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.”

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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….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 167: The Teammate Tangle

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

After a nice week away, it was just like clockwork as they were back to the daily grind at Phoenix Raceway. So far, the day hadn’t gone that bad. Sarina was fourth in the lone truck practice session, while Chase led the Cup session.

“So I take it those adjustments worked?” Alan questions afterwards as Chase nods his head.

“That was worth taking the time to do,” he comments as Alan glances over the notes, before setting them aside.

“We should qualify well later on today. Then I say we tweak on the car a little more tomorrow, and we’ll be fine for Sunday. We’re going to get this right.” Chase believed in the crew chief’s words as it was now or never to win that weekend.

“We’ve missed out on a couple different opportunities to win these last couple of months. I don’t see why we can’t win this weekend. I mean, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t make the final four.” Alan could understand that, based on their performance, but he wasn’t quite that far down the radar.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed as we’ve done a lot better this year than we did last year, and we’re starting to find our groove here at the end of the year. If anything, it makes me look that much more forward to next year – not that I’m writing off this season, yet.” Chase understood where the crew chief was coming from, but felt thinking of next year was pointless right now.

“Let’s just stay focused on the task at hand, and get the job done – deal?” Alan nods his head, accepting, but his eyes don’t leave his driver one bit through the whole conversation.

“You’re quieter than normal…” Chase looks over surprised. “I just noticed that you got something else on your mind. Would I be right?” Chase just smiles back in return. It should be obvious what’s going on.

“Well, you do realize my trip got cut short because we had to go to Florida, right?” Alan nods his head, having heard about that minor detail. It was the next stage in the trial against Sarina’s brother Chris for everything that had happened. It was Chris’ turn to testify against the charges laid in his favor. “To be honest, he was smart with what he said. He stated enough words that it would make you believe there’s doubt that he poisoned me and Ryan. Now if the jury sees that, and doesn’t consider the other evidence enough, you know what happens.”

“But okay, let’s say they find him not guilty on those two charges. There are five other counts of poisoning that he pled guilty to, along with two other minor charges. Isn’t that worth enough time in jail?” Chase nods his head, having already done the math as he tried convince Sarina things were going to work out in their favor.

“He’ll be away for at least 60 years, if not 80, depending how the judge sees fit – which is great as you’re right, that is ample time. The problem lies in the fact of parole and making sure that he can’t sneak out under psychological insanity. Both terms need to be clear as day so he can’t sneak around them, or that chance of him doing something again is always there.” Alan could understand the theory behind that, and one look into Chase’s eyes said everything he needed to know.

“And that worries you, right?” Chase looks up at Alan and nods his head.

“It’s not the easiest thing to say, Alan, but he scares the bloody crap out of me. There’s twice now that he almost has gone too far – the plane crash, and the pois-”

“Don’t remind me of Daytona, please…” Alan didn’t need a reminder of what he saw that day, and the panic that set in once he found Chase up in the hauler. He was fine moving forward without any reminders. However, he understood how that played with Chase’s thoughts right now. “I absolutely understand the fear, and trust me – it’s not something to joke about, or realize that it’s not coming from a good place. You have every reason to feel the way that you do. I hope for your sake, and Sarina’s, that it plays out the way you want. I know what it would mean to finally have that peace of mind.” Chase laughs a little. “What?”

“Peace of mind? Please, I don’t think I’m going to get that. It seems Allison is great at showing up at the loveliest of times.” Alan nods his head, having seen her appearance at Texas.

“Well, at least you’ll be one step closer to that if you manage to get Chris where you need to.” Chase could live with that statement. “That makes me wonder. Exploring her family and finding more people that have connections to her, Chris, and Bethany. Do you worry about uncovering something that doesn’t need to be?” Chase shakes his head no right away.

“The potential of closing that chapter for her, and helping her deal with those feelings by finding something, outweighs that entirely. By the way, we are getting closer to the first piece of the puzzle.” Alan looks over surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head, remembering the text message he received.

“I think I’ll have it unwrapped and really down that road by Christmas.” Alan smiles, knowing exactly what Chase had in mind already. But still, a tinge of fear was there in knowing what had happened so far.

“Just be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

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

Following qualifying, Christopher Bell made his way down pit road to where Sarina’s pit was, patiently waiting as she discussed things over with Marcus Richmond. He then smiled as he caught her attention, with her walking over right away.

“Hey,” he simply says. “Nice job.” She then crosses her arms, with a smile of her own. Truthfully, she wished it was role reversal but instead, he got the pole with her second.

“I should be telling you nice job there,” she comments as he simply smiles back in return. “We’ve got a pair of good trucks.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Look, I stopped on my way down here because I just wanted to check on you. Are you okay?” She then looks at him confused.

“Why would I need someone to chec-”

“Yesterday, your brother, and everything that happened.” She then takes a deep breath, as she glances away from Christopher for a moment.

