Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 92: “There’s something about you, and blue….”

Friday, June 9

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as he saw the crew guys all hanging around ready for a busy day of practice and qualifying. With the speed they’d shown lately, and a good run last week, it was time to keep the momentum rolling.

“Ready to go, superstar?” Jared Seate questions and Chase shakes his head yes. “Not missing the girl at all?”

“I’m confident that she’ll do well this weekend,” Chase answers, having followed the live updates from Kyle Busch Motorsports all-day Thursday on practice. While she wasn’t at the top of the time sheet, the fact that she felt comfortable and knew they’d be good in race trim was a good feeling. Now if they just borrowed a bit of Bell’s qualifying set-up, perhaps it’d be a stellar night for her.

“And let me guess – she’ll be here tomorrow?” Chase shakes his head no, remembering her plans.

“She’s going to stay back to watch the Stadium Super Trucks and the IndyCars. She’ll be here on Sunday, though.”

“I thought she’d be traveling back to be with you as soon as possible.” Chase laughs and shakes his head no, though partially wishing that a bit himself. He had to admit he missed her sometimes on weekends like this. Though, it was part of the schedule and he knew the summer brought that a lot with how the trucks did a lot of stand-alone events.

“We have our own lives, and our own desires. We both want to make this work. I respect hers just as much as she respects mine, so therefore we give each other space.” Jared crosses his arms as he couldn’t help but admire that.

“Then why is it your mother still has a problem with her? I mean, we’re four months removed and you guys have only grown more closer together. I mean, it’s the talk of the garage…well, besides Bubba getting a chance to drive for Petty. But still, it baffles me.” Chase knew the answer without saying much as he sat down beside the crew member.

“She still doesn’t trust her and fully grasp what happened there. She gets the reasons why she did it, and yes, she has a heart and understands. But I’m her baby and as she described to me, she’s supposed to protect me no matter what. It’s an underlying worry that she has still till she’s fully proven otherwise. It’ll take time, but it will happen. Besides, she admitted that she’s starting to grow on her….” Jared smiles, remembering that small detail amongst everything.

“I heard that comment at Dover, too – till she mentioned Sarina’s brother. It seems with her brother in the picture, it may not ever come though.” Chase knew that was a good possibility, having pondered that a bunch of times himself. It wasn’t like it was something he could brush aside either, recalling a couple recent conversations with Alan.

“I don’t blame her, honestly. I mean, look at what happened between us, right? I’ve told Alan straight out, too, that I don’t fully trust him either.” Jared watched Chase curiously, as he thought over his next question.

“Alan mentioned a worry about the poison deal being connected to him. Are you worried about that?” Chase wanted to straight out say no, however he couldn’t do that. He heard about Chris’ brief ‘fan zone’ disappearance, and seemed odd on the timing of the incidents. “I see some hesitation….”

“Let’s just say that I know what he said to me that day, and it has stuck ever since. Now, we have a job to do, right?” Jared shakes his head yes as he watches Chase stand up. “Let’s focus and do what we got to do.”

“Yes boss.” Jared then brushes his legs off, before heading the other direction as Chase lets out a sigh. Glancing at the car, he knew it was time to focus on the day at hand.

The team was able to put together a solid practice, with Chase ‘alright’ about the car after the session full of race trim runs. As they got ready to switch over for qualifying trim, he could only hope that it went accordingly to plan.

With some time to kill between the session, he made his way back to the trailer, snagging some lunch before relaxing in the lounge part of the hauler. Just as he was set to bite into his sub, his phone rang and an immediate smile formed on his face.

“Hey princess,” he says as he hit answers on the FaceTime request, instantly earning an eye roll from her.

“Oh, so you think that you can try that line on me since it worked so well for Christopher?” She questions as he laughs.

“But you’re my princess as I’d do anything to make you feel good.” She couldn’t help but giggle in response.

“Okay, that earns you a point Mr. Elliott. The only thing is I don’t know how I feel about you in orange yet. There’s something about you and blue…” He just rolls his eyes.

“Well, white definitely works for you, sweetie, as it shows off every curve – just don’t let people stare at that butt of yours.” She takes another round of chuckling.

“You’ll just have to win me over with that lovely orange….” He looks on intrigued. However, he couldn’t deny that he was loving the chat as it was nice to get in some quality flirting.

“Maybe when you’re here on Sunday I can do that. Better yet, you can show up a day early and make my weekend that much sweeter.” She then sighs. It was a big toss-up for her. One of the reasons she loved the trucks racing at Texas was the fact IndyCar and SST ran the same weekend. She loved watching both, and it was nice to get a chance to see them live for a change. However, she understood the pain of being separated for a couple days.

“You know I’m just a ring-a-ling a way if you’re that desperate for company, Chase. But anyways, I thought you could take care of yourself.” Chase chuckles.

