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'

Thanks for reading and reviewing 🙂

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.

Short Track Lovin – Chapter 42: XFINITY Race

Thanks for reading and reviewing 🙂

For the record, that XFINITY race was awesome to watch and that was a spectacular move pulled by Chase Elliott to keep the lead ahead of Joey Logano, and pick up the win.

There’s also one other thing for certain – NASCAR has certainly started the season on a high with a pair of great finishes.

 

The weekend seemed to be repeating itself over and over in the mind of the 20-year-old.

It was a like routine of events, one after the other, with repetition written over it. That wasn’t a problem with him, though, as this was a repetition of events that he wanted to get in the flow with. This was the best repetition of events. It meant that he was getting tons of lap in the car, which was certainly his happy place.

Just as the days before, he was once again standing in the hauler, making sure that the firesuit was fitted right to his body. Rather than in wearing the familiar NAPA blue colors, he found himself dressed in the Tax Slayer maroon and white as he got set for the XFINITY race that afternoon. It felt weird to be in a different color suit for the first time in a couple years, but it had some similarity to it in reminding him of his late model suit. Spinning around and giving himself another glance, he thought he could get used to it.

“Don’t worry – the ladies will fan over you regardless,” he heard pit crew coach and his health expert of the weekend Greg Morin behind him. “They may even want to pinch your butt as I hear white brings that feature out more.”

He had to chuckle as he thought about that. It felt weird to have the girls fanning over him every weekend, messaging him that he was cute and they had a crush on him. He was just a simple boy from Georgia. He didn’t think there was anything special to his looks as there was no way that he stood out to anyone.

The repetition of events also formed once again as he watched the hauler door open up, and saw his mother standing there, arms crossed.

“Chase, you shouldn’t be running this race,” he hears, all too sounding familiar. It was the same thing that Sarina had told him before the Can-Am Duel. It was the same thing that he heard about running the three practice sessions since the Can-Am Duel from his crew chief. It was the same thing that Dale told him going into the weekend, offering to run the XFINITY car and break the deal that they had. It was growing annoying, but he understood the reason. They all simply cared about him a lot.

“I’ll be fine mom,” he tells her, knowing that it probably wouldn’t do any good in easing her worry. He knew that she’d be on his case about this till the moment that he was strapped in that No. 88 Tax Slayer Chevrolet.

“Dale told you that he’d run the rac-”

“I know what Dale told me, but I can do this. I’ll be fine. I want to run this. I need more practice and to learn more before Sunday’s race.”

It seemed like a ridiculous reason, but it was one that he stuck by. He had learned a bunch in practice and through the Can-Am Duel, but knew there was still ways that he could improve in drafting. While the XFINITY package was much different than the Sprint Cup Series package, there were small things that he could pick up in going through the motions of race, from getting back in the flow of pit stops to choosing the right line to draft in.

He understood their worries, though, as they all felt concern surrounding his level of pain. As noted, it was something that came up during the Can-Am Duel and he felt post-race, in going through breathing exercises and finding ways to ease the pain. That was 70 laps and he had felt a lot afterwards. It was why he was partially set on also running the race today. Being able to put 300 miles under his belt, and feeling the pain that he’d feel would prepare him and warn him for what he’d feel the next day in running 500 miles. If he could understand the pain, he could figure just how much concentration that it’d take to overcome it. besides, adrenaline played a big role in ignoring it, too.

Giving his mom a hug and a kiss, as well as another reassuring comment that he’d be fine, he makes his way out to pit road, set forth for the busy day ahead. He was set to qualify the car, run a final Sprint Cup Series practice session, followed by the XFINITY race. In the midst of that, there was dealing with the normal hoopa that surrounded him in interviews and autographs. Why was a simple boy from Georgia so important?

The day seemed to go by with ease, as he quickly found himself standing on the grid before the 300-mile race. He had qualified decently, within the teens, which meant a solid spot. if he could just pull off the right moves early in the going, he could get up front and stay up there to stay out of trouble.

“You seem nervous…” Chase comments as he looks over at Sarina, who was leaning against the car, tapping her foot against the pavement. She then looks over at him with a sigh.

“I’m fine…” She states as he shakes his head no, walking over in front of her.

“That’s a big load of crap so why don’t you tell me the truth?” She then lets out a sigh as she glances away, before returning her eyes back to his.

“I’m nervous about today’s race, okay? I’m nervous that something is going to happen and you’re going to hurt yourself. I’m just worried about you….” He then grabs her hand lightly with his, rubbing the back of it with his fingers as he keeps his gaze locked on her eyes.

“I’m going to be fine. You, just like everybody else, can stop worrying about me. If there was any hint that there’d be a problem, I wouldn’t be doing this.” She shakes her head, knowing that was probably the truth. However, she could only keep picturing what happened last year, and what happened last night in her head.

“What happens if you hit the wall like Kyle did? What happens if you flip like Christopher did? I can’t help but run those thoughts through my mind, Chase. I’m worried…” A small smile formed on his face.

“It’s because you love me, and you care about me more than you’re willing to admit, right?” She found her cheeks going a dark shade of red as she tried to look away from him. She now understood why some wives couldn’t bare to watch the race, and why others felt nervous as ever watching. “Sarina….”

