Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 175: “Are your lives always this chaotic?”

Friday, November 24

“I can’t believe how well you guys are getting along so quickly….” Chase muses as they get out of the car and walk up to the house. With dinner and more games going later than expected, Cindy and Bill insisted that they stayed overnight and went home in the morning.

“We were inseparable – it doesn’t surprise me,” Sarina comments as she follows him.

“By the way, I want to continue re-connecting the family, if you’re okay with that.” Sarina smiled a little, nodding her head. If it felt this great to re-connect with Lindsay, how would the rest feel? “Lindsay, would you happen to know the whereabouts for Shelly?”

“I haven’t talked to Aunt Shelly in years, Chase,” Lindsay admits. “No big reason – it’s just when I moved away from my parents, I didn’t see her much anymore. I could ask Samantha. We still talk here and there.”

“Sammy would be a great place to start, as she has experience with this type of work,” Sarina comments. Chase accepted, weighing his options. “Well, this is home sweet home. Excuse any messes, as the past couple weeks have been hectic.”

“Relax, I’m always busy with something so my house gets the same way…” Lindsay walks inside, glancing around as she looks up at one of the photos hung in the main hallway. “Aw, you guys are adorable…”

“My first career truck win at Martinsville. I still can’t believe it sometimes.”

“A chime an hour is a good pinch,” he interrupts with a glance towards the clock as she just smiles back at him.

“By the way, what is your plan for next week?” Sarina asks and Chase turns around, a little surprised. “We haven’t discussed this, yet. I mean, we’ve got insane stuff going on.” He didn’t need a reminder about that as it was going to get a little crazy.

“I have to be in Las Vegas on Tuesday morni-”

“So you’re not even home for your birthday?” Chase shakes his head no as she lets out a sigh. However, she already knew that, virtue of a text message from Ryan. Chase didn’t need to know about that, yet.

“We’re leaving in the morning, stopping in Georgia as Mama won’t let me get away without seeing me on my birt-”

“What’d I tell you? He’s a Mamma’s boy.” Lindsay could only chuckle as she watched the pair of them.

“Sweet Georgia peach with the southern charm, but you know Mamma is always in his heart,” Lindsay recalls from their discussion as Sarina nods her head.

“Have you been talking about me, again?” Chase questions them as Sarina just smiles back in return. “I can certainly tell her many stories in return, same with Christopher and Kyle.” Sarina actually couldn’t wait for Lindsay to meet them both, but she knew that Chase was right – Kyle wouldn’t hold back. “So after seeing Mama, we’re off to Las Vegas. I have speech practice, and then the rest of the day is mine according to Morgan.”

“Birthday plans?” Lindsay questions as Sarina glances over at her, evil glare in full effect.

“Let that be my treat since you’re so amazing,” Sarina answers as she gives him a quick kiss while walking by him. She knew that’d help in continuing the set-up as discussed with Ryan. “Snowball Derby qualifying draw is on Wednesday night followed by practice on Thursday morning. So I figured that I’ll fly out Wednesday afternoon with Lindsay to Florida.” Chase could easily accept that.

“I’ll make sure that’s all set up and arranged,” Chase states.

“So you’re not coming?” Lindsay asks and Chase shakes his head no. “But I thought you said I’d have a teac-”

“I’ll be there for Sunday’s race. I have the Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon to attend on Wednesday morning, followed by the burn-outs on Las Vegas streets and the after the lap driver tell-all, I believe. Then Ryan wants me to be on his podcast, and I couldn’t say no. I have Banquet rehearsal in the morning on Thursday. Do you know red carpet and banquet times?” Sarina nods her head as Lindsay glances between them confused.

“So she’s going to Florida to practice and then flying back to Las Vegas for the banquet? How the hell do you both plan on making that work?” Sarina still wasn’t sure, as she had checked out timing wise almost 20 different times since figuring out what dress to wear, courtesy of Emma.

“She has a point, actually. It’s going to be really tight on time. Maybe you should just skip the banq-”

“There’s no way I am missing your banq-” Sarina starts.

“It’s fine, if you do,” Chase interrupts. “I understan-”

“No ifs, ands, or buts, Chase Elliott. I am not missing your banquet. I will be there and I will be on time.” He was almost set to say something else, but knew he wasn’t winning the argument. He just hoped the timing worked out. “Then obviously, we will go back to Florida and be set for the rest of the weekend together.”

“Are your lives always this chaotic?” Lindsay questions, causing them both to laugh.

“Maybe not like this, but it’s always chaos…” Sarina answers. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I mean, like I told you before and I will say before him, he has done so much for me.”

“It’s because I love you,” he replies, kissing her again. “Mountain Dew? Pepsi?”

“Mountain Dew, please.”

“Pepsi, please,” Lindsay adds. Chase heads to the kitchen as the girls make their way into the living room.

“Chase, why is there a big huge box in the middle of our living room?” Lindsay didn’t say anything in response, not sure if Chase had mentioned anything to her about it, yet. Instead, she watched as Sarina walked over, reading the label. “This came from Michigan.” Sarina then glances back at Lindsay. “It has your name on it.”

“Chase knew I was sending down an important package for you, so he lent a key to Dale to bring it inside while you guys were away. Why don’t you carefully open it?” Sarina was a little confused, but went along with the process. She carefully opened the top of the box, glancing inside as a smile immediately crossed her face.

“My toy box!!” She begins ripping the rest of the cardboard away, fully revealing the whole box as she looks it over. “I thought I lost it forever. I can’t believe this….”

“After you guys left, I went back and I asked if I could have some family monuments to keep for you if I ever saw you again, to remember you guys. They allowed us, too. My dad and I took the toy box immediately. I knew how much it meant to you, to us, to my dad, so it was something we could never let go.” Sarina just stood there smiling as she glanced it over.

“It still looks so amazing. I know how hard your dad worked on this with my dad, and it was everything as a kid to me. I just loved hiding in it, putting my favorite toys in it, and sitting on it – so many memories wrapped up in this simple box.” Lindsay walks over and lifts the door open as she catches Sarina’s smile.

“So many memories inside the box, too. I saved some of your trophies from when you first started racing go-karts, a couple of your favorite teddy bears, and some photos.” A couple tears trickle down Sarina’s face as she begins to look through the items, sitting down beside the toy box in disbelief as she flips through the images.

“This is amazing. I don’t know what to say – I’m even more blown away at this than just seeing you. I mean, you held onto this for six years for me. I can never repay you enou-”

“You don’t ever have, too.” Lindsay sits down beside her. “Just promise me we’ll never grow apart again. I don’t want to lose you.”

“That’s a promise I plan on keeping.” Sarina then gives Lindsay a big hug as Chase quietly enters the room, placing a pair of glasses before them, before sitting down on the couch. “I don’t even know where to begin with everything…”

“This photo, right here, covered completely in mud head to toe, laughing…” Sarina picks it up from Lindsay and immediately laughs herself as she remembers that story.

“That was a good one…” She hands it over to Chase so he can see the photo and he just shakes his head.

“You never were afraid to get your heads dirty?” He asks and she shakes her head no.

“I may have some interest in fashion, but never ever consider me a preppy princess,” she answers as he laughs. “It was a rainy day and we were playing in the yard. We launched the ball over the back fence. It was pretty high, but I thought I could just climb over and go into the park and grab it – rather than walking around the house to the front, to the park gates, and through the park. Well, I got to the top of the fence and I jumped, but my pants didn’t quite clear. Instead, they hooked on the edge and I was stuck hanging from a fence.”

“I can just imagine the look on your face…”

“Lindsay’s great idea to get me down? Just cut the pants! So she cut them and boom, I fell in the big mud puddle a couple feet down. Needless to say, I got that treatment and a big hole in the ass of my favorite jeans.” He breaks out laughing as he hands the image back over.

“The worst part was a full baseball game was going on at the diamond right there so two full teams got to see her nice pink flowery underwear,” Lindsay adds as Chase laughs even harder.

“I can bet that you never dated any of those players, huh?” Chase questions and Sarina just rolls her eyes. “What else is in that stack of photos?”

“You’re just trying to get embarrassing stories about me now,” Sarina comments as he shrugs his shoulders.

“You heard a bunch from my mom yesterday. It’s time for me to get in on the fun.” She just rolls her eyes as she looks through the photos. “That one looks like it has a good story…” She stops, looking over the photo of the destroyed bathroom, laughing.

“Is that when Tweetie showed up?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina nods her head yes. “See, I just threw a bunch of photos in no matter where they were; I didn’t really care to glance at what they were.”

“I was about 13 when this happened,” Sarina starts. “I’m in the shower, and let’s just say that our bathroom ventilation could use some improvements. So I opened the window because it was getting a little too steamy. Well, that was fine – until a bird flew through the window, and was flying around the bathroom. He wasn’t too smart, either, because he flew straight into the mirror. I was shocked, scared, so I started screaming my head off and I stepped back, slipping over a bottle of shampoo, and fell, smacking my head off the tub.” Chase looks over shocked as she nods her head.

“There’s a scar…” Sarina then pulls her bangs up, revealing a small mark right across the top of her forehead.

“Holy shit!” Chase says as he looks it over.

