The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 179: Numbers Live on Forever.

A driver can be larger than life. But the numbers – they live on forever. – JR Motorsports

Friday, January 25 – JR Motorsports – 28 weeks pregnant

Sarina glances out the window, knowing this all-too familiar drive, having gone on it many times over the past couple of months.

“I thought you said we were going to lunch,” she starts as she slowly looks over at Chase in the driver’s seat. “You do realize it’s not fair to mess with a pregnant girl and her food.” Chase chuckles, having gotten used to the crazy craving moments.

“I know,” he comments as he turns down the road. “However, I have to make a stop first. I should’ve told you.” He then takes a deep breath, knowing that he could’ve mentioned something, but he didn’t want her to get curious. That’d be unfair to spoil the surprise.

“It’s fine – as long as I am getting my lunch as planned.” He smiles as he takes a quick glance at her.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure both you and Abigail are fed.” He then pulls up to the familiar parking lot, easily pulling into a spot. He had grown used to this drive a couple years ago, and was looking forward to doing it once again for her. He certainly was welcome to her XFINITY Series opportunity coming with JR Motorsports, knowing the culture of the team from his own experience.

“Dale discouraged me from going to the announcement, wanting me to take care of myself.” She takes a deep breath, still upset about how things went down during her media session. She had avoided looking on twitter all day, scared of the articles that were forth coming from that. “Kelley encouraged me to focus on my pregnancy and the baby, and we’d worry about everything else later. However, you’ve brought me to JR Motorsports.”

“Like I said, I had something to take care of first. A quick stop in Hammerhead Studios to look over something and we’re done.” He knew it wasn’t out of the ordinary to stop in there, as Sarina knew how much of his media production stuff was taken care of through them.

“So why not just go to the door and go in that way?” it was just the route they’d be taking today would be a little strange, obviously.

“I want to go through the shop and see some people. Is that a crime?” She lets out a sigh as she gets comfortable in the seat. “Aren’t you coming?”

“You’re a big boy. You can go say hello to your friends by yourself.” This certainly wasn’t going accordingly to plan as he needed her to come in with him.

“Dale and Kelley aren’t going to get mad if you’re coming through with me, and I know you don’t want to sit here alone. Come…” He then reaches out, slowly clutching her hand. He was going to play on every sympathy if necessary. “Please.”

“I hate how you know that I am going to say yes to anything those sweet brown eyes offer me.” Chase could only smile as they both got out of the car together and headed inside.

After a quick hug and discussion with Rene, they made their way into the shop. A couple crew members immediately glanced their way, offering their greetings and asking how the pregnancy was going. Chase even had to chuckle at a couple teasing about the married life already.

He purposely chose his route through the shop, remembering the walk through that he had followed the day before. While Dale and Kelley were at the Hall of Fame with Sarina, he had stopped by to make sure everything was in order per what they discussed.

Chase finally reached his intended location, smiling as he saw the Chevrolet Camaro racecar placed there as it had been the day before.

“What are you doing?” She questions as he walks over, running his hand over the edge of the roof.

“I wanted to just make sure the car was ready for the test,” he lies, smiling the whole way through it. He knew it’d be worth it. “Is that a crime?”

“Nope…” She then walks over, joining him as they lean by the driver’s side window. A smile immediately comes to her face, seeing the name over the window. As promised, they had waited until after the wedding, before revealing the font that her name would have above the door. Now right before her, it was ‘Sarina Elliott’.

“I may be a little partial, but I have to say that looks pretty good…” She nods her head in agreement in as she runs her fingers across it. She almost wanted to snatch her phone out of her pocket, and take a photo.

“But you’re testing the car, so why would my name be on it?” Chase then looks over at her, knowing that he had to keep fudging just a little while longer.

“Because it’s your car, and I don’t want to lose sight of that. This is your car, your chance, and your team.” She smiles, actually admiring the attitude. He wasn’t totally lying, as he had told Dave to not change the name on the car for testing, either.

“And from top to bottom in this organization, we believe in our driver,” a new voice chimes in as Dale walks over to join them. Chase lets out a sigh of relief, glad that he had stalled things long enough. “We believe that you have the ability to get the job done, will win races, and be a championship contender. I wouldn’t had told Kelley to hire you if I didn’t believe that.”

“So you personally went to Kelley and asked her to ask me about the ride?” She questions and Dale nods his head. She felt flattered by the comment, though found herself freezing a little. “Let me guess – because I was engaged to Chas-”

“That had nothing to do with it, Sarina. I don’t let my personal feelings get in the way of choosing drivers. It’s always business when it comes to choosing who will go in the seat. I believed in your talent, and knew you had funding to take you places. I wanted to be the one to open the door to the opportunity.” She smiles back in response as it was very appreciative to hear such high remarks from someone who was respected in racing. “Though I hate to tell you this, but we need to reshoot everything that we did-”

“I already told the crew that I’d be fine with that, Dale. I understand the pregnancy photos were temporary and we’d be doing the proper suit photos later.” Dale then glances over at Chase, knowing that the presentation wasn’t going quite as he had envisioned yet.

“There’s also another reason as we can’t use any of the photos that we took.” Sarina now looked back at him confused. Was it because she was pregnant? Had the sponsor dropped their backing? Were they changing the car design? Why wasn’t she made aware of this sooner? “You’re officially an Elliott. You’re also carrying an Elliott. There’s only one number that makes sense for an Elliott.”

“I told you that the number didn’t matt-”

“But it mattered to me, to Dave Elenz, and to Chase…” Chase then kneels down, slowly peeling back the white sticker they’d used to cover the door of the car. Off came the 1 that was affixed there, with a 9 proudly showing. “I made a big deal about the 8 and wanting to have that numb-”

“I remember hearing about your bargaining with B.J. McLeod.” Dale nods his head, having spent some time working out the details and explaining the reasoning.

“Well, that went through and I was appreciative. It then sparked a bit of conversation around the shop about numbers. Dave Elenz eventually came to me and brought it to my attention. The last two years he’s had the No. 9 on the car, and he wanted to continue the tradition of having the number if he could. On the other hand, Michael was hunting for the 1 as his family has a history with the number. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was perfect.”

“Dale then called me and asked me what I thought about you running the 9,” Chase starts, catching Sarina’s attention. “I told him that you were part of the family, and the Elliott legacy in bringing our daughter…” He then freezes, realizing how that slipped out with a glance over at Dale.

“So you’re actually having a girl?” Dale questions, earning a pair of shy nods.

“I didn’t mean to say-”

“It’s fine,” Sarina comments as her eyes don’t leave the 9 on the door of the car. “Just please don’t tell anyone else…” Dale easily accepts with a smile in return.

“But you’re expanding the family, part of the family, and everything that we have means something,” Chase continues, re-catching her attention. “So it seemed perfectly fitting that you’d have the 9. Besides, I recall you making some late model history with that number before you drove for Kyle, too.” She nods her head, smiling as there were certainly some memorable wins driving for Chase. “So I told him if he was going to down that road, I’d be fully backing it.”

“So here we are…” Dale concludes as he looks back towards the car. “We’re going to officially reveal it this afternoon, but I wanted you to hear the details first from Chase and I.” Sarina glances between them both, before her eyes back towards the number.

“I had to admit that I was originally signed up and you said I was working with Dave, I was looking forward to having the 9 and continuing the legacy of the number,” she starts. “Then when you said I was going to have the 1, I still felt happy about the opportunity and was willing to fully welcome it knowing the history that it has as well. However, I will shyly admit that something didn’t feel the same. So thank you, both of you…” She then gives each of them a hug.

“I just hope you’re up for the challenge,” Chase comments, catching an intrigued glance. “Three rookies have driven the 9 for Dale, including a charming Georgia boy.” Dale just rolls his eyes as Sarina could only let out a sigh. “I don’t need to tell you what each of those rookies were able to accomplish – a championship.”

“You know me, Chase. I don’t ever back down from a challenge.”

“I’ll leave you both be…” Dale say before slowly walking away, as Sarina looks between Dale and Chase.

“He left pretty oddly…” She the began to notice the change of demeanor on Chase’s face right away. “That was why you brought me here today, and him walking away now is purposely.”

“I wanted him to explain what happened first,” Chase admits as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Then I wanted some time with just us together.” He then takes a careful deep breath, remembering how the discussion came about with Dale and what followed. “They say after you have a miscarriage, your next baby is your rainbow baby…” She nods her head, remembering those words from Samantha.

“That’s why Samantha talked about doing the rainbow dress for the maternity suit as a symbolic way of connecting those dots.” Chase hadn’t heard of that yet, but was appreciative of the suggestion.

“We never got to know your first baby. I mean, heck, we didn’t even know that you were pregnant at the time. We thought it was just a bit of sickness after a long season, and a mix of other things. But I know that it touched you deeply. I remember those long emotional nights, and the tears, and the pain. I also remember the doubt that you had about this pregnancy, and the fears. I remember why you thought it was meant to be because it came at the right time – and I believe in that as much as you. That’s why I’ve supported you from the beginning.” She glances over at him right into his eyes.

“I can tell you that I haven’t taken that from granted at all, and I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me from the first day of this pregnancy. You’re amazing.” He smiles, appreciative of the compliments.

“Just because we never got to know that baby, it doesn’t mean that we won’t forget that pregnancy. That’s something that will always be etched deep in us both for many reasons – the pain, lessons, whatever it may be.” He then rubs his hand across the driver’s window in a specific spot, hoping everything had been followed accordingly per his instructions. “In the way, that baby is our angel, always looking out for us. I sometimes even imagine Casey and your dad raising him or her, as they watch out for us.”

“Really?” Chase nods his head, as he takes a careful deep breath.

“I wanted to do something special – small, yet symbolic. I reached out to a couple people, and if you’re willing to go with me on this, I want something special on both of our cars this year.” He then begins to peel the sticker slowly.

“Chase….” She then runs her finger tips across it lightly. Right by where her name ended on the roof, they had placed a decal, with a butterfly adorning a hallo. Inside the butterfly, the letters C, and V were etched in lightly.

“C for Casey, V for Victor, and the butterfly for our baby….” Sarina wipes the stray tear that began to roll down her cheek immediately away as her fingers continue to trace the butterfly. “Is it okay?”

“It’s perfect. Actually, it’s more than perfect – it’s amazing.” She then leans her head against him. “You’re the biggest sweetheart ever. The locket meant a lot to me, the necklace means even more to me, and the ring from our wedding day is special. However, this right here, it’s probably the most emotional, special thing that you’ve done. I’ll proudly carry that all year long.”

“I’m glad that you like it.” He then takes out his phone, loading a photo as he shows it to her. “It’s already on my NAPA Chevy in the Hendrick display room.”

“Thank you, Chase. This is perfect.” She then leans in, and gives him a kiss. “If there’s one thing that we can say for certain, Abigail certainly has some guardian angels looking out for her.”

“That’s why everything is going to work out perfectly, and you’re going to get the child you’ve wanted.” He then wraps his arms around her, placing his hands on her stomach. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

“I can tell you already that you’re going to make an amazing father. Abigail will be spoiled, and honored to have someone as caring as you to take care of her.” He then reaches up to her cheek, wiping the remaining tears off.

“She’s also going to have the most caring, amazing mother. I love you, forever and always.” He then gives her a kiss on the cheek.

Once they were both able to compose their emotions together, Chase treated Sarina to lunch – just as he promised her. The pair of them then went back to the house, relaxing for the afternoon.

As the darkness began to fall on North Carolina, they changed into their outfit for the night out. While they had enjoyed their time together the past couple of weeks, they were both looking forward to catching up and heading out on the town with Ryan and Lindsay.  Erin was also excited about their endeavor, ready for her first night babysitting Evelyn and Sturgis for Ryan.