“Okay, so I’ve fallen for you a lot more than I thought. Now, can you listen to me?” He shakes his head no as he focuses her gaze back on his.

“You’re a racer like myself. Out of all the people here worried today, you should know better than anyone why I am doing this. Like I said, though, I’ll be fine and there’s nothing to worry about. Just place those thoughts about Chris and Kyle out of your mind, and focus on the fun that we can have today.” She knew that he was probably right in having some fun. JR Motorsports always had quick superspeedway cars, and had come accustom to winning races in the past at Daytona and Talladega. Perhaps this could be a fun day, after all.

“I’ll try, for you. I love you.” She then leans in and gives in a quick kiss, followed by holding him closer longer than she had originally realized.

Following the standard opening ceremonies, Chase gave his parents each a hug, followed by a final kiss and hug to Sarina before climbing in the car. There was no time anymore to think about the worries that everybody had. He had to focus on the job at hand.

Throughout the course of the race, he played his strategy right, staying near the front for much of it, except for a small blip when he got shuffled back through pit strategy. However, everything came together as the race closed as he found himself leading with teammate Elliott Sadler in toe.

The final lap was where everything took place, as Joey was able to get the run. Using the knowledge that he had gained through the years with the package and the day, he made the block on Joey, in which Joey went forth in pushing him ahead. Joey then pulled to make the move high, in which Chase blocked just enough to edge the previous Daytona 500 winner at the line.

“Great job!!” Dave Elenz exclaimed over the radio, immediately beginning to high-five crew members on the team.

“Spectacular driving at the end,” Eddie D’Hondt came over the radio next.

“Woohoo!” Chase let out after everybody else had made their comments on the radio. “Great spotting, Eddie. Great car, Dave. Great job everybody.”

Chase ten coasted the car around to the front stretch, where it officially ran out of fuel. That was fine, though, as he climbed out and waved to the crowd before collecting the checkered flag. Returning back to the car and leaning against it, he knew that it’d be a bit before the tow truck got there to give him a push. It was fine, though, as he used the time to reflect.

It had been a chaotic couple of weeks, between preparing for the new season, aligning thing for Sarina with the late model team, and the plane crash. However, in that moment of reflection, it was all worth it. The pain that he had endured was worth it. The pressure that he kept trying to push aside was worth it. There was nothing that could replace the thrill of victory. In a way, everything made this moment sweeter.

Once he did get to victory lane, a certain party ensued with hugs shared all around, including a special hug and kiss for Sarina. It was the pair’s first trip to victory lane, and nothing could damper the smiles on either of their faces. Chase never thought that he could fall in love with a girl, always focused on his racing career, but he knew that this girl was the one. Sarina always found herself scared of love, but was glad that she let the walls cave in this moment for this time with Chase.

Now it was just about having a good run tomorrow to complete Speedweeks on a great note.

Chasing The Love – Chapters 56 Thru 60

Chapter 56: Victory Lane

Upon arriving in victory lane, Alyssa climbed out of the car, standing on the edge with both fists in the air as the confetti shot off around her. The team sprayed whatever beverage they could find as everybody was in shock over the quick trip to victory lane.

She then hopped off the car and glanced at the reporter with a smile on her face. It felt good to be in victory lane.

“Second race and you’re already in victory lane,” the reporter starts. “Talk about your day.”

“The guys gave me a great car,” she starts as she tries to calm herself down, knowing that she needs to remember the sponsors accordingly. “The Cadbury Chevrolet was….just….wow. We worked hard all day, continuing to adjust it, and were able to work our way to the front. Travis did a spectacular job, as always, calling the adjustments and the pit crew – flawless stops. It was just unbelievable. I can’t believe this.”

“Then racing at the end, it wasn’t easy with having both Chase and Kennedy….”

“Oh my, they made it interesting and….I couldn’t ever imagine winning a race in a better way than I did today. I mean, that’s the way you want to race these races. That was one helluva race at the end and I hope the fans loved it because that was incredible. I think we were three-wide at one point. I just found where my car worked the best and made it work. I knew that the car had the speed, if I ran the right line.”

She then takes a deep breath, having let some of the excitement fade away, focusing her attention on shaking the team, the engine shop, and all the sponsors. She wanted to make sure to get her first XFINITY win interview right on cue after screwing everything every which way a couple years ago when she scored her first truck win at Martinsville.

She finishes up the interview as she knows someone is coming up behind her – thinking it was probably Travis – and feels a cold liquid go down her back. She then jumps in shock as she spins around and immediately smiles.

“I’m proud of you,” Dale tells her as he pulls her into a hug. “That was incredible. Way to go!” She then looks up at him after the hug, smiling widely.

“Thank you for being a great teacher and a great dad,” she replies. “I was waiting for a comment on the radio…..Oh my, you were crying.” Dale pulls her back close.

“That’s cause I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you because of not only what you did today, but how much you’ve grown and the young lady you’re becoming.” She then looks up into his eyes, knowing what she wanted to say immediately.

“Now now, dad – there’s something that I’ve told you from day one. I’ll always be your baby girl, no matter how old I am.” The camera takes in all the action, capturing the father-daughter moment in victory lane as the reporter looks on with a smile.

