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.

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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…..

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 162: “It feels amazing!”

Saturday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

Following the slew of post-race interviews, they immediately went into the sea of photos that were necessary after a win. From full team photos, to individual photos, to a few of her and the boss by themselves. The entire time, Sarina couldn’t help but smile as she stood there in total disbelief.

Was this really happening?

“That’s everything we nee-” Andy starts, in relation to all the photos.

“Not quite,” Kyle cuts him off, as he motions for Chase to go up on stage with her. “Go on…”

“It wouldn’t be a complete collection without you getting a photo,” Sarina says as he walks up with her, standing beside her. The pair both smile, as the flashbulbs go off multiple times.

“I haven’t seen that smile leave your face since you got out of the truck,” Chase comments afterwards. She just glances back, smile still firmly planted there.

“It feels amazing!” She then snags a kiss, which results in some more photos being taken. “I can’t even describe it. I can’t believe it.” Chase then laughs as he pinches her arm. “Ouch!”

“Believe it, enjoy it, and savor it. You deserve this beyond words…” She then pulls him back close into a hug. “I’m so proud of you. I’ve told you that before, but I mean it. You fought for this, and deserve it…”

“Thank you for dealing with my rough moments, including before quali-”

“You don’t have to mention it. I get it…” He then kisses her lips once again.

“Hey, you both can celebrate later!” Kyle yells out. “We have media center business to attend to!” Sarina turns to face the boss, wrapping an arm around Chase.

“But I don’t want to leave my boo…” She whines as Chase just laughs.

“Actually, I think you should go tell the world how you kicked Matt Crafton’s ass,” Chase suggests as she just glances back with a smile.

“That was the icing on the cake, really. I mean, he’s a veteran. He’s been doing this for so long. To come out here and beat the guy whose a veteran, done this many times, supposed to be ultimate here – it’s just amazing.”

“Not to mention that your boss was quite happy after Christopher got spun…” Sarina rolls her eyes, still not believing that. She was actually looking forward to getting the chance to race Christopher for the win. “Go on; we can celebrate later….”

“You’re comi-” He shakes his head as he points towards pit road.

“Cup practice, reme-”

“Kyle is coming and he has to qualify, too. There’s enough time….” He didn’t want to leave her as he wanted to savor the moment, but he also didn’t want to be late for qualifying. However, a quick glance at the time and text to Morgan and sure enough, time was on his side.

It wasn’t long until he was standing in the back of the media center, watching as her and Kyle fielded questions about the race from the various media personnel in the room. He could only smile with pride, glad that everybody was seeing what he saw in her from the beginning.

For the most part, everything was going smoothly with the same usual questions that they always asked. What did it mean to you? How did you make the move? How did you know it’d stick? It seemed like it’d be a nice, smooth day in the media center, until a comment caught his attention.

“Based on your reaction post-race and how chummy you have been with a fellow driver – plus the sickness last week, one has to ask – are you pregnant?” A reporter asked, which immediately caused Sarina to break out laughing. Chase could only look on surprised from his location, shaking his head. Of course….

“Are you seriously asking me that right now?” She questions, which fit the surprised glance from Kyle.

“Well, based on what we’ve seen-”

“I can assure you that I am not pregnant.” She bit her tongue as soon as the words escaped, though, remembering that night – and smile returning once again. However, she knew that couldn’t had resulted in something because they were careful, right? Besides, she had her period last week.

“I really don’t even think that’s a question that should be asked here,” Marcus Richmond comments as he looks between Sarina and Kyle. Kyle could only shake his head, though found himself giving both Sarina and Chase double takes. It wasn’t a bad theory….

“It’s honestly none of his business to ask that,” Kyle adds, knowing even if it was a good theory, it had no business being discussed in this moment. “Kerry?”

“It seems you guys are trying to divert the topic immediately…” The report continues on, which catches Sarina’s attention. Was this seriously happening right now?

“I have nothing to hide as I stated, I am not pregnant,” she repeats once again, beginning to grow frustrated. She wanted to focus on the key today – winning. “Would you be damn well satisfied if I placed a stick in your hand with a big negative on it?” Kyle was caught off-guard by her comment, but understood her frustration as he placed his hand on top of hers.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again, hoping this would be a situation that NASCAR would handle swiftly.

“Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave, please,” Kerry Tharp requests, following Kyle’s lead.

“Hypothetically, let’s say that you do get pregnant,” the reporter continues despite the pleas. “Is there a plan in place? Have you discussed the possibility with Chase, your team?” Sarina immediately rolls her eyes, as Chase could only shake his head. It was taking everything he had to not say something himself right now as he kept his own eyes locked on Kyle.

“Am I hearing these questions correct?” Marcus questions as Kyle looks over at Kerry once again. He could feel the frustration boiling off of Sarina, and the resulting piercing eye glare from Chase.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again.

“Sir, I am going to ask you to leave once again,” Kerry repeats. “If you do not leave, we’ll have security remove you.” It did not take long for the request to be followed accordingly, thankfully to all in the room. “I apologize for that out of line questioning.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that one stupid reporter didn’t matter at that time. This was her moment, her time to celebrate, her victory. There was no way she was letting him spoil it…

“It’s not your fault,” she states. “For the record – that is personal, and will be kept between those who need to know. If I am ever pregnant, I’m sure you’ll find out in the proper time.” Kyle felt a nerve in those words, once again glancing between the pair, hoping he wouldn’t be getting that news anytime soon. While he wanted to see them have a great future together, he wanted to see Sarina reach her full potential with a championship, which he saw happening next season.

“Now, can we get back to talking about how awesome this win is?” Marcus questions, trying to get things back on track. “I mean, I want to know everybody’s reaction to that final restart. She was absolutely amazing!”

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

They walk into the bedsroom together, flopping back on the bed together as Chase rolls over on his stomach, eyes locked on her.

“You still look like you’re on cloud 9….” He comments as she laughs, glancing over with a big smile.

“I can’t believe it still,” she tells him. “I’m in total disbelief. It just doesn’t feel real. It feels like a dream. I know I climbed the fence – and I know I had a moment there….” He chuckles as he had caught full glimpse of that.

“First win, being overwhelmed – it’s understandable….” She knew that, but of course there were some fans that had their share of comments, along with the reporter.

“And yes, we took all the photos and all the interviews – but it just doesn’t feel real. I mean, did I actually pass Matt Crafton on the outside on a late race restart with 10 laps to go to win?” He laughs, nodding his head. “I, a rookie driver, passed a series champion on the outside at Martinsville. You’re not supposed to pass on the outside here!”

“Well, you made it work – and that’s because you’re absolutely amazing.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “Do I need to hold you and pinch you and tell you 100 times over for you to realize that this is actually happening?” She laughs and shakes her head.