“I was actually trying to put that out of mind, truthfully.” He then glances down at the ground. “But hey, it’s okay. I’m still pissed and upset at what he did. All I care is that he gets locked away so he can’t do it again. He said what he had to say and now we’ll see what happens. If the courts do their job, I won’t have anything to worry about.”

“Do you think they will?” He didn’t mean to press the issue too far, but he couldn’t help but ask. He knew while she wanted to avoid, getting her to talk about it some would help.

“I think so. It’s clear as day that he was behind the other attacks, and he has a past history with Chase. If you add that together, no matter what freaking story he tries to con up to cover the last two, a little kid could put together that he was responsible. I don’t see there being any problems.” She then flashes trademark smile. “Hence why I am focused on this weekend, tonight, and kicking your ass.”

“Oh really?” She nods her head as he could only look back with a grin. “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens tonight. By the way, I’m not going to take it easy on you just because you’re my teammate and having a rough stretch…”

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Good luck tonight.”

“Right back at ‘cha.” He then heads off to his pole award photos, while she makes her way up pit road, knowing Cup qualifying was next on the docket.

“Uh oh, someone looks like he’s got something serious on the mind…” Ryan comments as he watches Chase walk by him following the qualifying runs. The session had gone decently, with Chase ending up qualifying fourth. The fun factor was the front row being made up of Ryan and Denny. “Thinking about if you should wreck Hamlin on Lap 1?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Chase wreck someone on purpose? That’d never happen,” a new voice chimes in as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks over to the pair. “Sorry, but I don’t see you doing that ever…”

“Never say never. Danica did tell us she’d never date another driver, and she’s been with you for a couple of years.” Chase grins between them, impressed with those words. “She also said she’d never be one to hang around the dirt tracks and oh wait, isn’t she doing that now?”

“So are you really going to wreck Denny on the first lap?” Chase laughs, enjoying the suspicions about his plans for Sunday.

“I don’t have any plans to wreck Denny on the first lap or at all,” Chase reveals. “I’m actually going to be solely focused on winning so I can be part of the Championship 4. And for your knowledge, Mr. Blaney, Sunday’s race is not even what I am thinking about.” Ryan then looks at him puzzled, but immediately has his suspicions.

“Are you thinking about Chris?” He wonders, though knew if that was the topic at hand they should walk away from Ricky now.

“I heard he had the trial on Thurs-” Ricky starts, having seen something about it in his twitter feed.

“It’s not about Chris, either,” Chase cuts him off, even though he had thought about it a little since his conversation with Alan earlier. He figured he might as well tell the pair, anyway. It’s not like they could spoil the surprise and maybe they’d have advice. “So I’m trying to find Sarina’s family – real family that she ran away from. She had six uncles and an aunt. I had someone looking into the information and he’s located the majority of those people, and they check out to be decent. Now it’s figuring out the best way to reach out to them.”

“What if you just call them one day?” Ryan suggests, not seeing the big deal in this process.

“They may not answer the phone so I say you just show up on their front door,” Ricky adds as Chase rolls his eyes. This wasn’t quite the advice he was looking for.

“What if they’re crazy and attack him?” Chase then looks at Ryan full of complete shock, with Ryan just shrugging his shoulders in response. “What? It could happen.”

“Good point. Bring security with you…” Chase rolls his eyes as he couldn’t believe he had enlisted these two.

“Joshua suggested that the first person we reach out to be someone that Sarina really knew well, trusted, and liked,” Chase continues. “But she doesn’t talk much about her family – except her dad here and there. How do I find out that person?” Ryan and Ricky were caught off-guard by the question, but knew there had to be a solution eventually.

“How about you tell her about what you’re doing?” Ricky questions and Chase shakes his head immediately. He wasn’t ready to ruin the surprise, yet.

“That’d ruin the surprise.” Ricky almost felt like smacking himself in the head.

“What if you bring up some stories, and see if she’ll complement with some of her own?” Ryan suggests. “Or maybe ask about family vacations, and tell a memorable story of your own. Just try to bring it out in casual conversation.”

“Or you could talk to people that have known her longer than you have and see if they know,” Ricky adds. Chase nods his head, accepting the advice. It was certainly somewhere to start.

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

He knew those concerns could be worried about later, as for now, he had a truck race to focus on. Seeing how strong she was through practice and qualifying, there were some high hopes entering the evening.

Chase watched as she pulled ahead early, leading a chunk of the laps, before Christopher got back around her for the top spot, leading the rest of the way in the opening stage. The second stage went smoothly, as well, with Christopher leading the whole thing as she ended up second.

Chase watched the slew of pit stops, small fist pump in the air as the teammates came off pit road together 1-2. Could this go any better?

The start of the third stage worked out perfectly, as she pulled ahead, taking the top spot. A smile formed on his face as he watched her pull further away from Christopher and the rest of the field, destined for smooth sailing from here on out.

Of course, none of these races come that easily as the caution would fly with 27 laps to go for a truck slowing. Marcus immediately made the call for Sarina to stay out, sighting the importance of track position, lack of tire fall off, and having enough fuel to make it to the end.