“Dale, what do you have to say about your daughter?” The reporter breaks in following the silence.

“I’m proud of her,” he says. “She ran a great race, staying out of trouble all day and finding ways to make her car even stronger. She drove like a veteran today. It makes me proud of her, and the entire team. This is a great group of guys and gals.”

“Any thoughts on to when we’ll see her in Cup?” Alyssa glances back over with a shocked expression and shakes her head no, having not even given that a thought at all. Dale, meanwhile, felt as though they were back under déjà view, remembering the questions with Chase.

“Give it time. She’ll move up when she’s ready. She’s doing two years in XFINITY before any decisions are made. We don’t want to move her up too quickly.” He also knew that they had to get the JR Motorsports team set for Cup racing before they could even think about doing that. Hopefully, that process happened quickly through the team growing that year as it seemed the future was there with both Kennedy and Alyssa.

Alyssa then went through a couple more interviews, before walking over to the team. She went through high-fiving each crew member, and giving a couple of them a hug. She reached Travis and simply smiled as she gave him the biggest hug, of all.

“You’re the best!” She tells him as he simply smiles.

“No – you’re the best,” he replies. “You make my job easy.” She smiled, proud of the relationship they had. Since being paired together when she made her truck debut shortly after her 16th birthday, they had clicked immediately.

“I’m just glad that Greg let me steal you away.”

“Hey, he couldn’t tell you no, now could he?” She then laughs and shakes her head no.

“Just remember to not let the pressure change either of you,” Dale interrupts the pair, having overheard the majority of the conversation. They both then glance over at the boss and shake their heads.

“Don’t worry – we’re doing this like we have since day one,” Travis starts as he keeps an eye on Alyssa. “Ignore what everybody else has to say and focus on ourselves and the car…..

“…..as the pieces will fall into place if we do that and we will succeed,” Alyssa finishes, remembering the saying that they had posted on the wall at JRM upon their first week together. Alyssa then heads off, meeting up with Marie and her siblings to receive their congratulatory messages.

“Stop worrying about your little girl. I promised you when you made me her crew chief that I’d take care of her, and I’m not backing down on that promise.” Dale then looks over at Travis and shakes his head, understanding.

“I trust you,” he tells him. “I just know how the media can be and don’t need her getting all frazzled. She already has enough on her plate with school and Chase.” Travis shakes his head, understanding. It had been interesting working with her in having to schedule their meetings together in between her classes and homework time.

“Speaking of Chase, where is the little butthead?” Travis questions as Dale shrugs his shoulders, glancing around victory lane. “I thought he’d be here already.”

“He’s probably busy with interviews and media obligations. If he could be here, he’d be here.” Travis then crosses his arms as he glances over at Dale.

“So, you have no problem with them together?” Dale then looks over at Travis and shakes his head no.

“He’s a good kid and I know he’ll treat her right. Plus, he knows if he hurts her that I’m kicking his ass.” Travis laughs as he gives Dale a pat on the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less.” The pair then glanced over at Alyssa, watching as she accepted congratulations messages from an array of people. Her fellow XFINITY competitors had stopped by to say congratulations, but there were also some Sprint Cup drivers and crew members that had joined the party. It seemed that the congratulatory messages were never going to end.

Accepting the final message and being called by the NASCAR official, she headed back on the stage, set to accept the trophy. She was still partially shock, not able to process it fully in her mind that this was an XFINITY victory. To her, it felt like a win from her late model days or truck – but never could she have done this.

“Have I really won an XFINITY race?” She questions to herself as the race track promoter and sponsor of the race representative go on about who knows what. For her, it felt like a total blur.

“You just won an XFINITY race because you beat me,” she hears as a pair of arms wrap around her stomach, followed by a kiss on the cheek. “Congratulations sweetheart. I love you.” She then relaxes back in his arms as she looks up at him.

“I love you, too. I’m glad you’re here.” He then lets her go as he could tell that she’d be needed soon.

“I wouldn’t miss this for anything. Now…pay attention…” She then focuses on the pair of people, finally listening to what they have to say as she gets ready to raise the big trophy into the air.

Chapter 57: Victory Lane Part 2

Alyssa went through the process of being awarded the trophy, followed by the photos that followed.

She then went to the media center, and discussed the win with the media members. They had her talking about what it meant to win her first race, what it meant to beat her boyfriend and cousin – more so her boyfriend, and what it meant moving forward. She kept her focus on the near future, saying that she was simply focused on winning Rookie of the Year this season, and perhaps the championship. Of course, that wasn’t the answer the media wanted as they were looking more towards the Sprint Cup Series. That, of course, was a topic that she left alone saying that’d happen when the time was right.

With all of her post-win obligations complete, she returned back to victory lane. There were a couple of photos that she had yet to get that she would prefer in her collection.

The first photo was an obvious one – a copy of her first quarter midget win, wearing her princess crown to go with the firesuit and trophy. The royal media followers were fully set on eating up that photo, snatching as many pictures as they could.

The other photo, though, was something more special. She had waited till most people had cleared out of victory lane before pulling Chase close to her.

“I love you,” she tells him before kissing his lips. “The fact that I beat you makes this even more special.”

