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.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 105: Coke Zero 400

Saturday, July 1

 

Chase walks out to pit road, sunglasses affixed on his face, as he makes his way by his fellow competitors.

If he wasn’t so hard on himself about commitment, he probably would’ve stayed locked in the motorcoach till everything shook itself out with how he was feeling.

Once he had finished the conversation with Sarina, he met up with the team for a discussion about the race that day. The conversation wasn’t needed – but it was a good distraction for him to have. He went through the sponsor appearances, and then forced himself to eat something as he knew racing on an empty stomach would not go well at all.  He retreated back to the motorcoach, hiding out as he waited for a text or something from Sarina, making sure to head out to pit road just before start time.

Now following his introduction, he was hoping it’d just be a matter of minutes before he was in his own world strapped in the car.

“Chase!” He hears, stopping and rolling his eyes immediately as he turns in the direction of the voice. He could only roll them again as he noticed it was Kyle Busch making his way over. “Dude, have you seen Chris at all today?” Chase shakes his head no. “Damn. I heard there’s an arrest warrant out for him?”

“Ryan says that Chris poisoned him,” Chase states, knowing it was just a matter of time before the truth came out. Like Ryan had done the good duty in warning him, he had done the good duty in warning Kyle with him being Sarina’s boss. “Combined with Jared’s comment, it’s added up to enough for a warrant.”

“Sarina wouldn’t say much, but I thought that was the case. I haven’t seen him either, and truthfully, she hasn’t seen him as she’s been hanging around Christopher and I all day.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that had to be a great combination as nothing like hearing another round of Bell worries. “She went looking for her brother, and couldn’t find him, so she found us instead. We convinced her that we’d help look, but also watch just because.”

“Glad you had better luck than I did.” Chase knew he shouldn’t say too much, but as he took off his glasses to truly face Kyle, he knew it was worth saying. “Look, I went to her after Ryan told me and flat out told her what I thought. I said what Ryan said, and I said how I agreed based on the facts. She wasn’t too pleased, denied it entirely, was mad at me for that and walked out.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“She had told me you guys had a disagreement about it…” Chase knew that was putting it mildly.

“Kyle, I love her. I really do love her and I want to spend as much time as I can possibly muster with her. I want to see us work this out and everything be fine for us. I know I was a little over baring in what I said, but it’s how I felt. Just promise me that you’ll keep an eye out for her, please.” Kyle shakes his head, accepting. He could see the emotions in Chase’s eyes as he told him.

“I will, without a doubt. None of this is her fault or your fault. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way back together. Good luck.” Chase smiles, glad there was an understanding. It felt better to be on the same page this time around, unlike last time.

“Thanks Kyle, and same to you.” He then puts his sunglasses back on, continuing the long walk down pit road to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat on the pole.

He then leans back against it, easily doing the required pre-race interviews without much emotion showing through. He then accepted a photo opportunity with the boss, Dale and Amy, though kept quiet the whole time. Alan had picked up on the events that had taken place, silently assuring the young man that he had his back.

Standing there for the anthem, Chase had to admit that it felt lonely standing there without a hand to hold onto from Sarina. It even felt worse climbing in the car without a kiss, yet knowing she was somewhere on the property.

Once buckled in the car with the window net up, he takes a deep breath and focuses his eyes forward. He couldn’t think about Chris anymore. He couldn’t think about Sarina anymore. It was time for him to win a race tonight.

As the field pulls off pit road, Sarina sat up near the top of the grandstands with Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland. She affixed her headset on, tuning it to listen into Chase’s radio transmission. She was mad at him, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t care as she wanted to see him have a good, fun, safe night. She also held her phone tightly to her, trying her brother’s number every 15 minutes in hopes that he’d surface; it was very concerning to not know where he was. She was actually surprised the police let her go after a half hour of questioning.

“Be aggressive like you were in February all night,” Alan tells Chase over the radio and Sarina smiles. She’d have no problem with Chase putting himself in the same position as he did in the 500, but with a win this time around.

“Yes sirey bob,” Chase replies, which earns a small chuckle from Sarina.

The race started off well with Chase solidly running up front through the first stage without any problems. He also started off stage two well, putting himself in solid position. Sometimes he right at the front of the pack, and sometimes he started to fade back a little – it was all about putting yourself in the right lane.

As the second stage drew closer towards the end, the pack continued to close up more and more and chaos seemed to be happening more with nerves on edge. Contact was happening through the field as everybody seemed to want to bump draft. Going down the backstretch, trapped on the bottom lane, Chase felt a bump from behind, followed by the car going sideways as he went sliding through the grass. He managed to gather it up without a lot of damage, but felt frustration immediately in knowing who had turned him.

“That damn 95 (Michael McDowell) wrecks me one more time…..Damn it,” he starts off on the radio. “What in the hell is that MFer’s problem man? That is the biggest dumbass I’ve seen in my life. That dumbass can’t drive a wooden screw. Damn it.” Alan takes a deep breath, surprised at how quickly Chase went off as that certainly wasn’t like their driver. However, he understood that some of that frustration certainly wasn’t directed right at McDowell.

“We got a long way to go here, calm down and get back into it,” Alan instructs over the radio as he sits back on the pit box.

“Not much damage at all – maybe splitter a little,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt reports from his vantage point as Alan looks towards the crew, knowing that they had to put a game plan in action so they could fight back through the second half.

“Alan,” Alan hears after feeling a tap on his shoulder. He slips the headset off, looking over at Josh. “Is everything okay with Chase? I mean, he normally doesn’t flip that bad.” Alan could only let out a sigh.

“You’ve heard about the arrest warrant for Chris, right?” Alan questions, making sure not to cue the radio by accident as the car chief shakes his head yes. “Well, how would you feel if your girlfriend’s brother poisoned your best friend? Let’s just say that they had a little bit of a fight.”

“Do you think they’re going to work it out?” Alan shrugs his shoulders, as he wasn’t exactly sure. He believed in them, though, and had hopes that they’d be back to their usual togetherness next weekend at Kentucky.

“We’ll see. Right now, though, we have a race to focus on.” Josh shakes his head yes as he puts his headset back on, watching as the pit crew goes to work to fix the damage.

The second half of the race went smoother as Chase found his way out of trouble, working his way back to the top-10 to run 11th with three laps to go. However, all their hard work did not pan out as he would get spun just past the overtime line, resulting in a 22nd-place finish.

With the race over, Chase made his way back to the garage, parking the car in front of the hauler and climbing out. He shakes his head in disbelief as he glances back at it, before looking towards the guys heading his way.

