Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 110: Slowly Healing

Sunday, July 2

From the initial time he opened his eyes on Sunday, from the sight of the sunrise out of the hospital window, through the morning and afternoon, it was a repetitive cycle. He’d roughly wake up, say a couple words, comment on the pain with the doctors giving him what they felt was necessary, followed by more sleep.

He felt weaker than he could even describe and he knew his body was fighting against whatever he drank that day in the trailer. With that, the sleep was very welcome as he knew he had to take care of himself.

He found himself wanting to request Sarina in a couple instances when he woke up, but he stayed away from the topic for now. He knew that request would come with resistance and an argument, something that wasn’t worth having based on how he was feeling. He just hoped that the time apart wouldn’t kill their chances at a future as he still believed in them, despite what happened.

As the sun began to sat on Sunday, he finally found some more energy to stay awake longer, entertaining some light conversation with the occupants of the room. He spoke roughly of how he was feeling, while getting caught up on some things that he missed. Ryan left out that he was texting Sarina for the time being, knowing that Cindy would freak and wanting to avoid that.

“Alan….,” he comments the crew chief’s name aloud as they sit there. “Is Alan and Greg here? Or did they fly back to North Carolina yet?”

“The crew guys refused to leave till they knew for certain that you’d be okay,” Ryan starts. “They’re staying at the local hotel, and have been spending the days down the hall in the waiting room. That’s where Darrell keeps going down every couple hours.” Bill remembers when he took the walk down there, suggesting to them that they fly back and they’d get Chase to face time when he was up to it. However, the entire team shook their heads no as they wanted to make sure their driver was okay.

“Dude, none of us leaving till you’re okay to leave,” Darrell adds. Chase hated to mess up everybody’s schedules, but appreciated their support. Though he knew he owed Alan and Greg a visit now, too.

“Mom, Dad, you guys have been sitting here constantly all day and now night,” he starts. “Why don’t you go get something to eat? Darrell and Ryan can go with you and get something, too. I feel up to seeing the team for a bit. Send Alan and Greg first….” The boys accept easily, though reluctantly could be seen on the parent’s faces.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Cindy questions and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at her.

“You need to take care of yourself, too,” he answers as he lays his head back against the pillow.

“Come on….” Darrell stands up first, beginning the effort of leading them both out of the room. Bill goes next, followed by Cindy as Ryan watches closely. He sees them exit the room, giving Darrell a quick nod before focusing his eyes on Chase.

“Sarina came to check on you but your mo-” He starts as soon as they left the room.

“I heard everything,” Chase cuts him off, remembering the argument clearly as Ryan looks on shocked.

“I’ve been texting her updates ever since so she knows how you’re doing because she’s worried. I just felt it was best to listen to Cindy’s request for now.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Thank you. Please keep doing that…”

“Anything you want me to tell her, specifically?” Chase debated giving her a message aimed towards his hope for the future, but didn’t want her to take that as a welcome to show up just yet. So he shook his head no. “Alright. I’ll go get Alan and Greg for you.” Ryan then leaves the room, heading to where the crew continued to sit.

Chase glanced around the room, letting out a sigh. It was odd to be by himself for the first time since everything happened.

He glances up at the monitor, seeing all the numbers that flashed across the screen. He could only hope that those numbers meant something good, and he was continuing to get better. His eyes then glanced down at his arm, seeing where the IV was, followed by a shudder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with that, but he couldn’t deny that whatever they were giving him was working.

Laying his head back against the pillow, he lets out a sigh. He knew he was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t more serious.  Thankful that he was awake and feeling decent, considering. Thankful that Alan had found him when he did. Thankful that he could see the future, and strength was coming back.

“One day at a time,” he reminds himself, knowing that he couldn’t rush it. The thought of missing Kentucky pained him as he was looking forward to racing there, being one of the more fun ovals on the schedule. It was his goal to be healed by then. However, pushing to be ready and not fully letting his body do what it needed wouldn’t help him. Besides, he was meant to be thankful.

He hears the door open and immediately smiles, watching the two crew members smile in response. He could see the worry written all over Alan’s face, obviously struggling with everything in being the one to see how bad it was. He knew how close they had grown already in a year and a half, and wouldn’t expect anything else.

“Gosh, this is a sight that I’m glad to be seeing,” Alan comments as he walks over to the bed. He immediately goes in for a hug, which Chase easily accepts, knowing how frantic everything was in the hauler that night.

“You don’t look too bad,” Greg comments as he remains at the bottom of the bed, eyes focused on the young man.

“All the hard ass training that you put me through is certainly helping in trying to fight this off,” he replies as Greg smiles. He had no doubt that everything would be fine based on how strong Chase was.

“So, how are you feeling?” Alan questions as Chase looks back towards the crew chief.

“Still a little sore and still somewhat sick, but a lot better than I was. It’s coming, slowly….” Alan shakes his head, accepting. That’s all that mattered to him.

“That’s good. I’m glad, really. You scared me….” Alan didn’t mean to come straight out and admit it, but there was no denying what he felt.

“It scared the crap out of me, too. It’s the worst I’ve probably ever felt.” Alan could understand that after what he saw.

“Well then make sure you take your time, focus on healing, and let your body do what it needs to do,” Greg advises and Chase knew that for certain.

“Trust me – I’m not going far the next couple of days,” he tells them. “I know how hard everything is fighting. I can feel the weakness at times. I’ve been letting myself sleep as I need it. But, I had to see you guys. I mean, I had to say thank you. Thank you for being there, and doing what needed to be done.”

“We love ya, kid,” Alan says. “I would do it all over in a heartbeat. Just promise me that we’re going to damn well win a race finally.” Chase laughs and rolls his eyes. It was certainly getting frustrated not having broken through for their first Cup Series win yet.

“I promise that I’m going to try as hard as I can do that just for you.” He then lets out a yawn, laying his head back against the pillow. He knew he should give in and accept the sleep, but he didn’t want to yet. He had slept most of the day away already, and there were a bunch of guys who deserved some time. “Greg, can you go get the guys? I want to say hi before I go back to sleep.” Greg easily accepts as he leaves the room.

