lips, before letting go and retreating back to the bathroom.

It didn’t take her long to get dressed before they headed out together to dinner.

It went successful together, as they were able to get some quality time together, with even more gifts shared. He bought her an 18 and 9 charm to go on her bracelet with the heart-shaped locket, while she had treated him to a box of chocolates, along with a couple new magazine subscriptions and new Georgia Bulldog sweater.

Of course, the night ended off in true fashion, too, as he eventually helped her take off the dress carefully later on.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

With the night going later on than intended, Chase had later than he wanted, and was shocked when the alarm went off at 4am, knowing he had to go pick up Lindsay from the airport for Sarina. It also didn’t hurt that it had gone off a half hour later than he wanted, either. Perhaps he had hit snooze twice.

He carefully sneaks out of the bed without disturbing her, quickly texting Ryan in the process. Ryan had asked to come as he wanted to see Lindsay.

“So she landed in Miami because it was cheaper?” Ryan questions and Chase nods his head yes as they pull into the parking lot. “So we’re going to fly down there, pick her up, and come back?”

“That’s the plan,” Chase answers as he parks the car. “Are you excited to see your girl?”

“I would’ve honestly preferred a couple more hours sleep…” Chase couldn’t help but agree as the pair made their way to the plane.

Glancing at the time, seeing that they were running late, he could only shake his head. Knowing the plane had been locked up, he was confident in no issues, forgoing the usual checklist.

Though now in the air for awhile, he was beginning to regret it as he saw something wrong on the dials.

“We need to land ASAP,” he tells Ryan, who looks over a little concerned. Ryan knew there was reason to be worried if Chase was saying that. “Either we turn around, or we land up here on the sand. But this…” He points to a couple of the dials. “…just doesn’t seem right.”

“Do what you feel right,” Ryan instructs as he unintentionally makes sure the belts are done up tight as they can. “I trust you. Just let me know if I can help.”

One eye on the dials, one eye on the sky, he tries to get himself turned around to head back to the original airport. Though as he turns, a big sound can be heard, causing both of the young men to jump out of their skin.

“Hold on tight!” Chase instructs, keeping both hands locked on the steering wheel as he pulls at the wheel as hard as he can. “Damn it, come on!” Despite the efforts, it wasn’t long before water was in their full view as Ryan closed his eyes, counting his blessings.

“Oh shi-” Ryan starts as he sees the beach water below him straight ahead.

“Abort!” Chase reaches over, knocking Ryan’s belts loose before knocking his own. “Go down belted in and we’re drowning. You know what to do…”

“Are you sure?” Ryan didn’t get a chance to hear an answer as he watches his friend jump, heading straight for the water away from the plane. A deep breath, and Ryan followed suit, barely making it out following him.

Thursday, February 15, 2018 – Daytona Beach – 7am

Chase takes a deep breath, glancing around him. Considering how high he had jumped from, he actually didn’t feel that bad right now. But why did things feel odd?

He closes his eyes, trying to remember the past couple of hours. He remembered the jump into the water. He remembered working hard as swimming to shore as the plane went down behind him. He remembered making it to shore. As he opens his eyes, exhaustion was all he could think of as he glances around.

“Chase?!?” He hears his name called and the missing link instantly comes to him.

“Ryan?!?” He yells back in return as he glances down the beach. He saw his friend lying on the beach and couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. He makes his way slowly down, flopping back down beside him. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, absolutely. I’m tired as hell, but I’m okay….” Chase nods his head as he glances around.

“I’m okay, too.” Ryan couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief.

“When you jumped, I didn’t know what to think….” Chase looks out to the water, before looking over at Ryan.

“Instincts just took over. I don’t know what went through my mind.” He then glances around the beach, seeing it was still bare – which seemed odd despite the early hour. “If you’re willing to do some traveling, we should go find civilization.” Ryan nods his head in agreement, as he slowly goes to stand up.

“Oh man…” Chase looks over concerned. “Sore, everywhere…” Chase watches Ryan get up, before getting up himself. He froze immediately, hands reaching down to his side.

“I knew he jinxed it!” Ryan then looks over confused. “Ricky mentioned in all this jokingly that I hadn’t hurt my ribs when this started. I recognize that pain – not as bad, but damn…” Ryan almost felt like getting the pair to sit back down, but knew that wasn’t an option.

“Are you sure you’re up for a hike?” Chase nods his head as he begins to head down the beach.

“If we’re racing tonight, we need to find the track…” Ryan couldn’t argue with him as he knew no matter how sore they both were, racing wasn’t out of the question.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 36: “This is classified information”

Monday, February 12, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

With breakfast done and complete, the dishes were placed in the sink and rinsed off. Chase then came back over to the table, sitting down before her.

“So, this is our one day where we don’t have to do a single thing at all….” He offers and she nods her head, having glanced at the schedule. While yesterday was blank at Daytona, he would be off to Atlanta due to some promoting for the hometown event – something about lucky charms. Then on Wednesday, it was a day full of media, before back to racing action on Thursday.

“Considering how the past two days have gone, I’ll take it,” Sarina comments as there were no doubt that stress had been in the air with Speedweeks action, and the mysterious notes. It was almost unnerving sometimes to think about there not being something in their eyes since Friday.

“But I do have something that we can do, though.” She looks at him intrigued, half-expecting to head to the beach for the day, or over to New Smyna Speedway to watch some late model action. “What about going to Disney World?”

“Seriously?”  He nods his head.

“We both like roller coasters, and there are some pretty neat rides there so why not?” She couldn’t argue with the idea, even if relaxing was more her original plan for the day. But really, any day spent with him was better than nothing, right?

“Why are we still sitting here? Let’s go!”

“Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?” Chase questions once they’re in the park with their passes paid for.

