The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 33: “Chase, are you okay?”

Friday, February 9, 2018 – Daytona International Speedway

Chase makes his way through the garage, giving a couple waves along the way as he heads to the ARCA stalls. Surprisingly, he had managed to sleep in that morning. It seemed impossible with the ARCA cars on track bright and early, but it had happened. He didn’t mind it, though, knowing sleep was at a premium with his mind heading in a couple different directions as he tried to piece together the latest events. But he also hated missing Sarina’s lone session before qualifying later on that afternoon.

“Well, someone found their way out of bed,” he hears as he walks over to her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her lips. “How are you?”

“I’m alright,” he answers and that was honesty. He wasn’t about to let it drive him crazy anymore, promising himself that morning that he was going to focus on Speedweeks and nothing else.

“Truthfully?” He nods his head. “You know I’m asking becau-”

“I thought about what you said, and what Ricky told me, and what Kyle told me – and everybody is right. By letting it consume me, I’m giving them the power to do what they want. So from here on out, let the chips fall and whatever clues they want. I’m focused on you, this weekend, and having some fun. We’re here to win races, right?”

“Absolutely.” She then kisses his lips, before slowly letting him go as she grabs herself a drink of water. “I will say that I have a good car for tomorrow.”

“Oh really?” She smiles, nodding her head as she points to the speed chart. After an hour of track time, she rounded out the session in fourth. “Speed is one thin-”

“It’s comfortable, though. I can make moves when I want in a pack. I can run my line without it twitching. It actually feels like something I can work with and do what I need to do – better than Talladega with either the car or truck there. You do realize I can make magic if I have something to work with.” He knew that for certain, as he was never going to question her talent or ability. But he also knew how crazy Daytona could be, especially for the ARCA Series.

“Just make sure that you play it smart. You don’t want to wreck in the first 20 laps making a dumb move. Play it safe, keep yourself in the mix through the first half, and then pounce at the end.” She was easily accepting of his advice, having seen how he could draft – despite not starting out that way from the start.

“Just like you did at the 500 in February, and just like you were at Talladega both times. I just hope I don’t have the same fate as you did.” Chase lets out a sigh, not wanting to see that either as he knew his nerves would be fried. They already were as he thought back to Talladega last April in watching her wreck.

“You’ll make it happen – don’t worry.” She just smiles back in return, stealing another kiss. “I’m going to go see the guys. I’ll see you later?”

“Absolutely.” He then turns on his heels, heading back into the Cup garage area, as she heads into the trailer to talk with her team.

It wasn’t long before Chase was cutting up with the guys, sharing jokes and stories, without a single care in the world. It seemed everyone had a tale to tell about their winter, and everyone had a joke about Sarina and him together.

“Has William said anything to you, yet?” Jared Seate wonders, referring to the bubble wrap incident. Chase chuckles, shaking his head no. “I can’t believe we pulled one over on the kid…”

“He’s young – that’s when they’re most vulnerable,” Chase comments. “Jimmie got me good my rookie season. I’m just returning the favor.” Jared laughs, remembering the prank that Jimmie had put in motion during Chase’s first couple of weeks at the Hendrick shop.

“What are you going to do when he finds out?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as to be honest, William didn’t scare him.

“He’ll probably just yell at me, and I’ll just give him the welcome speech, and we’ll be done. Meanwhile, we get the final laugh because we had the fun wrapping the car and watching him tear it off.”

“You guys are mean,” Jordan Allen comments as he walks over with an envelope in hand. “By the way, when we got here this morning, this envelope was lying by the garage door with your name on it.”  Chase slowly takes the envelope from Jordan, glancing at the type of font used for his name on the outside. He immediately freezes up, knowing it matched what he found in California, in the shop, and at the airport. “Chase, are you okay?” Chase immediately snaps out of it.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he states as he shoves the envelope in his jean pocket. “I’ll take a look at it later. Thanks.” Jordan slowly nods his head, accepting, but wasn’t set to totally back down yet. He had noticed the freeze up from his driver, and remembered the discussion at the shop from Alan.

“If anything is going on, I could go get Ala-”

“I’m fine, Jordan.” Jordan could tell by his tone that he wasn’t going to get anywhere as he turned around and walked back into the garage stall, focusing back on his job.

He thought about going to Alan, but he didn’t want to break the trust between them as they had grown the closest amongst all of the team members. He thought about forgetting it totally, and was almost set to do so. Though glancing back to Chase as he talked to one of the other guys about something, he could tell it was like the envelope was burning a hole in his pocket. Clearly it had set something off, and Jordan knew his mind was headed down the worst paths possible. He hadn’t been there at times with Alan and Josh, but he knew what was possible.

He waits until Chase is alone again, before making his way over, taking a deep breath along the way. He knew it was all or nothing, and just hoped it didn’t pull away from the friendship they had.

“Hey,” he says as he walks over, nervously putting his hands in his pocket. “Look, whether you want to admit it or not, I know the envelope caught you off-gua-”

“I told you I was fine Jordan,” Chase cuts him off, trying to stick to his initial objective from the morning that he was not going to let this mess with him anymore. Besides, the envelope could contain something totally different.

“I know what you said, but I saw something else – but let’s not focus on that. I just want to help you if I can, so I was thinking a couple things. I can let you open it on your own later like you wanted, or I’m willing to be with you when you open it – like someone to vent to, if you need. I could also take the envelope back, open it by myself and then tell you the contents if I feel you should know. I mean, I could even deliver to whoever you have investigating what’s going on.” Jordan places a hand on Chase’s  shoulder, catching his attention. “I was there last year. I saw everything go down. I’ve been by your side through it all, helped in whatever way I could with my role. Let me be a friend, if you need it.” Chase reaches his hand into his pocket, resting his hand on the envelope.

“You don’t have to do thi-”

“I know, but I want to.” Chase takes the envelope out of his pocket, glancing it over. he really didn’t want to know the contents as it’d just be another thing to think about, and take him away from getting a good night sleep. If he truly wanted to forget what was going on and also handle at the same time, Jordan was the right person.

“I want you to take it and hand it over. maybe they can find something that will help them. But Jordan, once you find out the contents, you have to promise me to tell me if you feel there’s something that I have to know.” Jordan nods his head, accepting, as he takes the envelope back from his driver.

“Absolutely. I can do that, no problem at all. If I feel it threatens your safety, Sarina’s, or someone else’s – I will call you immediately.” Chase nods his head, accepting, as he lets out a sigh.

“Thank you.” Jordan places the envelope in his pocket as he retreats back to the garage and goes over to Alan, whispering something, before heading out of the stall. “Did you tell Ala-”

“I told him that I had to go run an errand as I needed a couple things. Chase, you can trust me.”

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

Sarina lets out a sigh as she flops  back on the couch in the motorcoach. She just had to shake her head as she looked back at the rundown from qualifying. Rather than starting up front as she had hoped to, she would start right in the middle storm – 21st.

“ARCA really needs to change the way they qualify at these places,” she vented and Chase simply nodded his head in agreement. “I mean, we have a much stronger car than that and should be right up there – if not on the front row with Natalie. But no, we’re back in 21st because they decided to go to group qualifying on the plate tracks and it all is determined if you get that right run during your time.”

“You’re preaching to choir here,” Chase comments as he scrolls through his twitter feed. “I never liked group qualifying for plate tracks, either. I was glad when NASCAR went back to single car.”

“So if ARCA wants to be just like the big boys, train us for that stage, then why haven’t they switched, too?” Chase just shrugs his shoulders as he looks over at her.

“Look, we both know you have a good car and you said that you can make moves in the draft with it. Just take it easy at first, be smart with your decisions, and you’ll get to the front. The cream always rises to the top at these places – look at last year’s race. Look at any Cup race at these tracks. Who is always at the front no matter where they start, or run middle of the event? Anything is possible.” She smiles as she walks over, sitting beside him.

“Have I told you how amazing you are?” He just rolls his eyes as she grabs his hand. “I’m serious! Sometimes I know that I take you for granted.”

“But like I’ve always told you – you deserve it after everything.” He then sets his phone aside. “So, what’s the plan tonight? Volusia, New Smyrna, or a date night?” She then looks at him a little puzzled.

“Date night? Am I hearing that you’re okay not being at a race track? Who are you again?” He chuckles as he gives her a smirk back in return.

“I’m a guy that’s totally in love, and willing to do whatever it takes to make his princess happy and relaxed. So, what do you say?” She thinks it over, and was about to say something when there was a knock at the door. “Hold that thought.” He stands up and walks to the door, opening it, surprised to see Jordan standing there. “You told me that you would call immediately, not come to my door.”

“I hadn’t left the track yet, and I figured I’d just come tell you in person?” Jordan offers as Chase crosses his arms. He wasn’t about to hide it that his stomach had dropped immediately in seeing him standing there. “We know that we have everybody in place keeping an eye out for you both, including a good amount of security, but you deserve to kno-”

“Spit it out!” Chase orders and Jordan freezes, taking a deep breath as he could only imagine the next reaction he would get.

“It’s clear that either the person themselves, or someone working for them is in Florida right now. The envelope contained images of you guys hanging out in the garage together, at Volusia last night, in town at Charlotte, and at Kern County. The perfect spy package if you will to warn you that they’re always watching you.” Chase closes his eyes, taking a deep breath, as he leans back against the door frame. He didn’t want to let it bother him, but it was certainly not soothing to know that he had been followed for the past couple of weeks, and the person had enough access for the pictures and to drop them off.

“Spy package?” Sarina questions, having overheard the pair of them talking.

“There was an envelope left at the stall with my name on it,” Chase tells her as he looks over. “I didn’t want to open it so Jordan took it, and said he would warn me if it contained anything concerning. As you heard, we’ve been spied on for the past couple of weeks.” Sarina felt herself freeze in response, also now trying to follow the calming route.

“That’s why we have the security in place. That’s why we have people watching us 24/7 who are trained to take down bad guys. That’s why we have your team, my team, anybody around us on high alert. That’s why we’re being careful.” She then stands up, walking over and clutching Chase’s hand with her own. “It doesn’t change anything. We figured that based on what had been done so far anyway – now it’s just in your face so clearly it’s re-opened that door. But remember, we’re going to be fine. We have everything in place this time, and nobody is going to get to us. Breathe, and know that we’ll be okay.”

“She’s right man, as like Alan said – we’d do anything for you,” Jordan adds as Chase nods his head, accepting. He takes a couple deep breathes.

“I just need to forget abou-” Chase starts.

“Well, not totally, because you need to be on alert too,” Sarina cuts him off as Jordan couldn’t help but nod in agreement.

“What I’m saying is I just need to not let it play with my mind and make me wonder what’s next, what their end game is, and think of every scenario that could go wrong.” He lets out a sigh as he walks away from the doorway. “I’ll be fine. Thanks Jordan for letting me know.”

“Anytime,” Jordan states as he glances inside towards his driver. “And you better be fine. I don’t need another reason to break out my cape.” Chase then turns around, surprised.

“The swancho?” Chase questions and Jordan nods his head. “Oh no way….”

“Oh come on. Admit it – I rocked that better than anybody that weekend!” Chase chuckles as he certainly didn’t agree. “It completed my outfit. I think it’s the perfect super hero unifo-”

“No, no, never again. Please. That was as bad as the garden gnome.” Jordan chuckles, remembering the commercial.