The ensuing restart did not go smoothly, as a move by Austin Cindric, followed by a block from Ben Rhodes, saw Ben spin around and hit the inside barrier hard, before collecting Matt Crafton in the process.

“Are you kidding me?!?” Chase says out loud, disbelief forming between the late race incident to the fact the pair had collided in their battle for the final transfer spot in that way.

“Same thing that Carl and Joey did last year,” Kyle comments from his vantage point, referring to the wreck at Homestead while battling for the championship. “Ben never should’ve blocked.”  Chase nods his head in agreement.

“He had to know that would happen as soon as he went down. But, does Austin make that move stick with enough room if they get to turn one? We’d probably see a repeat of Kenseth and Bowman here last year.” Kyle smiles, as he thinks back to Martinsville a couple weeks ago.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Both were desperate to make a statement and get to the next round.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, and began to wonder if the same type of move would be what it would take to transfer tomorrow.

After a lengthy clean-up – including a red flag, everything was set to go for another attempt at the restart. This time, the green lasted a little longer as they were able to at least make a lap – but it didn’t take long for the caution, either. Six-wide through the dog leg on the backstretch resulted in contact in turn three, and several torn up trucks.

“That definitely wasn’t going to work,” Kyle comments after seeing the replay, shaking his head in surprise. “Ridiculous…”

“Are we ever going to finish this race?” Chase wonders, glancing at the lap count. Through the chaos, Sarina had managed to hold the lead with Christopher in second. There wasn’t much left now…

The restart came with 10 laps to go, and all eyes locked on the action in seeing Sarina and Christopher battle alongside each other for the lead. Both Chase and Kyle felt like they were going to jump out of their skin and nerves as they saw both trucks get a little sideways, followed by a little bit of bumping.

Neither driver lifted through the whole process, and finally with five laps to go, everything came to a head. Sarina got loose underneath Christopher off of turn four, truck spinning around, and backing into the outside wall, followed by Christopher slapping the wall with the right side of his truck. The wreck wasn’t over there, yet, as Justin Haley was left nowhere to go, hitting just behind the driver’s door of Sarina’s truck as it rolled across the track.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?” Kyle asked out loud, standing up in complete disbelief as he looked at the pair of torn up trucks. “They led all the laps to this point…”

Chase had his fair share of anger over the contact, almost set to give Christopher a piece of his mind, but that didn’t matter in that very moment as he sat there, eyes closed, waiting for the familiar words over the radio.

“I’m okay,” he hears after a bit, taking a deep breath to calm his own nerves.

He watches as she climbs out of the truck, taking a breather for a moment as she lays her head on the roof. Chase could feel each part inside of him ripping apart, concern filled in thinking about the pain that she could be in.

He felt somewhat relieved in watching her climb out the rest of the way, followed by walking with the official to the ambulance for the trip back to the care center.

Making his way down the steps and set to join her, he could only wonder as to what’s to come.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 164: “Look, are any of you on my side?”

Tuesday, October 31

Chase walks through the house, smiling as he enters the kitchen, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

“Something smells good….” He comments as she just smiles.

“Oh really?” She questions, before turning around to face him, lightly kissing his lips. “Well, I hope it tastes just as lovely.”

“I’m sure it will.” He then lets her go, so she can focus on dinner, going over to the fridge to grab a drink.

“Good day or bad day?” Chase glances over, shrugging his shoulders. Certainly the guys in the shop weren’t feeling peachy after the weekend, but things did go smoothly.

“Meeting goals accomplished, and ready to go kick some ass this weekend. I say it was a good day.” Sarina could see that easily happening, though her mind couldn’t help but wander.

“What about Denny?” Chase leans against the counter with a sigh.

“Not a single word spoken. But, I did receive a text and voice mail from him.” She then looks over surprised. “Something along the lines of an apology….” She then snatches his phone off of the counter, reading over the message, before handing it back over.

“I’m surprised you didn’t respond…” Chase shrugs his shoulders. He had thought about it initially, but there was no way he was going to accept an apology. You don’t lift someone’s tires off the ground by accident.

“Not worth my time, right?” He then walks back over, wrapping his arms back around her. “Besides, I have someone else I can focus on…” She just rolls her eyes.

“Did you get around to reading his apology on twitter?” Chase nods his head as he did load that when he went on to check college football updates.

Other than that, he had stayed away from reading everything else, knowing that the media was going to try and blow up the coverage to the extreme. There was no point getting warped in the midst of that?

“His apology was…umm….interesting….” Chase comments as Sarina immediately laughs.

“So that’s your response?” She questions as he shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s an interesting approach; I’ll give him that. However, Ryan is my hero.” She then looks on intrigued. “I was listening to his podcast and he goes, ‘I can kill an animal and apologize, but it doesn’t make a difference’ or something like that. Perfect! I literally texted him that I owe him ice cream.”

“So it looks like he’s getting ice cream and a basket of his favorite chocolate bars.” Chase shakes his head, not surprised by Sarina’s reaction. “Although Landon was pretty neat in how he broke down the race count factor.”