“As much as Space Mountain is cool, you know that I have to go with the mountain,” Sarina answers and Chase nods his head. He should’ve remembered from last year’s trip. “We can do mine and then do yours?”

“Even being at the opposite ends of the park?” Sarina knew it wasn’t the best plan, but they had all day and the idea was to do their favorite rides. So she simply accepted, despite the walking that’d be required.

After taking in them both, they were certainly starting off their day with thrills as the smiles were easily seen from one end of the park to the other.

“What’s next?” Chase questions as it was back to her to decide what they would tackle.

“I challenge you to a shoot-off,” Sarina answers with a determined look in her eyes. He knew that meant Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. “The loser has to give the winner a special treat tonight – no holding back one bit.” He looks back at her with a intrigued glance.

“Are you that determined for me to pleasure you?” She chuckles back in response as they get in line.

“And you better make it worth my while….” Chase then crosses his arms as he thinks it over.

“Who says you’re winning?” She gives him a wink as they inch closer. “I’m serious! Recall, I did beat you the last time…”

“That was beginner’s luck.” He just rolls his eyes back in return.

The shoot-off ended up being closer than either expected, as they were both able to shoot a good number of targets accurately through the whole ride – despite trying to throw each other off at times. Though in the end, Sarina held true to her word as she came out the winner by a couple 100 points.

“You owe me,” she states as they come out of ride. He just wraps his arms around her from behind.

“I have no problem with that because trust me, by the time I’m done, you’re going to be wanting to give me just as much back,” he tells her, kissing her lips as she just smirks back. “Fantasyland or Main Street?”

“Main Street. I worked up quite the appetite kicking your ass.” He then rolls his eyes as they head that way. “Besides, we can go to Pirates of Caribbean afterwards.”

“Aye, the pirate’s life is for me…” She just laughs at the accent as they head off together.

Through the rest of the day, the pair explored the entire park, taking in some of their favorite thrills from one end to the other. Chase made sure to end off their day in style, though, making sure that they had dinner at Cinderella’s Castle.

“A princess like you deserves to be treated as such – especially since you’ll be missing me tomorrow, and we’re busy on Valentine’s Day,” he told her as they entered.

He also made sure to save riding Dumbo the Elephant for last. While it wasn’t the most quickest or intense ride, the sweet serenity of slowly going around in the air underneath the fireworks with his arm wrapped around her meant everything to him.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 – Atlanta Motor Speedway

Kicking off the home track promotional tour, Chase made his way into the media center where an assortment of lucky charms awaited delivery for him. The track had done a promotion for fans to send in something lucky, and needless to say, they had gotten a bunch of stuff.

Glancing over everything, he couldn’t help but smile as there were great, unique items throughout. The next step was doing a Q&A with the media from the stage, followed by one-on-one interviews.

“You have one more to do but we have to wait for your Dad to get here,” Morgan tells him and he nods his head.

“Yeah, he said he’d be here in about 10 minutes or so,” Chase answers, having texted him a couple times.

While waiting, Chase made his way back over to the assortment of items, going through them once again. He then picked up a couple of the envelopes off the floor, flipping through them. He tore open a couple, reading the notes inside to pass the time – admiring some of the notes from the youngest fans. As he reached for the next batch, his hand froze as he recognized the writing on one of the envelopes.

Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, he wished that Jordan would’ve been there to take the envelope and open it away from everybody like he had with the previous one. However, that was not an option today. He could easily hand it over to Morgan, but he didn’t want her to be more concerned than already with the warning at the shop. He also knew he could brush it off to later, but curiosity said otherwise.

Running his fingers along the top, he opens the envelope with ease as he glances inside to see the contents. Being a stack of papers, he admitted being caught off-guard as the small card before them fell into his hand first.

“Always know that I have an eye on you, and access to everything,” he reads quietly, sending a shiver down his spine.

Closing his eyes, reminding himself that it was just a mental game and they were just trying to mess with him, he tries to shake off the feeling that had come over him. He then pulls out the stack of papers, reading them over quickly. It didn’t take long to realize what it was, which caused a new worry.

“How would they have access to the NTSB and FBI report?” He questions to himself as he glances through the papers. At first he believed that they were fake documents meant to resemble the originals. But upon reading closer, checking the details and dates, it was clear – it was either a photocopy of the original documents from the plane crash.

Shoving it back in the envelope before anybody could realize the change in his demeanor, he quickly seals it back shut, before sending a text to both Jordan and the investigating officer. With confirmation that they’d take it into evidence and look into the cause, he tried to focus on the rest of the activities for the day.

“Ready for the interview?” Morgan questions and he takes a deep breath, nodding his head. He puts the envelope back in hidden behind the rest before following her to where FOX wanted him to do it.

Following the interview, Bill stood back as Chase went through the final step of the day, giving pacecar rides to a couple individuals around the speedway.

Once that was complete, Chase was free to leave for the day, ready to head to the airport and fly back to Daytona to be with Sarina.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you were a little distracted earlier,” Bill comments as they head out of the track together. “Is something going on?” Chase nods his head as he couldn’t lie to his father, and Bill already knew about part of what was going on anyway.

“Remember what I told you about the notes, and when we were going to fly to Daytona?” Chase reminds him and Bill nervously nods his head. He couldn’t help but feel a tinge of worry in the perfect set-up that was played at the airport that day. “There was another package today mixed in with the Good Luck Charms.” Bill looks over, surprised.

“Like what?” Chase takes a deep breath as he stops, glancing in the box and sorting through the various bears and other notes. He pulls out the envelope, handing it over to his Dad. Bill opens it, jaw dropping immediately as he looks over the contents. “This is classified information. You can only get this information if it is coming from you, a lawyer working for you, or you’re working in the department. Are you sure this is the real deal?”

“I read enough to know it is.” Bill then stops, looking at Chase with every bit of concern.