To Chase’s surprise, Ryan had called him earlier in the week stating that he was going to Jamey Johnson in concert, and had included both Chase and Sarina on the invite list. It was an opportunity he wasn’t about to pass up, knowing it’d be a night of great tunes.

Sitting together, Chase had his arms wrapped around Sarina, letting him sway with her. The emotions of the afternoon still laid in his mind, as he remembered the heartbreak they had endured together, to the hopefulness for the future and their baby.  Smiling in hearing the little kicks against his hand, he began quietly singing one of the songs in her ear.

The three little pigs have done built up their home’s
And the wolf’s been chased from the door
And little Bo Peep has done found all her sheep
And now she ain’t lonely no more
And the monsters ain’t under your bed
It’s time to lay down your head

But baby don’t cry
Your never alone
When you need your daddy
Just pick up the phone
And I’ll fly
As fast as I can
And I’ll hold your hand
And I’ll make you smile again
But baby don’t cry

The princess is waiting for the prince to ride in
And scare all the dragons away
But she’s stuck in that castle as you close your eyes
And drift off to that fairytale place
So pretend I’m right there by your side
And we’ll save the princess tonight

But baby don’t cry
Your never alone
When you need your daddy
Just pick up the phone
And I’ll fly
As fast as I can
And I’ll hold your hand
And I’ll make you smile again
But baby don’t cry

Baby don’t cry
Baby don’t cry
Baby don’t cry

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 178: A Driver’s Edge

Thursday, January 24 – NASCAR Hall of Fame – 28 weeks pregnant

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay today?” Chase asks as they walk into the NASCAR Hall of Fame today. She just gave him a simple nod.

“You don’t need to fret over the smallest thing,” Sarina answers as she fixes her t-shirt. “Besides, I should be here to support the team.” Chase knew the happenings of the day, with JR Motorsports and GMS Racing announcing a joint driver development program. With Sarina being one of the young drivers at JRM, she was automatically part of the program.

“Dale said you didn’t need to com-”

“I know, but I want to be here to support my team. I am still able to do things, Chase. You don’t need to worry.” They then stop as they reach the doorway to the room the announcement was in. “Just promise me that you’ll be here on time to pick me up.”

“Absolutely.” He then leans in for a kiss. “I love you. Have fun. I’ll see you later.”

“I love you too.” She then slowly lets his hand go, watching as he walks back out the same way that he had come.

While she had originally believed that he was going to stay for the announcement, there was a change in plans as he was going to stop in at Hendrick Motorsports before they headed to Georgia. He figured a nice short conversation with Alan would be a good idea after having seen yesterday’s comments.

Sarina then takes a deep breath, making her way over to where her teammates stood, along with the ownership group. Except for Sam and Adam, she was familiar with the others pretty well. She was actually looking forward to working with Zane at JR Motorsports, while having a small snicker for John Hunter Nemechek. She had to admit – she was still glad that Cole tackled him at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park that year.

“Sarina, you came!?!” Kelley lets out being the first one to notice her of the group, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “By the way, you’re looking absolutely amazing. Please tell me that everything is going smoothly…”

“There hasn’t been any issues thus far,” Sarina lies, not wanting to get into the details of the gestational diabetes, or rehash what happened while she was stranded.

“You got my message that you didn’t need to come, right?” Dale reminds her, and she nods her head. She had read the message twice on her phone, as well as hearing it while she had stopped at JRM earlier in the week.

“That doesn’t mean that I can’t make the choice to be here and support my teammates. Just like I told Chase, I’m very capable of doing things still.” Dale fully understood that, having grown used to the same type of lectures from Amy when he got her to relax while pregnant with Isla. That didn’t mean he was changing his stance right now.

“Just make sure that you take it as easy as possible today, okay?” She nods her head, accepting, as that had been her plan already.

She then watches as Dale and Mike go out, beginning the stages of the announcement in speaking of the details of the program.

She actually liked the concept, as it was nice to see drivers have a clear cut path to get from late models to the XFINITY Series. She almost wished that would’ve been in place, still wondering if she had tackled trucks a little earlier than she should’ve. However, she wasn’t holding any regrets as everything had worked out as it was supposed to.

She then joins his teammates by the showcar that they had there for the announcement with the program logo, taking the image together. Glancing left and right, it was nice to see the talent that she was surrounded by. It gave her assurance that she was on the right track if she was being recognized and accepted with this group.

With the announcement of the way, it was time for the various people involved, from Dale, Mike and Kelley, to each of the drivers, to take time and answer questions for the media. Although her teammates were standing around, she was parked in a chair per the demand from Dale to stay off of her feet and take care of herself.

“How is your pregnancy going?” She heard one of the first questions as a group of media members gathered around her.

“It’s going great actually,” she comments. “I don’t have any complaints as of right now.” Just like with Kelley, she didn’t want to dive into details. That wouldn’t be the best image to have splashed all over the world, as it’d just get more people on her case with nerves. It was bad enough with Chase watching every small thing at times.

“How far along are you?” She expected the question, knowing that there were some non-discussed points to cover that day.

“28 weeks. I’m due in March, so obviously I will be missing the first couple races of the schedule as I stated last November. I am thankful that Elliott  agreed to come back and run those events until I am ready to take the reins of his ride. I can’t thank him enough, and look forward to seeing him win a couple races. He’s been a great mentor in the times that we’ve already talked about the upcoming season – both him and Justin, actually.” She knew she didn’t need to go initially that in-depth with her thoughts, but she knew she might as well cover it as she knew the questions would eventually venture down that path. She was glad that Kelley dropped the press release about Elliott Sadler’s return so she could fully comment on everything.

“Was there ever the thought of having the baby early so that way you didn’t miss any races?” She almost began chuckling immediately upon hearing the question. Was this guy serious?

“Absolutely not. My pure focus right now is on this baby, and I plan on doing whatever I can to make sure that the pregnancy goes smoothly and full-term. As I stated, this wasn’t something that came about easy, and there were a lot of mixed emotions, but it felt meant to be and I plan to live it out fully. So right now, my baby comes first. The racing will come second and when the time is right this year.” That didn’t mean that she wasn’t craving to be back in the seat sooner, or jealous that Chase had snagged her test at Atlanta.

“How long after you have the baby do you plan on getting back in the car?” If it was up her, it’d be immediately for that very reason as thought above.

“I will obviously be following the doctor’s advice on where I am healed enough to be able to handle everything that comes with the job. That could take a week, or maybe two weeks. It just depends on how my body is after giving birth.” Were they ever going to get to talk about the upcoming season or the new program as announced?

“Can we see your wedding ring?” She then holds her hand out, proudly displaying the ring that was on her finger. She had no shame in proudly displaying the marriage. “How was the wedding?”

“It was absolutely amazing. It was everything that I dreamed of, and more. From the special gifts from Cindy, to the dress, to the actual ceremony. Actually, the ceremony was my favourite part in being able to finally call Chase my husband. His vows were absolutely beautiful, and it’s a moment that I can never forget.” She still found herself repeating the vows in her head.

“How did you come to the decision to take his name, as I understand you want to be called Sarina Elliott from now on?” She smiles as it was even nice to hear the media mention it. Maybe there was a bright side to when they’d annoy her this season.

“It was a mutual decision, to be honest. He totally left it up to me as to what I wanted to do, and I told him that I accepted his name fully because I want to show the commitment that we have together as a family.” She also couldn’t wait to display that when they learned the baby’s name down the road.

“So with that out of the way this off-season, what are your thoughts on the upcoming season?” She then glanced directly at that media member, giving him the biggest smile she could manage.

“Finally we get to talk about racing….” She then takes a deep breath, divulging into all of her thoughts.

She then spent the next several minutes, answering every question that they had about the upcoming XFINITY Series season. It was nice to get into the groove of answering questions about her expectations, working with Dave Elenz, how the truck experience would help her, and how she was preparing for what was to come.

“Alan mentioned yesterday that Chase was still sore, but healing accordingly and would be ready for Daytona,” a media member then began, bringing an eye roll from Sarina. Were they really getting back to personal questions once again? “Do you have anything to add to that?”

“Alan spoke to the truth, as I’d expect him to do,” she began. “Chase is certainly sore as it’s only been two weeks removed since the gunshot. However, it is healing like the doctors would hope and therapy is right around the corner.” She also knew the test was right around the corner to see where things stood, too, but bit her tongue as she was going to let the parties that be – Kelley, Dale and Chase – reveal that.

“The big story, though, had to be Alison finally being arrested – and as released by the courts, she’ll be spending her time in maximum security so they do not risk another incident. I’m sure that was a relief for you, with everything that happened, that is finally over.” She takes a deep breath, remembering Chase warning her about this possibly coming up as they had with Alan just a couple days ago.

“It’s certainly a relief to know that she can’t hurt Chase, myself, or anybody for that matter ever again. It’s certainly a relief to see justice had played out and run its course. Obviously that’d be my answer to that so yes, I am thankful. I’m glad that now we can properly focus on moving forward together, focusing on our future and our family without having to wonder what’s next.” She purposely hadn’t used the words ‘it’s over’ as it was far from that, with her knowing the emotions for both her and Chase. It wouldn’t be truly over until they both worked through the emotions that connected to it.

“Would you be willing to speak about what happened?” She shakes her head no, immediately. There was no way that she was about to tell the world her feelings and emotions in connection to what happened. Besides, they didn’t deserve that just so they could make a couple extra dollars off some juicy headlines and stories.

“I can assure that we’re never going to get to that point, okay? Some things should remain private, and that’s included.”

“It’s been already been made publi-” She honestly wished they would’ve been able to implement the publicity ban as they requested.

“So you know everything. I don’t need to add anything else to make your heart feel more content.” She then runs her hands through her hair, beginning to feel a bit of frustration. Perhaps Chase and Dale were right that this wasn’t the best idea after all. However, she couldn’t run from them forever.

“When everything came out about Alison’s actions with Chase, did you have any doub-”

“Seriously?” Forget biting her tongue anymore as no deep breath was going to cut her off right now. “You’re wondering if I doubted him when he told me what happened, when she sexually assaulted him. Are you serious? I mean, I get it when fans send me messages like that because they can be dense, but am I really hearing this from a professional media member?”

“You seem to be a little offended, making me wond-”

“I’m not acting offended because I was; I’m acting offended because you think I would’ve doubted him. I trust him fully with my life. I married him. I wouldn’t ever think of doubting him in a moment like that. Besides, do you not realize that he went through that to protect me? Alison had me tied up, kidnapped, and the only way I would remain safe to his knowledge was if he listened to her every single word and instructions. He did that to protect me. He went through what she dealt for me. So no, I would never ever second guess him.”

“I think she’s answered enough questions for today,” a new voice enters, accompanied by arms wrapping around her shoulders. “To be honest, I can also state that you all certainly crossed the line in bringing that up. There’s something called respect. Come on Sarina…”

Sarina easily stood up, accepting the gesture given to her, following Kelley out of the room and down the hall. Kelley stopped at one of the smaller rooms, entering inside and leading Sarina to a chair.

“Are you okay?” She asks as she hands Sarina a bottle of water.

“Yeah,” Sarina answers as she sips on the water. She couldn’t even bother to glance up at her new boss. “I screwed up, didn’t I?” She then slowly looks up at Kelley, feeling like she was in the principal’s office. “I gave them exactly what they wanted. I went off and vented and yell-”

“Pregnancy hormones probably didn’t help with that.” Sarina had to chuckle at Kelley’s thought as possibly she was right. However, she also knew the anger that she felt in hearing that question, too.

