Saturday, November 17 – Homestead-Miami Speedway
“I still can’t believe that Tyler was able to find what he needed at the end,” Sarina comments as they walk back to the motorcoach.
After Chase got done final practice, the two had made their way out to pit road for the XFINITY Series race, sitting up on the No. 9 pit box with Dave Elenz. Sarina wanted to begin preparations for next year immediately after coming up short last night, and that meant observing her future team in action.
While Cole Custer dominated the race, it was Tyler Reddick finding the extra groove and speed when it mattered at the end to make the pass, and win the race for the championship.
“The high line favors those who like to take chances, and are willing to ride the cushion,” Chase starts, remembering the discussion he had with Alan and Jimmie about that groove one day. “Past examples would include Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. Tyler is from the first category as he has taken chances all year long. Sometimes it has worked out, and other times it hasn’t. Tonight he took a good chance.”
“He knew the car that Dave had put underneath him,” Sarina adds as Chase nods his head. “It’s no coincidence that team has won three championships with three rookie drivers – and I may know the first of those very well.” She then follows him inside the motorcoach as he could only grin about the reminder.
“Are you saying that played into your decision?” Sarina shakes her head no, as she hadn’t put that together until someone else mentioned it tonight.
“The top two teams in the XFINITY Series are easily Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports. My choice was made for me when Joe didn’t have any room.” Chase had to smile a little as he liked the thought of her being at JR Motorsports. “If Joe had roo-”
“Something feels off….” Sarina then looks at him a little confused, remembering the last time he mentioned similar words.
“We changed the password. We changed the locks. They’ve increased secur-”
“You found a note at your trailer though.” She then takes a careful deep breath, remembering that. She had hoped it would’ve been forgotten amongst every else on Friday.
“Well, do you want to call someone?” Chase walks into the bedsroom, glancing high and low as Sarina stands in the doorway watching. “Are you tear this room completely apart before you’re happy?”
“I just know something is off. The door didn’t even feel right – like it was left half-open. We made sure to close it.” She was caught off by his confession as she hadn’t noticed that upon them entering.
“Chase, I think you’re just paran-”
“Is this being paranoid?” She looks over as he stands by the television, holding up a teddy bear.
“That’s my little bea-”
“It has been tampered with.” She then looks on with horror as he rips open the back, reaching his hand up inside and pulling out a small lens. “A camera was put inside the bear in the eye. We weren’t supposed to notice, and that bear would’ve spied on us the rest of the weekend.”
“How did you know?” Chase then bends down, picking up the piece of fluff and setting it on the dresser beside the bear. “Are you sure it wasn’t done yes-”
“No fluff, and the bear was moved. I set my phone on the dresser charging in front of the bear. Notice how my cord won’t reach the bear now?” Sarina finally enters the bedsroom, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“What do you want to do?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances at the time. It was ridiculously late and he knew they both needed their sleep. If they went forth in doing anything, they’d probably end up being awake half of the night.
“Simply this.” He then picks up the lens, pushing his fingers together as the lens cracks within the tips of his fingers. “She can’t see anything. It’s late, and we need our sleep. Let’s go to bed and if we hear anything, I’m swinging without thinking. It’s the last weekend of the year. We don’t have to worry anymore.”
“I’ll make sure to wake you up if I have to pee then…” She then strips out of her clothes, changing into her pajamas before getting comfortable underneath the blankets. She waits for him to join her, immediately wrapping her arms around him. “Just hope that I don’t have to pee like Lindsay does.”
“It doesn’t matter to me. I’d do whatever it took for you. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She then kisses his shoulder.
Sunday, November 18 – Homestead-Miami Speedway
“It’s been a fun year,” Chase says on the radio under the pace laps. “Let’s end it in a good note.”
Getting comfortable in her usual seat for the last time of the season, Sarina could only hope that the driver was right in his words as that’d be the perfect scenario.
“Are you okay?” Jordan asks and she nods her head in response. “Are you sure? If you need anything – food, water, comfort – just make sure to as-”
“Jordan, I’m fine,” she tells the interior mechanic. “I’ve been pregnant since August, and we haven’t treated any race differ-”
“We haven’t treated any race differently than went according to plan. Let’s just stick with that, please.” He accepts her words, but knew that he couldn’t help but keep an extra eye out just in case.
Through the first half of the race, they weren’t able to make much ground, running just outside of the top-10. Though at the start of the third stage, Chase was able to crack the top-10, coming off pit road seventh under the latest caution. Beyond that, you could tell he was happy with the balance of the NAPA Chevrolet due to no adjustments being made over the past two pit stops.