“You can talk to me….” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances back at his Dad.

“It’s one thing for a person to send me notes to try and mess with my mind. it’s one thing for a person to know what will bug me and set it up so right. But knowing the person has access to the infield at Daytona, as well as these documents – this isn’t just some random deal anymore.” Bill knew from the beginning it wasn’t random.

“I thought we both believed that Allison had a role in this, meaning it wasn’t random. Now, considering that it was her cousin Chris that tampered with the plane, could she be getting access through his lawyer? Did he receive a copy of documents at trial time to look over as part of the evidence?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he had never wondered and worried about that. Through his fears at that time, he had just let the district attorney’s office handle it, making sure that Chris didn’t have any freedom coming in the future.

“I’ll mention that to the investigating officer to look into. Thank you for the suggestion.” He then takes the envelope back, putting it with everything else as they continue walking. “That actually gives me a bit of comfort as it explains her access to everything. I just wish she’d come out and face me, rather than play hide-and-seek.”

“As much as I don’t want you facing danger or anything like that again, I can see why you would want that, Chase. I understand how this is driving you insane.” Bill knew he wanted to give Chase space as he was grown up now, but this was one of those extreme situations. “Would you feel more comfortable if Mom and I came down to Daytona with you?” Chase knew being an adult, he should be able to handle this alone and deal with every emotion and twist on his mind. however, he couldn’t help but want that extra security feeling.

“If you could please, I’d appreciate it…” Bill simply nods his head accepting, knowing Cindy would have no problem with it.

Sarina sits on the couch nervously as she watches the door open, with Chase entering, followed by his parents. He could instantly sense something was off with her as he walked over, lightly kissing her cheek.

“Why do I have a feeling that I am not going to like what you’re going to say?” He questions, reading her facial expressions immediately.

“Because I fucked up today, like usual,” she answers and he just looks at her confused. “Clearly you haven’t been on twitter at all….” He was now even more confused as he took out his phone, scrolling through some of the messages.

“I’m not seeing anythin-”

“Go to my page and see what I sent out, followed by the responses. And for the record, I’m sorry and I didn’t mean anything by it.” He went to her page, seeing the tweet that she sent out mid-afternoon. It certainly wasn’t something that he would’ve preferred to send out himself, or seen, but it wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve been posted. But clicking the responses, his jaw drops immediately at some of the mentions.

“So because you made a simple joke in regards to the Hooters girls, this is what has transpired today while I was out?” She slowly nods her head as the parents both look on confused.

“What’d she post?” Bill whispers to Cindy as  Cindy had pulled out her phone to look herself.

“Someone asked her about the Hooters girls and how they always hang around Chase,” Cindy whispers back. “She replied that they should focus more on their chicken wings and the kitchen, than him, because there was no way that he was leaving her arms. She then made a crack that her hooters were prettier, anyway.” Bill looks between the pair, shocked and intrigued, as Sarina lets out a sigh.

“Chase, I never meant anything by it,” she starts quietly. “I mean, I was just being a bit of a sarcastic ass-”

“You don’t need to apologize,” he cuts her off as he sits down beside her on the couch. “Have I gotten any messages from Hooters? Nope, but you know they’ve seen it because they replied it – and frankly, they took better to it than everybody else. Have I gotten any messages from Morgan, anybody at HMS, or have you gotten any messages from anybody at KBM? Everybody that’s important is fine with it.” She then lets out a sigh as she taps the tweet to bring up all the replies.

“And what about all this crap? Saying that I should keep my mouth shut? There’s also some that say that I am being a little over possessive, possibly controlling, and you should look into that. Of course, the best is those who say I am only with you for the fame, hence the Late Model ride which got Kyle’s attention. Do I need to go on, Chase?” Chase grabs his phone, instantly shutting off Twitter as he keeps his eyes locked on her.

“Do you see any of those comments bothering me? I know that you’re not that way, and I know what we have. I know that you were just being a little sarcastic – maybe just maybe over the line a tiny bit, but I know you didn’t mean to be harmful with your words. I know who you are. I love you. I want to be with you. I see a future for us. I see a beautiful, charming, stunning, determined, honest, fierce, racecar driver and woman that is my equal and true love. I can give you all the reasons why I love you, not because of what they say.” A small smile forms on her face as she reaches out for his hand.

“I thought you’d be upset…” He shakes his head no.

“Besides, those who know you, know that you didn’t mean anything by it. Those who know and respect you took it the same way that I am. That’s why there hasn’t been any other messages. That’s why I see a ton of fan support mixed in all that garbage. Those who were saying the other things – they’re just jealous of you, for the success you’ve had, and what we have. They’re just haters trying to get you riled up, the same way people say that I only have my ride at Hendrick because of my Dad and that I have no talen-”

“They’re full of shi-”

“Exactly, the same way they are about you. So just ignore it and don’t let it get to you. Stick to your guns, your beliefs, and those who are behind you, and let them hate. Haters are motivators, per your boss right?” She chuckles, remembering those words, as she nods her head.

“Thank you.” She then lets out a sigh. “It just hurt to see everything being said…”

“That’s because your human, and you have feelings, and it’s okay. As long as you realize that those hurtful things aren’t representative of yourself, and do what we’ve said, that’s what matters. It’s also nice that you told me, too.” He leans in and lightly kisses her lips.

“Media day tomorrow should be interesting now, huh?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“Let ‘em talk and ask questions. Just be honest and go with it. Everything will be fine…”

He then stands up, walking to the kitchen as he takes his phone out. He goes back into Twitter, finding one of his favourite photos of them together from Disney World.

This would be one of his more standout posts than what he would usually post, but he wasn’t about to let Sarina face the music alone, either.