“Greg kept telling me that you were going to be okay. I wanted to believe him so easily, but man, I was worried. I didn’t know what to think with how much pain you were in….” Chase looks over at Alan.

“Trust me, that’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt. It felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It was torture.” He then looks at the crew chief in the eyes as he places a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m going to be okay, and we’re going to fulfill that promise.”

“I have no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” The door then cracks open, followed by a series of crew members making their way in. “Get ready for craziness….”

“I’m used to these guys.” Chase then glances over at the guys, with a quick wave.

“Easy boys. Let’s make this short and sweet as someone needs his beauty sleep.”

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

Sarina sits on the beach, reading the latest text message from Ryan, letting out a slight smile. It wasn’t much of an update, but it was something.

Ryan had simply told her that Chase knew about her being delivered updates, and the fact that he was doing better more and more throughout the day. He also told her that they were going to try and get him up on Monday, followed by some quick tests, to make sure things were panning out right.

She could only hope those tests and everything continued to go smoothly, followed by some interaction to follow with him. It was nice to see he was okay with the updates as that represented hope, but didn’t mean the same as being able to see him.

“We’re flying out soon,” she hears behind her, glancing to see Kyle standing there.

“I’m not going home yet,” she tells him as he lets out a sigh. “I’m not going home till I get a chance to see Chase.” Kyle knew he had to tread lightly as he took a couple more steps, before sitting beside her.

“What makes you certain that’s going to happen?” She then hands over her phone, letting him see the latest update from Ryan. “Okay….”

“He is okay with me receiving updates. That means that there’s something still there in the mark of feelings. If I’m patient, like he was with me before, I feel that we can do this together.” Kyle wanted to believe her words, though also feared worse as he could see everything changing based on the last string of events. Trust was a big deal with Chase, and she hadn’t trusted his judgment on Chris, or took it seriously, and now was in the hospital. What if that laid on his mind?

“And what if that doesn’t happen? I know things are crazy right now with your brother’s arrest and this, but there’s responsibilities for this weekend….” She knew that she had to be at the shop at least one day before the upcoming race.

“I was going to come by on Tuesday before we all headed out to Kentucky together. I need another day down here, not just because of Kyle, but because of my brother. I need to go check in to see where they are on things. I want to see him locked up and pay for what happened as he blew his second chance totally, and I need to make sure that’s right on course for happening.” Kyle easily accepted that. He didn’t want to see Chris ever again, either.

“That’s fine.” He then glances out to the water, before looking back at her. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know how Kurt and I argue at times, and sure he’s done some stupid shit over the years, too. But I can’t imagine having something happen like what you’re going through. But I want you to know that I have your back, this changes nothing about our agreement, and you can always come see me for advice.” She looks over, with a slight smile.

“Thank you, Kyle.” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“And Sarina, for what it’s worth, I hope you’re right about your future with Chase. I’ll see you later.”

She then gives him a quick wave before he heads off. She then lets out a sigh as she looks out to the water once again, letting every thought of her life flow through her mind. It didn’t matter what she did, she always found herself in some predicament.

“When am I getting my happily ever after, daddy? You always said I was your little princess and everything would come together. I wanna know when. I can’t keep doing this…”

She then wipes the tear off of her face as she continues to stare outwards, almost blankly.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 107: The Waiting Game

Saturday, July 1

Alan walks into the waiting room with the team in toe. He stops as he sees Bill and Cindy there, taking a glance back at the team with a nod, before continuing to move forward.

The team recognizes the gesture immediately, each taking a respective seat as they give Alan and the parents their distance. They were each worried about their driver, but knew the worry of a parent went further than that. They weren’t about to breach the rules of respect.

“Hey,” Alan says quietly, catching their attention. “Any update?” Bill shakes his head no as he rubs Cindy’s shoulders, who sat in the chair by him.

“They said they brought him in and took him to a room, and for us to wait here for when they had something to say,” Bill replies as Alan could only shake his head. Typically a motion like that meant it was severe.

“I’m sure they’ll have something to tell you soon. I can tell you that we caught it relatively quickly, so that’s always a good thing. Greg mentioned that he was pretty sure he’d be okay.” Bill shakes his head, accepting, but knew he nor Cindy would be relaxed till they saw that for themselves.

“How’d it happen? i mean, I thought Chris was the cause and he was arrested today.” Alan hated to bring up the explanation, and knew once thought about, Chase would probably kick himself in the ass for drinking the bottle.

“Chase normally brings a drink with him outta the motorcoach and sticks it in the trailer fridge till he wants it. The bottle he grabbed was something that he brought out Friday.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief, knowing what that meant.

“So is there enough evidence to keep Chris locked up this time?” Cindy questions, having growing frustrated with him and wanting to give Chris a piece of her own mind. The timing also couldn’t have come any worse, either, given that she had just started to warm up to Sarina some.

“I don’t know,” Alan comments. “Chase was waiting to hear from Sarina on some sor-”

“He still has a thing for her?” Alan stops immediately, having grown used to Cindy’s complaints. In his mind, he wished that she could separate the thoughts of Chris and Sarina from each other.

“Yeah, he does. He was hanging in the lounge, putting off leaving, in hopes of some message in return.” Cindy could only roll her eyes, but wasn’t about to worry about that right now. There were bigger fish to fry, anyway. “Listen, if you guys need anything, we’re all here for you. We’ll give you the space you need, but the second you need something just ask. We care about him and believe me – he’s going to be okay.”

“Thanks Alan,” Bill says as he gives the crew chief a quick hug before Alan heads over to where the team was sitting, taking a seat of his own.

It felt like forever as they sat there waiting for an update of any kind from the doctors in how Chase was doing. They watched as a female entered the room about 15 minutes later, but with no update in hand. Instead, she held a clipboard that she requested be filled out with the necessary information.

Given the emotions of the parents, Greg Morin took the board and sat down, filling out each question step-by-step. With being the team’s pit crew coach, he had gotten to know everybody’s health strengths and weaknesses so he could help them become better through training. It also didn’t hurt that he was keen on keeping files on hand, committed to giving the boys the best care possible should the worst situation happen.

The room then stirred when they saw the door open, with Ryan Blaney entering with Darrell, Erin and Emma in toe.