“You know, I feel almost like a 100 times lighter today now. I feel like the world is off my back. I don’t have to sit there and tell people anymore. I don’t need to sit and hear people whine, moan, and make excuses. There are no longer those that say I’m just here because I’m a pretty face or dating you. There are no more comments about how I don’t deserve this opportunity, or how my hard work is purely worthless. It’s like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can be free almost…” Chase smiles as it was actually absolutely amazing to hear those words from her, considering the amount of relentless pressure she put on herself on a weekly basis. It was nice to see her letting go now.

“Kyle wouldn’t hire you for a simple reason because you’re pretty or because of me. He hires drivers that are talented, and can be molded into stars one day. Sweetheart, that’s yo-”

“I know that now. I believe in those words. But I will admit, there were times this year where I questioned whether I belonged here. Was this the right time for me to be here? Now, I don’t even know what to say…”

“Then don’t say a word….” He then curls up closer to her, kissing her lips lightly.

“Why is that?” He looks at her with a smile, his hand finding it’s his way to the zipper on her firesuit. “What do you have in mind, Mr. Elliott?”

“We need to celebrate your win, Ms. Ott…” He then gets up, moving so he was over top of her, kissing her lips once again as he toys with the zipper.

“Oh really?” Her fingers immediately find the way to his zipper, as they both begin to pull each other’s suits off.

“Oh yeah. I need to spoil you…” She then grins as they carefully slip each other’s firesuits off, tossing them aside, before he reaches for her undershirt.

“I wouldn’t mind that, either…”  He then grins as he keeps his brown chocolate eyes locked on her blue eyes.

“Good, because you’re not going anywhere…” She then grins, putting her arms up above her head as she relaxes on the bed.

“I’m not fighting for your offer, am I?” He then laughs as she slips off her undershirt.

“Then what are you waiting for?” She then points towards him. “Me?”

“You said you were going to spoil me because to the winner goes the spoils, right?” He laughs as a simple grin forms on his face. “As long as we don’t give Kyle a surpris-”

“Did you see the look that he gave me when the reporter asked that question?” She laughs, nodding her head. She had watched the glances that Kyle was giving them both carefully then. “For that reason, you’ll be glad that some important shopping was done this week…” He then reaches over to his nightstand, slipping the drawer open, reaching his hand in a box, throwing a small package on to the bed.

“I’m glad you did because I don’t want to see my boyfriend dead before year’s end…” She then gives his boxers a tug, bringing him back to her. “Now, where were we?”

“I was about to spoil you…”

**********

Sunday, October 30

The joy of victory didn’t fade on Sarina the next day, either, as the smile remained on her face throughout the entire morning as she spent time at the Toyota Racing display answering questions, and signing autographs.

It didn’t fade when she made her way out to pit road before the Cup race, accepting an array of congratulations from various drivers and crew members along the way. She politely accepted each of them, still in disbelief at times.

As she stood there holding Chase’s hand during the national anthem, her focus immediately shifted away from her own joy to the task at hand that day for him. The goal was to have a solid day, no mistakes, and continue to lock down the top-fives to work towards punching their ticket to Homestead. She knew the day came with pressure and unease, as Chase was the first to say that Martinsville wasn’t his best track. While he had finished well there in the spring, he still hadn’t grown comfortable in finding the line he wanted to run there. She almost chuckled to herself on the thought as he had qualified third earlier that morning. Now it was just about turning that starting spot into a great day.

“Good luck,” she tells him, kissing his lips. “Be safe. I love you.”

She then walks away as he climbs in the car, making her way over to the 24 pit box. She climbs the familiar steps, taking her usual spot behind Alan Gustafson, flashing a quick smile to Josh and Jordan.

While Chase would insist that Martinsville wasn’t his best track, that didn’t show at all through the first half of the race as he kept himself in the top-five, battling for positions, looking as comfortable as the others around him. It especially didn’t show as he challenged for the lead, taking the top spot for the first time that day from Brad Keselowski on Lap 385.

“Watch the cross over,” she hears Eddie D’Hondt over the radio, but Brad’s attempt to get back by was to no avail. “Nice work, nice and smooth.”

Glancing down, she couldn’t even fathom the amazement and joy that would be if everything played out accordingly today. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they both got their first wins the same weekend?

Taking a deep breath, she had to get the thought of her mind. There was still a long way to go as plenty could happen in 115 laps.

“You’re doing a great job out there,” Eddie’s words fill her ears once again, and he spoke the truth as Chase began to build a gap between him and Brad. “Just keeping show a little more discipline. That diamond looks good there….”

She kept her eyes locked on the track, trying to ignore the thoughts of what could happen knowing that’d just cause nerves and knowing how crazy things could go. However, her heart couldn’t help but wonder as the gap continued to grow more and more.

Then it happened……

Caught right in the midst of lap traffic with 63 laps to go, Chase tried to make a move to get by one of the many cars that he was working his way through. However, a little contact, and you could see a bit of smoke off of the fender immediately.

“Got a left rear tire rub here,” Eddie reports back to the crew as Sarina feels her heart sink immediately. If the tire blew out or they had to pit under green, that’d certainly end all hopes….

“Try to adjust your track bar up and down to see if it’ll clear up a bit,” Alan suggests and Sarina crosses her fingers, hoping that Chase could do something to survive here.

The smoke would soon fade – causing a mix of concerns. That could be good as the rub may have gone away, but that could be bad as next thing they may end up with a punctured tire and a big mess.

She was then caught off-guard another way when the caution flew with 43 laps to go for Carl Long spinning. She hated to see the field bunched up, but she knew the caution was the perfect opportunity. Now they could fix the fender…

Her eyes stay locked on pit road, focused down below the pit box as the crew goes to work immediately. She watches the tires go on and off, fuel dumped into the tank, along with a careful tug on the left rear quarter panel to pull it back out. She watches him peel out as soon as the work is done, lifting her fist in the air immediately as she watches him lead the field off pit road.

Taking a deep breath, her leg beginning to tap on the pit box, she knew the nerves were going to pick up from here on out.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 159: Alabama 500

Sunday October 15 – Talladega Superspeedway

Sarina let out a sigh as she relaxed on the couch, flipping through a random magazine. She didn’t even know why she was awake that early, or still in the motorcoach. However, that’s where she was while Chase was off doing a series of appearances for the sponsors.

She flipped through her latest book of choice – just because it was the next in the stack, glancing over the pages without paying much attention. Though as a page came across her view, she froze immediately. It was an advertisement about NASCAR Champion’s Week festivities coming up next month – no surprise, really. However, the date caught her off-guard.

“November 30? That don’t make sense,” she comments to herself as she grabs her phone. The Cup Series banquet was always on a Saturday and she was certain that date was December 2, having made a note already in her phone due to Snowball Derby qualifying. Double checking the date, she hadn’t gone wrong. “Maybe they made an error…..”