@chaseelliott: Everybody can say what they want, but I’m standing behind @SarinaOtt18 no matter what. We both love each other equally, and forever, and there’s nothing going to change that. So she’s right @Hooters Girls, she’s the only leading lady in my life right now but I do like your wings.

Closing his phone and shutting off notifications for the night, it was time to focus on having some fun together with his parents.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 35: Advance Auto Parts Clash

Sunday, February 11 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase walks down pit road, set to kick off the day. Knowing the Hendrick Motorsports cars were good in qualifying, he was confident that today would go well. But really, it didn’t matter as starting position was one of those no guarantee on the plate track, and the Duel was really where it all happened to be set.

“After watching the ARCA race in a bucket full of nerves last night, I have to wonder how you are today,” he hears Jimmie and can only roll his eyes. After Todd had forwarded the video and message to Kyle, it seemed that Kyle had passed it along to some others – including Chase’s own teammates.

“I’m fine now that it is done and over with,” Chase states as Jimmie just chuckles.

“There’s still the truck race next Friday.” Chase slowly nods his head as he knew the nerves would probably be back then.

“I feel better about that, simply due to no endless restart rule with one to go and much better talented drivers.”

“I can’t believe you, a racecar driver, would get nervous…” Chase looks at him surprised, as he holds his hands up a certain distance apart.

“Dude, she was like this close to being in that second last wreck!” Jimmie had tuned into the race out of curiosity, and knew exactly what Chase was talking about.

“Just to drive through it and get penalized for holding back on the rest-”

“That was a shitty call!” Jimmie couldn’t quite immediately agree with his teammate.

“She wasn’t up to the field, though, and it proved to be an advantage because it helped her escape that mess.” Chase lets out a sigh as he wasn’t about to get into an argument. How could he argue about something that she wasn’t even upset about herself? “With that in mind, do I have your permission to plan a bachelor party yet?”

“We’re not engaged, Jimmie.” Jimmie looks at him a little confused. “What?”

“I literally told Dale that you’d probably be engaged by Speedweeks. So, are you waiting until Valentine’s Da-”

“No.” Chase then takes a deep breath, remembering what he told the crew guys. “Look, it’s not happening anytime soon so can you just please drop it? We’ve talked about it and know how each other stan-”

“One of you is afraid, and it’s probably her.” Chase lets out a sigh. “Hey, it’s fine. I understand based on her history as to why she’s afraid. But, she talked about that with you clearly and you both know where each other stands. So when the time is right, like you said, it will happen. I just can’t help but bug you.”

“Keep it up and I’ll get William to buy you a Grandpa package.” Jimmie gives him a ‘are you serious’ look as Chase just laughs, walking away.

Ultimately, the session went solidly as he would end up 12th in round one, followed by moving up to 10th in the second. It’d set him up to start fifth in the second Duel on Thursday evening. However, he couldn’t admit but feel a little off in watching the other three qualify first, third, and fifth – setting them up to start all together in the first Duel.

“I swear I didn’t do some trick or miss some trick they were doing,” Alan confesses following the session. “I mean, to be fair, all the cars were built pretty equal.” He then glances back at his notes. “Did you say that it drove well in practice?”

“It felt good by itself, and it felt real comfortable despite being in the middle of that one draft,” Chase comments as Alan shakes his head a little confused.

“I got nothing – unless the adjustment we made to get you a little more comfortable actually slowed you down.” Chase shrugs his shoulders, not even sure as he looks over the starting line-up for his Duel. “You’ve got Kyle, Denny and Erik all starting together up front. You know that’s going to be a Toyota trai-”

“Grab the back of it and use it to stay in position until the end?” Alan nods his head as that wasn’t a bad plan. “William and Alex said that the runs you get in the draft with the new package feel greater than what they’ve seen or are used to. So no matter what, if we have a good handling car, we can get those runs and we can make the moves. We’ll be fine…”

“I hope you’re right because I’m baffled right now.” He then glances at his watch. “Let’s get ready for the Clash, and try to win that. We’ll learn what we can, see what happens, make some notes, and hopefully Thursday goes well.”

Chase retreats into the trailer, opening the cupboard as he lets out a sigh. It would’ve been easier to qualify, hang out, go to intros and run the Clash without any interruptions, but that wasn’t possible. Sponsor obligations required yet another firesuit change.

As he reaches in to grab the green firesuit, a hand reaches out from the cupboard touching his shoulder.

“I knew you’d be by,” he hears, immediately calming his fast paced breathing as he could recognize that voice anywhere.

“You scared the crap out of me!” He lets out as he pulls on the hand, yanking her out of the closet as she just lets out a laugh.

“But you know that it will be worth your while…” She then pushes back on the couch, straddling herself on top as she pulls down the zipper on the NAPA firesuit. “Besides, I had to come see you before I head up to watch the race with the girls.” She knew it’d be odd missing the pit box, but she could handle it for 60 laps. She just hoped the day went smoothly.

“I don’t have much time…” She then looks into his brown eyes as she pulls the firesuit off of his shoulders.

“I didn’t say that it’d take long, now did I?” The sight of her tongue licking her own lips before him immediately turned him to mush, as he pulled her close, kissing her lips as she worked at getting the rest of the firesuit off. “Actually, this would be a great new tradition….”

“I’m not complaining….”

Sarina catches up with the girls, taking her seat alongside them as Natalie looks over.

“We were beginning to wonder if you were coming,” Natalie comments as Sarina just shrugs her shoulders, smile not even fading one bit from her face.

“It took longer than I thought,” she offers as the other girls immediately chuckle with glances towards each other.

“Did you go give Chasey a good luck quickie?” Danica breaks out, causing Sarina to look over immediately shocked – but her red cheeks gave her away. “Oh my gosh….”

“Is it that obvious?” The other girls nod their head yes in return as she lets out a sigh. “Please don’t say anything….”