“You did what you needed to do behind the wheel,” Josh says as he walks over first, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Nothing you can do about rotten luck and circumstance here.”

“I know – I just hate it because we had a good car,” Chase comments as he lets out a sigh.

“We’ll get them in Kentucky. Good effort, considering.” Chase shakes his head as he walks by the rest of the guys, giving them each a quick high-five or shoulder pat, before coming face-to-face with Alan.

“Relax, take a deep breath, and chill,” Alan tells him quietly. “I know you have a shit ton of bullshit going on right now. It’s going to work out, if it’s meant to be. Just don’t do something you regret.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Did they find him?” Chase wonders, referring to Sarina’s brother and Alan shakes his head yes. “Did he take it easily?” Alan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s good. Have you seen Sarina?”

“One of Kyle’s guys came and told me that she went with her brother for support.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“She still doesn’t believe it….” Alan then watches Chase closely.

“Would you believe it, in her shoes?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Like I said, don’t do something you’ll regret. Let her stand by him and do what she needs to do. Everything is going to come out and then afterwards, if it’s meant to be, you’ll find each other again.” Chase knew that Alan was right.

“I know…” Chase then heads up into the hauler, stopping at the fridge on the way by.

On Friday, he had grabbed his usual bottle of juice and placed it in the hauler so that way it was there to drink when he wanted it. Considering that he didn’t get thirsty yesterday, it was still there.

Taking off the cap, he takes a mouthful and lets it go down his throat as he lets out a sigh. He was sweaty and hot, but it was nice to have something cold to cool himself off, and hopefully find some sort of relaxation.

With the bottle in hand, he heads up to the lounge in the hauler, lying back on the couch as he takes a couple more sips. He figured he could chill out there for awhile, waiting to see how things shook out, before actually getting ready to head home.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 93: A Watch Party

Everybody meets up in the hotel room, taking various spots on the pair of couches and floor with snacks and drinks spread out. It was going to be an entertaining night….

“Calling it now – Johnny Sauter for the win!” Alan proclaims, causing a couple surprised glances.

“You’re seriously saying that in front of Sarina’s boy?” Eddie D’Hondt questions as Alan shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m going to win….”

“In your dreams,” Chase says, having a good feeling about that night.

“I’m taking Bell,” Eddie comments, causing Chase to roll his eyes. “We all know who Chase is taking.”

“BKR trucks deserve a win – Briscoe or Cindric, I don’t give a damn which one,” Jared Seate comments.

“How are you guys betting against Crafton on an intermediate track?” Chad Avrit wonders, noting down everyone’s picks on a piece of paper.

“Well you guys are unfair in taking all the good picks, but I’ll snag Rhodes,” Jared Erspamer says.

“Guess that leaves me Nemechek,” Nick O’Dell figures as he glances through the driver’s list. “Can we come up with a better picking order next time?”

“Long as I get Sarina each time, I don’t care,” Chase says as the boys just roll their eyes.

All the eyes focused on the screen, watching Sarina lead the first several laps ahead of the field to Chase’s joy. Though as they got into the run, there was no stopping Johnny Sauter as he made the pass, taking the lead with a smile forming for Alan.

As the guys focused on various parts of the event, Chase focused on Sarina and how she was running, watching her fade back a couple spots. He watched as she dropped back to eighth by the end of the stage, knowing some adjustments were needed for the long haul.

“You’re not growing nervous, are you?” Jared questions, eyes focused on Chase. “There’s still quite a bit to go….”

“I’m confident in Marcus and know that they’ll get her working better,” he comments, knowing that Marcus was always good in adjusting for Timothy Peters through the years and had grown a good reputation with Sarina so far. He just hoped that paid off tonight.

“I told you that I’d win!” Alan comments, as he steals the chip bowl from Chad, earning a stern look from him.

“That’s just a stage – doesn’t mean shit,” Chad says as Alan looks on, intrigued.

“Do you realize how much that one playoff point could come into play come November?” Chad knew that Alan was right, but wasn’t set to give in.

“It doesn’t matter who is leading now, but who gets the white and black flag at the end of the race, and I told you who’d that be.”

“It’s not going to be Crafton tonight,” Chase comments. “Notice how much he is struggling on the get go of a run? He loses too much time.” Chad rolls his eyes, but he knew that Chase was right in his comments.

“Junior Joiner can make just as good as an adjustment as Marcus so don’t be counting your chickens yet,” Chad states. “Besides, I think he’s running better than your girl, and that’s how the night is going to go…”

“Those are fighting words,” Nick O’Dell comments, holding up a pillow as he peeks from around it, causing laughs.

“I don’t want any food fights tonight, okay?” Alan declares. “I don’t want to tell Rick that I had to void the security deposit due to needing them to clean the room since I had a bunch of rowdy kids as crew members get into a food fight, again.” The boys laugh, remembering the last time they got together to watch something – hockey – and the result being food flying across the room as they debated penalties.

“I still say that call against Crosby was unfair,” Chad states as Nick rolls his eyes.

“Will you let it go already?” Nick questions. “Your team is in the finals. Shouldn’t that be a big enough reason to forget?” Chad shakes his head no as Nick lets out a sigh. “Ridiculous. I hope Nashville kicks his ass.”

“And I hope you choke on your chips.” Nick looks on shocked as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Boys, they’re going back green,” he says. “Let’s just focus on the race, please…..”

Everybody quiets down as the race goes back green for the second stage. Just like the first stage, everything went smoothly without any major incidents. While Sauter led throughout, it’d be Christopher Bell snagging the stage victory with Sarina finishing eighth as she ran just outside the top-10 throughout.

“Come on Marcus,” Chase comments, fingers crossed that Marcus actually adjusted the truck enough this time.

“Any comment, crew chief?” Eddie asks as he looks over at Alan, in reference to Christopher beating Johnny.

“That’s not the final checkered on the night so like they said, no counting chickens yet,” Alan says. “She seems like she’s loose. If he would go up on the trackbar or adjust the air pressures, she’ll probably be fine.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, hoping Marcus got the idea based on what they were seeing.

“Isn’t it tricky though with the turns configured a little differently?” Jared Seate questions and Alan shakes his head yes.

“But we got it trickier with Pocono having three different corners. By the way, Chase, I want you to jot down after what you felt each corner and scale it so I can think it over tonight.” Chase shakes his head accepting as he takes the piece of paper from the crew chief.

“Chasey got homework….”

“Jared is still a little brat,” Chase comments, causing some laughs amongst the group.

Everybody turned serious as the race went back to green, with Christopher leading as Chase Briscoe moved into the second spot, looking for every way he could around the No. 4. All eyes were focused on the battle for the lead – well, except for a pair, who were watching for some progress out of the No. 18.