“Not everybody can say they have a blow-up doll and dipstick…” Chase then gives Jordan a surprised glance as Jordan just laughs. “See, the swancho isn’t that bad.”

“Just don’t let it return.” Jordan then crosses his arms as he thinks it over.

“I could bring back the monkey until we win.” Chase smirks back in response.

“Only if he wears an Atlanta Braves uniform.” Jordan then breaks out laughing.

“In your dreams buddy. Go Cubs Go!” Chase just rolls his eyes as Jordan heads off.

“Why do I have a feeling that monkey is coming back now?” Sarina just shakes her head, as she wraps her arms around him.

“He was cute – but not as cute as Hootie,” Sarina offers as Chase nods his head in agreement. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Absolutely,” he answers as he turns to face her. “So, what are we doing tonight?”

Certainly Jordan’s revelation had thrown his mind for a loop, but he wasn’t about to tell her or anybody that. Instead, it was time to practice his own words and just focus on everything except for the notes. Soon enough, the police would figure out who was behind it and there’d be nothing to worry about. Until then, the extra security hanging around didn’t hurt and would take care of everything…..right?

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 32: “There’s no fun in that.”

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Sarina glances over at Chase as she lets out a sigh.

“Are you okay?” He looks over at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answers. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She scoots a little closer, laying her head on his arm.

“Because of what happened in California, and the note at the office.” He understood her concerns as he glances down at her eyes. Certainly it was having its effect and was on his mind. But, he wasn’t going to fall for the trap of letting some foolish notes and scares dictate his life.

“I know it’s not ideal, and we didn’t want to deal with this ever again – but I will tell you that I am fine. I believe that we safe together, and everything will work out. We’ve done what we need to, and all we can do is let it work out. There are people in place, and whoever is doing this will be caught.” Sarina wanted to believe his words, knowing that the Hendrick Motorsports security personnel was upping their number of people, and had one to stay with Chase no matter what if needed. However, she couldn’t help but wonder based on the past.

“Can you just promise me, though, that you will be extra careful?” He nods his head yes as he lifts his arm, letting her lay her head on his chest, wrapping the arm around her.

“I promise. I know what to look out for, and I’m not going to be fooled again.” She then glances up at him.

“Fooled?” He lets out a sigh as his eyes close briefly.

“Ricky and Alan both think that it’s Alison that is behind everything, and frankly, that makes sense. She played my weaknesses when we met before at the pageant, and then at Indianapolis. She knew I’d do anything for you and the team, even subjecting myself, because of how much I care about you guys. My vulnerability is my sweetness, I suppo-”

“It’s also why I, and so many love yo-”

“But when you have someone like her, they take advantage of it and make sure to cause as much pain with that as they can. That’s the mark of an evil genius, and a psychopath. Chris wanted to go after you, so he came after me and those friends close to you. Allison wanted to go after me, so she used those I love against me. This time if she comes around, I’m not letting her fool me into doing something stupid this time.” Sarina accepted his position, but just hoped his sign of strength didn’t fool him into something else happening.

“What time are we flying out tonight?” Chase knew that she had to be in Daytona tomorrow for ARCA  practice, and that meant leaving to go together. Not wanting to be flying in the morning of the session, they had agreed to leave the night before.

“Whenever you want, really. Once I get done at the shop and you do what you need to do, we’ll pack our bags and go.” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can’t we just stay cuddled like this until later?” He chuckles, but certainly wouldn’t mind that either.

“We don’t get any work done like this, and we need to get work done…”

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Hendrick Motorsports

Making his way into the shop, Chase knew the responsibilities on tap today before leaving. The first step included checking in with Alan to make sure everything was going accordingly with his notes.

“He’s here….” Chase hears as he makes his way through the shop, catching his attention. He immediately froze, almost set to burst out laughing, in noticing the three crew members together.

“I thought you were kidding,” he comments as the three walk over. As promised yesterday, Jared Erspamer had brought in a big roll of bubble wrap, while Chad Avrit now held some rolls of masking tape in his hand. To cap it off, Jared Seate was even available to film – as stated.

“I was – but the more I thought about it, I think it’s a good idea,” Chad says as he stops just before his driver. “We’ll make sure that we leave your face uncovered so you can see, speak, and oh yeah – kiss the girlfriend.”

“For all we know, Kyle may be a fan of this idea considering….” Jared Seate adds, causing a couple laughs as Chase gives him a complete stare down. “Suddenly I feel like I’m off your good side…”

“So, are we going top to bottom, or bottom to top?” Chase just shakes his head.

“How about none of the above?” Chase suggests, causing a sad look to form on Chase’s face immediately.

“There’s no fun in that,” Chad offers as he looks back at the bubble wrap. “Now what we are supposed to do?” Chase crosses his arms with a smirk as his eyes return to Jared Seate.

“Oh hell no….” Jared immediately protests as Chase laughs.

“Actually, I have a better idea,” Chase then starts as he looks out towards the parking lot. “We have a rookie teammate here. I think he needs to be welcomed in style.” He looks between the three of them. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”

“I’m on-board – as long as I get to play with the wrap,” Chad declares as the others nod their heads in agreement.

The objective didn’t take long to complete as they were able to wrap William Byron’s Tahoe in a short amount of time, including some special work on the door handles. The four of them then retreated back to their normal duties – with Chase completing his to-do list as required.

As he was finishing up for the day with a photo sent out on twitter, he couldn’t help but laugh in seeing William walk around the shop.

“Alex!” He heard William call out as Alex Bowman glances over at him. “Do you know anything about the bubble wrap?” Alex shakes his head no. “It’s like something Jimmie would do….”

“Jimmie hasn’t been here all day,” Alex comments as Chase just quietly chuckles.

“So then who would bubble wrap my car?” Alex shrugs his shoulders. “You honestly didn’t see anything?”

“Nope, not a thing. Sorry man.” William then continues to make his way through the shop, questioning others – but nobody gave up the secret as Chase just stood aside with his own chuckles. “He’s going to kill you when he finds out….”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea to bring bubble wrap in today,” Chase says with a smile before heading out.

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

Wednesday, February 7 – Charlotte Airport

With their bags all packed and in hand, Chase and Sarina had made their way to the airport, and were now traveling across the tarmac to the plane. Sarina was set to load the plane, as Chase would go over everything to make sure they were good to travel.

The pair reached the plane in good time, and a simple nod was set to begin things as usual. However, Chase’s feet froze in place as he noticed a wrench sitting by the back wheels, with the engine cover loose. Taking a deep breath, trying to push aside the sudden nerves, he makes his way over and takes off the engine cover.

“Are you kidding me?!?” He questions immediately, seeing oil all over as he shakes his head in disgust.

“What’s wrong?” Sarina wonders, setting the first bag back on the ground as she makes her way over. She then noticed the black liquid all over, followed by the wrench that was beneath. “Well, they made it painfully obvious, like they wanted to get caught….” Chase then notices a piece of paper, picking it up and slowly unfolding it. The same familiar black typewriter typing filled the small piece of white paper.

“Considering this a warning that I can get to you under your skin, and to your skin with a flick of the fingers…” He scrunches up the paper, set to chuck it away, when Sarina grabs his hand. “What are you doing?”

“This is what they want. They want the frustration out of you. They want you to be angry. They want to mess with your head. Remember when you told Kyle that? Take a deep breath, and calm down…” He does as instructed, slowly lowering his hand with the scrunched up paper ball. She uncurls her fingers, taking the paper out of it, dropping it down beside the wrench. “Don’t touch anything else, and let’s call this in. Maybe there are fingerprints on the wrench, or maybe there’s a security camera.” She then looks up into his brown eyes. “Chase, talk to me, please….”

“I’m fine, and you’re right. We need to do the right thing here…”

The pair walked back to the airport offices, reporting the incident. It didn’t take long before they were met with an investigating officer, who took down their statement and went to see the plane scene for evidence. With some time to calm down, Chase also took the time to call the Hendrick security personnel to make sure they were aware of what happened – and they promised that they’d look into it, as well. He then made the decision to call his dad, asking for a favor.

About two hours after the incident, they were in the air and off to Daytona, landing down there in quick fashion.

“Thank you,” Chase says as he takes the final bag off the plane.

“Anytime,” Bill replies as he gives him a hug. “Be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “And I know you’re scared, but you have to know it will work out fine. They’ll figure this out, but you can also call me if you need to talk.”

“Yes sir.” Chase then walks away, bags in hand as Bill looks over at Sarina.

“Keep an eye on him. He’s not saying much and he’s trying to act like this is nothing, but you can tell that it is eating at hi-”

“I know, Bill. I can see that it is too without him saying a word. Trust me when I say this – I will do whatever it takes for him. He’s always done that for me, so now it’s my turn to return the favor.” Bill gives her a hug before watching her hurry to catch up with him, as he says a silent prayer that things indeed worked out.

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

Thursday, February 8 – ARCA Practice – Daytona International Speedway

Once she was done debriefing with the team, Chase walks over and wraps his arms around her shoulders, pulling her back close in his arms.

“Well that’s one way to make an entrance,” she offers, knowing right away it was him by the simple feel, without even a glance down at the arms that now wrapped around her waist.

“I take it that the practice session went well?” He questions and she nods her head. Throughout the three hours, she only had one single complaint near the beginning, but the team made the adjustments accordingly to get the handling where she wanted by herself. Once in the draft later on, there were no issues and the speed was there as she topped it off in the top-10.

“No scratches on the car, and I have to admit that she drives pretty well, too – actually better than last year, if you want to believe it.” Chase hoped that only meant good things as he wasn’t about to relive the Talladega experience once again. He just needed speedweeks to go as smooth as possible – win the clash, win the qualifier, win the 500, and watch her win both of her races. Considering everything going on, anything else to fry his nerves was not on the table.

“I’m glad. A happy driver usually means a good race, so fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly on Saturday.” She then turns around to face him, kissing his lips lightly.

“I can’t wait to see you behind the wheel of the 9.” He smiles, as he had to admit he was over the off-season by any stretch now. It was time to get back to work – and have something for his mind to focus on.

“Seeing those cars on track today, I’m equally excited. Can it be Saturday already?” She chuckles as she wouldn’t mind the same thing, even knowing that she had another practice and qualifying tomorrow.

“Too bad you don’t have a time machine.” He had hoped for the same thing as he takes a deep breath. “Did they call you with any updates?”

“Nope, not a single thing actually.” She then rubs his arms as she keeps her eyes locked on his.

“You know you can talk to me about your fears, right?” He nods his head, accepting. Even still, though, he couldn’t find the words to say. It was one thing to feel it, but another to express it to someone else. “And just like you always told me, it will work out. As long as we have each other, we can do anything and we will get through this. They will find out who’s behind it, find them, and make sure they stay behind bars. They figured out Chris, they figured out Bethany and they did some damage with Allison; they can do the same again.”

“I know…” He then glances down as she keeps her eyes locked on him.

“But?” He takes a deep breath as he intertwines his fingers with hers.

“I just keep wondering what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to get played again, so I keep wondering what the next card they’re going to play is. I keep wondering how I can stay one step ahead so if something happens, I can do what I need to do about it. I also keep wondering what their end game is, and why they’re doing it, and what they want. I just have so many questions that I want answers to.” He then glances back up into her eyes. “Maybe that’s why I can’t wait until Saturday. With racing going on, I won’t have time to think and wonder, and drive myself crazy in the process.”

