The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 63: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Sunday, April 8 – Texas Motor Speedway

Chase wakes up, grabbing his phone immediately as he checks for any text messages or phone calls. Seeing nothing, he lets out a long sigh as he puts it back on the small night table. He wanted to believe that last night was a nightmare, but the text that did remain on the phone told him otherwise.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly gets out of the bed, making his way into the small kitchen of the motorcoach. He was actually taken by surprise when he smelt breakfast, giving him another bleep of hope that it was a nightmare, but seeing just Jordan at the table said otherwise.

“Hey,” Jordan says quietly, unsure of really what to say in response. “I heard you wake up, so I made you breakfast.” Chase simply sits down quietly.

“Thanks,” he replies as he picks up the fork.

“Was there any updates?” He shakes his head no as he tries to eat a piece of the egg. “Damn. Listen, you’ll get something soon, I’m sure. They’re going to find her. You have to belie-”

“Alison is the master of the hide and seek as she’s played that game with me all season, Jordan. It really gives me so much hope that they’re going to find her.” Jordan understood the response, but wanted to believe otherwise.

“I get it, I really do. But you can’t ever stop believing in Sari-”

“Don’t you dare go questioning that, Jordan…” Jordan lets out a sigh.

“Look, I don’t know what to say to make you feel better. I just know that things are going to work out somehow.” Chase glances up, simply nodding his head in return.

“And I didn’t mean to cut your head off, either – today or last night.” Jordan knew that as it wasn’t like Chase, but he understood with the current circumstances. That’s why he just let the attitude continue to slide off his shoulders.

“From what I’ve heard, Alan says that your parents are going come by and stay with you – or even let you head out to Nashvi-”

“Why would I leave the state when I have a race today?” Jordan’s jaw almost dropped immediately in hearing those words. He was all set to get the car ready for Elliott Sadler to drive. “Oh, that’s right. Everybody is concerned about me so arrangements have been put in place for either Elliott or Justin.”

“Chase, your mind is elsewhere right now as we know you’re worried sick over Sarina. We both know that you were up late last night. We both know that you’re not thinking the clearest because you want to make sure that she is okay. It was just an executive decision made by Alan, Rick, and Jeff because of what happe-”

“I understand, and trust me – I appreciate everybody being so caring. But, I am racing today.” Jordan just shakes his head in return as he texts Alan. “I’ll be fine, and I can handle i-”

“Are you even listening to yourself right now?” Chase nods his head as he sets his fork down.

“Jordan, I know myself better than anybody else, right? I also know what Sarina would say to me right now. Whether it’s this way or if the roles were reversed, we’re both racers at heart. We would want the other to go out there and try our hardest to win that race for the other. She was in the hospital, and all she pushed was for me to go race. I did the same to her. I will be fine today because I am going to do everything in my power to win for her.” Jordan could understand where Chase was coming from, and believed in his best friend. He just wasn’t sure if that was going to be an understanding across the board.

“I texted Alan and told him what you said. He told me to send back to you that you don’t have to feel pressu-”

“I’m not feeling any pressu-”

“I already told him, Chase.” Jordan takes a deep breath as he reads the next message. “Alan says if you’re insisting, then we’ll go with it. But the minute that there’s something off, we’re switching drivers. Morgan has also cancelled morning appearances.” Chase nods his head as he picks his fork back up. “You know, you can tell me what’s on your min-”

“I told you last night, didn’t I? I just want her to be okay.” Jordan nods his head accepting.

“Let me know when you’re ready and we’ll head out…”

Jordan sat back quietly allowing Chase to go through whatever morning ritual or whatever he wanted. It wasn’t long before they were ready to go, though, meeting up with the rest of the team who expressed their support and concern. With that out of the way, Alan made the call in the meeting for everyone to simply focus on their jobs for the rest of the day – while noting he’d watch Chase’s phone for updates during the race.

The pair then went to the driver’s meeting together, receiving the same comments of support and concern from fellow competitors. There were even a couple who wondered why Chase was even there, but understood once they heard the explanation.

Chase then retreated back to the hauler, changing into the fire suit, before giving his phone another glance for a possible update. With a simple nod, the trip was made out to pit road and once again – all eyes laid on his shoulders. There were some fans and other team’s pit crew members who felt the worry they knew he had, while others wanted to lend a hand of support. And just like his competitors, some even had doubts in the back of their mind.

For Chase, it didn’t matter what everybody was thinking around him. taking a deep breath, he was there to do a job and for the next four hours, he could forget about the worry – and hope that once the race was over, maybe they’d have the answer he wanted.

Starting 20th on the grid, the race started out strong for Chase as he was able to put himself in the top-10 before the end of the first stage. It seemed the plan to do something special for Sarina was going along fine. A ninth in the first stage, followed by a sixth in the second, and it was easy to see why the team was happy.

Of course, their happiness was subsided a little when about 20 laps into the final stage, Chase reported a vibration. Citing the better safe than sorry route, he headed down pit road, giving up fourth-place, for four tires and fuel under green. Chase’s concerns were also valid as Alan confirmed a loose wheel with the pit crew.

“Come on guys – let’s stay on task here,” he reminds them. “Remember we’re trying to make something special happen today for someone….” The crew just gave the crew chief a nod, not needing another word as Alan made his way back on top of the pit box.

Thankfully, there were no wrecks or incidents during the entire pit cycle, allowing everybody else to pit that was on the lead lap and cycle Chase back to the front. Nothing like a double lucky whammy in watching the caution fly shortly after, allowing them to pit under yellow and remain on the lead lap.

“Get a drink here,” Eddie says, as per his usual duties and like any other caution. However, it was extra requested here in wanting to make sure driver took care of himself with everything going on. Alan also had the extra duty in keeping tabs on the radio for any signs that a switch was needed.

“Hydrated here,” Chase reports back. “How about you?” Eddie had to roll his eyes as normally he didn’t get asked back in response. Besides, it wasn’t a good reminder of the his current situation either.

“I have to pee….” The entire team chuckled on pit road in hearing the news, wondering if they had binoculars they could see Eddie doing the potty dance.

“I do too, actually. it’s cold here…” Eddie could’ve smacked him almost in that moment as if it was cold in the car, that meant freezing on the roof top – and that was exactly the case.

Back under green, Chase was able to work his way back up to fourth as the leaders began to make their way down pit road. With debate whether to go the full fuel run hoping for a caution but losing time to those who pitted, or to come down early, Alan elected for the lather of the pair.

Once they were back on- track, Chase had fallen a lap down and back in 14th. However, if it continued to cycle out, they’d be back in the top-10 about where they felt they were car-wise in eighth position approximately.

Then it happened. A blown tire for Ryan Newman brought out the caution, trapping him a lap down, as four other cars hadn’t pitted yet along with Newman.

“Four tires and fuel,” Alan made the call on the radio as Chase came down pit road with the leaders. Another glance at the leaderboard and Alan wanted to smack himself silly. He hadn’t realized that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was still up there and lead lap, meaning they were a lap down. On top of not being able to take wavearound now, they would be stuck starting tail end of longest line for pitting too soon. “We’re fucked. That’s my bad. I didn’t even realize. It’s on me…” Alan just shook his head as he glanced back down at his own notes.

“Dude, are you okay?” Kevin Hulstein asks as he takes off the headset so only the pair could hear each other.

“I’m fine – I just made an honest mistake,” Alan tells him as Kevin nods his head.

“Kevin and I can take over if you want,” Tom suggests as Alan looks over confused. “You don’t need to explain it to us. We know Chase may be off his game because of what’s going on, but we also understand if you are as well. We can handle the rest if you wa-”

“I’m fine, and this had nothing to do with Sarina being missing. I literally made an error in not letting it register in my mind that Ricky was leader when I checked the monitor as everybody pitted. I fucked up as I said – and for no other reason that you’re trying to convey.”

“Okay – we’re just looking out for you.” Alan simply nods his head back in return as he focuses back on the on-track action.

Following the restart, Chase was able to work his way up from the 14th spot to 11th in the lucky dog position with 20 laps to go. Unfortunately, no more cautions resulted in being trapped there, handing them an 11th-place finish.

Alan immediately apologized following the race to Chase, stating that he had screwed up on both occasions with strategy and the final pit sequence.

“We all make mistake,” Chase tells him. “We’re getting stronger as a team, and we’re finding the speed we’ve been lacking. It’ll come together, don’t worry.” He then accepts his phone from the crew chief, checking once again for a message. “No updates?”

“Not a single thing,” Alan replies as Chase shakes his head. “I know your worry is growing because it’s a whole day, but I will keep saying it just as Jordan has – she will be okay.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“I know. I just wish I knew something, anything. But I guess right now, no news is good news.” Alan simply accepted that as he wrapped an arm around Chase’s shoulders as they head to the garage area together.

Chase walks in the front door of the house, closing it and leaning back against it immediately.

After being surrounded by the entire team all weekend, he had asked them to give him space that night and just leave him be. His emotions were going 200 miles per hour, and he just wanted some kind to catch his breath – alone. Really, in his mind, he would prefer that Alison try something with him alone because it’d lead him to Sarina and right now, he’d do anything.

His eyes caught the phone once again, waiting, begging for any sort of message to come through. But he wasn’t that lucky or spoiled, as it remained just like before – silent.

Taking a deep breath, it almost made him sick to his stomach standing there in their house with her missing somewhere stuck with someone like Alison. How was that even humanly fair?

“I wondering when you’d get home,” he hears a female voice, taking him out of his thoughts. His hope meter pegged, wanting it to be Sarina so badly as he followed the source of the voice to the front room. However, instead, he saw the horror of sights.

“How did you get in?” He immediately questions, only to hear a laugh back in response.

“I can find my way anywhere I want – remember?” He takes a deep breath, not wanting to let her words mess with his thoughts. There was only one goal now.

“Where’s Sarina?” That was meant with another laugh.

“I’m not telling you.” He wasn’t surprised by the answer.

“Look, this is between you and I; it has always been between us from day one. Let her go, and let’s settle this between us. I don’t care what happens to me – I just want her to be okay, please.” Alison licks her lips as she keeps her eyes locked on the young man.