The restart would go smoothly, with Chase keeping the track position he had gained solidly. However, Alan felt some nerves in knowing the track would be changing conditional-wise due to sun going down.
“Let me know how the car is if you have a minute,” the crew chief requests, trying to finalize his game plan for the final set of pit stops.
“I don’t have a minute,” Chase replies, which was understandable.
He was slowly making time on those ahead of him, and it was by using the same high line right next to the wall that Tyler Reddick had been able to use to his advantage the night before. The little space that you could get between the preferred top line and wall was narrow, but the gains you could make were worth it. However, a single slip up and your night could be done just like that.
Chase managed to ride the line with perfect perfection through the ensuing laps, all the way until Lap 227 when he would slightly brush the wall with the right side of the car.
“Pit this time,” Alan instructs after the contact happened. He didn’t want to take a chance on having a tire go down like Larson had earlier, and knew they’d be fine with it being close to the pit window.
The decision to bring Chase down pit road would see Denny Hamlin pit a lap later, followed by Kevin Harvick on the next lap. Alan kept tabs on each of the leaders pitting, with just three remaining on track. Currently running eighth and knowing they had to pit before the race’s end, it would bump them up to at least fifth in the final rundown. Considering they were barely a top-10 car at mid-race, it was a solid recovery for the bunch.
Then the tides turned as the caution would come out with 20 laps to go for an incident involving Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski.
“That stupid fucking 19,” Alan lets out immediately on the radio. “Good God!” He could only let out a sigh, knowing that’d throw everything off. They had run enough laps that everyone had to pit now to be on decent tires for the end of the race, meaning that there’d be no advantage held with strategy. After sniffing hope for a top-five, they would be back to where they had ran most of the night.
Chase would restart sixth after making his way down pit road, dropping back two spots in the first couple of laps due to the car not firing off strong. However, as the race got closer to the end, the No. 9 Chevrolet found it’s groove of strength on the long run and he was able to catch the car ahead of him, passing the pass to finish seventh.
“We really suck down here,” Chase tells the media afterwards. “Man, if we make this Final 4 one day, we’ve got a lot to work to do.”
The disappointment was obviously there as he had so much hope initially about this race after winning at Kansas Speedway. Instead, he was dealt with a reality check of where he truly stood, and Hendrick Motorsports current ranking against the other teams still, despite the countless hours put in by everybody.
“Can you talk about your season this year?” One of the reporters ask and Chase had to smile a little. While tonight stung, you couldn’t hang your head on three wins.
“Yeah, better than the first two for sure, but not what we want,” he offers before walking away.
Given the past couple of weeks, it was obvious that the emotions had taken a toll on him. While no racecar driver wanted the off-season, he was actually welcoming a break for a change as it’d be nice to get away.
Thursday, November 22 – Dawsonville, Georgia
“Sweetheart, you don’t need to help….” Cindy tells Sarina as Sarina sets the dish down on the counter.
As they had since the beginning of their relationship, the trip was made up to Dawsonville on Thanksgiving to spend it with Chase’s parents and sisters. It was odd in seeing the relationship between them and Chase, with the age difference and the fact they weren’t super close. There was a level of respect and love there, but not the sibling blond like Sarina originally had with her brother once upon a time.
“I feel bad though if I don’t,” Sarina comments. “You and Bill worked so hard to prepare dinner – which was amazing as always, and I want to be able to do something for you in return.” Cindy looks over at her as she begins rinsing off the dishes.
“You’ve already done enough sweetheart,” Cindy tells her, taking a glance into the living room. “Look at my baby boy. That smile that he has, the adoration for you, and the fact that he has someone to lean on no matter what – especially with everything that has happ-”
“That was my fau-”
“Alison wasn’t your fault one bit sweetheart, so I don’t want to start that argument with you.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that still didn’t erase what happened prior to Alison with Chris and Bethany. That was a topic that neither her or Cindy would address together. “But seeing the way he looks at you, and how happy he is, that’s everything to me. as a mother, all I wanted for Chase was for him to be happy, to live his dreams, and find someone that he could share his life with who respected him. You do that, and that’s what matters.”
“He does the same for me in return – actually, he goes beyond that. I keep saying this, but I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He believed in me when a lot of people didn’t. He also helped me through a lot of things that others couldn’t.” Cindy could only smile, remembering his original discontent with Sarina when they met. It was amazing to see how far they’d come over the past couple years.
“Besides, you need to take care of this baby….” Sarina nods her head, easily accepting that. She knew Cindy having her first grandchild was going to be special for her, too.
