Saturday, January 26 – Crisp Motorsports Park – Cordele, Georgia – 28 weeks pregnant
“Are you okay?” Chase questions as he and Sarina begin the walk down into the infield.
“Is that really a question to be asking me at a race track?” She defers back to him as he chuckles. “Any day that I am at the race track is a good day – duh.”
“Just make sure that you take it easy, okay?” She lets out a sigh, rolling her eyes, but then offers a simple nod in return. As annoying as his constant bugging was, it was nice to know someone cared enough to bug.
“Just as long as when you do the Rolex, I get to part of that all-star team.” He then gives her a bit of a confused glance. “I saw your tweet to Jimmie. I hope you’re welcoming to Alex, and myself.” He then wraps his arm around her, pulling her close to him.
“I could never kick you off my team. Now Alex, that’s a different story…” She chuckles, knowing that he meant well in his words as he probably would never kick Alex off anyway.
“Someone suggested William, but it probably goes past his curfew.” He then rolls his eyes, having expected a joke of that nature as soon as the tweets began earlier in the day.
“On a brighter note, smarter heads are prevailing in short track racing. The Snowball will no longer contain live pit stops.” She then looks over at him surprised.
“Hallalujah!” Chase immediately laughs upon her reaction.
“Are you related to Stephen Nasse?” Sarina immediately shakes her head no.
“I mean, don’t get me wrong as I’ve never had a bad pit crew down there, but it’s a great thing for budgets. Teams were spending just a little too much money…” Chase nods his head in agreement, remembering the cost of that bill.
“That’s why you be like this guy, and just borrow your own Cup team for your benefit…” Sarina smiles, knowing the reference right away as they walked up to the Kyle Busch Motorsports pit stall.
“Actually, didn’t it work to your benefit in December?” Kyle questions, which Chase had to accept. There was no way he was going to forget that experience, from how it came together to how it ended. “Thank you both for coming, but please make sure that you take it easy.”
“I already hear enough from Chase that I don’t need to hear anymore from you,” Sarina informs him. “Just focus on your job and make me impressed today, okay?” He chuckles, a little caught off-guard by the comment.
“I’ll do the best that I can – but I am serious about what I said. If you need to relax, don’t hesitate to go up in my trailer or back to my motorcoach.” She was admittedly surprised by the offer.
“Even though I am racing for the competition now?” Kyle nods his head, as he knew it was odd to offer a driver of a different team a trip up in their hauler.
“I told you that I’d care about you no matter what happened, and I told you that I wanted to make this pregnancy to go smoothly. That includes keeping an eye on you.” She smiles as it was nice to hear the reassurance from Kyle.
As they had been doing since they arrived, Chase and Sarina were exploring the grounds and catching up with various different people. It was nice to see old friends and talk late models, while being bugged about how the pregnancy had gone to date.
“So riddle me this Chase,” Sarina starts as they continue exploring. “I’m carrying this child and watching my ankles swell. Meanwhile, you’ve got a superstar that’s about to comfortable in his racecar for 200 laps and he’s cruising around on a four-wheeler.” Chase could only shake his head as they caught Harrison’s attention.
“Look at you, sucking up to everybody and getting as much sympathy as you can…” Harrison replies as he stops, looking over at the pair. “But isn’t exercise supposed to be good for the baby?”
“To an extent, you are correct.” He then turns the key off, getting off the four-wheeler as he walks over with a hug.
“It is nice to see my favorite teammate.” She smiles as she easily accepts the hug. “By the way, can you save me from Todd at some point this year?”
“Um, let me think about that. How about no?” Harrison then pouts a little. “Seriously Harrison? I thought you told me that you could handle him.”
“There’s some days I wonder why I said that…” She chuckles, knowing it was in good fun. She actually wished that Todd was there to join in the ribbing.
“Hey, what are you doing cuddling her?” A new voice chimes in as Bubba Pollard walks over, immediately wrapping his arms around Sarina’s shoulders. “I thought the only person allowed to cuddle her was her husband.”
“That rule was just made for you Bubba,” Chase comments with a grin. He still remembered the days back when he was perhaps a bit of jealous of the friendship Sarina and Bubba had. Maybe it was because she almost signed up to drive under a team with Bubba rather than him. “Haven’t you already caused enough trouble today?”