“You didn’t need to come,” Alan states as he looks towards the young driver. “You should be resting…”

“He stayed all Friday night for me, Alan,” Ryan comments as he takes a seat beside the crew chief. “I owe it back to him to do the same. Besides, I’m worried and I couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried. You can ask the girls.” Alan shook his head, understanding, knowing how close Ryan and Chase were as friends.

“Why hasn’t there been an update yet?” Josh Kirk ponders as Greg glances up from his chosen position.

“Because they’re focused on giving him the best care that they can and reason that us worrying a little longer is okay as long as he turns out fine,” Greg comments, having gotten used to protocol through the years. “Just relax. He’ll be fine…” Josh hoped those words were the truth as he could only wonder as to what was going on behind the closed doors down the hall.

“I hate waiting….” Alan lets out as he flips his phone in his hands, having been using it constantly with being put in charge of updates. Dale, Jimmie, Rick and a few others all had requested that they be updated as soon as news surfaced on how Chase was doing. Every once and awhile, the phone would go off with one of them, or someone new, asking if there was any news. Alan continued to send out the usual greeting of nothing yet.

“I wouldn’t tell you that he’d be fine if I didn’t believe it,” Greg assures the crew chief as Alan glances over, shaking his head understanding. He trusted Greg’s judgment, but it was one of those the worry wouldn’t be cured till the words were spoken and he saw it for himself.

The room then goes quiet for the next half hour, followed by them watching closely as the doors open once again with a doctor making his way in, holding a clipboard in his hand. Greg gave a nod to Alan, knowing that an update was right there before them – finally.

“Is every one of you here for Mr. Elliott?” The doctor questions and they shake their heads yes. “Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, do you mind if they hear the update that I am about to give?” Bill shakes his head no, as he knew the news would get back to the team immediately anyway.

“They’re like family to Chase – they deserve to know,” Bill reasons as he continues his duty of rubbing Cindy’s shoulders, trying to keep her calm.

“To start off, my name is Dr. Blakely Hanken, and I am in charge of the poison control for the Daytona area, but better known as a toxicology expert. If you have any questions as to the job, I’m sure Mr. Blaney can help you out. By the way, are you feeling better?” Ryan shakes his head yes.

“It’s subsiding more and more,” Ryan comments. “I just wish I wasn’t back here once again.” The doctor shakes his head, understandly.

“I didn’t want to see you on these conditions, either,” Dr Hanken replies, before looking back to Bill and Cindy. “Well I’m not supposed to tell you for certain yet or not due to possible complications and such, I can assure you that I’m more than certain your son will be okay.” Cindy felt her nerves twitch on the thought of complications, but tried to stick with believing the words that the doctor was telling her about being okay.

“Can we go see him, please?” Cindy asks, almost begging. She knew seeing him would be the quickest way to ease worries.

“I would like to explain how he is doing first, and then most certainly you may.” Cindy lets out a sigh of relief, glad that she was going to get her wish. She just hoped it came as quick as possible. “We did confirm that there was poison in the drink through testing, and the same type as Mr. Blaney had digested on Friday. However, Mr. Elliott’s symptoms were stronger as a result of a stronger stream being used.” Bill felt his anger boiling, knew that it had been the perfect set-up by Chris in knowing Chase’s common theme of behavior.

“Not surprised, to be honest,” Greg whispers to Alan as they listen in. “It had to be a pretty strong dosage for him to be like he was.” Alan shakes his head, in agreement, though wishes they could just get to the bottom of how Chase was doing.

“We immediately started him on two antidotes, counter-acting the effects immediately to try and ease the symptoms, as well as any other damage that could occur. We also gave him a dosage of an anti-epileptic medicine as a result of the twitching that he was going through. So far, the treatment is working as we’ve seen his heart rate steady out. However, it will take some time to fully work.” Greg knew the process, having seen it previously. He was glad that everything was stabilizing, though, as that meant that things were turning out alright.

“What do you mean by possible ‘other damage’?” Bill questions, now feeling the same worry that Cindy had in the word ‘complications’.

“Brain damage and muscle damage are among the two biggest things to watch for,” Dr. Hanken answers. “With any poisoning, it’s a risk of happening. Thankfully, Mr. Blaney had a low dosage and a quick action against it that he had nothing. With Mr. Elliott, the risk is a little higher based on the higher concentrate of the stream and bigger dosage. We believe that we caught it quick enough to prevent that, but we won’t know until we get into the full healing process.” Bill knew that meant they were going to be in a waiting game, and knew the patience for both him – but especially Cindy – would wear thin through the progress.

“And how long till we know for sure?” Dr. Hanken knew there was no answer to that question just yet.

“That varies depending on how he accepts the treatment and how his body heals. We’ll just have to wait and see. I wish I could snap my fingers and have an answer, but it doesn’t work like that. Now with the dosage, we did give him a sedative because he was quite agitated by the pain and motions it was putting him through. As a result, he is sleeping right now but should be waking up in the next two to four hours. Once he wakes up, we can begin to take steps towards finding everything out that you’re asking me about.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. He could only hope they were calm through it all.

“Can we go see him while he sleeps, though?” Cindy questions and Dr. Hanken shakes his head yes.

“I’m going to also warn you before you go in that he is on a ventilator right now,” Dr. Hanken adds, causing a shocked expression from both the parents. “With the fact that he was experiencing chest pain and stating it was difficult to breathe at times, we did that for precautionary reasons. Once he shows signs that the treatment is working and everything is returning to normal, we can remove and go from there.” Bill continues rubbing Cindy’s shoulders as she just shakes her head in disbelief. “For right now, let’s try and keep the visitor number at around four at a time maximum, please.”

“Bill and Cindy, you guys go ahead,” Alan instructs. “Ryan and Bubba, you guys can go to. We’ll hang back here and then once we wakes up, we can take turns. He needs you guys…”

“Okay,” Bill simply replies as he and Cindy stand up together.

“I’ll come out with an update here and there,” Darrell adds as he and Ryan go to follow the parents.

With each step, Cindy took a deep breath, reminding herself of the words that he’d be okay, everything was starting to work step-by-step, and the ventilator was for precautionary reasons. Though while her brain kept repeating it, her heart felt like it had sank as she thought the words over, and glanced in the room at him.