“Hormones or not, I probably would’ve done the same thing. I was doing so good in maintaining my composure despite their questions, giving them the usual stance of not wanting to talk about it. Then she questioned the sexual assault, and I just lost it Kelley.” Kelley slowly nods her head, having overheard it which caused her to come over.

“I can’t fault you for what you did, though. I can probably say in the same shoes that I would’ve wanted to do the same thing for L.W., or even Dale. You were protecting the one that you loved, and standing up for him. You can’t fault someone for doing that.” Sarina began to wonder if Kelley was giving her the easy road just because of the pregnancy.

“But that’s still not what I should’ve don-”

“Oh it’s absolutely the opposite of what you should’ve done, and I can’t deny that I am not happy with you.” Sarina lets out a sigh, having expected that eventually. “That’s why I pulled you away before it got worse. Moving forward, we’ll work together in better ways to handle situations like that so we don’t give them the high strung reaction that they’re looking for.”

“I’m sorry…” Kelley knelt down to her level, placing her hand underneath Sarina’s chin and slowly lifting it up.

“I know you are, I can see that on your face. Stop beating yourself up, okay? You’re not in trouble because like I said, I understand. I’ll handle what comes from it this time, and we’ll work towards making it better moving forward. That’s it, okay?” Kelley then fully stands up. “For now, I say that we forget that happened and focused on the positives – like your pregnancy, and the upcoming season. Let’s just pretend that didn’t even happen.”

“Can we honestly do that?” Kelley then leans back against the wall, nodding her head.

“Absolutely, as you can start by telling me how your off-season has been spending time with Chase. What have you guys been up to? What’s been the most adorable thing that daddy-to-be has done for you?”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 154: Photoshoot Aches

Tuesday December 11, 2018 – JR Motorsports

Sarina walks around the corner, stopping as she takes a glance over the racecar before her. While the announcement was all nice, it was really truly beginning to set in that she’d be starting the next step in the journey of her racing career as she stood before her car.

“I hope it’s to your approval,” she hears and smiles recognizing the voice immediately.

“I’ve driven some nice trucks and cars Dale, but I have to say that this will be the prettiest of them all,” she comments before walking over. She then walks down the side of it, taking in the full design before stopping as she reaches the back end. She liked the shade of blue chosen, but it was the gold stripe down the side setting off the blue that was perfect.

“It’s one of my favorite color combinations, too.” She then walks over to the driver’s window, seeing her name was missing atop the roof. It was a small detail not necessary for today’s photos, but it also didn’t sit perfectly well with her either. She was looking forward to seeing her name there. “I see the look in your eyes….” She then looks up over the roof of the car at Dale.

“Do you blame me?” He shakes his head no, and she immediately thought he was ready to go into an explanation about how the graphics department messed up.

“You’re getting married next month before the season begins, and I’ve already heard that you’re taking the man’s last name.” She had to smile as she said ‘Sarina Elliott’ to herself once again in her mind. “Call me superstitious, call me crazy or whatever, I didn’t want to jinx anything by placing it on early. So therefore, I told them to hold off on that detail until we got to February.” She nods her head, accepting, actually with a small smile forming in response.

“That’s sweet of you, but I can promise you no matter what, that wedding is happening in January in that town of yours, even if I have to crawl down the aisle with this baby.” Dale chuckles a little as he makes his way over to where she was standing.

“So sponsors insisted in having images of their beautiful driver with her car before the season began. I told them while we couldn’t do firesuit images due to the pregnancy, we would do some with you standing by the car. Then after you have the baby, we’ll re-shoot with the firesuit as normally scheduled.” She nods her head accepting as it was a fair compromise. Besides, she had no problem lately showing off her baby bump.

“As long as I’m not being turned into some Danica Patrick sex model, then I am ready for whatever we need to do.” Dale was admittedly taken back by the comment, but understood the standards that she was laying down early.

“I would never make you do something that you weren’t comfortable doing. I don’t need Chase hassling my ass, anyway.” She chuckles as she watches him walk away.

Throughout the next couple of hours, a bunch of photos were taken. Dressed in a nice pair of jeans and blue shirt which matched the car with the sponsor’s logo in white, she stood by the beautiful new ride of hers doing the poses as instructed. They then switched to her taking some images alongside Dale, before doing images with her, Dale and Justin Allgaier together.

She easily accepted the break in the middle of the afternoon while Justin took over, doing the images that he had to do with his version of the paint scheme in his firesuit. With the fact they were surrounded by food and ice cream sponsors, it was an easy break as she could find many things to munch on in the process.

“I thought there was a munchie problem when Chase was around but I think you take the cake,” Justin comments as he walks over after an hour, seeing the small pile of ice cream wrappers laying in the garbage. After having one of the sausages, the ice cream had caught both Sarina and baby’s attention, with her eating a couple Spongebobs and Popsicle rockets.

“I have an excuse as this baby was craving some nice and cool,” she offers, catching his reference right away. She remembered hearing the stories of how Chase would snatch snacks from the various team haulers, always having his hand in the drawer looking for something good. It was something he continued to do at Hendrick Motorsports now, even sneaking over to the KBM haulers at times last year for M&M’s. “I can assure you that I am normally not this snacky.”

“As long as baby and momma are doing well, that’s all that matters. I hope everything is going well in the pregnancy so far for you.” She nods her head, as so far there had been no concerns expressed during her appointments with Dr. Grayson.

“Dr. Grayson says that everything is going accordingly, as far as weight and movement and my health. We just hope that it continues down that path as the baby grows and takes up more room.” Justin was understanding of that, having heard the concerns about Sarina’s pregnancy from others.

“Well just make sure that you’re taking it easy, and I do hope everything goes smoothly for you. If you need someone to talk to or advice, don’t hesitate to ask by the way; I know what it can be like with Harper.” She had to smile a little as it was nice to be connecting with her new teammate right away on day one. She had heard from Chase that Justin was one of the sweetest guys to have a teammate, and he was living up to that already.

“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you, and by the way, Harper is such a cutie. I love how you let her design your helmets and be right there involved in everything.”

“Ashley and Harper mean the world to me; I want to be able to do everything with my family involved.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that family was still a touchy subject even after all the years that had past. She couldn’t ignore the moments that she wished they were still close, or the moments where she wished her daddy was here to see how far her dreams had taken her.

“Well, keep doing what you’re doing as you and Ashley are raising a fine little girl.”

Through the rest of the afternoon, there were more photos taken for other sponsors that would be on-board, as well as the standard team shots that were necessary for publicity reasons.

Getting home later on that evening, Sarina walked through the door and let out a long sigh. While days like those were easily part of the business, the pregnancy end of it was certainly beginning to show its signs. Being on her feet throughout the day now resulted in them aching, along with across her shoulders and down her back.

“I was wondering when you would get home,” she hears as she watches Chase make his way from the kitchen, meeting her in the hallway as he helps take her coat off. “Long day?”

“Photos, photos, video, and more photos,” she summarizes it easily as all she could think about was putting her feet up and laying down on the couch while relaxing to some Christmas movies.

“I figured you’d be tired as those production days can go really long. That’s why there’s a surprise waiting for you upstairs…” She was a little confused, but easily followed his lead as she made her way upstairs.

“Chase….” She was taken back as soon as she walked into the bathroom, as he had ran a nice hot bubble bath, while lighting a couple lavender scented candles.

“Lavender is one of your favorite smells, and I know how relaxing a nice warm bath can be.” He then begins to roll her t-shirt up her back, slowly taking it off her. “I figured a nice warm bath would be perfect for your aching muscles.”

“How do you always know exactly what I need before I even do?” He just smiles as he helps take her bra off.

“Because I love you, I care about you, and I’d do anything for you.” He then kisses her shoulders. “Now why don’t you take your pants off, and I’ll help you in, and you can soak nicely while I finish up dinner?”

“Are you serious?” He nods his head as she turns around to face him. “You don’t need to do all this fo-”

“You’re carrying my baby, and doing all the hard work right now. You deserve some appreciation in return. Maybe if you’re a good girl, I can give you a nice relaxing massage afterwards.” She slips her pants off, setting them aside, followed by her underwear.

“You know I can never turn down one of your massages…” He smiles, knowing that already from past experience. “Thank you, honestly. I didn’t realize how much I needed this.”

“Like I said, anything for you…” He then helps her into the bath tub, before giving her another kiss. “I’ll be back up in about 45 minutes to help you out once dinner is ready.”

“I love you so much, Chase.” He smiles as he exits the bathroom, heading back down the stairs to finish dinner.

Thursday December 20, 2018 – Charlotte, North Carolina

“Do you think the tree is too big?” Sarina asks as she walks into the front room, sitting down on the couch as she looks over at it.

“I didn’t realize how big it was until we started decorating it last night,” Chase answers from the kitchen. “I got news flash – even if you think it’s too big, we’re not moving it.”

“I have to say that it is pretty big when it can take up half of the room.” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“But does it look pretty and everything like you wanted?” She then lets out a sigh, nodding her head. “Then why are we complaining?”

“Just wait until Ryan and Lindsay come over, or anybody else for that matter. They’re going to laugh and pick on our tree.” Chase knew for sure that was going to happen, but he didn’t care. As long as Sarina was happy with the tree, then he was fine with it. Besides, he had to admit that it looked wonderful once they got all the ornaments on it.

“It doesn’t matter what they think. I think it’s beautiful, you think it’s perfect – so therefore it’s our special tree. Besides, Samantha told you that it was great so that means something.” Sarina lets out a sigh, remembering the message that she had sent.

“She also lives in a big huge mansion that could easily fit this size of tree without a single problem, hence the tree that she made Kyle put up.” Chase had to chuckle in the messages that he received from Kyle in the headaches in putting up the big huge tree that took up the main hallway of the Busch mansion now.

“Listen, if you’re really that bent out of shape about the tree, we can go get anoth-”

“No, there’s no way that I am giving away this tree.” She then glances back to the kitchen, seeing another paper ball go chucking across the room. “Are you having a problem out there?”

“Nope, I’m fine.” She then walks back out to the kitchen, glancing into the garbage can.

“The garbage can would say otherwise…” He then lets out a sigh as he finally glances up at her.

“Do you ever get that feeling that you know what you want to say and express, but can’t find the words to do it?” She nods her head, remembering a couple weeks back. “That’s what is happening right now.”

“Wedding vows?” He then freezes as he slowly nods his head in response, almost scared of what she was going to say next. “I have to admit that I’ve had the same problem, too. I made a paper ball mountain at Kyle and Samantha’s a couple weeks ago for the same reason.”

“So why did we decide to write our own vows anyway?” She then walks over to the counter, leaning back against it.

“We thought it’d be romantic and special to express how we personally felt about each other, instead of reading what was directly in a book in front of us that other people had used. Chase, what were we thinking?” He lets out a sigh as he chucks another ball across the room.

“The only thing that I have accomplished so far is I can probably beat Ryan at the next game of basketball as my aim is perfected.” She had to chuckle in seeing the mountain slowly growing.

“If you want, we could ditch doing our own special vows and go with the usual standard sayings considering we’re both going crazy right now.” Chase looks down at the notepad, thinking it over. His mind immediately went back to the scrapbook that she had made him a couple years ago, remembering each of the small notes that were inside with her feelings.

“No, I owe it to you.” She then looks over confused.

“Whether we have our own special vows or not, this is going to be a specia-”

“I owe it to you to truly tell you just how much you mea-”

“But I see that everyday-”

“Then let me express that everybody else ther-”

“They know how much we love each other because they see it every day, too.” Chase then reaches over, placing his hand on top of hers.

“I still want to write our own vows, though. I want to express how much I love and care about you in my own way. I want you to feel that emotion that I am feeling, just like I felt everything when you told me your story, and just like I felt everything when I read your scrapbook.” A smile forms on her face as she remembered giving it to him that weekend at the Snowball Derby.