“This gets better…” Lindsay comments as Chase could only wonder.

“I’m still in shock, probably moreso from whacking my head now than the damn bird,” Sarina continues. “So dumbass bird continues whacking himself into the mirror, over and over of what’s left anyway – and I begin to get concerned. Scared for the bird’s life and also trying to clean up the blood dripping down my face now, I get out of the shower. I grabbed a small towel, wrapping it around my forehead, figuring that’d do for now. I motioned for the bird to leave – nope, not happening. So I grabbed the bigger towel, wrapped it around birdie and carried him through the house to the front door.” Chase’s jaw drops as he realizes a key detail.

“You’re naked….” He lets out and she nods her head yes, remembering the story.

“I go outside the door, open the towel and let the bird go. Meanwhile, that’s when I realize I have not a single thing on and my neighbor just so happens to be popping out the front door. Needless to say, a nice 80-year-old lady saw me naked and watched bird go from in my hands in towel to dead on the ground because basically he whacked his ass to death on my mirror.”

“Oh My Gosh…” He breaks out laughing as she just rolls her eyes.

“I’m just glad you didn’t give poor old Mary Jane a heart attack,” Lindsay says as Chase could only shake his head.

“Nah, poor ‘ol Mary Jane was set to go the psych ward because she thought I found a batch of happy pills,” Sarina remembers.

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Cabin Fears – Chapter 89: The Monster Mile

The following week went smoother than all expected, which was surprising given the past couple of weeks.

Despite his own apprehensions and anxiety fighting him at times, Chase followed through in taking the medicine for the ulcers and anxiety as requested, and it had begun working. The pain in his stomach began ease much more with each passing day, and there weren’t any panic episodes.

He also kept taking the steps that he was supposed to be in figuring out a solution to the overall problem, having another couple sessions with Eric. Those paid off as he was able to get some of the emotions he was burying away out, which helped in finding the calmness.

His mind was also able to find ease in what happened earlier in the week, with the panic, seeing why it happened, speaking of the emotions connected, and strategies to avoid the fear and feelings creating another situation.

Although her thoughts shifted to the forthcoming surgery at times, Alyssa had gone about making the phone calls necessary to look at her options, stressing that she just had this week and next to do so. So far, not much had changed and everything was still set to take place after Charlotte as scheduled.

She didn’t leave her much time to think or worry, though, as her focus was on that weekend. With the blowing the engine at Kentucky, it was do or be done in the next two weeks. So over the past week, she spent every given chance looking back over video of previous races at Dover, seeing what she could correct in mistakes the last time there, and any ways to improve. She also spent time talking with Kevin Meendering each day, wanting to making sure every base was covered.

As she walked into the garage area on Friday and took a deep breath, it was time to get down and focus.

“I’m sorry I’ve been a little distant this week,” she comments as her and Chase walk together. “I’m just so focused on this weekend. I know I got to make it happen, and I just want to win so badly.” He wraps an arm around her, pulling her close.

“It’s okay – I understand,” he replies, having repeated her same actions earlier in his own career. “Listen, just take a deep breath and relax. If it’s meant to be, everything will come together either this weekend or next. Just control what you can control. Do the best that you can – and it’ll fall into place if it’s meant to be. You can’t let yourself get caught up in the little details. It’ll drive you crazy – trust me.” She smiles, nodding her head accepting. She had heard about those times in the early stages of his Cup career, and remembered a couple trips over to the house to see him where he was frustrated beyond anything.

“I’m trying. I just….We came into these playoffs with so much momentum, all the wins and success. It’s been a dream season. I don’t want to throw it away in the span of three weeks. These guys deserve so much more with what they’ve had to endure.” Chase understood, as while the events were traumatic and drove them both insane, the team didn’t have it easy either. They had to deal with relief drivers, and everybody having their eyes on them wondering if Alyssa could actually get the job done.

“Just remember what I said. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen…” They then reach the garage, and he gives her a quick kiss before watching as she goes over to Kevin for a final briefing before the practice session.

He lets out a sigh as he leans back against the wall, watching the fury of activity in the garage stall, though finds his eyes wandering to where the Cup cars were parked. He knew he wasn’t ready for that yet, and time needed to be spent focused on himself. But, he also couldn’t lie that he longed to be part of that garage area.

“Soon…” He tells himself, as he glances back into the stall, smiling as Alyssa blows him a quick kiss before climbing in for the first practice.

He then makes his way across the garage with the team, climbing the steps to the top of the hauler, taking his usual position. Continued glances over at the scoring monitor, eyes focused on the track, he watched as she rode the concrete oval with ease. He couldn’t help but smile at some of the lap times during the session, and it seemed that the car was smooth as ever.

Though as they got into the second half, he watched her slip down the scoring pylon and just shook his head. This wasn’t what they needed right now in finishing off the session sitting 23rd on the board. He hadn’t paid attention to Kevin’s plans for the session, but he could only hope that they were as low as they were due to not making a qualifying run.

He makes his way towards the steps to climb down, hearing his phone ring. He pulls it out of his pocket, rolling his eyes as he answered the call.

“Hello?” He says as he stops by the railing.

“Hey Chase,” Cindy replies on the other end. “How are you?” He could only roll his eyes, again.

“I’m fine, Mom. I told you that you didn’t need to call and check on me…” He also knew that request, as always, fell on deaf ears. No matter what he did, he would always be her baby.

“I care about you, and I was worried. You have to get that after what happened, right? Can’t I give you a call and check on you once in awhile?” He didn’t mind talking to her. It was just her timing could use some improvement right now.

“Of course, mom. But, can we talk later, please? I was just headed to the garage area.” He wanted to go see Alyssa, make sure that she was still feeling pretty good about things despite the slip-up on the chart.

“Fine, I was just worried. Will you call later?” He felt like rolling his eyes, but knew he couldn’t deny her.

“I promise. Talk to you later, and I love you. Bye Mama.”

“Love you, too, always. Bye Chase.” He hangs up, continuing his way down the stairs.

He makes his way back to the garage area, instantly surprised as he sees Alyssa standing in the stall joking with Kevin, laughter purely filling her face with ease. Crossing his arms, he couldn’t help but smile himself, glad that there was nothing to be concerned about.

He could only hope that Saturday went smoothly and as planned.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 173: “I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy or be sad.”

Monday, November 20 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

As she had done plenty of times before this season, Sarina made her way into Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was time for the classic Monday morning meetings to reflect on the weekend that was, and look forward.

This meeting, though, would be a little different in knowing that the focus forward wasn’t on the next truck race, but rather the Snowball Derby. Even though she was ready for what the future was set to deliver in her NASCAR career, she knew late model racing would always have a piece of her heart, and things would never be complete without a Snowball Derby victory. Maybe this year it would be time to celebrate.

As she made her way down the hallway destined for the meeting room, she immediately stopped partway, glancing into an office. She watched as Christopher packed a series of boxes, obviously collecting his various belongings. Of course, today was his last official day here as he’d be making the move over to Joe Gibbs Racing and the XFINITY Series.

“I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy, or be sad,” she comments as she glances in the doorway, catching his attention. Truthfully, he sympathized with the array of emotions. He was ready for the next opportunity, set to make the most of it, and hopeful that it’d result in more success. However, he knew he would miss each of the guys.

“Why?” He asks, wondering why was she was feeling the emotions, too.

“You’re leaving….” He thought he covered this on the weekend when they met in the garage. However, he could understand her drive for assurance given how trust wasn’t her strong suit due to her past. He admittedly was surprised at how much they had grown to trust each other.

“I’m always a phone call or text away, if you want to talk. I cherish our friendship. We will always be friends, okay?” She hoped that went more than just words, but couldn’t help but wonder just a little bit. Why couldn’t she just trust him?

“Honestly?” He then wraps an arm around her shoulder.

“Honestly, always.” She smiles, watching as he goes back to his boxes.

“So that’s why you wrecked me….” He then rolls his eyes, knowing he’d never live it down. He was actually waiting for Kyle to give him a dish of it, too.

“I told you that I didn’t mean to do that. Going to hold it over my head forever?” She just smirks back in return. It was nice to have something to bug him about.

“Maybe…” He then looks at her with intrigue as she just laughs. “Nah, I know you feel bad and I fully accept your apology. Just don’t do it, again.”

“Never, ever. I promise.” She nods her head, accepting. She then looks at him surprised as he drops a box at her feet. “Since you’re here, can you help me out?”

“I would, but I have another appointment…” She then turns and heads down the hallway, destined for the meeting hall.

“You didn’t seem so set on leaving before I gave you the box…” She laughs as she just smirks back in response. “Whatever, I see how it goes….” He then retreats back in the office as she continues down her way.

***********

Tuesday, November 21

“So how did you manage to get out of the house without her knowing, again?” Alan questions from the backseat of the airplane.

“She’s in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Josh answers alongside the crew chief. The crew chief nods his head, accepting.

Chase, meanwhile, was focused forward, following the flight path they had designated earlier in the day. Now armed with the master of searching, a crew chief and a car chief, he was set to get them some answers. They were off to Michigan to visit the address and see what they could learn about Sarina’s family. Hopefully it went smoothly because he didn’t want to have to return with bad news.