“Remember – he’s going to be okay,” Bill whispers, rubbing her shoulder once again as they walk into the room together, followed by Ryan and Darrell. Bill knew he had to be the strong one, despite feeling a need to crave to the same worries, having already seen how Cindy had reacted. He leads her to the chair by his bed, helping her sit down. “Remember that…”

“I just can’t believe this,” she says quietly as she wraps her fingers around his hand, bending down and kissing it. “I just can’t….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 106: “Chase, are you alright?”

Saturday, July 1

Chase lies back on the couch, glancing at his phone every five minutes. All he could do was hope for a ding and the fact that Sarina was looking for him to talk over what had happened.

He thought about making the first move to contact her first, but knew how that’d go. If she still believed her brother was innocent, that’d just push the pair of them further apart. If she had figured that her brother was guilty, she was probably coming to terms with it and he didn’t want to get in the midst of that. He knew she’d reach out when she was ready, as she had done that in the past for him. Again, it was motto and he had gotten used to it by now.

He thought about getting up and leaving, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. He knew the minute he got in the plane and flew home, she would probably text him in want to meet up. Hence why he continued to convince himself to wait a little longer. Besides, it wasn’t like he had any big appointment to get to right away.

He brings up another game on his phone, letting himself get lost in it. Though as he does, he feels the odd feeling as if his body is warming up more than normal. A little confused, he feels his head and realizes a fever has set in.

“Great…” he says to himself. He knew the lack of sleep from the night before, combined with lack of eating today due to the Sarina situation and pushing himself hard throughout the event had pushed his body to his limits. If he had to bet, he was probably coming down with something.

Knowing that he had to take care of himself, he shut off the game and set his phone on the small table in the middle of the lounge. He lays his head back, allowing his eyes to drift close, knowing that he should at least take advantage of the quiet waiting time to grab a nap. Perhaps he woke up later on, everything would be clearer.

Just as he was about to fall asleep, he got the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. Jumping up as quickly as he could, he runs outta the trailer into the closest porta-potty, instantly feeling relief as it seems everything was flying out of him. Yep, he had certainly pushed himself too far now. He knew that lots of sleep over the next couple of days, combined with a healthy regimen of good food would be necessary as he wasn’t about to let himself get sick mid-season.

Coming out of the porta-potty, he makes his way back into the lounge and lays back down. He thought about leaving, but the pondering thought of a possible text message, combined with the fact that he didn’t want to fly and have to go again resulted in a return to the trailer. Based on the guys outside, he knew he still had a couple hours to spare before they were leaving.

As he gets comfortable on the couch, he feels a severe pain in his stomach, causing both hands to immediately go there as he lets out a groan. He almost thought he had to go to the bathroom again, but knew that wasn’t the case.

“Oh man….” was all he could let out as he felt the pain through him. Forget trying to avoid getting sick as he could feel that he had already gotten himself sick. Given the pains in his stomach, he knew his body was either cramping up or set to unload the other way. Perhaps flying home with the team or his parents would be a better option when he decided to leave.

As he tries to relax himself, he feels his leg move suddenly, causing confusion to surface through him.

“Muscles, please…” He pleads, believing it was a combination of pushing himself too hard, combined with lack of nutrition and sleep. Perhaps there was some dehydration mixed in based on the fact he had drank the whole bottle of juice.

Reaching for his phone, he thought about contacting his parents, Alan, or Greg Morin to discuss how he was feeling. He knew that his parents and Alan would want him to get checked out, but based on the stomach cramps, that may be a good idea. He knew calling Greg would result in suggestions as to how to feel better, considering the guy was team genius.

As the pain continued to increase his stomach, he felt it extend to his chest as he tried to sit up, attempting to take deep breaths.

“Holy crap!” He lets out as he flops back on the couch, hands finding their way back to his stomach with the pain making it seem as though his stomach was on fire. He closes his eyes, focusing on deep breathes, knowing that the phone call was probably in the best interest.

“Chase?” He hears, not even glancing up as the door to the lounge opens. Alan sees the man sitting there, arms wrapped around his stomach, eyes squinting as he immediately rushes forward. “Chase, are you alright?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Fever….diarrhea….stomach cramps….chest pain…” He then twitches once again as Alan wraps both arms around the young man. Chase then looks as though he’s set to vomit so Alan grabs the garbage can, placing it between his legs as he watches him kneel over, emptying whatever was left in his stomach in the pail. “Oh man…”

“Guys!!!!” Alan had his theories on Chase – thinking he could be sick, combination of everything, but also knew the one thing that was stuck in his mind. “Guys!!” The lounge door opens once again as four of the crew members stand there, facing the boss, eyes then going in shock as they look at their driver. “One of you go get Greg out of Kahne’s hauler, please. Someone else go to the infield care center. Hurry!” The crew members glance at each other, pointing in directions as they take off in groups of two. “Chase, it’s going to be okay….”

“Oh my gosh!” Chase lets out as he feels the pain in his stomach growing even more, with the chest pain even increasing just a touch. It was while holding him that Alan noticed the bottle on the table.

“Your just drank that, right?” Chase shakes his head yes. “Chase, where did it come from?”

“My motorcoach. I brought it over on Fri….Oh shit!” Alan immediately felt his suspicions coming true as he kept his arms around Chase, holding him, letting him throw up once again.

“You’re going to be okay….” The lounge door opens once again as Travis Gordon leads Greg Morin into the lounge. Greg takes one look at Chase, before going over and kneeling before him. “Pretty sure he’s been poisoned, thanks to that..” Greg immediately gripped Chase’s wrist with his hand, eyes focused on the young man before him.

“What’s bugging you, Chase?” Greg asks in the most sympathetic voice he could muster. Chase then closes his eyes, biting his tongue as he feels the pain increase. “Chase?” Greg then glances at Alan. “Talk to me…”

“He says he has a fever,” Alan starts as Greg feels his forehead with his free hand, confirming the theory. “He ran off to the bathroom once already quickly and he’s thrown up twice. You can add stomach cramps really bad, he’s shook in my arms at least twice, and he says he’s got chest pain.” Greg knew they could handle the list for the most part till help got there, having heard that two other guys had headed off the care center. However, the last concerning piece bugged him.