She then opens up Google, typing in “NASCAR Cup Series Banquet 2017” in hopes of finding some sort of results to match her theory. Instead, she was caught off-guard completely. The magazine was right, as one of the first initial searches detailed how NASCAR had changed the date from a Saturday to a Thursday to make the Vegas week shorter on teams.

A smile immediately came across her face – that meant she could go to the banquet, and then head down to Florida for the Snowball Derby weekend festivities. Maybe even Chase could join her down there, too.

The smile left right away, though, as panic set in. She hadn’t planned on the banquet. She hadn’t planned on having to get shoes, her hair done that week, ready – she hadn’t even thought about dresses. What was she going to wear?

Remembering Ryan’s advice, she immediately dialed Emma’s number, in hopes of some answers.

“Well, the good news is you have a whole month to figure that out,” Emma offered after hearing Sarina’s panic story. “We already finalized your truck series dress options down to five different styles – each white in nature, but slightly different. I’m sure we can figure out something for you to wear as you accompany Chase just as well. I mean, he’s not a fancy guy nor would he be too upset by any choice you make so we can make this work. Give me some details you’re thinking….”

“Well, I don’t mean to be typical but let’s keep matching sponsors and go with blue,” Sarina starts, knowing it’d match with NAPA perfectly. “But not as dark a blue as they have – something lighter. I also want to go with something long, flowing, almost like a princess but not quite there. Oh, and not form fitting either. Does this make sense?” Emma laughs as she makes some notes, also including a citation to tell Chase he needed a blue highlight on his tux if he wanted to follow that rule of matching.

“Hey, it gives me somewhere to start with – if anything. Shoulders or no shoulders?” Sarina thought it over. It was her night to look sexy though, right?

“Spaghetti strap, please. I don’t like strapless for fear of falling off – but I don’t want something too thick.”

“Got it. I will look into what I know from some designers, and shoot you some ideas later on this week. Just take a deep breath, and relax. We got this – even if both you and Chase can’t remember that they switched the date. Hey, don’t go telling him that you realized. Let it be a surprise for when he does figure it out.” Sarina smiles, knowing his reaction would probably be priceless.

“Deal. Thank you. I guess Ryan was right after all….” Emma laughs.

“My brother isn’t so bad….”

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

Sarina wished she was back in the comfort of the motorcoach, relaxing, not having a single care in the world; she’d even take banquet dress worrying over this.

Instead, she sat on top of the 24 pit box, fingers crossed, legs crossed, trying to cross her toes, just hoping for a calm day at Talladega. After the drama that track had delivered in April, she wasn’t looking for a repeat.

Everything started out smoothly as Chase kept himself up front after starting second, staying in the midst of the lead pack while avoiding taking any chances. However, that all changed when it was time for pit stops.

As cars began to peel off for their stops with the stage coming to an end, chaos ensued with contact, followed by cars going every which way. She held her breath as she watched Chase avoid the chaos, darting down pit road as it broke apart behind him.

The 24 team did their stop as scheduled – cleanly, might she add – before he headed out, set to rejoin the pack. It all seemed to be going perfectly…..

“We’re going to have to restart tail of the longest line here,” Alan tells them, after getting word from NASCAR. “They say we pitted after pit road was closed.” Sarina could only let out a sigh. Sure, they had pitted – but how could anybody tell that NASCAR just randomly decided to flick the light from green to red due to a wreck? This also meant that he’d be back in the middle of the eye of the storm. “They need to move that line and light back so you can see it better in turn three. There’s no way that you would know.”

“It crossed my mind,” Chase replies back over the radio. “I thought about trying to get out but it was too late when I saw them wrecking.” Taking a deep breath, it was better safe than sorry – even if it meant there’d be nervous times once they got back going.

“Okay, so come on down now and we’ll get the left side tires so we’ll be penalized for doing the best job that we can.” Sarina had to chuckle at Alan’s approach to handling the chaos at hand.

Hey, least they’d have four new tires compared to some only having two.

Despite her nerves shot up a couple places, Chase was able to hold his ground quite well, and work his way back towards the front of the field into the top-10, getting up to six as the stage was set to come to a close. Another round of stops began, though, and the same chaos ensued, this time involving Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray. Taking a sigh of relief, she was just glad they had avoided trouble so far.

“If we get in a position where we have to pit under green, don’t put yourself in harm’s way,” Alan advises. “Just take another lap.” Sarina couldn’t help but agree as it was about surviving, scoring as many points as possible, and getting to the next round today.

The third and final stage started, and as he had all day, Chase was right in the mix of the battle for the lead. Though with each move he made, it just seemed to not come together. As the caution flew for debris with the laps counting down, she hoped the reset would present the perfect opportunity.

“We will get this,” Eddie D’Hondt encouraged. “We just haven’t found the right dance partner.” She couldn’t help but agree, but saw potential in those starting around him.

Her breath caught in her throat as they went back green, knowing the action was about to pick up with the race nearing its conclusion. She found herself in a mix of nerves, with some cheers even escaping her lips, as everything began to came together. The search for a dance partner came out to be complete, in the form of Ryan Blaney, as the pair went back and forth for the lead with the Penske teammates. It was also a calming sensation seeing that No. 24 Chevrolet lead laps, as he was ahead of both wrecks that took place behind them removing multiple cars.

Taking a deep breath under the latest caution, she knew the intensity was set to ramp up and it was now or never. She just hoped Chase made the right moves.

She watched the shuffle on the restart, seeing Chase just behind the leaders. Down the backstretch with 12 to go, her eyes focused on the television monitor before her. Her breath then hitched in her throat as she watched Joey Logano and Daniel Suarez battle side-by-side for the lead, with Chase diving from the top lane behind them to the bottom to go by them both entering the third turn, before sliding back up to the top to hold the momentum.

“Holy shit!” She let out in disbelief, placing her hand on her chest. “That was damn sexy! Hot damn! But damn, Chase, don’t be doing that to me….”

She hoped that he could just simply stay ahead of them, no more challenges for the lead, just a smooth sailing from here to the end.

That wasn’t meant to be, though, as she watched Joey get a run, followed by Chase getting shuffled back to fourth with eight laps to go. Taking a deep breath, she partially just wanted the race to be over so nerves could return to normal, but she also felt herself on the edge, fingers crossed, knowing what could happen today – finally.

“Come on Chase!” She lets out, hoping it all came together.

With six laps to go down the back and entering turn three, the opportunity to make a move came up. A hole opened up between Kyle Larson and Daniel as they battled for the lead, and Chase had the momentum. He immediately shot for the gap, though before anybody could realize – that hole closed, contact happened. Sarina immediately wanted to throw up, panic, cry, scream as she watched the No. 24 Chevrolet shoot from the bottom of the track to the top, making contact with the outside turn three wall.

“Oh shit!” She lets out as she feels arms wrap around her from behind, glancing over her shoulder to see they belonged to Jordan Allen, who was rubbing her shoulders. “Oh gosh….”