“I tried everything that I could to beat you,” he comments as he wraps his arms around her. “By the way, I think it’s a known fact that I love you, too.” She then chuckles as she keeps him held close.

“I was just thinking about something. You were there for my first quarter midget win. I made you come that night to the track.” Chase shakes his head, remembering, with a slight laugh.

“I remember the ridiculous shirt that you made me wear.” She then laughs as she glances over at her mom, then back at Chase.

“You can blame my mom. She helped me design it, remember?”

“Chasey!!” Alyssa yells as she looks their direction, taking off running towards the pair. She immediately wraps her arms around Chase’s leg and hugs him before looking up with a smile. “You came!”

“I promised, didn’t I?” Chase asks and Alyssa shakes her head yes.

“I so glad you here.” She then hurries to the truck, grabbing a shirt before returning to see him again. “You wear this.” Chase then looks over at Dale, who shrugs his shoulders, before laying his eyes back on the shirt. Chase then unfolds the shirt, smiling as he sees her number and name written on it, with a small car. He then flips it over, glancing at the back to let a bigger smile form on his face as he recognizes the drawing. “I made for you. Mommy help. Mommy do front, me do back.”

“It’s beautiful sweetheart.” He then slips it over his head, letting it cover the black t-shirt that he had chosen to wear with his jeans that night. Twirling around, no doubt there were people making comments around them about how it looked – but he didn’t care, for he was there to have fun with his buddy that night. Seeing the smile on her face at him wearing the shirt made it all worthwhile. “Do I look good?”

“You look grrrreeaaat!”

“Why did it have to be pink?” He asks as she shrugs her shoulders.

“I was four years old,” she states. “Four year old little girls love the color pink and think it’s the best color on the planet. You were just the lucky one that was stuck with it.” He then looks over her before looking into her blue eyes.

“I personally prefer the Cadbury purple now.” She then smiles as she breaks out of the hold, strutting across the victory lane stage.

“It does bring out my beauty, don’t you say?” He then laughs and shakes his head yes as he snaps a photo. She then spins around. “You took a photo of my ass, didn’t you?” He shrugs his shoulders as she walks back over to him. “Chase!”

“Well, you have a nice ass…” He then wraps his arms around her, holding her back close. “Don’t worry – it’s for my personal collection.” He then kisses her lips.

“That photo from that night – it’s been my phone background since daddy got me my phone.” She then shows him as he simply smiles.

“I remember another special night that we were together. Do you remember my first Cup win?” She shakes her head yes as she scrolls through her photos on her phone.

“I was so set on wearing a NAPA firesuit to match you since you were my ‘buddy’.” He smiles as he shakes his head yes.

“I thought the suit was adorable. The picture, though, was even more special. I still have that photo…” She smiles, remembering the frame that it was in at the house.

“It’s always been one of my favourites.” She then glances back at him as she puts her phone back in her pocket. “However, I say we make one even better than that. There’s a reason that I dragged you back to victory lane.” He smiles as he keeps her held close.

“You’re lucky that I love you, because if it was up to me – I’d be changed out of this firesuit by now.” She then smiles.

“Don’t worry – I’m ready to get changed, as well. Let’s get this over with.”

They turn and face the team photographer that they had asked to stick around, posing for a couple of photos. The first photo featured them on either side of the trophy, while the second photo had her standing in front of him, both showing the No. 1 sign.

However, Alyssa’s favourite of the afternoon and the photo that she was set to make her phone background later that night was when Chase wrapped both arms around her and held her close.

With the victory lane photos done, the pair headed back to their trailers to get changed, agreeing to go out to dinner that night together – and with a bunch of guys from the team – to celebrate the win.

As Chase came out changed into a t-shirt and pair of jeans, he met his mom’s gaze.

“I know you love and I can see how much you love her,” Cindy starts as she keeps her eyes focused on him. “It’s obvious to everyone. But, just because you love her a lot, remember to take things slow. Let things happen naturally and don’t push things too fast because of how you’re feeling.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. The worries that everyone seemed to have were understandable, given that she was younger.

“Mom, trust me,” he tells her. “I’m taking things slow and letting them happen as she wants. I’m not going to push her into anything.” Cindy smiles as she gives him a hug.

“I knew I raised you right.”

Chapter 58: Dale’s Thoughts

“You’re thinking about something….” Marie comments as she places breakfast down in front of him. Dale then glances up at her and lets out a sigh.

The rest of the night went well as the celebratory dinner was fun, with laughs had by everybody. They got back to the track late that night, with everybody retreating to their bedsroom quarters in knowing they had another busy day ahead. Besides, Dale had plans on making it a family sweep that weekend.

“How did you know?” He questions as she shrugs her shoulders.

“We’ve been together long enough that I know everything,” she answers before giving him a quick kiss before retreating back to the rest of breakfast.

“I’m just thinking about Alyssa.” She then looks over intrigued.

“And?” He then looks over, and he didn’t even need to say anymore. “Chase, right?” he shakes his head in agreement. “I thought you were perfectly fine with them being together. You told Cindy and I to back off, remember?”