“I can’t just obey your orders, but you’re going to obey mine.” Chase makes his way further into the room, feeling as though there’s nothing to lose. If she gets caught right now in his house, then at least she’s away from Sarina and it’s a matter of just finding her.

“Really? Because all I want to know is one thing – where’s Sarina?” Alison shakes her head no. “You’re going to tell m-”

“Actually, I’m not, because I have something in mind for you.” She then stands up, standing face-to-face with him as she pulls a phone out of her pocket. “There’s a video feed I can show you on here that show your little pretty little girl, as well as a friend of mine. All I have to do is press send on my phone, and he will do what I request – finish her. However, we can make a deal.” As Chase had said, he would do anything for Sarina – and he meant those words. There was no way that he was going to watch Sarina get hurt further because of Alison.

“I’m listening….” Alison smiles as it was the reaction she expected.

“You’re going to do as I request right here and now and I won’t hurt her. You’re going to let me leave without holding me back, and I won’t hur-”

“How can I trust you?” It was a question worth asking based on history.

“Because I’ll be back tomorrow. I want something from you each day in return for her safe keeping. Consider it payment for my hospitality.” Chase felt disgusted immediately, but knew there was no other choice.

“What do you want?” A smirk forms on her face as she pushes him back on to the couch.

“I think you know what I want…” He felt disgusted immediately, and wanted to scream with all his might, but bit his tongue instead in knowing the stakes.

“Fine….” She places the phone beside him, pressing a button as the video feed comes into view. “Sarina….”

“She can’t hear you, babes….” She immediately straddles herself on him, pushing her lips against his, deepening the kiss as much as she could while reaching underneath his shirt. She rubs his chest a little, before pulling her hand out, and backing away. “I need to go before I am caught. Remember the deal. I’ll see your sweet ass later.”

“Just promise me you won’t hur-”

“You have your answer already.” Alison then picks up the phone, heading back out through the back door where she had broken in.

Closing his eyes, running his hands through his hair, feeling the hot tears roll down his cheeks, all he could do was wish it was over as soon as possible. For the rest of the night, it was like he couldn’t get the disgusted taste of Alison off his lips, continuing to feel it despite washing his lips off as many times as he could.

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

Monday, April 9 – Charlotte, North Carolina

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Alan asks as he stands by the doorway of the house.

The pair had spent the entire day together as Alan had picked him up in the morning, not wanting to see him driving right now with the worry meter pegged. They had gone over to Hendrick Motorsports for a series of meetings, before spending some time talking about his worry in the office. They even accepted visit from the officers who, like always, had no further leads or updates for them. However, the questions they had were answered for whatever it was worth.

They made a quick stop over at Kyle Busch Motorsports, wanting to double check how everybody was doing there. Kyle wasn’t lying when he said Marcus was upset beyond anything, but Chase assured him that the crew chief did what he could, and Sarina would be okay.

Now back at the house, it was dinner and another round of discussion, followed by Chase assuring Alan it was okay to head home for the night as he would be okay.

“I promise,” Chase assures him as he looks over from the couch. “I’ll call you or text you later if it makes you feel better.” Alan nods his head, accepting.

“Stay strong, kid,” Alan says, before heading out the door, still not sure about the whole leaving him alone aspect.

Chase spent the next two hours sitting on the couch, contemplating his nerves. He so badly wanted to say something to someone, anyone about Alison’s visits but couldn’t bring himself to say the words. What it if meant further harm for Sarina? He couldn’t risk that. So instead, he kept it to himself, and waited for her to come.

Just like before, she came through the back door and just like before, she loaded the video so Chase could see that Sarina, indeed, hadn’t been harmed any further.

“A deal is a deal,” Alison says as she once again assumes the same position, pressing her lips once again against his, as he debated grabbing her and returning the favor. However, seeing Sarina on the screen, he held back every bit of resistance, as Sarina pushed her body further against his. Satisfied after a good 20 minutes, she gets up and leaves without a trace.

“You can’t keep doing this,” he tells himself as he remains stunned on the couch, tears once again rolling down his face, part of him ready to reach for the phone and almost doing so. However, a deep breath and another attempt to wipe the taste away, and he stayed frozen.

Nobody could know – not yet anyway. He had to put a plan in mind first.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 49: Pennzoil 400

Sunday March 4, 2018 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

After being released earlier that morning, Chase makes his way into the garage with Sarina, fingers locked together as they make their way to the trailer. They go inside and up into the lounge, sliding the door closed behind them.

“Do you need my help?” She questions and he shakes his head no, slipping his pants off. “Chase, if you’re not feeling good, let’s just go tell Alan and let Just-”

“I’m fine,” he cuts her off as he slips the bottom of his firesuit on. He pauses, taking a deep breath, as his eyes locked with hers. “I’m fine, okay? I’m ready to go today with full certainty.”

“Just promise me that if something comes up, you will let Justin take over.” Chase nods his head, accepting, as he slips off his shirt. He then pulls his firesuit, biting his tongue in the process, as he slips it on. “I just don’t want you doing this because you think you need to impress everybody, or hold up to this standard, or do it because of Alison. You need to take care of yourself.”

“I told you that I was fine, and I am fine.” She lets out a sigh, as she wanted to believe in those words. However, she couldn’t let go of the fact what had just happened not even 24 hours ago, and felt every piece of her heart cringe in watching him go through that again. She felt everything flash before her once again, and almost wanted to run and cry somewhere. It certainly had her entering today’s race on high alert.

Changed into his firesuit, he makes his way to the garage, watching the crew went about their normal pre-race routine before heading over to technical inspection. Taking a deep breath, it was certainly a nice sight and a good distraction from everything. For Chase, escaping any reminder of Alison was a welcome sight right now. While he had let off Emma easy with having been part of Alison getting away, it was certainly back to eating at him more than he had wanted. He kept wondering where the next decision would come.

“Please tell me you didn’t escape the hospital this morning without permission,” he hears and immediately chuckles, holding up the release papers that he knew NASCAR would want if they had gotten word about what happened – which was likely. He had actually been lucky it wasn’t all over the news considering it happened in a public place. Jordan takes the paper, reading over it, before handing it back over. “Okay, that’s great you’re fine and released. But seriously, why are you here?”

“I’m ready to go today,” he answers, causing the interior mechanic’s jaw to drop. Jordan had been all set to get Justin over there in the car, and everything fitted as closely as possible, believing there was no chance that Chase would be set to go after hearing the news from Alan. However, now his driver stood before him?

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head. “Dude, you just spent the night in the hospital, and I bet there’s still lingering effe-”

“Feeling nauseous was talked about this morning,” Sarina throws in, actually welcoming the third degree from Jordan.

“So the fact that you could throw up or have something lingering, plus the fact that we’re only now what? Three weeks removed from crashing into Daytona beach and bruising some ribs, on top of crashing a racecar at 180 mph? But yet, we’re going to stand here and say that we’re ready to go today?” Chase nods his head as Jordan crosses his arms. “Throwing yourself in that car today as a distraction isn’t healthy, or a welcome sight. I know you don’t want to think about it, but using this as a distraction when you’re not 100% is not right.”

“So that’s why you think I’m doing this?” Chase questions and Jordan nods his head. chase could only let out a sigh. “Maybe you’re right, but can you blame me after everything? How would you feel if someone was constantly tormenting you every single damn week of your life?” He takes a deep breath, realizing more of his emotions were coming out than warranted.

“Chas-” Jordan starts, but Chase puts his hand up.

“I’m not denying what you’re saying, Jordan. You know that better than anyone here, actually. but that’s not why I am fully committed to today. Sure, my ribs are sore as they’ve been for the past couple of weeks. Sure, there may be a lingering effect or two, but that’s why I took two Gravol this morning. I know myself, I know my body, and I know what I can handle. I will be fine today.” Jordan takes a deep breath, hating to have a confrontation like this with him, but it was only out of caring for him that he threw it back in his face.

“Just promise me that you’ll do somethin-”

“Justin will be on the pit box as back-up if needed, and I already promised Sarina. But, trust me, I’m fine.” Jordan nods his head, accepting.

“By the way, we know enough doctors around the country now. let’s stop meeting them, okay?” Chase couldn’t help but agree as Jordan walks away.

Despite every bit of nerve that she may had been experiencing, she found herself sitting on the pit box, ready for another race day. There was nothing that she could do to stop this, so all she could do was be the supportive girlfriend and hope everything went smoothly.

The Pennzoil 400 started off smoothly, as Chase ran in the top-10 throughout the first two stages, feeling confident that they had a solid base moving forward into the second half of the race. A couple more adjustments and they’d be good to go.

The third stage started off even better, as he was even able to break into the top-five a little, before the caution flew for Jamie McMurray blowing a tire.

The restart brought forth the usual expected chaos, with three-wide racing throughout the field. The second lap afterwards, Kurt Busch made a move underneath Chase off of turn four, ready to try and snag the position. However, to the surprise of everyone, he got loose, turning up across the track coming onto the front straightaway, taking Chase up into the wall with him.

“What the hell?” Eddie D’Hondt immediately questions on the radio, which matched the reaction of everybody on the pit box as well.

“He just came wide open up the track,” Chase comments, knowing immediately their day was done based on the amount of front end damage in seeing how far the hood was buckled up. Thankfully, the impact wasn’t too hard that he was feeling it, as he knew that wouldn’t bode well given how he was feeling already.

“Jerk.” Sarina had to chuckle at how clearly Eddie made his feelings known about the situation, but couldn’t help but agree – not really caring if Kurt meant it or not. He should know his limits, right?

“What in the hell?” Alan questions, still confused as ever as he hadn’t even moved from his spot on the pit box. Even watching the replays, it just didn’t seem to make sense that just like that, their day was ruined.

“Lost control of his car,” Eddie tries to reason. “Carried too much speed.” It was the only explanation humanly possible.

Once back in the garage, Chase made the mandatory walk over to the care center, easily getting checked in and out despite everything going on. After a reminder about breathing exercises, and possibly wanting to ice those ribs, he was allowed to go without reservation.