“Breathe, relax….” Jordan encourages as he continues to rub her shoulders. “You heard the radio transmission…” She nods her head, having heard him say the words that he was ‘okay.’

“I can’t believe this…” She tried to take a couple deep breathes, and relax, but the sudden angle of impact, the speed, and seeing the crumpled up car, she was beyond disbelief.

“He’s okay…” Jordan then slowly stands up, holding out a hand for her to grab hold. She grabs it, slowly standing herself. “I’ll walk you back so you can see him….” She simply nods her head, following Jordan’s lead, going through the motions without questions.

She carefully climbs down the ladder from the pit box, glancing at one of the team’s televisions screens in the process. She watches him slowly get out from where the car stopped in turn four, slowly walking down the banking. She takes a couple more deep breaths, saying a couple silent prayers of thanks, before following Jordan’s lead quietly.

The entire walk to the infield care center was quiet as she didn’t know what to say; she almost felt numb in that moment. The wait for the ambulance to come back, followed by them checking him over felt like it was going on forever – even if it was just a span of perhaps 15 to 20 minutes.

After feeling like an eternity had passed, she watches the doors open and he walks out, instantly walking over to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.

“I’m okay,” he simply tells her, knowing how freaked out she could get about wrecks from the last Talladega experience. “I’m okay…” She looks up into his brown eyes, feeling every emotion run through her, as she wraps her arms around him to hold him close.

“Are you sure?” She questions as he lays her head on her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t lie to you. I’m fine. It took my breath away for a minute, but I’m fine…” He then lets go, which she follows suit slowly. She watches as he goes over and answers some questions for the reporters, before swiftly returning back to her arms. “Ready to go back to the motorcoach?”

“Absolutely. It’s time for me to take care of you…” He then rolls his eyes as they begin the walk together.

“I told you, I’m fin-”

“You’re going to be sore as hell tomorrow after how hard you hit, whether you want to admit that to me or not. You also did an incredible, beyond admirable job, dealing with my issues this weekend. It’s time that I repay you. For once, let me take care of you…” He nods his head, accepting, knowing he wasn’t going to win this fight.

Once back in the motorcoach, she got him a bottle of water, helped him change out of his firesuit, made him a nice snack, followed by a full back massage.

“I’m spoiled….” He lets out as she continues to work the muscles.

“You deserve it,” she tells him, kissing his cheek. He then glances up at her with a smile.

“You absolutely deserve to be repaid for your hard work and dedication, and I just want to love you that much more…” He then lets out a sigh as he lays his head back down. “But that soreness is creeping in…”

“Then let me do all the pleasuring…” She then rolls him over so he’s on his back, facing her directly, as he looks on intrigued. “Besides, I owe you…”

“You don’t owe me a single thing. I would do what I did for you 10 times over, sweetheart.” She smiles, kissing his lips lightly.

“That doesn’t mean that I can reward your hard work in taking care of me, and your hard work in coming oh so close today…” She then reaches for the edges of his boxers, slipping them down. “Now, relax…”

“How can I relax when I know….where….you’re….going?” She then laughs as she rubs his shoulders once again, brushing her body against his. “Sarina….”

“Yes, Chase?” He then takes her hand, placing it over his crotch, knowing her plan already.

“Stop being a damn tease and deliver on your promise. Help make the pain of Talladega disappear, please…” She then smiles, kissing his lips as she rubs him lightly.

“Your wish is my command, sweet dear…”

*******

Monday, October 16

Sarina makes her way to the back door of the 5/24 shop, knocking on the door.

With concerns still stemming from how he was feeling, she had taken the liberty of dropping him off at the shop while on the way to Kyle Busch Motorsports herself. Now that she was done everything for the day, she had come back to grab him – but also make a stop of her own.

She watches the door open slowly, flashing a million dollar smile immediately.

“No matter what you say or do, you cannot sneak in through the shop,” Chad Avrit tells her as she just laughs.

“I can’t even seduce you to do that?” She questions, causing an intrigued glance to form on his face.

“You’d never….” She laughs and shakes he head.

“You’re right, but I may seduce your driver.” Chad knew that quite the possibility as he crossed his arms.

“Chase is still upstairs doing whatever Chase does….” She figured that as she knew that she was early.

“Is Jordan around?” Chad glances behind him, seeing Jordan working on the interior section of their car for Martinsville in a couple weeks. “Can he come see me, please?”

“I’ll go ask…” Chad then closes the door, leaving Sarina to stand there and wait by herself.

She knew she wasn’t taking the smoothest approach in doing this, but she had to say something after Sunday. Lost in the chaos, she never spoke to Jordan after he led her back to the care center.

“Hey Sarina,” Jordan comments as he opens the door, closing it behind him as he steps outside.

“Hey,” she replies. “I didn’t get you in trouble, did I?” Jordan shakes his head.

“I hadn’t taken my break yet…” She then takes a deep breath, debating the best way to say this.

“I just wanted to stop by and say thank you. I mean it – thank you so much. Thank you for holding me, thank you for your words, thank you for comforting me, thank you for leading me there, and thank you. I was totally lost in the moment and didn’t say a single word….” Jordan looks at her with eyes of sympathy. He understood where she was coming from.

“I knew you were scared and worried; I could see it by your reaction when he hit the wall. Hey, it’s understandable, though. You love and care about him. I knew the best thing in that moment was to offer support for you.”

“But you went above and beyon-”

“Any of the guys would’ve done the same on this team. We’re family, and we’re there for each other. Alan was there on the radio for Chase with Eddie, and I was just the first one to step in for you. Josh mentioned to me that he was about to grab you and take you, but realized that I had you already. You don’t need to thank me. I’m glad as much as you are that he is okay.” Sarina nods her head, having said a couple more thank you prayers since.

“You do a great job at making sure the interior of that car is done right and he’s kept safe. It shows. Thank you…” He smiles as he pulls her into a hug.

“It’s part of the job, and I love him just as much as anybody. But you’re welcome.”

They then separate, talking for a bit longer, before she lets him go so he doesn’t get in trouble for too long of a break.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 147: Return to Normalcy…..

Friday, September 1 – Darlington Raceway

“He’s here!” Chad Avrit announces proudly as Chase walks through the back door of the trailer. “Boy gets home Tuesday and doesn’t come see his boys till race weekend…”

“I’ve been busy – sorry,” Chase immediately apologizes as he gives each crew member a quick hug.

“Look at the tan!” Jared Erspamer comments, noticing how Chase’s skin was visibly a couple shades darker than before he left.  “You could seriously hide in plain sight….”

“No no – look at the hair!” Eddie adds before giving it a quick flick. Chase knocks his hands away with a sigh. One of the many reasons he couldn’t wait to cut it that week. “I’m surprised your parents haven’t said anything…”

“Dude – he’s over the age of 18. He’s allowed to make his own decisions now.” Eddie rolls his eyes, obviously knowing that. He had been working with Chase for a couple of years now.

