“A lot of emotion. A lot of relief. It’s been a tough road. Makes a helluva story.” – Chase Elliott, August 5 2018
Sunday, August 5 – Watkins Glen International
“Happy birthday big guy!” Sarina says as she climbs up on the pit box, giving Alan a big pat on the back. “So are we old or ancient now?” Alan chuckles as he looks back at her.
“Easy there young lady,” he offers. “You’re going to be 43 one day and regretting those words…” She just rolls her eyes as she takes her usual seat behind Josh alongside Jordan.
“Here we go….” She puts her headset on, hoping the race just went smooth as possible.
“Appreciate the effort on that Sun Energy 1 car. Looks good.” Sarina had to agree with the crew chief based on how things went yesterday. She just hoped they had that speed once again today.
“Appreciate it fellas as always,” Chase replies on the radio. “Nice and smooth today.”
The race wouldn’t start off on a calm note, though, as the first few laps saw Kyle and Denny begin the crazy battle for the lead ahead of Chase.
“Are you going to be able to handle today?” Jordan jokes as he sees the look on Sarina’s face as they watch them go through the bus stop on the monitor.
“Maybe Kyle will do us a favor and wreck Denny,” she offers, earning a laugh from the interior mechanic.
It also didn’t take long for the first caution to come out, either, as Joey Logano went off course to the surprise of everyone.
“That was pretty damn wild to be the first two laps,” Chase immediately comments on the radio under the yellow to the agreement of everyone.
Once the race restarted, the action didn’t slow down as there was craziness throughout the field. Chase, meanwhile, ran it clean as possible, running fourth throughout the stage until Alan called him to pit road with three laps to go. While it sucked to rejoin the field and finish 11th – one spot outside of earning points, she knew the reasoning behind it and believed in the crew chief’s strategy.
Once everybody else pitted under the yellow, Chase cycled up to the front and immediately made it worth his way, taking the lead early in the stage. He wouldn’t look back throughout, crossing the finish line for another stage victory.
“Alright, green-checkered here,” Eddie D’Hondt says on the radio as Sarina let out a small fist pump in the air. “Save fuel. Save fuel.”
“Good work, bud,” Alan adds as he glances over at the notes from the engineers on fuel strategy.
The restart would not go as planned as Chase would get loose through turn one, allowing Kyle to grab the lead. Chase wouldn’t let him get out that far, actually gaining ground at times through the bus stop and carousel. However, it wasn’t enough to actually get back by him.
“Hey bud, if you can’t get him, just take care of fuel for me,” Alan suggests, earning a small bit of nerves from Sarina in knowing that fuel was going to come into play at the end of this thing.
“What’s more important because I might have a shot at him?” Chase questions in return, and Sarina believed those words. It was easy to see via the lap times that they were making good time, and she believed through the second half of the course, he could make something happen.
“If you can get him, then get him. We just can’t run behind him and lose fuel.”
They didn’t have to worry much longer about fuel numbers to the end of the race as the caution would fly for Matt DiBenedetto blowing up with 37 laps to go. While it was good to not worry as much about fuel, there were still a couple small nerves in knowing they were one lap before the fuel window opened now pitting under yellow.
The pit stop was fast, though Chase would go just before Nick O’Dell was clear of the car, barely clipping him as he left the pit box, coming off pit road in second.
“Sorry about that Nick,” Chase says immediately over the radio.
“He’s okay; he’s laughing,” Alan replies, even chuckling himself at the landing motion.
Sarina just shakes her head as she climbs down off of the pit box, walking over to where Nick was with the guys.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She asks and he nods his head. “You realize you were just hit by a stock car right?” He nods his head once again.
“But I held on to the air gun, and that’s what matters,” he tells her as she smiles back, remembering the discussion from pre-race. “I just didn’t think he’d actually test the theory.”
“Well, you earned your gold star from me today. Love ya, Nick!” She gives him a big hug, before heading back up to her post.
“Chasey gonna be jealous if he hears about that hug,” Chad Avrit teases, which Nick just flips him the bird back in response earning a laugh from the other guys.
“I’d rather him be jealous over a hug than starting at the tail of the field for this restart,” Nick comments as the team gets comfortable, ready to watch the final laps unfold.
Everybody was then caught off-guard when Kyle Busch made the trip back down pit road, giving up the lead to Chase.
“No fuel in the car whatsoever,” Alan reports over the radio. “He’s not going to be a factor.” Sarina felt herself pout a little, feeling bad for both Kyle and Samantha in being her bosses. Besides, she was actually looking forward to seeing her boss and fiancé fight it out for the win.
“Copy that,” Chase replies. “Is everybody pretty much good to the end here?”
“It’s close. Just save all you can. When you get an opportunity to attack, you know, attack. But just don’t be frivolous with it.” Sarina felt her nerves kick up, already imagining him running out of the gas in the closing stages while leading.
“Frivolous?” She repeats, earning a glance from Jordan. “What? Does Alan think that Chase carries a dictionary in the car or something?” Jordan just chuckles in response as he pats her leg.
“Just relax and enjoy the show,” he starts. “It’s time for your man to do what he was born to do.”
Chase would get the perfect restart with 33 laps to go, pulling out to a solid lead ahead of Martin Truex Jr.
25 to go. 20 to go. 15 to go. 10 to go.
5 to go. The gap was still steady and enough to not get too nervous, but Truex was there if Chase did something.