The trip also allowed him to cross paths with Kurt, who apologized for the contact.  It didn’t mean much, nor did it really make up for what happened, but at least it was nice to see a guy admit something for a change.

“It was unfortunate,” Chase tells the media outside of the care center. “I thought we were getting a little bit of momentum.  We had a really good pit stop there and gained a bunch of spots on pit road, got ourselves inside the top five and could run with them for a few laps.  So, just trying to make the most of what we had and there was no guarantee how it was going to end up and ended up poorly. We will move on down the road.”

He then makes his way back to the garage, standing back as he watches the crew get the car ready to load in the trailer, just shaking his head with a sigh.

“Are you okay?” Alan questions as he walks over, and Chase simply nods his head quietly. “You can tell me how you’re feeling…”

“Disappointed, upset, pissed off,” he answers. “We finally start to get somewhere and this happens. Now in three weeks, we’ve wrecked two cars. Great start to the season, right?” Alan wraps an arm around his shoulders.

“On the flip side, we still have the speed that we finished last year with, and we were able to make headway at Atlanta where we struggled. We’re also headed to Phoenix, where I believe someone almost won last year. I’m not losing my faith in you or this team, ever.” Chase smiles a little as it was a nice pick me up from the crew chief. “On a much serious note, though, promise me you’ll take care of yourself this week. Get the much needed rest, relaxation, and do what you need for you. don’t even worry about tomorrow’s mee-”

“I’m comi-”

“The number one thing that matters is your health, end of the day. I’d rather you take the time to sleep in, relax, and focus on yourself before you have to jet off to California. Look at what you’ve been through this weekend. Take a step back, and properly handle things.” Chase glances down as Alan keeps his eyes locked on him. “I know what you told at Atlanta. Being able to sit in that trailer with me for a couple hours was the perfect distraction. I understand that’s why maybe that meeting tomorrow would be therapy. But what happens when we keep pushing ourselves and fall over the edge? We crash and burn, and it hurts worse. You need to take care of yourself, Chase. you need to get the rest that you need physically, and you need to find a balance with your emotions.”

“Do you realize how hard that is with everything going on?” Alan sighs, nodding his head.

“It’s asking a lot, but you need to do it for yourself, whether that means talking to Sarina, your parents, me, Jordan, or figuring it out yourself.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“I’ll try, okay? And Alan, I appreciate the support. You’ve gone above and beyond.” Alan wraps his arm around his shoulders.

“I care about you, and while I want to win, that’s what matters end of the day is you.” Alan walks away back to the team as Chase closes his eyes, thinking over their discussion.

Taking a deep breath, perhaps the crew chief was right and onto something. Maybe the time away in Colorado was what the doctor ordered.

Monday March 5, 2018 – California

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Sarina questions, fixing her dress, before Chase pulls her close to him. He had grown used to her repeating the question pointless times over the past 24 hours, but wasn’t going to let it annoy him as he understood her nerves.

“I feel totally fine today – as if nothing happened this past weekend,” he answers, as she glances up into his brown eyes. “I’m serious. I haven’t felt a single thing.”

“And you’re not lying to me to make me feel better?” He shakes his head no, as he brings her left hand up to his ribs.

“These, they are a little sore still from those bruises, but they’re slowly getting easier to handle every single day. But as far as feeling sick, stomach pain, sore throat – that’s all gone.” She nods her head, accepting, as she instinctively begins to rub his side.

“For the record, I don’t want to ever see them pump out of your stomach again…” He made a disgusted face in reaction, certainly not liking the experience at all either.

“I don’t ever want to experience that again. The after taste of everything, along with my throat being sore, was just a terrible combination.” He then leans in, lightly kissing her lips. “Are you ready to go in there and face him, again?”

“He’s my brother, Chase. That’s my family. I brought this on myse-”

“It’s not your fault that you’re related to hi-”

“But I allowed him to open the door and get to you, again.” Chase nods his head, this discussion taking him back to Daytona immediately.

“What did I tell you originally? I don’t hold it back against you because I understand that want to give him a second chance, rekindle, do what you can. It’s the same reason Shelley is pushing this issue again despite everything being wrong with it. You don’t need to apologize, okay?” She lets out a sigh as she lays her head against his chest.

“It doesn’t make this any better….” He rubs her back, as he takes a deep breath. He was trying to keep his nerves at ease knowing that she needed all the comfort he could muster today.

“I know. Let’s just go in there, and get this over with, okay?” She nods her head, accepting, as they separate, hands still locked together as they make their way inside, and take their seats accordingly.

As they lead Chris into the room, Chase found himself looking everywhere but towards him, not wanting a single reminder of their past together as there was enough swirling his mind with relation to Alison to even begin to think about him. But he also clutched Sarina’s hand tighter, as if he was passing his strength onto her, knowing that this was probably tearing her in different directions as it had in the past.

As Chris gets set to sit down, Chase hears his phone go off, silently cursing himself for not putting it on silent as he was supposed to. He quickly reaches into his pocket, putting it on silent, but not before his eyes caught who had sent the text message.

“What would Jordan want?” He questions to himself as he opens the message, reading it in full. He then glances up and over towards Shelley, before glancing towards Chris, followed by his eyes looking back down at his phone. “Of course…”

“What’s wrong?” Sarina asks, catching his unease immediately.

“Noth-”

“Don’t lie to me, Chase Elliott.” He takes a deep breath as he shows her the text message.

“Alison left a message at Hendrick Motorsports’ doorstep after hours with a warning of her own. The secretary picked it up this morning, and it made its way to my office – catching Jordan’s attention obviously. He opened it.” Sarina lets out a sigh as she takes the phone, reading the photo of the message that Jordan had attached.

“Decisions are made by everybody each day of their life. Your decision today will affect not only the future of one person, but yours and those around you. It’s your move.” She hands him back his phone, shaking her head immediately. “She’s trying to guilt you into letting the motion go through about Chris by threatening you and those around you.”

“Well, she’s in for a rude awakening because there’s no way Chris is walking down those streets again.” He takes a deep breath, thoughts immediately swirling about the re-precautions of that, wondering what Alison’s next move would be, as quickly he texts Jordan back in return. “I’m done playing games. I told her that on Saturday. She’s going to try and drop a note off, or pull some move, and she’s going to get caught. We’re going to be okay.” He places his phone back in his pocket, wrapping his arm around Sarina as he pulls her close.

The judge came in, instantly reading off the request filed by Shelley. Chase and Sarina’s lawyer was asked whether the motion would be accepted, and the answer was simple – no, due to a laundry list of reasons.

“I have records of all the trial hearings from the past two years in relation to Chris’ behavior, and eventual guilty verdict with the stipulation in place,” the judge begins. “It will take some time, but I plan to read through everything accordingly. I also plan to have it analyzed by three third-party psychologist to get their opinions. Once all that is processed, we will re-join here and discuss my findings. Until that time, nothing changes in regards to Chris’ situation. Court adjourned!”

With their fingers crossed as they left the court room, they both hoped that the judge saw everything that they knew already. Chase held those fingers extra tighter, hoping that his thoughts in Alison being found came true sooner than later.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 42: Daytona 500

Sunday, February 18 – Daytona International Speedway

It may have been the biggest race of the year, but Chase began the day like he would any race day – a quick shower in the morning, along with breakfast, before heading out to go through the usual sponsor appearances. Each of those went according to plan with no issues, as each of them wished him best of luck along with a series of photos.

He was getting finished up with the final one for the day – NAPA – and set to leave, when someone placed an envelope in his hand.

“We found this here addressed to you when we got here,” the older man tells him and Chase simply nods his head in return. He didn’t need to glance down at the envelope to know who it was from.

“Thank you sir,” he simply replies, clutching it in his hand as he shoves the envelope in his sweater pocket.

“Do I want to know?” Morgan wonders as they leave and Chase just shakes his head. “I can take it if you wan-”

“All notes go to Jordan, and Jordan opens them. He lets me know if there’s something important, and then passes it along to where it goes.” Morgan was caught off-guard, but simply nodded her head in acceptance in return. “It’s a system we developed when they started to try and make it easier on me.”

“Okay. Well if I ever can do anything to help, just let me know.”

“Thank you.”

He makes his way to the garage area, seeing Jordan standing by with the team as they get ready to push the car out to the grid. He quietly slips him the envelope, with a nod, before continuing on his way back to the motorcoach.

Jordan lets out a sigh as he glances at the white envelope, slowly ripping away the back of it. He pulls out the slip of paper, looking around, before reading the writing inside.

“I hope the message is getting to you clearly,” he reads. “A decision will be coming, and I hope you make the right one.” Jordan was puzzled, and could only wonder as to what was going to happen next.

With Alison, he could only guess on the variables – but knew it would have to deal with Sarina in some way, if she got her way. Taking a deep breath, he just hoped the measures put in place stopped that from happening.

He then made the familiar phone call, speaking of the details, before agreeing to when they would grab the note and envelope for evidence.

Sarina gets comfortable in her usual spot, as Jordan glances over with a pat on her leg.

“500 miles, 200 laps – you can do this,” he tells her as she glances over nervously.

“You saw me yesterday and you think today will be easy?” She questions and he shrugs his shoulders. In his belief, the driver was going to make it easy by staying up front all day long.

“Trust in your man…..”

For both, it was relief to see him up front as the race didn’t start off with the calm feeling that they had experienced in the Clash or Duel, with chaos from the drop of the green flag. Sarina even had to admit that she was caught off-guard when Kasey Kahne was sent out of line early, flying down pit road in the opening laps.

Chase wasn’t making her nerves any easier, either, as he fell back some spots, running mid-pack after getting split down the middle. All she could think about was him being in the eye of the storm the whole way.

She got a small break with the field stringing out single file on Lap 31, but it wasn’t a surprise to see that only last for four laps. It was actually her man ruining the calmness, too, as he made his move to get back to the front.

“That’s how you do it!” She lets out as he takes the lead with 15 laps left in the stage. If he wanted dance, she had no problem with that – a s long as he was at the front of the train.

The first major wreck of the event happened five laps later, thankfully far behind pack as Kyle Busch blew a left rear tire, collecting some others with him.