With about 65 laps still on the board, though, a grasp of shock escaped Chase as he watched the No. 18 make an abrupt turn off the track on to pit road.

“Not again,” he comments out loud, referencing the fact that it seemed each week, trouble found them. He watched as she made the pit stop, before returning back to the track.

“Loose wheel,” Chad Avrit reads off of twitter as Chase looks over in surprise.

“Seriously?” Chad shakes his head yes. “Of course because what else would it be? I mean, it’s not like anything can just go normal for a night. Oh no, that’s been her season with one thing after another. If she could just knock out some solid quiet nights, then maybe she could be like Mr. Bell and winning and leading. But oh no, we got to find issue after issue after issue.”

“She was also speeding so she has to come back down.” Chase then rolls his eyes, ready to head out then and there.

“You’re kidding?” Chad shakes his head no. “Why oh why, Sarina? You should know better. She got busted for that some place else. You’d think she’d remem-”

“She thought she had a serious problem and turned quickly. It’s understandable if she speeds a little.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“You’ve done it, too,” Alan reminds him as Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Alan was right. However, it didn’t make this any easier watching as he watched her slip two laps down, sitting back in 19th.

Chase was set to give up entirely on the night when the caution flew about 20 laps later for Stewart Frisen hitting the wall. He immediately put faith in that they’d take the wave around to at least get one lap back.

“She won’t make it on fuel if she does that,” Alan concedes, watching her head down pit road. “Remember she pitted about 10 laps shy. If we get no more cautions, she’s screwed worse than already.”

“Besides, there’s still vibration complaints per twitter,” Chad adds.

“Of course there is,” Chase says as he rolls his eyes. “They should be putting on a wheel spacer as they probably fucked the studs.” The comment catches a couple of the crew members off guard as they look back at their driver. “It’s true…”

The race goes back to green, with the caution flying once again sooner as Myatt Snider gets into the turn two wall and spins. Chase could only let out a sigh, wondering what Kyle was thinking between the issues for both Sarina and Myatt now.

“The way this is going, Bell is going to get taken out by Briscoe,” Chase comments, barely even wanting to pay attention.

“Hey!” Eddie and Jared Seate both let out at the same time as Chase rolls his eyes.

“Nothing would surprise me anymore.”

“Wheel spacer is on now,” Chad comments, having read the latest tweet from KBM.

“Now?” Chase questions. “So they didn’t do that before? Geez, what are they? A bunch of rookies? I bet Kyle is fuming in his motorcoach right now.”

They watch the race go back to green, eyes focused on the battle up front between the leaders, along with seeing Justin Haley get loose, sliding up to Nemechek with Nemechek getting in the wall heavily for the caution.

“There goes my bloody pick, thanks to Haley,” Nick O’Dell comments. “I told you being stuck with Nemechek was shit.”

“He should’ve had ran down as close to Haley’s door then,” Chase replies as Nick could just roll his eyes in annoyance. “On a brighter note, thanks to your buddy for getting me my girl a lap back.”

“Feeling a little better there?” Jared Seate questions as Chase perks up a little.

“Just need one more caution and with the way these guys drive, that shouldn’t be hard.”

“Can I have a new pick, please?” Nick questions and the boys shake their heads no. “So first I get last pick and get stuck with crap-head, and then now I don’t even get a second shot?”

“Cheater cheater pumpkin eater,” Chad teases as Nick flips the bird.

“Boys….” Alan warns as he glances up from his notes at them.

“Just because your guy is still in it, you can’t be an ass for us,” Nick says as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Remind me that this is the last time that we do this.” Jared then pouts, having ideas for next weekend already.

“But I wanted to have a get together for Gateway,” he states as Alan rolls his eyes, again.

“Do it somewhere else, but not with me involved, please. Oh, and Sauter is going to win because jackass 1 and jackass two are going to wreck each other like Chase said originally. They’re driving each other too hard to keep it clean.” Eddie and Jared then both laugh as they watch the field get ready to go back green.

The green flag flies with eyes set on the battle for first between Bell and Briscoe. The battle didn’t last long, though, with the caution flying once again for smoke pouring out the back of Grant Enfinger. It brought a smile to Chase’s face, though, as he knew that meant Sarina was back on the lead lap with 14 laps to go.

“I’ve never seen someone smile at someone blowing up,” Alan comments with a glance over towards Chase.

“You obviously haven’t seen those who hate Kyle Busch when he has a bad day,” Chase says. “But everything’s great now that Sarina is back on the lead lap.”

“Should we remind you of when you were throwing in the towel?” Jared Seate questions and Chase rolls his eyes.

“I never give up on my girl.” The boys then chuckle as they think back to his words.

“You almost left….”

“You figured it was all over with no hope in the kitty,” Chad adds as Chase lets out a sigh. Perhaps he did over-react, but you couldn’t blame him. He was passionate about how well she was going to do that night.

“Well maybe I’ll get a top-10 after all,” he comments, eyes focused as the restart was set to take place.

Over the final stretch of laps – and two more cautions, eyes never left the screen as they watched Sarina battle back, crossing the finish line in seventh for another solid top-10. Meanwhile, among the controversy of the last lap caution (Timothy Peters flipped), it was Bell snagging the win ahead of Briscoe by a nose.

Down in Texas, Sarina climbed from the truck with a smile on her face. It certainly wasn’t the win or top-five she had envisioned after setting the quickest time, but she wasn’t going to complain. If you would’ve told her that she would’ve had a top-10 after going two laps down, she would’ve said you were nuts. However, with high fives for all the guys and a hug for Marcus, she knew they’d put in a good nights work with a well-deserved finish.

“Sorry about that loose wheel there,” Marcus apologizes once she’s done media interviews. “I got to get these guys in line as we can’t be having that.”

“It happens as we all make mistakes,” she comments. “I’ve made my fair share this year. One mistake by the guys is going to happen. As long as we can come back stronger, that’s what matters. We’ll go get them at Gateway.” Marcus couldn’t help but smile with her positivity, knowing that she could be hard on herself from Chase.

“I’m confident about Gateway and Iowa. We have a good short track program at KBM, and I know you have ran well there previously. It’s just about putting it all together.”

“We’re going to make magic happen…..” Marcus could only smile, liking the sounds of that.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 87: Coke 600

Sarina sat on the pit box, focused on the action on track. Everything that happened pre-race was out of mind without a single worry left to think of. For now, she was focused on Chase and them having a good night of racing.

Her eyes flip to the monitor, watching smoke begin to trail from Jeffrey Earnhardt’s No. 33 entry, knowing that it was a possible blown motor and a caution was to come. Her eyes then focused on track as the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet came into view on the frontstretch.