“Shelly Dryer,” Chase speaks out mid-air. “That’d be next our lead. She mentioned how her middle name is based off of her mother and aunt Shelly’s friend Samantha.”

“I will look into her background next,” Tom replies back. “I still say that we didn’t need to bring Alan and Josh.” Chase didn’t even glance up or back at the pair. He knew exactly why he had brought them. Perhaps Josh had a point with his concerns after everything that had gone on.

“They both had a day off, and I’d rather safe than sorry.” Tom went back to his notes, flipping back and forth.

“So who are we going to see first? Uncle Mike or cousin Lindsay?” Chase wasn’t sure, nor did he care – as long as they got answers either way.

“I vote for cousin Lindsay,” Alan suggests. “I’d be afraid of my ass being kicked by a strange man.” Josh chuckles as Alan glances over, a little confused.

“You obviously haven’t seen a catfight, or pissed off your wife lately because woman can be more dangerous sometimes,” Josh counters as Alan shrugs his shoulders. “Uncle Mike, please.”

“I say we just let Chase decide…” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Flip a coin – I don’t care,” he answers. As long as they got answers and got somewhere in this quest, it didn’t matter to him.

Once they landed in Michigan and flipped the coin, tails determined they were off to see Lindsay first. Plugging the address into the rental car, it didn’t take them long to get there as they now sat in the driveway with a mix of thoughts.

“Are you ready for this?” Alan questions as Chase shuts the key off. They couldn’t sit in a stranger’s driveway all day long.

“Why would I be here otherwise?” He asks back in return, climbing out of the rental car.

He led the group to the front door of the house – which was rather large as you could easily classify it as a mansion. Taking a deep breath, he knocks on the door, silently praying things went smoothly.

He watches as a blond female opens the door dressed in a tight t-shirt and leggings. It was clear that she worked out, and probably was involved in something fit related – either some sport, or dance. Or maybe she just took good care of herself.

Her face lights up immediately as she recognizes the man before her, jaw dropping in shock. Why would Chase Elliott be standing in her doorway right now?

“You’re Chase Elliott….” She finally speaks slowly and he nods his head in response. “Okay….” She then glances around, expecting to see someone holding a video camera. Instead, she just notices three men standing behind him. “And you look like Alan Gustafson….”

“Hello,” Alan simply replies, not sure what was the next step right now.

“Did I win something? I mean, I don’t remember entering a giveaway, but maybe a friend entered me. it just seems strange that you’re here….” Chase knew it was awkward, but at least she wasn’t running away or kicking his ass.

“No, you didn’t win a giveaway and it isn’t for a candid TV show,” he explains to her. “But if you’re Lindsay, I’m here to see you because I want to tell you about something.” She felt a wash of confusion hit her immediately. What would a famous NASCAR driver have to tell her at her doorstep?

“Well I’m Lindsay,” she replies back in response and he nods his head. He figured as much, given the address and age range that he was certain she fit.

“I’m sure you know Chelsy Dryer…” It felt weird for him to say her old name, but he figured as much that she’d have no clue about why he was there if he said Sarina Ott.

“Do I know Chelsy? We were the best damn friends you could imagine until our early teenage years when she moved away. I mean, of course I know Chelsy. So wait, how do you know Chelsy?” Chase was surprised by the question as if she was a NASCAR fan, hadn’t she read the news? It was already out there about Chris Dryer, and any family should put the pieces together.

“She moved away when she was 15 after her father was sho-”

“Yeah, of course, everybody heard that. It was like gone without a trace. What are you getting at?” He could tell that she was very intrigued, either for reasons of hating they got separated, or maybe anger that she left without reason.

“The detectives and police forced her, her brother and her mother to do so, in hopes to protect them from another possible incident. They went to California and changed their names for identity sake. Unfortunately, they were tracked and her mother did not make it. She then moved to North Carolin-”

“Why am I not surprised?” Chase then stops, intrigued by Lindsay’s comment. She hadn’t said anything until now. “She was interested in racing, wanting to possibly drive herself. They say if you want to be a stockcar driver, North Carolina is where to go.” Chase nods his head.

“Sarina Ott. Do you recognize the name?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “How do you recognize me but not recognize that name?”

“Listen, I’ve gotten away from my NASCAR interest for the past five to seven years. Dirt tracks are just way better to watch, no offense. But, I recognize the faces because you were just starting to enter the fold and being Bill’s kid, and he was working with Jeff Gordon.” Chase glances back at Alan, who simply nods in response. The story made sense. “So why should I recognize the name?”

“Sarina Ott is Chelsy Dryer’s new name. She’s my girlfriend for two years, and she drives for Kyle Busch in the truck series.” Lindsay’s jaw drops immediately.

“Holy shit….” She just shakes her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe it. She actually made it.”

“She won a race this year in her rookie season, and finished top-10 in points.” Lindsay just continues to look back at him in disbelief.

“Should we dare mention her brother now?” Josh questions, causing Chase to look back instantly. “Bad timing?”

“What did Chris do now?” Lindsay asks as Chase looks back towards her. He wasn’t looking forward into revealing these details. “Sorry, I don’t follow nothing. I’ve been too busy focused on practicing and performing dance routines. It’s actually strange how timing worked out because I’m normally not home.”

“Maybe you should just read this…” Tom suggests, handing over a piece of paper. He could tell that Chase wasn’t in the warrant of wanting to tell the whole story himself.

“This is insane but not surprising. He was always one strange dude, caught up with the wrong people. It’s why Chels… I mean, Sarina and I grew so close together. I was like her escape from the insanity of her house with her brother and her mom. I’m glad that you’re okay, and he’s locked away – finally.” Chase nods his head, accepting, surprised that went smoother than expected. “So, why are you here? Did something happen to her?”

“She’s actually in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Chase comments, which causes a little confusion on Lindsay’s face. “You don’t know the Snowball Derby?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “A race fan that doesn’t know the biggest late model event in the United States; I’m going to have to change that immediately. If you’re available Sunday December 2, I can make that happen.” Josh and Alan both shake their heads with a laugh immediately. They wouldn’t expect any other reaction from Chase.

“I am available but you didn’t answer my question,” Lindsay tells him and he can only smile in response. He wondered if the Snowball Derby would mark a good re-introduction.

“Obviously, you can see how family and Sarina don’t get along very well, and she mentioned at some point she wonders what if and misses everybody. I was hoping to surprise her with something positive.” Lindsay could only grin back in return. She had always wanted to see her best friend, again.

“I’d be all for that as I miss our fun times together.” Chase smiles back in return, as things were going well. He just hoped that the cake topper fell nicely.

“Are you available on Thursday to come to Georgia? And what about your dad, Mike?” Lindsay glances down at the ground at the mention of her father. “I’m sorry….”

“No, it’s okay. It’s just…” She wipes a stray tear as she takes a deep breath. “He passed away from cancer a year ago. I lost both of my parents within three months.” Chase could only nod his head in response, almost in disbelief.

“I can’t imagine going through that….” She glances away, taking a deep breath, before looking back towards Chase and the group.

“I threw myself into my work as a dance instructor and performer, not wanting to think about it. You standing here today, being able to say you can connect with family, my best friend, it means the world to me. I know you’re just trying to be caring to her – and she deserves it, but thank you so much.” He nods his head, accepting her praise. Who knew this would be helpful in more ways than one. He just hoped he got the same praise from Sarina. “I’m available to come to Georgia, though.”

“Perfect. I’ll pay for your flight in, and then I can welcome you to Thanksgiving dinner on a surprise reunion. Is that a deal?” Lindsay nods her head, accepting.

“Can I show you something, first?” Chase was caught off-guard, but curious at the same time. He follows her inside, through the halls of the house, into a small room in the back corner. “When they left, they didn’t take anything with them. As family, I asked if I could get some stuff which they easily allowed. I’ve been waiting for a chance to give it back to her.” He smiles as he follows her into the room, recognizing the first object immediately.

“The toy box your father made for her.” Lindsay then glances back at him, surprised. “She told me about how he made each of you a toy box. She also talked about how amazing your dad was, and how sweet he was. She mentioned how you took her to a race, sparked that interest. That’s why I reached out to you first.”

“Inside the toy box, there’s some special photos, a couple of her go-karting trophies – things I knew she would’ve wanted to take with her if she could.” Chase was in total shock as he glanced in the box, immediately smiling. While this started as a journey to just help bring closure to family, he could already see it helping her in other ways. “Maybe we could get this down to her in Georgi-”

“She and I share a house in North Carolina. I’m just doing Georgia because I always do Thanksgiving with my parents. But I agree with your idea so I will definitely fund that, too.” She then looks back ,surprised.

“Are you sure?” He nods his head. “You’re certainly a sweet Georgia peach, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise…”

“I just can’t wait to see her reaction.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 172: Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Friday, November 17

Following the national anthem, Chase gives her a quick kiss on the lips.

“Good luck,” he tells her as she just smiles back in return.

“Thank you,” she replies, kissing his lips once again. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Be safe. Last one for the yea-”

“Woah woah, easy now buddy. I still got one more to go.” He smiles, knowing exactly what she meant. It was always nice to go down to Florida in December.