“Hence the interesting approach….” She just laughs as she focuses on finishing up dinner.

“After we’re done eating, we need to get changed. I did promise Brexton that we’d be dressed up when Samantha brought him by.” Chase nods his head, accepting. He had let Sarina pick out the costume of choice for the night, glad that it was better than what he wrote at Ryan’s party. They were going to simply be Mickey and Minnie for the night. “I still can’t believe Kyle is missing Halloween….”

“SEMA could’ve easily planned the show for another weekend.” Sarina nods her head in agreement.

They hear a knock on the door, both glancing at each other with a smile. They had finished dinner, got into their costumes, and been relaxing. Samantha had sent them a warning text that she was on her way over, and they knew that little knock belonged to a little hand. Sarina opens the door, with Chase popping out from behind her.

“Hey!” Sarina says as she smiles at the costumes by both Samantha and Brexton.

“Wow….” Chase comments in surprise as he looks at them. He never would’ve expected them to be done up based on the movie Psycho.

“Trick or treat!” Brexton says as Sabrina continues looking back, smiling. She then reaches back behind the door, grabbing the giant chocolate racecar, handing it over. “Cool! Thank you!” Brexton immediately gives Sarina a hug.

“You both look awesome,” Sabrina comments as she looks between Brexton and Samantha. “I never would’ve expected that costume…..”

“Kyle and I watched the movie a couple weeks ago,” Samantha explains. “I just fell in love immediately and knew it’d be perfect. I texted Kyle some photos and he’s just in pure joy.”

“I would be too as your make-up is perfect!” Samantha twirls around with a smile.

“You a cutie,” Brexton says as Sarina looks down at him, giving him another big hug.

“You’re always a sweetheart,” Sarina replies.

The pair embarked in some conversation, ranging from Kyle’s messages about SEMA to reflections on Sarina’s big win at Martinsville. From laughs to smiles, everything was going smooth as could be.

“Have you talked to Denny yet?” Samantha then asks mid-conversation, and Chase could only sigh. He figured she’d eventually bring it up given how Kyle and Denny were teammates.

“Sam, I’d rather not talk about this-”

“You know, I don’t think Denny really meant to do it.” Chase rolls his eyes, having expected a comment like that, as well. Being teammates, of course she would see the positives in Denny and believe that he didn’t do anything. Besides, she’d dealt with her fair of controversy in the past, thanks to Kyle. It was never Kyle’s fault when he and Brad got together, right?

“Samantha, you can say what you want. It doesn’t change my opinion on what happened.” Sarina could see the tension in Chase’s voice, and felt bad that their Halloween fun was being ruined by this.

“I think we should change the topic….” Her voice trails off as Chase keeps his eyes locked on Samantha. Instead of just moving on, he knew something needed to be said.

“I don’t mind hanging out with you and Kyle. Actually, Kyle isn’t that bad once you get to know him as we can relate on a couple different levels. But, there’s certain spots to draw the line – and that includes Hamlin. I don’t want to discuss it because we won’t come to an agreement.” Samantha lets out a sigh, though she understood where Chase stood right now.

“Okay, that’s fine,” Samantha accepts as Sarina’s eyes lock back down on Brexton once again.

“I can’t believe how cute he looks!” Sarina lets out as she picks Brexton up in his arms, spinning him around which causes a big smile on his face. “So, are you going around visiting the various driver houses?”

“I figured since it’s just me and little man, and he’d probably get tired if I took him everywhere, that I’d just hit up certain spots.”

“I can’t say I blame ya….”

“You know, it’s strange how even Brad sent a text saying to come by, too.” Sarina and Chase’s jaws drop in shock as they never would’ve expected that. If there was one thing for certain in the garage area, it was that Brad and Kyle just didn’t get along – period, no matter what. Although, admittedly, Brad had tried to soothe things over a couple times.

“Really?” Chase questions and Samantha nods her head.

“Yeah, it’s weird,” she replies. “Him and Kyle still don’t agree on a lot of things – which obviously I get why Kyle is still angry with him. But Brad wants them to come to a truce, in a wa-”

“Sort of like agree to disagree?” Sarina questions, having seen some of Brad’s previous approaches to do so, including his blog.

“That’s what I meant! So he sent me a text saying he wanted to see what Brexton was going to be for Halloween.” Chase just shook his head in surprise, as there was no way to wrap his head around that. He could only wonder what Kyle’s response was.

“That’s strange….” Chase comments as Samantha nods her head.

“That’d be like Denny and Jordan bringing Tay-“ Samantha starts.

“Samantha!” Chase and Sarina cut her off immediately, as Chase just rolls her eyes.

“Sorry, you’re right. I should just let it go…” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Actually, I better get going. We need to make these stops before it gets too late. Thank you for spoiling my prince.”

“Anytime,” Sarina says. They watch Samantha and Brexton head off together as Chase just shakes his head over the whole conversation.

“Do you think Denny put her up to asking us about things?” Chase wonders, catching Sarina’s attention as they head back inside the house.