“Maybe I have a way we can take your mind off of it anyway….” He then looks at her intrigued, with his mind immediately heading for the gutter.

“You can’t always do that to distra-”

“I don’t see you complaining, though.” He chuckles, shaking his head no as she was right – he had no problems with their intimate moments together. “Actually, what if we go out tonight? What if we go to Volusia and watch some dirt racing?” A smile immediately comes to his face, knowing the World of Outlaws were in town, and it’d be nice to see Tony run for a change, along with some others.

“Why are we still standing here?” She laughs back in response, giving him a kiss, before hurrying in the trailer to get changed.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 31: Winter Showdown

Saturday, February 3 – Kern County Speedway – Winter Showdown

Sarina walks out of the bathroom, putting her hair up in a ponytail as she takes a glance at herself in the mirror.

“You should’ve woke me up,” she hears, turning around with a smile. A simple glance at him brought happiness to her.

“I figured you could use the extra sleep,” she comments as he stretches out a little, instantly regretting it as he feels the familiar pain in his knee. “And you should be relaxing, considering….”

“But we could’ve gotten a shower together. After all, I’m going to need a little assistance.” She couldn’t help but chuckle at the grin that had formed on his face in response.

“Oh but Chase, that would not follow along the guidelines of being careful because gloves slip in the shower.” He wanted to stay serious and flirty, but couldn’t help but bust out a laugh in response. “So how sore is your knee, truthfully?”

“About the same…” He then lets out a sigh as he goes to stretch a little more once again, sitting up in the bed. “Really, everywhere hurts now…” From his shoulders to his back, to his legs, it seemed that every spot had grown sore over night. If there was a muscle to be found, it was sore.

“Well, what can you say? You fell down a flight of stairs after all.” He nods his head with a sigh. “If you want to just stay back and relax all day, I’d be fine wit-”

“Are you serious? Do you really think that I’d miss your race because I’m a little sore? Clearly, you don’t get me sweetheart. I’ll be fine. I can come out to the track, and relax while watching you kick some ass.” She smiles back in return, walking over and leaning over the bed as she kisses his lips.

“How about I run you a nice warm bubble bath to relax in while I go get us some breakfast? Then maybe before we head out to the track, I can give you a nice massage…” He couldn’t argue with that as anything that’d help the pain right now would be worth it.

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

“I can’t believe this…” Sarina comments as they make their way through the infield – carefully, as she didn’t want him to further stress himself out.

A glance at the time had told her she was running late, knowing that she’d be showing up to the trailer for the pre-race team meeting a couple minutes late. But, seeing how much the massage had helped Chase, she wasn’t about to complain. She’d just flash a smile and Kyle would get it go, right?

“You’re late,” Rudy states as she walks over and she immediately nods her head in acceptance. Considering her and Rudy were just starting off their relationship together, this was now the second time she was late in a couple of weeks. It was either going to be a good way to get the hiccups out of the way, or proper training for handling crap while during the off-season.

“I know and I apologize,” she immediately says as she helps Chase sit down. “I was giving him a massage as he was sore after yesterday and I lost track of time.” She watches Rudy just roll his eyes as Kyle watches the pair closely.

“Is there all you were doing, Ms. Ott?” He questions as her jaw drops immediately as Rudy couldn’t help but chuckle at seeing her cheeks go red in front of all the crew members.

“That’s not an open topic for discussion in a room of this many peo-” Kyle’s grin widens as he looks over at Chase, before turning back to her.

“When you’re late for a meeting, the reason for your lateness is certainly a topic of discussion. Plus, you’re making yourself appear very guilty in not denying the accusations. I assume that you used the glove.”

“Kyle!” Kyle just chuckles as Sarina’s cheeks were now the darkest shade of red he had seen to date.

“Kyle, we were not having sex for your information,” Chase state as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “She was simply taking care of me because I was sore with a massage – nothing else.”

“Trust me bud – I know how girls take care of their men,” Kyle adds as Chase can only roll his eyes. “Now, let’s get to the topic at hand – winning today.”

The meeting went smoothly, finishing off with the crew members heading out to do their assorted jobs, which just left Kyle with the couple.

“I could kill you,” Sarina starts after the last person had left the trailer, causing him to laugh even harder.

“You made yourself appear more guilty with your comment,” Kyle offers, sticking his tongue out as he grabs a NOS Energy drink from the fridge. “I knew you were innocent and telling the truth, but can you blame me for taking advantage of the situation?”

“You’re just lucky I started those anger management classes….” Kyle chuckles as he leans back against the counter.

“I’m your boss, remember? Kicking your boss’ ass is not in your best intere-”

“Oh really? Because frankly, that’s what I was planning to do today – all 300 laps long.” Kyle looks at her intrigued.

“You got to catch me first, princess.” He then glances over at Chase. “Glad to see your feeling a little better and moving around. Anything else happen?” Chase shakes his head no. “That’s good. Did Ricky tell you that he flew back to North Carolin-”

“I sent him actually,” Chase cuts him off. “I’m a grown adult, and I shouldn’t be depending on him for everything. Besides, he has a job to do today at the Meltdown.”

“Good luck to him beating Bubba (Pollard),” Kyle comments before heading out of the trailer.

“You know, it is okay to ask for help sometimes – even being an adult,” Sarina starts as she places her hand on his leg. “Somebody else taught me that. You don’t need to face the world alone and try to carry it on your shoulders. That’s why you have friends, remember?” He nods his head in approval.

“Just promise me that you’re going to beat Kyle today,” he replies and she just laughs back in response. But with a kiss on his lips, he knew the promise was set to be kept.

Or so he thought.

Starting fourth, Kyle quickly proved that he had his stuff together the way he needed it as it wasn’t long before he took the lead. From there, it was a cake walk as he led the rest of the way en route to scoring the victory.

Meanwhile, Sarina was able to put together a strong performance, driving from 12th to the top-three in the first half of the event. She also kept herself in the mix of the front runners, simply letting the laps countdown as she waited to make her move. But with 30 to go, she began to lose a bit of power with a carburetor issue, ultimately ending up fifth.

“Considering the issues you had, I am very proud of how you handled it,” Chase tells her, giving her a kiss afterwards.

“That’s much better than hitting the wall,” she offers and he nods his head in agreement. “Next stop – Daytona. Ready to get the party started?”

“Absolutely. I see a checkered flag destiny in our future.” She smiles as she had no complaints about that – even if nerves would probably consume them both in the process watching each other.

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

Tuesday, February 6 – Hendrick Motorsports

Chase makes his way into the conference room, taking his seat at the long table. Glancing around the room, he couldn’t help but smile. Through the off-season, the meetings had grown quite dry and boring with not a lot to discuss. However, with Speedweeks kicking off that weekend, it was certain that there’d be more topics on-hand this time around.

“So I hear we can’t be kicking you in the leg,” Chad Avrit comments as he sits down beside him. Chase then glances over at the crew member confused.

“Why would you want to kick me anyway?” He wonders as Chad shrugs his shoulders.

“How does one slip on a banana peel in the grandstands and fall down a couple flights of steps?” Chase sighs as he still didn’t have a clear answer, except that someone was up to something as discussed with Kyle, Ricky and Sarina. He had already done the due diligence of mentioning something to the crew members and the media team at Hendrick on Monday. “Is it feeling any better?”

“The swelling has come down and it’s not as sore.” Chase then reaches down, pulling up his pant leg to show his knee to Chad, who immediately squirms a little.

“Dude, that’s every shade of color imaginable!” Chase nods his head in agreement as he puts his pant leg back down. “Least it wasn’t any worse. I mean, I’d take that over having broken ribs like the past two years.” Chase then gives him a look, matching the same one that Ricky got for a similar comment a couple days prior.

“There’s still time between now and Daytona.” Chad immediately freezes up, taking out his phone and going on Google. “What are you doing?”

“Seeing if I can have a human sized bubble wrap body suit shipped over night to stuff you in.” Chase rolls his eyes, but couldn’t help but chuckle in response.

“I think I could bring a big roll in for you tomorrow to wrap him in,” Jared Erspamer comments, and Chad looks over, nodding his head in approval.

“You bring that, I’ll bring the masking tape, and you sir just make sure you’re here,” Chad instructs as Chase just shakes his head in disbelief. How was this actually happening?

“Can I video tape this?” Jared Seate offers as Chase glances down the table his way.

“I thought you said that you’d behave this year,” Chase comments as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Now now, Chase, would that any fun if you didn’t have someone to cause trouble?” Chase lets out a sigh, shaking his head no, while also wishing inside that there was not another kind of trouble to deal with. “Besides, I could turn you into a human basketball if we make the shape turn out properly.”

“More like a snowball,” Chad offers as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“How did we get stuck with this group, Alan?” Chase finally questions as Alan chuckles from the head of the table as he goes through his notes.

“I don’t know,” Alan answers. “Would you like me to see if I can trade them in?”

“Hey!” Everybody lets out together as Alan just chuckles.

“There is an important matter to address before we get started,” Chad begins as he glances at Chase’s hand, picking it up with his own, before setting it down. “Not engaged, yet.”

“Chad, what did I say about the engag-” Alan starts with an eye roll of his own.

“No, I would like to address this, actually,” Chase interrupts, catching the crew chief off-guard. “Guys, I appreciate your compliments and concerns about my love and my personal life. It’s flattering to see how much you care, actually. But, I can assure you, engagement isn’t something that’s happening in the next week, two weeks, or possibly month. Will it happen down the road? Absolutely, but not right now as the time isn’t right. Sarina and I talked about it and we agreed to hold off a bit. So knowing that, I’d appreciate if you guys didn’t ask me every single time I walked into a room with a smile on my face. When the time comes, don’t worry – I’ll gladly tell you.” The crew members nod their head in acceptance, as Chase looked around the room. Seeing their smiles in return, he knew that his words would only hold true for a couple weeks before someone started again.

“The smile just means that he did the wanky doodl-” Jared Seate whispers to Chad.

“I heard that!” Jared glances around Chase, sticking his tongue out. “You know, NASCAR has cut us down from six crew members to five. I could easily rid of you.” Jared then looks back in fear as the rest of the guys laugh.

“Remember I was the one that got Sarin-”

“To call you and reunite,” a couple of the other guys finish it off as Alan and Chase both laugh.

“Can you please get rid of him?” Chad wonders. “He’s annoying!”

“He also doesn’t know when to shut up,” Jared Erspamer adds as Chase chuckles.

“Sorry guys, but he actually is good at his job,” Chase offers as Jared Seate simply smiles in approval. “Now, Alan, please begin this meeting accordingly….”

Following the meeting, Chase retreated back to his office, knowing that Morgan had left him some fan mail that had come in while he was away during the winter. Admittedly, he was caught off-guard by how many packages littered his desk.

“Mr. Popular, huh?” Alan questions, peeking in as Chase sits down, grabbing the first package off the desk.

“It’s insane, really,” Chase answers as he reads over the first note. “It’s almost surreal. I mean, I know how they feel watching the Bulldogs, so to see someone that flattered over me, it just doesn’t seem real…” After reading the note inside, he autographs the item they sent to be signed, before putting it in the new envelope and setting it aside.