“Regardless, make this one matter…” She nods her head as he walks away, headed for the pit box. After taking a deep breath, one last check on the shoes, she climbs in the truck, ready for a fun night.

The race did not start off as she wanted, though, fading from fifth to 13th in the first stage as she battled a very loose truck. It didn’t improve much in the second stage, only advancing up to ninth.

“It’s still a little free, but not as bad,” she tells Marcus, who works out the next sea of adjustments.

Starting off the final stage, she began to make up some ground when she felt a tire going soft. Heading down pit road, the unscheduled pit stop set her down a lap, causing her to finish 18th.

Climbing out of the truck post-race, clearly dejected, as she just leans back against it shaking her head. All she had wanted to do was finish the year off on a high note. But watching her guys come towards her, she couldn’t help but smile.

She had finished top-10 in points. She had won a race. She had come close many other times. She proved to the world that she could race right alongside the best of the series. She proved if consistency came, she could be standing on the frontstretch where Christopher was right now next year, celebrating a championship.

Rather than focus on the negative, she immediately shared high fives with each of the crew members, followed by some hugs, thanking them for their hard work all year.

“We’re going to come back stronger next year,” one of them assured her and she simply nodded back in return.

“We’re going to come out guns a blazing, focused on one goal,” she replies with a smile of her own.

“I’m proud of you,” Marcus shares as he is the last to hug her. “You’ve grown a lot since I met you back in February. I’ve watched you mature, overcome difficulties, and grow. You’re not as frustrated as you were sometimes, you’re more focused on the end game, and you’re even easier to get along with. Great job.”

“Thank you for everything. You are more amazing than Kyle could even describe to me.” Marcus glances over his shoulder at Chase.

“So I’m more amazing than this guy?” She laughs, shaking her head no.

“Nobody could be more amazing than him.” She then pulls him close, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to get someone like him in my life.”

“Because Sarina, just like him, you’re absolutely amazing and a great person.” She smiles. “See you Monday for Snowball preparations?” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can you believe it will be two complete years together when we go down to Florida?” Chase shakes his head no.

“It’s just flown by,” he comments as she just rolls her eyes. “Oh haha, I wasn’t meaning a joke…”

“I like our second year a lot better than our first,” she replies and he nods his head in agreement.

“It’s only going to get better from here, too.”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Saturday, November 18

After getting done an appearance for Toyota, Sarina made her way to the Cup garage to check on how things had been going for Chase during practice. She makes her way into the stall, glancing at the car, eyes opening wide as she glances over to where he was standing.

“What did you do?” She questions as he glances up from the data that he was looking over.

“Got a little loose up high and rubbed the wall a little,” he answers as she just shakes her head. “Relax, typical stripe here. Just go ask your great championship leader Martin Truex Jr. as he did the same thing, too. The guys are going to fix it.” She walks over as he looks back towards the data.

“You just wanted to give your guys more work….” Chase shakes his head no as he continues to flip through a couple different pages. From throttle traces, to various lap times, to notes on what lines his teammates were running, some of this had to help someway.

“We already got enough work to do. Did you see where I was on the practice chart?” She shakes her head no, but glanced up at the chart on the pit box, seeing he was 27th.

“Ouch. I can see why there’s work to do….”

“Car is loose as ever, and I can’t seem to roll that top line as smooth as either Kyles. Want to go ask your boss for some tips for me?” She laughs, and shakes her head no.

“He wouldn’t offer them anyway.” She then places a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. You guys always do. I bet you’ll have a great run Sunday.”

“I hope you’re right.” He then snags a quick kiss. “Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to miss Justin’s celebrati-”

“Excuse me?” She then laughs in response as he just smirks back at her. It was clear he wanted William Byron to win the title, while she had settled on Justin Allgaier. “We’ll see who is laughing when the checkered flag flies.”

“Deal, but don’t make me wipe your tears.” He just rolls his eyes as she heads out of the stall, knowing he needed to focus ahead of the second session.

“So was the car better that run?” Josh Kirk asks as he walks over to where Chase was standing following the second practice session.

“Absolutely,” he answers. “It felt way more secure, like I could work with it now versus almost out of control the first one.” Josh nods his head.

“That’s good. We’re making progress.” Chase couldn’t argue with that, but he still wasn’t quite satisfied.

“I just wish we had more time. I mean, we’re still 27th quickest.” Josh knew that was concerning, but he still felt confident ahead of tomorrow.

“Once you had 10, 20, 30 laps on the tires, you were solid and matching lap times to some of the quickest guys in the same situation. As long as you don’t lose a lot on the start of a run, we’ll be fine.” Chase nodded his head, feeling a little bit better based on Josh’s observation. “So I hear you’re going on an adventure Tuesday….” Chase glances over, intrigued.

“Oh really? Where’d you learn that from?” Josh just smiles back at his driver in return.

“A little birdie.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that was a big fat lie.

“Are you eve-dropping on my phone conversations?” Josh felt guilty, but these things happen in close quarters.

“I didn’t mean to, okay? We were just really close and I caught a glimpse.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it’d come out eventually.

“You can’t tell Sarina, okay?” Josh then looks at him surprised. He never would’ve seen Chase as someone to go behind someone else’s back. “It’s for a surprise.” Josh immediately felt relieved with that confession.

“The family search thing, right?” Chase nods his head as he had talked about with a couple crew guys before. He just hoped they, along with Ryan, Dale and Ricky, kept their mouths shut.

“She made mention of an Uncle Mike and Cousin Lindsay that were important to her in a couple different ways. I found where they live in Michigan so while she’s busy testing in Florida, I’m going to meet them and see where things go.” Josh knew the intentions were right here, but still felt nervous about Chase’s adventure.

“Are you sure about this? I mean, you’re a celebrity and well, so is she now – but you’re the people’s champi-”

“Let it go…” Josh shakes his head no with a smirk. He knew it got under Chase’s skin a little as he hated the new found tagline courtesy of Eddie Gosage, but it was true.

“You are Mr. Popular, though, as you’ve built quite the following. I’m just worried about your safety.” Chase was caught off-guard to hear Josh saying this.

“Aw, it’s nice that you care-”

“I’m serious, Chase!”

“That’s why Tom is coming with me and that’s why he ran a complete background check on them. I’m taking the right steps, Josh.”  Josh still wasn’t quite convinced.

“I still say that either Morgan or a couple of us guys should go, too – just be safe.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that Josh was now starting to become overbearing. How could someone on the crew be worse than Jared?

“I’ll think about it, okay?”

*********

After William Byron took the checkered flag in third-place ahead of his fellow three championship competitors, Chase couldn’t help but glance over at Sarina with a smile of his own. He knew for certain the little superstar would get the job done.

“What did I tell you?” He asks as they make their way down the stairs behind the grandstands so they can head out. Surprisingly, the crowds hadn’t recognized Chase too much and it was smooth moving. For the few fans that had recognized him, he was able to get an autograph or photo done before catching a big crowd.

“You are correct and you’re pick was perfectly amazing tonight,” she answers as he couldn’t help but glance back with a smile.

“I did feel bad for Justin, though. It had to be hard not having Jason here because of the suspension. But, I still say William would’ve beat him anyway. Willie has been the quickest of the group for the past several weeks.” She nodded her head, having watched that herself. Truthfully, there was pride in watching William do it. In the past two nights, a pair of KBM graduates had become champions. Hopefully she was the next one in the pecking order.

“Why do you call him Willie?” Chase smiles, remembering exactly where that came from.

“When you drive for Dale, everybody gets a nickname as he can’t just call you by your first name. For William, it became Willie B because it just rolls off the tongue. Josh Berry is known as Huckleberry, but keep that on the hush hush down low.” She smiles, nodding her head. It wasn’t like she would cross paths with Josh anytime soon, anyway.

“So what did he call you?” Chase remembered his clearly, knowing why it started, too. He had to laugh at how he brought it on himself.

“Clyde, because I reminded him of the 50s era with my Elvis-style sunglasses at Daytona in my rookie year.” Sarina smiles, remembering the photos that surfaced that season.

“Those were certainly some stylish shades…” Chase nods his head, still proud of how they looked too.

“If we really wanted to get under his skin, we’d call him Ralphie. Amy does that quite a bit just for the effect.” She then wraps her arm around Chase from behind as they walk through the tunnel together.

“So can I call you Clyde?” He then glances over his shoulder at her.

“Can I call you Chel-”

“That’s different.” He was a little confused, but didn’t say much as they kept walking. He knew the comment hadn’t set well with her and didn’t quite know how to respond. “Chelsy was my name for the first 15 years of my life, yes, but it means something different now. To me, it’s a reminder of the pain and suffering and everything that I went through. I don’t want to be reminded of that, but rather focus on the future and what I’ve accomplished. Sarina was my second chance to reset the stage, and live the life that I wanted. I want to focus on that and not remind myself of what was.”

“I understand perfectly. I’m sorry that I’ve used that to call you out sometimes and taken it the wrong way.” She nods her head, accepting, as they catch each others’ eyes at the end of the tunnel.