“No, I don’t think so. I think her heart is in the right place as she’s looking out for her teammate, and friend, but just not realizing where you stand.” Chase could accept that as they reach the kitchen, sitting down across from each other. “I can’t believe I have to leave tonight…”

“Going to miss me?” She then looks over the table, giving him a look full of surprise. She had to leave late that night around 11 to catch a flight as she was taking part in Toyota’s big motorsports celebration day at their headquarters tomorrow. The manufacture was getting all of their drivers together to speak to the crowd of employees and interact with them.

“Obviously!” He smiles back in response, as he places his hand on top of hers.

“Just think – it’s only one day, and then we’ll be reunited tomorrow night before we head to Texas together. It’s just under 24 hours. We can handle it. We’re grown-ups.” She then laughs.

“Are you sure about that?” He nods his head as he leans across the table, kissing her lips.

“I’ll text you constantly if it makes you feel better. Just promise me you won’t kill Denny?” She then laughs even harder.

“I can’t that promis-”

“Sarina!” She then stops laughing, letting out a sigh.

“Alright, fine. I’ll behave.” She then focuses back on their dinner. “I wonder if Bell would offer to pay my bai-”

“Sarina!” She then looks up giggling as he rolls his eyes. “I mean it. I don’t want to hear any complaints from Joe and Kyle because you acted out of line.”

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

Wednesday, November 1

It had been a jam-packed day full of action from top to bottom.

The day started with the entire group assembling on stage, speaking to the crowd about a variety of topics. Sarina then sat and signed autographs for a couple of hours, smiling and taking pictures along the way. It was almost robotic like some employees were just collecting for the sake of doing so, but a couple of them caused bonus moments with some surprised she was a female, as well as some more congratulatory messages for her win. Their day was then completed with a tour of the factory.

With everything complete, the group was let loose and headed off separately, airport bound, ready to take the flight home and get back to their lives. Sarina couldn’t wait to see Chase later on that night, daydreaming about their hugs and cuddles already. Letting out a yawn, those cuddles were going to be perfect…

“Hey Sarina, did Chase get my text message?” Denny’s voice ruins her daydream, as she immediately rolls her eyes. She remembered seeing that message on Tuesday, chuckling to herself at Chase’s lack of response.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” she replies. “You’re talking about the one you sent after the race, right?”

“Absolutely.  I also sent another one on Tuesday.” Sarina could only roll her eyes, as she had seen both of them – not that Denny needed to know that detail.

“Well, if he got the one, then he got the other.” Denny figured that as much, but was caught off-guard by having no response yet.

“Yeah, I guess. I was hoping he would’ve replied by now.” Sarina knew that was not going to happen by what Chase told her. Smiling to herself, it was time to have some fun as Chase hadn’t made her promise to not do that. She had just promised to not kill him.

“Denny, he is in no mood to reply to you.” Denny lets out a sigh, remembering the anger expressed. He had hoped that would’ve faded now three days later with reasoning setting in.

“Can you tell him that I asked, and still want to talk?” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that’d fall on deaf ears. She actually couldn’t wait for the laughs when speaking of this conversation.

“Sure, but I don’t see how it’s going to have any point.” Denny then glances over at her, surprised.

“Sarina, you know I’m a good guy. I mean, just ask Kyle.” Sarina then stops, eyes locked on Denny. Was this discussion seriously happening?

“Denny, you’re lucky it wasn’t me that you wrecked or else I would have punched you square in the face on the backstretch. To be honestly, you’re really lucky it was Chase because at least he knows how to be respectful.” Denny rolls his eyes, growing old of the threats. Why couldn’t people see that it was an accident?

“I did not mean to wreck hi-”

“But you basically  lifted his ass entering the corner. As soon as you did that, you had to know what was going to happen. I mean, you’ve been racing long enough.” Denny knew how it panned out, but that was never the intention. Why was it different than what happened between Chase and Brad? Why was it different than moves pulled by other drivers in the past?

“It was just supposed to be a bump and run.” Christopher then stops walking, glancing back at the pair, with a laugh of his own. This was getting ridiculous.

“Really, Denny?” Christopher questions, catching Denny by surprise.

“Oh, so now you’re on her side?” Denny asks and Christopher nods his head. There was no question what happened was wrong.

“Absolutely. That was the dirtiest driving that I’ve seen since Kyle wrecked Hornaday in that truck race.” The whole group stops mid-way down the hall, jaws dropping around the circle as Kyle focuses his eyes on his young driver. Why was he the focus now?

“Hey! That’s ancient history,” Kyle comments. “Can we like refer to Kenseth and Joey instead?” Matt then crosses his arms. He was never part of the aggressive driver discussion, but now he was the second name mentioned?

“Hey! Logano totally deserved that!” Matt replies as Kyle thinks it over. Joey had been acting like an ass for quite awhile….

“Good point….”