Reminding herself to take deep breathes, trying to kill the nerves, she knew that once when they went back to green, it was only going to get crazier. Everybody would want stage points, and her man was going to be right in the middle of that.

Right when the green flag flew with five laps left, the craziness began immediately with everybody switching lanes, attempting to block each others runs. Chase was one of those, going up to block a move, but ended up getting put the top with no help, causing him to slip back through the field.

Sarina didn’t get a chance to calm down as three laps later (two left in the stage), Ricky  Stenhouse Jr. got sideways down the backstretch running second, causing the field to get all jumbled, resulting in contact with cars sliding every which way, whether grass or outside wall. Thankfully, Chase made his way through – barely – finishing the opening stage in eighth.

“Aaah nice job,” Alan congratulates his driver as Sarina takes a couple deep breathes. That was too close to comfort, and she knew it was just the beginning with 140 laps still left to go.

“Holy shit!” Chase lets out on the radio, and Sarina couldn’t help but nod her head in agreement.

“I’m going to need malox, tums, and whatever else you can find before this is over,” she comments causing a chuckle from Jordan.

When they went back racing, the chaos didn’t calm down one bit, with passes and blocking happening every turn. The front of the field saw Chase lead some laps, followed by Ryan Blaney leading some, back to Chase, before Ryan got back to the lead.

Running in second, Chase was riding behind him with 18 laps left in the stage, trying to plan his move accordingly.

“2 has a run on the top….” Eddie D’Hondt tells him, in which Chase was set to use to his advantage. Both of them came down at the same time, which caused Brad to make contact with the left rear corner, hooking Chase. “We’re wrecking….”

The contact instantly caused Chase to spin up and hit the outside wall, before spinning around and hitting it once again as he also got hit in the door. The car then slowly rolled down the banking to the apron, damage seen at every corner.

“Are you alright?” Eddie asks right away, feeling every nerve pinched at seeing the incident.

“Yeah…” Chase answers, trying to take a couple deep breathes. Instantly upon hitting the wall initially, it had taken his breath away, with the contact afterwards not doing anything to help him. “Yeah….” He takes a couple more deep breathes, getting his wits about him, feeling a bit of pain up his back and especially through his ride. “I’m alright…”

Jordan continues rubbing Sarina’s shoulders, as he glances up at the monitor. He could only shake his head at the events that had transpired, and he could kick Brad’s ass right then and there.

“He’s okay…” Jordan reminds her once again as she takes a couple deep breathes. Upon the wreck beginning, she instantly freaked, panic consuming her. It was Jordan that reacted immediately, wrapping his arms around her to hold her and offer comfort, certainly caught off-guard by how hard the initial impact was. “He’s climbing out…”

“I can’t believe this…” Sarina lets out as she takes a couple more breathes, watching on the monitor as Chase sat on the window ledge, laying his head on the roof for a little bit as he waited for the medical staff to come over. “He’s sore…”

“I’d be sore, too if I hit a wall that hard. Come on…” He slowly helps her stand up and make her way over to the ladder. He climbs down first, before watching closely as she followed, making sure she didn’t slip.

The pair of them make their way through the garage to the infield care center, sneaking in through the back door as they wait for the ambulance to make the trip back.

It wasn’t long after before he walked in, helmet and HANs in hand, with their eyes connecting immediately. Every tinge of worry she had showed, and he saw that right away. In return, being sore didn’t help anything and any comfort she could offer was a bonus. He walks over to her, wrapping both arms around her, as he kisses the top of her head.

“I’m okay,” he tells her as he gives her another kiss. “I’m okay…”

“I know,” she replies, glancing up into his eyes. “I knew you would be, but I just couldn’t help but worr-”

“It’s okay…” He then takes her hand into his, letting him come with her as he goes into one of the cubicles as directed, sitting up on the bed. He lets out a small grunt as his hand immediately goes to his side, rubbing it.

“Sore?” He nods his head as he continues to rub his ribs, taking a couple breathes. “Worse than earlier?” He nods his head as she lets out a sigh. “I hope it’s not worse…”

“I’ll be fine. You don’t need to worry about me.” She could only let out another sigh as she walked right over, leaning against him as he wrapped his arms around her.

“I’m never going to stop worrying about you, okay?” He smiles as he kisses her head once again. “On the bright side, you have someone to look out for you tonight, and tomorrow. I suggest you take two Tylenol and a nice, long hot shower tonight or you’ll be regretting it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll even give you a massage, if you’re lucky.”

“If I’m lucky?” She nods her head as he thinks it over. “I thought I meant enough already to deserve one…”

“You’re probably right. Besides, I need to take care of you so you can spoil me.” He chuckles as they watch the doctor come in.

He goes through the usual questionnaire, answering everything accordingly, before slipping the top half of his firesuit off so the doctor can take a closer look at his ribs. Feeling them, pushing lightly in a couple spots, a couple grunts could be heard.

“I’d like to run an x-ray to be safe and make sure nothing is broken or cracked,” the doctor says, and Chase simply nods his head accepting. “How about you go do your post-wreck interview since you’re actually cleared, and then we can do that?”

“Sure,” he answers as he carefully puts the firesuit back on, feeling every bit of pain as he does so.

Following instructions as requested, the x-ray came back clean with no cracks or breaks, just the bruises that were left over from Thursday with a couple more to join them.

With strict instructions to rest for the next couple of days, and to go to the hospital if he felt any new or worsening pain, he was able to leave and head out, returning to the motorcoach to get changed.

“Let me take care of you, please,” she tells him, helping him take off his firesuit slowly.

“Oh man….” was all he could say, feeling the familiar pain up his side and through his back as he slips it off. He then slowly slipped off the undershirt, biting his tongue along the way.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright? Maybe you should’ve let them give you something stronger for the pai-”

“I’ll be fine. I just want to get home, okay?” She slowly nods her head as she hands him a t-shirt out of the drawer.

It was no secret that he was frustrated with how Speedweeks had gone, given the fact that two days straight he had a car capable of winning, but wrong moves and over-aggressive driving by both himself and his competitors got him in trouble. Combined with the remaining frustrations over the note and plane crash, and the faster he was out of Florida and back home, the better.

With this weekend’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the plan wasn’t to go home – but rather fly back with his parents to Georgia and stay at their house for the week as he went through media responsibilities promoting the event. Though given the amount of pain he was feeling, he didn’t care where he ended up – as long as he found a nice comfy bed tonight.

“There’s something on your mind, other than the wreck and how you’re feeling,” Bill says as they reach the house, holding Chase back a bit as Cindy and Sarina headed inside.

“Is it that obvious?” Chase questions and Bill nods his head.

“The notes haven’t stopped, am I right?” Chase lets out a sigh. “They haven’t found a single trace yet, and the notes haven’t stopped. You’re probably feeling a mess of emotions in regards to that, too, from anger to fear. But I can sense that something is off, too.”

“It’s just been a long wee-”

“Chase….” Chase didn’t want to talk about it, no matter how hard he tried as he wished to avoid the topic all together.

“The past couple of notes have me intrigued. They reference making a decision and being connected to someone that I care about, and making sure the right one is made.” He takes a deep breath as he tries to sort through his thoughts. “It has to do with Sarina. Alison is set to put her next plan into action, and it will be do Sarina. It’ll probably be like Sarina or something, and my decision will affect everything. Everything that has happened – we didn’t have any reasonable explanation or something we could’ve done different. But making a decision, fear of something happening – it’s messing with my thoughts more than I would like.” Bill crosses his arms as he glances out into the night sky.

“Have you told Sarina about this?” Chase nods his head. Reluctantly, he told her following the XFINITY race on Saturday – only after Jordan made him do so, in fear that something could happen.

“She put it off as not being worried, calling it an empty threat and that I needed to not let them mess with me because it’s just a mind game to screw me. Meanwhile, I can’t just say that like she can because Alison got close enough to hurt me again and if she can do that and get access to drop these notes, then the chance is there.” Bill couldn’t help but agree, increasing his own nerves about the situation.

“Sarina is just telling herself that so she can psych herself out of being worried, like you are. If she prtends that she can’t get hurt, then she doesn’t have a thing to worry about. Meanwhile, she can put that energy in trying to ease your worries, take care of you, be there for you.” Bill places a hand on Chase’s shoulders. “You have every right to be afraid and worry. But you can’t let it eat at you, or consume you. You need to keep reminding yourself that you have the right people around you, the right policies in place, and everything will work out – just like I will have your back no matter what.”

“I know…” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances up at the sky before looking back to his dad. “Thank you.”

“You can always come to me. Now, you need to get some rest…” Bill wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulders, as they head inside for the night.

The week went smoothly as the pain slowly eased with rest and time, but bothered him at times. He was able to get through during media activities Monday through Wednesday without any problems, and the visit to the Children’s Hospital on Thursday went off very successfully.

Back at the house for the night, he was focused on getting a good night’s sleep, knowing that Friday would be a busy day at the track and he needed to be as ready as possible. He was comfortable in the bed when he heard his phone go off, reaching over and grabbing it off the nightstand.

“Shit!” He lets out, catching Sarina’s attention as she was playing a game on her laptop. “Alison’s weekly vis-”

“What did she do now?” Sarina questions, feeling the immediate worry to match Chase’s reaction.

“The guy’s plane is delayed because the same sabotage put together last year was done once again, per Alan.” Sarina shakes her head in disbelief as she lays her head on his chest.

“I’m glad that they caught it.” Chase nods his head in response as he sends back a text message.

“Alan said it was obvious by how the evidence had been placed. Like, she wanted to prove she had access and could do it, but not actually hurt the gu-”

“Chase, think about this for a minute.” She then takes a deep breath as she tries to put her theory together. “She’s going in the same order of what Chris and Bethany did to you and I. We had the plane crash – which was you and Ryan this time around. Now the team plane once again. What happened next?” Chase closes his eyes, wishing he wasn’t having to think back to the timeline of events.

“I had the small issue at the training session, and then we figured out it was him as he like disappeared for awhile. We had our fight and went to California, and I fell down the ste-”

“You fell while you there for my Winter Showdown. That was the start of the plan.” Chase nods his head, remembering.