4 to go. 3 to go. 2 to go.
Sarina felt everything on edge as he took the white flag for the last lap and went down into turn one. Then it happened. The back of the car kicked out a little as he wheel-hopped entering the corner, but he immediately got it back rolling.
“Did he just kick it out of gear to fix that?!?” Sarina questions, feeling every bit of nerve as Jordan just shrugs his shoulders. “Come on, Chase!!”
The moment allowed Martin to shrink the gap considerably, but not enough as Chase held onto the lead, putting together the perfect lap the rest of the way through the course, set to come back around to the checkered.
“Just bring it home, bring it home….” Eddie D’Hondt says as he comes off of the final corner.
“Baby, that’s how you do it!” Alan lets out as he crosses the checkered line. “Get the checkered flag, son!” Sarina lets out the double fist pump, before grabbing Alan from behind, and hugging the crew chief.
“Yeah, baby yeah!” Chase screams on the radio as elation hits the pit box with everybody hugging each other as a couple stray tears roll down Sarina’s cheeks. “Hell yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Proud of you guys, proud of all of you,” Bill is next over the radio, earning a small smile from Sarina. She almost wanted to cry a little bit more in knowing that Cindy wasn’t there to experience it, but rather at home with grandma. She could only imagine the emotions that she was going through. “Burn that son of a gun down, boy!”
“Right here for you big boy…” Sarina glances up at the big screen, set to see the burnout through the back half of the course – but then the car stalls suddenly. She just shakes her head, knowing that they must’ve been closer on fuel than she thought, and was glad that Alan didn’t keep them totally in the loop as she would’ve been more nervous than she was. “Oh, just kidding! I’m out of gas. I need a push Eddie, I need a push.”
“I’m working on it, man,” Eddie replies as Sarina just shakes her head. She was actually looking forward to seeing him lay down his first win burnout. It’d been awhile since she saw him lay down a good one.
“I got my man, Jimmie Jam, coming to push me…” Sarina just smiled in watching Jimmie line up perfectly to give Chase a push back around to the front stretch.
“That’s a pretty cool victory lap right there,” Alan comments as Sarina nods her head in agreement. She knew the friendship the pair shared, and could only imagine the meaning that it meant to Chase.
“That is badass, man!”
“Come on!!” Both Jordan and Josh yell at Sarina as they hurry for the steps on the pit box, wanting her to follow as they were both set for the frontstretch celebration, and wanted her to be right there in the middle of it.
As soon as he stopped on the frontstretch, the crew surrounded the car as he jumped out, letting out a big fist pump in the air. He then hops off, immediately meeting with Alan as he pulls him into a hug.
“Way to go kid,” Alan says as he gives him at a pat on the back.
“Happy Birthday, man!” Chase replies as he then looks into the crew chief’s eyes. “Thank you, thank you for everything. I mean it when I say I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Thank you….”
“I’m just glad that we could win one!!” They then share another hug together, before Alan lets him go.
Chase then goes through hugging the rest of the crew guys, including a special hug for Nick, along the way. He then stops as he reaches the last person on the line, pulling her right close as he locks his lips with hers.
“I love you so much,” Sarina tells him. “Congratulations Clyde!”
“I love you, too, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you,” he replies, giving her another kiss in return.
“So are we going to head to victory lane or are we just going to party here all day?” Alan questions as Chase shrugs his shoulders.
“Does it matter? We’re winners!” Sarina lets out as Chase just smiles, keeping her held close.
The crew then starts pushing the car to victory lane – with Chase only stopping to share a hug with Jimmie – before continuing to join them on the journey.
“Can you believe it?” Sarina questions and he shakes his head. “You’re a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winner. Do I need to pinch you?”
“It’s slowly sinking in….” Chase answers as he glances over into her eyes. “I’m glad that you were here.” He then gives her another kiss.
“I just wish your mom was here….” Chase nods his head in agreement.
“She’s probably having a ball running the party in Dawsonville. The siren is going to be blaring tonight!” She chuckles as they reach victory lane.
Chase sits in the car, waiting for the cue to climb out. As he does, a series of drivers come in for hugs, beginning with Ryan and Bubba, to Kyle. Chase made Ryan promise he’d be at the party that night, while Sarina stopped Kyle to offer him a hug.
“Nice drive back up through to third,” she tells him. “I was actually looking forward to you two racing each other.” Kyle glances back towards Chase, before looking at Sarina.
“Would you have been mad at me for beating him?” He questions as she laughs.
“Who says you would’ve?” He then laughs back, giving her a playful punch before heading off out of victory lane.
Sarina remained in background, smiling as Bill walked over for a hug with Chase, just standing there in pure admiration and amazement.
“I was wondering what was going to go wrong this time,” Bill confesses and Sarina nods her head, having the same theory at times.
The trophy presentation went smoothly, with everyone set for the champagne shower afterwards. Sarina had to laugh at the crew mostly dumping it on Alan, but knowing he deserved for his birthday.
“You still want to be close even though I’m stinky of sweat and champagne?” Chase says as she cuddles up close for photos.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she offers, giving him yet another kiss.
After posing for a bunch of photos, they instructed for just Chase to remain there for the obligatory hat dance. Sarina stood back watching, earning an idea of her own as she walked over to the bowling pin mascot.
“I have to ask one question….” She starts, with a smirk on her face.