“Get used to it. You got a long career to go in this sport, and the fans aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, the fan base is only going to grow.” Chase knew that, having heard those familiar comments from everyone. But it still didn’t ease the feeling at all.

He continued going through the assortment of packages, signing what needed to be autographed along the way, almost halfway through the stack. As he picked up the next one and ripped it off, it immediately caught him off-guard.

He slowly takes the note out, seeing the same familiar type that was used on the note in the grandstands.

“Glad to see I got your attention,” he reads, causing Alan to glances over curious. Alan had been working in Chase’s office on his laptop, asking a couple questions here and there as he worked through his notes.

“What was that?” Alan wonders as Chase turns the note into a paper airplane, sending it over to Alan. “Wow, not only do you fly real airplanes but you’re a master of paper ones…” Alan picks it up and unfolds it as Chase digs further into the envelope. “Weird…” Alan looks back over as he sees Chase reading something. “What is that?”

“A newspaper article, dated January 2016. It details the plane crash that Sarina and I had.” Alan was now confused as he sets his laptop aside, walking over to the young man’s desk. “Then there’s also a DVD in here…” Alan looks over the case, reading the label.

“It’s a DVD of the security camera footage at the airport.” Chase nods his head, having seen that already as he dispenses the remaining contents on his desk.

“There’s also a full breakdown of how Chris tampered with the engine to cause the cra-”

“What the hell?” Alan picks that piece of paper up, looking it over as his eyes catch Chase’s. “Why would someone send something like this?” A thought immediately came to Chase’s mind as he glanced back to the original note.

“Someone who is trying to mess with me and get in my head. The same person who left me that note in California, and possibly said those comments in the hotel lobby. They could’ve also been responsible for the banana.” Chase looks over the scattered contents on his desk. “It’s someone that’s trying to drive me insane with reminders of what happened, and make me just lose my mind.”

“Clearly they don’t know who they’re messing with….” Chase wanted to feel as confident as Alan made him seem, but he couldn’t echo the same sentiment as quickly as his crew chief.

“This person isn’t just anybody, though. You just don’t come across that DVD footage or the diagram, Alan.” Chase bundles it all up together. “This is someone that has access to everything someho-”

“Allison.” Chase slowly nods his head as he takes a calming deep breath. There was no other person that came to his mind that would even have a chance at accessing this information. “Chase….”

“I don’t get afraid easy. I’m ready to take on anything head on as easily as anybody.  But I can damn well admit to your face today that she scares the crap out of me. She played my weaknesses perfectly the last time that we crossed paths. She knew I wouldn’t turn my back on Sarina, and she knew I’d do anything for you and the guys. You know what happ-”

“That’s not ever going to happen, agai-”

“How do you know that for sure?” Alan takes a deep breath as his eyes locked on the young driver before him.

“Because mark my word, me and this team will do everything in our power to protect you and Sarina, because I am never walking down that path ever again. There is no way. Do you understand me?” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Now, what are you going to do with that?”

“I was going to take it down to Morgan, and then turn it over to campus security.” Alan couldn’t help but agree with the young driver’s initiatives as Chase stood up, stuffing it back in the original envelope.

“Chase, no matter what happens, you can always come to me with your concerns – no matter the time or day.”

“Thank you.” Chase then walks out of the office with everything in hand as Alan takes a deep breath. The crew chief could only shake his head in response.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 185: Christmas Cheer!

Friday, December 8 – Hendrick Motorsports

The next two days were for the most part quiet. Chase finished up the production shoots he needed to do ahead of 2017, while getting in some reading time to check a couple more pages off in the book. Sarina, meanwhile, focused her energy into planning how the Christmas decorating was going to go once they go to the cabin.

But once Friday hit, that was all put on the back burner as it was going to be another busy day for them both.

“I still can’t believe I’m here with you…” Sarina muses as Chase parks in the back parking lot.

“What do you mean?” He questions with a glance towards her.

“I drive for Kyle, but yet I’m here on Hendrick proper-”

“Kyle lets me stop by your shop to see you, and he did invite me to your Christmas party. We also spend a lot of time in each other’s haulers on race weekends. I don’t see how this is any different.” She lets out a sigh as they both get out of the car together.

“It’s like I’m stepping on NASCAR sacred ground. Hendrick Motorsports is one of those always been here, top teams no matter what, and damn Chase, its surreal for someone like me who never imagined that she’d have a chance to be here in this sport. Plus, I am breaking every single rule that they say about competition and how you’re not supposed to be on your competitor’s turf because they will say you’re spying.” Chase laughs, remembering how both Christopher and Kyle had teased him about that numerous times.

“Trust me – it’s fine. It’s not like the boys will be doing anything of the secret variety. Well, except picking on you…” She rolls her eyes as she follows him through the back door.

As she enters, her jaw drops immediately as she was amazed at the space, organization, how clean it was, how professional everyone looked. She just shakes her head, glancing around in amazement, as she follows Chase to where they were headed.

“Hey!” Alan notices them immediately, walking over and giving each of them a hug. “It’s nice to see that you could make it today.”

“And miss seeing you? That’d be evil,” Sarina comments as Alan simply smiles back in return. Sarina had always kept a special admiration for the crew chief. It wasn’t lost on her that he had saved Chase’s ass in a big way twice now, and one of those times was partially her fault to begin with. She never took for granted what he was able to do for his driver.

“Well I’m glad you’re not a Grinch…” Chase then wraps an arm around her, smiling.

“Actually, she’s like one of those crazy elfs,” he starts. “She can’t wait to decorate as she was blabbing my ear off in Florida about how she can’t wait to get a tree, and make it look pretty, and then make the cabin look absolutely insane Christmas-y with lots of decorations.” Alan crosses his arms as he looks between the pair.

“Cabin, huh?” Alan questions. “Are we off to Colorado next week?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, which only caused the crew chief to take a careful deep breath. He knew what the trip would entail. “Just promise me, and swear to me that you’ll be careful. With your luck, I don’t want to be getting a phone call that you went tumbling down the mountain and broke a leg, or a foot, or worse.”

“I’ll be careful – like always. I’m a seasoned pro.” Alan rolls his eyes, knowing how that went.

“Hey Jared, your favorite female is looking for you,” Jordan Allen then chimes in from his perch. “She’s hear to fulfill her promise.” Sarina just rolls her eyes, watching as Jared makes his way over to the group.

“Haven’t you learned, Jordan? We found a truce,” Jared Seate begins with a smile towards Sarina. “She actually admitted that she likes me, and I was part of the reason why she was able to get back with Chase. So rather than planning my funeral, you can kiss my ass because I have a new friend now.” Sarina laughs as Jordan rolls his eyes, walking away.

“I wasn’t quite that sweet about it,” Sarina confesses as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“Okay, so maybe not. But admit – you like me…” Sarina could only roll her eyes back now as Jared looks at her surprised. “Then I guess I should’ve just not called you that night.” Sarina closes her eyes, thinking back to the beginning of the year and remembering how upset and angry she was. Taking a deep breath, Jared had a good point as she probably would’ve waited longer without his message. However, he could never know that.

“I appreciate you reaching out and for what you did. But, like Chase told you, he knew I’d reach out eventually. I could never go on without him.” Chase smiles, wrapping an arm around her to keep her held close to him.

“You guys are too sappy for your own good,” Alan offers, before walking away. “Can we get these games started?” Sarina then glances over at Chase confused.

“Games?” She questions and all he could do was simply nod his head in return. “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I didn’t want to scare you off,” he replies, giving her a quick kiss. “Besides, these are fun games.” They all circle around Eddie, who has a list of the games for the day in his hand, eying the group with pride.  This was going to get interesting. “Who made you game commissioner?”

“I get the first two games, before we get the whole shop together,” Eddie offers. “I was given the list, so that makes me the boss. If you have any objections, all I have to say is bah-humbug.” Chase chuckles as he crosses his arms. “I am going to split you into four teams of three, as the first event is a relay race.”

“Oh lawdy….” Josh Kirk muses, knowing that this wasn’t going to go pretty, considering they all attempted to trip each other last year.

“Why can’t we choose our teammates?” Jared Seate wonders, earning a glance from Eddie.

“Because that’d be too easy,” Eddie replies, shuffling a bunch of names around in a hat. “I’m going to pull our names. First three are team one, next three are team two, and well, you get the damn idea.” Eddie reaches his hand in the bucket, pulling out three pieces of paper. “Team A – Josh, Chad, and Sarina.” Jared rolls his eyes immediately, as Chase silently curses to himself. “Team B – Jordan, Jared Seate, and Alan.” Jared’s eyes roll immediately.

“I get the worse team? Really?”

“Hey now!” Alan lets out, looking obviously offended.

“I can run, you know?” Jordan adds as Jared only rolls his eyes.

“Ah, the Christmas spirit is alive and well,” Eddie comments as he reaches his hand back in. “Team C – Jared Erspamer, John, and myself. That means the final team will be Nick, Travis and Chase.”

“You would obviously get the two best runners on your team, superstar.” Chase sticks his tongue out as they get all lined up ready to go.

“Rules are simple. Grab the Christmas tree, run to the other end of the shop, and run back without losing a single jingle bell.  If you drop a bell, you must stop, pick it up, and put it back on. Each team member must do one run. First team to complete and not lose their balls will be the winner.”

“Wait – some of us don’t have balls,” Jared cracks, earning a smack across the forehead from Alan. “Hey!”

“No, we just have them on our chest, and if you stare – you’ll find out how painful it hurts to twist your own,” Sarina offers back, causing a couple shocked glances.

“I like our new teammate,” Josh comments, earning a nod of agreement from Chad.

The relay started off smooth, but it wasn’t long before the balls were bouncing off trees, across the floor. Chase knew his team was out of it when he had to chase a ball halfway across the shop, dropping some more along the way. Sarina watched as Josh and Chad perfected the art, and she was able to get from the start to the other end without losing a single ball. However, on the trip back, one of them bounced off. She was able to quickly pick it up and put it back on – but it was too late. Eddie crossed the line with his tree perfectly in tack seconds ahead of her, handing his team the win.

“I feel like shit,” Sarina comments as makes her way over to Josh and Chad. “You guys were perfect, and I blew it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Chad Avrit assures her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “You did your best, and that’s what matters. We’re here to have fun, right?”

“Besides, I was more entertained watching Chase run after balls all over,” Josh Kirk adds, causing a chuckle to escape her lips.

“That was amusing…” She offers as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite race – two to tangle,” Eddie announces, causing Sarina to look over confused. “The rules are simple – you will be divided into teams of two. You are to tie a left shoe lace to your partner’s right shoe lace, and each wear a hand-cuff. You must hop, run, whatever you can to stop one – where you must decorate five cookies together. Then you go to stage two, where you decorate the Christmas tree. And then you can go to stage three, where you have to untangle the lights for outside. If you can do all that, and make it to the finish first, you win. But the pair that comes in dead last must remained hand-cuffed together all day long – yes, including dinner.”

“He’s joking, right?” Sarina questions and Josh shakes his head no, glancing over at Jordan.

“His mistake last year ended up resulting in us tied together all day long,” Josh reveals as Sarina looks over shocked. “When it comes to these games, we don’t kid around. This gets a little interesting….”

“Seriously?” Chase nods his head as he crosses his arms. He hoped he got a good partner that would allow him to complete the course with ease. However, if for some reason that failed, he wanted someone that he wouldn’t murder by day’s end.

