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?