“I’m surprised you still cherish that as much as you do.” It was now his turn to look surprised in return.

“Are you kidding me? That will always be one of my favorite processions for the rest of my life. It was romantic and special to see those emotions from you. I know how hard it can be for you to trust and open up to someone, and to see those poured out page after page, it meant the world to me that you believed in us that much to do that. I will always hold that scrapbook close to me.” She then smiles as she brings their hands up to the necklace around her neck.

“The same way that I will always wear this snowball for us both, and hold onto the key for your locket – even if you attempt to lose my heart locket a time or two again.” Chase gives her a ‘really’ glance as she just chuckles. “Okay, so it wasn’t your fault.”

“At least I went back and got it for you.” She nods her head, remembering that.

“It’s also the same way that I will always wear this ring, no matter what, never letting anyone take it off my finger ever again.” He looks down at the small pink diamond on her finger, still excited about the piece that they had gotten to add to it on their wedding day. “But truthfully, these are all materialistic things. All that truly matters to me is what we have together – our love, how much we care for each other, and how we’ll be there for each other no matter what.” She then looks back down at the notebook. “That’s why I’m telling you that the vows don’t matter at the end of the day, but rather the love we have for each other. So in the end, if we both want to not do them, it won’t break my heart – as long as I have you to complete it forever.”

“I want to do it, though. I want to find those words to tell you how I feel about you and how much I love you.” She then nods her head, accepting.

“Then I guess we both have some work to do while praying that we don’t overfill the recycling bucket in the process.” He chuckles as he watches her leave the room, glancing back down at the notebook.

Taking a deep breath and beginning to scribble another set of words, he had to smile to himself. Maybe, just maybe, these set of words would be what he was hunting for the whole time.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 140: Post Phoenix

Sunday, November 11 – ISM Raceway

Chase climbs out of the NAPA Chevrolet, taking a deep breath before facing the swarm of media that had surrounded with questions.

“You had a fast car and got involved in that crash on the front stretch,” the reporter starts. “Was there any way to avoid it?” Chase knew the answer right away. They had gotten behind due to his mistake.

“Don’t speed before that and you don’t get caught back there in the back,” he answered. “It was completely my fault and when you make mistakes like that, you get put behind and that’s when you get wrecked. So, I had a pretty good NAPA Chevy, especially on the long runs. We could run with those guys. I couldn’t get going quite as good as I wanted to. But if you stay away from that penalty (speeding on pit road) you never know. I hate it, but we’ll try to get a win next week.”

“What do you take from this playoff experience?” The questions came just as easy as the answers in his mind. It was pretty obvious.

“You just have to make the most of opportunities. The whole year counts. Those guys, winning a lot of races throughout the season, is what kept them away from a pressure-filled situation. All the bonus points they built up pretty much got them to Homestead, and that that’s the way that step stone is meant to work. It pays to win. So, we’ll try to win more next year.”

He stands around answering some more questions, before the media members head off to talk to whoever they had to go see.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Alan starts as he walks over. “We came a long way from where we were this summer, struggling with this car. We put together a heck of a season. It sucks it’s come to this conclusion, but we’re building and progressing, and I guarantee we’ll have something for them next year.” Chase nods his head, but that didn’t erase the pain and frustration.

“I just can’t believe that I sped there,” he offers. “Was I that much over?” Alan shakes his head no as Chase lets out a sigh. “We thought the first pit stall was fool proof, and boom – I make a mistake. It sucks.” Alan places a hand on his shoulder.

“I told you to not beat yourse-”

“I know, but it still keeps running through my mind. It’ll bother me for a bit and then I’ll move forward, focusing on next week, ready to not speed on pit road. It’s simple as that. Thank you for the hard work all season long, and you’re right – we’ve come a long way, but we got a long way to go.” Alan couldn’t help but nod his head in agreement.

“I can promise you that this company as a whole is going to be putting in a lot of work this winter.”

Sunday, November 11 – Charlotte, North Carolina

After a frustrating day like he had, there was no place like home – and he was glad to be there as he and Sarina entered later that night. Slipping their shoes off, he glances back, grabbing a quick kiss from her, before helping her with her coat.

“Are you okay?” She questions, having grown annoyed with the silence most of the way home.

“Yeah,” he answers before heading for the stairs. The shortness of his answer didn’t give her heart much relaxation.

“Chas-”

“I made a mistake, that’s all there is to it. I sped on pit road and put that whole thing in moti-”

“You had worked your way back up fro-”

“But if we don’t have that penalty, we have the track position and maybe we’re further ahead – not running right where Kurt decides to cross the track. I know it’s a matter of circumstance, anything is possible, but I still made the mistake.” He then takes a deep breath as they reach the top of the stairs. “I’ll get over it. Probably by tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready to focus on Homestead. Focus on trying to win a race, and hoping you bring home that championship.”

“That’s the plan, right?” They then walk into the bedsroom, flicking on the light as they enter. “What the hell?”

“Did you touch Miles?” Sarina slowly shakes her head no as Chase walls over, picking up the Monster trophy off of the bed. “How did he get in….” His voice trails off as he sees a white piece of paper.

“I probably don’t even need to say anything, do I?” Chase unfolds the piece of paper, reading the note.

“Change the locks, change the codes, change the security system, but I can still find my way in to see you.” He then scrunches the piece of paper up, before placing the trophy on the dresser. “Stay here…” Sarina could only look on confused as he reached for the baseball bat that he had left lying by the bed.

“What are you doing?”

“Checking to see if she’s still her-”

“By yourself?” Chase then looks over at her as he stands in the doorway.

“I am not taking any chances as she may be somewhere, and you don’t need to take any chances in your condition.” She could only sit there helplessly as she watched him leave the bedsroom, entering the bathroom first, before going through each of the rooms in the house.

“Ugh….” She felt every nerve swirl as she heard him go down the stairs to the main level, counting the seconds, followed by the minutes in her head, that he had been gone for. She had mentally set a time in her head that if he hadn’t returned, she was going to go looking.

“House is clear!” She glances up from the bed to see him re-enter the bedsroom, setting the bat on the dresser only to pick up phone. “I’m calling security to see what’s on the cameras and such. I don’t think it wouldn’t hurt to get somebody to be on-guard, either.”

“If it makes it easier for you, then I’m fully on-board.” She then stands up, kissing his lips, before retreating back to the bed as she watched him on the phone.

Friday, November 16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

Sarina stood on pit road, sipping on a bottle of water. She had already drank a couple bottles of Gatorade, combined with half a case of water and some grapefruit – per Chase’s direct orders yesterday. However, she knew a long day with constant non-stop action could possibly bring forth dehydration issues, and she wasn’t taking any chances. If her and baby were going to accomplish their dreams, they had to be in tip top shape.

“I thought you’d be keeping your feet up a little longer…” She hears, half-expecting that comment from Chase. Though, that certainly wasn’t his voice as she glances over her shoulder with a smile.

“If you want to be on top, you need to be ready for practice,” she explains. It was odd to see Dale coming to check on her, but she wasn’t about to chase him away. She knew she’d better get used to it with driving for him next year. She could also take advantage of the timing, too. “I came out here to make sure everything was ready to go, and get any last minute advice from Rudy.”

“Well, I just wanted to stop by and say good luck. I hope you have a great night and make some history.” She smiles, nodding her head.

“Thank you. I never set out to be the best girl, but rather to be the best driver and win races. That’s what I’m here to do tonight.” Dale could easily appreciate the determined attitude.

“Just make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.” She holds up the water bottle, taking a sip.

“13th bottle of water in the past two days satisfy the boss?” He looks on a little surprised, but gives her a nod of approval.

“Don’t let having to go pee at the halfway mark distract you.” She had to make a face at the thought. She had never gone to the bathroom in her firesuit in her career, and she certainly didn’t want to do it with her new one. This firesuit was set to only have two races on it, having got it last weekend, and she was ready to hang it up for keeps later.

“While you’re here, I have a question for you…” He then looks at a little puzzled. “Chase and I are in the middle of planning our wedding. We originally were going to get married in Colorado, but there’s been some issues with the venue so we can’t do that. We decided to change it to closer to home, and came up with the perfect spot – if you’re willing. Could we get married in your Whiskey Town?” Dale was taken back by the request, having expected something more traditional from Chase.

“Have you talked to Chas-”

“I thought of the idea last weekend, and we talked about it this week. He approves as he feels it’s perfect for what we’re envisioning. He didn’t ask you yet because I told him I’d handle it, being that you’re my boss.” He glances at the smile on her face, having a chuckle to himself.

“You thought the eyes and smile would charm me better than he would and I would say yes easily?” She then shrugs her shoulders. “No matter which one of you asked me, I would say yes. I think it’ll be beautiful for you both, and will make sure to have everything rea-”

“My wedding party gals and I can handle the decorating. We’ve got everything picked out, and Samantha has already talked to who we need to order everything from. We just need your permission for the property, and promise to have everything in order when we’re done.”  He then warps an arm around her shoulders.

“It’d be my honor, seriously. I may have been a little skeptical when I first met you, and I may have been harsh on Chase for the first couple weeks.” She nods her head, remembering the first meeting at Hendrick Motorsports a couple years ago. “As I’ve gotten to know you, though, I can see why he fell in love with you. I’m happy to see the bond that you’ve both formed, and I’m glad to have you on-board as a driver next year.”

“Even if I’m missing the first couple races?” He had to smile as it may not be the best business position, but that didn’t matter to him.

“I told you originally – that child is going to change yours and Chase’s lives for the better. It’s worth it for the blessing that you’re going to get in return.” She could see the admiration that Dale had for Amy and Isla in hearing him talk about parenthood.

“I don’t think we need to wait until then. Chase and I are already fully on-board. We both can’t stop talking about it, he can’t stop rubbing my stomach, and I’ve already began planning the nursery.” He had an idea immediately as to the theme.

“Bulldogs or racing?” She laughs, shaking her head to both ideas.

“Jungle themed.” He looks on surprised, but was easily accepting.

“I’ll have to make sure to get you a couple stuffed animals then. I’ll see you later, but like I said – good luck tonight.” She watches Dale head off, smiling as she turned her attention back on the 18 truck.

Tonight was going to be fun, this pregnancy was going to be amazing, the wedding would be magical, and next year was already shaping up to be perfect.

She stands on pit road by the truck, thinking over the first practice session. She was pleased with the handling of the No. 18 Toyota Tundra as she had to admit that they were in the right ball park for where they needed to be. However, ranked 11th on the session behind fellow championship contenders wasn’t the biggest morale boost.

“I got something up our sleeve for the second session,” Rudy tells her, catching a glance as he gives her a wink.

“When you tell me that, it always ends with good results,” she replies. “I hope you’re telling the truth again.”

“When have I lied to you, my princess?” She thinks back through the time they spent together, spending no examples.

“Well, you kind of lied when you said you’d never warm up to Chase and I being together. Remember how upset you were the first couple weeks?” Rudy nods his head, having fond memories of then. He was about to yell at Kyle for partnering them together – that, or pack an extra bottle of Tylenol and ask for a raise for having to deal with her.

“You were also late those first couple of weeks, as well.” She hated the reminder, but it was a fact of life. She remember how Kyle turned the tables immediately on one of those.

“I still want to kill Kyle for having those comments about sex.” Rudy laughs, remembering how red Sarina’s face went then.

“He wasn’t wrong, though.” He then gives her a small pat with a laugh before heading off.

She then lets out a sigh, walking back over the wall. She makes her way through the garage area, knowing a trip to the bathroom before the second session would be welcoming. Maybe there was something to what Dale was saying earlier, after all.