“But I mean, Chase got into Brad so really, he’s not innocent as you all may claim, either,” Denny interrupts, working back at defending his actions, as he focuses on Sarina. “I mean, being his girlfriend, you would know whether he’s totally innocent or not.” Jaws drop once again as Sarina resists every urge to punch Denny straight in nose as Christopher and Kyle both put a hand on each of her shoulders. Erik slowly takes his phone out of his pocket, set to record any punch that is thrown if one happens, knowing Sarina’s feisty side from the sort tracks.

“Do you seriously want me to kick your ass right now?” Sarina questions as Kyle just stands there, shaking his head. It was getting harder and harder to stand up for his best friend here…

“Denny, that was uncalled for,” Kyle comments as Denny shrugs his shoulders.

“I was just trying to crack a joke-”

“Very inappropriate.” Denny lets out a sigh, as he glances around the circle of surprised faces. He almost felt like he was on an island right now.

“Alright, fine, I’m sorry. Look, are any of you on my side?” Kyle lets out a sigh, shaking his head.

“I get being aggressive and doing anything for the win because you’re right – it’s ticket to Homestead,” he starts. “Hence why I got into you. It’s just I wouldn’t have done it like you did.”

“In my world, you crossed the line between respect and being an ass,” Christopher adds.

“You don’t want to know my opinion,” Sarina states, trying to calm herself with some deep breathes.

“I guess everything you’re all saying is well deserved,” Denny finally gives in, knowing he wasn’t winning the argument no matter how hard he tried. “Just let Chase know that I asked though, okay?”

“Yeah, whatever…”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 161: Concerns….

Friday, October 27 – Martinsville Speedway

Christopher Bell kept a keen eye on his teammates – there were a slew of them this week as Kyle Busch decided to enter four trucks, giving each of the kid’s a shot at glory. It was either going to work out really well, or really ugly as he knew they all wanted to win badly.

“Where’s Sarina?” Harrison Burton asks, catching Christopher’s attention. He points to the trailer, where she stood on top watching the Cup practice session. Harrison went to leave the group, possibly go get her, when Christopher grabbed his arm.

“Just leave her,” Christopher instructs as he lets out a sigh. “She’s watching her boyfriend.” Harrison figured that, but knew that they should have all of them together for a practice debrief. The session had gone better than expected, with all four trucks in the top-10, including both Christopher and Harrison in the top-five.

“And that’s an excuse for missing our meeting?” Christopher lets out a sigh, all ready wanting to strangle his teammates.

“No, but there’s other reasons. There’s other stuff going on that you guys don’t understand. She’s been quiet and that’s not like her around me. So I think it’s best that we give her some space.” Harrsion and Todd both glanced to where she was as Todd crossed his arms.

“What if we go tease her and loosen her up a bit?” Todd suggests as Christopher could only let out another sigh. “Or not. Look, I think we all have great trucks for tomorrow and I think it’s going to be a great day.”

“Just both of you just be smart about it. It’s not a long race – but it’s not super short, either. You have time to make moves so be patient.”

The group continued to share words through the rest of the Cup practice, with Christopher’s eyes leaving the fold at times as he glanced up at the hauler to see whether her demeanor had changed.

Once their discussion was over, the group separated and Christopher made his way down through the Cup stalls. He knew he shouldn’t be concerned – maybe he was over reacting, maybe it was none of his business – but he couldn’t help but worry about his teammate.

He stands by the No. 24 garage stall, watching as Chase breaks down the session with Alan and Josh. He waited until the group separated.

He could see the serious look on Chase’s face – wondering if the practice had gone according to plan. Chase had shown speed, but Christopher also knew of his struggles at the paperclip. Maybe this was a bad time…

Against his own judgment, though, he made his way up through the stall over to the driver in question.

“Hey,” Christopher says, catching Chase’s attention out of his daze.

“Hey,” Chase simply replies, caught off guard a bit to see Christopher standing there. His mind immediately wandered to the possibilities about Sarina. “Is everything okay?”

“Don’t worry, your girl is fine. She was actually on top of the KBM hauler watching your practice.” Chase smiles, not surprised as that was her normal spot if she wasn’t on top of the NAPA hauler. “Look, I don’t want to come across at the wrong time or interrupt something important, but I have to ask – is everything okay?” Chase crosses his arms, caught off-guard by the question.

“Why are you asking?” Christopher takes a deep breath, hoping his observations weren’t off.

“Sarina just seems quieter than normal, almost in a moody state at times – if you don’t mind me saying. I’m just concerned.” Chase was used to Christopher being concerned, and sometimes knew to accuse of overstepping boundaries. This weekend, though, he knew the thoughts were valid via conversations prior to arriving at the track.

“She hasn’t won a race this year and she hasn’t run as well as she thought. Plus, there’s the pressure to succeed because everybody wins in KBM equipment. It’s eating at her some as she and I talked about that this week. Now combined with the fact we’re at a short track where she’s expected to do well, and knows that she could win, she’s really entering this serious focused mode, set for nothing less than success. You understand where she’s coming from, right?” Christopher nods his head, remembering a couple moments like that of his own last year.