“The next thing that happened was the drugging as he began with the crew members, followed by Ryan, and then myself.” He grabs his phone once again, texting Alan. “I’ll tell Alan the theory in case.”

“I’ll make sure to mention something to Rudy tomorrow.” He then puts his phone back up as he thinks back to Jordan’s latest text messages.

“But what does all that have to do with a decision and being connected to someone I love?” He takes a deep breath as he glances into her eyes. “I know, I’ll do what you said. I’ll just forget about it and not worry.” Though closing his eyes and trying to get comfortable, the thought just wouldn’t leave his mind.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 185: Christmas Cheer!

Friday, December 8 – Hendrick Motorsports

The next two days were for the most part quiet. Chase finished up the production shoots he needed to do ahead of 2017, while getting in some reading time to check a couple more pages off in the book. Sarina, meanwhile, focused her energy into planning how the Christmas decorating was going to go once they go to the cabin.

But once Friday hit, that was all put on the back burner as it was going to be another busy day for them both.

“I still can’t believe I’m here with you…” Sarina muses as Chase parks in the back parking lot.

“What do you mean?” He questions with a glance towards her.

“I drive for Kyle, but yet I’m here on Hendrick proper-”

“Kyle lets me stop by your shop to see you, and he did invite me to your Christmas party. We also spend a lot of time in each other’s haulers on race weekends. I don’t see how this is any different.” She lets out a sigh as they both get out of the car together.

“It’s like I’m stepping on NASCAR sacred ground. Hendrick Motorsports is one of those always been here, top teams no matter what, and damn Chase, its surreal for someone like me who never imagined that she’d have a chance to be here in this sport. Plus, I am breaking every single rule that they say about competition and how you’re not supposed to be on your competitor’s turf because they will say you’re spying.” Chase laughs, remembering how both Christopher and Kyle had teased him about that numerous times.

“Trust me – it’s fine. It’s not like the boys will be doing anything of the secret variety. Well, except picking on you…” She rolls her eyes as she follows him through the back door.

As she enters, her jaw drops immediately as she was amazed at the space, organization, how clean it was, how professional everyone looked. She just shakes her head, glancing around in amazement, as she follows Chase to where they were headed.

“Hey!” Alan notices them immediately, walking over and giving each of them a hug. “It’s nice to see that you could make it today.”

“And miss seeing you? That’d be evil,” Sarina comments as Alan simply smiles back in return. Sarina had always kept a special admiration for the crew chief. It wasn’t lost on her that he had saved Chase’s ass in a big way twice now, and one of those times was partially her fault to begin with. She never took for granted what he was able to do for his driver.

“Well I’m glad you’re not a Grinch…” Chase then wraps an arm around her, smiling.

“Actually, she’s like one of those crazy elfs,” he starts. “She can’t wait to decorate as she was blabbing my ear off in Florida about how she can’t wait to get a tree, and make it look pretty, and then make the cabin look absolutely insane Christmas-y with lots of decorations.” Alan crosses his arms as he looks between the pair.

“Cabin, huh?” Alan questions. “Are we off to Colorado next week?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, which only caused the crew chief to take a careful deep breath. He knew what the trip would entail. “Just promise me, and swear to me that you’ll be careful. With your luck, I don’t want to be getting a phone call that you went tumbling down the mountain and broke a leg, or a foot, or worse.”

“I’ll be careful – like always. I’m a seasoned pro.” Alan rolls his eyes, knowing how that went.

“Hey Jared, your favorite female is looking for you,” Jordan Allen then chimes in from his perch. “She’s hear to fulfill her promise.” Sarina just rolls her eyes, watching as Jared makes his way over to the group.

“Haven’t you learned, Jordan? We found a truce,” Jared Seate begins with a smile towards Sarina. “She actually admitted that she likes me, and I was part of the reason why she was able to get back with Chase. So rather than planning my funeral, you can kiss my ass because I have a new friend now.” Sarina laughs as Jordan rolls his eyes, walking away.

“I wasn’t quite that sweet about it,” Sarina confesses as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Okay, so maybe not. But admit – you like me…” Sarina could only roll her eyes back now as Jared looks at her surprised. “Then I guess I should’ve just not called you that night.” Sarina closes her eyes, thinking back to the beginning of the year and remembering how upset and angry she was. Taking a deep breath, Jared had a good point as she probably would’ve waited longer without his message. However, he could never know that.

“I appreciate you reaching out and for what you did. But, like Chase told you, he knew I’d reach out eventually. I could never go on without him.” Chase smiles, wrapping an arm around her to keep her held close to him.

“You guys are too sappy for your own good,” Alan offers, before walking away. “Can we get these games started?” Sarina then glances over at Chase confused.

“Games?” She questions and all he could do was simply nod his head in return. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I didn’t want to scare you off,” he replies, giving her a quick kiss. “Besides, these are fun games.” They all circle around Eddie, who has a list of the games for the day in his hand, eying the group with pride.  This was going to get interesting. “Who made you game commissioner?”

“I get the first two games, before we get the whole shop together,” Eddie offers. “I was given the list, so that makes me the boss. If you have any objections, all I have to say is bah-humbug.” Chase chuckles as he crosses his arms. “I am going to split you into four teams of three, as the first event is a relay race.”

“Oh lawdy….” Josh Kirk muses, knowing that this wasn’t going to go pretty, considering they all attempted to trip each other last year.

“Why can’t we choose our teammates?” Jared Seate wonders, earning a glance from Eddie.

“Because that’d be too easy,” Eddie replies, shuffling a bunch of names around in a hat. “I’m going to pull our names. First three are team one, next three are team two, and well, you get the damn idea.” Eddie reaches his hand in the bucket, pulling out three pieces of paper. “Team A – Josh, Chad, and Sarina.” Jared rolls his eyes immediately, as Chase silently curses to himself. “Team B – Jordan, Jared Seate, and Alan.” Jared’s eyes roll immediately.

“I get the worse team? Really?”

“Hey now!” Alan lets out, looking obviously offended.

“I can run, you know?” Jordan adds as Jared only rolls his eyes.

“Ah, the Christmas spirit is alive and well,” Eddie comments as he reaches his hand back in. “Team C – Jared Erspamer, John, and myself. That means the final team will be Nick, Travis and Chase.”

“You would obviously get the two best runners on your team, superstar.” Chase sticks his tongue out as they get all lined up ready to go.

“Rules are simple. Grab the Christmas tree, run to the other end of the shop, and run back without losing a single jingle bell.  If you drop a bell, you must stop, pick it up, and put it back on. Each team member must do one run. First team to complete and not lose their balls will be the winner.”

“Wait – some of us don’t have balls,” Jared cracks, earning a smack across the forehead from Alan. “Hey!”

“No, we just have them on our chest, and if you stare – you’ll find out how painful it hurts to twist your own,” Sarina offers back, causing a couple shocked glances.

“I like our new teammate,” Josh comments, earning a nod of agreement from Chad.

The relay started off smooth, but it wasn’t long before the balls were bouncing off trees, across the floor. Chase knew his team was out of it when he had to chase a ball halfway across the shop, dropping some more along the way. Sarina watched as Josh and Chad perfected the art, and she was able to get from the start to the other end without losing a single ball. However, on the trip back, one of them bounced off. She was able to quickly pick it up and put it back on – but it was too late. Eddie crossed the line with his tree perfectly in tack seconds ahead of her, handing his team the win.

“I feel like shit,” Sarina comments as makes her way over to Josh and Chad. “You guys were perfect, and I blew it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Chad Avrit assures her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “You did your best, and that’s what matters. We’re here to have fun, right?”

“Besides, I was more entertained watching Chase run after balls all over,” Josh Kirk adds, causing a chuckle to escape her lips.

“That was amusing…” She offers as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite race – two to tangle,” Eddie announces, causing Sarina to look over confused. “The rules are simple – you will be divided into teams of two. You are to tie a left shoe lace to your partner’s right shoe lace, and each wear a hand-cuff. You must hop, run, whatever you can to stop one – where you must decorate five cookies together. Then you go to stage two, where you decorate the Christmas tree. And then you can go to stage three, where you have to untangle the lights for outside. If you can do all that, and make it to the finish first, you win. But the pair that comes in dead last must remained hand-cuffed together all day long – yes, including dinner.”

“He’s joking, right?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no, glancing over at Jordan.

“His mistake last year ended up resulting in us tied together all day long,” Josh reveals as Sarina looks over shocked. “When it comes to these games, we don’t kid around. This gets a little interesting….”

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head as he crosses his arms. He hoped he got a good partner that would allow him to complete the course with ease. However, if for some reason that failed, he wanted someone that he wouldn’t murder by day’s end.

“So here we go….” Eddie says, reaching his hand into the bag of names. “Team A will consist of Jordan and Nick.” A couple cheers escaped, as nobody wanted to be stuck with Jordan again this year for another mistake. “Team B will consist of Travis and Jared Seate.” Sarina said a quick thank you to herself as she was worried about being stuck with Jared. “Team C will consist of John and myself.”

“I would laugh if we ended up together,” Chase whispers to Sarina as she just smiles in return.

“Team D will consist of Sarina and Alan.” Chase let out a quiet sigh, as Sarina smiled. If she was going to be stuck to someone, it might as well be Alan as at least she knew him pretty well. Actually, he was probably the best person of the group to do this with – except for Chase, obviously. “Team E will Jared Erspamer and Chase, making Team F consisting of Josh and Chad.” Chase walks over to Jared, affixing a cuff to himself, before holding it out for him, as he takes a deep breath.

“Listen, I’m going to make sure to not screw this up,” Chase starts, catching Jared Erspamer’s attention. “I still feel rotten and terrible about what happened in Ma-”

“It’s not your fault that Chris poisio-” Jared interrupts him, but Chase shakes his head.

“He was after me and Sarina. He never should’ve touched you guys, or any of her guys, or Ryan, or Bubba. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.” Chase takes a deep breath. “Anyways, I owe you something – redemption. So let’s get ourselves a win, alright?”

“Just don’t be throwing the balls across the shop….” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing he would probably hear about that for weeks now.