“Chase, is your chest really sore?” Chase shakes his head yes as he wraps his arms around his stomach tighter. “Does it hurt to breathe?” Chase shakes his head yes as Greg tightens his grip on Chase’s wrist a little. “Okay, buddy. I need to focus. I need you to stay with me. I need to focus on taking deep breathes and trying to relax as much as possible. We’ve got help on the way…”

“Breathe, Chase…” Alan rubs his back as Chase tries to focus on their words, though feels blinded by the pain. “Breathe buddy….”

“Focus on those deep breathes, please.” Greg then counts the pulse that he feels on the wrist, making a mental note as he knew it was lower than normal, based on knowing Chase’s levels from training. “Stay focused on us. I know it hurts, but you’re going to be okay….”

Greg and Alan remained in their positions, continuing to coach Chase, till they heard the door open once again, with Chad Avrit leading two of the infield medical officials in.

Greg quickly briefs them on the list of symptoms and what he had realized as Alan backs away, giving them their space with him. It wasn’t long before they had him on a stretcher and out of the lounge, as Alan leans back against the wall, wiping his hands down his face with a deep breath.

“Greg, is he going to be okay?” Alan questions as Greg goes to leave. Greg looks at the crew chief and shakes his head yes.

“If you catch these things early enough, he’ll be fine,” Greg answers. “Call Cindy and Bill. Tell them to go over. it’s going to be a long night, probably, but he will be okay.” Alan shakes his head accepting as he watches the pit crew coach leave.

“Do you want me to call Bill?” Chad Avrit questions and Alan shakes his head no. “Okay. We’re almost done loading up and then we’re going to head over. Is that okay?” Alan shakes his head yes, knowing the team would want to be there for their driver.

“Wait for us and you can come with one of us,” Travis adds as he goes to follow Chad out. “You’re in no shape to go over by yourself right now.” Alan knew Travis was right as he immediately accepted the offer.

Once the boys were back outside finishing up their duties, he picks up Chase’s phone from the table and places it in his pocket as he knew he’d want it later. He then takes his own phone, taking a deep breath, as he begins the necessary phone call to Bill, followed by Rick.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 85: Saturday

Jared Erspamer walks into the garage, glancing around as he sees the guys going about their usual business. Letting out a sigh, maybe this wasn’t the best idea.

He wanted to come and see his guys. He wanted to spend time with them and support them. However, it just felt wrong being put in a position where he wasn’t supposed to be doing any work at all. He knew that feeling would only grow more following the first round of pit stops tomorrow night.

“What are you doing here?” Jared hears over his shoulder, causing him to jump out of his skin as he spins around and sees Alan standing there. “I thought you were told that you were supposed to take it easy this weekend without doing much. Do you know what that requires, Mr. Erspamer?” Jared shakes his head yes, remembering the instructions given by the doctor, Alan and Greg.

“Not doing any work whatsoever that would be required of me, sir,” Jared replies, going with a formal tone in voice. “I am not doing any work at all, sir. I just came to say hello and see how you were guys doing since I’m loose. I figured I’d come say hi, and then go relax somewhere through the XFINITY race, before coming back tomorrow night to watch. I’m just here for support.” Alan smiles, glad that Jared wasn’t going to be stubborn and push it, like he had seen some crew members do in the past.

“It’s nice to see you out and about, though. I’m glad you’re doing better. When Greg told me, I was pretty worried.” Jared looks on surprised as he hadn’t heard the caring tone out of Alan before. “What? I do actually care about you guys, even if I yell and bitch constantly.”

“Well, I can tell you that I’m doing pretty good considering. I just wish that I knew more about what happened so we could put an end to this. I mean, I have no idea where it came from – whether something I ate, drank, whatever.” Alan shook his head, understanding.

“The main thing is that you’re going to be okay and I’m sure they’re going to figure it out.” Alan then leads Jared to a chair, motioning for him to sit down as Jared lets out a sigh while listening. “Now, you’re going to behave and I don’t want any arguments, got it?” Jared shakes his head yes. “Good. Now, excuse me while I put these guys’ butts in gear.” Jared laughs as he watches Alan head off.

“So how does it feel to be a toddler?” Greg Morin comments as Jared laughs.

“Now I see why children argue when you put them in time out,” Jared replies as Greg gives him a glance over.

“If you run into any issues, get a hold of me right away. I don’t want you messing things up, got it?” Jared shakes his head yes.

“You know, seeing you stuck in the corner is fitting, considering,” Chad Avrit comments as he looks over from his spot underneath the car.

“Why do you say that?” Jared questions as Chad sits up.

“Didn’t Chase want to kick your ass when you called Sarina behind his back to get her to come around?” Jared lets out a sigh, knowing that was an interesting set of circumstances. He was surprised neither kicked his ass when it all came out.

“Hey, it worked as they’re happier than ever. I mean, look at those love birds…” Chad then glances over, seeing Chase walking to the garage stall with his arm wrapped around Sarina, stealing a small kiss.

“Don’t let your mind go there….” Jared then looks back at Chad with a surprised look. “I know what you’re thinking and no, he won’t be doing that. He’s a good boy, remember?”

“The ones with the best image on the outside seem to always have the dirtiest secrets, sometimes.” Chad just rolls his eyes as he stands up, grabbing his to-do list off the car.

“Nice to see you out and about,” Chase comments as he gives Jared a quick pat on the back, walking by to go see Alan ahead of practice, with one hand tightly holding Sarina’s.

“Nice to see you flirting with the competition,” Jared says as Chase looks back at him. “Better hope princess isn’t telling Kyle your secrets.”

“I would never dream of doing that,” Sarina replies, wrapping her arms around Chase. “If anything, I would share Kyle’s with him but Kyle keeps those locked with a key.”

Sarina stands back as she lets Chase and Alan have their usual pre-practice discussion, going over notes from the weekend so far, combined with what they wanted to accomplish over the next hour. She smiles as he walks back over, wrapping his arms around her.

“I say later we go out for a night of fun,” Chase comments, leaning in for a kiss.