She watched as it slowed dramatically, what appearing to be fire in view by the front wheel well, before being slammed into the back off and lifted off the ground by Brad Keselowski.

“What the hell?!?” She yells out loud in shock of what happened, her hands immediately landing on her mouth. There were no words to describe what happened before her.

“Chase, are you alright?” Alan immediately cues the radio after what happened. “Looks like a lot of fire there….” He then sits back on the pit box, eyes focused down the frontstretch where both Chase and Brad had ended up.

“He’s out guys,” Eddie D’Hondt tells them over the radio. “He’s out and walking around. He’s okay…”

“10-4.” Alan then takes off his headset, putting his notes together as he lets out a sigh. So much for a fun night of racing.

“What the heck happened?” Sarina questions once again as she looks over at the crew chief. He could only shrug his shoulders, though his eyes then laid on the screen. He saw the debris come out from Jeffrey’s car, followed by going through the nose of Chase’s car. It was obvious the fire was due to the oil cooler being knocked off. “Why the hell didn’t NASCAR call the caution sooner? Are they freaking insane? They caused that crap by not calling the caution! Jeffrey was smoking for a whole half a corner before they thought of anything. Are they insa-”

“There’s nothing that we can do now so take a deep breath, relax, be glad that he’s alright and go see him at the medical center.” She then takes a couple deep breathes, knowing that Alan was right no matter how mad she truly was. She makes her way down the steps, beginning the long walk back.

After climbing from the car, Chase made his way to the ambulance, climbing inside followed by Brad.

“Are you okay?” Brad asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “I didn’t mean to hit you. It’s just I didn’t realize how slow you were going till the last minute….” Chase could understand that, given how quickly everything happened.

“I hit a piece of debris off Jeffrey’s car and it punched a hole in the nose, hit the oil cooler, caught fire,” Chase explains, as Brad shakes his head understanding. Everything made sense now. “You’re okay, right?” Brad shakes his head yes.

Chase sat quiet the rest of the ride, fingers fumbling around the clips on the HANS device. It seemed the wreck was the perfect way to end May. Nothing had gone right through the month. From doubts and fights with Sarina, to multiple wrecks including a flying at Talladega, no luck seemed to be in his corner. Combine that with the Jared incident and he knew he wouldn’t miss May one bit.

Reaching the care center, he climbs out, eying Sarina immediately standing there as he walks over, wraps an arm around her and kisses her forehead.

“I’m okay,” he tells her as he looks into her eyes. She looks back into his, shaking her head immediately. Despite the nature of what happened, she was much calmer than she had been all month so far.

“I know and I’m glad,” she replies, kissing his lips. “It just sucks period that you have no luck and NASCAR can’t call a damn bloody race.” Chase then looks at her surprised. “Well, I’m sorry but the caution should’ve been flown sooner.”

“They didn’t know he was leaking flui-”

“There was smoke coming out of the back and going that fast, there should be no chances taken. That could’ve been a lot worse!” He then pulls her as tight as he could to him, rubbing her shoulders.

“Calm down, deep breathes. There’s nothing we can do. Let me go checked out and then we can get out of here, okay?” She shakes her head yes. He then lets go and heads inside as required.

He comes out of the medical center about 15 minutes later, handing his helmet and HANS over to Morgan before walking over to the media waiting for his comments.

“Yeah, I saw parts and pieces flying,” he starts. “I don’t know if he blew a tire or something and I ended up hitting something that he had on track. I hit it pretty hard. It was really solid, so I knew it was rough. I saw some fire, tried to get stopped and get out of the way and I guess Brad got in my oil and couldn’t get slowed down, so I hate it.” He then takes a pause, thinking back through his thoughts earlier. “Man, it is so just ridiculous. I wish I knew what to do to try to fix things like that, but at the end of the day you really can’t.”

He then walks away from the group after a quick wave, meeting up with Sarina as they head towards the garage area together.

“That wasn’t your fault one bit,” she starts. “ I heard your comments. There’s nothing that you could’ve done, as ridiculous as it was. You did what you could. Just luck of the draw.” He knew that she was right, but he still felt terrible as he glanced up on the scoreboard to see who was running where. He hated being eliminated out of the race so early – Lap 19 out of 400. It just sucked, period.

“I know…” He simply replies as he leads her into his trailer. “It just sucks…” She then spins around, pulling him close to her as she rubs his back.

“Things are going to get better. You guys are running great, and that’s half the battle. You’ve proven that you can run up front and contend for wins. If you keep doing that, you’ll shake this bad spell and damn well get some wins. I believe in you and I know it’s going to happen.” He gives her a slight smile as he leans in for another kiss.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence, really. It helps…” She then smiles as she lays her head against him.

“I mean it, every single word of it. Everything is going to be fine. We’re stuck together like glue, things are coming around with Chris, and we’re both going to have success this year…” He just hoped that her words played true in every regard as he held her close.

“I believe you….” She then slips her fingers up his front, grabbing the zipper on his firesuit and pulling it down slowly. “Sarina….”

“Relax, Chase….” She then slips the zipper down, before reaching up and pulling the top off his shoulders. “I’m not going to make you do anything that you don’t want and I’m not going to do that. I just figure a nice massage would help.”

“That’d actually be nice…” He then turns around as she rubs his shoulders, followed by down his back a little.

“You know that you never have to be uncomfortable with me. You can always tell me what you’re feeling or want or don’t want. I’ll listen. We’ve had this deal from the beginning – we won’t push each other no matter what. We do this at our speed. And Chase, I know that you’re not ready for that and it’s fine. I don’t think I’m ready either…” He feels himself relax against her as he looks back at her over his shoulder.

“I’m sorry I tensed there when you started. I just thought the worse….”

“It’s fine and understandable. Now sssh…” She then works his fingers in a little deeper as he feels himself relax more and more.

The pair remained there for awhile, before he got changed and they headed out. Once the rain delay hit, Sarina texted Chris and Bethany that she was leaving with Chase and they headed back to the house.

As they sat in the living room set to watch the final 200 laps of the race together, they could only hope that Miles treated them much better than this past weekend.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 80: The City of Oz

Sarina lets out a sigh as she leans back against her truck, twirling her ankle, before taking a glance down pit road. She just wanted to put together a solid run to keep the momentum rolling after the last race.

“My little superstar ready to go?” Crew chief Marcus Richmond questions as he walks over. She shakes her head yes. “That’s good. I’m just glad that you’re here ready to go tonight.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” She questions as he points to her foot. She then lets out a sigh. “It’s just a sprain, pretty much almost healed. Gonna be like Chase and go crazy over it?” Marcus then looks at her with a glance of surprise.