“I still think that they’re great together and they belong together, if they truly love each other. I trust her judgment in knowing what her heart wants, and I trust that he’ll take care of her.” Marie then grabs a plate and sits across from Dale, focusing on his blue eyes.

“Then what’s the problem?” He glances away and knows that it wouldn’t be fair to Chase to talk to Marie about this. He told him and Regan that afternoon in confidence because he knew someone needed to know.

“Nothing that you need to worry about.” She then looks at him with eyebrows raised, knowing that a chicken’s way of not saying something. “It goes back a bunch of years and something that Chase told me. I promised him that I wouldn’t tell anybody.” She shakes her head, understanding, however somewhat worried.

“But it’s definitely nothing to worry my heart about?” Dale then looks up from his food at her.

“Don’t worry – everything is fine. I’m just getting lost in my own thoughts.”

Those thoughts wouldn’t disappear throughout the morning, though, as they continued to stay in his mind. Knowing that he had a good hour before his first appearance, he decided to make good use on those thoughts.

He made his way out of the motorcoach and made the short walk across the lot, knocking on a familiar door. He smiles when the door opens shortly thereafter.

“Hey,” Chase starts, surprised to see Dale standing there. “If you’re looking for Alyssa, she’s not here.” Dale chuckles as he makes his way inside.

“That’s not why I’m here, but thanks,” he replies, glad that she wasn’t there. That’d make this conversation more awkward. “I actually came over to talk to you.” Chase closes the door as he keeps a careful eye on Dale, taking a seat on the couch.

“Uh oh. Here comes the protect my daughter and I’ll kick your ass if you hurt her discussion.” Dale chuckles, wishing it was that easy.

“We already had that discussion, remember? I kept it short and sweet. I’m here on another topic.” Chase then watches Dale, carefully, nervously. What else was there to discuss?

“Okay…” Dale takes a deep breath as he glances away from Chase, wondering if he was even doing the right thing.

“I may be wrong doing this, but it came to my mind this morning. I know that you and Alyssa are growing closure with each passing day, and that’s great – no objections. I also trust you, and I trust her judgment that you won’t do things too early. However, that day is going to com-”

“Woah, wait! I’m not even close to proposing.” Dale’s eyes widen and he shakes his head no. “I guessed wrong, huh?” Dale shakes his head yes.

“If you were already looking to propose to her, I’d have concerns. That’s not why I’m here, Chase.” Dale takes a deep breath, trying to figure out the best wording. “First comes love, followed by kissing and touching, and then comes se-”

“Yeah, we’re not even close to that, either! Plus, I don’t feel comfortable having hat discussion with you. You’re her father!” Dale shakes his head, knowing that was why he had avoided even coming here on the topic.

“I know this whole situation is awkward…and I’m glad that you’re taking things slow and not at that step yet. Besides, I’m pretty sure that she hasn-”

“Don’t worry – she’s still your baby. I already asked her.” Dale looks on surprised. “Curiosity – that’s all. I just wanted to know so that way I knew for when the time is right.” Dale shakes his head, understanding.

“Now, the reason it was on my mind was because of your first time. I remember what happened with Demi.” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances out the window. “Chase, I know the emotions that went with that. It hurt. It still hurts to this day, right?” Chase slowly shakes his head yes.

“I got over everything that happened, except for that. That still stings.” Dale shakes his head, understanding.

“That’s bound to come up when it gets closer to…you know, the time. It came to my mind as I thought about you two growing closure. I don’t know why, but it did.” Chase then looks back over at Dale.

“So why are you here?” Dale keeps his eyes locked on Chase’s as he takes a deep breath.

“If you need someone to talk to or whatever, I’m here. I just came here to let you know that. I won’t make it awkward because it’s my daughter. I’ll be the same person to lean on as I was then. I also came here to suggest that you talk to her about what happened so she understands your emotions, too.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. He had thought about that already and knew that was probably in the cards moving forward. Besides, it’d only be fair to talk about his emotions if he wanted to get her to open up in return.

“How much does she know, Dale?” Dale’s eyes immediately go to the ground, knowing that answer clear as day.

“She doesn’t know much. She knows bare minimum details of what happened on the plane, since she still has a nightmare here or there about it, but that’s it. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her everything else. How do you tell your baby girl that you almost lost her?” Chase shakes his head, understanding. He knew that meant one thing, though – everything fell on his shoulders now.

“Okay. I understand your reasons. I just wanted to know so that way I know where to start.”

“I could tell her if you want and if it makes it eas-”

“No, I need to tell her myself. If I can’t tell her myself, then I don’t trust her as much as I should. I want to have that trust with her, Dale, and part of that is knowing that I can tell her anything.” A small smile forms on Dale’s face. He knew that he could trust Chase with his little girl.

“That’s fine. When that time comes, whether telling her everything or the first time, just know that I’m here to lean on or talk to.” A small smile forms on Chase’s face. He knew that he may have to take Dale up on that offer, or perhaps go talk to Regan like old times.

“Thanks. I appreciate that.”

Chapter 59: Chase’s Thoughts

Following the driver’s meeting, Chase knew that he had to go see someone in particular. The discussion that he had with Dale was still on his mind, and he knew there was one person that he could truly talk things through with before the race started.