“Oh I’m not worried about myself, dear. I know I can handle cooking and all that day. It’s you that I worry about.” She had to laugh, knowing that her cooking was questionable at times. There were also times that she forgot to eat totally when she got busy.

“Does it make you happy that I’m eating while talking to you right now?” He shakes his head yes. “Good. So see, I can take care of myself.”

“Just make sure you have a good safe, fun, clean night. I want to see what a cowboy hat looks like on that sweet head of yours.” She smiles, wishing for the same result.

“I’m going to try, buddy. Alright – I better go as Marcus wants to chit chat soon. Talk later?” He shakes his head yes. “Love you.”

“Love you, more. Bye Sarina.” He then hangs up as he kicks his feet up, eating the rest of his sub as he watched XFINITY practice. That phone call was exactly what he needed.

The relaxation lasted for a good hour before a knock at the door, and he knew it was time for qualifying. Making his way out of the trailer, he grabs one of the markers off the counter and heads out. Taking his time along the way, he signs some autographs for the fans as he heads out to pit road.

He makes his way out to pit road and the walk down to his stall for the session, set to lay down the best lap that he could imagine.

“I was wondering where you were,” he hears a male voice as he reaches there, surprised to see his parents. They had told him they were coming, but weren’t sure if they’d get there for Friday or not.

“I was taking my time, but knew I’d be here with time to spare,” he answers as he fixes his shoes.

“Any updates from Texas?” He shakes his head no, knowing the truck series qualifying session was scheduled around the same time that he was supposed to go out for his session.

“She’s supposed to text me when she’s done, just as I am supposed to do for her.” Bill shakes his head, understanding. It was the same agreement that they had in place when she was racing a late model for him.

“Her brother and that supposed cousin with her?” Cindy asks and Chase shakes his head yes, only imagining what his mom would say next.

“Well, Bethany actually isn’t with them since Sarina told her off this week after the family comment stunt,” he starts. “Bethany stopped by and made some other comment about that reunion. Sarina told her to fly a kite because she wasn’t doing family drama anymore.” Cindy rolls her eyes.

“But yet she still hangs around with her brother?” Chase lets out a sigh, having a feeling that was coming.

“We’ve talked about this, and that’s all I’m going to say. I’ve told you what she’s said about her brother. I’ve also told you that I’m being cautious and careful. Now, can we drop it, please?” Cindy shakes her head, knowing there were bigger fish to fry. Besides, as long as he aware, that was all that mattered.  “It is nice to see you both, though.” Chase then walks away, heading over to Alan as Cindy watches on.

“You need to relax a little,” Bill comments as he rubs her shoulders.

“But I’m Mama Bear and it’s my job to prote-” Cindy starts.

“But your cub is growing up, and learning to handle things for himself. Besides, you both are just going around in circles. You see how much he loves her. Respect that, embrace that. Give her a chance.” She then looks back at Bill.

“You’re just worried that he’s going to be mad at me and not talk to me, aren’t you? You don’t want to lose that…” Bill just pulls her back close. “Don’t worry – I won’t let it come to that. But I will not back down when it comes to protecting him.”

The debates of the afternoon were all put aside through the next couple of hours with the focus being on qualifying. Still fighting a loose condition, Chase was unable to lay down the lap he wanted and barely missed out on making it to the second round, qualifying 25th.

“I should’ve went further on that adjustment,” Alan comments after the session is over. “I’m sorry.” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“There’s a lot of ways to get to the front, strategy or passing,” Chase says. “We’ll work on the car a little tomorrow and be fine for Sunday. Don’t worry.” Alan smiles, liking the confidence from his driver.

“I believe you’re right as we know what we need to do now.” Chase shakes his head yes as he grabs his phone off the pit cart. “Any update?” He shakes his head no as he lets out a sigh.

“Pole!!!!” Jared Seate lets out, causing everyone to look over confused.

“Um, none of our cars on the pole,” Alan states the obvious as Jared laughs, shaking his head.

“Truck Series live timing and scoring – I have it loaded on my phone from NASCAR’s website. Someone is going to love-a-dub his update from his girl.” Chase then looks over at Jared with a face of amazement.

“Seriously?” He questions and Jared shakes his head yes, walking over as he shows Chase the scoring monitor.

“Read it and weep, baby. Sarina Ott just got her first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole at Texas Motor Speedway. How does that feel?” Chase immediately smiles as he lets out a small woohoo.

“That’s awesome!” He then grabs his phone, texting her immediately to say congratulations, knowing she’d get it once done with all the photos and such.

“So, where are you watching this truck race tonight?” Chase looks over at Jared, intrigued. “We were stealing Alan’s suite at the hotel tonight because he’s got the 70 inch screen in there. That’d allow you to see her full screen…”

“Do you really want a panicking boyfriend ruining our viewing experience?” Chad Avrit questions as Chase laughs.

“Me? Panicking?” He asks and Chad shakes his head yes.