“I know, but he also takes his parent’s opinion into consideration, and they haven’t actually said much.” Chase smiles, as he pulls up a photo on his phone.

“That’s because Dad had the same hair at one point so he can’t do much,” Chase comments. “And they both know the reason for doing it.”

“Those photos are going to turn out amazing!” Alan lets out, having heard the means behind Chase’s plan. “Glad to see you’re doing well. I was a little worried that you’d get lost in Amsterdam.”

“Surprisingly, we never did….” Alan looks on shocked.

“Did you get drunk by chance?” Jared wonders as Chase glances over his way. “Well, if you didn’t get drunk, you can’t get lost – but being in Amsterdam, you better have drank.” Chase laughs as clearly the crew member followed the Ryan Blaney philosophy.

“Trust me, I had my fair share of drinks but never went over-board,” Chase comments before stealing a snack out of the drawer. “Now, we have a job to do….”

Alan clears his throat, flipping open the notebook. He figured they could go over vacation notes at another time.

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

Chase leans back against the counter in the hauler, smiling as he heard her voice over the phone. They’d only been away from each other since she left in the wee morning hours, but he was already missing her. Perhaps that’s because they’d been spoiled lately with schedules aligning and an amazing vacation.

“So what are you doing?” He wonders as she kicks her feet out on the mountain.

“Watching the Pinty’s Series go around the track,” she answers. “I’m trying to see if I can pick up some more about the lines and such by watching them.” Chase knew that process, having down it himself.

“Keep an eye on the likes of Tagliani, Kennington, and Klutt. They normally run up front.” Sarina had heard the same advice from the boss.

“Kyle actually mentioned going to see Gary (Klutt) if I got a chance…” Chase understood that, remembering Gary drove for KBM last year in his series debut.

“You’ll figure it out pretty quick. It’s not like you’re a total road course rookie, and it’s not one of the hardest courses. It’s just all about momentum, especially the back half. That’s where I beat Dillon.” Sarina chuckles, remembering that finish.

“You mean dump-”

“He came across my bumper and had slowed up due to being worried about fuel. What else did he expect on the last lap?” Sarina lets out a sigh, knowing she would’ve done the same thing.

“Alright, enough about me. How did you make out in practice?” Chase glances over at the time sheet, pleased with what he saw.

“Seventh quickest. Surprisingly, would you believe Truex was 18th?” Sarina was shocked in hearing the news, based on the No. 78 team’s dominance.

“That’s insane, but nice job yourself. Did the car feel good?” Chase knew that wasn’t the full truth as he glanced in Alan’s direction.

“We could use some improvement, not going to lie…” Sarina almost crossed her fingers upon hearing the comment.

“Well, get ‘er done as I know you’ll do amazing this weekend. I love you….”

“I love you, more…”

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

Saturday, September 2 – Canadian Tire Motorsports Park

Sarina walks into the garage area, leaning on the back of the truck with a sigh. The focus today was all about laying down laps, and getting used to the feel of the truck on the road course. She knew she could get the job done – she just needed to follow everything in particular order.

“Uh oh, someone is seriously lost in thought…” She hears and smiles as she watches Christopher Bell walk over. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” she replies. “How are you?”

“Ready to rock and roll.” She nods her head, knowing that if she was going to win, he probably would be one of the drivers she’d have to beat.

“Think you can win?” Christopher felt confident, but had concerns. He did come from a dirt racing background without the road course experience.

“I have no doubt I’ll be fast. I just worry about Cindric….” Sarina followed the eyes to where Austin stood talking with a couple crew members. Based on his background, it was no secret that he was someone to watch this weekend.

“I’m confident that I can beat him if I get that feel I want during practice.” Christopher nods his head, having heard shop discussions about her background. The pressure was on this weekend, so to speak, with the races counting down before the playoffs.

“Just don’t let it get in your head, okay?” She nods her head, accepting. “You just came back from the dream vacation, but yet nobody would know looking at you. Are you okay?”

“I’m just focused on having the best weekend possible no matter what. I don’t want to give it away or make a dumb mistake. I need a win, Christopher. I want to make the playoffs.” Christopher nodded his head, understanding.

“I think you can do it – but, remember what I said. Don’t let it play havoc with you in the mind. Just try and do things as you can.” Sarina nods her head, knowing that he was right. Extra pressure had caused the issues at Bristol just a couple weeks ago.

“So I got to sit in Romain’s car right before the F1 race…” Christopher looks on shocked.

“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head. “Damn, you’re completely spoiled as I’m guessing someone pulled a favor…” She laughs.

“Is it that obvious?” Christopher nods his head. “I don’t know how to describe it, Christopher. All I keep wanting to say is he’s perfect, there’s no way around it. I can’t begin to describe every other emotion that I feel….”

“Love is one of those things that it’s hard to describe. I get it – I felt that when I met my girlfriend.” Sarina nods her head, having seen the blond with Christopher a couple times. “I don’t want to say love at first sight, but it was….”

“Don’t tell Chase but when he first asked me to join him at the Michigan Cup race, I wanted to immediately say yes and spend as much time as I could. I just held back because I was scared.” Christopher nods his head, understanding.

“And now?” She smiles as she looks at him square in the eyes.

“I wouldn’t trade anything for the world. He means everything to me, more than I want to admit myself sometimes. Based on how we connected even closer on our trip, I’d say it’s perfect.” Christopher then raises his eyebrows. “Oh hell no…no…no….no…..That didn’t happen!” She then smacks him as he laughs.

“Admit it – you want him…” She rolls her eyes immediately.

“Most girls would say that and I guess that’s how love is supposed to work, but I don’t. I don’t feel that need to strip all the layers away and show that passionate love. For me, I rather accept what we have right now. I like the slow pace that it’s growing at. I love the connection that we’ve built emotionally, and how we can always lean on each other. It’s just perfect the way it is that I don’t find myself asking for more, ever.” Christopher could only shake his head.

“You are so spoiled – but you’re perfect for him, because anybody can tell how reserved he is about certain things…” Sarina nods her head, knowing that he didn’t hide much.

“It’s one of the reasons why I love him, though. He gets having the right reason and not just throwing it out there. He gets waiting, and knowing it’s meant to be.” Christopher then places a hand on her shoulder.

“I get it. You’re in perfect love. Enjoy it, embrace it, and make the most of it – while doing your thing this weekend, okay?” She smiles, nodding her head. With that out of her system, it was time to get serious and focus on winning.

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

Sunday, September 3 – Darlington Raceway

Chase glances at himself in the mirror, taking in the whole appearance. From the shoes to the suit to the gloves, it just seemed perfect. The hair was also long enough, too, but something seemed off.