Regan had shifted to being a driver coach for the Hendrick Motorsports/JR Motorsports development drivers, while running a partial schedule. That new role had him at the track each weekend with the young stable of drivers giving them tips as needed.

As he waited for driver introductions to begin, Chase met with Regan, set on discussing things. He immediately went through the discussion that he had with Dale, detailing everything that the pair spoke about. From the fact that Chase should discuss things over with Alyssa, to Alyssa not knowing too much per Dale’s lack of discussion with her. There was also the fact that they touched on the first time the pair were set to get sexual with each other, which Chase insisted wasn’t set to happen in the very near future.

Regan understood Dale’s reasoning for discussing things over – his daughter was his number one concern, and he wanted to make sure that was taken care of properly. A father’s wish is always for their children to find someone that loves and appreciates them for who they are. It was an interesting on the timing, but that just came with the nature of things as well.

“But why discuss all that right after a win?” Chase questions, catching Regan’s attention. It was a curious question as Regan could understand why Chase would be bothered by the fact.

“It was on his mind,” Regna answers with a shrug of the shoulders. Chase rolls his eyes as that was obviously the case.

“But why?” Regan lets out a sigh, trying to think of a good answer for Chase. No matter when they seemed to meet up to talk, Chase always had the difficult questions to answer.

“Probably seeing you two getting closer with each day triggered it. You know Dale. If it comes to mind and he cares…”

“…..he will tell you.” Regan shakes his head, having learned that over the years.

“If it does with his daughter, then….” Chase lets out a sigh.

“….he’ll do whatever it takes.” A small smile forms on Regan’s face. Finally, it seemed as though their discussions were getting to easier to handle.

“I know it’s a buzz kill, but he felt it was needed. Don’t let it bug you. Enjoy being home. Enjoy her win!” Chase smiles as that was definitely the plan. It was why he had gone out to dinner with her and the team last night. It was why he still wanted to take her out on a dinner of their own to celebrate. It was also why he wanted to win today to make it the perfect weekend for them both.

“Oh I am, no worries. Besides, I have plans for today.” Regan chuckles as he shakes his head.

“Sure you’re quick enough?” Chase then looks at him, surprised.

“Duh! Is that even a question?” Regan then laughs as he kicks back.

“We’ll see by race’s end.” He then sits up, catching Chase’s eyes. He knew there was one more piece of advice that he wanted to share. “Listen, I know this hurts to discuss and it’s hard – even after all these years. I know it’s also important, too. But stop worrying. When the time is right, you’ll be able to tell her everything that happened and about Demi. Till then, don’t worry about it. Focus on getting to know her better and your relationship. It’s useless to panic as at the right time, it’ll come with ease – just like when you told me.” Chase shakes his head, understanding. His mind started into overdrive wondering when the time would be, but he knew that he couldn’t worry about that either as he knocked that thought off of the brain. Instead, he had to focus on what Regan said.

“Thanks. I’m surprised you’re not warning me this time.” Regan chuckles, remembering the previous discussions about Chase’s love life.

“Hey, you had just met Demi and Ms. Vitty was a lizard.” Chase rolls his eyes at the mention as he watches her walk over their direction with Marshall.

“Why’d I go out with her?” Regan looks over and shrugs his shoulders, still asking himself that very same question.

“I ask myself that everytime I see her.” Chase glances over at her once again, before looking back over at Regan.

“I sometimes do as well. Guess I was fooled.” Regan looks over with a bit of sympathy.

“But you figured it out before it was too late. Now look at your princess. Make sure you take good care of her.” Chase smiles and shakes his head. There was no questioning that fact as he planned on doing everything with Alyssa.

“No worries. I always take good care of my buddy.” He then goes up, set to head over to the stage, knowing that his turn to go up would be coming up shortly. “Thanks for the cha-”

“I’ve got one more question for you, and you can answer if you want. I know about your first time with Demi, but have you since?” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks over at Regan.

“You know that Emma is the only girl that I dated since things happened with Demi, right?” Regan shakes his head yes. “Emma and I slept together once after a win. It kind of doesn’t count because that was after Ryan and Darrell took me partying so I was little drunk, if you may.” Regan shakes his head, understanding.

“But that’s it?” Chase shakes his head yes.

“That’s it – I swear.” He then takes a deep breath, thinking things over as he keeps his eyes focused on Regan. “When it comes to Alyssa and I, I don’t want to happen like that. I want it to be when the time is right. I want it to be perfect. I really care about her and don’t want to hurt her. I don’t want to till she is ready, and I want to make sure that everything is right for that time – whenever it may. Perhaps that’s why this is bugging me more than it should.” A small smile forms on Regan’s face.

“That just proves right there how much you care about her and love her. That says a lot and it should be commendable. But in the same breath, don’t put pressure on yourself. I know you want it to be perfect, but don’t pressure yourself so much in trying to make it perfect. Let it happen naturally. Life will takes its course of time, whatever that may be. When the time is right, you’ll talk about things and when the time is right, you’ll move to the next step.” Chase gives Regan a quick hug.

“Thanks for the chit-chat. I appreciate it.” Regan smiles.

“You know you can come to me anytime. That hasn’t changed over the years.” Chase smiles as he heads off, set for driver introductions.