“I saw you at Talladega. You’re nervous watching her.” Chase chuckles, though knew that the crew guys were right.

“Regardless, I think it’d be fun if you join us…” Jared continues as Chase thinks it over, figuring company was perhaps a good idea since Ryan and Darrell had ditched him.

“Fine, just so I can drive Chad crazy,” he comments.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 86: “Are you and Chase Elliott dating?”

Chase walks into the trailer, smile on his face as he makes his way by the guys, sliding the snack drawer open and stealing a bag of Reese’s before closing it. He then hops up on the counter, opening the package as he sits back.

“Someone is a little happy today…” Jared Seate comments as he looks over his shoulder to notice his driver.

“Get lucky last night?” Jared Erspamer questions, causing Chase to choke on his candy. He then chucks one at the crew member as laughter erupts from everyone.

“I swear you guys think you’re in high school still sometimes,” Alan says as he makes his way through the crowd to the far end of the trailer.

“For your information, that is not why I’m smiling,” Chase comments with a look towards Jared. Anybody that knew him well enough, they knew that wasn’t quite on his radar yet.

“But the girl did make you happy, right?” Jared Seate asks and Chase looks over with a wink.

“Or it’s just the fact that I know we have a good car for tonight and we’re about to have some fun.”

“The last time you said that, you went flying through the air at Talladega if I recall,” Jared Erspamer comments. “Just because you’re a pilot doesn’t mean you can fly a racecar.” Chase then looks over at Jared.

“You’re just full of jokes today, aren’t you?” Chase questions. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be on relaxation mode? Why are you dressed up for tonight?”

“I’m here to support my guys – that’s all. I haven’t touched a tool all day.”

“Actually, you handed me a wrench…” Chad Avrit reminds him as Jared rolls his eyes.

“Jared, what were you told?” Alan’s voice reigns through the trailer, catching everyone’s attention. They knew when the crew chief spoke that they were supposed to pay attention.

“I just handed him the wrench – nothing else, sir,” Jared pleads. “I am behaving as best as I can.”

“I’m sure Chase would say different,” Nick O’Dell comments, earning a glance from the crew member.

“Just make sure you’re behaving Jared,” Alan says as he approaches the group. “Now, let’s leave high school and focus on the actual race here, okay?”

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

“So where are you guys going to watch the race from?” Sarina questions as she glances towards her partners in toe.

“I liked the view from up top on the roof so I was headed there,” Bethany says.

“I was going to join her,” Chris adds as he glances around pit road.

“Alright, that’s fine,” she tells them. “I’m off to see Chase and sit with Alan. Have fun!”

She then makes her way down pit road, giving Kyle a quick good luck wish as she walks by, before walking over to the 24 car. She slips her sunglasses off, leaning back against it as she watches him interact with some of the guests.

“Are you Sarina Ott?” She hears, turning her eyes forward and shaking her head yes. “Are you and Chase Elliott dating?”

“Yes we are,” she replies, confused as to who the person was.

“Well I have news for you – he’s not your type. You should leave him right away.” Sarina could only chuckle as she watched the girl before her.

“Really? That’s odd, considering that last night Chase told me that he loved me a lot, wanted to be with me as much as possible, and we really understood each other. But hey, what do we know?” The comments causes an angered glance on the girl’s face.

“Yeah, you just wait and see what happe-”

“Why are you talking to my sister like that?” Chris’ voice cuts off conversation as Sarina looks towards her brother surprised. “How about you start walking up pit road?”

“Oh, so you’re my boss now?” The girl questions. “Real cute having your brother protect you.”

“Listen here swee-”

“What are you going to do?” Chris closes the gap between them, catching the attention of everyone around them. Sarina immediately pulls her brother back as Chad Avrit puts his arms around the girl and pulls her back.

“Can we have security, please?” Alan questions, pointing towards the girl. The officer then takes the girl and escorts her away as Alan looks towards Chris and Sarina. “Are you both, okay?” They shake their heads yes. “As annoying as she can be, you can’t be approaching her like that. It’ll get Chase in more shit than good. I suggest you just calm your jets next time, got it?”

“Sorry Alan,” Sarina apologizes as she turns her eyes on her brother.

“Why is it such a big deal?” Chris questions as Sarina puts her arms around her brother and leads him away from the group.

“Because Chase has a certain image to maintain and can’t be having stuff like that associated with it. When it comes to those types, they’re every where in this garage. You just have to deal with what they’re saying calmly, respond fairly, and then let security handle it. Please…” Chris then looks away from her.

“You’re disappointed and he’s mad….” Sarina takes a deep breath, remembering what was discussed in his recovery and such.

“Not at all. He was just concerned and I’m just explaining. There’s nothing wrong here. Why don’t you go catch up with Bethany and we can discuss later, okay?” He shakes his head yes. “Have fun!” She then watches him head off before returning to the group.