As expected, the game turned intriguing right away with tons of laughs throughout as crew members tripped, items got dropped, and a couple cookies got eaten in the process. Despite Chase and Jared’s best effort together, it wasn’t their turn to pick up the crown. Instead the honor went to Sarina and Alan, who seemed to perfect their partnership immediately. The bottom of the pile – well, that honor went to Chase.

“Last in both games….” Jared Seate comments as he shakes his head. “Is this really happening?”

“I hate those damn balls,” Chase says as he places the last one of the lost balls on the table. He then glances at his partner with a sigh. “I’m sorry….”

“It’s my fault, too,” Jared Erspamer replies. “Looks like we’re stuck together….”

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

Friday, December 8 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

“Are you glad to be finally free of your partner in crime?” Sarina asks, having chuckled the whole way from Hendrick Motorsports to Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was hilarious watching Chase and Jared try to play some of the other games, and of course eating did not go smoothly, as predicted.

“Did you have fun at my expense, at least?” Chase wonders and Sarina nods her head. “Now I don’t know. Maybe I would’ve preferred to stay connected to my partner than be here…” Sarina laughs as they reach the door.

“I just hope Kyle didn’t go too crazy this year.” They then walk inside, meeting face-to-face immediately with Kyle, who was sitting on a big green couch with an evil grin on his face.

“My oh my, you guys have arrived…” Kyle muses as Chase looks at him with odd curiousity.

“This is somewhat creepy…” Chase comments as Sarina chuckles.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” she offers, giving Chase an immediate look of fear.

“I am not wearing this damn thing!” They hear yelled from behind the curtain and Kyle breaks out laughing.

“Come show off your new sweater, Bell,” Kyle requests as Christopher lets out a sigh.

“This is evil. I know we were bad this year and annoyed you, but this is ridiculous.” Christopher then emerges from behind the curtain, wearing a red sweater with a big bell attached to the back, including a string to be rung. “Ring my bell so I feel swell? How the hell did you come up with that?”

“I almost wrote ring my bell so I don’t go to hell – but I thought that was a little over the top.” Chase looks at Sarina, feeling even more fear and anxiety over what was planned now. What had he gotten himself into? “Now, my next victim – I mean sweet dear individual. Take this package and place it on.” Sarina takes the bag, glancing at Chase with a tinge of her own fear, before retreating behind the curtain. “After she is changed, I have something special for you.”

“It wouldn’t have to deal with base, would it?” Chase wonders, trying to rhyme every word he could in his head.

“I don’t play rhyme gam-” Kyle starts.

“Are you kidding me, Kyle?” Sarina interrupts them as she puts on the sweater. “I seriously tell you about that, and you make a sweater out of it?” Kyle smiles even more, causing confusion to be written over Chase’s face.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Sarina had other thoughts than that, including being set to land a punch on someone’s face. “Please, oh please, come share your prize…”

“I could kill you right now, Kyle!” Kyle chuckles as she emerges from the curtain. Kyle had gotten a navy blue sweater, which now had an enlarged snowglobe sticking out the front of it, with a picture of Chase inside of it. “Like, really?”

“What do you think, Elliott?” Chase shakes his head in disbelief. This was getting ridiculous. “Oh, and if you press the button right underneath it, there are some fake snow falling acti-”

“Are you doing this to get coal in your stocking this year?” Kyle looks over, surprised, as Sarina sticks her tongue out.

“Oh Sarina, I’ve been a good little boy all year long. Santa is going to make sure to treat me well. Besides, I thought it was adorable.” Sarina sits down beside Christopher, shaking her head.

“Want to meet me on April Fool’s Day?” Christopher laughs, but couldn’t help but agree.

“Mr. Elliott, are you ready for your package?” Chase looks on with fear on his face, but takes the bag gracefully. “I hope I got the right size.”

“Can I run away now?” Chase asks and Sarina shakes her head no.

“If I have to play along with this snow globe and deal with Mr. Seate teasing me all day, then you can handle wearing that for at least 15 minutes of jokes,” Sarina answers as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Figures…” He then retreats behind the curtain, opening up the box. “There is no way that this is happening!”

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

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not a bad idea…..”

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

Monday, November 13 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We still have Homestea-”

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 15

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 169: “Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?”

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

“You seem like you’re in a happy mood….” Josh comments as he makes his way over to Chase in the garage stall. Chase simply glances over at the car chief with a smile.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Chase questions. “Second quickest, happy with how the car feels, ready to perfect it the next session. I have nothing to complain about.”

“That’s probably more than you could say about last night…” Chase looks on intrigued, but immediately caught the reference. He figured that the guys would bring up what happened with Christopher and Sarina eventually.

“I heard you were playing referee,” Jordan adds as he glances over at the group assembling.

“I don’t see Sarina anywhere either,” Jared Seate continues the comments as Chase could only roll his eyes. “Time out?”

“No, she was feeling a little sore this morning so I told her to relax today,” Chase comments. “And sure, I may have played referee…”

“Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?” Jared questions and Jordan nods his head.

“Are you honestly surprised?” Jordan asks back in response and Jared shakes his head no. Chase could only imagine the teasing if they knew the plan for later. “But I really want to know what happened when she and Christopher meant face-to-face.”

“He apologized right away,” Chase tells them. “No questions asked, simply said sorry. She accepted the thought, but admitted she wouldn’t feel perfectly right about what happened for awhile.”

“Can’t blame her,” Josh comments as Jordan still had his arms crossed. There had to be more to the story.

“No punches or shoving?” Jordan questions and Chase shakes his head no. “Man, you got to be lying. I mean, you’re covering for Kyle or something. You can’t tell me that nothing happe-”

“Go ask Christopher or Sarina yourself,” Chase cuts him off. “Look, they’re friends and even in anger, she knew that he didn’t mean it 100%. It’s hard racing, and sometimes contact happens.”

“So you’d be cool if same thing happened with, say Jimmie?” Josh questions and Chase rolls his eyes. Why were they still discussing this?

“No, I’d be mad as she was initially. However, I’d come to understand that it was hard racing.” Josh nods his head, accepting. “Alright, we got another practice to focus on….”

“Should we wonder if he has a treat to take care of the lady later?” Jared asks Josh as Chase walks away. Josh just gives him a quick glance.

“Did you not learn earlier this year to keep outta the man’s business?” Josh wonders and Jared simply shrugs his shoulders.

“They weren’t talking at one point. Who made the girl surprise him at home and get them back on the same page?” Josh rolls his eyes immediately.

“Are you going to hold that over his head forever?” Jared simply smiles in return as he goes to do his job. “You son of a bitch….”

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

With practice in the books, Chase made his way back to the motorcoach to see Sarina. Certainly, the second session did not go as well as the first as he was 17th on the charts – which meant that those experiments by Alan were a failure. Hopefully when they started the race on Sunday, the set-up was something they used in the first session.

He makes his way into the bedsroom as he slips off his firesuit, instantly smiling as he spots her immediately curled up in the blankets.

“Feeling any better?” He questions as he hangs the suit up in the closet.

“With this type of view, how can a girl think about any pain that she’s in?” She asks in response as he simply looks back with a grin. “I mean, the next best thing would maybe be a Magic Mike dance, or strip show…”

“That’s totally not happening.” She then pouts as he could only giggle back in response. “I’m serious….”

“I guess I’ll take what I can get…” Besides, how was a lady supposed to complain in seeing her man stripped down to boxers and an undershirt? The next best thing would only be to take that off, too. “And, actually, your relaxation idea worked perfectly. Muscles are feeling a little better and not as sore. Maybe once and awhile it wouldn’t hurt to take a step back.”

“So aren’t you glad that you listened?” She smiles as she grabs her hand, pulling her close to the bed.

“You did say, though, that you’d make it worth my while. Can I cash in my payment?” He then laughs as he flops back on the bed.

“I don’t know. Have you been a good little girl?” She then rolls her eyes.

“When am I not a good little girl? I mean, I did listen to you last night and didn’t kick Christopher’s ass. I mean, I could’ve snuck out today and kicked it while you were busy.” He then glances back at her surprised. Did he really just hear that?

“Please tell me that you’re not mad at him still…” She lets out a sigh. She wanted to be mad as she hated to lose as much as anybody – if not more, and hated how tore up the truck was. But, his apology was worthy.

“Why do some people make it so hard to stay mad at them?” Chase smiles, knowing what she meant immediately.

“See, you’re a good little girl. You’re beginning to see things…” She then moves a little further down to the bed to be closer to him at the bottom.

“So, what’s my payment cutie?” He looks over, his smile matching hers immediately.

“I was thinking I give you a nice massage while we watch the XFINITY race, and then I take you out for a nice dinner.” She smiles in response, certainly approving the suggestion.

“I say after dinner, we come back and cuddle up with a movie.” He nods his head in agreement.

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

After Chase had made his way to driver introductions, Sarina headed out to pit road, giving Samantha and Brexton a quick hello, before making her way to where the No. 24 Chevrolet sat.

It didn’t surprise her to see Hootie sitting up on the roof, perfectly placed after some of the pre-race Hooters photos; she even caught the sponsor representative taking a quick photo. She smiles as she reached into her pocket, placing a green beanie baby beside him.

“Did that just out of your pocket?” She hears and glances back, seeing Cindy standing there. She nods her head, feeling a tinge of nerves in wondering how Mommy would accept it. “He’s cute….”

“That’s my lucky buddy Shamrock,” Sarina reveals. “Let’s just say that he came from a friend one night, and gave me some extra luck that gave me a special victory. I figured someone could use him today.” Cindy could only glance back with a smile, as she snapped a quick photo on her phone.

“Hootie and Shamrock look great together. Hopefully your plan pays off…” Sarina holds up a pair of crossed fingers.

“You were ready to kill Hootie at one point,” she then hears as she takes her own photo of the pair, recognizing the voice immediately. She then feels a pair of arms wrap around her, and she instantly leans back in them. “And now I hear you given him a friend. Do I get an explanation?”