“My full name was Chelsy Samantha Dryer. I was named after a previous friend of my mother’s and my aunt Shelly. I almost changed my name to Samantha Ott instead of Sarina.” Chase was surprised by the instant confession, but could see the direction she was going immediately.

“I like Sarina for you better. It’s unique – just like you are in every way for what you’ve been through, who you are, and the future that you continue to go for. But, if you become annoying, I may just have to call you Sammy.” She then laughs, well appreciating the compliment in the same breath.

“Sounds like a perfect plan, Clyde…”  He just rolls his eyes as they head off together, set to go congratulate William on a job well done.

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Sunday, November 19

“Stay focused, believe in yourself, believe in this team,” she tells him. “You guys can do get up there and fight for the win. Be safe, and see you later. I love you.” She then gives him a kiss.

“I love you, too,” he replies with a smile. It was nice to get a little pep talk before the event.

Taking her usual seat on the pit box, she hoped she was in for a decent day.

She watched as he began to make up ground immediately, making his way into the top-10 during the first half of the first stage, placing sixth. He then kept up there throughout the second, scoring a solid ninth. The final stage would go steadily, as he kept himself solidly in 11th, before making a late charge on a restart with 40 laps to go to place fifth.

A series of smiles beamed off pit road in how far they had come over the weekend, really proud of their performance. More importantly, it gave me a good boost of momentum entering the winter ahead of next season.

As everybody finished up celebrating, Sarina snapped a selfie of her and Chase on pit road together, with the championship party going on in the background.

@Sarina18: Absolutely amazing season this year. I couldn’t be more proud of myself and @KBMteam for a great year. First career win, many top-10s, growth as a driver, and a solid top-10 in points. What more could you ask for a rookie season? This guy, though, is beyond amazing. It was so great watching him run well and get right up there. I guarantee next year that he will win a race – there’s no questioning that as I know he’s going to #DI9 hard. Next year, ladies and gents, one – if not both of us actually, will be celebrating right there. But for tonight, it belongs all to Martin and Sherry. Sherry, you’re absolutely amazing. For everything that you’ve been through, everything that you’ve battled, and the smile that always seem to grace your face. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people, including myself. Make sure to enjoy tonight.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 171: “Guilty”

Thursday, November 16 – Florida

“Just think – the last time we’re going to have to make this trip,” Chase comments as he opens the door, allowing Sarina to head in first, before following closely behind her.

“Thank God,” she replies, waiting for him to walk alongside her. “I just want to forget about everything…” He wraps an arm around her shoulders as they walk down the aisle together.

“You know that you can’t just do that. You just avoid addressing those emotions, and then they eat at you. We both know what happens then.” They sit down in their seats together and she looks immediately into his brown eyes.

“There’s no way I would ever do that to you, again. I’m not running.” He smiles, giving her hand a squeeze. That right there attested to how far they had come over the past year.

“And you know that you can always talk to me about anythin-”

“Absolutely.” She then takes a deep breath as they watch her brother be led into the court room and to his spot.

“Now presenting the honorable Judge Reynolds,” the clerk says and they stand, watching him take his spot. Chase had to admit that he didn’t want to see this judge ever again, either. But if he got the job done, then maybe their time will be worth it.

“You may be seated,” the judge states, which everybody in the room follows suit. “Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor,” the head juror says as Chase wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders, giving it a squeeze. She could only hope the jury swayed in their favor.

“On the charge of poisoning Ryan Blaney, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” The answer was obvious in Chase’s mind as Ryan had testified to seeing Chris, being handed the bottle, and feeling the effects afterwards.

“Guilty.” Sarina flashes a quick smile back to Ryan, who simply gives her a nod of approval. So far, so good.

“On the charge of poisoning Chase Elliott, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” Chase takes a deep breath. This wasn’t so obvious as they were basing on the fact that Chris had motive from previous dealings, and would be the only person with access to lace the bottle.

“Guilty.” Chase couldn’t help but be pleased that the jury was smart enough to put the pieces together. Maybe things were finally falling into place.

“Thank you. Combined with your previous guilty pleas, you will be spending the next 70 years in prison. You will have no chance of parole, given your antics previously displayed to the court room in other situations. A note has also been placed on your file in regards to psychological pleas. Court adjourned!”

Chase and Sarina trade a glance, sharing a quick hug, before walking out together. Chase just held her hand the whole way, knowing a whole series of emotions were trying to flood her brain. Obviously it was great for this all to be over – but what about the fact that he was her brother, regardless?

“Are you okay?” He asks once they get outside and she just nods her head.

“I’m just ready to get to the trac-” She answers and he squeezes her hand.

“Stop using something else as a distraction or a way to ignore. Tell me….” She glances down, taking a deep breath.

“As much as I love him somewhere inside of me, I am so glad that this is over. I am glad that he is going to be locked away. I’m glad that he can’t hurt anybody else. I’m glad to also have you in my life, too. Maybe it’s time for my happily ever after….” He pulls her close, kissing her cheek.

“I plan on giving you a happily ever after, as long as you promise to tell your boss to stop using my lines.” She then looks at him confused. “Did you not hear what he said today at the press conference?”

“I thought you ignored NASCAR newsy twitter….” He rolls his eyes as that was normally the case.

“Curiosity got to me when they asked him what he thought of Brad Keselowski.” She then laughed, knowing that response would probably be priceless.

“Oh Gosh….” Chase pulls out his phone, bringing up the response.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy. Fact of the matter. I never ran into Matt Kenseth. I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me. There is a respect factor out there on the racetrack, and you can certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like, but as once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those how they race me.” She just rolls her eyes, but had to chuckle a little at his wording.

“He’s good….” Chase puts his phone back in his pocket, eying her once again. “Trust me, I’m okay. I’m fine. I got my emotions out before. Like I said, I’m just glad that it worked out and now we can focus on us.”

Friday, November 17 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

“I think that last run was perfect,” Sarina comments. “I want to start off that way tonight…”

“I can make that happen as requested,” Marcus replies. “Fourth quickest isn’t too shabby either. We have a good truck this week. Just stay away from Christopher, okay?” She then shoots him a ‘really’ glance as he just winks back.

“Listen, I know what he has on the line tonight and I hope he gets it. He deserves it. Alright, I’m going to go see Chas-”

“You ditching me already?” She smiles and nods her head. “Why aren’t I surprised? You guys can’t stand to be apart. Go on little girl…”

She heads off, making her way through the garage area over to where the Cup cars were located. She immediately caught a glimpse of him, smile forming immediately as he looked cute as ever. Though her eyes immediately drew down to shoes, a little surprised.

“Another pair?” She questions and he smiles, holding a foot up and showing her all the angles.

“What do you think?” He asks as she rolls her eyes. She had to admit – she was absolutely in love immediately as the skeleton design just fit nicely with red touches. But, she wasn’t about to let Chase know that immediately.

“We already have a closet full of shoes. I believe you’ve worn like 16 different shoe designs for 36 races now, and we have about 14 of those at home.” Chase chuckles, knowing the collection was getting quite big. However, there was a reason behind it.

“Each of those designs has a special reason, or is meant to go with the firesuit. These ones, it’s a very special reason actually.” She crosses her arms, now intrigued.

“Oh really?”

“Dale Jr., of course. Since he’s started, he’s been known for the skeleton helmets and gloves, sometimes the shoes to match too. This is my little thank you, sign of respect to go along with the gloves. Besides, he signed them this morning…” She then looks at the signature near the heel, impressed.

“Okay, so this pair I can let slide, along with the throwback pair and your throwback to your dad’s record at Tallade-”

“What about the Hooters Throwback to Kuwicki?” She then lets out a sigh. Perhaps his collection was insane, but she had to admire it.

“So they’re all pretty cool, and these are actually one of my favorites that you’ve worn. Just promise me maybe less shoes next year?” He then laughs as he wraps an arm around her.

“I’ll try…..”

Chase could’ve been less than impressed with the session. They were decent, a little off in handling though, but 15th quickest. It wasn’t bad, but he thought they would’ve been better. But he was going to stay relaxed. They had two more chances tomorrow to make it better before Sunday.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He hears, recognizing the voice immediately as he peaks over the roof of the car towards the direction it was coming from. Christopher Bell – just as he thought. He also knew that if he was talking to someone near his stall more than likely that’d be Sarina.

“I’m fine,” he hears the female voice in response. Yep, just as he thought.

“I was just concerned because I know yesterday, things finally went down with your brother. I just can’t imagine what you’re feeling.” Chase could sympathize with Christopher’s concerns and actually didn’t mind him checking on her once in a while. It was nice to know she had someone on weekends they were apart. Now what would happen next year with Christopher moving up?

“I’m relieved and glad to know that he can’t hurt anybody ever aga-”

“But what about the sibling connection? What about how much you love him? What about those memories?” Chase couldn’t help but listen as Christopher was asking the tough questions that maybe he should’ve talked about yesterday.

“What about it? That’s in the past, Christopher. I can’t ever go back to what that was. He changed – whether due to outside influences or some internal demons, he changed. He’s not the same person he was before. I came to grips with that when he went after Chase in July. Why do you think I pushed so hard for the trial to go forth like it did? Why do you think I pushed for those psychological connections? For all I could care, I don’t have a brother anymore. He’s nothing to me.” The words coming from her mouth so coldly certainly pierced through every feeling you could imagine, as Chase just shook his head. It was amazing how strong she could be at times, which only made him worry about a collapse later on.