She noticed Alan and Chase off to the side discussing things, knowing her brother was probably topic of conversation.

“I’m just telling you what happened,” Alan states as Chase lets out a sigh. He didn’t need this, especially when there were concerns already.

“I’m sure nothing was meant by it and I’m sure Sarina straightened it out,” Chase comments as he looks over towards Sarina. “It’s fine, Alan….” He then goes to walk away as Alan places a hand on his shoulder.

“Remember what we talked about. You said it yourself that things seemed off. Don’t forget that…” Chase shakes his head yes before walking over to Sarina.

“Everything okay?” She questions and he wraps his arms around her as he shakes his head yes. “You’re not lying, are you?” He lets out a sigh, eyes focused down pit road wondering where Chris was headed off to. He couldn’t help but worry at times.

“Alan just mentioned what happened and to address accordingly with you,” he starts. “I told him that it was handled by you taking him aside. You don’t have to worry…” He then looks into her eyes, kissing her lips. “We’re going to have a good night.”

“I hope you’re right about that.”

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 63: Reaching Out

The pit crew finishes up their practice, returning back to the locker room to get changed into some other clothes. Jared gets changed quickly, before making his way over to Chad Avrit.

“Do you know if Sarina has reached out to Chase yet?” Jared asks, catching the fellow crew member’s attention. He shakes his head no.

“Based on what I saw from him for the rest of the week, it didn’t seem like it,” Chad answers as Jared lets out a sigh.

“I’ve waited a week, hoping that she’d reach out and do the right thing. But yet here we are and she’s done nothing. They’re meant to be, Chad. What if we are waiting too long?” Chad then lets out a sigh as he closes his locker.

“What are you trying to say, Jared?” Jared knew that he was set on one simple thing.

“I’m going to call her today.”  Chad shakes his head no as he knew that was a bad idea.

“Are you asking for an ass kicking? Do you realize what Chase and Alan will do when they find out?” Jared knew that was quite possible, but he also saw the other side.

“And what if she reaches out to him, call him, shows up this weekend in Atlanta? Then what are you going to go say?” Chad knew that was possible, but still didn’t like the idea.

“I know you’re going to do whatever the hell you want. Just don’t come running to me when Chase kicks your ass.” Chad then heads out of the room as Jared stays back, thinking it over awhile longer.

With the thought planted in his mind the rest of the day, and knowing he was doing the right thing in his mind, he pulls out his phone and dials her number.

“Hello?” He hears, causing him to catch his breath in his throat. What was he supposed to say?

“Sarina?” He asks, wondering he even if had the right number.

“This is Sarina.  Who is this?” Well, at least he had stolen the right number from Alan’s desk.

“It’s Jared Seate off of Chase’s team. I was wondering if I could talk to you about something.” It seemed like the only way that he could introduce himself, and just hope for the best.

“Go on…” He could tell there was unease in her voice, and began questioning once again if he made the right decision.

“Have you reached out to Chase at all, by the way?” If she answered yes to question, then he could forget the whole idea.

“What does that matter to you?” He could sense anger and frustration. He already began planning a place to hide.

“Well, I know you guys are going through a lot right now with what happened. Anybody could see that with your brother being involved, his pain, the fact that you guys haven’t been around each other. I don’t know what you’ve said to each other, if anything, but I can tell that it’s eating at Chase. He misses you a lot, more than he probably has told you. I mean, you know him well enough to know that boy doesn’t always show every bit of his emotions. I wanted to let you know because if you were thinking of leav-”

“I’ve reached out to him twice, Jared. I messaged him after he won the pole with a very simple short text message of congratulations. I messaged him after the 500 to let him I know I felt bad about what happened, reminding him that he’s amazing and its okay, and telling him how I felt. You don’t need to know the details but I told him that when I was ready, I would talk to him as I miss him, too, and want to work things out when the time is right. Does that satisfy your concerns?”  Jared lets out a sigh as it was a relief to know there was some effort being put in.  He could simply kick himself in the butt for making the call, and hope that he didn’t his ass kicked over nothing.

“Yeah, that does actually. I just figured I’d reach out in case you didn’t know where he stood.” Perhaps some assurance could save his ass from being kicked.

“Well I’m going to tell you something else then. Stay the hell out of our business as it’s not for you to get your nose stuc-”

“I cared about my friends and his feelings. I was just trying to hel-”

“Well, the better thing would’ve been to comfort him and assure him that things would work out if meant to be, as they should. Not for you to steal my number from someone and call me out of the blue.” Jared knew he was in for an ass kicking if Sarina mentioned something to Chase.

“Understood. I apologize.” It was worth the effort.

“Whatever. Goodbye.” Sarina then hits hang up as she lets out a long sigh, sitting back in the chair.

She didn’t want to let the phone call bug her. She didn’t want to think about what Jared said. However, it wouldn’t leave her mind.