“As long as you promise that I get your ride if you get pregnant,” Natalie offers as both Leilani and Danica chuckle. Sarina lets out a sigh as it immediately brought up January memories, but she couldn’t let the others see as she just faked a chuckle herself.

“That’s not happening,” she tells them. “I have a championship to win this year.”

“Damn straight!”

Their eyes immediately focused back to the action on-track as the race was about to get started. Sarina was set at keeping her nerves about her, and it worked for the very beginning even with the shuffling going on;. However, as soon as Kyle Larson broke right sideways on Lap 8 – almost spinning except for an awesome save, she couldn’t deny that her nerves had picked up big time.

“Oh man….” She lets out as Chase takes the lead on Lap 10, barely sliding up ahead of Denny. The lead was supposed to make you calmer, but seeing it was Denny behind her and the way this pack was going back and forth, that was impossible.

“He’s doing good!” Natalie lets out as she glances over at Sarina. “That’s if you survive….”

“I’ll be fine….” Sarina closes her eyes, silently wishing the race would take longer than advertised – even being as short as it was.

The first 25 laps would ultimately fly by, and Chase managed to do a good job as he stayed up in the top-three throughout. Now set to restart in second, it was just about putting together a great second half.

He started out real well, keeping himself in the mix with Brad, Denny, and others – until a move to shuffle over didn’t go accordingly, causing him to break dead sideways. He’d hold on to it, though, dropping back a couple spots.

“Chasey, don’t do that to your girl…” Leilani offers as she reaches over to rub Sarina’s back, seeing the glance that the move had gotten right away.

“This package is going to make for a great 500 – but hot damn, I can’t handle this!” Sarina lets out as she tries to take some deep breathes.

“He’s good at what he does. He’ll get back up there….”

As predicted, he was able to do so, working his way back up to second before the caution flew with 42 laps to go for an incident further back. Counting her ducklings and nails, she knew the nerves were probably just beginning now.

He was once again strong on the restart, battling for position – but not without many friends. He and Denny tried to make the bottom work together, but once Denny went up high with pretty much the rest of the field, it caused him to slide back to 15th with 26 laps to go.

“Tight on landing in the corners!” She overheard on the radio, having taken her headset up to the grandstands with her.

“Oh man….” She lets out as she knew this would only increase the nerves in watching him drive back up through there.

“He just needs to take some driving lessons from you last night,” Natalie comments as Sarina lets out a shy smile.

However, it just seemed to break back worse as being the last one on the pack and trying to keep up was becoming a task and a half.

“Don’t lose the pack. We’ve lost Newman now,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt says with 19 to go. “We’re cutting off our nose to spite our face, running back here.” Sarina knew by those words that basically, running back there as laps continued to tick down was going to play against them, and likely those dreams of winning were shattered. She also knew that it was the right words to use as the field seemed afraid to make any moves.

“This is a non-points event!” She lets out, causing the other girls to look over caught off-guard. “Somebody, anybody, make a damn move! This is win or bust – so damn well try and win it. Where’s the guts Denny, Austin, Kyle, anybody? This race is falling on its face. Yay, we started off so good – but look at this shit!”

“The moves will come….” Natalie tries to assure her as Leilani rubs her shoulders. “Look at last night.”

Other drivers would try to make moves of their own, but the lines failed to form – causing those drivers to drop back. It worked out in Chase’s advantage as he was able to move up to ninth with 10 laps to go.

Thinking a move would come soon was a blank thought as it never did as the field remained single-file all the way until the last lap. By then, a move to the front was too late as there was no way to make this work now. of course, it’d only get worse as contact between Larson and Johnson triggered everybody going sideways, which sent Chase for a ride through the backstretch grass.

“Of course we ended up with a wrecked car!” Sarina lets out as she shakes her head in disbelief. “That was the most embarrassing race ev-”

“Even more than last night?” Leilani questions and Sarina nods her head.

“Everybody last night at least tried to pass each other, make moves, make something happen, and put on a show. This? Seeing them run single-file for 25 laps is worse than watching paint dry. If this is going to be how Speedweeks goes, I will kill somebody. They better not do this on Sunday.”

“It’s the Daytona 500 – drivers aren’t just going to ride with five to go with that on the line,” Natalie comments as the others nod in agreement.

“I can assure you that I won’t be riding,” Danica adds. “I will say that this gives me a lot to think about. Handling, making runs, making friends, and position will be key.”

“In other words, your man and Ms. Danica here better win their Duels on Thurs-”

“How can we both win the same Duel?”

“Oh my, it looks like we’re going to have some fun.” Natalie then glances between Danica and Sarina. “Can you please make your boyfriend promise to work with her so we know at least somebody will do something?” Danica and Sarina both immediately chuckle.

“I’m sure if we’re both in a good spot, we’ll work together as we have before.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. She knew making promises of that nature wasn’t something for her to do. Chase and Kyle had always reminded her that you couldn’t make those pre-race promises as you never know where you’ll be positioning wise and trying to get in position may cost you more than good.

“Are you going to New Smyrna tonight?” Danica and Leilani both shake their heads no as Natalie’s eyes rest on Sarina. “Well, I know you’re going obviously….”

“I got to go support Todd and Harrison, right?” Sarina offers, knowing both of her KBM teammates were running the event. It was also a benefit to go after Todd had supported her ARCA race yesterday, too.

“As long as you and Chase promise to behave,” Natalie comments as Sarina rolls her eyes. “I can’t believe you did that before the race. I can’t even look at you the same now…”

“Sweetheart, you’re just jealous,” Leilani adds as Danica laughs. “It’s okay to admit it. I’m sure Sarina has already heard that from plenty of other girls…”

“I could always try and hook you up with Todd,” Sarina suggests as Natalie rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, you’re jealous…” Natalie then glances back at Leilani, set to punch her. “Hey now!”