As she walks to the closest bathroom, she signed autographs for the fans along the way, even stopping to take a couple photos. However, she couldn’t help but glance to her right in hearing a group of girls together. Appearing to be around the same age of her, their conversation stemmed to speaking about Sarina’s appearance, including one of them saying that she was fatter.

“Maybe it’s due to Chase’s southern cooking,” the one girl chalked it up too.

Sarina walks into the bathroom, slipping off the firesuit and going pee as she needed to. She couldn’t help but while she sat there rub her breasts, having been sore the past couple of days. It wasn’t no surprise to her that Wednesday involved shopping for a couple new bras, either.

“Is it that obvious?” She asks herself, as she glances down at her stomach, rubbing it. “Are you growing in there, sweetheart?”

After wiping, she does the firesuit back up before glancing at the mirror to give herself a look over. One more week, and it didn’t matter what anyone said. It’d be finally time to reveal to the world that she was pregnant and had been since August.

Taking a deep breath, she knew to be prepared for positive and negative reactions in response – but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was Chase, this baby, and the love between the three of them.

Sarina sat in the care center after finishing the second practice, glancing over at Chase with a smile. She couldn’t complain as whatever Rudy had planned for the second practice had worked out very well, timing in second quickest. With a break before Chase’s Cup practice and now getting to see her baby while hearing the heartbeat, there was nothing to complain about.

“So being 18 weeks pregnant, we have some important things to discuss,” Dr. Grayson tells the pair after the initial examination. “I want you to have a regular ultrasound schedule set in place moving forward for the rest of your pregnancy. Given your risk factor, I would like to see you have one every two weeks.” Sarina and Chase both nod their heads, accepting. They knew a trip to Charlotte could easily be accomplished as needed.

“Do you think we’re going to run into any problems?” Sarina wonders, knowing the possibility that laid ahead as the baby grew more.

“So far, your uterus and the baby are getting along nicely. Everything checks out as to where it’s supposed to be. However, I do understand why you were told those reasons at the beginning from doctors with the shape that you are. I want to always give my patients the best hope possible, and believe me, I want to see this work out for you both. However, I am still highly concerned depending what happens in the growth moving forward. I wouldn’t downplay the risk yet.” Sarina takes a deep breath, nodding her head. She couldn’t let the fear show, or the tears show in being afraid of the worst happening after everything she’d been through so far.

“Okay, I understand. We’ll keep watching for warning signs and follow your orders.”

“With these ultrasounds, you’re going to continue to see the baby grow more and learn more about this baby. Obviously, one of the things that is going to come up is gender. As early as the 20 week mark, we can sometimes tell a couple the gender of their baby. Have you guys discussed if you would like to know ahead of time or not?” They both shake their head no.

“I already know it’s a girl anyway,” Chase comments, earning an eye roll from Sarina.

“He’s been saying that for the past four weeks,” she informs Dr. Grayson as she just smiles back in return.

“Sometimes intuition is right, and sometimes it’s not. I wouldn’t advise buying any clothes based on that feeling, though, as I’ve seen many parents be wrong. I’ll let you guys think about the gender situation, then, and you can let me know if you’re wanting to learn ahead of time.” Chase already knew that he’d once again leave that up to Sarina, once again not focused on the minor details. Besides, despite the warnings, he believed in his own intuition. “The last time you guys saw me, we discussed doing the MSAFP test to screen for birth defects and more. Are we moving forward with that?”

“We’d like to be prepared as much as possible,” Sarina reveals, remembering the conversation they had earlier in the week. “So absolutely, I would like to get the test done.”

“Okay then….” Dr. Grayson stands up, opening the cabinet. “So the results will take a week to two to get. I just need to get some blood from you.” Sarina squirms a little in seeing the needle pulled from the cupboard.

“Lovely….”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 120: Federated Auto Parts 400

Friday, September 21 – Richmond Raceway

“Are you sure you’re up for watching the race tonight?” Chase questions after coming out of the motorcoach, changed into a t-shirt and jeans. With Dale back behind the wheel for a one-off, curiosity was peaked on tonight’s action. Besides, it wasn’t uncommon for Chase to take in the XFINITY race the day before from the stands.

“I told you earlier that the headache was gone,” Sarina answers as she walks over, wrapping her arms around him. “I’m fine. Are you okay?” He nods his head, having let everything go about the mess of the past week already.

After making sure they had their phones, and credentials – in case they met a pesky security guard, they made their way out to the grid for the pre-race ceremonies.

With Dale qualifying near the front, they made their way to the top of the grid to offer their pre-race tidbits. That didn’t bother Sarina, at all, as Dale had qualified second with Christopher on pole. She’d get to see Morgan as planned.

“Where’s the JR Nation mob I was expecting?” Chase questions as they walk up to Dale and Amy.

“Don’t jinx it,” Dale answers, wanting to keep it quiet as it was right now.

“She’s so adorable…” Sarina muses as she looks at Amy holding Isla.

“Have you sat her in the car, yet?” Chase wonders and Dale nods his head, getting Amy to bring up the photo on her phone. “That’s awesome. Now we just gotta hope that daddy remembers how to drive tonight.”

“So far, so good,” Dale offers, as he had been quick in practice, as well.

“Good luck, and have fun tonight – seriously. It’s nice to see you back, even if just for a one-off.” He offers a fist-pump.

“Good luck boss,” Sarina adds, offering a hug for Dale.

“Kelley is dropping the press release on Tuesday,” he whispers and Sarina simply nods her head. “She told me the news. Congratulations. I’m genuinely happy for both of you. That baby is going to change your lives more than you know it. Savor every moment of your pregnancy, the small moments, and time spent with the baby once born. Oh, and make sure he takes care of you or I’ll kick his ass for you.” Sarina chuckles, glancing over at Chase.

“He’s doing a good job so far, and thank you. That means a lot coming from you.”

They then separate, with Chase and Sarina continuing their walk to the front of the grid, as Sarina sneaks up behind Christopher.

“Hey!” Morgan freaks, just seeing the arms of someone wrapping around her boyfriend, combined with some long brown hair. She then freezes immediately, going into a chuckle as she realizes who it is. “The only girl that can ever get away with doing that.”

“Ah, so I can keep him?” Sarina questions, not letting go as Christopher laughs.

“Chase would probably kill me,” Christopher comments, casting a glance in Chase’s direction, which earned a simple nod in return. “It’s nice to see you, too.”

“I just wanted to come say congratulations on the pole, and go kick some ass tonight.” Sarina finally lets him go, before walking over to Morgan. “As for you, madam, all I can say is damn you look beautiful tonight.”

“Says the girl that is making a simple Chase Elliott t-shirt and jeans look sexy,” Morgan replies as Sarina just rolls her eyes. “I’m serious, girl. You got all the curves in the right places.”

“I guess I’ll accept that compliment and enjoy it.” Sarina then gives a wink in Chase’s direction, as he just smiles in return. They both knew everything would be popping soon. “I was wondering if you’re available on Tuesday. We were going to bridesmaid dress shopping.” Morgan looks over at Christopher.

“When are you racin-”

“Wednesday,” he offers as Morgan nods, knowing that he was running a sprint car race at some point this week.

“Then I’m free to go shop with my best friend.” Sarina smiles as that sealed the deal since she had already asked the others.

She even had to chuckle, knowing the announcement would drop while they were out shopping.

The race played out wonderfully, and had them on the edge of their seats throughout. The grandstands had erupted in a series of cheers, including from the couple, during the second stage with Dale taking the lead and looking poised to win. However, the final run would see an adjustment slightly off, with the car getting tight, as he faded a bit in the final laps.

As the No. 88 faded, it was Christopher Bell who capitalized, taking the lead before cruising away from the field to start the XFINITY Series playoffs with a trip to victory lane.

“That’s why he’s my pick for the championship,” Sarina said as they made their way back across the track into the infield.

“I still think it’d be cool for Elliott to win it in his final season finally,” Chase offers. “I also know that Justin has been really strong this year.” Sarina couldn’t argue with either of those choices, and they gave her confidence going forward in knowing both were JR Motorsports drivers.

“I hate to crush your dreams there, Chase….”

They make their way to victory lane, standing aside as Christopher takes a series of photos. When he got a break in-between shots, the pair walked over, with Sarina offering a hug as Chase gave him a high-five for the win. Sarina headed over to Morgan right after, giving her the same wrap around from behind treatment that she gave Christopher earlier that day.

“Say, I think you have a very kickass boyfriend,” Sarina offers, earning a chuckle from Morgan.

“I don’t think you boy is so bad though,” Morgan comments, and Sarina couldn’t argue with that as she glanced over to where Chase stood waiting for her. “You know, with the race being sponsored by GoBowling.com and knowing their mascot was a bowling pin, I was all set to steal the costume. However, the mascot isn’t here as they lost the costume at Watkins Glen.” A very wide grin forms on Sarina’s face immediately. “Seriously?”

“I snagged it from the guy for the after party at Chase’s house after he won.” Morgan lets out a sigh, though had to chuckle at great mind’s thinking alike.

“So much for my fantasies…” Sarina then looks over a little surprised at the confession. “What? I got to spice up our love life sometimes. You know he’s one for living on the edge.”

“Well, I apologize for bursting your bubble. For the record, my great reveal at the party ended up with Ryan pushing me in the pool to see if I’d float.” Morgan then immediately breaks out into a laugh. “I floated, by the way, and Chase had the fun of slowly stripping me out of the wet costume.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry as I have another idea in mind.” Morgan then pulls out her phone, loading a photo. “I already got it, and it’s hidden in the motorcoach. I just need to get it while he’s pre-occupied.”

“Are you serious?!?” Morgan nods her head as Sarina shakes her head.

“He’ll be stripping me down, and boom – look what he finds already inside me. He has the balls for my bowling pin.” Sarina had to chuckle at her comment.

“Well, I hope you have a striking good time.” She then offers another quick hug, before walking over as she joins Chase for the walk back. “I just learned something about Christopher and Morgan that I kind of wish I hadn’t.”

“Do I want to know?” Chase questions, and Sarina shakes her head no. “That bad?”

“Naughty Chase, very naughty,” Sarina answers as Chase simply pulls her closer.

“Well I can promise you that I can be just as naughty if need be…” Sarina then looks over intrigued.

“Challenge accepted.”

Saturday, September 21 – Richmond Raceway

Alison makes her way into the NASCAR credential office, smiling as she sees Laiken standing there with two other girls. She almost wished that she had taken Laiken and become her, knowing that’d give her all the access she could’ve dreamed of. However, that would’ve been a challenge. She had to go with someone less knowing to easily take their place.

“Britney, you made it!” Laiken lets out as she glances Alison’s way. “This is the last one.” Alison watches the NASCAR credential look up at her, before glancing down at the image on the card before her. She offers a simple nod, before handing it over.

“Thank you,” Alison says with a smile, giving her blond hair a wave, before looking over at Laiken. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Absolutely.” Laiken then wraps her arm around Alison’s shoulder, causing a shiver to escape from Alison. Everything she wanted was so close and right there, yet so far away. “I’m just glad that you finally made it out to a race with us!”

“I couldn’t miss the last of the season.” Alison had done her research. Britney was supposed to have been at all the races the ladies were at this season, but couldn’t make it due to work and personal issues. As a result, this was her first race of the year. Unfortunately, it was the last event Hooters was sponsoring the No. 9 entry, making it the last full-out scheduled appearance for Hooters. That didn’t mean the girls wouldn’t be popping up for the rest of the playoffs, which suited Alison’s objectives. “Thankfully, I sorted everything out now so if there’s any events that they call you out for, I’m all set for joining you.”