“So you have no family, again….” She shakes her head as that wasn’t true.

“I have a family in Chase, Cindy, Bill, Kyle, Samantha, Marcus, and you. It may not be like the conventional family, but it feels more real than anything that I’ve felt for years. You’re the pesky brother while Marcus is like a dad at times. Kyle and Sam – almost like an aunt and uncle.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as it was nice to see how well she had fit in, and saw all the connections. He just hoped none of that changed.

“So you’re still going to make sure to talk to me next year?” She laughs, nodding her head.

“Are you kidding me? Of course! You’re a friend for life now, Christopher. I’m going to make sure to keep an eye on you as I’m sure you’ll do with me when you can. Did you really think I was going to cut off all communications because you were moving up a series?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders. “Oh my gosh…..”

“Thank you for being assuring, though.” She smiles. “And I’m glad you’re okay. Just promise me you’ll take care of yourse-”

“I’m fine…..” She then walks into the garage stall as Chase tries to busy himself in doing something. “Eavesdropping?”

“No, I was jus-” He starts and she gives him a playful smack. “So I heard the conversation….”

“Jealous?” She asks and he shakes his head no as he pulls her close.

“I know who you love more than anybody else at the end of the day.” He then kisses her lips. “I also know that you have some place to be, too.”

“I just wanted to come say hi…”

“Well hello, and good luck.” She then squeezes in another kiss before heading off, set for pit road for truck qualifying.

As she left the garage, his mind immediately switched gears, knowing another topic was also on the brain. The loss of family in one way made another project even greater in importance to make it happen for her. He had texted the familiar names and small story to his contact, hoping that it led them to something happening in the future.

He began to wonder once again what her reaction would be. Would there be glee for finding good family to get back close with? Would she be angry that he went digging in her past? Would this be a gift that he could never top ever?

As his phone goes off, he pulls it from his pocket, answering immediately upon seeing the phone number.

“Hello?” He says as he watches the field of activity before him with final preparation being done ahead of qualifying, followed by backing the car out to take it over for pre-qualifying inspection.

“Hey Chase,” he hears on the other end. “It’s Tom Keo. How are you?” He knew the phone call wasn’t just a casual check-in.

“Alright. Car is decent, things have gone smoothly. How are you?” He actually wished Tom would just get to why he called.

“I’m doing great. So I checked into Mike Dryer and his daughter Lindsay. Both of them are still living in Michigan believe it or not, and they have a clean record. So if you’re looking for positive members, this could be a good beginning.” Chase was relieved to hear that Mike and Lindsay were still on a good page. It made the happiness in Sarina’s voice talking about them feel even better.

“So what are we going to do now?” It was obvious question. Tom wouldn’t just call with casual information for no reason.

“We could follow one of two approaches. We can surprise them with a visit and go from there in explaining our reasoning for showing up, or I could call them first.” Chase knew a call from a stranger could hurry them off. Besides, why would they trust somebody over the phone they didn’t know when they probably knew her family background of con people throughout?

“I say we follow the first approach. I can check my schedule and give you some days that I am free to do so.” He knew there were some days; it was just planning it perfectly so Sarina didn’t catch on.

“That’s a deal. I look forward to being able to do this soon.”

“Sounds good. Thanks Tom.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Chase then hangs up, smile forming on his face.

With a new found reason for some more happiness today, he made his way out to pit road, watching the end of qualifying as Sarina timed in fifth quickest. Certainly happiness was easy to come by today.

Ultimately, that smile wasn’t as big once Cup qualifying was over as he ended up 18th. Not too shabby, but certainly not super smile worthy. Hopefully Sunday went much better.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 170: “That’s all I had there, buddy.”

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

25 laps to go. 23 laps to go. 20 laps to go. The laps couldn’t count down quick enough in Sarina’s mind as she watched Chase continue to pace ahead of the field. Her leg began tap more, nails began to disappear, hand clutched the bears tighter – couldn’t they just drop the checkered flag right now?

She then felt her nerves pick up even more as with 15 laps to go, the gap between the No. 24 Chevrolet and No. 20 Toyota began shrink more and more. It was obvious that the handling was going away for Chase, as noticed how he was getting off turn two compared to just five laps earlier.

She just crossed her fingers – they couldn’t lose it now. Maybe they’d get a caution as they were better on the short run. Maybe Chase would find something. Maybe Matt would begin to struggle more as he got closer. Something, anything needed to happen now.

“10 more at the line here,” Eddie tells him over the radio as Sarina’s leg bounces more. “Track bar, dial brake in, whatever you need to do. We are fighting for our lives here.” She knew those tidbits of advice from Eddie were useless as knowing Chase, he was already exploring ideas for change in line or adjustments in the car. They didn’t need the obvious right now. “On you, half a lane lower, looking…” Just like that, anger and heartbreak began to course through her in seeing Kenseth get underneath, and pass him off of turn four for the lead. “Stay with him now….”

“Getting so damn tight!” Chase comes over the wall, as Sarina just looked down, shaking her head. This couldn’t be happening.

“Fighting for our lives here. Stay with it…”

She almost felt like throwing the bear – not caring which one – across pit road onto the track to create a caution as the seconds click by. How could this be happening, again?

She didn’t know what to feel over the course of the next eight laps as she silently prayed for a caution, or something to happen to Kenseth’s car, as the emotions just seemed to blur together. She kept her eyes focused ahead, watching Kenseth take the checkered flag first ahead of Chase.

She wanted to be happy for Matt. She wanted to express pride for him. He was one of the nicest guys in the garage. It was nice to see him go out with a win near the end of his career as it seemed to be happening.

But, there was no drop of happiness, as anger and heartbreak just sat there. Sixth runner=up finish this year alone. How does that happen?

“Ugh, that’s all I had there, buddy,” Chase comes over the radio and her heart breaks even more hearing the disappointment laced in his voice. “I’ll get it right one day there. I’m sorry.” Tears threatened to fall, combined with angry enough to punch something. If she wasn’t feeling it before, Chase’s words just cut it even deeper to the core.

“Don’t be sorry,” Alan says. “You did a helluva job. I think we overachieved with that second. We put ourselves in a position, so be proud of it.” Sarina couldn’t help but smile a little in the crew chief’s encouraging words. Certainly they couldn’t forget how far they fell behind mid-race, and the comeback they managed the final 100 laps.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, man,” Eddie adds. “You gave us a shot at it.”

She takes off the headset, placing it on the box where it belonged, before climbing down the steps. She just shook her head, trying to ease her own emotions, as she watched the cars roll down pit road, before making her way out to where Chase was.

She stood back, watching as NBC approached him for his post-race thoughts. She couldn’t believe how composed he was, easily giving them an explanation on those final laps. She knew if roles reversed, that interview wouldn’t had gone near that smoothly with anger searing off of her.

“What do you have to say about the contact with Denny?” The reporter asks and Sarina rolls her eyes. She knew that incident would be overplayed on every network this week.

“A wise man once told me that you race guys how they race you with a smile on your face, so that’s what I did today,” Chase replies and Sarina couldn’t help but form a grin. She had heard the same advice previously before in the late model shop, and almost wanted to send Ricky a praising text for his lessons because that certainly paid off today. “That’s about all I have to say.”

She watches as he does a few more interviews, before the media glob walks away. She then makes her way over, instantly wrapping her arms around him.

“You did a great job today – no matter the result,” she tells him. “You guys fought hard from struggling to being in a place to win. You did the best you could. Be proud of yourself…” He looks at her with a small smile, giving her a kiss.

“I just can’t believe it….” He lets out as he lets out a sigh. She knew no matter what she said, it wouldn’t change his mind or thoughts – just like her theory on Christopher on Friday. So, she took another approach.

“Your move on Denny was genius, by the way. It was nice to see him not make it either.” A small smile forms on his face as he glances back, wondering if Denny had hung around to pay a visit.

“Did I push it too far?” She laughs and shakes her head no.

“An eye for an eye, right?” He nods his head.

“I know what you’re doing, and it’s a very good attempt….” She then focuses on his brown eyes as he pulls her close. “I’ll get over this in a couple days. It just stings to come close. I’m going to say congratulations to Matt, go do some media room stuff, and then we can get out of here.”

“I wouldn’t mind that all….” She was actually beyond through with this weekend.

***********

“Unbelievable jackass!” Sarina lets out from the bedsroom, as Chase looks in, intrigued. He had just gotten out of the shower and was taking his time drying off. But obviously, her outburst caught him off-guard. He saw her phone in her hand immediately, almost rolling his eyes.

“What are they saying now about you and your brother?” Chase wonders, having grown used to the ridiculous remarks. He already half-expected another dosage when the trial finished off with the results and sentencing.

“Actually, this has nothing to do with that.” He then looked on confused as she normally didn’t over panic unless it was about that. “Denny’s spotter is about as dense as he is.”

“Chris Lambert? Really?” She nods her head, still shocked by the quote that she read in the article.