“When Hootie and I met at Talladega, you’re right – I was ready to murder him,” she tells him. “However, I took your advice and gave him a bath and tried to be nice to the little guy. Besides, he is kind of cute. Then last week at Texas, he redeemed himself with a decent run. So now I figure if I give him a lucky friend, he’ll make some magic happen for you.”

“I hope you’re right…” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before walking over to the guys for a last minute conversation.

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

“Alright, it’s show time here,” Eddie says over the radio. “All we gotta do is do it all day long here.”

Sarina takes a deep breath as she takes her usual seat on the pit box, headset on her head, ready to endure a race that would probably seem like it was 24 hours long. She knew it was just another race, just another day at the track. However, what could possibly happen with the result of a good day didn’t leave her mind. What if today was the day?

Her hopes instantly opened up as she watched him take the lead on Lap 12, passing Ryan Blaney for the top spot. So far, so good, as the car seemed to be handling great with consistent lap times. But, it was early, so she couldn’t get ahead of herself either.

Everything seemed smooth until Lap 26 as she watched the No. 11 FedEx Toyota begin to close the gap to the rear bumper. Her eyes opened wide and she shook her head in surprise, combined with some anger mixed in probably too, as a small bump saw Denny go by for the top spot two laps later. She had to grin as she watched Chase give him a small bump in return entering turn one, putting himself back out front.

“That’s my boy,” she comments to herself. It was nice to see him standing his ground and not taking Denny’s crap. Though a sigh escaped her lips as Denny passed him back a lap later, beginning to pull away.

“Stay with it, nice and smooth,” Alan says over the radio, set to keep his driver focused on the bigger picture. Yes, it sucked that it was Denny leading. Certainly, Denny would be the worst person to see transfer to the next round or win today. But there was still a long way to go and they wouldn’t get there if they let him get into his head.

The first stage finished off solidly, as he crossed the line in third behind Denny and Kyle Larson. She then watched him come down pit road – tires off, tires on, fuel inserted, and pull off easily. Letting out a sigh, she almost let out a curse word in seeing him drop two spots to fifth

“Lots of time,” she reminded herself with a deep breath.

While she tried to stay positive and focused, admittedly her heart was almost set to break in watching the second stage. Fighting a loose condition throughout the run, he slipped back one position at a time, ultimately finishing the stage in ninth. Letting out a sigh, this certainly wasn’t helping their cause at all. Something had to change, and soon….

She somehow managed to keep her wits about her, and slowly things started to turn around. Alan’s adjustments paid off as with 100 laps to go, he was back to being happy with the overall balance, set to make his way to the front, already up a spot to eighth. Though closing the gap to those ahead wasn’t coming easy, with everybody’s times being so close together.

“What line are they running?” He asked a couple times on the radio, looking for anything to make up the ground.

Everybody felt almost stuck in a routine, till she felt a tap on her arm from Jordan Allan and instantly glanced at the big screen, watching Trevor Bayne blow a tire and hit the wall. Perfectly timed caution as that’d help with the problem. Now if they could make something happen.

“Really used the brakes today,” Chase comments over the radio. “They’re used up. I don’t think heat is the issue, but they’re used up…” She felt her heart sink in the thought of a problem, but knew that she couldn’t panic. He was a big boy, and he could handle the brake issue.

“Come on Shamrock, come on Hootie…” She says, clutching tighter to the pair of stuffed animals in her hands. After he had climbed in, she had been put on babysitting duty for the pair, according to practically everybody on the team since Shamrock was hers anyway. She just hoped that it didn’t result in Hootie going flying off the pit box at some point.

The restart went perfectly, as she found herself on the edge of her seat, more impressed than usual as she watched him crack the top-five with a pass on Kevin Harvick.

“Keep it rolling, best lap times….” Eddie D’Hondt encourages, which was backed up by his performance on track as he got around Erik Jones to move up into fourth. Three more spots to go now. “All clear. We’re coming to the party, boys!” The smile only grew more as it seemed like destiny now.

It didn’t take long for another yellow flag to come out, though, as Chris Buescher blew a brake rotor and hit the wall with 61 laps to go. Perhaps another restart would be perfect….

“I don’t know what that was, but that was balls out!” Chase comes over the radio. “That was really good.” She couldn’t help but agree in watching him go from eighth to fourth in 10 laps. Maybe rubbing the pets was a good idea as she gave them both another rub.

“What the hell is that?” Jordan catches her attention, pointing to big screen. Her jaw drops as she sees the safer barrier on fire.

“Is that really happening?” She questions and Jordan nods his head. “So much for being fire retardant…” She almost had to laugh as if something would happen in these playoffs, it seemed to take place.

Once the fire was out and they lined up for the restart, she takes a deep breath. It was now or never, and anything was possible in Phoenix. She just hoped it played in their favor.

Once again, he got the restart of his life, going from fourth to second before the caution flew once again, now with 50 laps to go, for someone in the back hitting the wall.

“Our car likes these short runs,” Chase says over the radio afterwards. While these runs made her more nervous than she could take at times, she was willing to deal if he continued to move forward like this. Just make sure to have some gum and tums ready, too.

Unfortunately, this restart did not pan out as she wanted as he fell back to fourth. More importantly – Denny was now right there in front of them. Letting out a sigh, it seemed no matter what they couldn’t get away from each other all day. This was not what they needed right now.

She even found herself cursing a little, ready to punch Denny herself post-race, as she watched the pair trade contact back and forth. She knew if this kept up, the laps would just continue to tick away and everything they were truly working towards would not happen.

As Chase got underneath Denny through the dog leg, her hand clenched into a fist, pumping up and down on her knee, small cheers filling her in hopes that this time he would complete the pass. She ten watches them through turns three and four, followed by contact off the corner as Denny got into the wall. She couldn’t help but smile in watching Chase clear him.

“All clear,” Eddie goes on the radio, not even deterred by the contact. “Flip your bead fans on now. Nice and smooth…

“Well played Chase,” Sarina couldn’t help but comment herself as the smile remained in seeing the tire smoke off of the No. 11 Toyota. It wasn’t a direct payback or wreck that you’d replay over and over, and know it was purposely done. It was enough contact to send a message and do the damage – without going say overboard. Perfectly short track executed.

Of course, her smile only widened some more in seeing the tire blow out for Denny, followed by him hitting the outside wall.

“Oh snap!” Jordan lets out with a high-five to a couple of the crew members.

“Can I get that on replay please?” Sarina questions, almost to the point where she wanted to break out laughing. She knew there was going to be a reward for that move.

Though with Denny out of the picture, it was time to focus on what they were there to do. They had a fast enough car; now it was just making it happen.

Her smile didn’t even get a chance to fade as her eyes locked on the restart with 30 laps to go, seeing Chase take the top spot.

“All clear, all clear,” Eddie says over the radio. “Alright, nice and smooth now….”

She just needed to find a way to be calm and collected. 30 more laps. They could do this, finally.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 163: Chase vs. Denny

Sunday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

She felt her leg tap nervously as she watched the restart with 39 laps to go, seeing him pull away. Taking a deep breath, everything was fine….

She watched as he didn’t get too far out, though, watching the No. 2 Ford close the gap, silently cursing to herself. If there was anybody she didn’t want to see win, it was Brad Keselowski. Her eyes kept focused, seeing him roll the center, watching as he made the move and got by for the lead with 28 laps to go. Letting out a sigh, so much for the dream….

She shakes her head. She couldn’t think like that. There were still 27 laps now and anything was possible. It had to work out….

She had gotten herself into a relaxed state, silently hoping that Chase was able to work his way back to Brad and get around, though also feeling alright about a runner-up finish. It was a good start to this playoff round, right?

Though like everything had gone throughout the day, the whole day changed once again when the caution flew with 10 laps to go for Joey Logano having a flat tire. Taking a deep breath, the butterflies began fluttering immediately, fingers and toes tapping, nerves a flowing. Anything was possible on a late-race restart at Martinsville.

Her eyes focus on the track with five laps to go, watching Chase and Brad go down into the corner. She watches the bump from the No. 24 Chevrolet to the No. 2 Ford, fist pumping in the air as Brad slides up out of the groove and Chase rolls on by.

“All clear, take it…” She hears Eddie on the radio, her thoughts echoing the spotter.

Her eyes didn’t leave the action before her, watching as Denny quickly moved into second with Kyle in toe. Taking a deep breath, there was nowhere over as Denny was right there, set to make a move. She just glanced down for a quick second, hoping whatever came that Chase held off.

4 to go…..3 to go, and so far he had done an impressive job at the helm. He was running the perfect line, diamonding the corner to perfection, rolling the bottom. He was doing what he needed to do….

“Pushing you,” she hears Eddie over the radio as Denny gets into the back of Chase off turn two, though Chase keeps it straight as an arrow. “2 to go at the line..” She watches as Chase goes into turn three, with Denny close behind. It didn’t seem as if Denny let off the gas or anything, though, as his front bumper immediately met Chase’s rear bumper, sending the No. 24 spinning around.

“Fuck!” Sarina lets out immediately in disbelief as he stands up, shaking her head in disgust. Did that just happen? Did he just dump Chase for no bloody reason at all? Denny’s reason had to do with having no brakes or something, right? There was no way that he would just go do that….

“Douchebag!” She had to agree with Eddie’s words as her body filled with anger. She wished she could strangle Denny and each of his crew members one-by-one in that single moment. She also wished Chase wasn’t such a sweetheart and wouldn’t just go ahead and wreck the dumbass under the yellow.

“Yep, he definitely wrecked me,” she hears Chase and knew that wasn’t even up for debate. It wasn’t like Denny tried to do anything else. The replay confirmed it, too, as his bumper was direct as they come, no slowing down at all. Who in their right mind lifts someone wheel’s up entering the corner?

“I feel your pain, bro….” Eddie’s voice rang through her head as she sat back down, shaking her head in disgust. She could see the reflections on each crew member on the pit box. it was immediate disappointment, almost brink of tears for some of the guys. She could only imagine how Chase was feeling, knowing that she’d be a mix of a heartbroken and anger – actually, she was. There was also disbelief there, too. Did that actually happen?