“Alright, alright, it’s true,” Natalie finally confesses. “But hey, I can’t do anything about it. I mean, I would smack myself silly if I pissed off my girl and her boo because of that. Besides, they’re like the perfect combination for each other.” Danica couldn’t help but nod her head in agreement. “So when is the engagement party?”

“Not you too,” Sarina lets out as they continue walking out of the grandstands together. “I’ve already got my guys, his guys, Jimmie, and Da-”

“Because it’s meant to be! Is he afraid to pop the question?” Sarina rolls her eyes.

“Nah – he probably just can’t plan the most romantic way to do it,” Leilani offers as Sarina sighs.

“Actually, we’ve talked about it and we’ve both agreed to wait due to my fears because of my past,” Sarina tells them. “I’m afraid of the thought because of what I saw happen to my parents, and he understands that. So if you girls could please just lay off a little, that’d be nice.” The girls nod their heads in acceptance. “Now, excuse me while I go see him…”

“Behave!” Natalie shouts as Sarina walks off, another eye roll easily coming to her.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 34: General Tire 200

Saturday, February 10 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase walks into the garage, smiling as he walks over to where Jordan was standing, finalizing things with the helmet.

“I’m surprised you didn’t break out the swancho,” Chase comments as Jordan chuckles.

“I could still go get if you want,” he offers, giving his driver a glance. “Actually, if you think about it, it’s not raceday today and that’s something to save for lat-”

“Like I told you last night, I’m fine without it.” Jordan nods his head in agreement as he focuses back on his job.

“I was thinking last night. Considering everything going on, wouldn’t it be a good idea to maybe look into having someone with you and someone with Sarina all the time? I mean, I know you said that everybody team-wise is keeping an extra eye out, but having someone armed and trained wouldn’t hurt.” Chase couldn’t argue with the idea, especially when his nerves were completely fried about the notes. However, it was an idea they had previously discussed.

“It would make us stand out, though. We want to just go business as usual, make it appear nothing is going on, and not add fuel to fire. Also, we don’t want to mess with things in how they stand otherwise. The idea was discus-”

“What about a person dressed as a crew member?” Chase lets out a sigh, as any other year that would’ve worked.

“NASCAR has those roster things now. With the limits, Alan is already strapped in who he really wants here and who he doe-”

“NASCAR would understand if you explai-”

“But what about other teams? What about the fans? What about the media? It just brings too much attention, Jordan.” Jordan lets out a sigh as he glances over at him.

“And do you really think that bothers me? Frankly, the only damn thing I care about is you being safe.” Chase takes a deep breath, understanding the frustration as he could easily express the same in some instances.

“Just trust me right now – everything is going to be fine.” Jordan was skeptical on that, based on what he had seen so far, but wasn’t going to push the issue. Besides, they had a job to do.

“Let me know if you need any adjustments to the mirrors, helmet straps, steering wheel – whatever, you get the idea.” Jordan then grabs the tools he had and walks away as Chase just shakes his head. He knew by that reaction that Jordan wasn’t happy with their discussion, but wasn’t willing to continue to fight the issue. He almost wanted to say something, or perhaps even do something about those concerns that certainly lingered.

But instead, taking a deep breath and a glance in the car, it was time to get ready for the first practice of the year. It was nice to be back behind the wheel again.

With a solid practice in the books and pleased with how the car drove, there wasn’t much time to chill and relax following debrief. Two more practices would follow, and those were certainly more important than the first.

But first, a trip was required back to the trailer. As per special request from the sponsors in wanting to make sure to get the opening season images, he was instructed to change from his Mountain Dew firesuit to the NAPA colors so he’d match the car.

Stepping inside, he slips the door closed behind him, beginning to unzip the firesuit. He goes to pull it off his shoulders, when he hears the door open.

“I’m getting chan-” He starts, half-expecting it to be a crew member.

“I know,” a female voice instantly causes him to freeze, followed by a pair of hands on his shoulders. “I came to help you.” He feels her light lips brush against his cheek, planting a kiss as she slowly pulls the fabric down his arms.

“If we go ahead with this now, you’re bound to get me in trouble.” She then chuckle as he turns around to face her. “I don’t have all day here.”

“Um hello, neither do I. I have a driver’s meeting that I need to get to.” Chase nods his head, knowing exactly what that meant with the ARCA race later on that afternoon. “Besides, we know how to do this quick…”

“Driving racecars and spending time getting some loving – how spoiled can I get?” She just chuckles as she finishes slipping the firesuit off his arms, watching it drop down, revealing the thin black fabric underneath that covered his chest and stomach. She was focused on that, when he slipped his fingers underneath her shirt.

“I thought you were worried about tim-”

“Don’t you have to get undressed and changed into your suit?” A smirk forms on her face, followed by their lips clashing together, as she works the firesuit down the rest of his body as he lifts his t-shirt off.

About 15 minutes later, the pair emerged from the trailer, both smiling ear-to-ear as they shared a glance at each other. Snagging another kiss, they head their separate ways as she goes to the ARCA driver’s meeting, while he retreats back to the garage for the next round of practice.

There was one thing for certain, though – the smile wasn’t leaving his face anytime soon.

Changed into a pair of jeans and t-shirt, Chase climbs up on top of the pit box, taking his seat as he gives a simple nod to the team. He was thankful that despite a different group than usual, Sarina had cleared it easily for him to join the guys on the pit box. Then again, he wouldn’t expect less from David Gilliland.

With the drop of the green flag, Chase managed to keep his nerves about him, watching as she took the ride-around approach early with dropping to the back of the field. He couldn’t complain, knowing the history of these ARCA races and crashes. He just hoped that she wasn’t in the midst of one of those.