“So did you realize that Denny tried to let you go for two laps, but you were set to stay behind him, and supposedly accomplish what you finally did?” Chase almost broke out laughing as he hurried over, not caring that the towel came loose in the process, flopping down beside her.

“I’m sorry, but did you at any point see Denny give me the bottom fully?” Sarina shakes her head no. “I mean, he bumped me first. Why would I worry about wrecking him anyway when my focus was on winning?”

“He even says that Denny moved up to give you the bottom, and even slowed down to let you go – but yet you slowed down to keep with him.” It was now official; the laughter he previously held onto was in full blast as he just shook his head. Was this guy serious? He now understood why some people demanded sanity tests for NASCAR employees.

“Denny got put in the second line because I got underneath him, and Denny didn’t just move over because he tried pinching my ass. And slowed down lap times? Does one guy not realize we have data?” Sarina was now laughing herself as she just shook her head.

“Least we know that he and Denny go together quite well….” Chase nods his head. “To be honest, Denny didn’t hold back either. I actually wanted to hop off the pit box, walk down to the care center, and smack some common sense into him.” Chase looks at her surprised now.

“Oh really?” She scrolls up in the article, finding the quote.

“Each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing. I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is.”

“Is he for real?” Sarina holds out the phone, as if Chase should read it himself to let it set in.

“Clearly, he learned nothing because last I checked initiation and retaliation were two totally different things.” Chase nods his head.

“I would’ve raced him cleanly for the rest of my life if he done the same for me. But, that’s how it goes…” She then sets her phone aside.

“So, can I smack him for you?” Chase laughs, but shakes his head no. “Then I guess I am going to have to help you with that towel…”

“Oh really?” She then moves down closer to him.

“Well, you did do a great job taking care of me Friday night and Saturday, so I owe you a favor…” She then runs her hands down his chest. “Besides, you need a distraction tonight…”

“That’s not a bad idea…..”

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

Monday, November 13 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Sarina walks through the doors, coffee in hand, making her way up the stairs. Every Monday morning at KBM resulted in the same thing – meeting in the big office with all the crew chiefs and drivers, with the boss making an appearance.

Though having already checked twitter, she knew that Kyle wouldn’t be there due to being on the Championship 4 tour in New York fulfilling media obligations. If he was set to make an appearance, she was going to bring a combination of popcorn, ear plugs, and Tylenol for the butt-chewing that probably would’ve went down.

She makes her way through the doors, spotting Christopher already in his usual seat.

“You’re lucky he’s not here today…” She comments as she walks by Christopher, taking her spot. He just shakes his head, catching the reference already. When was she going to let this go?

“I know,” he replies. “You know I didn’t mean to, right? I still feel terrible. I love you, you’re my buddy. I take full blame once he does yell at us. But you know I meant the apology, right?” She felt herself crack a little, shaking her head as he looked like a little kid right now trying to say whatever would work.

“I love how you’re blubbering. You went full tilt on Erik, but here you’re acting like this.” He was almost set to yell back in response. How did the two teammate incidents even begin to compare? Clearly, Erik screwed up when he forgot to turn the wheel left or hit the brakes upon realizing a car was right in front of him.

“Because I really am sorry. That situation, I just messed up…” She couldn’t hold back anymore, shooting a small smile his direction.

“We were both going for the win, and we’d both probably do the same thing over again. I get it, Christopher. All is forgiven and forgotten, as long as you forget that I was willing to kill you on Friday night.” He then laughs, reaching over a quick hug.

“Deal. By the way, your boyfriend makes an impressive bodyguard.” She then laughs as she had to give Chase credit that he did a decent job handling things.

“I just wish he could get that dang win out of the way.” Christopher sits back, relaxing, smile forming on his face. He had a theory already.

“A win for Chase Elliott in a number other than 9 just wouldn’t seem righ-”

“Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, No. 94. Need I say more?” Christopher almost felt his plan was crushed, but could only smile back in return.

“No. 94 is an exception, though, as his dad ran that number for numerous years. McDonalds scheme, right?” Sarina smiles, nodding her head. It was nice to see Christopher getting to know more NASCAR history. “His dad ran the 9 for years, and Chase has run the 9 for all of his career – except those truck races and Cup Series. Elliott and 9 just go together naturally. HMS put it perfectly when they mentioned legacy. I have a funny feeling that he will win as soon as the 2018 season starts now he’s back where he belongs.” Sarina couldn’t help but admit that maybe Christopher was onto something. That didn’t mean she was giving up on this year, yet.

“We still have Homestea-”

“Kyle Larson is winning that one, and you can’t deny it – unless he blows a motor.” She actually couldn’t argue with that based on Larson’s statistics. “Besides, only one other driver has won in the 24 before – Jeff Gordon. It’s one of those number deals where you just know it’s not right.”

“So what about poor Willie B next year?” Christopher then smiled, already having worked that detail out in his head.

“Willie B has broken every mold since he entered the sport. Just four years experience in racing and he’s doing things that some of us wish we could do with 10 years of experience. He’s going to break this mold, too.” She smiles, as it was a decent way to solve the debate on hand.

“You’re pretty smart…” He just gives her a wink back in response as the crew chiefs enter, set to get things started.

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

Wednesday, November 15

 

“You look like you found something to kill again….” Chase comments, looking over at her sitting at the kitchen table scrolling through her phone. After a busy day, they were set to relax with a nice home cooked meal and a movie.

“How do you know me that well?” She questions and he just shrugs his shoulders. “Mike Wheeler also goes well with Denny and Chris, too.” Chase could only roll his eyes as he walked over, set to snatch the phone out of her hands.

“Do you realize why I avoid twitter after an incident at the track now?” She nods her head as she holds her phone out of his reach. “You need to leave it alon-”

“Admit it – you want to know what he said.” He then lets out a sigh, walking back over to the stove. “I knew it.”

“Curiousity is the worst thing at times, but lay it on me. Besides, I need a good laugh.”

“I’m going to read his exact words and leave nothi-”

“Go ahead….” She then takes a deep breath, still shocked at Mike’s words.

“Even in Phoenix, I thought Chase was grown up enough to just move on and realize that it was just an accident at Martinsville, and we didn’t mean to wreck him – and Chase couldn’t get ove-”

“So basically he’s comparing me to a toddler?” Sarina laughs as she rolls her eyes.

“That, or your one of those gossip girls in a high school now…” Chase just shakes his head in surprise.

“Ridiculous!” Sarina then goes out of the message, sitting back in the chair. “What are you thinking because no, you can’t smack the crap out of Mike too?” She then laughs, but felt letdown. Every good plan she had….

“Nah, I’m not thinking about that at all. My Uncle Mike came to mind actually and how he’d always pick on my dad about having no policeman gossip like those TV shows.” Chase carefully eyes her, remembering the name was mentioned as one of her uncles in his search. It made sense that Mike would be one that she’d say easily, too, given that his daughter was Lindsay – her introduction to short track racing.

“Really? What was your uncle Mike like, anyway?” Casual conversation, just like the boys suggested…..

“He was amazing, Chase. I mean, he was the sweetest guy you could know. He built me a toy box when I was eight years old. It had my name on it, along with teddy bears, toy blocks, other toys – everything hand painted. I actually wish I still had that today. But oh man, the stories I could tell….” Chase brings over a pair of plates, setting them down.

There was no question where his search was going from here.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 168: Christopher vs. Sarina

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

Sarina emerged from the care center, having been checked out and deemed okay besides being a little sore, and had only one thought on her mind.

“Where is he?” She immediately questioned as her eyes landed on the first person she recognized. The brown eyes that glanced into hers could care less about finding Christopher at this moment, though, as they were filled with concern and worry from what they had just witnessed.

“Are you okay?” Chase asks in response, ignoring her question totally. Wasn’t it obvious that she was okay?

“Where is Bell?” Chase knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere unless he answered her question. He actually wished that he didn’t have to give her this response as it was unfair.

“They fixed some of the damage, changed the tires and he’s back out.” She immediately rolls her eyes, feeling disgusted right away. Of course he would not have enough damage to end his race early.

“Son of a bitch! I’m going to kill him.” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm, hoping they could focus on how she was doing instead.

“Sarina….” She was surprised at his disagreement in her plan. Wasn’t he upset about what happened?

“What? He deserves it!” He felt like rolling his eyes, knowing her plan had many layers of failure. It also didn’t address the biggest concern that still filled him.

“Sarina…..” She didn’t care anymore what he said or thought, as it was clear that he wasn’t going to be supportive or do what she wanted. How was that even fair after she backed him all the way with Denny?

“I am going to go wait for his ass and he better watch out.” She then begins to walk away, creating a new sense of panic for Chase. How was he supposed to get his answer this way? What if she did approach Christopher? What would the team, or more importantly Kyle say afterwards?

“Sarina, no…. Sarina…. Chelsy!” Upon the name slipping out of his lips, she froze immediately, spinning around on a dime to face him. Was this really happening?

“What the hell is your problem, William?” It was Chase’s turn to be caught off-guard by her response, but that didn’t deter him from the plan at hand. He was going to get his answer, and solve the other problem at the same time. With eyes locked on each other, he immediately reaches for her arm, grabbing a stern hold. “Let me go…”

“You’re not going out there….” Sarina couldn’t believe this was happening right now. Shouldn’t he be simply following her, ready to back her up on all accounts?