“Maybe I should take a bit of a break then.” Cindy points towards the exit of the kitchen, as if to empathize the point.
Whether she wanted to admit it or not, getting off her feet and relaxing with Chase was probably a good idea. The heart in her wanted to help, but the advice from Cindy was on point.
She had been ignoring it, knowing that it was part of being pregnant and would just continue, but her back had been sore a little all day. She had heard the stories – leg cramps, swollen feet, and sore back. It made sense considering the weight you were caring around. She was always one to do her thing, and that was the plan for the pregnancy.
Though being told to take a step back, knowing what was at stake, she took the seat on the couch beside Chase. Besides, watching the amount of pain and where she felt it was critical, according to Dr. Grayson. The position of the baby in the uterus was more important for her than other mothers-to-be due to the dimensions and shape of hers. Keeping tabs on the baby’s growth, making sure there was adequate room, and it wasn’t affecting other bodily functions or parts too badly was part of the process now.
Sitting by Chase, she didn’t want to interrupt him as he shared in conversation with Starr and Brittney, glad he was taking advantage of the time he got with his sisters. So instead, she took her phone out, figuring she’d check various social media accounts to pass the time.
She stopped immediately after unlocking, seeing a new notification from Samantha and Kyle. She opens it, a big smile forming on her face as she reads the news they had shared.
“Can I see?” Chase’s questions, catching her off-guard as she hadn’t realized his attention had been grabbed by the message. Though glancing up from the phone, she saw both Starr and Brittney had left the room.
“Samantha’s pregnancy took,” Sarina tells him, handing her phone over. “Her and Kyle found out the news this morning. She’s officially has a baby girl due in August.” Chase couldn’t help but smile in seeing the joy on both of the Busch’s faces.
“Now that’s the perfect Thanksgiving present.” He then hands her back the phone, wrapping his arms around her, precisely placed on the stomach. “Just like I’m thankful for you, the love that we have together, and our baby to be.” He then leans close, kissing her stomach.
“Oh Gosh, are you going to be one of those dads that keeps kissing my stomach all the way until the baby comes out?” He keeps her a shy glance, as she just smirks back in return. “Seriously?”
“I want to show the baby just how much him or her, as well as how much I love the mother. I also want to tell stories, and feel every single movement.” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that it’d be a long off-season. However, she wasn’t about to complain about spending time together.
“Where’d the siblings go?” He then points out in the backyard, where they were chasing around their kids with Bill.
“Just think. That’ll be us next year…” Sarina shakes her head in disbelief as she looks back over at Chase.
“I can tell that girls run in the family…..” Chase had to smile as that further confirmed his theory. “It gets me thinking. Dr. Grayson asked if we wanted to learn the paternity, or if we wanted to wait. What do you think?”
“It’s up to yo-”
“You have left everything up to me so far, Chase. It’s damn time that you decide something.” He then lets out a sigh, as it really didn’t matter in his mind.
“I still say that you’re having a girl. Whether we confirm that in a couple weeks, couple months, or when the baby is born, it doesn’t matter to me.” She rolls her eyes as his stubbornness was a bit of annoying, even if adorable.
“I kind of wanted to wait and be surprised. The pregnancy was a surprise, so why don’t we just continue the tradition? As we’ve said, everything happened for a reason. If it’s meant to be a girl, then it’s a girl. It’s a boy, that’s fine too. I don’t care what gender the baby is; I just want a healthy baby.” Chase nods his head in agreement.
“I keep saying girl because that’s everything my intuition keeps telling me, but like you, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I’ll be happy no matter what.” He then gives her a small kiss.
“Can you believe that our brother is getting married in two months?” Starr asks as she comes back in the room.
“Absolutely not,” Brittney answers as she follows right behind. “I remember when I wanted to kick Sarina’s ass from here to the other end of the country.” Starr chuckles, remembering the first meeting. “Actually, I think I let her off easy…”
“Seriously?” Brittney nods her head as she remembers what she told her.
“I mean, I just threatened to kick her ass along with my fellow Air Force mates. I just told her a couple words. I could’ve spouted off every other feeling that I had that day.” Brittney then stops as she finally looks up to where Chase and Sarina were sitting on the couch. “But the second time that I saw you, I remember I was just as harsh and you didn’t back down. That’s when I knew you were strong enough to take care of him. Then I saw the love when he set up the meeting with Lindsay for you.”
“No matter what Thanksgiving memories I make moving forward, there’s nothing that’ll replace reuniting with her for the first time in a long time,” Sarina confesses as she places her hand on Chase’s lap. “But I have to admit spending time here, with all of you, is pretty fun.”