“So here we go….” Eddie says, reaching his hand into the bag of names. “Team A will consist of Jordan and Nick.” A couple cheers escaped, as nobody wanted to be stuck with Jordan again this year for another mistake. “Team B will consist of Travis and Jared Seate.” Sarina said a quick thank you to herself as she was worried about being stuck with Jared. “Team C will consist of John and myself.”

“I would laugh if we ended up together,” Chase whispers to Sarina as she just smiles in return.

“Team D will consist of Sarina and Alan.” Chase let out a quiet sigh, as Sarina smiled. If she was going to be stuck to someone, it might as well be Alan as at least she knew him pretty well. Actually, he was probably the best person of the group to do this with – except for Chase, obviously. “Team E will Jared Erspamer and Chase, making Team F consisting of Josh and Chad.” Chase walks over to Jared, affixing a cuff to himself, before holding it out for him, as he takes a deep breath.

“Listen, I’m going to make sure to not screw this up,” Chase starts, catching Jared Erspamer’s attention. “I still feel rotten and terrible about what happened in Ma-”

“It’s not your fault that Chris poisio-” Jared interrupts him, but Chase shakes his head.

“He was after me and Sarina. He never should’ve touched you guys, or any of her guys, or Ryan, or Bubba. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.” Chase takes a deep breath. “Anyways, I owe you something – redemption. So let’s get ourselves a win, alright?”

“Just don’t be throwing the balls across the shop….” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing he would probably hear about that for weeks now.

As expected, the game turned intriguing right away with tons of laughs throughout as crew members tripped, items got dropped, and a couple cookies got eaten in the process. Despite Chase and Jared’s best effort together, it wasn’t their turn to pick up the crown. Instead the honor went to Sarina and Alan, who seemed to perfect their partnership immediately. The bottom of the pile – well, that honor went to Chase.

“Last in both games….” Jared Seate comments as he shakes his head. “Is this really happening?”

“I hate those damn balls,” Chase says as he places the last one of the lost balls on the table. He then glances at his partner with a sigh. “I’m sorry….”

“It’s my fault, too,” Jared Erspamer replies. “Looks like we’re stuck together….”

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

Friday, December 8 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

“Are you glad to be finally free of your partner in crime?” Sarina asks, having chuckled the whole way from Hendrick Motorsports to Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was hilarious watching Chase and Jared try to play some of the other games, and of course eating did not go smoothly, as predicted.

“Did you have fun at my expense, at least?” Chase wonders and Sarina nods her head. “Now I don’t know. Maybe I would’ve preferred to stay connected to my partner than be here…” Sarina laughs as they reach the door.

“I just hope Kyle didn’t go too crazy this year.” They then walk inside, meeting face-to-face immediately with Kyle, who was sitting on a big green couch with an evil grin on his face.

“My oh my, you guys have arrived…” Kyle muses as Chase looks at him with odd curiousity.

“This is somewhat creepy…” Chase comments as Sarina chuckles.

“You haven’t seen nothing yet,” she offers, giving Chase an immediate look of fear.

“I am not wearing this damn thing!” They hear yelled from behind the curtain and Kyle breaks out laughing.

“Come show off your new sweater, Bell,” Kyle requests as Christopher lets out a sigh.

“This is evil. I know we were bad this year and annoyed you, but this is ridiculous.” Christopher then emerges from behind the curtain, wearing a red sweater with a big bell attached to the back, including a string to be rung. “Ring my bell so I feel swell? How the hell did you come up with that?”

“I almost wrote ring my bell so I don’t go to hell – but I thought that was a little over the top.” Chase looks at Sarina, feeling even more fear and anxiety over what was planned now. What had he gotten himself into? “Now, my next victim – I mean sweet dear individual. Take this package and place it on.” Sarina takes the bag, glancing at Chase with a tinge of her own fear, before retreating behind the curtain. “After she is changed, I have something special for you.”

“It wouldn’t have to deal with base, would it?” Chase wonders, trying to rhyme every word he could in his head.

“I don’t play rhyme gam-” Kyle starts.

“Are you kidding me, Kyle?” Sarina interrupts them as she puts on the sweater. “I seriously tell you about that, and you make a sweater out of it?” Kyle smiles even more, causing confusion to be written over Chase’s face.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Sarina had other thoughts than that, including being set to land a punch on someone’s face. “Please, oh please, come share your prize…”

“I could kill you right now, Kyle!” Kyle chuckles as she emerges from the curtain. Kyle had gotten a navy blue sweater, which now had an enlarged snowglobe sticking out the front of it, with a picture of Chase inside of it. “Like, really?”

“What do you think, Elliott?” Chase shakes his head in disbelief. This was getting ridiculous. “Oh, and if you press the button right underneath it, there are some fake snow falling acti-”

“Are you doing this to get coal in your stocking this year?” Kyle looks over, surprised, as Sarina sticks her tongue out.

“Oh Sarina, I’ve been a good little boy all year long. Santa is going to make sure to treat me well. Besides, I thought it was adorable.” Sarina sits down beside Christopher, shaking her head.

“Want to meet me on April Fool’s Day?” Christopher laughs, but couldn’t help but agree.

“Mr. Elliott, are you ready for your package?” Chase looks on with fear on his face, but takes the bag gracefully. “I hope I got the right size.”

“Can I run away now?” Chase asks and Sarina shakes her head no.

“If I have to play along with this snow globe and deal with Mr. Seate teasing me all day, then you can handle wearing that for at least 15 minutes of jokes,” Sarina answers as Chase lets out a sigh.

“Figures…” He then retreats behind the curtain, opening up the box. “There is no way that this is happening!”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 169: “Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?”

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

“You seem like you’re in a happy mood….” Josh comments as he makes his way over to Chase in the garage stall. Chase simply glances over at the car chief with a smile.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Chase questions. “Second quickest, happy with how the car feels, ready to perfect it the next session. I have nothing to complain about.”

“That’s probably more than you could say about last night…” Chase looks on intrigued, but immediately caught the reference. He figured that the guys would bring up what happened with Christopher and Sarina eventually.

“I heard you were playing referee,” Jordan adds as he glances over at the group assembling.

“I don’t see Sarina anywhere either,” Jared Seate continues the comments as Chase could only roll his eyes. “Time out?”

“No, she was feeling a little sore this morning so I told her to relax today,” Chase comments. “And sure, I may have played referee…”

“Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?” Jared questions and Jordan nods his head.

“Are you honestly surprised?” Jordan asks back in response and Jared shakes his head no. Chase could only imagine the teasing if they knew the plan for later. “But I really want to know what happened when she and Christopher meant face-to-face.”

“He apologized right away,” Chase tells them. “No questions asked, simply said sorry. She accepted the thought, but admitted she wouldn’t feel perfectly right about what happened for awhile.”

“Can’t blame her,” Josh comments as Jordan still had his arms crossed. There had to be more to the story.

“No punches or shoving?” Jordan questions and Chase shakes his head no. “Man, you got to be lying. I mean, you’re covering for Kyle or something. You can’t tell me that nothing happe-”

“Go ask Christopher or Sarina yourself,” Chase cuts him off. “Look, they’re friends and even in anger, she knew that he didn’t mean it 100%. It’s hard racing, and sometimes contact happens.”

“So you’d be cool if same thing happened with, say Jimmie?” Josh questions and Chase rolls his eyes. Why were they still discussing this?

“No, I’d be mad as she was initially. However, I’d come to understand that it was hard racing.” Josh nods his head, accepting. “Alright, we got another practice to focus on….”

“Should we wonder if he has a treat to take care of the lady later?” Jared asks Josh as Chase walks away. Josh just gives him a quick glance.

“Did you not learn earlier this year to keep outta the man’s business?” Josh wonders and Jared simply shrugs his shoulders.

“They weren’t talking at one point. Who made the girl surprise him at home and get them back on the same page?” Josh rolls his eyes immediately.

“Are you going to hold that over his head forever?” Jared simply smiles in return as he goes to do his job. “You son of a bitch….”

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

With practice in the books, Chase made his way back to the motorcoach to see Sarina. Certainly, the second session did not go as well as the first as he was 17th on the charts – which meant that those experiments by Alan were a failure. Hopefully when they started the race on Sunday, the set-up was something they used in the first session.

He makes his way into the bedsroom as he slips off his firesuit, instantly smiling as he spots her immediately curled up in the blankets.

“Feeling any better?” He questions as he hangs the suit up in the closet.

“With this type of view, how can a girl think about any pain that she’s in?” She asks in response as he simply looks back with a grin. “I mean, the next best thing would maybe be a Magic Mike dance, or strip show…”

“That’s totally not happening.” She then pouts as he could only giggle back in response. “I’m serious….”

“I guess I’ll take what I can get…” Besides, how was a lady supposed to complain in seeing her man stripped down to boxers and an undershirt? The next best thing would only be to take that off, too. “And, actually, your relaxation idea worked perfectly. Muscles are feeling a little better and not as sore. Maybe once and awhile it wouldn’t hurt to take a step back.”

“So aren’t you glad that you listened?” She smiles as she grabs her hand, pulling her close to the bed.

“You did say, though, that you’d make it worth my while. Can I cash in my payment?” He then laughs as he flops back on the bed.

“I don’t know. Have you been a good little girl?” She then rolls her eyes.

“When am I not a good little girl? I mean, I did listen to you last night and didn’t kick Christopher’s ass. I mean, I could’ve snuck out today and kicked it while you were busy.” He then glances back at her surprised. Did he really just hear that?

“Please tell me that you’re not mad at him still…” She lets out a sigh. She wanted to be mad as she hated to lose as much as anybody – if not more, and hated how tore up the truck was. But, his apology was worthy.

“Why do some people make it so hard to stay mad at them?” Chase smiles, knowing what she meant immediately.

“See, you’re a good little girl. You’re beginning to see things…” She then moves a little further down to the bed to be closer to him at the bottom.

“So, what’s my payment cutie?” He looks over, his smile matching hers immediately.

“I was thinking I give you a nice massage while we watch the XFINITY race, and then I take you out for a nice dinner.” She smiles in response, certainly approving the suggestion.

“I say after dinner, we come back and cuddle up with a movie.” He nods his head in agreement.

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

After Chase had made his way to driver introductions, Sarina headed out to pit road, giving Samantha and Brexton a quick hello, before making her way to where the No. 24 Chevrolet sat.

It didn’t surprise her to see Hootie sitting up on the roof, perfectly placed after some of the pre-race Hooters photos; she even caught the sponsor representative taking a quick photo. She smiles as she reached into her pocket, placing a green beanie baby beside him.

“Did that just out of your pocket?” She hears and glances back, seeing Cindy standing there. She nods her head, feeling a tinge of nerves in wondering how Mommy would accept it. “He’s cute….”

“That’s my lucky buddy Shamrock,” Sarina reveals. “Let’s just say that he came from a friend one night, and gave me some extra luck that gave me a special victory. I figured someone could use him today.” Cindy could only glance back with a smile, as she snapped a quick photo on her phone.

“Hootie and Shamrock look great together. Hopefully your plan pays off…” Sarina holds up a pair of crossed fingers.

“You were ready to kill Hootie at one point,” she then hears as she takes her own photo of the pair, recognizing the voice immediately. She then feels a pair of arms wrap around her, and she instantly leans back in them. “And now I hear you given him a friend. Do I get an explanation?”