“Let me go, Chase….” Chase knew there was no way that was going to happen based on her frame of mind right now.

“Not until you calm down.” She didn’t want to say the next words, but she was willing to do whatever it took to get her hands on Christopher.

“William Clyde Elliott, let me go before I kick your ass, too!” Chase knew she was just saying that out of frustration and lack of rationalization in her state. He also knew that she could try, but he would keep a hold on her to prevent her from doing something she’d regret later on. Besides, he had another concern on his mind…

“Sarina, are you okay?” Wasn’t it obvious to him that she was okay? She was walking around, willing to go kick some ass, and not deterred one bit.

“I told you to let me go….” Chase figured he better let the question go, because it wasn’t getting them anywhere. Maybe he had over-paniced a little when the wreck happened.

“Alright, I guess I got my answer – but I’m not letting go. You’re not going out there…” Her eyes immediately began to roll in response. If he got his answer, why did it matter anymore?

“Why not?” Chase knew the dead obvious answer.

“Because you’re not approaching him on pit road.” She had to laugh in response. He could easily approach Denny two weeks ago, but now she wasn’t allowed to go talk to Christopher?

“Why? Because I’m a girl? Because you want to protect me, Chase? Gosh, you approached Denny and you guys weren’t even on pit road! You were on the bloody backstretch! What is different here?” Chase knew his response immediately. An argument between two drivers was one thing, but punches thrown between teammates would be a whole other level.

“You’re a lot more fired up than I was and willing to kick his ass.” Again, a laugh escaped her lips. She had an obvious reason to be upset with him based on what happened.

“Oh, so because I’m going to get myself in a fight with possible punches you’re afraid now?” He had to shake his head as he knew she could stand her ground against any driver in this garage area. He had witnessed that already enough racing against in late models.

“No. I’m saying this because you guys are teammates. Do you really want to piss Kyle off by causing a scene out there? It’s not Kyle’s fault that it happened. It’s not the team’s fault, and it’s not the sponsor’s fault. But if you dare go and approach Christopher out there, cause a bloody scene, every one of those people are going mad at you for making a bigger headache.” She knew that he had a point on many levels, but that didn’t deter her plan for Christopher. He had to know that she wasn’t happy with what happened.

“So I’m just supposed to sit back and let him get away with that?” Chase knew there was no way that was happening as he did want to give her a chance to tell Christopher just how she felt.

“No – you’re just supposed to handle it appropriately. Why don’t we go back to the trailer, sit back and watch the final laps, and then you can approach him back there away from everybody? That way he knows your angry and gets to see why you’re so upset – and deservingly so, without a problem, please.” As long as she got the chance to talk to Christopher, she didn’t care how that happened.

“Fine. Can you let me go?” Chase shakes his head no. He wasn’t going to take a chance of her changing her mind in accepting his plan.

“No….” He then leads her back to the trailer and inside, closing the door behind them with his fingers still attached to her arm.

“Is this how it’s going to be? Are you keep doing this until I talk you about how I am feeling or give up on approaching Christopher?

“I’ll let you go when he gets back here….” She lets out a sigh, though knew she wasn’t winning this argument so she relaxed back, letting her eyes focus on the TV in the hauler.

After all the chaos that ensured, she watched as Johnny Sauter took the victory ahead of John Hunter Nemechek, with Christopher back in eighth. She almost wanted to scream watching Johnny do his celebratory burnout, though crossed her arms as Christopher came onto screen with one of FOX’s reporters.

“Can you take us through the side-by-side racing with Sarina Ott?” The reporter asks as Sarina just shakes her head. She couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say.

“It was really intense and we were both doing everything we could to go for the win,” Christopher starts. “It’s a big advantage to be on the outside because you have all the side force and whenever you crowd her like that you take all the air off the side of her truck. I knew that I was playing with fire there and that there was a good possibility that I was going to get us both in trouble. She was doing a really good job down there of hanging onto it and keeping it up – we were just racing really hard and it didn’t work out.” She almost laughed at how quickly he brushed off the contact. Like, it was supposed to mean nothing because they were both racing hard for the win and sometimes shit happens. She understood that, having found herself on both sides of coin previously. But you at least expect your teammate and best friend to give you a little more room.

“Are you mad at Sarina for the accident?” Chase then looks over surprised at the reporter. Why would Christopher have any right to be mad at Sarina when he was the one that crowded her to begin with?

“Everybody that drives a truck or any NASCAR, the aerodynamics are huge. Like I said earlier, you’re at a major advantage whenever you’re on the outside because you can just pinch that guy or girl down and make them loose, loose, loose and when they get loose, they lose momentum. You’re playing with fire whenever you do it and that’s the risk you run whenever you run like that and it didn’t work out for me.”

Sarina reached up, hitting the knob to turn the television off. She didn’t need to hear anymore of the post-race coverage as she had heard enough. Crossing her arms, she looks out the window to watch for him coming.

It wasn’t long before he was back in the pit area, and bound for the trailer. Chase kept a hold on Sarina, giving her a simple nod as she looked back.

“You can speak and rant and yell all you want – I don’t care,” he tells her. “But I’m holding you back enough so you don’t punch the guy.”

She watches as the door opens, her eyes immediately meeting his as he knew what was coming without saying a single word.

“What the hell were you thinking?” She questions before he even has a chance to say anything.

“I was just thinking about the win,” he answers, which he thought was pretty obvious. Weren’t they both focused on that?

“Well, congratulations because you gave it away to Johnny rather than letting one of us get it. Are you happy now?” He lets out a sigh, as he was nowhere near happy with what transpired.

“I was trying to crowd you to get you loose – yes, for sure. I wanted to get you to wiggle a little so I’d get the momentum and clear you and drive away. I didn’t expect you to get that sideways or to come around. I guess I got a little too close off of turn four, and I apologize. I never intended to wreck you and I am so sorry. I was looking forward to battling right to the flag. I didn’t mean to do that and I feel absolutely terrible.” She was caught off-guard by his instant apology, and how sincere it sounded that it caused her to take a step back. That didn’t mean all was forgiven, though.

“But you did, and you saw what happened. Your words don’t fix trucks, Bell.” He nods his head, knowing that he certainly wasn’t done apologizing for what happened yet. Clearly each employee at KBM deserved an apology, too.

“I know, and I plan to apologize to everybody for what it is worth. We’re all learning here and I made a mistake. While I can’t take back what happened, I can tell you that I’ve learned from it so I won’t do that again. I don’t know what else to say, really.” She didn’t know what else to say either as how could you argue with a guy that was taking the full blame? But, that didn’t make her feel better at that moment.

“I accept your apology for what it’s worth, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to hang out and be super buddies quite yet. I’m going to need some time to let this go.” He nodded his head, accepting.

“Take whatever time you need, but know I am sorry….”

“I know…” She then head out of the trailer, with Chase in toe, ready to turn in for the night.

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

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

Sarina lets out a long sigh as she glances at the clock. How could it be morning already?

“Are you okay?” Chase asks, causing her blue eyes to focus on his brown ones. “And please don’t lie…”

“I am sore,” she answers, as she moves closer to cuddle up with him. “My back, my shoulders – a little bit everywhere. That wasn’t pretty last night…” It didn’t take much for him to agree as he wrapped an arm around her.

“Now do you understand why I was so worried?” She nods her head, almost set to kick herself in the butt for how she acted.

“I’m sorry I was a pain in the ass. I should’ve been understanding of your concerns for me, and I should’ve co-operated a little more. I guess I have some work to do in the anger department.” Chase chuckles a little, glad that she realized what many had seen the past couple of years.

“Least you have a boss that can give you some advice…” She rolls her eyes. “And hey, it’s okay. I understood your frustration. I wasn’t too pleased with Christopher, either.”

“He did apologize, though, and I don’t think he meant it, unlike say someone else…” Chase sighed, not surprised that a reference had been made back to Denny’s behavior at Martinsville. He would rather not hear a single word about that moving forward.

“Do you forgive him?” She nods her head, knowing that she couldn’t find a reason to stay mad any longer – despite how sore she was feeling. “Now, I know you want to stay and cuddle all day, but I do have to go practice…”

“Can’t you just tell Alan you’re not feeling well and get Justin to fill in?” Chase had to admire her attempt, but wasn’t about to go for it as he slipped out from their cuddle, standing up. “Chase….”

“I’m sorry, but that’s just how things go.” He then grabs the bottle of Tylenol and water off the night table he had placed there in the middle of the night, knowing this moment would happen sooner than later. “Take 2 so you ease some of the pain. Then after I grab a quick shower, I am going to run you a nice warm bubble bath so you can soak in it while I go pract-”

“I was going to come wit-”

“No, you need to take care of yourself today. So you’re going to soak for a good bit, and then I want you to either relax on the couch or in the bed. You need to take it easy so you don’t make all this soreness worse. But if you’re good today, I’ll make it worth your while once I’m done both sessions….” She then looks at him, intrigued. “Trust me.”

“You haven’t let me down before….”