From there, she was able to carefully made her way to the front, moving up to seventh following the first set of pit stops, before moving up to third after staying out with 35 laps to go. He had to admit the fuel calculations by the team right now made him a little nervous, but he was confident as the strategy had worked for others in the past.

“Damn!” was all he could manage to say on the restart as he watched her push race leader Sheldon Creed out away from the field in a textbook restrictor plate start. No doubt the tips from Kyle were being showcased tonight as she had done that perfectly.

Of course, as they say, dreams don’t always come true in these events and sure enough, a caution three laps later slowed the pack down, and brought them all back together. it also caused some unease on the pit box in knowing that the drafting partners were separated.

“Sheldon wants to keep working with you and I know you like working with him,” her spotter explains after some debate. “So we’re going to do the famous pull in-line trick. He’ll start outside, you’ll start inside. You let him get a jump and then he’ll slot down in front of you, and you can pull off that awesome move once again. Simple enough, right?”

Chase almost had to chuckle in response. How many times had they’d seen a similar move fail in the Cup Series? Anybody remember the Team Penske teammates at Martinsville? Taking a nervous deep breath, trying to stop the foot from tapping, there was nothing else he could do but sit and watch with nerves.

Surprisingly, the restart went smoothly as the pair were able to get in line perfectly – but not before Sean Corr was able to get by them both for the lead, bumping them to second and third. Chase takes a deep breath, glancing at the lap count. 24 laps was almost an eternity at this place, so there was lots of time to make magic happen.

Of course, the opportunity for that came sooner with a caution at 16 laps to go with a wreck mid-way through the field. Feeling the leg bounce a little more, it was no secret the nerves were picking up.

“Nervous?” Todd Gilliland questions as he glances over with a chuckle.

“I’m never comfortable with her at Daytona or Talladega,” Chase answers as Todd was slightly taken back and a little surprised. “Let’s just say that I keep thinking about last April…” Todd closes his eyes, trying to remember, before nodding his head as he understood.

“A glimpse of what if and now it makes you nervous…”

“I mean, I can handle it because I’ve been there and know what it’s like. But it does cause a couple butterflies.” Todd just shakes his head in surprise, but not before sending a quick message to Kyle. “I saw that….”

“I’m sorry, but you know Kyle will get a chuckle out of that….” Chase couldn’t deny that, as Kyle had already bugged him a couple times before. “She’s got the best car out there. It’s just about making the moves happen….”

The restart would go smoothly, and it’d look as though they were set to get a good run at the lead – but of course, that opportunity never came. Another caution would fly with eight laps to go.

“You and Sheldon will be lined up together,” her spotter told her, which brought smiles all around. Everybody could only picture the past restart in their minds and were set for the magic to happen once again. It was like the race was playing right into their hands.

As predicted, the pair were able to check out together on the restart with four laps to go. As the moments ticked down, everybody could already see the magical move coming on the last lap. Chase knew she just needed to leg back perfectly, let the pack allow her to get a run on Sheldon, and then make the move – but not too soon to get shuffled out. The last lap would be where it would happen.

Everything was starting to set up for a move down the back, when they watched one car spin around, collecting two others, with a car going up on its side – bringing out the yellow flag on the white flag lap.

“That’s it,” Chase states as Todd looks over, shaking his head no.

“ARCA will run every single lap – no matter how many attempts,” Todd reminds him. “One lap shootout coming up.”

Chase felt the mixture of butterflies immediately hearing the news. While he knew that could be what they needed to win as she’d be restarting at the front of the field, he couldn’t help but admit his nerves were fried after seeing the wreck, as it reminded him of every fear he had entering the event. How was he supposed to survive this one lap shootout now?

He hears his phone go off, taking it out of his pocket. He sees the message from Alan, notifying him that they’d drawn 12th for the Clash tomorrow. Not the best starting spot, but not the worse. He could make that work in his favor.

Taking a deep breath, he was set to focus back on the race, knowing it was now or never.

“I’ve got to pit!” He hears over the radio. “We’re out of fuel!”

“Shit!” David Gilliland lets out as he looks over the calculations once again.

Chase felt every frustration in that, as he watched her come back down pit road and get topped off with gas. From third to 18th just like that.

The restart came and the focus was simply on trying to survive – no damage at all to the car yet unlike a bunch of others – and maybe get a top-10. Chase couldn’t help but watch the top-four, though, hoping Sheldon pulled it off as they had all worked together.

“Oh no….” He lets out, seeing the contact from Chase Purdy into Sheldon, sending him sideways. Somehow, Sheldon manages to save it, but the other three crash, collecting others along the way. “My gosh….”

His eyes immediately go searching for Sarina, trying to see where she ended up, and immediately sets sights as she’s midway through the corner, dodging cars left and right. He felt his stomach flip, leg set to tap a little quicker, as he watched her barely miss a couple – even closing his eyes at one point for a quick second. though seeing her come out of the wreck with not a single crash, he couldn’t help but let out a cheer.

“Holy cow!” Todd lets out in surprise as he looks over at Chase. “That was incredible. Sheldon’s save, to her driving – am I seeing this right?” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“Suddenly I don’t mind pitting for fuel,” David adds as he points to the scoring monitor, which showed her now back up to third.

“How the heck?”

“I learned that from Kyle Busch – my gosh that was amazing,” they hear her over the radio as Chase takes a couple calming deep breathes.

“I don’t know if this guy here is going to survive another restart – or two,” Todd comments as David looks over with a chuckle.

“How long have we been stuck on one to go for?” Chase wonders as Todd shakes his head, not sure. Either way, they both knew it felt like forever and if not for the twist in fate, they probably would’ve been pissed off.

“You always said that she could drive, but damn!” Chase chuckles as it was actually neat in hearing Todd’s constant comments now.

“Are you kidding me?!?” David’s outburst catches them both off-guard, as they glance at each other, before looking towards him. “Tail end of the field on the restart for holding back on the restart.”