She knew that Chase was tight lipped on emotions, cared deeper than he would let on. The only time he’d really let on was when it got to be too much and it just came out – as noted with their argument.  She had seen that with him through the years on a couple different occasions.

If the crew could see enough heartbreak that they were concerned and reaching out to her, then that meant it had to go real deep. Glancing down, she find herself realizing how much this was hurting Chase in them being separate – and truthfully, hurting herself too.

Picking her phone back up, she went into her contacts and pulled up his number. She knew that she could hit dial and they could discuss things, but that wouldn’t fair as their discussion needed to happen face-to-face.  However, she also knew that she couldn’t leave this alone either.

Chase, I just wanted to say hi and check in on you. Hope you’re not beating yourself up too much over this past weekend. Remember to focus on the weekend ahead and know you’ll kick ass in Atlanta. I believe you’ll win. As things work out, I will find time to see you, and we will talk. Sarina.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 59: “Are you sure this is right?”

With no work to do in one of the only off-days of the week, Jared Seate was set to take some action into his own hands.

“Are you sure this is right?” Chad Avrit asked as he watched his fellow crew member pull his cell phone out of his pocket. He knew the phone number that was about to be dialed, having heard the idea prior to meeting together.

“I’m certain this is what needs to happen if they’re going to get anywhere,” Jared answers as he brings the number up. He goes to hit dial, but Chad grabs his hand. “What?”

“Are you absolutely certain? I mean, what gives you the first clue?” Jared lets out a sigh. He should’ve called Nick instead.

“He hasn’t talked to Sarina lat-”

“I heard he got a text from her yesterday, actually. She congratulated him on the pole.” Jared rolls his eyes. The text was nowhere near the communication needed.

“Anybody can send a text, but that’s nowhere near a heart-to-heart conversation or getting back together.” Chad couldn’t help but think over Chase’s words.

“I told him on Saturday when he was thinking about her to give her a call. But he said that he’d rather wait till she’s ready. Listen, he knows her better than anyone. Maybe there’s a good reason why he is waiting. Maybe there’s something that we don’t understand. Heck, there was a lot that happened there especially with her brother being involved and then the brain tumor.” Jared had heard the narrative before, and perhaps it was starting to resonate with him. Maybe he should hold off and let things play out.

“Perhaps you’re right – but did you not notice the look he gave me when I offered about calling her? If looks could kill-”

“Then why are you calling her today, huh?” Jared was now starting to realize more and more it was a bad idea. After all, he knew it could result in him getting fired.

“Because they damn well need to get back together, okay? He’s upset, heartbroken – but yet we know in some way that they both care about each other, regardless of what happened. Perhaps it’s nerves, perhaps uncertainty is why she hasn’t called him. Perhaps she doesn’t understand what he’s going through on his side.  Hence why I want to fix that.” Chad couldn’t argue with the logic, as perhaps that was going on. However, it still didn’t seem right to meddle.

“I’m sure she somewhat gets where Chase stands. He put it out there that he wanted to talk, maybe working something out – that means to her, that there’s a window of opportunity. However, he knows with the deal with her brother, not to push the envelope. What if she’s focused on family drama? What if she doesn’t want to mix that due to her own worries and fears? What if she wants to fight one battle before another? There’s many reasons as to why she hasn’t called him ye-”

“Okay, and what about his feelings? Sure, she can take all the time that she wants Chad. But, look at how it’s affecting Chase. What about those feelings?” Chad knew there were in a bind, as there wasn’t much that he could say.

“I’m sure she understands partially where he’s coming from, and if he wanted her to know so bad – he’d reac-”

“Bullshit as he’s Mr. Friendly, won’t push anything. You know that yourself.” Chad lets out another sigh, handing another round to the tire carrier.

“Regardless, I’m sure she knows more on those feelings than we do, having heard the argument words and having seen him the day in the hospital. There’s a touch of hope there via the text message. Do you want to screw that?” Jared knew there was a slight chance of that, but didn’t see that image happening.

“I don’t think we’d screw that up, though. I think we’d just make the ball move faster by making her truly see what we’ve been seeing all this time.” Chad lets out a sigh, as Jared did have a point. Incase Chase had been guarded with his feelings, this could help push things closer if she knew just how much he cared. Perhaps that was part of her worry, and they’d solve it. “Well?”

“I still don’t think you should call her. I mean, Alan said himself that she knows things, and he’d know because he’s talked to Chase about it. Besides, Alan is right, too – that they need to work it out, or let it break apart. If we start getting in the middle, we’re only going to make things more complicated. Do you really want that for Chase?” Jared shakes his head no.

“Then what are we supposed to do while we wait for that phone call, bud?” Chad knew there was only one answered, as evidenced on pole day.