“I can’t thank you enough for that as these two other girls – well, let’s just say that they’re sometimes too invested in other objectives.” Alison couldn’t help but smile, but her plan was working out better than planned. “You know Sidney and Alicia, right?”

“Yep, I remember them from the calendar launch party.” Once again, as part of her research, she knew Britney was in the calendar so she would’ve attended the party.

“Perfect. It always works better when everybody sort of knows each other.” Alison knew that would take a bit of practice, but she was ready to do whatever necessary to not be figured out.

“So what is the schedule for today anyway?” She knew it was good practice as one of these girls to know what they were scheduled to do over the weekend.

“Chase has a Q&A scheduled for 3pm. We’re scheduled to attend. Essentially, they told me that he may get me to help in answering questions, being Miss Hooters International of course, but we’re supposed to stand there and do what we do best. There may be some fans who ask for autographs and photos afterwards, so just bare with them patiently, please. I don’t need any complai-”

“Trust me, I promise to behave.” She at least promised that for this weekend as she needed to get a feel for everything. As she got the schedule down, and found the holes, she knew that’s when she’d pounce.

“Then we’ll head out to pit road for pre-race ceremonies, and do the obligatory photos by the car with Chase, and the representatives. There may be more fans looking for photos and autographs, and then we can relax and enjoy the race.”

“Sounds like an awesome day.”

The afternoon would go smoothly, as they attended the Q&A as scheduled. Alison couldn’t resist licking her lips when he walked into view, remembering how he tasted against hers. She just wanted to reach out, and touch him, remembering every single moment, craving for it to continue. But, she held stiff and just kept a close watch as he easily answered the questions at hand.

As it became evening, the trip was made out to pit road, and again all of those feelings were brought to the surface. She also felt anger rise in seeing Alan, Sarina and Jordan come over, knowing that she needed them all out of the way if she was going to play the game properly this time around. Smirking to herself, she had gotten rid of Britney and the doctor; it wouldn’t take much to dispose of more.

“So you’re going bridesmaid dress shopping on Tuesday while he’s testing?” She hears Alan question Sarina, feeling her anger raise as she lets out an aggravated sigh.

‘That’s the plan anyway,” Sarina replies as she leans back against the wall. “I am getting married in three months. I have to make sure everything is in order.”

“Just make sure you’re not pushing it.” She watches as Sarina rolls her eyes in return, wanting to roll her own. Alison knew It’d be nice to see Sarina out of the picture, and doing it herself by getting sick would make things easier.

Alison found herself back focused, following the directions set out by the photographers. They took an image with about 40 VIPs, who all wore the familiar Hooters lanyard. The group was then trickled down to just five of the guests, along with Chase, together.

The instruction was then made for Chase to pose with just the four Hooters girls. Alison tried to make it so she was on the other side of him, directly touching him, knowing that Laiken had taken the other side. However, Sidney got in there first, causing Alison to let out an aggravated sigh of frustration.

“Thank you,” the photographer says before walking away as they were done. Alison stands back, watching Sidney and Alicia each interact with him, before stepping back.

“It’s nice to see you again,” Laiken says, offering a hug. “Go get ‘em tonight and snag us another win, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. Laiken backs up, leaving Alison as the last one to get a turn.

“Good luck tonight,” Alison keeps her words simple, as she holds out her hand. She watches as he firmly shakes it, with a nod, resisting every urge to plant her lips against his right there in front of his fiancé. “I look forward to seeing you again in the future.”

“Absolutely,” Chase replies with, causing Alison to smirk even more. The beauty of being one of the track girls was setting in quickly.

“Being your first race Britney, you need to get a photo with him!” Laiken then lets out.

“Come here…” Alison wasn’t going to deny the offer, as she would never deny him what he wanted when it came to her. She immediately takes her spot right alongside him, appreciating the immediate touch to her back as she reaches around him, placing her arm carefully just above his butt. “Thanks for coming out.”

“Not a problem, Chase,” Alison replies, before strategically walking away with photo in hand.

The first part of her plan was complete. She was back in the circle and getting the time she needed, considered one of the track girls and no issues. Now it was time to keep stepping it up to what she wanted.

“Have you seen that girl before?” Alison hears Sarina ask as she walks away. She didn’t even take a glance back to see what the reaction was from Alan. “I don’t mind these girls as I get they have a job, and they’re simply here to do it. But I don’t know about that one.”

“Ah the irony in you not liking me already,” Alison muses to herself with a laugh.

Chase leans back against the car, satisfied as he looks over at Alan with a smile. They hadn’t led laps or done anything heroic, but a fourth-place finish felt like everything after struggling throughout practice.

“That’s what hard work brings you,” Alan offers, sharing a high-five with his driver. “I told you that I’d figure it out.”

“I don’t ever doubt your ability, Alan,” Chase assures him. “Keep doing what you’re doing, and we may have something here.”

“Next up – the roval!” Chase lets out a sigh, as his stomach flopped at the simple thought of that event. Everybody believed that he would be confident via his success at Watkin’s  Glen, but the test had left a bad taste in his mouth. “I don’t doubt your ability, either.”

“I know…” Chase takes a deep breath. “I just want to survive with a top-10 and move onto something that we know how to do. Look at it this way. I have tomorrow’s test at Kansas to get my mind off of it.”

Monday, September 24 – Kansas Speedway

Alan walks into the garage, caught off-guard as he sits Chase leaning against the pit box with a disgusted look on his face. He knew that testing sucked for drivers sometimes, and he wasn’t looking forward to the ROVAL, but this seemed out of place.

“Chase?” Alan says as he walks over, getting his driver’s attention. “What’s wrong?” Chase takes a deep breath, still not believing the words himself as he looked back towards his phone.

“Alison escaped the mental hospital,” Chase says quietly, as Alan immediately drops his jaw. “She had a doctor that helped her escape – Dr. Leons per the security camera. They found him dead in his office two hours after they realized she had escaped.”

“Any other clues left in the office?” Alan knew it was a long shot, remembering how clues weren’t Alison’s fortay.

“Dr. Leons didn’t have a single drop of paperwork pertaining to her in his office, and everything at the clinic is just usual stuff. They have no idea, like always.” Alan nods his head, slowly letting the news sink in.

“Chase, I know you’re worried, and I understand if you’re sca-”

“Alan, save the speech for someone who needs to hear it!” Alan was taken back by the attitude shown as he watches Chase runs his hands through his hair. “I’ve heard that speech from you so many times that I can recite every single word. I get it, I really do. Everybody is going to do what they can to keep me safe and I don’t need to worry. They’re even going to have someone watching me 24/7. We did all of that before and she still got to me, Alan, so I don’t need no speech of safety.”

“I was just trying to offer my support, that’s all. I know this is affecting you emotionally, so damn Chase, I’m offering a shoulder as always.” Chase looks over at the crew chief once again, finally.

“I appreciate that, honestly. I appreciate every bit of our friendship and how you’ve helped me. But I can handle this. Sure, I’m scared and worried a little. But I damn well can handle and take care of it this time.” Alan nods his head slowly, accepting. He wasn’t going to argue, but whether simply step in when the time was right.

“No secrets this time, either. you have to know that we’re to help you, and if she starts something, you can shar-”

“I don’t need a reminder, Alan. I know the mistakes that I made before. I don’t intend on making them again.” Alan nods his head once again.

“Have you told Sari-”

“I talked to her this morning. She promised me that’d be careful.” Chase closes his eyes, remembering the first fear he had upon hearing the message. He was worried that she’d be possibly kidnapped like she was the last time. “I suggested that she stay with Kyle and Samantha until I got home – just because, and she agreed if it made it easier on me to handle.”

“That’s good…” Alan then places a hand on his shoulder. “We’re going to get through this, like always. And Chase, you don’t need to pretend to be strong when you’re falling apart. It’s oka-”

“I’m fi-”

“I get it, I’m just telling you for the sake of saying it. The car is ready whenever you are.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 105: Michigan

Friday, August 10 – Michigan International Speedway

Alan walks into the Cup garage area, set to go find Josh and go over final set-up notes before the first practice of the day. However, he pauses when he notices Chase sitting in the corner by himself.

“Chase?” He questions out loud, slowly making his way over, kneeling down to his driver’s level. “Hey, is everything alright?”

“Do you ever feel like every time you take four steps forward you get knocked back two steps?” Chase asks, not even sharing a gaze with the crew chief yet as Alan sits down beside him.

“That’s better than one step forward, two steps backward as you’ve said before. I expected to enter the garage area with big smiles after last week. What would have you down so fast?” Alan could only reason that it had to deal with Sarina, considering that she wasn’t anywhere to be found.

“Alison.” Alan almost wanted to roll his eyes as he thought they were truthfully moving forward, but that obviously wasn’t true. “They spoke about the possibility of redemption and freedo-”

“She just got locked away not even a full month ago. We’re not even close to that happening, and they said there were steps that had to be taken. I thought you were fine with that decision, anyway.” Chase lets out a sigh, almost about to admit an immediate regret with that comment. Truthfully, it seemed that every situation with her was full of mistake and regrets. Taking a deep breath, he couldn’t let that trace his mind. It was not his fault no matter how it appeared were the words he had to tell himself repeatedly.

“What if that is sooner than we believed?” Alan now looks over with full shock on his face. “I got a note from the court house with an upda-”

“Why are they even bothering to keep you in the loop, to begin with? I thought moving forward involved no more reminders.” Chase wished that was the case as he would’ve preferred to not gotten the message.

“They feel I deserve a right to know due to being her primary target through all of that.” Alan actually couldn’t argue with that, understanding the dangers and safety here.

“There’s no way that they’d lock her up for a month and then relea-”

“They’ve found what was going on in her mind to cause her thoughts to be what they were and go insane, or appear of that nature. Bipolar Disorder is what they’ve diagnosed her with. The belief is once they figure out the medication regime to keep things under control, she will be able to function like anybody else and therefore no longer needing to be kept in the criminally insane.” Alan almost wanted to scream, but knew that wouldn’t help his driver’s state of mind right now.

“And because of that possibility, your mind is warped into 20,000 different theories. Let’s not forget this – it could take months to figure out the right course of action. It could even take years. They also have to make sure it true and tested before even giving her a possibility of release due to the nature of the crimes. I think you’re panicking too early.” Chase knew that, but that didn’t answer everything fully.

“But eventually, my thoughts will be reali-”

“That’s why there’s the review board. She could be told to serve jail time, or parole. Given the nature and depth of what she did to you, Chase, and what you’ve gone through because of that, they will not give her much leeway. You have to trust the justice system.” Chase almost wanted to laugh.

“Everybody has told me that since the beginning of the year when this started, but yet it took six months to get locked up. Would you understand if I didn’t feel fully convinced?” Alan nods his head, accepting.

“That’s why there’s restraining orde-”

“A piece of paper won’t stop someone from killing you.” Alan takes a calm deep breath, not even letting the thought enter his mind. He saw enough bullets, anyway.

“That’s why you can hire personal security, bodyguards, and other options.” Alan then places a hand on his leg. “Trust me when I say this to you – we will not let you go through that again with her. One time is enough and we’re not taking chances at repeating it, even if I had to pull the trigger myself on her. You can trust that you’re safe with us, always.” Chase finally looks over towards the crew chief.

“So am I crazy for sitting here right now having this discussion with you?” Alan shakes his head no.

“You’re understandably paranoid because of what happened. Obviously you’re going to fear her, and fear the possibility of going back there again. Don’t ever underestimate fear or pain. That’s what made this worse for you to begin with. My only suggestion is I know you thought your therapy was coming to a close, but I’d take a session or two and openly discuss what you just told me. It’s obvious that you haven’t uncovered everything yet.” Alan then stands up, brushing his own pants off as he glances over at the team. “The guys are looking a little lost without my direction – imagine that – so I better go get them in line. Are we good?”