“Are you serious?” Chase questions and David nods his head. “No, there’s no wa-”

“I’m not kiddin-”

“Sure, she wasn’t caught up to the rear of the field. But did she gain anything by doing that? No, she didn’t jump pass anybody nor did she go before the flag came out. If you don’t gain anything by legging back, then how can they penalize you?”

“Besides, was there even enough time after serving the penalty to catch the back of the field?” Todd adds as David lets out a sigh.

“Trust me, I’m confused as you are….” David offers as he climbs down the steps to argue over the decision with the official.

Ultimately, he was unable to get the call overturned, sending Sarina to the back once again. Chase just shook his head in disgust as he watched the restart, seeing her come back up through once again, ultimately crossing the finish line for the checkered in seventh.

Chase walks over to the car, and almost stopped in surprise as he saw a smile on her face. He had expected a burst of anger, frustration, yelling, and a look of disgust to match the one on his face after the late-race decision.

“Are you actually smiling?” He questions as she nods her head. “Okay, those anger management classes must be magical….” She then half-punches him, catching him off-guard. “Hey!”

“I can’t help but smile, okay?’ She offers as he looks at her confused. “I had a bunch of fun out there tonight. No pressure, just letting it fly and loose for a night to kick off the year. I had fun joking on the radio with the team. I had fun driving my ass through the field multiple times. I mean, who can say they drove through that field three times? I had a ball of fun, and I’m not afraid to tell the world that. I’m glad that I got the opportunity to run this race.” Chase certainly was surprised by her reaction, but he wasn’t about to change things as he walks over, wrapping an arm around her.

“You did do a great job behind the wheel to the point that Todd wouldn’t stop chattering my ear off.” She chuckles as she glances over at Todd. “But really, you were very impressive tonight. If you can do that next Friday night, you’re going to be awesome – but that’s no surprise.” He then kisses her cheek, before she turns to glance at him.

“So I’m happy and you’re frustrated?” It certainly didn’t feel right.

“I wasn’t too pleased with the call at the end of the rac-”

“It is what it is, right? I obviously didn’t follow restart protocol to what they specify, despite a strategic move, so I got penalized. Why should I upset about something that I can’t change?” He then looks at her now really caught off-guard.

“Seriously, who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?” She chuckles as she glances over towards the guys.

“I guess I’m just glad that the winter is over, and we’re back in our natural habitat.” She then glances back towards Chase. “But for what it is worth, we should’ve been in victory lane. Now just promise me that your race will be calmer tomorrow.”

“Hey now, we don’t have endless restarts and there’s only 17 cars. I think it’ll be smoother.” Sarina takes a deep breath, crossing her fingers that he was right.

After a couple more discussions with the team, the pair headed back to the motorcoach lot together. Though as they were heading back, Sarina couldn’t help but stop when she saw Natalie Decker.

“Natalie!” She lets out, walking over to her. “Great job!” She immediately wraps her arms around her, which Natalie immediately responds back. While they hadn’t spent a lot of time together over the past couple of years, they had a good friendship dating back to their late model days together. When Natalie signed her new ARCA deal, Sarina had been one of the first people to call and congratulate her.

“I still don’t know how I finished fifth with the car looking like that,” Natalie jokes as she had been missing the left front fender following contact. “That was insane! But my gosh, you, I have to say that you’re amazing too. Great job!”

“I can’t deny that I had a lot of fun tonight.” Natalie then glances over at Chase.

“And can I just say that you’re spectacular?” Chase then looks between the girls surprised.

“What did I do?” Chase questions as Natalie’s jaw drop in shock.

“Hello Mr. Super Talented racecar driver,” Natalie answers. “Hello great in so many ways. Hello you’re awesome revenge on Denny. Hello – I could go on and on. Plus, on top of that, you’re just the perfect package of sweetness.” Natalie then looks over at Sarina. “Frankly girl, you’re spoiled.”

“I don’t ever take him for granted,” Sarina offers as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“I’m just an ordinary regular guy,” he comments as Natalie looks back towards Sarina.

“That’s what he keeps saying….” Natalie couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Clearly, we need to send the entire fan base after him at once,” Natalie suggests as Sarina nods her head in agreement. “I can’t wait to see how you do Friday night. Both Leilani and me said that we’d watch it together.”

“I’m glad that you’re staying to watch,” Sarina comments back in response. “It should be a good show.” Natalie nods her head back in response.

“It’s like the perfect girl power weekend. We start the weekend off by getting good luck hugs from our queen, Ms. Danica, and then we all finish in the top-10. I mean, no pressure, but you and Danica better live up to your end of the bargain.”

“I have a feeling she’ll be right up there battling for the win Friday night,” Chase comments, catching the girls off-guard as they’d totally forgot about him being there in the midst of their discussion. “What? Her talent, plus trucks from KBM – do you see where I am going, Natalie?”

“Absolutely,” Natalie answers with a big smile on her face. “And really, it’d be nice to see Danica go out on a high considering this is it…” Both Chase and Sarina nod their heads in agreement. “By the way, me and Leilani were going to sit with Danica tomorrow for the Clash – kind of girl’s catch-up. Leilani mentioned asking you, but Danica noted how you always sit on Chase’s pit box. What do you say?” Sarina then glances over at Chase.

“It’s up to you. I mean, I don’t think Alan and Jordan will miss you too much….” Sarina glances between the pair. It’d be nice to spend time with the girls for the race, but would it feel right not being in her usual spot?

“I’ll let you know tomorrow, okay?” Sarina offers, continuing to flip flop in her mind. Natalie simply gave her a nod back in return.

“I better go before Billy comes looking,” Natalie then states. “See ya!”

Natalie heads off as the pair continues their walk back to the motorcoach.