“Really?” She questions and he shakes his head yes.

“We’ve been so busy that we haven’t any our time lately. I’ll take you to dinner, and then we can go do something.” She then smiles, easily accepting, as she knew anytime they spent together was always fun.

“I’m not going to get in trouble with Alan for busting your curfew?” He then laughs as he looks over at the crew chief, before turning his eyes back to her.

“I didn’t say we have to stay out late, but it’d be nice to do something…” She shakes her head, agreeing. She knew she hadn’t been the best girlfriend over the past couple months with her concern over her brother and racing schedule getting in the way.

“You have total decision on what we do. I’m just happy as long as I’m with you.” He smiles as he snags another kiss, before getting set for that practice.

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

 

As planned, the pair went out after practice. They went out to dinner, before going for a couple arcade games. They then ended their night by getting sundaes together and walking along Lake Norman.

“You know, there’s something I need to tell you….” Sarina starts, causing Chase to look over at her.

“Does it deal with the sundae?” He questions as she laughs and shakes her head no.

“But that does taste really good and oh my gosh they put so much syrup.” He then smiles as he reaches over, wiping a little off her cheek. “Am I that messy?” He laughs and shakes his head no.

“I’m sure I’ll get some all over when I get into the strawberries here.” She smiles as she returns back to eating hers as they sit on a bench looking out to the water. “So, you were going to say something….” She shakes her head yes as the smile fades.

“I want to apologize for being a shitty girlfrie-”

“I’m over what happened, Sarina. We talked that over alrea-”

“I’m not talking about that, but that just adds insult to injury.” He then looks on confused as she sets the sundae aside for a moment. “Since we’ve got back together, what have we truly done together? I’ve been so busy with my own racing schedule and my brother that I haven’t given you the proper attention you deserve. This is like only the third date that we’ve had in four months. Meanwhile, you’re doing a whole ton for me – whether regarding my brother, giving me the second chance, the late model deal which I’ve wrecked twice in a row. I feel terrible…” He then sets his sundae down, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close so her head was lying on his shoulder.

“You don’t have to apologize one bit. I mean, I haven’t been the best boyfriend either. I’ve been so focused on doing well and working with the guys that I haven’t given you the honest time of the day. Sure, I’m there to support you when you’re racing on the weekend, but during the week we barely have the time at home. That’s not just for your fault. I could easily take a day or two and come home ear-”

“You don’t need to do that, Chase. I mean, I get why you spend the late nights going over stuff with Alan and the guys.” Chase shakes his head as he gives her a slight smile, while running his fingers through her hair.

“Our relationship works because we understand each other. We’re both determined as ever racers who will do whatever it takes to succeed. We don’t accept failure easily and are always looking for ways to do better, whether we should fault ourselves or not. We’re perfectionoists at times. You get my late nights at the shop, just like I get the time spent with Marcus and Kyle reviewing video for you. I know things have been crazy over the past couple months, but it doesn’t change a single thing. I love you, and will still do anything for you.” He then lifts her head up off his shoulder, leaning in for a kiss.

“I love you, too. Thank you….” She then wraps her arms around him, pulling him close as she leans in for a continuation of the kiss. Perhaps Marcus was right and things were going to work out for her, finally. “Thank you….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 83: A Busy Thursday….

Thursday, May 26 – Coke 600 weekend

 

Chase walks into the garage area for practice, glancing over at Sarina with a small smile.

“I’m surprised you’re here,” he comments, causing her to look on surprised. “I mean, it’s just practice and qualifying.”

“I’m here to support my man; is there a problem with that?” She questions and he smiles as he looks at her with a smile of his own.

“Not one bit.” He then leans in and steals a kiss. “By the way, I really do appreciate it, more than I’m letting you know. I think it’s amazing.” She then smiles as she watches her brother Chris and cousin Brittney wander the pits.

“Besides, it was actually Brittney who convinced me that we should come. I told her that we could take the day and check out some other spots in Charlotte while you were busy, before I am busy tomorrow at fan day. She was like, ‘Oh, not at all. I want to go to the track. I want to check this out. I want to watch practice.’ I mean, I think I’m making a race fan out of her.” Chase chuckles, but couldn’t help but smile in response. He knew how much it meant to Sarina to have both her brother and cousin there.

“What about Chris?” Sarina wasn’t sure on how much he was enjoying it, even with some of his comments. She was still taking things day-by-day.

“I think he’s pretty pleased, so far. I mean, he’s still working on his own deal, too. They said it will take time to be completely healed from the brain surgery.” Chase shakes his head, remembering the discussion. He had his own fingers crossed that during that time, he could let go more of what he felt towards Chris for the sake of him and Sarina together. “You’re thinking….”

“How do you know?” She wraps an arm around him as they continue walking together.

“You got quiet after I mentioned things. What’s going on?” He lets out a sigh, not wanting to have the discussion, but knowing he couldn’t lie to her.

“I trust your brother. I trust what you said about the surgery and him changing his ways. But if I am going to be truthful, I still get a little nervous or worried when I’m around him. I can’t help but ignore what happened. I’m just hoping that goes away as we move forward because I want it to work out for us.” She takes a deep breath, remembering her discussion with Marcus a week ago. As he said, it was going to take some time but things would come around. This was a step in that direction.

“Chase, I understand your feelings. Nobody can convince you different. If the roles were reversed, I’d feel the same way because damn, I know we went through a lot with him. From me lying to your pain, I get it. You don’t have to just start liking him to make me happy. I will get it, either way. However, I say maybe one day we can all be friends and go to Carowinds together.” He then looks on surprised by the comment, but couldn’t deny that as perhaps it was possible down the road.

“I appreciate that…” He then walks into the garage stall, giving a couple guys a high-five as he walks up to the car. “Well, time to go to work…” He then puts his helmet on, slipping in as she gives his butt a quick slap.

“Do your thing!” She then walks away, leaving him with a surprised look on his face, along with some of the crew members.

“Did that just happened?”Jared questions as a couple of the guys giggle.

“Get to work,” Alan Gustfason says as he walks on by, stopping at the window to kneel in and talk to Chase.