“And to think the race hasn’t even started,” Sarina adds as Bubba could only chuckle, knowing what they were referring to. “For the record, I wanted to stand up in that driver’s meeting and show my support for you. I get what you’re trying to do as you’re right – it’d be nice to get the drivers, owners, and promoters having a public forum about the rules.”
“I am beginning to understand why they say woman are a special breed as someone finally understands me,” Bubba replies with a smile, before picking up her hand to look at the ring. “Not too shabby, Elliott…”
“I know how to spoil her,” Chase comments as Bubba glances over with a grin.
“I can honestly say that I am shocked beyond anything that you are married.” He then looks back towards Sarina. “But I’m even more shocked that you’re pregnant. However, I am happy for both of you – beyond the moon actually. I can tell you right now that you haven’t experienced anything until parenthood. You’ll both make amazing parents.”
“That means so much coming from you so thank you,” Sarina replies as she offers him another hug.
“Two hugs in one day – someone is going to get jealous,” Harrison jokes, earning a playful punch in return from Chase. That just causes Harrison and Bubba to laugh more. “You better get your hugs in before she wants to kick our butts later for beating Kyle.”
“Actually, she picked Bubba to win earlier this week,” Chase recalls, earning a nod of approval from Sarina.
“Driver of the Year for a reason,” she adds, recalling the nod that Bubba had gotten for his success last year.
“So did you pick me?” Harrison asks and Chase shakes his head no. “Of course not…”
“He probably picked Chandler or Kyle,” Bubba predicts, earning a nod from Chase. “Good luck with that buddy….”
“After all the years of us both racing late models and crossing the country, this feels incredibly odd,” Sarina comments as her and Chase settle in for the event together.
“At least we’re doing it together,” he comments, leaning in for a quick kiss.
The race would start off smoothly without much drama in the first half, with Harrison Burton leading at the first “controlled caution” ahead of Connor Okrzesik, Kyle Busch, Stephen Nasse, Harrison Burton, Bubba Pollard, and Casey Roderick.
“I’m surprised to see Connor up there,” Chase confesses as Sarina shook her head no immediately.
“He’s been getting better each race that he’s ran and has shown a bucket load of talent,” she comments. “He ran top-five at the Snowball and you know that doesn’t happen by accident.” Chase nods his head.
“It’ll be interesting to see if he can stay up there…..” The restart would bring chaos, with Kyle taking Harrison and Connor three-wide, forcing Harrison to back out which caused him to drop back to fifth. “Geeez Kyle, there’s still 95 to go….”
“And yet he’d probably yell at me for a similar move if I would’ve done that.” Chase had to chuckle, but knew it was the truth as he nodded his head in agreement. The lead wouldn’t last long for Kyle, though, as Connor was able by six laps later.
“Let me guess – he’s lightening up the radio feed?” Sarina nods her head in agreement, as she had gone the route of getting the scanner to listen to the various radio traffic, including Kyle’s.
“He says he thinks the car is rolling over on the right rear spring, talking about wholesale changes.” Chase wasn’t surprised as he could tell by watching the handling condition was quickly going away on the No. 51. It also was a condition like it that he fought through Snowball Derby practice before they figured it out.
“Rudy is smart, he’ll be fine…” Sarina nodded her head in agreement, as they both could attest to the team due to experience with them. Busch’s tightness continued to show, as he dropped back another spot to third after being passed by Chandler Smith. “I told you that Chandler would be fast….”
“You also know how Bubba runs these races, too..” Chase couldn’t argue with that as it wasn’t new to see Bubba Pollard run just around inside the top-five and then strike in the final 50 laps. The caution would then fly on Lap 123 for someone having a blown engine. “Kyle used to bug me about my radio chatter, but my gosh….”
“Is he totally freaking out now?” Sarina nods her head as she tries to listen to what he is saying.
“He wanted to pit under this caution, make the changes and put the tires on. However, it’s uncontrolled so Rudy isn’t letting him.” Chase had to chuckle as he knew that’d just make Kyle that much more frustrated.
“Meanwhile, Bubba is on pit road…” Sarina then looks on surprised.