“Ugh!!” Chase lets out as he grabs the brush once again, playing with his hair.

“Frustrated?” Cindy questions as she glances in the bathroom. “You look great, bud.” Chase looks over, letting out a sigh. It was nice to look great – but he wasn’t perfect, yet.

“I can’t get it to curl like Dad’s. I want to have that curl in the back, poof on the sides. But no matter what I do – even advice from Ryan, and I can’t do that.” Cindy chuckles as she snatches the brush off of him.

“It’s not happening naturally for you because son, you got blessed with your Mamma’s hair – which is okay as you may not want that puff all the times.” Chase rolls his eyes, not knowing where his mom was going with this. “And asking Ryan for hair advice?”

“He has the longest hair in the garage….”

“Whenever you want hair advice, you need to go to a woman as we always have the most hair and probably know the tricks. Since yours isn’t co-operating, I have a way to do it.” He glances back, surprised.

“Really?” She nods her head. “Focus forward, don’t move…” He does as instructed, eyes focused on the mirror, as he watches her comb through the hair, followed by grabbing a couple other things from the drawer.

“When you met Dad, did you like the hair?” She chuckles as it was strange to think back that far.

“Back then, that was the greatest style and everybody wanted to have that look. I just couldn’t believe how natural it came to him and how it fit him. That, combined with his sweet southern charm which he obviously passed on to you, along with a couple other things, and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to get to know him more.” Chase smiles as it was always nice to recount those memories from when his parents met.

“I still can’t believe you had no interest in racing at the time, and were just there because you were forced to shoot photos.” She nods her head, as crazy as that seemed now.

“Once I got to know more details, see the behind the scenes, I started to fall in love. Then watching your father, it just came to me automatically…” She then sprays a bit of spray before taking a step back. “How’s that?” Chase turns his head side to side, impressed. Between the brush, small curls with the curling iron, more brushing and a bit of spray, he looked pretty good now.

“Thanks Mama.” He then turns around, giving her a kiss. “Now, let’s see if we can squeeze this schedule together….”

He headed out that morning, attending the round of appearances that he had to do for the sponsors. Each stop, they were impressed with the look that he had pulled off, admiring the commitment and how closely it resembled the styles of that time. There were even some representatives that had a story or two to tell, which Chase always appreciated.

However, he couldn’t deny being equally happy when it was all done so he could retreat back to the team hauler, set to watch the final 30 laps of the Chevrolet Silverado 250.

Sarina put herself in a good position as the race neared a close, running in the second spot. She even began to close a little on Kaz Grala, causing some cheers to escape Chase. However, just in that moment, it faded and Cindric slipped by for second.

He then watched in disgust as Cindric caught Grala, spinning him in turn six, before taking the win. Sarina was able to sneak by the spun out 33 truck and get second, which was certainly a strong run.

He stayed long enough in hopes of seeing her post-race interview to hear her thoughts – and felt her heart fall apart immediately. There she stood on pit road, putting all her emotions on the line of the pressure to win and pressure to succeed, wanting to be apart of the playoffs, with tears trickling down her face. As she admittedly choked on her words, his heart lunged to reach out to her, hold her, and assure her like always it would be alright.

Knowing he needed to head out for driver introductions, he dialed her phone number on the way, hoping that someone picked up.

“Hello?” He hears Marcus’ voice, glad that he had her phone.

“Give me Sarina…” He requests, without a pause. He knew that time was limited.

“Chase?” He hears a quiet voice not so long after, stopping right there in the middle of his walk.

“I just wanted to call and tell you how proud I am of you. You did an amazing job today. You ran up front all race long, you battled with the top guys, and you raced your heart out. That was one of your best performances to date. I’m proud of you.” He wasn’t about to dwell on the tears – limited time meant focus on picking her up.

“Thank you. I just wish so badly that I could’ve won….” She felt the emotions flooding back up once again as she leaned back against the truck.

“I know – trust me, I know. The first is the hardest to get and it hurts so much each time you lose. Remember how I was at Michigan? You just have to remember that you’re doing a great job, you’re a rookie, you’re out-performing expectations, and you’re getting there. You will have that win soon.” She felt that, too, but still worried.

“I need that win now, Chase. I want to be in the playoffs. Not making the playoffs is a failu-”

“Look at how you’ve ran, though. You’ve been fast everywhe-”

“Playoffs define a season, and with KBM, you know how that is. Look at William, Erik, Christo-”

“What have we talked about? You cannot compare yourselves to them. Your background is totally different. They had other racing opportunities. They didn’t have the odds stacked against them like you do. I say based on your performance and how you’ve learned, improved, and gotten close to that win, there’s no reason to cry and hang your head. You’re doing an amazing job, and I know everybody around you thinks that. Just ask Kyle, Christopher, Marcus, whoever. I know it hurts, but your day is coming…”

“Thank you…” He was glad to hear that as he resumed walking.

“Now , I need to let you go. I will send you a photo from pit road later on and I will speak to you after the race. I love you, I care about you, and I’m proud of you. Sarina, I mean every single word. I would repeat it a 100 times over but I hav-”

“Just let me go, Chase. I get it. Have a good night!” He then hangs up, rushing to the driver introduction stage.

Once he was done instructions, he took the famous photo by the car, exactly matching the same image taken by his father years earlier. He was beyond satisfied when he looked over what the photographer captured as it was beyond perfect.

Following another series of images, opening ceremonies took place, followed by the race. Chase was solid during the night, keeping himself in contention for a top-10 from the halfway point on. Though in the end, he came up one spot short, finishing 11th.

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Darlington

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 134: Her Trial and Those Nerves….

Wednesday, August 17 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Chase thins out the creases in his shirt once again, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he was in Bristol right now, but instead he had this to deal with.

“Thanks for coming,” he comments with a glance at his parents as they walk towards the court room doors.

“We’ve always got your back,” Cindy says as she follows him inside. “We would’ve been here whether you asked or not.” Chase smiles, knowing that was true. He just wished Sarina was there too, but she was in Bristol getting ready for practice.

“My phone is turned on silent. I told Sarina I’d text her updates, as long as she let me know how practice went. Hopefully, we’re out of here quickly…” He had already planned to fly to Bristol that night and be there for the truck race, no matter what. He wanted to be there to support his girl.

He heard from her the discussion with Kyle, followed by the extended meeting at Kyle Busch Motorsports on Monday. Everybody knew her short track pedigree and how she could master any track just like that – it was why she was so good behind the wheel of a late model. She also already had laps at Bristol with a late model and ran well. Now knowing the pressure to make the playoffs was picking up, it was now or never to win – and this was the best opportunity looking at the stretch of races.

He had comforted her as much as he could, assuring her that she had the ability to get the job done, but also to relax and just do her thing and it’d pan out right. He also texted Kyle that it may be a good idea to calm off a little as pressure wasn’t needed necessary right now with everything else going on.