The group was able to go through practice smoothly, posting solid times throughout which gave them confidence heading into the rest of the weekend. Their confidence continued to build even more with a solid qualifying effort that placed them third for Sunday’s race.

“I say everything we learned last week is paying off,” Alan comments as the pair head back to the trailer together. “Nice job laying down that lap.”

“You gave me a car capable of getting the job done,” Chase replies as he follows Alan’s lead.

“So I see that Sarina, her cousin and Chris are here….” Chase rolls his eyes, not believing for a third week that they were having this discussion. “Subject not on your radar?”

“We’ve discussed it enough, haven’t we?” Alan lets out a sigh as they reach the trailer.

“I just worry about you. Is that wrong?” Chase shakes his head no as he heads inside first, followed by the crew chief. “Every time I see him, I picture what happened. I also know that you’re not quite comfortable either so that says something.”

“Maybe because I’m not sold on his whole goody-two shoes image.” Alan looks on surprised as he watches Chase grab some snacks out of the drawer, leaning back against it after.

“You’re not supposed to be snacking in the trailer. I thought you got yelled at that before.” Chase gives him a glance as Alan puts his hands up in defense. “Just saying. But continue….”

“You’ll let me snack if you want to hear me out.” Chase breaks into the bag of candies, stealing a couple out of it. “I keep remembering what they said. I keep remembering the conversation that we had together. I remember his apology. But, even with that, something just seems off with how he’s acting. I can’t place it, but I’m not ready to just forget and move on.”

“Truthfully, do I blame you? Not one single bit. Heck, I’d have security around me every time he’s around just because you never know.” Chase’s mind thinks back to California as he continues to think it over.

“There was the line that he used saying, they’ll say I’m crazy and try to fix me – but they can’t do that. Those words have just haunted my thoughts in regards to him, and I think of them every time I see him.” Chase then looks over at Alan. “What if things haven’t truly changed?”

“Like I said, security and be careful.” Alan grabs Chase’s phone off of the counter, sliding it into the young man’s pocket. “You can never to be too safe. Text me. Even if you just send me a single letter like C or X, that cues me that something is up and we can do something. I mean, look at what happened in Bristol….” Chase shakes his head yes, having heard from Ricky someone was poisoned.

“How do you sneak shit like that into a race track?” Alan looks around the trailer.

“It’s not like they do search and inspection, and they don’t check the liquids going through gates for fans. Anything is possible, especially in this day and age. Be careful, okay?” Chase shakes his head yes. Alan then grabs the bag of jube-jubes from him, placing it back in the drawer as Chase looks at him surprised. “And stop stealing snacks!”

“Why did Greg have to warn you about that?” He then smiles. “I know where to go….” He then heads out of the trailer as Alan just lets out a sigh.

He knew exactly where Chase was going, having heard the deal about being able to steal M&Ms from Kyle’s trailer, and it’d give him another chance to see Sarina. As the crew chief leans back against the door, he just hoped the words of advice sunk in more than they seemed to.

“Alan!!!” Alan hears yelled through the trailer, looking in the direction of the voice surprised.

“What’s up, Greg?” Alan questions, never having heard their pit crew coach yell for a good reason previously. Usually if Greg was yelling, it meant that someone wasn’t doing their job correctly or hurt themselves.

“Jared Erspamer won’t be available for Sunday night’s race, as of right now,” Greg tells him, causing a curious glance from the crew chief. Either it meant injury, or family emergency. He wasn’t too worried either way, though, as normally these things worked out and they had back-ups.

“Why is that?” He watches Greg twitch a little before speaking.

“Chad took him to the care center earlier because he was throwing up, feeling fai-”

“Poisoned?” Greg shakes his head yes as Alan lets out a sigh. He pulls out his phone, sending a text to Chase. They had just talked about this very scenario. “Is he going to be okay?”

“Chad says that he should be fine, according to the doctors. But he’s going to be weak and out of commission as he heals. I figured I’d come let you know.” Alan shakes his head, accepting.

“Thanks….”

“You seem caught off-guard by this news?” Alan looks over at Greg.

“Second race track incident in two weeks. Bristol short track nationals, they had someone Saturday night. Now we have someone here today on a Thursday. I was actually just talking to Chase about it…” Greg looks on surprised as the timing seemed odd.

“Why were you guys talking about it?” Alan lets out a sigh.

“Sarina’s brother Chris and Chase’s nerves about that situa…..Greg, her brother was at Bristol. Chase says he feels something is still off. You don’t think, do you?” Greg shakes his head no immediately.

“You’re fetching for straws here, Alan. You’re paranoid. Relax, take a breather, don’t go nuts….” Alan takes a couple deep breathes, but couldn’t help but double check his phone to make sure Chase got the message about what happened and to be careful.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 66: Atlanta

Sarina sat back in the hauler, relaxed on the couch as she finished up her morning FaceTime with her brother. Knowing that Chase had a couple appearances – check in with the NAPA suite, followed by ChaseU and the driver’s meeting, she had some time for herself. He offered her the chance to come, but she declined as she knew what she needed to do.

“Is that Sarina Ott that I see sitting there?” She hears her name, and glances up at the eyes watching her. She immediately rolls them, resisting the urge to kick his ass.

“Oh Jared, how nice it is to see you too,” she answers as he simply smiles in return.

“So I take it my phone call actually did something, even though you won’t admit it?” She wanted to give him another snarky comeback, but it couldn’t find a way out as she glanced up from her phone.

“Actually, I may have to thank you strangely. My mind was already flowing with thoughts of Chase and the schedule together, but you kicked it into overdrive. It got me thinking more and perhaps I reached out to him afterwards. Perhaps we had a discussion, and perhaps now I’m here. Do you want a medal for your effort?” Jared just smiles as he shakes his head no in return. All that mattered to him was that Chase was happy.

“No, I’m good. I just wanted to see if you’d admit it, and I wanted to tell you personally that it’s great to see you back at the track with him.” She just smiles back as she watches him head off to do whatever pre-race duty he had to do.

She keeps herself focused on checking a couple text messages, among other things, till she hears steps up to the lounge once again. This time, her smile is wider as she recognizes Chase right away.

“So how did everything go this morning?” She asks as she watches him go into the cupboard.