“Just be there for him. If he needs someone to talk to, listen. If he needs someone to lean on, let him. If he needs someone to cry on or do something for him, be that person. Just like you were there on Sunday to help him get in the car and such. It’s all we can do – just being the best friend that we can.” Jared lets out a sigh. He so badly wanted to just make this go away easily and knew he could with a simple phone call. He wasn’t one to have patience. But, as he had listened to Chad, he knew that there was something wrong with the picture he had drawn here – or he had called the wrong crew member to help him.

“I guess. It’s just agony…” Chad shakes his head in agreement, crossing his fingers that Sarina would call Chase soon.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 58: Pole Day

Chase wakes up the next morning, glancing around the room confused. Why was he in the trailer? How long had he been on the couch?

“Oh man…” he says out loud as he goes to move, feeling a pain up his left side, originating from his ribs. Relaxing back down and taking a couple deep breathes, he goes through the exercises, allowing his body to calm down before attempting to move again. He knew a couple Tylenol would be his friend.

“Well hello sleeping beauty,” he hears as he watches the lounge door open, looking up to see Alan standing there.  It was better having Alan walk in on him than a random crew member.

“What time is it?” Chase then slowly sits up, letting out another sound of aggravation.

“It’s 10. You’ve got an hour and a half till The Clash.”  He easily shakes his head, before snatching his phone off the table to check a couple messages. He watches as the crew chief quickly leaves the room, giving him some privacy, only to return five minutes later with a tray. Alan sets the tray down on the table as Chase looks at the contents. “Breakfast is served and ready for you. We made it about a half hour ago, but I kept a plate nice and warm for you for when you were ready.”

“You didn’t have to do that…”  Chase then glances at the plate – eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, home fries – accompanied by a glass of orange juice and two Tylenol. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Chase then picks up the Tylenol, slipping them in his mouth with the orange juice before beginning to eat his breakfast.

“I didn’t realize I fell asleep here. I laid back for a second last night due to the pain, wanting to let myself calm a bit before heading out, and I guess I fell asleep.”  Alan shakes his head, remembering when the crew guys had called him in the trailer last night.

“You were exhausted, and that caught up with you. You admitted to me the other day that you weren’t sleeping, and you know that only five hours sleep in three nights is no good. Jared found you, called me. I grabbed the blanket, turned off the light and told the guys that you were staying here as the sleep would be good for you. I guess I was right.” Chase shakes his head yes, savoring how refreshed he felt with a full night of sleep underneath him now.

“It feels good, honestly.  I slept great as I didn’t wake up once at all last night.” Alan smiled as he knew it was progress. He knew if they were set to move forward without Sarina in his life, considering she hadn’t accepted his offer to talk and called yet, then baby steps would need to be taken.

“Maybe it’s the change of scenery. You’re used to sleeping with her in the motorcoach that being somewhere else away from the reminders helped you.” Chase didn’t want to think that way as he wanted those reminders, wanting to remember the good time as he hung on to hope that at some point his phone would ring today.

“Maybe, I guess.” Alan didn’t want to push his young driver; however he felt the relationship break-up advice on tip of his tongue. Perhaps it could wait another day as they had a race to run, followed by qualifying.

“I am going to go and let you finish eating, followed by getting ready. Hopefully we can make today a special day.” Chase smiles, shaking his head in agreement as he watches the crew chief head out.

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

Standing on pit road, he glances out to the 2.5-mile track, not believing he was standing in the exact same spot that he was standing a year ago.

How were they the quickest in the first round? How were they once again having a shot at the pole?

Based on what he had seen in practice, he thought there was no way they could be this quick again. It was the Fords and Toyotas that had shown the way, with everyone believing they’d be the front rows.  However, instead, it seemed that he and his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. had proven otherwise in the first round.

The question remaining – could he back it up in round two?

“Ready to go?” Jared Seate questions his young driver as Chase glances over, shaking his head yes.

“Just can’t believe we’re standing here again with another shot,” Chase offers as he takes a couple deep breathes.  He knew there’d be a bit of pain in climbing back in the car so he had to mentally and physically prepare himself, remembering the steps talked about.

“Welcome to Alan Gustafson and Rick Hendrick. That’s a pair together that makes magic happen with fast racecars.” Jared had been watching Chase throughout the day, seeing an extra pep in the step. Perhaps it was due to the extra bit of sleep – or maybe Sarina had reached out against everybody’s predictions. He didn’t want to ask, though, not wanting to spoil the good mood and lose out on the pole that way.

“I couldn’t agree with you more, Jared.”  Clearing his mind of the discussion, he knew it was now or never as he watched the next car scream by. Remembering to take a deep breath, he climbed into the car – right leg first so that way the left side could be as relaxed as possible. The movements came stiff, as the wrapping job kept everything in place. He then looks out to the track, letting his legs rest in the car, as he takes another deep breath.

“Do you need me to hold  you or anyth-” Jared hadn’t ever been on pit road with Chase before so he wasn’t sure on the process that was discussed in dealing with the broken ribs.