Regan kicks back relaxing in the pit stall, a smile firmly on his face. They had come a long way from what happened, but everything had worked out in their own way. He had watched Chase grow a lot, becoming a great, mature man that could handle anything. It was nice to see him happy and secretly, he hoped that the race that afternoon belonged to the driver of the NAPA car.

Chapter 60: Folds of Honor 500

“Are you alright, man?” Darrell asks as he walks by Chase on the grid. Chase simply shakes his head yes. “I saw you talking with Regan and got all concerned.” Chase lets out a sigh.

“Dale mentioned a couple things to me this morning and I just sounded it off with Regan,” Chase answers as Darrell crosses his arms, leaning against Chase’s car.

“Is he not happy about you being with Alyssa?” Chase shakes his head no.

“It’s not that. He’s been supportive from day one. That’s actually why he wanted to talk to me. He wants to make sure that we’re taking things carefully and slow, and that I’m being honest with her. At some point, I’m going to have to tell her about what happened.” Darrell shivers, having left that thought in the past. He hadn’t given it a thought over the past 10 years or so, not wanting to be reminded of those events.

“Doesn’t she know?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“She has flashbacks to when she was on the plane, but that’s the extent. She doesn’t know what happened with Randy and I.” Darrell looks on surprised.

“There’s a thing called Google. I think you should’ve heard of it by now.” Chase then gives him a look, slightly curious, slightly surprised.

“What’s your point?” Darrell shrugs his shoulders.

“Everybody always takes a chance at googling themselves to see what is said. Don’t deny it – you’ve probably done it. You also do it to your best friends at times, as well. If she’s done that, she knows more than you think.” Chase thought that over as perhaps Darrell was on to something. Maybe she did know the details, and maybe it’d be easier to speak about what happened than he thought as at least she knew something. “You still owe it to her, though, to tell her from your own perspective.”

“Yeah..” Chase then takes a deep breath, thinking to what Regan said. “But hey, that’s in the future. That’s not right now. It’ll happen when the time is right, and when I’m comfortable. Besides, I should be getting ready to kick your ass.” Darrell then laughs and shakes his head no.

“Just because your girl got lucky yesterday doesn’t mean that you’re getting lucky today. I’m making sure that you finish second, again.” Chase rolls his eyes. He couldn’t be upset about finishing second yesterday no matter how he thought of it. But to finish second to Darrell? That’d be harder to take.

“We’ll just have to see, right? Remember – I’m dating her. She’ll give me all of her secrets to use against you today.” Darrell then smiles.

“So let me get this straight – the great Chase Elliott learns to drive from his girlfriend? Wow, that sounds great. I’m sure the media would eat that up.” Chase then goes to punch Darrell as Darrell laughs, jumping out of arm shot. “Miss me, miss me, now you gotta kis….you know what, nevermind.”

“I’ll handle that for you anyway,” a new voice chimes in as Alyssa walks over, giving Chase a hug and a kiss. “Good luck today.”

“Thank you,” he says as he wraps his arms around her. “Are you going to stand on pit road with me today?” She smiles as she wraps her arms around him.

“I promised you that I would on Friday, remember?” He shakes his head yes before kissing her lips, once again.

“Are you going to sit on my pit box?” She then glances at his eyes. That was a tough call as she normally sat on her dad’s pit box. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit on Chase’s.

“If it makes you feel better, I can do that.”

“Ever heard the expression of too much PDA?” Darrell interrupts as Chase laughs.

“It’s just revenge for all the times that you’d make out with Shelby in front of Ryan and I,” Chase teases as Darrell gives him the finger. Chase just laughs as Darrell heads off. “Truthfully, he and Shelby are cute together. I’m glad that they worked out.” He was also glad that Ryan finally managed to find a girl that was perfect for him, and wasn’t scared away by Emma. Things were great. Darrell had Shelby, Ryan had Kaitlyn and he now had Alyssa.

“I’m glad that you asked me to be your girlfriend.” He then keeps her held close.

“I’m glad that I had the guts to ask you. Would it be wrong to say that this feels like it’s meant to be even though we just started dating?” She shakes her head no as she lays her head on his chest.

“That’s not wrong at all, if that’s what you feel. I feel more comfortable with you than I have ever felt before with anyone.” He then runs his hands through her hair.

“How did you sleep last night?” She shakes her head as she glances up at him.

“I slept pretty good, but I woke up about 4am for who knows what reason.” She then lets out a sigh as she leans her head back against him. The words that she said were the truth – she felt so comfortable in his arms. It was probably why she slept as good as ever that night at his place in his arms. “Chase, will you come with me on Tuesday? Dad is supposed to come, but I’d really like it if you were there.”

“I will be there if you want me to be there. What time is your appointment?”

“4. I get out of school at 2:30 and I’m going to head over to JRM, pick up Dad and we’re going to go.” Chase shakes his head, understanding the plan.

“I’ll be sure to be at JRM when you get there to pick him up.”

The pair spent the rest of the pre-race talking, before standing together for pre-race ceremonies. After the anthem, she gave him one final kiss before walking away to his pit box while he climbed in the car set for the afternoon.