“Pretty good actually,” he answers. “Everybody is happy. Now I just have to get the job done on track.” She smiles as she knew the pressure he put on himself, and knew how badly he wanted to perform in front of the hometown crowd.

“I believe in you. I believe in the team. I think it’ll be an awesome day, even better than yesterday.” He smiles back as he lays the suit out on the table, before glancing at her. He was confident in himself as he saw how well they practiced, leading the final session, and knew the car the team had brought to the track.

“I hope you’re right, and I have a feeling you are.”  Transitioning across the small lounge to the small cupboard, he takes out the bottle of Tylenol, taking a deep breath as he snatches two out of the bottle.

“How sore has it been?” He glances over at her, knowing the question was of concern for him, but also her own curiosity. He knew despite everything, and trying to let go of the blame, she still blamed herself because it was her brother.

“Last week, I have to admit that I really sore and I mean really sore after the 500 – but that’s to be expected with week one. So far this weekend, it’s enough to annoy me and enough that I still am taking the Tylenol, but not enough that I am complaining like I was then.” She shook her head, understanding. It gave her some comfort, but not as much as she was hoping. She hated to see him in any pain at all, nether less pain her family had caused. Why hadn’t she seen the signs sooner with her brother?

Greg then walks in, giving a quick nod to begin the process as he snatches the roll of gauze out of the cupboard.

“Did you take the Tylenol already?” Greg asks as Chase shakes his head yes after taking off his t-shirt. “Arms up.” Chase then reaches his arm up in the air, small aggravated noise as he does so, feeling the familiar pulling pain in his ribs he had felt every time thus far. “That should start to go away next week as it heals more.” Greg then tightly wraps him up, making sure it’s a little tighter than probably what everybody had anticipated, before sealing it off. “Remember the drill post-race, no matter what.”

“Remove immediately, take another two Tylenol, and go through the breathing exercises no matter the pain with some ice on the spot,” Chase recites as Greg simply smiles back in return. He hated to see the kid go through this, but he was glad that he was dealing with an easy patient.

“Don’t worry Greg, I’ll take care of him,” Sarina says as she gets up, walking over and wrapping an arm around Chase.

“I know you will.” Greg then heads out of the hauler, done his duties with Chase for the day, set for his next task of the afternoon.

“Got everything you need?” Chase asks as Sarina holds up her phone with a smile. “Then let’s go. Driver introductions are soon.”

“You’re just a busy boy today, huh?” Sarina questions and Chase simply shakes his head yes as they head out together.

It felt nice and familiar to be heading out to the grid with her today. It didn’t feel like last weekend when he felt a little lost with thoughts swirling through his mind, trying to put his mind into focus mode. Instead, this week he felt comfortable and relaxed, and knew the focus mood of racing would come easily once he strapped into the car for that day’s race.

He went through the motions – driver introductions, handshakes, trip around the track in the truck, VIP photos on pit road, visits with family and friends. Everything went with ease as they neared closer to the start of the race.

When it came to opening ceremonies, the loneliness and nerves felt at Daytona had disappeared as he wrapped an arm around Sarina, holding him close to her. Once opening ceremonies were done, a quick kiss and he was climbing into the car, ready to do his job that day.

Starting from 11th, it seemed everything was set to go his way that day as he quickly made his way up through the field, breaking into the top-five with ease before cars started peeling off for the first round of pit stops. Everything came together as he crossed the line for the first stage.

In the second stage, he was able to find a little bit more speed and move into second behind Kevin Harvick. He tried to work at closing the ever-growing gap, working the bottom yellow line as he knew he had to just like the guy he was chasing, finding some speed but not enough. Still, he was pleased with the efforts as they crossed the line second for the stage. As long as they found a little more speed for the second half of the race, perhaps this was the day.

The speed continued to show through the race, as he was even able to close the gap at one point on Kevin Harvick. Radioing to Alan Gustafson and the team that the car felt good and just a couple minimal changes, he was ready for the second half.

However, then it happened. A quick flash of red on his dashboard from the lights indicating pit road speed and he had done it, he had sped on pit road. Now instead of being able to work at chasing Harvick down, he was back in 14th, trying to stay on the lead lap as he hoped for a caution to fly. Thankfully, one did 25 laps later. Now he just needed to get the track position back.

Restarting in the 14th position, he drove his way back to the front, moving back into the familiar second position before the final caution flew with 18 laps to go. It was the money stop – time for his guys to shine to put him in position to maybe, just maybe beat Kevin. However, a small slip –up by the Jackman and he rolled off pit road in fifth. Harvick speeding on pit road then bumped him up to fourth.

The outside line didn’t go, as usual with him cursing to himself the whole way, as he dropped back position after position. However, with the car the team had given him, he was able to make up ground, eventually crossing the line in fifth.

He wanted to be happy with the performance. They had been able to rebound from the pit road speeding penalty. They had shown speed all day, which just added to confidence for the weeks to come.

However, he couldn’t help but wonder what could’ve been. Given how strong the car was and given how they had ran second to Kevin all day, what if they had come off pit road in second? Could he have held off Brad and Kyle to win the race? Could this had been his first career victory?

The frustration showed through in his post-race interview before he made his way over to Alan, noting he had a suggestion with regards to their pit road speed tracking and how it could be fixed. The crew chief simply accepted the notion, before making sure to tell his driver how proud he was of him.

“We’re going to get our win – soon,” Alan says and Chase shakes his head in agreement.

After going through the unwrapping process, and then some time in the media center, he retreated back to the trailer and the familiar couch, as he laid back with ice on his side going through the breathing techniques.

“Are you okay?” He hears a female voice pipe up halfway through and he shakes his head yes.

“A little frustrated, but I’m okay,” he answers as he looks over at her. “We had a fast car. We were in contention all day. We’re continuing to show speed every week. We’re continuing to put ourselves in position, and it could’ve worse after the mistake that I made. We’ll tidy up the issues and head to Vegas with hopes of victory.”

“Hopes of victory? Hell, I think I’d rather be saying see you in victory lane.” Chase wanted to feel that confident, but knew anything was possible. He had thrown the race away the past two weeks, and everybody knew what Kevin did after leading all but 33 laps.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Just ask Kevin.”

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.