“When Hootie and I met at Talladega, you’re right – I was ready to murder him,” she tells him. “However, I took your advice and gave him a bath and tried to be nice to the little guy. Besides, he is kind of cute. Then last week at Texas, he redeemed himself with a decent run. So now I figure if I give him a lucky friend, he’ll make some magic happen for you.”

“I hope you’re right…” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before walking over to the guys for a last minute conversation.

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

“Alright, it’s show time here,” Eddie says over the radio. “All we gotta do is do it all day long here.”

Sarina takes a deep breath as she takes her usual seat on the pit box, headset on her head, ready to endure a race that would probably seem like it was 24 hours long. She knew it was just another race, just another day at the track. However, what could possibly happen with the result of a good day didn’t leave her mind. What if today was the day?

Her hopes instantly opened up as she watched him take the lead on Lap 12, passing Ryan Blaney for the top spot. So far, so good, as the car seemed to be handling great with consistent lap times. But, it was early, so she couldn’t get ahead of herself either.

Everything seemed smooth until Lap 26 as she watched the No. 11 FedEx Toyota begin to close the gap to the rear bumper. Her eyes opened wide and she shook her head in surprise, combined with some anger mixed in probably too, as a small bump saw Denny go by for the top spot two laps later. She had to grin as she watched Chase give him a small bump in return entering turn one, putting himself back out front.

“That’s my boy,” she comments to herself. It was nice to see him standing his ground and not taking Denny’s crap. Though a sigh escaped her lips as Denny passed him back a lap later, beginning to pull away.

“Stay with it, nice and smooth,” Alan says over the radio, set to keep his driver focused on the bigger picture. Yes, it sucked that it was Denny leading. Certainly, Denny would be the worst person to see transfer to the next round or win today. But there was still a long way to go and they wouldn’t get there if they let him get into his head.

The first stage finished off solidly, as he crossed the line in third behind Denny and Kyle Larson. She then watched him come down pit road – tires off, tires on, fuel inserted, and pull off easily. Letting out a sigh, she almost let out a curse word in seeing him drop two spots to fifth

“Lots of time,” she reminded herself with a deep breath.

While she tried to stay positive and focused, admittedly her heart was almost set to break in watching the second stage. Fighting a loose condition throughout the run, he slipped back one position at a time, ultimately finishing the stage in ninth. Letting out a sigh, this certainly wasn’t helping their cause at all. Something had to change, and soon….

She somehow managed to keep her wits about her, and slowly things started to turn around. Alan’s adjustments paid off as with 100 laps to go, he was back to being happy with the overall balance, set to make his way to the front, already up a spot to eighth. Though closing the gap to those ahead wasn’t coming easy, with everybody’s times being so close together.

“What line are they running?” He asked a couple times on the radio, looking for anything to make up the ground.

Everybody felt almost stuck in a routine, till she felt a tap on her arm from Jordan Allan and instantly glanced at the big screen, watching Trevor Bayne blow a tire and hit the wall. Perfectly timed caution as that’d help with the problem. Now if they could make something happen.

“Really used the brakes today,” Chase comments over the radio. “They’re used up. I don’t think heat is the issue, but they’re used up…” She felt her heart sink in the thought of a problem, but knew that she couldn’t panic. He was a big boy, and he could handle the brake issue.

“Come on Shamrock, come on Hootie…” She says, clutching tighter to the pair of stuffed animals in her hands. After he had climbed in, she had been put on babysitting duty for the pair, according to practically everybody on the team since Shamrock was hers anyway. She just hoped that it didn’t result in Hootie going flying off the pit box at some point.

The restart went perfectly, as she found herself on the edge of her seat, more impressed than usual as she watched him crack the top-five with a pass on Kevin Harvick.

“Keep it rolling, best lap times….” Eddie D’Hondt encourages, which was backed up by his performance on track as he got around Erik Jones to move up into fourth. Three more spots to go now. “All clear. We’re coming to the party, boys!” The smile only grew more as it seemed like destiny now.

It didn’t take long for another yellow flag to come out, though, as Chris Buescher blew a brake rotor and hit the wall with 61 laps to go. Perhaps another restart would be perfect….

“I don’t know what that was, but that was balls out!” Chase comes over the radio. “That was really good.” She couldn’t help but agree in watching him go from eighth to fourth in 10 laps. Maybe rubbing the pets was a good idea as she gave them both another rub.

“What the hell is that?” Jordan catches her attention, pointing to big screen. Her jaw drops as she sees the safer barrier on fire.

“Is that really happening?” She questions and Jordan nods his head. “So much for being fire retardant…” She almost had to laugh as if something would happen in these playoffs, it seemed to take place.

Once the fire was out and they lined up for the restart, she takes a deep breath. It was now or never, and anything was possible in Phoenix. She just hoped it played in their favor.

Once again, he got the restart of his life, going from fourth to second before the caution flew once again, now with 50 laps to go, for someone in the back hitting the wall.

“Our car likes these short runs,” Chase says over the radio afterwards. While these runs made her more nervous than she could take at times, she was willing to deal if he continued to move forward like this. Just make sure to have some gum and tums ready, too.

Unfortunately, this restart did not pan out as she wanted as he fell back to fourth. More importantly – Denny was now right there in front of them. Letting out a sigh, it seemed no matter what they couldn’t get away from each other all day. This was not what they needed right now.

She even found herself cursing a little, ready to punch Denny herself post-race, as she watched the pair trade contact back and forth. She knew if this kept up, the laps would just continue to tick away and everything they were truly working towards would not happen.

As Chase got underneath Denny through the dog leg, her hand clenched into a fist, pumping up and down on her knee, small cheers filling her in hopes that this time he would complete the pass. She ten watches them through turns three and four, followed by contact off the corner as Denny got into the wall. She couldn’t help but smile in watching Chase clear him.

“All clear,” Eddie goes on the radio, not even deterred by the contact. “Flip your bead fans on now. Nice and smooth…

“Well played Chase,” Sarina couldn’t help but comment herself as the smile remained in seeing the tire smoke off of the No. 11 Toyota. It wasn’t a direct payback or wreck that you’d replay over and over, and know it was purposely done. It was enough contact to send a message and do the damage – without going say overboard. Perfectly short track executed.

Of course, her smile only widened some more in seeing the tire blow out for Denny, followed by him hitting the outside wall.

“Oh snap!” Jordan lets out with a high-five to a couple of the crew members.

“Can I get that on replay please?” Sarina questions, almost to the point where she wanted to break out laughing. She knew there was going to be a reward for that move.

Though with Denny out of the picture, it was time to focus on what they were there to do. They had a fast enough car; now it was just making it happen.

Her smile didn’t even get a chance to fade as her eyes locked on the restart with 30 laps to go, seeing Chase take the top spot.

“All clear, all clear,” Eddie says over the radio. “Alright, nice and smooth now….”

She just needed to find a way to be calm and collected. 30 more laps. They could do this, finally.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 148: “Guilty.”

Friday, September 8 – Richmond International Raceway

2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series, Richmond

Chase lets out a sigh as he leans back against the tool chest in the garage stall, having just checked his phone for what seemed like the millionth time that day. All he wanted was the perfect update, and a decent result from where Sarina was, and he would be pleased. It was supposed to be a simple process, anyway.

“What crawled up your ass?” Chad Avrit comments, noticing the glance on Chase’s face. “I mean, we weren’t that bad in practice…” Alan glances over, picking up the same vibe from Chase – which just didn’t seem right in how well he knew him. However, he also knew boundaries, too.

“Chad….” Alan says quietly, catching a look from Chad. Alan turns his glance back even sterner, before looking towards Chase with a look of concern. He knew that Chase knew he could bring any concerns to him, no matter what.

“Hey, where’s Sarina anyway?” Travis questions as he climbs out from underneath the car. Chase just rolls his eyes, preferring to not talk about it with the crew guys.

“Oh gosh….” Jared Seate lets out, having caught the eye roll. “You guys better not be fighting again. I will scream. I mean, what is it gonna take for you both to realiz-”

“We’re not fighting or anything like that!” Chase lets out as he takes another glance at his phone. He then takes a deep breath, as he sees no updates yet, putting it back up.

“Dude, I didn’t mean to tick you off,” Travis starts. “I just was asking casual question wise. I mean, I would expect her to be here. I mean, it’s not like her to miss a weekend when she’s off….” Chase nods his head, understanding that, relaxing himself. Perhaps he should’ve given the guys a benefit of doubt.

“It’s fine – I’m sorry I snapped. She’s not here because she has court today.” Travis nods his head, understanding. The guys could all get behind the frustration with that after what they witnessed together. “Bethany is filing her plead today for charges of conspiracy and forcing Allison. Sarina went to witness it so at least one of us were there. Christopher and Marcus went with her.”

“So why aren’t you there?” Josh questions as Chase looks his way.

“Cause I’m here,” Chase answers and it was Josh’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Obviously, smartass. But I mean, you should be there, too….” Chase knew that, but that wasn’t in the cards.

“I couldn’t miss practice and qualifying for tomorrow.  I did even bring up missing one of the practices and let’s just say – never again. Sarina about cut my head off. She told me my focus should be here making the playoffs.” The crew nods their head in response, split in what they would’ve done.

“So instead you’re here, nervous about what’s happening, waiting for updates, hoping she’s okay?” Chad wonders and Chase nods his head as he glances back over at him. “I totally get that, and I apologize for my comment. It wasn’t my business…” Chase smiles, as it was nice to have the crew all on his side.

“It’s fine,” he tells them.

“We’ve got your back, by the way,” Travis adds as he pats Chase’s shoulder.

“Chase!” They hear, causing them to look straight at Morgan. “Media availability now…” He lets out a sigh, walking out of the garage to follow her to the media center.

“Don’t push him to give an update later or on how he is feeling, got it?” Alan questions, looking at the various crew members. They all nod their heads accepting in response, before focusing back on their jobs.

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

Friday, September 8 – Indiana Court Room

Sarina sat there watching as Bethany Adams stood up before the judge, full eye stare turned on as she wished she could get up and slap her across the face. It was ridiculous to be even here right now.

When did this things go chaotic like this?

“Are you okay?” Christopher whispers and Sarina nods her head.

“Just resisting the urge to kick her ass,” Sarina answers and Christopher smiles. He wouldn’t blame her if she did, truthfully.

“I’ll pay your bail if you do.” Sarina laughs as that was a nice offer – and tempting enough.

“Don’t give her ideas,” Marcus joins in. “We already got enough anger management going on with Kyle…” Christopher and Sarina both smile, knowing the boss’ reputation.

“In fairness, he has chilled out some since Brexton was born,” Sarina comments, causing a surprised glance from both Marcus and Christopher. Though admittedly – Kyle hadn’t been any face-to-face confrontations lately. “And I’d have an excuse because I could say I learned from the best, too.”

“But how are you supposed to win next weekend if you’re sitting in jail?” Sarina nodded, knowing that the crew chief had a point.

“I am going to ask you on each the charges whether you’re guilty or innocent, and simply want a picture perfect answer,” Judge Mansions states, causing all attention to focus forward. They could plan how to kick Bethany’s ass later. “On the charge of coercion against Allison Reynolds, how do you plead?”