The race started off on a clean note, as they were able to get in 93 laps before the first caution flew for Ty Dillon blowing up. Chase was having a solid race so far, currently running just outside of the top 10 while Ryan Blaney led the field.

“She’s defiantely loose,” Chase reported on the radio. “If you can tighten her up, I could catch the leaders.”

“10-4 We’ll make an air pressure adjustment under this stop and go from there,” Alan tells him. “Lots of time, bud.” Chase knew that fact well as there were still about 230 laps to go. Lots of time to make his way to the front before the checkered flag flew.

The adjustments worked as Chase was able to move up into the top-10 before the second caution flew at lap 156 for Erik Jones going up in smoke.

“There’s lots of debris all around the track and it’s getting on the grills, resulting in high temps and blown motors,” Eddie tells Chase as Chase glances down at his temperatures. “No debris on your grill.”

“Keep an eye on the temps just incase,” Alan informs him. “It’s a hot day.”

“Ya think?” Chase questions. “Would you like to try this from my seat?” Alan kicks his feet back on the pit box.

“Nah man, I’m comfortable up here. Alyssa and I were just about to share an ice cream.” Chase swore he could smack his crew chief right then and there.

“Be sure to shove the stick up your butt when you’re done.” Alyssa chuckles as she looks over at Alan. It was really neat to see how their relationship had evolved since they started working together.

“10-4 You just keep driving hard and passing cars and doing your job.”

The engine failures continued biting drivers as Gray Gaulding was the next driver to go up in smoke at lap 209. The caution wasn’t timely for Chase as he had just pitted under green and was now trapped back in the 23rd spot.

“We’re going to take the wave around when the leaders pit here,” Alan informs him as Chase lets out a sigh. He was having such a good race. Why did the caution fly when it did? That just seemed to be his luck when he came to Atlanta. He always had a fast car in front of the hometown crowd, but barely found the keys to lock down a victory.

“10-4,” he comments. “How many to go?” Alan takes a deep breath, hearing the annoyance in Chase’s voice. He felt the annoyance, hoping they could’ve kept the smooth run going. However, he also knew that anything was possible still.

“You got lots of time. Still over a 100 laps. Just keep the nose clean and work your way through the pack carefully.”

The rest of the race would go green as Alyssa found herself split between watching Chase and Dale. Chase had worked his way through the field, breaking into the top-five as they stretched into the final laps.

Her dad, meanwhile, was also having a solid run as he ran in the fourth spot, looking to lock down another solid day. Considering that they had just started the Cup team at JRM, it would be a great start to their success. Though as the sign for two laps flew, she watched as big puff of smoke escaped the car, followed by a trail of fluid.

“Fuck!” She swore as she watched the engine blow, sitting back on the pit box as the caution flew. She had wanted a caution to give Chase a chance to catch up to Karsyn and battle for the win, but didn’t want that caution to be her dad.

“Caution – Dale blew up,” Eddie says on the radio. Chase was glad to see the caution – he’d get a shot to pass Karsyn for the victory. However, on the flip side, he hated to see that for Dale.

“Going to be a green-white-checkered here,” Alan says on the radio. “She’s going to take the bottom for the restart. That’ll give you the outside.”

Chase felt confident on the outside as the car had been at it’s strongest on the outside throughout the race. However, he also knew how strong Karsyn had been all day.

Riding around under caution, he felt a slew of thoughts go through his mind. It felt weird to be racing against her after the conversations that they had traded the past couple of days. She liked him and wanted to be with him – but yet he didn’t like her in the same way in return. He remembered how she took the news last week in Daytona. He hadn’t spoken to her since and wondered how she was feeling. Was she still upset? Had she started to move forward with her own thoughts, yet? He also wondered if she’d be able to find someone that was perfect for her. He even joked that perhaps he could set her up with Cole – the thought brought laughter as he knew he had been hanging around Ty and Hayley too long to try match-making.

Shaking his head, he knew he couldn’t think about that. He couldn’t let the off-track life intervene with things on the track. He had two laps to get a win and that was what he intended on doing, one way or another. He knew that meant that he had to pass her on the restart.

Cleaning off the tires, keeping his eyes focused, it was now or never to claim the victory that he wanted more than anything.

As soon as he watched the green flag fly in the air, he mashed the pedal down as hard as he could to the floor, letting the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet take off. He carried all the momentum he could into the corner before backing off a touch, riding the outside groove. As he started to come off of two, he put his foot back to the floor, straightening the car out as he came off the corner. He knew he had to carry as much momentum as possible down the backstretch.

With the momentum on his side, he took a quick glance to his left – seeing that he was about a fender ahead. He took the approach to three, sending the car in wide with his foot slightly off the pedal, before mashing it back to the floor off the corner. As he came to the white flag, he knew he just needed one more clean lap and he’d be in victory lane.

He repeated the process, letting the car do the work to get off the corner as best as it could, coming off of turn four with every bit of speed he could hope for. As he crossed the finish line, he didn’t even bother to look to his left or right.

He didn’t need to.

He couldn’t feel anyone around him. He could already hear the screaming on the radio by Alan and Eddie.

He had done it.

He had won the Folds of Honor 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had gotten the points lead. He had punched his ticket to the Chase.

More importantly, he had won in front of the hometown crowd.