“So he’s on your case that much this week?” She shakes her head yes as he lets out a whistle. “What?”

“That boy has it hard for you, probably more than you realize…” She just rolls her eyes. “Actually, maybe you have it just as much. I’m guessing you freaked a little after he flew at Talladega?”

“Wheels left the ground – doesn’t that warrant a freak out?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Besides, I was going to kill Hootie.” Marcus then looks back confused.

“Hootie?” She shakes her head yes. “Who the hell is Hootie?”

“A stuffed animal that Hooters gave him. I figure it’s the curse of our bad luck.” Marcus glances over as he sees Chase heading their way.

“You didn’t bring the owl with you this weekend, did you?” She shakes her head no. “Just checking….”

“Superstitious?” He then puts his hands up in the air.

“I’m not taking any chances based on how we started this year.” She lets out a sigh as he walks away, knowing it hadn’t been the prettiest start. They told her that sometimes rookie have a rough learning curve and things don’t go their way, but that didn’t mean she was pleased about it.

**********

Chase climbs up onto the pit box, taking his usual seat in the second row, catching a couple concerning glances. It had been hard to convince some of the crew guys to allow him to sit up there with fears that he’d steal notes or something for GMS Racing or Hendrick Motorsports to use. However, Kyle worked at it, explaining the reasoning was simply to just support Sarina and Chase would never do that. It didn’t mean that he didn’t get the cold shoulder at times, though.

His eyes focus immediately to the No. 18 Switch Toyota Tundra on track, hopeful for a great night of racing. Ultimately, the night didn’t start out as planned with contact between Sarina and Ben Rhodes on Lap 2 after going three-wide.

“There was no room for him!” Sarina yells on the radio, referring to Rhodes.

“10-4 truck looks fine,” her spotter tells her. “Just focus on the task at hand.”

She didn’t argue with her team, knowing that she had a job to do. She also didn’t argue when Marcus made the choice to pit with 10 laps to go in the stage, knowing they weren’t close to getting points and they’d gain valuable track position when everybody else pitted.

The strategy call looked to have worked as she restart fourth, though everything fell apart with 26 laps to go in the second stage when she headed down pit road with a flat tire.

“The carcass rolled back out on the track,” her spotter radios.

“Take your time team, do it right; we’re going to be fine,” Marucs tells him team as Chase sits back, watching. He could only shake his head as it didn’t seemed like Sarina could never catch a break.

She went back on track, though was unable to make up any ground as she continued to fall further back in the running order, laps down to the leaders.

“Something is wrong with the clutch. I’m pretty sure it’s gone,” She radios, not liking how it felt at all.

“Bring it to the garage,” Marcus says as Chase lets out a sigh. He could only think about the disappointment for both Sarina and the team in yet another day gone bad.

He walked back to the garage area, standing back as the crew looked over the truck and she climbed out. He let her debrief with the guys, not wanting to interrupt them as he knew what was like about her racing and knew he wouldn’t want to be interrupted himself. They were both the type that once in their zone, don’t mess it up.

Eventually she makes her way over to where he was standing leaning against the pillar, texting someone. He immediately puts his phone in his pocket, pulling her close and wrapping his arma around her.

“You were doing a great job,” he tells her. “None of that was your fault as you were doing great out there. It’s just one of those shitty luck deals. You were fast, and you’ll get them next week at Charlotte. You’re going to have a great year. I believe in you…” He then kisses her forehead as he keeps her held close to him. He knew how hard she could be on herself – having done the same thing himself through the years. He also knew how she let frustration eat at her sometimes. He didn’t know the magic touch to make it go away, but knew comforting words helped ease the sting.

“As much as I want to scream and throw a tantrum, you’re right,” she replies as she looks up into his eyes. “But I learned a lot tonight. I learned more about racing in traffic. I learned about restarts. I’m starting to understand these intermediate tracks more. We’re making progress.”

“That’s my girl right there. That’s what I want to hear.” They then head out of the garage area together, knowing they both needed their sleep. Chase had a race tomorrow, while she was off to Bristol to do some testing ahead of the Short Track Nationals. “I hate that you’re testing tomorrow….”

“I hate being away from you, but it’s part of the game. We’re not going to win if we don’t test.” He knew that she was right, based on where the program was the last time the late model was out.

“I’m just glad that you agreed to drive for me again instead of Kyle.” She then laughs, remembering the discussion had about that.

“Oh see, I didn’t say yes because of you. I said yes because of Ricky. I miss our fun times.” He then looks at her a little surprised.

“Oh, so you don’t care that you’re driving for your boyfriend and going to make him proud when you run well?” She felt her nerves flip flop, knowing it was going to be a tough field down there.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch….” He knew where the comment was coming from – confidence wasn’t as high as warranted with everything going on lately.

“Don’t get down on yourself. You’re a great driver. You damn well earned this shot.” She looks over, shaking her head yes in agreement.

There was not a weekend that went by that she didn’t think back to the days of working on cars by herself, racing underfunded equipment as she tried to get her name out there. She also thought about the journey life took her in moving by herself to North Carolina, escaping what was at home, and the ups-and-downs that brought with moving forward. Perhaps it was the pressure from that pushing her to succeed and pissing her off more when things didn’t go their way.

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

Sarina walks into the trailer, flopping on the couch as she places the bucket of popcorn between them. After solid laps all day at Bristol, her and Ricky had sat down ready to watch the happenings of Kansas.

The race started off strongly for Chase as he ran up front in the early stages, looking like he could contend for the victory. However, a trip down pit road and the world dropped out from underneath them.

“Come on here, come on here,” Alan Gustafson calls over the radio after the second caution of the race. “Right sides.”

“Watch that 95 here – he’s coming in late,” Eddie D’Hondt says over the radio as the pit crew conducts the pit stop. Once the tires are changed, jack goes down, Chase pulls out of the stall throttle down, hitting Michael McDowell and spinning McDowell around.

“Damn it! Back it up here…” Sarina could only echo the frustration of the crew chief, knowing the amount of damage that probably did to Chase’s front end.

“Well there goes our night,” Chase says over the radio. “Fucking awesome!” Sarina then reaches for the remote, switching the race off as she stands up and walks towards the exit.

“That’s it?” Ricky questions as she looks back at him. “They could make it back up….” Sarina then laughs, shaking her head no.

“There’s enough damage there that he’ll be riding around all night,” she replies. “Like he said – night over because Alan can’t damn well do his job properly and clear him leaving the stall!” Ricky’s jaw drops in shock of the anger let out by Sarina.