“I’ve got this – just let me do it with time.” Jared then relaxes, giving his young driver space, but keeping a careful eye on him in the process. He watched  as Chase’s eyes glanced around, cameras clicking off in different directions. Like last year, there were people watching – but not as much as last year. The factor of being the new star had worn off, with the big media blitz now surrounding his teammate’s return to racing. Chase liked it that way, as he could focus  on what he needed to do.

“5 more  cars.” Jared then  watches Chase slip into the window  carefully, sinking down in the seat. Once again, he watched as Chase repeated the breathing exercises prescribed to him, allowing the pain to get back under control again. It was a 30 second exercise as Greg, their pit crew coach, had noted the stress that the body went through just for that fluid motion.

“Jared?”  Jared then comes over and Chase points up to the belts. Normally, he’d reach up and pull the shoulder belts down, but with the injury only being a week old – he didn’t want to push the stress boundaries. He lets the crew member lock the belts into place, before putting the window net and stepping back to let Chase focus in on what he needed to do.

He couldn’t think about the pain, the broken ribs, or Sarina anymore. In a mere couple of minutes, he’d be making the one single lap that’d matter for everything that afternoon. If he wanted to give this team what they deserved for their hard work through the off-season in building a fast car, this lap had to be his focus.

Eyes locked on the NASCAR official at the end of pit road, he watches the official give him his signal to go. One hand on the shifter, one hand on the steering wheel, he puts right foot down on the gas pedal, allowing the car to leave pit road with the thrust of power.

He focuses his eyes on the dash, watching the lights flash across the screen as they had done in practice, waiting for them all to light up – before the last three red ones. Once the first red light comes on, he shifts into the next gear, repeating the process all the way up to fourth.

Bringing the car to the top of the track around the banking in turn two, he places both hands on the steering wheel, remembering – smooth motions on the steering wheel to not scrub off speed.

With his focus purely on driving and doing what he needed to do, there was no time to think about the force against his side. As he brought the car through the 31 degree banking in the corner, his body was forced back into the seat, and down to the left side. His wrapped ribs pushed against the extra padding that had been placed, stuck like glue, no ability to move, feeling the 5-gs in full motion. It brought forth a bit of pain that could be only described as minor and annoying in the moment, as his focus wasn’t on how he was feeling – but the job at hand.

Crossing the finish line to complete his lap, he immediately shuts the car down and relaxes. With the adrenaline and concentration out the window, the pain began to enter that he had felt through speedweeks thus far. If you looked at a range from 1 to 10, this pain could be described right in the middle of the scale – a 5 – nothing new in his book of experience.
Returning to pit road, there were smiles all the way around as he had done what he needed to, clocking in a lap just a touch quicker than his teammate to win the pole.

He had done it again. He was the Daytona 500 pole sitter.

“Awesome car, great job everybody,” he tells the entire team,  giving each member a high-five before doing the first couple interviews required.

Following the interviews, he begins to make his way over to victory lane, set for the presentation. As he makes the walk over, he takes his phone from his publicist, checking the first view notifications.

He was set to read the text messages from all his buddies, when one stood out amongst the rest. He immediately opened it, a smile forming on his face.

Congratulations on your pole, superstar. Enjoy the entire blitz that comes with it and make sure this year to run all 500 miles, perhaps ending up in victory lane. If nobody has told you today, you’re amazing. Hope you’re not too sore, either.  

It wasn’t the phone call he wanted. It wasn’t the offer to have the discussion that he wanted to have. However, she hadn’t totally forgotten about him, either.

Thx , I’ll try lol Not feeling to bad either. Miss u, hope we can talk soon. Call me when u can, plz. Offer still stands.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 57: Rain Delay Boredom

Chase lets out a sigh as he takes a peak out of the team hauler once again, glancing at the sky. There were still rain drops falling from the sky.

He then makes his way back into the team hauler, pulling out his phone in the process. He checked the radar, only to sigh once again. There seemed to be more rain on the way.

So much for racing that night at Daytona.

Placing his hand on his left side, taking a couple deep breathes, he feels the pain start to make its way back. It had subsided for the most part earlier in the afternoon, virtue of a pair of Tylenol, but they seemed to be wearing off. Combined with being in his firesuit and those ribs being tightly wrapped, he knew it was a combination for pain to brew.

Besides the recent bout with the pain, he had to admit it hadn’t been too bad. He got through Friday night’s Clash practice and Saturday morning’s Daytona 500 practice without any serious issues. Sure, the pain lingered from the pressure on his side in the car, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

Popping off the top off the Tylenol bottle as he reaches the lounge, he grabs a pair of the red pills out, before securing the bottle once again and placing it back on the shelf. He then places it back on the shelf, before swallowing the pair of pills with a bottle of water.

“Why don’t you take off your firesuit and let yourself relax?” Rear tire changer Chad Avrit asks from his spot on the other couch. Chase shrugs his shoulders as he puts his feet up.