“Did you give her the common it’s okay for rookies to struggle, she’s done a great job, and to just have fun with it because if it’s meant to be it’ll happen?” Chase smiles, having said those exact things.

“But for her, combine that with the other crap. She can’t get her mind off the lack of sentence for Bethany, or literally nothing at all for Allison. It also doesn’t help that the process for a restraining order is a little ridiculous. Then on top of that, we don’t know where things stand with her brother. How long will be behind bars? Will he be found guilty of poisoning me and Ryan? She’s got a lot on her mind.” Christopher was glad that his observations weren’t too far off.

“I just gave her some space, let her think and do her own thing. I hope that’s right…” Chase nods his head. There wasn’t much else you could do in Christopher’s shoes.

“Yeah, that’s all you can do. I’m trying my hardest to give her advice, as well as Marcus and Kyle. We’ve all agreed that we just need to take it day by day, step by step, and try to make this weekend fun.” Christopher glances at the speed chart, shedding a smile as he sees Kyle at the top of the charts.

“You’re not too bad….” Chase glances behind him, seeing that he finished the practice in the top-five.

“Anybody can knock off one quick lap around this place. It’s all about getting that rhythm to be there all race long.” Christopher puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder, catching him off-guard.

“You will figure it out, and as much as I love my boss – I do hope that you get a win soon. Good luck.” Christopher then turns on his heels, leaving the stall as Chase lets out a sigh.

Crossing his fingers, he knew both he and Sarina needed a good weekend to turn things around.

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

Saturday, October 28

Chase rubs Sarina’s shoulders as they stand on pit road, waiting for the truck qualifying session to begin. It was quiet day for Chase as there was a practice scheduled later on, but time trials weren’t until Sunday. With that in mind, his number one focus was going to be her.

“Are you okay?” He questions and she nods her head. “Are you sure?” She then glances over her shoulder at him.

“You’re being extra caring, as well as Marcus and Kyle,” she starts. “Is this the way you’re going to be the rest of the year because of Dega?” Chase lets out a sigh as he stops rubbing her shoulders, turning her around to face him directly.

“This has nothing to do with tha-”

“Then why are you guys all being overbearing?” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to find the words.

“We’re concerned about you, okay? Everybody can see that you’re not in your perfect happy place, and we get it. We’re all racers so we get the pressure, the focus, and everything else you’re thinking about. I also understand your thoughts about your brother, Bethany, Allison, because those match mine. Because we care, we’re looking out for you.” She then rolls her eyes as she looks back towards the track.

“Well, I’d prefer if you just leave it alone, please. I’d like to focus this weekend, okay?” He nods his head, accepting.

“That’s fine.” He then grabs her hand, catching her attention. “But know that I love you, I care about you, and I’d do anything for you. If you need someone to vent to, or a shoulder to cry on – anything, just let me know. Stop running…” Her eyes freeze immediately as she catches the meaning behind those words, glancing down at their fingers interlocked together.

“Since I was 13, the only person I could depend on was myself – five years where I could not trust a single person in my life. It’s hard at times to realize that I can do that now. It’s hard to open up, to tell you, to explain.” She looks up into his eyes. “I love you, too, and I care so much about you. That’s why I want to do everything right for us. But sometimes, how do you open that door when it’s been shut for so long?”

“You believe, you trust, and you put faith in the person on the other side. I’ve never let you down, ever, and I don’t ever plan too. You need to believe that, no matter what…” She nods her head, accepting. She then takes a deep breath, trying to clear her mind as she leans in for a kiss. “Go get ‘em!”

“That’s the plan….” She then walks away as he stands there, running his hands through his short hair.

“I feel like we’re going in circles sometimes….” But he also knew the reason for it, respected that, understood that, and was willing to be patient.

They had made so much progress over the past two years that he couldn’t ignore, giving him fuel and belief for the future. They had gone from her not willing to open her heart at all, to being able to fully open up at times with love knowing no boundaries.

This minor moment was simply because of everything going on, which he understood that being mentally taxing – he found himself lost in the thoughts at times, too. He knew once they got through what was ahead, and things being able to stable out, everything else would fall into place too without anymore worries.

For now, his eyes focused on the track as he watched her lay down two impressive qualifying runs, setting herself up to start fifth later on that day.

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

Chase sat on the pit box, watching the action around the paperclip closely. It had been an exciting race so far, as Sarina had kept herself up in the top five throughout the first stage, and was doing so as the laps closed down in the second. He watches as the checkered flag flies, seeing her cross the line in third once again.

So far, so good….

Pulling off pit road in fourth, she kept herself right up there, immediately moving into third behind Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton. His eyes were so focused on her No. 18 Toyota Tundra, that he was surprised when he heard the curse words begin to fly in constant fashion out of Kyle’s mouth. An immediate glance towards the corner told him why, though, as he saw the No. 4 truck of Bell turned around backwards.

