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.