Though now being in Indiana set for the first day of another trial spell, he wished with all of his might that he was in Bristol right now by her side, supporting her. Why couldn’t they done this a day before or a day later?

“There he is….” Chase hears, recognizing the voice – Eddie D’Hondt – as he enters the court room, instantly glancing over with a surprise as he sees the whole team sitting there.

“What are you guys doing here?” He questions as the team looks towards the boss. Alan was supposed to mention that they were going to be attending.

“She set up a bomb to blow all of our asses up,” Alan starts. “We’re in this as much as you, so we wanted to make sure and be here. We have to make sure she pays for what she did.” Chase admired the crew’s reasoning, but still felt bad for taking them away from focusing on things in the shop. He knew things were crazy right now at Hendrick with making sure he qualified for the playoffs, and were ready when they started.

“You guys are already working crazy hours, and now you’re putting in flight time and time away from your families, the team that you don’t need to be doing.”

“This is coming from the same guy that said we stick together no matter what and have each other’s back, right?” Jared Seate questions. “No matter what you say, Chase, we felt the need and right to be here. What if – Never mind, I don’t want to picture that happening. But still…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Jared was right in his words – seeing the bit of fear the guys felt in the moment. It was another byproduct of the decision he made….

“Well, I appreciate you being here regardless, and don’t worry – she’s not getting away with this.” Chase then takes his seat, with his parents sitting on either side of him, as he quickly sends a good luck text to Sarina, knowing practice is about to start.

“All rise!” The clerk then states, causing Chase to focus his attention forward as he stands up. “The honorable Judge Mansions preceding!” The female judge walks in, taking her seat on the podium as Chase focuses his eyes on her. He wanted to read her, see whether she was someone that had sympathy or would lay down every ounce of the law in a second.

“You may be seated,” she states, as everyone in the room sits down. “Except for Ms. Alison Stevenson…” Alison remains standing, glancing over at Chase with a wink and smile, before looking back forward. Chase could only roll his eyes, and feel a bit of vomit rising at that thought. “We’re simply here to see how you plead to the charges, which seems to be a decent list. I am going to go through them and you will simply say guilty or not guilty, understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Allison replies as Chase keeps his eyes locked forward, not wanting to take another glance at her.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people, how do you plead?” Everybody knew that charge surrounded the bomb that went off in the garage, as some of the crew guys still shivered at the thought. Jared couldn’t stop himself from asking the what if question, either.

“Guilty.” A series of gasps in surprise can be heard throughout the room in response to the charge as Chase glances back at the crew guys surprised. Perhaps this was going to be easier than expected….

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Chase Elliott, how do you plead?” Chase sits back, closing his eyes as he wishes he could forget how sick he felt that afternoon, and continued to question why he let her play him and not do something sooner.

“Guilty.” Chase was once again surprised, but not willing to argue. It was nice to see everything going to plan.

“On the charge of kidnapping Mr. Elliott, how do you plead?” It was intriguing to hear those words used, given that Chase had voluntarily followed her helper to that location. However, he also did recall being held there against will with the door locked. There was also the fact the state attorney promised she was going to try and catch Allison on every charge possible.

“Not guilty – he came voluntarily.” Chase lets out a sigh, having expected an answer of that magnitude. However, he wasn’t going to worry about it. There was enough years with the other two charges combined.

“Your honor, my client has pled guilty to both charges due to being forced to follow orders from another female in this equation,” Allison’s lawyer speaks up, catching Chase’s attention as a smile forms. There was no question who that other party was, either.

“A plea deal was offered for the informatio-” The attorney starts, which Chase recalled the phone call conversation.

“My client should not serve any time for her wrongdoings simply due to how she was forced by another individual!” Laughter escaped people in the room in response to that, casing the judge to hit her hammer to quiet them down.

“Your honor, she caused Mr. Elliott to be hospitalized almost for a full week, knocked out for almost a whole day. She also caused fear among any person standing in the garage that weekend, which reached the 100s, but more specifically the entire team that works with Mr. Elliott. Just because someone was forced, she shouldn’t be allowed to escape every charge.” There were people who were almost set to cheer at the rebuttal, though stopped themselves as they saw the hammer being raised again.

“Any outbursts from here on out and you will be kicked out of my court room, possibly held in contempt of court,” Judge Mansions says, causing a frozen appearance to go over the room. “A trial will be held to determine whether a sentence should be levied against, and to what extent. We will begin with Allison Stevenson stating what she did, and why, before going from that point with whatever else is felt necessary. Jury or no jury? Media block or none?”

“We would like to keep the media out of this due to being a high profile case,” the attorney states, which Chase had his fingers crossed for. There was going to be enough for a mess caused by the Chris trial in Florida.

“Once again – special treatment for celebrity status?” The lawyer questions. “And we would like a jury, please.”

“The request for a media block has been denied as being high profile, the public does deserve re-assurance,” Judge Mansions says, as Chase lets out a sigh. It was going to be a media mess in the garage for a good bit. “Jury selection will be done, and then we will begin as stated. Has the individual responsible for the threats been arrested?”

“The paperwork is currently being processed as we speak,” the attorney reveals as Chase could only shakes his head. He knew that Bethany would be going into hiding with the thought of being captured – that or expediting whatever plan she had been cooking up in her meetings with Chris. Either way, he immediately found his fingers typing away on his phone quietly to Sarina with an update, including a fair stern warning.

“Thank you. Court adjourned!”

Everybody immediately files out of the court room as Chase glances at the time, figuring out in his head when they’d land in Bristol. Perhaps he’d actually get there in time for qualifying now.

“Surprised by her confession?” Bill questions, catching Chase’s attention as they walk out of the court room.

“Not one bit – Sarina and I figured there was a connection,” Chase answers, remembering their conversation. He also remembered another conversation with Sarina in the timing of the photo being sent, along with a comment traded. “She’s been dropping hints to Sarina for awhile now. It was how Sarina got her hands on the photo that weekend…”

“So she was going to use Allison to break you two up?” Chase nods his head, remembering the comment that Sarina mentioned from Bethany.

“On the first day of Chris’ trial when I wasn’t able to be there, Bethany mentioned something about how I may get bored or annoyed, and stray from her. That very same day was when I first encountered Allison at the Hooter’s Pageant.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief as they reach the car.

“At least Sarina was smart and listened to you and trusted you….” Chase nods his head as he climbs in the car. Though letting out a sigh, he couldn’t let it escape him that it took some convincing from a third party as she was almost set to run away.  “Did she do well in practice?” Chase glances at the results, knowing right away that his dad was trying to get his mind off of what happened.

“Fourth quickest. The boss was first with Bell third. They’ve got some quick trucks…..”