“Alan knows what he’s doin-”

“Explain why the hell that happened?!?” Ricky takes a deep breath, thinking his efforts would probably be worth nothing based on the anger.

“Alan doesn’t clear him leaving; that’s not what they do. Eddie watches, gives warning, but it’s Chase’s doi-”

“How is Chase supposed to clear his damn self when he probably didn’t see the 95 due to the headrest and visibility in those cars? Are you just trying to make excuses, Ricky?” Ricky shakes his head no as he lets out a sigh. He knew it was worthless.

“I’m just stating how things work. Obviously they’ll probably be changes moving forward. Now, where are you off to?” She then crosses her arms.

“What are you? A cop?” He knew he should’ve probably just shut his mouth right from the start.

“I’m curious, okay?” She then let out a sigh, knowing perhaps she shouldn’t be dishing her anger out at Ricky. She’d just have to kick Alan’s ass next time she saw him.

“I’m going for a walk to cool my head, and then probably going to come back and re-watch the practice videos. I want to see what I’ve been doing wrong. I then may also re-watch the videos of Charlotte that Kyle sent me. Is that okay, officer?” Ricky knew some cooling off time would be very warranted.

“Yeah….” She then smiles, grabbing her phone and leaving.

Ricky sits back on the couch, flipping the race back on, now hoping Jimmie could pull off a win after that disaster.

 

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 78: Geico 500

Sarina sat on top of Chase’s pit box, feeling every bit of nervous throughout the race.

Normally, she was calm and focused in watching Chase out there. However, after her wreck yesterday and knowing what happened in Daytona last year, she couldn’t help but feel the nerves. She could understand why Samantha, Delana and Sherry always cursed these races now.

So far, things had gone well. Chase had ran up front, ran in the middle of the pack, and shown speed – all setting up for a great ending to the race. She gave herself a couple deep breaths, knowing that was set to go well.

She felt herself growing with even more anticipation, possibly dumping the nerves, as he moved up into second, challenging for the lead against Kyle Busch with the laps counting down. Maybe today would be the day.

Then it happened.

“Stay on the mirror hard now….Allmendinger is clear,” she heard Eddie D’Hondt over the radio. “On your bumper shoving you….shoving you….Oh my god, he just spun us…Son of a bitch….”

With her eyes focused on the TV screen on the pit box, she saw A.J. Allmendinger get the run off the corner, just catch the left rear corner of Chase’s No. 24 Chevrolet. She watched him spin sideways, back up the track into the path of the field, followed by the contact from Joey Logano into the left rear, catapulting the car in the air.

Her hands immediately went to her mouth as she watched the car go up, slightly tip over, before being caught by the wall and riding it, before landing on all four wheels. She watched as he headed off into turn three still attached to Logano and Keselowsk.

“Well fuck,” she heard Chase over the radio, sending a sigh of relief through her as she lets her hand rest back at her sides. She even had a small chuckle at the choice of wording. “Was that my bad?” She immediately found herself shaking her own head, knowing like everybody else there was nothing he could’ve done there.

“No, that wasn’t your bad,” Eddie replies before anybody could. “He just shoved you so hard that it got you twisted up.”

“Probably not who we need pushing us right there,” Alan Gustafson adds. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” Chase replies. “Driving it back in….”

While the cameras before her focused on Allmendinger’s upside down car on the backstretch, her eyes immediately darted forward as he saw the mangled car heading down pit road, stopping in the stall before her. She then took a couple more deep breathes, knowing that he had to be okay if he drove the car back.

“Can’t touch it guys, can’t touch it yet,” Alan reminds the crew as she looks over at him in surprise. Were they really going to go back out there? How the heck were you supposed to fix all this in five minutes? “Nevermind. Climb out. NASCAR says we’re done due to driving under the red.”

“Fuck! Sorry guys,” Chase replies as Sarina lays back against her seat.

She slowly reaches up, taking the headset off of her head as her eyes remained locked on the car down below her, seeing the window net drop. She then watches as he climbs from the car, setting his helmet and HANs back inside before glancing up at them. He gives them a quick thumbs up, before heading towards the crew, as she feels another sigh of relief come over her.

She couldn’t believe it had happened. She couldn’t believe the fear that had washed over her once again. She couldn’t believe how her stomach had flip-flopped in a matter of minutes. Truthfully, it was even worse than the feeling at Texas earlier that month – and rightfully so based on what happened.

She then looked over at Cindy, watching her feverishly send a text message to someone.

“How are you so calm?” She questions, having not seen a single flinch out of Cindy the whole time.

“I’ve lived this my whole life,” Cindy answers, without looking up from her phone. “You just grow used to it. I was a photographer for a long time before I married Bill. I’ve then been through all of Bill’s scary wrecks – some worse than what Chase just went through. I’ve seen it all, sweetheart.” Sarina just shakes her head in disbelief.

“But how do you do it? I mean, that’s your son!” Cindy then looks up from her phone and to her left at Sarina.

“I know that Rick, Alan and these guys build really safe cars. I know that it’s just part of the danger. I watched the angle of impact and saw how the car landed. I trusted his words instantly. Do I freak out? I admit that I do a little inside, but remembering all these things makes it easier. You’ll find a way to handle it, better…” She shakes her head accepting, though found herself caught off-guard at the same time.

She then stands up, making her way over to the ladder, and carefully making her way down the steps with the help of some crew. She then hobbles over to where Chase stood talking with a crew member.

As she approached him, he instantly felt her presence and turned around to face her. He could see the fear in her eyes, the same fear that he had yesterday for her. Without a word, he reaches his arms out and pulls her close, letting her lean against him.

“I’m okay,” he tells her simply before kissing her forehead. “I’m okay, Sarina. No pain anywhere. I’m perfectly fine. You don’t have to worry about me.” She just lays her head against him quietly.

They didn’t need to say any words as they both knew how each other felt, and knew the feeling of being close together was just what was needed.

“Mr. Elliott, you need to go to the care center,” Chase hears from a NASCAR official over his shoulder. He then glances back at him, shaking his head yes. “And that’s an order and now.”

“I’ll go – don’t worry,” he says as he keeps his eyes focused on Sarina. “Do you want to come with me?” She shakes her head yes.

They both then get on the golf cart, taking the short ride back to the medical center. As expected, Chase got through cleanly without any issues, fully checked out and deemed completely wreck.