“Yeah, of course.” Chase then slowly stands up himself. “Thanks, by the way.” Alan gives him one final glance.

“Anytime you need to talk, don’t be afraid to ask…” Alan then walks away and heads over to Josh as he was originally planning to do from the beginning.

Alan looks up at the speed chart, making a note they ended the session sitting 14th on the charts. It wasn’t exactly where they wanted to be, but it wasn’t the worse situation either. it was obvious they were missing on the intermediate tracks and top-15 was better than outside of that as progress was slowly being made.

“Happy driver or not?” He questions as Chase walks over to join the brain trust of the team.

“It’s free off the corner to the point that I feel I can’t hold it,” he answers as he looks up at the data. “I don’t know if I’d say totally loose, but I just can’t get the bite that I need.”

“More bite to turn give you more speed?” Chase thinks it over as he looks over at Alan.

“I think, but I don’t want to go too far either.” Alan glances back at his notes as he flips through the pages of adjustments tried, along with spring notes. “Give something a little snug, and I may be able to get you a good lap later this afternoon.”

“I’m just worried if I go this direction, that I’ll screw you even worse there. I want to fix the middle as you’re right, but you still need good entry.” Alan looks back at the data. “The key to Michigan is your run through the middle and off due to the long straightaways. So if I lose a bit on entry, can you handle that for the other side?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“If I have to accept one over the other, I’d prefer to go that way. But why can’t I be like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and have both?” Alan chuckles as he looks back at his notes.

“I wish it was that easy, kid. Would you like to take over my job?” Chase chuckles, shaking his head no.

“I still say we should just get Sarina to steal notes from Kyle for us,” Josh interrupts the pair as Chase just rolls his eyes. “She loves you a lot that she’d prob-”

“You obviously don’t know her that well to say that,” Chase cuts him off. “She also believes in integrity and competition and all those things, just like I do. I could never feel right about that, and neither would she.” Josh lets out a sigh as he glances back at Alan.

“I tried….” Alan shakes his head as he grabs the clipboard.

“Focus on your job, not your crazy antics,” he instructs before walking away. Maybe a conference with the other Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs would lead to some answers.

Sarina climbs out of the truck, smile adorning her face as she looks over at Rudy Fugle. After topping the first truck practice, she had it backed it up with the sixth-fastest time in the second session.

“We’re fast once again,” she says as she walks over, grabbing a bottle of Gatorade out of the cooler. “Now can we actually put it all together tomorrow and win?”

“I’m trying princess,” Rudy offers as he looks over at her. “I told Kyle that the pit crew needs to pick up the slack, and he said he’d have a chat with the powers that be. Now we just need to communicate, and work on the handling accordingly. Can we communicate properly?” She nods her head.

“I feel confident in our communication. I know how to describe what she’s doing, as long as you give her what she needs.” Rudy then looks over surprised.

“She?”

“You always name a car after a girl’s name for her curv-”

“I’ve seen the movie Gone in 60 Seconds so I know how that goes. But even ladies believe in that?” Sarina nods her head, yes.

“I used to always name my late models after favorite females that I aspired to be like one day. Badass girls for that matter. Why do you think Pink had a pink splitter?” Rudy just smiles as he remembered the familiar paint scheme, while crew chiefing an event for Erik. “Now, I’ve gotten away from that with my trucks, but I still talk to them like their little girls.”

“Maybe we should refer to them as teenagers given the attitude some weeks.” She chuckles a little in response.

“Could you imagine a teenager with my attitude, but yet Chase’s sweetness?” Rudy was surprised by the comment, given everything going on, but just had to shake his head at the thought.

“Totally stubborn set on their ways, but yet sweet enough to get away with it.” She nodded her head in agreement, letting out a sigh afterwards.

“….and to think that Chase had a thought of us having two children one day. I almost got myself wrapped up in that vision, too.” Rudy wraps an arm around her.

“There’s options, and knowing the both of you, just like you’ve conquered everything else, you’ll figure this one out, too. Don’t ever limit your dreams as you’ll make them all come true.” She smiles as she glances up at Rudy. “For now, let’s focus on getting ourselves a win this weekend.”

“That sounds fine by me.”

“It’s just wasn’t quite turning like I was hoping it would,” Chase tells the media after qualifying. “But, we had a hard time here in the spring race, too. I’m not real sure why. Hopefully we can get it worked out tomorrow and move forward because that was not good.”

He then walks back over to where Alan was sitting, taking a spot across from him on the pit wall. They hadn’t done anythi9ng special in the session, ultimately ending up 21st on the chart.

“That adjustment obviously didn’t work,” Chase summarizes as Alan just nods his head back in response.

“I don’t know what to say,” the crew chief replies. “I tried going one way but that didn’t work during practice, and now the other way shows that we’re slower in qualifying. I’m literally running out of ideas.” Chase was actually surprised to hear this confession.

“So then what are we supposed to do?” Alan lets out a sigh as he thinks it over.

“I could change springs and shocks, but that’s like going back to the beginning. However, if nothing is working, do I have a choice?” Chase shakes his head no.

“We’ve got two hours tomorrow. That gives us a lot of time to explore. If you want to go a different direction during the first practice, then I say let’s go for it. Then we’ll compare and choose what we really want to go with for second practice.”  Alan nods his head, accepting.

“We’ve got to do something…..”

Saturday, August 11 – Michigan International Speedway

“Are we happier?” Alan asks following the first of two practices on Saturday.

“It’s better than yesterday,” Chase answers as Alan nods his head. The speed chart showed that with them ranked 11th after the first session. Chase then makes his way out of the garage stall, having heard that NBC wanted to do an interview. He was surprised, though, when it was Dale Jr. standing there to do it. “Is it okay to admit that this is a little awkward or strange?” Dale glances at him.

“As awkward as you and Erin?” Dale questions in response, which sees all emotion fade from Chase immediately.

“Excuse me?” Chase asks as Dale keeps his eyes locked on Chase.

“What did I tell you about when you have a good thing, man? Don’t screw that shit up! I thought you were over Eri-”

“There’s no feelings there for Erin. There wasn’t ever any fee-”

“Drunken actions are sober thoughts, man. I was also there at the banquet then.” Chase shakes his head.

“You’re reading into this too much. There are no feelings. Hence why I’ve already talked it over with both Erin and Sarina. Hence why I’m still getting married to Sarina. I was inviting you to the wedding, but I don’t know now. Really?” Dale was actually caught off-guard on the retracted wedding invite.

“I thought I was planning your bachelor party with Jimmie still?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no immediately.

“I’ve heard enough stories from Jimm-”

“We aren’t going to do anything that extreme.” Chase just continues to shakes his head.

“I want to actually be at my wedding, Dale. I don’t need a Hangover movie written after me.” Dale keeps his eyes locked on him.

“I wouldn’t do that to you – as long as you can guarantee me that you’re in this for the right reasons.” Chase then looks over at his former boss and teammate.

“There’s not one shadow of a doubt in my mind that I am.” Dale nods his head, accepting.

“Then I will make sure that you are there on your wedding day to say those words.” Dale then clears his throats as the camera man gives them a 10 second motion. “Ready?” Chase nods his head, as he takes a deep breath, focused back on his practice thoughts.

Sarina gives Rudy a high-five, pleased with their qualifying performance. It wasn’t the pole, but certainly she could make something happen from third later that afternoon.

“We’ve got the speed – let’s be smart,” Rudy reminds her as she nods her head in agreement. “It’s all about closing the deal.”

“I’m ready to build that momentum, put solid runs together, and get myself ready for those playoffs,” she offers and Rudy nods his head in agreement.

“You can do whatever you want for the first half of the season. All that matters, though, is how you perform those last seven. Let’s focus on that momentum.” She smiles as she leans back against the pit wall.

“I’m 100% focused on that.” Rudy could tell as he takes a quick glance around.

“So where’s the fiancé anyway?” She was caught off-guard by the question, but saw where it was coming from.

“His car has been handling like shit most of the weekend so he’s been focused on getting better. He got the win last week, but doesn’t want to be a fluke. The pressure is there to keep that momentum going, but they’ve struggled here. So they’re trying to figure out what they need and that takes times.” Rudy could relate to that, thanks to long nights spent going over notes.

“Am I still going to have a friend on the pit box during the race?” She smiles, nodding her head. No matter how busy they got on race weekends, they always watched each other’s races and always spent the night together to rehash over the events from the day. “I’d be worried if he didn’t show up.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rudy shrugs his shoulders. “Rudy….”

“It’d be out of character and when you start doing things like that, you know something is going on. I’m hoping you’re both done with drama for the rest of the year.” That was her wish in response, too.

“I hope so, Rudy. I need a break. I think the win and knowing Alison is locked away will bring that calmness. Now we just need to get the job done.” Rudy places a hand on her shoulder.

“That’s not a problem for me, ever.” He then walks away as she just smiles back in response.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 27: Chilly Willy 150

January 27, 2018 – Chilly Willy 150 – Tucson Speedway

“Are you feeling good?” Chase questions as Sarina glances up at him.

“For the millionth time today, Chase, I am fine and ready to go,” she answers. “If you want to drive, just damn well say it.” He chuckles, shaking his head no.

“I just want to make sure you’re good to go.” He leans in, giving her a kiss, before tightening the belts one last time and putting up the window net. “Do your thing.”

While he was thinking of retreating back to his usual spot in the middle of the corner, he instead climbed the pit box to join Ricky on top.

“One to go at the line,” Ricky tells her after a series of pace laps. “Focus, focus, focus. Remember – we got a long way to go here.”

“We can do this,” Sarina assures him.

“One lap to go at the line,” the spotter says and force of habit, Sarina gives the belts one more tug to make sure they’re tight. “Nevermind. Brandon Schilling stopped on the exit of turn two. Looks like he made contact with the wall.” Chase and Ricky then glance at each other confused.

“How do you hit the wall under pace laps?” Chase questions as Ricky shakes his head in disbelief.

“Strange things always happen at these late model events,” Ricky answers and Chase couldn’t help but agree, having tuned into highlights from Speedfest.

After Brandon’s car was towed off the track, the field was doubled back up and the green flag came out. It didn’t take long for business to pick up, as Sarina found herself in the midst of a three-way battle for fifth on Lap 4, but the caution flew for an incident further back in the pack.

“Patience, patience, patience,” Ricky reminded under the yellow flag. “This is a long race. We don’t need to be making a mistake in the early stages.” Ricky then looks over at Chase. “Besides, someone may wear his tapping foot out at this rate.” Chase immediately stops tapping his foot as Ricky just chuckles. “Are you nervous there?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Chase brushes it off as Ricky just rolls his eyes, focusing back on the race.

When the green flag came back out, it didn’t take long for action to pick right back up, enough for an ‘oh crap’ to escape Chase’s lips when she went four-wide for position. It didn’t take long for another caution, either, as a car went around in turn one on Lap 19.

“They’re racing like it’s the last 19 laps,” Chase comments as Ricky nods his head in agreement.

“Your races were the same way, bud,” Ricky says. “Why do you think I was glad when I could keep you up front in the top-three out of that mess?” Chase just shakes his head in disbelief as he gets comfortable, knowing they were in for a long night. It certainly was different than the calmness of how the Cup races began.

Sarina was initially get a good restart, set to continue charging forward in the top-10, but then it seemed like complete opposite. The car twitched sideways off of the corner, causing her to lose her momentum.

“Talk to me,” Ricky requests, as both he and Chase could tell something wasn’t right. It almost reminded Chase of a tire beginning to go down, or possible rear suspension issue with how quickly the car stepped out.

“Tire losing air possibly,” Sarina answers as she fights the handling, now back to 28th by Lap 23.