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

With both practices in the books, Sarina found herself leaning against the truck, awaiting for qualifying to begin. She kept glancing at her watch, checking the time, remembering the latest text from Chase – he was supposed to be on his way. She couldn’t help but glance towards the gates to see whether he was walking through them. She knew within five minutes of the session, the gates would close and he would be stuck on the outside until the session was over.

Crossing her fingers, she wanted to see her man before then.

She was trying not to be nervous, but she couldn’t help but remember the words chance to win, playoffs, short track queen, your wheel house that had been repeated by crew members, Marcus, Kyle, and the media entering the day. It was like everybody expected her to come in, run well, and battle Kyle for the win – just like her late model short track days.

Nobody understood the difference between the trucks and late models, it seemed. Nobody understood that she was a rookie still trying to learn. Nobody understood that pressure would drive her insane.

“Surprise!” She hears as a pair of arms wrap around her waist, instantly pulling her close. She immediately smiles as she recognized the voice and feeling right away. It was like every bit of anxiety she was feeling escaped immediately, too.

“Thank you….” She then spins around, facing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Did you really need me that badly?” She nods her head as he keeps her held close.

“You wouldn’t believe the questions in the media center….” He then steps back, looking at her surprised. He could only connect those questions to everything going on with Chris and Allison. “Everybody just assumes that I’m going to be in contention to win because I know short tracks, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment. Like, I didn’t need to hear that. I can do that enough myself!” Chase then pulls her back close, running his hands up and down her back.

“Take a deep breath, relax….” He then pauses, looking into her eyes. “What did we talk about this week? What have we talked about every time something like this comes up?” She closes her eyes, remembering their conversations.

“Take a deep breath, relax, be calm, forget the outside world, focus on myself, and just do my thing because no matter what, it’ll play out how it is supposed to.” He nods his head as he pulls her back close, rubbing her back once again.

“Don’t let it eat at you. Your belief in yourself is all you need. Just focus on that, Marcus and everything will work out. You’ve had a great rookie season, showing improvement every week. Just keep doing that, and you’ll eventually get to where everybody thinks you should be. They keep forgetting that you’re just fresh out of late models, and it’s not just going to come to you. Not everybody is a William Byron.”  She then glances at him.

“….or a Chase Elliot-”

“Hey now, I made some costly mistakes when I first moved up, too, and tore up some equipment. I wasn’t no angel by any means.” She shrugs her shoulders, not too sure about that, as she remembered always hearing amazing things. “Look at Joey Logano, though. Look at Truex. Look at Keselowski. Heck, look at your car owner or even Bell. Those guys took time to come into their own. Bell had a bunch of horrendous moments last year, but came into his own as the year closed. Kyle got sent from one team to another due to how he was. It’ll come…”

“I hope you’re rig-”

“I know I’m right. Just believe, okay?” She nods her head as she lays it on his shoulder. “So, we were right about Allison….” She smiles immediately.

“I’m just glad that she had the courage to say something. But to not want any jail time at all?” She then stands straight up, staring at Chase in the eyes. “Are you sure she’s not actually insane?” Chase laughs.

“Hey now, I never said that she wasn’t, either. We saw what she did….” Sarina nods her head. “Regardless, it feels good that we’ve got them on all angles. See, things are starting to work out…”

“It’s a start, I guess…” He then rubs her shoulders once again.

“Believe in yourself – you’re going to have a great night, and the rest of stuff will fall into place. If it makes you feel better, think about the vacation coming up….” She smiles, remembering that discussion. She wasn’t absolutely certain about doing a vacation alongside Ryan, given the fear with what pranks may come, but she was ready to get away and have some fun for a couple weeks.

“What are you most excited for – Amsterdam, Germany, or the Belgium Grand Prix?” Chase thinks it over, remembering the planning that he and Ryan broke down earlier in the week together in places to hit up. It had already been an almost disaster trying to get passes to go to the Formula 1 event, but it paid off to have connections – thanks Jeff!

“Amsterdam looks like it’s going to be amazing with all the places that Ryan has figured out.” Sarina just shakes her head.

“You boys are just excited to try the different beers…” He then chuckles, shrugging his shoulders. He couldn’t deny it…

“It’s going to be a good time regardless, right?” She then rolls her eyes, already figuring she’d be babysitting them at one point. “What about you?”

“I actually can’t wait to go to the Belgium Grand Prix, to be honest. I’m always for exploring different forms of racing, and I’ve never been to a Formula 1 event. I’m ready to get up close and personal for a change.” Chase then thinks things over, pondering some thoughts…

“Maybe we can get the chance for you to sit in a car.” Her eyes open wide immediately and Chase makes a mental note to get a hold of Jeff or maybe Tony to see if he could pull that favor off, too. “I said maybe…strong maybe. I mean, I don’t know them. It’s going to take some convincing…”

“Have I told you today that you’re perfect and amazing?” He just rolls his eyes as she kisses his lips. “I got to go qualify. We’ll get back to these plans later, okay?” He nods his head as she heads off. He could only smile seeing the hop in her step, knowing their conversation had been perfect.

Now they just needed the bubbly attitude to carry them through the night….

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

Chase cautiously walks back to the garage area, seeing Sarina climb out of the truck, throwing her gloves back in frustrated. She then takes her helmet off, setting it down lightly – she never threw that no matter her anger due to how she cherished it – before letting out a sigh. She grabbed the bottle of water left on the truck by Marcus, downing the entire bottle, before chucking it across the pit area.

The race had started out well as she had started fourth, running up front right there with Kyle and Christopher. However, near the end of the second stage, she suffered a pit road penalty – crew member over the wall too soon – which set her back in the field. She pushed as hard as she could to make up the lost ground, ending up 15th.

Chase cautiously walks over, slowly wrapping his arms around her, as he lays her head on her shoulder. If it had been anybody except him, he knew she would’ve snapped around and chopped their head off. But being that it was him, she actually laid back into his arms a little.

“You did what you had to do,” he starts. “It’s not your fault that you got the penalty. It’s not your fault that you finished where you did. You did what you needed to do, and that’s all you can ask as a driver.” She sighs, knowing that he was right – no matter how angry she was.

“How could they not get that they jumped over the wall too soon?” She questions as Chase had to shrug his shoulders. He remembered instantly cursing on the pit box when he heard the call.

“They’re always trying to get that advantage of being as quick as possible. The one guy just timed it a little wrong…” She wanted to scream, possibly snap the head off of that crew member, but she knew that wouldn’t solve anything.

“I so badly wanted to do well. I so badly wanted to be up there in the top-five. I so badly wanted to win…”

“I know, and you did exactly what you needed to do. It sucks, but that’s racing and shit happens. These guys have done a great job all year. I bet that crew member feels worse than you do right now. You guys have a couple more races – you can make the playoffs. Just take a deep breath, and put your best foot forward as you can do this.” He then kisses her cheek.

“Thank you…” He nods his head as he lets her go, letting her walk up into the hauler to change as he lets out a sigh.