“Guilty,” Bethany answers, causing jaws to drop throughout the whole court room. Maybe their luck was turning around.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people through coercion, how do you plead?” Sarina knew if Bethany pled guilty to this, she would ultimately laugh. Truthfully, she hadn’t planted the bomb and just wanted Allison to do something to Chase. It was Allison who took these other steps.

“Not guilty.” Marcus wraps an arm around Sarina, knowing the case wasn’t a slam dunk and there were more dates to come. He could only imagine how it was tearing at her through the days she attended for her brother.

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Elliott through your coercion, how do you plead?” Now this one Sarina expected the guilty plea to come out immediately – and it made sense. Bethany was determined to split up Sarina and Chase due to her own anger.

“Guilty.”  Christopher smiles as he knew that’d be comforting to both Chase and Bethany moving forward.

“Thank you,” the judge states. “A date will be set for Ms. Adams to state her reasoning behind the guilty pleas and how she went about her crimes. It will then be determined whether the prosecution will proceed on the not guilty charge or move forward to sentencing. The defendant will be held without bail. Court adjourned!”

The threesome quickly filed out of the court room together, pleased with the outcome.

“So what happens now moving forward?” Christopher wonders as they get in the car to drive to the airport. They all owed an extra thank you to Kyle for sending his plane down to fly them there, and back up to Richmond once complete.

“Bethany will state how she went about the steps of her actions,” Marcus starts, knowing Sarina was in the process of texting Chase. “A sentence length will be determined based on what she did, and like the judge stated, they can choose to chase the last charge or not.” Christopher nods his head, as that was obvious.

“What about Allison?” Marcus takes a deep breath, knowing there was a lot left there.

“She has to go up on her trial and state what happened. It is then the prosecution’s decision whether more testimony needs to be heard, like Chase. The jury will then decide if she should be found guilty and serve some time in jail – even if very minor at that, or if she should be let off on every single char-”

“I’ll kill her if that happens,” Sarina interrupts, even more angry at Allison than she was at Bethany. She understood that Allison was forced in some way, but it didn’t make up for how far she had taken the events. To suggest those ideas on Chase, followed by what she did, there was no way she could just be forgiven like that – no matter what.

“My offer about bail still stands,” Christopher comments from the backseat, causing Sarina to simply smile. It was nice to see the pair able to get along solidly now without issues as Christopher’s friendship was nice at times.

“Are you sure you got enough in the bank account to cover these offers?” Marcus wonders and Christopher shrugs his shoulders.

“Guess I gotta start winning some more races then….”

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

Friday, September 8 – Richmond International Raceway

“Wow….” Chase lets out as he reads the text message while standing on pit road. He had just gotten done qualifying ninth for Saturday night’s race.

“What’s up?” Alan questions, knowing Chase wouldn’t mind him being intrigued. They had a close enough relationship to where Alan, Josh, Jordan and Chase shared everything. Beyond that, it was hit and miss with the crew guys.

“She pled guilty to coercion and poisoning me through that coercion.” Alan’s jaw drops in shock as he hadn’t expected that no matter what anybody else said. “So they’re going to convene later, hear her story, and then decide the next step.”

“And that means Allison was telling the truth?” Chase nods his head as he lets out a sigh. “What are you thinking, Chase?”

“Depending on how Bethany went about this – and we know Bethany is just as bad as Chris, maybe Allison had no other choice. Maybe what she did was totally forced and no way around it, and maybe….” He shakes his head, knowing it was a bad idea immediately. They had already tried to play forgive and forget with Chris.

“You think that maybe she shouldn’t go to jail? With all due respect, there’s a way out of anything. Heck, if you would’ve just kissed her, you wouldn’t had gotten the need-”

“There is no way I could’ve cheated on Sarina.” Alan nods his head, knowing Chase was very strong about his morals, and respected that.

“I’m just saying that she could’ve done it differently. She could’ve confessed to you that she was being forced and got you to play along. She didn’t have to plant the bomb in the garage. That’s why I feel she should get at least something for what she did….” Chase nods his head, understanding. Perhaps the crew chief was right – just to air on the side of caution.

“Yeah, you’re probably right….” Chase then thinks it over some more, as he texts Sarina back. “Alan, I just thought of something…”

“Does this deal with Bethany and Allison?” Chase nods his head as Alan crosses his arms.

“What if Bethany didn’t force Allison? What if they’re all working together – like a great conspiracy? What if this is perfectly being set-up so Allison gets off easy?” Alan thinks it over, knowing they could be something worth mentioning here.

“Allison gets off without much jail time, and then she can fulfill the plan that Bethany has in stor-”

“Bethany did mention to Sarina that she was going to complete the plan, one way or another, and to the full extent. That basically meant either splitting us up or….” By the sounds of Chase’s voice trailing off, Alan knew there was only one thing to do – before warning the crew and stepping up security moving forward. There was no way they could be too safe.

“Mention something to the lawyers so they can explore the chance.” Chase nods his head, as he makes a note.

“Lawyers? Should I be worried?” Ryan questions as he walks over, and Chase just shakes his head no.

“I’ll see you later,” Alan states, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Text me if you need me…” Alan then walks off as Ryan crosses his arms.

“Are you sure that I shouldn’t be worried?” Chase looks up from his phone, already knowing why Ryan was there.

“It’s just a note regarding the trial,” Chase offers as Ryan nods his head, accepting. He heard things continued to be hectic in Chase’s world.

“Are you absolutely certain you don’t want to come tonight?” Ryan questions and Chase rolls his eyes. This was the same question that he heard all week from Ryan.

“There is no way under any circumstance that I am going to see IT with you.  I don’t care what you try to bribe me with or say. I will never, ever watch that movie in this lifetime.” Ryan lets out a sigh as he had hoped Chase would’ve said yes out of feeling sorry for Ryan going alone.

“I got nobody to go with me….” Chase shrugs his shoulders. He knew if Ryan really wanted someone to come, he could ask one of his crew guys or a couple other drivers.

“You know that I don’t do scary movies. I’ve told you that from the beginning. Heck, you convinced me to watch Saw that night. Do you remember the nightmares and how I could barely sleep?” Ryan chuckles at the memory.

“That was good….” Chase could punch Ryan right now.

“Still, I’m not going – I don’t care. You can have fun with the clowns…” Chase then walks away as Ryan lets out a sigh.

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

Saturday, September 9 – Richmond International Raceway

Chase makes his way through the garage area and out to pit road.

It was almost time to start the race that night, and he just wanted to buckle in the car and get going. It was the last race before the playoffs and the goal was simply to make sure he qualified. They were in a good position, just needing a good solid night and they’d make it on points. However, that didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous as anything was possible at a short track.

“So how’s our driver tonight?” Chad Avrit questions as he walks over, leaning against the car with him.

“Alan told us to not bug, remember?” John questions as Chad lets out a sigh. He couldn’t help but worry about Chase at times.

“I just want to get this started tonight,” Chase says as he looks over at Chad. “I just want to get the race started, put in a solid 400 miles, get in the playoffs, and kick this thing off.” Chad nods his head, reading through the nerves.

“Well you can relax because the lady is here to take care of you,” Jared Seate offers as he motions for Sarina to join her man beside the car.

“Has he been annoying you?” Sarina laughs and shakes her head. “I know how he can be at times. If he ever gets a little crazy, just let me know and I’ll kick his ass.” Jared just flips the bird quickly as Sarina and Chase both laugh.

“I’d actually pay to see that sometimes,” Chad adds, causing a glance from Jared. “What? He’s right….”

“But we still love ya, somehow,” Nick joins in with a smile. “We’re going to do great tonight – don’t worry.”

Nick’s prediction was close to right as while they didn’t contend for the win, they managed to stay out of trouble all night, getting up inside the top-10 early and staying up there throughout. In the end, Chase crossed the finish line with a decent 10th place finish – which was alright. Though more importantly, he was one of the 16 drivers in the playoffs.

It was now time to chase a championship!

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 134: Her Trial and Those Nerves….

Wednesday, August 17 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Chase thins out the creases in his shirt once again, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he was in Bristol right now, but instead he had this to deal with.

“Thanks for coming,” he comments with a glance at his parents as they walk towards the court room doors.

“We’ve always got your back,” Cindy says as she follows him inside. “We would’ve been here whether you asked or not.” Chase smiles, knowing that was true. He just wished Sarina was there too, but she was in Bristol getting ready for practice.

“My phone is turned on silent. I told Sarina I’d text her updates, as long as she let me know how practice went. Hopefully, we’re out of here quickly…” He had already planned to fly to Bristol that night and be there for the truck race, no matter what. He wanted to be there to support his girl.

He heard from her the discussion with Kyle, followed by the extended meeting at Kyle Busch Motorsports on Monday. Everybody knew her short track pedigree and how she could master any track just like that – it was why she was so good behind the wheel of a late model. She also already had laps at Bristol with a late model and ran well. Now knowing the pressure to make the playoffs was picking up, it was now or never to win – and this was the best opportunity looking at the stretch of races.

He had comforted her as much as he could, assuring her that she had the ability to get the job done, but also to relax and just do her thing and it’d pan out right. He also texted Kyle that it may be a good idea to calm off a little as pressure wasn’t needed necessary right now with everything else going on.

Though now being in Indiana set for the first day of another trial spell, he wished with all of his might that he was in Bristol right now by her side, supporting her. Why couldn’t they done this a day before or a day later?

“There he is….” Chase hears, recognizing the voice – Eddie D’Hondt – as he enters the court room, instantly glancing over with a surprise as he sees the whole team sitting there.

“What are you guys doing here?” He questions as the team looks towards the boss. Alan was supposed to mention that they were going to be attending.

“She set up a bomb to blow all of our asses up,” Alan starts. “We’re in this as much as you, so we wanted to make sure and be here. We have to make sure she pays for what she did.” Chase admired the crew’s reasoning, but still felt bad for taking them away from focusing on things in the shop. He knew things were crazy right now at Hendrick with making sure he qualified for the playoffs, and were ready when they started.

“You guys are already working crazy hours, and now you’re putting in flight time and time away from your families, the team that you don’t need to be doing.”

“This is coming from the same guy that said we stick together no matter what and have each other’s back, right?” Jared Seate questions. “No matter what you say, Chase, we felt the need and right to be here. What if – Never mind, I don’t want to picture that happening. But still…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Jared was right in his words – seeing the bit of fear the guys felt in the moment. It was another byproduct of the decision he made….

“Well, I appreciate you being here regardless, and don’t worry – she’s not getting away with this.” Chase then takes his seat, with his parents sitting on either side of him, as he quickly sends a good luck text to Sarina, knowing practice is about to start.

“All rise!” The clerk then states, causing Chase to focus his attention forward as he stands up. “The honorable Judge Mansions preceding!” The female judge walks in, taking her seat on the podium as Chase focuses his eyes on her. He wanted to read her, see whether she was someone that had sympathy or would lay down every ounce of the law in a second.

“You may be seated,” she states, as everyone in the room sits down. “Except for Ms. Alison Stevenson…” Alison remains standing, glancing over at Chase with a wink and smile, before looking back forward. Chase could only roll his eyes, and feel a bit of vomit rising at that thought. “We’re simply here to see how you plead to the charges, which seems to be a decent list. I am going to go through them and you will simply say guilty or not guilty, understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Allison replies as Chase keeps his eyes locked forward, not wanting to take another glance at her.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people, how do you plead?” Everybody knew that charge surrounded the bomb that went off in the garage, as some of the crew guys still shivered at the thought. Jared couldn’t stop himself from asking the what if question, either.