“Did what happen what I think happened, or am I skewed?” She then hears Chase question over the radio. She shakes her head immediately, knowing how he was at times. He was so hard on himself at times, always over-critical of his own actions, obviously right now questioning whether he did the wrong thing. Clearly, he had done nothing wrong….

“Nah, he drove over your bumper and crashed ya,” Eddie replies, which deserved no other explanation.

“That’s what I figured. 10-4. Good to know. Thanks….”

As the field gets ready to start, there was only one thing that mattered in that moment – Denny better not win this race. She didn’t care who won now, even if it was Brad, as there was no way she wanted to see that No. 11 in victory lane.

She watches the restart, instantly cheering her boss as she watches Kyle dive into the corner, tagging Denny off of turn two and sending him up the track a bit as he squeezes on by.

“Thank you Kyle!” She cheers, watching him take the victory. She was happy for him – if Chase couldn’t win, then let it be her boss. However, that didn’t even begin to eliminate the heartbreak and anger that was remained.

“I feel your pain, bro,” Eddie says over the radio as Sarina just lets out a sigh.

All she wanted to do was get down there, hug Chase, hold him, and assure him that win was coming – and then kick Denny’s ass from here to the other side of the world. Her eyes then find their way t to the monitor, seeing the screens focused on the backstretch. She couldn’t help but smile as she watched Chase run into Denny on the cooldown lap – perfectly deserved.

“Screw him!” Eddie cheers on the radio as Sarina could only laugh in agreement. A punch to the head would be fitting right now.

She watches as the pair come to a stop, both starting to climb from their cars, eyes focused on Chase. She knew how he was when he got angry. she knew the feisty side that he could show, if warranted. Anybody who raced him in late models knew that. She couldn’t help but cross her arms with a bit of pride watching.

“Alright, face-to-face guys, outside the car…” Eddie dictates the action over the radio as Sarina’s eyes stay locked on the screen.

How could this happen? Why did this happen? And what the hell was Denny Hamlin thinking?

Chase was in total belief of what had just transpired in a matter of a couple of laps. One minute, he could potentially see his first career victory; next minute, he was turned around backwards.

It was one thing to bump a guy, give them the bump-and-run, rough them up a little. However, the key was that you didn’t totally wipe the guy’s chances of a decent day or result in heavy damage to his car. You also gave him a chance, should he save it and get back to you, to return the favor.

It was another thing in entirely just wipe a guy out no questions asked – and that’s what had him riled up. He wasn’t going to stand for that, no matter who it was that did it to him to begin with.

That’s why following the event, he made sure to go looking for him, set to send a message and tell him he wasn’t happy and wouldn’t put up with that bullshit. Driving into him was satisfaction for the frustration that he was experiencing.

Following the bumps and seeing Denny stop short of pit road, it didn’t change his views at all. Instead, he was set to actually give him word for word what he thought of him. Throwing the steering wheel on the dash, and the belts off whatever direction they’d go, he began to climb out, set to meet him eye to eye. It was time to be a man and face the consequences of what he did…

“That was bullshit running into me after the checkered!” Denny yells to start, not even fully climbed out. Chase had to chuckle to himself and look back in disbelief. Was this guy serious?

“You’re kidding me, right?” Chase questions back in return as he finishes climbing out, watching Denny come walk up to him face-to-face.

“No matter what, that was ridiculous…..” Chase couldn’t believe this at all….

“You wrecked me….”

“I had someone right on my bumper…” Chase almost laughed back in his face, knowing that wasn’t true as he had glanced up in the mirror once Denny had bumped him off of turn two. He knew exactly where they stood entering the corner.

“There was two car lengths between you and the other guy…”

“I just tried to move you….” Chase almost laughed again, really not believing he was hearing this, especially from someone who had been racing as long as Denny had been.

“You wrecked me, plain and simple…”

“I did not mean to wreck you. I just meant to give you a bump….”The intentions of the actions didn’t really matter at this point. Besides, if you’re going to attempt to use the bumper, you have to know it’s a possibility. Why wouldn’t Denny just own up to it already?

“But you just wrecked me!”

“You got into the 2 car. What’s the difference?” Chase really wanted to laugh in his face now. This was unbelievable….

“Come on man….”

“I got into you just like you got into Brad…” Except Brad wasn’t turned around backwards.

“Come on man…..”

“You know it was just hard racing.”

“You had my back wheels lifted up going into the corner!”

“Whatever…” Denny then turns on the heels, heading back to his car at the request of the NASCAR Official as Chase just shakes his head in disgust.

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

Chase rolls up to where he was told to stop on pit road, sitting back in the seat, shaking his head. He almost broke out laughing as he thought about the excuses and reasons that Denny tried to use for his part in what happened. The anger also hadn’t left him at all, either, along with the disappointment. It was another week that he had been mere inches of winning, and come up short again.

“I want you to be smart here,” he hears, glancing out the window to see Jimmie standing there. “Be smart, watch your words, and don’t lose your true self. Don’t stoop to his level because he’s an ass. You did a great job, and you will win.” He gives Jimmie a simple nod, used to receiving the odd tip of advice here and there.

He climbs out of the car, giving the couple of crew guys a quick hand-shake and nod as he turns around, crossing his arms. There was no way he was just letting this go and moving on as anger was certainly not leaving him no matter what he tried. There was also that sense of disbelief.

His eyes wandered over to where the TV cameras had stopped, getting Denny’s side of the coin first. He actually brought himself to laugh in hearing the amount of boos that were being let out by the crowd. You know you royally messed up when your own home track is mad at you…

He patiently stand there, set to give his take on the action, knowing it was going to be kept simple and to the point.

“My mom always said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. He’s not worth my time,” he tells NBC.

Sarina couldn’t help but smile off to the side at the comment, as her heart remained torn in pieces at what had transpired. It was taking every urge to stop herself from going over and kicking Denny’s ass.

After the interviews were done, she walked over and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, just holding him, as the crew joined her.

“Hey, if he wants to race that way, you know what to do next time,” Alan tells him. “I’m sure he’ll be fine when you lift his back wheels going into the corner at Texas.” Chase lets back a small smile, knowing what Alan was thinking.

However, that wasn’t his style. Revenge and anger and dirty driving were not morals that he had grown to know. Instead, it was focus and driving as hard as you could to put what happened in the rearview.

“Hey, I just wanted to say I hate what happened to you guys,” a new voice pops in from Denny’s crew chief Mike Wheeler. “That was bad…”

“Go tell your smartass driver that,” Sarina spits out, keeping her arms around Chase.

“Excuse me?” Chase then wraps an arm around her in return.

“You heard her,” he starts. “All Denny could do was give me 20 million excuses. Go…” He then turns around, facing away from Mike, but letting his eyes land on Sarina right away.

“I’m so sorry,” she simply says, pulling him close as she puts her head against his chest. “Denny is an asshole. You’ll get that win soon…”

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

“That was utterly insane!” Ryan comments from his seat in the plane.

Following the race, it was a short flight back to North Carolina from Virginia with Ryan, Chase and Sarina all boarding together. For all of them, it was great to just get out of Martinsville as soon as possible.

“But I got to say, I’m proud of you,” Ryan continues as Chase keeps his eyes focused ahead.

“Why is that?” He questions as Ryan smiles, reading over the various tweets on twitter.

“You made the world proud, too. You did a great job from your interview to standing up to him. That’s what you need to do. I’m impressed…” He then glances up from his phone. “Although, you should’ve punched him on behalf of the whole field. He freaking turned down across me and Kurt!”

“So why did you punch Kevin?” Sarina asks, referring to Ryan’s visit with Kevin Harvick. She had been scrolling through twitter herself before they left, and saw a clip of Ryan giving Kevin a small punch. “Well according to him, I brake-checked his ass off the corner earlier in the race and fucked him over at the end of the day. I proudly told him that I wasn’t doing that at all during the race, and it was all freaking Denny’s fault at the end. Needless to say, we disagreed and had a small punch fest.”

“Crazy….” Ryan didn’t care about his deal with Kevin, though. He knew that was going to be forgotten within days. On the other hand, that wouldn’t be the case with Denny….

“So what are you going to do about Denny there, Mr. Pilot?” Chase had been toying with a bunch of thoughts since the conclusion of the race. He wasn’t a dirty racer, but payback was certainly entering his mind big time for what had happened. He wouldn’t mind something happening at Texas….

“I don’t know,” Chase answers. “We’ll just have to wait and see….”

“How about we just forget about it for one night and have some fun?” Sarina suggests, knowing that she could use a good distraction after the chaos.

“Isn’t that why we’re going to Blaney’s epic Halloween party?”

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

Chase glances at himself in the mirror at Ryan’s house, shaking his head. How did he get himself into this mess wearing this costume? He had seen Ryan’s Woody costume and Jordan’s Buzz Lightyear costume and both felt more comfortable than this.

He had totally forgotten about the party, and had not gone costume shopping. So prior the weekend, he informed Ryan in hopes his best friend would help him out. Certainly, Ryan did as he had an extra costume and would allow Chase to borrow it. He didn’t expect it to be this, though.

He almost felt scandalous, a little ridiculous, and knew for sure there was too much skin showing below the waist. Feeling a little shy, he knew every person would probably be analyzing his package.

“Damn….” He hears, recognizing Sarina’s voice and smiling. “I know you bike a lot, but holy damn tone in those legs…” He had to laugh to himself, as he spun to face her. An immediate smile formed, liking her voice – Batgirl. They’d be Batgirl and Robin that night.

“You look just as sexy right now,” he answers back in response. The black leather of the outfit clang to every sweet dear curve on her body, with the skirt long enough to cover but short enough to tease everything below.

“As soon as I heard Ryan had a Robin costume for you, I got Samantha to run a small errand for me. I figured we could match.” She then walks over closer, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “You make one amazing superhero, but damn, I didn’t expect you to show off as much….”

“Is it too much? I almost feel like chang-”

“No, it’s fine; it’s absolutely fine. Besides, everybody down there will be too caught up in the party to realize. Now, are you ready to go have some fun?”

“Absolutely…” He then takes her by the hand, leading her out of the room and to the stirs with a smile.

It was time to leave behind the Martinsville disappointment and frustration for a night…..