He emerges from the care center, seeing the sea of media as he lets out a sigh. He watches as AJ completes his interview with FOX, glad that he was alright after getting upside down. He then looks on surprised as AJ turns around, walking over to him.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” AJ starts. “I was just trying to push you and got over too far. I’m sorry for causing that mess. Glad you’re okay.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Glad you’re okay, too,” Chase replies. “And as far as what happened, it’s not your fault. It’s just part of plate racing. I mean, we know how these cars are.” AJ shakes his head in agreement before heading off.

Chase then takes a deep breath, walking over and completing his interviews necessary. Once they were done, he walks over to where Sarina was waiting, climbs on the golf cart beside her and heads back to the motorcoach.

Once they get back, he reaches to pick her up – but she holds up her hand.

“You just wrecked,” she starts. “Shouldn’t I be taking care of you?” He shakes his head no as he holds out his hand.

“I’m fine while you have a sore foot that you should be staying off,” he answers as she grabs his hand, standing up.

“I can hobble…” He then scoops her up in his arms. “Chase!!”

“I told you I’m fine!” He then carries her inside, placing her in the familiar spot, with her foot back up.

“And what about you mister? You just wrecked…” He then lets out a sigh as he undoes the zipper on his firesuit.

“I told you that I’m fine, but if it makes you feel better…” He then slips the top of the firesuit off, before flopping back on the other couch. “I’ll stay here quietly while you lay there.” She then looks over with a smile.

“By the way, where’s Hootie?” He then looks over confused.

“Why?” There was only one destination for Hootie after this weekend.

“I’m going to kill owl. That little shithead shows up and we both have bad luck.” Chase couldn’t help but laugh as he pulls the owl out of his pocket, setting it on himself. “He was with you in the car?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Alan gave him to me before you came over after the wreck.” She then reaches out for him but he holds him away from her. “Listen, you’re going to lay there and blame our shitty Talladega luck on this cutie?”

“Hell yes! Now give him to me!” Chase shakes his head no as he holds him close to himself.

“But I like Hootie…” She then rolls her eyes as she goes to climb off the couch. “Sarina Ott!” She then freezes, looking at him in surprise.

“Listen here Mr. William Clyde Elliott…” It was his turn to give a surprised look. “He may be cute, but I’m not taking anymore chances. Say goodbye to the owl.” He then stands up, placing Hootie in a bag.

“You’re not shredding him as he’s cute and it’s not his fault that he was bad luck. I’ll send him home with Sara and tell her to send his brother next race. Maybe he’ll be luckier.” Sarina could only roll her eyes, not looking forward to Hootie’s return personally.

“When does he return anyway?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, not remembering the sponsorship schedule.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you either as you’d probably shred the poor thing.” She then shakes her head no.

“Nah – I’d just give him to Kyle. His animals like to eat stuffies.” Chase then looks on in horror as she lets out an evil laugh. Chase couldn’t help but laugh afterwards as he lied back on the couch. “Are you sure you’re okay?” He then looks over at her.

“I’m absolutely 100% certain that I am okay. Not a single drop of pain.” He then stands up, making his way over to her couch, letting her sit up a little before sitting down himself and letting her lay against him as he wrapped his arms around her. “Better?” She shakes her head yes. “So is there anyway that I can talk you into keeping Hootie? I mean, I thought he was your buddy….”

“Chase….”

“I’m just saying. He’s cute and he was buddy, and it’s not his fault that AJ got into me.” She then lets out a sigh, looking over at the paper bag.

“Is it really going to break your heart to let him go?” He shakes his head yes.

“He became my best friend this weekend, second to you of course.” She then smiles as she reaches over with every bit that she had, grabbing the bag and dumping the owl out onto her.

“We’ll give him a bath this week and wash away everything. Maybe then he’ll behave.” Chase smiles as he watches her cuddle the owl.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 43: Daytona 500

ShortTrackLovin'

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Welp…..the Daytona 500 wasn’t a memorable experience for Chase, and that just sucked. There’s a reason why grass doesn’t belong at a race track. But hey, we’re past that right? He had a great run at Atlanta and I have that forth coming for here, as well. But first, we have the biggest race of the year.

 

The previous days of the weekend had played out like a routine of events, one after the other, with repetition written over them. It was just going through the motions, focusing on the task at hand. He got a celebration mode mixed in, via winning the XFINITY race, which was nice to have. Considering how things had been lately with the plane crash and all mixed together, a reason to smile was huge.

Though now, standing in the hauler facing the same mirror that he had become familiar too, today was a totally different day. It wasn’t just another race day, but rather his first career Daytona 500. This was the moment as he had reached the big time. The realization in what was set for this season, that he was making his dreams come true, that he was taking over the famed No. 24 car – it all hit home that morning as he stood there.

While others would be worried of expectations, it brought a smile to his face as he reflected back on everything that he had accomplished through his career to that point. All the hard work and dedication put in through the years was paying off now. He just needed to go out there and do a good job that day.

“Facing some disbelief?” He hears as he watches the hauler door open, glancing over towards his father with a smile.

“It’s really starting to hit what’s about to happen this year,” he sounds off as he glances back at the mirror. “I’m really going to race in the Sprint Cup Series. Everything is coming together crazier than I could’ve dreamed. I’m shocked, but I’m also proud.” Bill couldn’t help but smile in hearing his son’s comments as he made his way over.

“I bet you there’s some nerves there, too.” Chase wanted to shakes his head no and pretend as if that wasn’t the case, but standing there and realizing that he’d be leading the 40-car field to the green flag, there was no way to escape all of the nerves.

“I don’t want to mess up and let everyone down. I don’t want to let myself down. I’m just worried about making a mistake or not making the right move at the right time.” Bill places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“You’re a rookie. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s all about learning and moving forward. But, you don’t need to be worried. You did a great job yesterday in the draft – actually, spectacular job – and you’ve gotten better with each practice. I believe in you, the team believes in you, Rick believes in you. You just need to believe in yourself.” Chase shakes his head, knowing that his father was right.

Following the discussion, he made his way out to pit road, set for the raceday. He wished that he could just hop in the car, let the butterflies immediately escape his body, and focus on the task at hand. However, that wasn’t the case. There were driver introductions, interviews, and VIPs waiting by the car to see him. He just hoped that everything went smoothly, and quickly.

For the most part, everything followed his direction as the interviews went easier than he had anticipated, and driver introductions was actually sort of fun. Before he knew it, he found himself standing on the grid by his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, counting down the minutes to the start of the Daytona 500. As he stood there thinking, it was all about following the same theory as the day before – make the right moves, and it’ll be an easy day in staying up near the front.

He is snapped out of his thoughts, though, as he notices a pair of familiar faces interacting with the crew guys, joking around and sharing conversation. He could think how odd it probably was for Ella and Leo to be standing on the grid for the first time with their daddy not set to his famed car, but rather Chase drive it.