“Hold on to it. There’s going to be a fuel stop coming soon.” Everybody was told in the driver’s meeting there would be a chance to put fuel in between Lap 25 and 50, and that was all you were supposed to do at that time and you wouldn’t lose position. Chase knew that as soon as the yellow flag came out, it’d be the opportunity they needed – even if they had to restart from the tail. He just hoped that she could hold on to until then as the car looked evil, almost dead sideways off the corner that past lap.

“Caution!” The spotter lets out as the yellow flag is dropped from the flag stand as a result of fluid being dropped all the way down the backstretch. Chase and Ricky just glance at each other with a quick high-five, knowing it was the break they needed.

“Which tire is it?” Ricky requests as he focuses on the team, knowing the next task at hand.

“Left rear, I believe,” she reports and Ricky makes a motion to the pit crew below.

While the rest of the teams came in and simply put fuel in, the team went ahead and took the left rear tire off, replacing it with another. A quick glance over the tire and Ricky found a small hole, giving a nod to Chase, before reporting the finding to Sarina over the radio.

“Tires are not supposed to be chan-” An official begins as he walks over.

“Slow leak in the left rear,” Chase cuts him off, rolling the tire over. “We’ll take the penalty.”

Ricky and Chase then climb back on top of the pit box, set for the restart. Now back to last for the green flag, Chase could only take a deep breath and hope for the best. There was still over 100 laps to go. This wasn’t over just yet.

A couple pace laps in the books, and the field was back under green. The tire change was certainly the necessary fix as Sarina began to make up ground immediately, moving from the back of the field to run 13th as of Lap 31. She would fall back a couple spots, though, before the caution flew at Lap 45.

“Where am I?” She questions on the radio, immediately.

“16th,” Ricky answers, feeling pretty satisfied. If they could drive through half of the field in just 20 laps, then certainly another 100 was enough to get back to the front. “You’re doing a great job.”

“I’m trying to push to get up there, but not too hard. We need tires at the end of this thing.” Ricky smiles as he glances over at Chase with a bit of surprise. He could certainly see how much she had grown since their last time working together. it was obvious that both Marcus and Kyle had a hand in teaching patience.

“Do you see why I had no problem with her driving for Kyle?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, as he had seen the change too. Rather than always charging and being determined, she had taken a step back to make sure calculated moves were made, to therefore make sure to complete all the laps.

After a short clean-up, the green flag was back out – but not for long. As Sarina looked to make a move to continue gaining ground, a fellow competitor came down on her, causing her to spin and back it in the wall.

“Shit!” Ricky and Chase both let out together, knowing by the damage that they were done for the night.

“Son of a bitch!” She yells on the radio as she takes the steering wheel off, tossing it on the dashboard. She then climbed from the car, walking over to where the other car had come to rest. “Can’t you see when someone has a nose inside of you? Ridiculous! It’s Lap 46. There are still like 104 laps to go. You don’t need to be driving like an asshole this early!”

She then makes her way into the infield, heading directly to the trailer and inside.

“Welp, that sucks,” Ricky comments as he packs up everything on the pit box.

“We had a good car,” Chase adds as he follows Ricky. “She could’ve gotten back up to Preston easily.” Ricky nods his head in agreement as they reach the hauler. They go to enter, but Chase puts a hand on Ricky’s shoulder.

“I know what she’s like when she’s ma-”

“Just give her some space for a minute, please. Besides, I have a question for you.” Ricky turns around, facing him, as he crosses his arms. “You have an offer from a top-notch driver to work with them on a full-time basis at all the big events and such across the United States. Why haven’t you accepted that?”

“Because I wanted to work with you and Sarina. I told you that, Chase.” Chase nods his head, remembering the discussion.

“What if I told you that you had my blessing? What if I told you that it was fine to separate and you go do your own thing? This Late Model deal that we have was only going to happen, say three or four more times this year. Someone of your talent deserves to be working with a driver every single week, winning races. I can’t hold you back from an opportunity like that. They deserve the same chance that I got, Sarina got.” Ricky smiles a little as he thinks it over.

“I appreciate that, because to be honest, it was the hardest thing to walk awa-”

“Then why did you in the first place?” Ricky’s smile widens as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“My commitment, my friendship, my loyalty to you. The fact that you’ll always be the little rug rat to me, and I’ll always have a soft spot for you. Maybe I also didn’t want to let go of what we had, either.” Chase smiles, knowing it was pretty special, based on the success both he and Sarina had gotten to enjoy. “Are you absolutely certain about this?”

“Yeah, I am. You’ve earned this, Ricky, and I hope you win a ton of races this year – as long as you don’t beat Sarina too much when she runs a couple for Kyle.” Ricky chuckles as he thinks it over.

“I’ll try not to blow your doors off, how’s that?” Chase laughs. “Promise you’ll always come say hi, though?” Chase nods his head. “Alright, it’s settled.” They then watch the tow truck bring the car back in, setting it down before the hauler, as the pair look it over, before eyes glance at each other. “What are you going to do about that thing?”

“Sarina and I know our way around a racecar. I’m sure we can find something to do in our spare time now, and when it’s ready, we’ll figure out a way to bring it out.” Ricky shakes his head, almost wanting to take a seat in the shop to see the show.

“I don’t know if I could see either of you as a crew chief.” Chase raises his eyebrows, actually intrigued by the idea. It’d certainly be different calling the shots for Sarina.

“We could definitely not see Sarina in tha-”

“Hey now, you don’t give that girl enough credit. You got to remember that she worked on her own stuff for years, and she beat you sometimes.” Chase thinks back, knowing that Ricky was actually right.

They then watch as the trailer doors open and Sarina steps out, changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

“I’m okay before you ask,” she states, knowing that Chase was probably going to ask that next. “I’m just surprised neither of you came in to say something to me.”

“We got talking,” Chase offers and she nods her head, having seen them together outside the window the whole time.

“Well, I took some time, deep breathes, and realized that not everybody is a smart racecar driver. What else can I say about tonight? We had a good car, and we did everything that we could right. It wasn’t our fault that we had the tire leak, and it wasn’t our fault that he wrecked us. I’m happy with what we did, and ready to move forward.” Chase and Ricky both smile, as neither felt like entering a calm-down session with her.

“There is something we need to tell-” Ricky starts, knowing she had a right to know what he had discussed with Chase.

“I overheard the conversation and my feelings match Chase’s,” she cuts him off, to his surprise a little. “You should’ve taken that opportunity and ran with it. I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to competing against you at times this year.”

“Promise you’ll take it easy on my driver?” Sarina smiles, knowing already who he was going to be working with anyway.

“Are you kidding me? I know crazy talented Chandler is!” Chase nods his head in agreement. “Besides, when have I ever taken it easy on someone?”

—————————-

Sunday, January 28, 2018 – No Name, Colorado

Chase and Sarina walk over to where they were supposed to meet up with Dale, as he glances between the pair in a bit of surprise.

“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” he comments, as the pair glance at each other, before turning back to him.

“It was a bit of a late night at the Chilly Willy,” Chase offers and Dale nods his head, having been following the updates.

“I heard about that, and hated to see that. I was cheering you on for the greatest comeback ever.” Sarina smiles, as she had already envisioned the headlines after the initial charge halfway up through.

“We had the car,” Sarina comments. “We just failed to teach our competitors how to drive.” Dale chuckles, knowing how that felt at times.

“I see that you’re ready to go,” Dale starts as he notices the skis and poles in Chase’s hands, before his eyes go to Sarina. “Where are yours? I thought you were excited.” Sarina smiles, as she remembered the initial discussions on Friday.

“Trust me – I was all set to hit the slopes with you guys. But, I hate to admit it, I’m a little sore today. So while you guys have some fun, I’m going to go get a nice relaxing massage, manicure, pedicure, and then go soak in the hot tub for awhile.” Dale admittedly was surprised by some of the items on her list, given what he knew about her, but couldn’t argue with her reasoning.

“Well make sure to take it easy, and hope you’re feeling better.”

“Text me if you need me,” Chase adds, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Be careful and have fun,” she replies back, giving him a kiss on the lips before walking away. the entire time, Chase’s eyes didn’t leave her as Dale just crossed his arms.

“You know, we can postpone this if you want to go spend tim-” Dale starts.

“Nah, I’m good,” Chase immediately cuts him off as he looks back over at his friend. “Let’s go have some fun.” The pair then make their way out of the lodge, heading towards the lifts to go up the hill.

“It’s okay to admit that you’re deeply in love, can’t take your eyes off of her, want to spend every minute with her, ador-”

“I get it, Dale.” He then glances over as they wait for their lift. “Yeah, I am in love and I would do anything for her. She absolutely is amazing and perfect, and I can’t stop those feelings. I’m not afraid to admit it, okay?” Dale nods his head, accepting, as they get on the lift.

“But you haven’t asked her the important question yet, have you?” Chase lets out a sigh, shaking his head no.

“What does it matter, anyway? As long as two people are happy together in love, isn’t that all that matters? I’m happy, she’s happy – there doesn’t need to anything else said.” Dale keeps his eyes locked on Chase, intrigued by the comments. He always thought Chase would be up for asking the question. Given that he and Sarina had hit two years together, everything they’d been through, and the adoring love – where was the next step? Just like he bugged Martin each time he saw him, Dale wasn’t afraid to bug Chase now. But, he was also able to sympathize if any apprehension, due to his own experience.

“You’re right, as no matter what you choose, as long as you’re both okay with it, then it’s fine. I just don’t want her to begin to wonder whether you’re going to ask or not, and whether you’re committed to her.” Chase was surprised by the comments, given everything that happened, almost letting out a chuckle. “What?”

“I can assure you that there is no way she questions my commitment to her. I have showed that time and time again I am always going to be there by her side. No matter what happened, Dale, I was always committed to her and willing to do what it took for her and I together. Even when I kicked her out, I was longing and ready to work at building that road back together, again. I’ve told her time and time again how much I love her and car-”

“Relax, it’s okay. I understand. You don’t need to be offended.” Chase glances over at Dale, intrigued by the comment.

“It just bothers me that people question that – whether you, Ricky, Ryan, Jimmie – because I haven’t asked her to marry me. What happened to good old fashioned belief in people?” Dale lets out a sigh as he glances around the hill.

“We’ve seen your relationship go through a yo-yo experience. We’re just looking out for you, Chase.” Chase wanted to argue back in response, but he couldn’t. It was the same way that he was always looking out for Sarina.

“Because of everything we’ve gone through and the fact that we’re still together, I don’t question it anymore. I actually think it helped us both because it made us realize how much we love each other, and need each other. We’ve talked about our future together. We’ve talked about being parents one day down the road. I know that she’s in it with me, and that’s what matters to me.” Dale smiles, glad to hear about the commitment, and even discussions of a future together. But it almost left him caught off guard a little bit more.

“Then what’s stopping you from asking her?” Chase glances down at the hills, taking a deep breath. It wasn’t just a simple answer in return as his mind had a series of questions to ask. “You don’t have to tell me, but make sure you think about it for awhile. Sure, people can live together and be in love forever without marriage. But, to be married together, to say your vows and express that before a room full of people, it gives a whole new meaning that I can’t even describe. I was worried, and I was scared because of my parents, and how love wasn’t the easiest at times. Part of me wondered if I should ask Amy, scared to mess it up. But now that we’ve been married for a year, I don’t regret it.” They then hop off the lift together having reached the top of the hill as Dale looks over at Chase. “Are you ready to go down?”

“Yeah.” Chase fixes his goggles and gloves, as he takes a deep breath, clearing his mind. But he knew later on, he would probably be brought back right to this discussion, with a flurry of thoughts and theories to think about.