“Would you believe that Matt says that bullshit was unintentional?” Kyle questions out loud as Chase shakes his head. He then watched the replay on the big screen, even more surprised. Matt basically just drove in there, spinning Christopher around. “Unintentional – yeah right. Meanwhile, your crew chief had just told you to pick him apart. That just goes over nicely….”

“Bell has time – he will get back up there,” Chase offers, not knowing what much else to say as Kyle put his headset back on. “Well, this is interesting….”

“Don’t let a truck struggling to make a pass in front of you get you bogged down in return,” Kyle then advises Sarina over the radio. Chase had been listening all day, intrigued by the advice he was giving, also eating some of it up himself. Kyle knew his way around Martinsville, and anyway he could be better he was going to use it. “And I don’t care what you do with the 88 (Matt) here. You can wreck the shit out of him.”

“Oh lawdy….” Chase knew that Kyle was venting frustration, but he also knew that wasn’t necessary here on the radio.

There was still over 70 laps left. Sarina just needed to be smart here restarting second, keep herself in position, and do her thing – and maybe it’d come together. But filling her head with other unnecessary banter wasn’t going to help things.

Chase’s eyes were locked on the paperclip over the next several laps, watching as the laps continued to tick down with Matt Crafton leading over Sarina easily. He watched as the gap didn’t seem to close, despite Sarina locking down solid laps, one after the other, after the other.

With 15 laps to go, the game changed as a caution flew for a spun truck near the back of the pack. Chase ran his hands over his face, taking a deep breath, knowing shit was about to crazy here.

“Be careful about pinching him because he’s racing for a championship, ” Kyle advises Sarina about Matt. “He’ll probably wreck you…” Chase could understand where Kyle was coming from. After seeing Matt’s aggressive style against Christopher earlier and everybody knowing that a win here locked you into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, everybody was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.

His eyes are immediately locked on the frontstretch, watching the green flag fly with 10 laps to go. Crossing his fingers, he watches Matt and Sarina dive into turn one. She gives him room, running her line, hitting the gas up off the corner to stay even with him down the backstretch. He stand up on the pit box, watching them go around the corner side-by-side, again Sarina picking up the gas, this time getting the run off.

With nine to go, he watched as the No. 18 truck scurried ahead, getting clear of Crafton, before slipping down in front of him through the next set of corners.

Chase could feel his stomach flip flopping, butterflies swirling. His fingers instantly crossed themselves, followed by toes looking to do the same. He found himself nervous to watch, afraid of a late caution or Matt coming back, but wanting to watch as this was Martinsville – everybody liked watching a good short track race.

Each time she passed by start-finish, he clicked off another lap in his head, just wanting it to be over. 2 to go….white flag…..

As she came around with the black and white flag flying, it was almost disbelief came over him as he watched her drive underneath it first. It was over….

“WOOOHOOOO!” She lets out the biggest scream over the radio immediately as Chase pumps a fist in the air. He and Kyle immediately catch each other, sharing a hug before they both pat Marcus on the shoulders.

“Way to go!” Marcus says over the radio in response.

“Spectacular driving at the end!” Kyle adds. The group hurries down the steps, eyes focused on the frontstretch as the No. 18 truck comes around. “Burn ‘em down….”

They watch as the epic burnout as they make their way across pit road, sharing high-fives with various crew members along the way. Chase beams in total glory as he watches her come to a stop, climb out, dancing on the back of the truck, fist pumping in the air. She then jumps off, climbing the fence, as the crew hurries to join her.

“You’re coming too!” Kyle lets out as he motions for Chase to hop the wall with him. Chase couldn’t deny being happy for her as he joined the fray, pausing to stand on top of the wall and take a couple photos on his phone himself.

Sarina hops off the fence, feeling a bit of vomit rise, immediately bending over and letting it come up, falling into the cracks of the safer barrier. She feels a pair of hands on her shoulders, half-expecting them to be Chase, but is caught off-guard when it’s Kyle.

“Are you okay?” He questions as she looks back, smile still firmly planted on her face.

“Just got a little over excited, overwhelmed,” she answers as she wipes her mouth off. “I can’t believe this….”

“Believe it, embrace it, and enjoy it. You’re a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner. You get to take home a clock!” She immediately grins even more, pulling Kyle into a tight hug.

“Thank you for the opportunity!”

After letting herself calm a bit more, she moves the truck to the official victory lane location on the frontstretch before the stage, climbing out once again with her arms up in the air. She didn’t care how many times she had to do this – she would do it all night if she needed to.

She then hops off the truck and feels a very familiar set of arms immediately wrap around her from behind, kissing her lips immediately.

“I’m so proud of you!!” Chase lets out as he spins her around. “You did an absolutely amazing job. That was spectacular. I don’t know you made that move on the outside on the restart, but wow. You’re amazing!” She just smiles back in return, still in disbelief, a couple tears trickling down the cheeks in the process.

“Thank you for believing in me,” she tells him. “Thank you for the chance with your late model team, and thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being there, giving advice, letting me lean on you, and for being you. I love you so much….” She then kisses his lips one more time, before turning around, set to face the world with her comments. “Finally!!”