“Are you going to take care of the car?” He hears, his attention immediately locked on a familiar set of eyes.

“I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble,” he tells Ella with a smile as he kneels down to her level. She smiles as she walks over to him.

“I think you will do real good and win.” He smiles in response, all the nerves that he felt before escaping immediately. There was nothing more comforting than spending time with sweet children.
“I hope. We’ll have to see what happens, okay?” She shakes her head yes. Chase then glances a little towards the right, noticing Leo standing there, quietly. “Leo…” Leo looks up from his spot, eyes locking on Chase. “Can I have a high-five?” Leo thinks about it, before a big smile forms on his face and he gives Chase a high-five. “Thank you.”

The rest of pre-race went smoothly, with opening ceremonies going as they normally would. Chase stood by the car, an arm wrapped around Sarina’s waist holding her close. It felt nice to have someone to share pit road with pre-race. It felt nice to have someone that he could share every detail of his life with. It felt nice to totally open up without any reservations.

“I love you,” he tells her, giving her a hug following the national anthem.

“I love you too,” she simply tells him before walking away slowly. He then gives each of his parents a hug, before climbing in the car. It was time to do what he was supposed to do.

The race started off great as he was able to lead the first couple of laps, before being passed by his teammate. Still, though, he was able to remain near the front of the field, holding his own. Though, as the same with the Duel, he got in the wrong lane and found himself sliding back to the pack. It was okay. It was part of Daytona. He just needed to work his way back up there.

Consulting with his spotter in what lines were moving, he made the decision to go up through the middle, figuring that he could begin his charge as others had done before him.

Then it happened.

The car felt light, twitched sideways too quickly to catch and went sliding down off of the track. He kept his hands firmly on the steering wheel, knowing that he could steer himself away from the inside wall, go for a slide and be fine.

That didn’t happen accordingly, though. The car ended up hooking, shooting into the infield grass, launching the front off of the ground as it dug in, before landing. The force of hitting the grass caused a pain to shoot up his left side immediately, as he lost his breath in the process.

Sitting in the car once it had come to stop, he closes his eyes, focusing on the breathing techniques that he was taught while his ribs worked at healing, while hoping that the pain would die down fast. He could already see himself sitting in a hospital room, finding out that things were worse than expected, and everybody playing worrywart over his condition and running the race.

“Chase?” He hears Eddie D’Hondt on the radio after a couple seconds. He moves his hand to the button on the steering wheel, pressing it to cue the radio.

“I’m okay,” he assures the team. “I’m okay…”

The pair of simple words gave a sense of relief on the pit box as Sarina let out the breath that she had been holding. As soon as the car hit the grass, she found herself turned into instant worry mode, panicking over his condition. What if he had hurt himself worse? What if the rib injury had made things worse? What if having the concussion after the plane crash presented issues here? It seemed that every theory possible flooded through her mind.

“Can I meet go him at the care center?” She asks with curiosity. She hadn’t been to a race as a girlfriend so she didn’t know procedure, except driers went to the care center to be checked out following a wreck. She could already see it taking time based on Chase’s condition.

“Of course you may,” Alan tells her as he takes his headset off, focus on the young lady sitting beside him. He could see the worry that she felt, and echoed those sentiments as he had his opinions on Chase’s condition entering the weekend already. “I can go with you and lead you there, if you want.” She shakes her head slowly, as Alan glances over at the car chief, who simply shakes his head in response. They knew the deal – start working on making repairs so they could go out and make laps.

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

“Go on…” Alan tells her as they reach the room. She goes around the corner, walking up to Chase and wrapping both arms around him. “She was worried.”

“I’m okay,” he says as he wraps his arms around her, kissing her forehead. He then lets her go, forcing her to look at him in the eyes. “I’m okay. You don’t have anything to worry about.” She shook her head no immediately, knowing otherwise.

“What about your ribs?” He then takes a deep breath, feeling the pain that still remained. He had been worried himself till talking with the doctor.

“Everything is still the same as it was before. It just sent a shock through my system that was emphasized by the injury, causing a lot of pain. However, the doctor says checking me out that everything is still as it was before. I’m okay, Sarina.” She shakes her head, letting those words shake in as the worry slowly escaped.

“I feel so bad for overworrying and freaking an-”

“It’s a natural reaction,” Alan cuts her rambling off from his corner in the small room. “You were worried about him because you care a lot about him. Whether you children want to admit it or not, she loves you a lot and would do anything for you.” Chase had felt that same feeling a couple days prior in their discussion. However, hearing confirmation from his crew chief, it made him feel even better.

“I have no problem with that because I love her a lot, and I would do anything for her in return,” Chase shares, before leaning in and kissing Sarina’s lips. “It’s just convincing this girl to admit it out loud just how much she loves me.” Sarina could only smile in response as she shrugged her shoulders. It was hard to open up and feel that way again. It was hard knowing the pain when those doors were shattered previously. Though, slowly, Chase was leaving her no choice but to accept and open up.

“I guess maybe I do love you a little more than I thought,” she comments as Chase could only smile, despite the pain that he was feeling. There was no amount of pain that could possibly wipe the smile off in hearing those words, even if his precious car was tore up.

Though, the smile did slowly fade away as he found himself thinking more than he probably should be at that moment. He wanted to be happy. He wanted to feel the moment and stick with it. However, he couldn’t stop himself from reflecting back to what happened just a couple weeks prior to them both. What if the plane hadn’t landed like it did? What if they were injured worse? What if…..

Taking a deep breath, giving his head a shake, he knew that he couldn’t let that thought ponder his mind. He just had to keep reminding himself how thankful he was that they had come out decently, and hope to hear news on the sabotager soon.

“Oh, Kendall texted me during the early stages race by the way,” Sabrina starts, catching Chase’s immediate attention as he knew that as she was referring to Kendall Taylor, the FBI agent that was handling their case. “She says that checking all the databases and spreading that photo around of the guy, they were able to identify him. They say that his name is Harry Butler. She was wondering if we’d ever heard of him.” Chase continues to run the name through his brain, trying to place him somewhere, eventually shaking his head no.

“It doesn’t sound familiar to me,” he offers as she shakes her head, accepting. “Do you know a Harry Butler, or any Butler actually?” Sabrina shakes her head no.

“I’ll text Kendall back and tell her that you don’t know of the name. She said that she was going to cross reference it with past gang contacts and NASCAR resources to see if something pops up.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. It seemed like the reasonable next step.

At least they were growing closer to knowing the story behind what happened, through how it was accomplished and why it was done. He just hoped that the answers were released soon.