“Is that legal?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he hadn’t read the rules closely before the event. It wasn’t long before they got their answer, as race control forced Bubba to head back down pit road and put the old right side tires back on. “So he doesn’t get his spot back….”
“Nope, he has to restart 18th.” Sarina could only shake her head in disgust as Bubba had been running 10th. “This isn’t like Bubba at all.”
“His sister Andrea is saying that there was no rule on the entry blank. This is the exact reason why he tried to do that big meeting of discussion….” Chase could only let out a sigh, not surprised by the controversy.
“Unbelievable….” The race would go back green, with Kyle slipping back a couple spots before the caution came back out on Lap 154, this time for Steve Dorer spinning around. Being a “controlled caution” period by the officials, Kyle was able to pit and get the right side tires he wanted. “Seriously?”
“I get why Bubba didn’t pit as he needs to make up that track position, but Chandler stayed out?” Chase slowly nods his head, seeing Chandler Smith had elected to stay out rather than pit with the leaders.
“Chandler has ran top-five all day long and yet they elected to leave him out? Has Ricky lost his brain?” Sarina shrugs her shoulders, just as confused as Chase was by the decision. “Can I change my pick mid-race?” She then chuckles, shaking her head no.
“That’d be unfair, as I tried to do that one weekend and you wouldn’t let me.” Chase lets out a sigh, remembering that. The restart would set up with Chandler leading Bubba Pollard and Steve Dorer to the green on old tires. Connor Okrzesik would restart fourth at the first with fresh tires, followed by Stephen Nasse, Brian Campbell, Kyle Busch, and Casey Rodderick, with Harrison back to 10th. “This is going to be mayhem.”
“I’m still confused over Chandler’s call.” To Chase’s surprise, though, Chandler was able to get away on the initial restart while Connor made his way up to second. Chandler’s lead was shortly lived, though, as Connor took the top spot from him on Lap 167. “We knew that was going to happen.”
“I told you to keep an eye on Connor…” Chase then glanced at the running order, seeing Kyle running fourth with Harrison fifth.
“Lots of time left to go.” As predicted, Kyle would make his way forward, moving up into the runner-up spot with 20 laps to go ahead of Harrison, with Chandler back to fourth now. Though against their thought process, Kyle was unable to close the gap to Connor for the lead. Though just like expected with classic short track racing, a late-race caution came out. “Of course….”
“Even if it’s not programmed into the race, it always happens in the last 20 laps.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “I still think Connor has enough to beat Kyle.”
“I actually can’t argue with you.” Sarina then glances over surprised.
“Are you finally turning a corner?” Chase chuckles as he glances over.
“I never denied the talent of Connor, did I?” She shakes her head no. “I felt Kyle would have the car and team to do it. However, he’s still fighting a tight condition. I just don’t see him having what it takes to get by Connor on the restart.”
The prediction from Chase was right, as Connor snagged the win ahead of Kyle, Harrison, Chandler and Stephen.
“So what are your plans now?” Harrison asks Sarina, once he gets done debriefing the race over with Kyle and his dad.
“I am going home to watch the Rolex,” she answers. “I was going to try and stay up the full 24 hours.” Harrison then looks over surprised.
“Now I understand why Chase and Kyle have been bugging you to take care of yourself.” She then chuckles, having to admit that he was right in that comment.
“Hence why I said ‘try’ as I thought about it and realized it’s not the best idea. So I’ll probably watch until I fall asleep tonight, and hopefully there will be a nice recap for me waiting in the morning.” She then glances at Harrison. “You’re young. You can stay up for me.”
“Are you serious right now?” She nods her head as he shakes his in return.
“If Roger Penske and Parker Kligerman can do it, what is stopping you?” He then lets out a sigh, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Chase, how do you handle this all the time?” Chase then glances over, chucking as he watches the ex-teammates together.
“Trust me – it’s worth it,” he offers back in return with a wink as Sarina’s jaw drops.
“Oh my my….” Harrison could only muse out loud by the comment as Sarina lets out a sigh. “Should we start a poll for when she’s going to get pregnant with a second?”
“Easy now,” Kyle warns, with a glance over at Chase and Sarina.
No words needed to be spoken for them all to know the pain of what they’d be through previously, the chance they were taking now, and where the future thoughts took them.