“Guilty.” A series of gasps in surprise can be heard throughout the room in response to the charge as Chase glances back at the crew guys surprised. Perhaps this was going to be easier than expected….

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Chase Elliott, how do you plead?” Chase sits back, closing his eyes as he wishes he could forget how sick he felt that afternoon, and continued to question why he let her play him and not do something sooner.

“Guilty.” Chase was once again surprised, but not willing to argue. It was nice to see everything going to plan.

“On the charge of kidnapping Mr. Elliott, how do you plead?” It was intriguing to hear those words used, given that Chase had voluntarily followed her helper to that location. However, he also did recall being held there against will with the door locked. There was also the fact the state attorney promised she was going to try and catch Allison on every charge possible.

“Not guilty – he came voluntarily.” Chase lets out a sigh, having expected an answer of that magnitude. However, he wasn’t going to worry about it. There was enough years with the other two charges combined.

“Your honor, my client has pled guilty to both charges due to being forced to follow orders from another female in this equation,” Allison’s lawyer speaks up, catching Chase’s attention as a smile forms. There was no question who that other party was, either.

“A plea deal was offered for the informatio-” The attorney starts, which Chase recalled the phone call conversation.

“My client should not serve any time for her wrongdoings simply due to how she was forced by another individual!” Laughter escaped people in the room in response to that, casing the judge to hit her hammer to quiet them down.

“Your honor, she caused Mr. Elliott to be hospitalized almost for a full week, knocked out for almost a whole day. She also caused fear among any person standing in the garage that weekend, which reached the 100s, but more specifically the entire team that works with Mr. Elliott. Just because someone was forced, she shouldn’t be allowed to escape every charge.” There were people who were almost set to cheer at the rebuttal, though stopped themselves as they saw the hammer being raised again.

“Any outbursts from here on out and you will be kicked out of my court room, possibly held in contempt of court,” Judge Mansions says, causing a frozen appearance to go over the room. “A trial will be held to determine whether a sentence should be levied against, and to what extent. We will begin with Allison Stevenson stating what she did, and why, before going from that point with whatever else is felt necessary. Jury or no jury? Media block or none?”

“We would like to keep the media out of this due to being a high profile case,” the attorney states, which Chase had his fingers crossed for. There was going to be enough for a mess caused by the Chris trial in Florida.

“Once again – special treatment for celebrity status?” The lawyer questions. “And we would like a jury, please.”

“The request for a media block has been denied as being high profile, the public does deserve re-assurance,” Judge Mansions says, as Chase lets out a sigh. It was going to be a media mess in the garage for a good bit. “Jury selection will be done, and then we will begin as stated. Has the individual responsible for the threats been arrested?”

“The paperwork is currently being processed as we speak,” the attorney reveals as Chase could only shakes his head. He knew that Bethany would be going into hiding with the thought of being captured – that or expediting whatever plan she had been cooking up in her meetings with Chris. Either way, he immediately found his fingers typing away on his phone quietly to Sarina with an update, including a fair stern warning.

“Thank you. Court adjourned!”

Everybody immediately files out of the court room as Chase glances at the time, figuring out in his head when they’d land in Bristol. Perhaps he’d actually get there in time for qualifying now.

“Surprised by her confession?” Bill questions, catching Chase’s attention as they walk out of the court room.

“Not one bit – Sarina and I figured there was a connection,” Chase answers, remembering their conversation. He also remembered another conversation with Sarina in the timing of the photo being sent, along with a comment traded. “She’s been dropping hints to Sarina for awhile now. It was how Sarina got her hands on the photo that weekend…”

“So she was going to use Allison to break you two up?” Chase nods his head, remembering the comment that Sarina mentioned from Bethany.

“On the first day of Chris’ trial when I wasn’t able to be there, Bethany mentioned something about how I may get bored or annoyed, and stray from her. That very same day was when I first encountered Allison at the Hooter’s Pageant.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief as they reach the car.

“At least Sarina was smart and listened to you and trusted you….” Chase nods his head as he climbs in the car. Though letting out a sigh, he couldn’t let it escape him that it took some convincing from a third party as she was almost set to run away.  “Did she do well in practice?” Chase glances at the results, knowing right away that his dad was trying to get his mind off of what happened.

“Fourth quickest. The boss was first with Bell third. They’ve got some quick trucks…..”

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

With both practices in the books, Sarina found herself leaning against the truck, awaiting for qualifying to begin. She kept glancing at her watch, checking the time, remembering the latest text from Chase – he was supposed to be on his way. She couldn’t help but glance towards the gates to see whether he was walking through them. She knew within five minutes of the session, the gates would close and he would be stuck on the outside until the session was over.

Crossing her fingers, she wanted to see her man before then.

She was trying not to be nervous, but she couldn’t help but remember the words chance to win, playoffs, short track queen, your wheel house that had been repeated by crew members, Marcus, Kyle, and the media entering the day. It was like everybody expected her to come in, run well, and battle Kyle for the win – just like her late model short track days.

Nobody understood the difference between the trucks and late models, it seemed. Nobody understood that she was a rookie still trying to learn. Nobody understood that pressure would drive her insane.

“Surprise!” She hears as a pair of arms wrap around her waist, instantly pulling her close. She immediately smiles as she recognized the voice and feeling right away. It was like every bit of anxiety she was feeling escaped immediately, too.

“Thank you….” She then spins around, facing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Did you really need me that badly?” She nods her head as he keeps her held close.

“You wouldn’t believe the questions in the media center….” He then steps back, looking at her surprised. He could only connect those questions to everything going on with Chris and Allison. “Everybody just assumes that I’m going to be in contention to win because I know short tracks, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment. Like, I didn’t need to hear that. I can do that enough myself!” Chase then pulls her back close, running his hands up and down her back.

“Take a deep breath, relax….” He then pauses, looking into her eyes. “What did we talk about this week? What have we talked about every time something like this comes up?” She closes her eyes, remembering their conversations.

“Take a deep breath, relax, be calm, forget the outside world, focus on myself, and just do my thing because no matter what, it’ll play out how it is supposed to.” He nods his head as he pulls her back close, rubbing her back once again.

“Don’t let it eat at you. Your belief in yourself is all you need. Just focus on that, Marcus and everything will work out. You’ve had a great rookie season, showing improvement every week. Just keep doing that, and you’ll eventually get to where everybody thinks you should be. They keep forgetting that you’re just fresh out of late models, and it’s not just going to come to you. Not everybody is a William Byron.”  She then glances at him.

“….or a Chase Elliot-”

“Hey now, I made some costly mistakes when I first moved up, too, and tore up some equipment. I wasn’t no angel by any means.” She shrugs her shoulders, not too sure about that, as she remembered always hearing amazing things. “Look at Joey Logano, though. Look at Truex. Look at Keselowski. Heck, look at your car owner or even Bell. Those guys took time to come into their own. Bell had a bunch of horrendous moments last year, but came into his own as the year closed. Kyle got sent from one team to another due to how he was. It’ll come…”

“I hope you’re rig-”

“I know I’m right. Just believe, okay?” She nods her head as she lays it on his shoulder. “So, we were right about Allison….” She smiles immediately.

“I’m just glad that she had the courage to say something. But to not want any jail time at all?” She then stands straight up, staring at Chase in the eyes. “Are you sure she’s not actually insane?” Chase laughs.

“Hey now, I never said that she wasn’t, either. We saw what she did….” Sarina nods her head. “Regardless, it feels good that we’ve got them on all angles. See, things are starting to work out…”

“It’s a start, I guess…” He then rubs her shoulders once again.

“Believe in yourself – you’re going to have a great night, and the rest of stuff will fall into place. If it makes you feel better, think about the vacation coming up….” She smiles, remembering that discussion. She wasn’t absolutely certain about doing a vacation alongside Ryan, given the fear with what pranks may come, but she was ready to get away and have some fun for a couple weeks.

“What are you most excited for – Amsterdam, Germany, or the Belgium Grand Prix?” Chase thinks it over, remembering the planning that he and Ryan broke down earlier in the week together in places to hit up. It had already been an almost disaster trying to get passes to go to the Formula 1 event, but it paid off to have connections – thanks Jeff!

“Amsterdam looks like it’s going to be amazing with all the places that Ryan has figured out.” Sarina just shakes her head.

“You boys are just excited to try the different beers…” He then chuckles, shrugging his shoulders. He couldn’t deny it…

“It’s going to be a good time regardless, right?” She then rolls her eyes, already figuring she’d be babysitting them at one point. “What about you?”

“I actually can’t wait to go to the Belgium Grand Prix, to be honest. I’m always for exploring different forms of racing, and I’ve never been to a Formula 1 event. I’m ready to get up close and personal for a change.” Chase then thinks things over, pondering some thoughts…

“Maybe we can get the chance for you to sit in a car.” Her eyes open wide immediately and Chase makes a mental note to get a hold of Jeff or maybe Tony to see if he could pull that favor off, too. “I said maybe…strong maybe. I mean, I don’t know them. It’s going to take some convincing…”

“Have I told you today that you’re perfect and amazing?” He just rolls his eyes as she kisses his lips. “I got to go qualify. We’ll get back to these plans later, okay?” He nods his head as she heads off. He could only smile seeing the hop in her step, knowing their conversation had been perfect.

Now they just needed the bubbly attitude to carry them through the night….

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

Chase cautiously walks back to the garage area, seeing Sarina climb out of the truck, throwing her gloves back in frustrated. She then takes her helmet off, setting it down lightly – she never threw that no matter her anger due to how she cherished it – before letting out a sigh. She grabbed the bottle of water left on the truck by Marcus, downing the entire bottle, before chucking it across the pit area.

The race had started out well as she had started fourth, running up front right there with Kyle and Christopher. However, near the end of the second stage, she suffered a pit road penalty – crew member over the wall too soon – which set her back in the field. She pushed as hard as she could to make up the lost ground, ending up 15th.

Chase cautiously walks over, slowly wrapping his arms around her, as he lays her head on her shoulder. If it had been anybody except him, he knew she would’ve snapped around and chopped their head off. But being that it was him, she actually laid back into his arms a little.

“You did what you had to do,” he starts. “It’s not your fault that you got the penalty. It’s not your fault that you finished where you did. You did what you needed to do, and that’s all you can ask as a driver.” She sighs, knowing that he was right – no matter how angry she was.

“How could they not get that they jumped over the wall too soon?” She questions as Chase had to shrug his shoulders. He remembered instantly cursing on the pit box when he heard the call.

“They’re always trying to get that advantage of being as quick as possible. The one guy just timed it a little wrong…” She wanted to scream, possibly snap the head off of that crew member, but she knew that wouldn’t solve anything.

“I so badly wanted to do well. I so badly wanted to be up there in the top-five. I so badly wanted to win…”

“I know, and you did exactly what you needed to do. It sucks, but that’s racing and shit happens. These guys have done a great job all year. I bet that crew member feels worse than you do right now. You guys have a couple more races – you can make the playoffs. Just take a deep breath, and put your best foot forward as you can do this.” He then kisses her cheek.

“Thank you…” He nods his head as he lets her go, letting her walk up into the hauler to change as he lets out a sigh.