“Too much work to get it off, unbandage everything and then go through that process again,” he states, which was true. It was a 10 minute process with their pit crew coach to make sure everything was done correctly and accordingly to doctor instructions. “Besides, it’s the boredom that’s causing me to pay attention to the little things. I need something to do.”

“Have you talked to Sarina lately?” Chase shakes his head no, which was the truth.

He called her a couple days after the incident to see how her and her brother was doing, happy that things had gone positively for them both thus far.  He wished them the best, and told Sarina to give him a shout when she felt like talking. She hadn’t returned the phone call yet.

The crew guys had become curious when they saw Chase hanging around the track without her, or going over to New Smyrna to watch her late model effort. It was resulted in him offering a quick explanation as to what happened, which received a mixture of reactions.

“Perhaps that’s how you could spend your time – as you did all of last year,” Chad adds and Chase shakes his head no, once again. For sure he wanted to talk to Sarina and see where they stood with each other; however he didn’t want to push his luck with her. He had done that previously and knew the consequences.

“I’d rather wait till she is ready,” Chase comments as he opens the drawer beneath his couch. “Now, can we watch a movie instead of discussing my love life?” Chad lets out a sigh as he knew Chase didn’t like to open up about details surrounding things with Sarina. It bugged him as it seemed he’d open up with the guys about everything else.

“I still say that you should just get comfy as there’s no way we’re racin-”

“Why don’t we watch both parts of Hot Shots?” The selection was meant by a mix of reactions in the compound.

“Those who do not agree with our driver can submit that they have no sympathy for the current issues of his life and go bug the 88 team,” Nick O’Dell comments as he grabs the movie out of the drawer and opens the package to get the DVD.

“So that’s how it’s going to be?” Chad questions as Nick shrugs his shoulders.

“They say to make someone feel better, you should help out with their requests and make them happy.  If this makes him happy, I say we go with it.”

“Or we could call Sarina and get them back together?” Jared Seate suggests as Chase immediately looks over at the front tire carrier, ready to pounce if needed.

“Okay, that’s enough!” Alan comments as he enters the room.”Jared, Chase will handle things with Sarina as he feels fit. Since the majority voted for the movie, it is being played.”

Over the next couple of hours, the crew became fully engulfed in the movie, laughing at the jokes and shooting puns around the room at each other. They had so much fun watching the first part, they moved onto the second part set for some more entertainment. The laughter got to be so much that they totally lost track of time, not realizing that the race had been cancelled a whole hour ago once the second part finished.

With confirmation in hand, the crew headed out to do their final clean-up while Chase finally undressed, hanging the firesuit up for the night. He then slowly unbandaged himself, biting his tongue at times in relation to pain. He then laid back on the couch afterwards, going through the breathing exercises, hoping the pain would slowly dissipate once again.

It was true that the trail of events over the past year had caught up with him with the fear that he had been through. It was true the recent break-up as it was with Sarina had thrown him off his game. Rather than easily able to focus on the next task at hand, he found himself wondering about their future, wanting to run off to her, worried they’d never make up and a slump of sadness. It had affected him the most at night as he found it tough to fall asleep some times, resulting in times without much sleep.

The past three days, he could count on his two hands how much he had slept.  It was why when his head hit the couch in the quiet room, exhaustion hit him and the breathing exercises meant to simply dull the pain were actually able to relax him more than he had intended, eyes drifting close asleep.

“Chad! Alan!” Jared Erspamer calls out after having checked the lounge and finding Chase sleeping on the couch. He was supposed to be locking up the trailer as they were done for the night.

The crew quickly surrounded the rear tire carrier, a couple smiles forming at their sleeping driver.

“What should we do?” Jared Seate questions as Alan stepped forward first. He reached into the cupboard, grabbing out a blanket and throwing it over him. He then turned off the main light, turning on a small table light before closing the door.

“We’re leaving him there?” Nick O’Dell wonders and Alan shakes his head yes.

“Things with Sarina have gotten him in a bit of an emotional mess, including some lack of sleeping,” Alan starts, as he had found out the truth from Chase on Friday. The pair ended up getting into a personal discussion after Alan had found Chase off thinking about things himself. “This’ll be good for him. If he wakes up, his phone is there and he can get a hold of me. He also knows his way back to the motorcoach lot. Knowing how exhausted he is, he’ll be there when we come in the morning. Come on guys.”

“What about my idea of contacting Sarina if this is bugging him so much?” Jared Seate questions as they head out of the trailer, causing Alan to spin around immediately.

“I don’t want you to mention that again, got it? Chase has spoken with her. They have an agreement, and that entails her making the next move. If she can’t make the next move, then it’s obvious where things lie. And unfortunately, that means that he has to work his way through an unintended break-up that we know will be harder than anything else.  But meddling and making suggestions of that nature does not help so don’t.” Jared easily shook his head yes, accepting, as the group kept walking away from the trailer for the night.