Monday, September 10 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
“Can you believe it? It finally stopped raining!” Sarina lets out as she takes her seat atop of the GMS Racing pit box behind Chad Norris.
“Miracles actually do happen,” the crew chief mused with a nod in her direction.
From drop of the green flag, Chase ran up front throughout the race, showing the potential of the No. 23 Chevrolet underneath him. Chad Norris also pulled the perfect strategy, bringing Chase to pit road near the end of stage. As a result, he would start first for the third and final stage after the leaders pitted.
The strength of the car shined through as he led the field around the speedway, holding a pretty wheel with sights set on winning.
However, the package NASCAR chose for the XFINITY Series allowed for runs to be created if you drafted together with teammates. The JR Motorsports played that to perfection on a late-race restart as Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick got a run on him together, passing him to take the leadwith 18 laps to go.
“Ugh…” was all Sarina could say, knowing that it’d be tough to make it up in the final laps.
He wasn’t able to, as predicted, ultimately crossing the finish line with a fourth-place finish.
“I hated that for you,” she comments as she rests her head on his shoulder. “But on a brighter note, I am going to have a pair of badass teammates next year.” Chase chuckles as he couldn’t be upset in seeing the success for Justin and Tyler, either.
“Careful how loud you say that,” he offered, with a quick kiss. “One down, one to go.”
Sarina once again climbs the step of the pit box, this time in very familiar territory on top of the No. 9 pit box. She took her usual seat behind Alan, catching the crew chief’s attention.
“I guess congratulations are in order,” Alan offers with a smile, as he holds his arms out for a hug. She then accepts it, graciously.
“Thank you,” she replies, before getting comfortable in her spot once again. She was admittedly nervous discussing the baby topic with Alan based on his thoughts as Chase expressed yesterday.
“I wish you and Chase the best – I really do, and I want to see it work out for you both because of course I want the best for you guys. You deserve it after everything you’ve been through these past couple years. Just promise me you’ll be smart, and careful.” She nods her head, accepting, knowing exactly what he was talking about.
“I know what I’m doing Alan.”
With pace laps beginning, Alan was set to focus on his job at hand, while she got comfortable knowing it was going to be a long afternoon.
From drop of the green flag, Chase showed that he had a solid car as he kept himself just inside the top-10 until the second competition caution, when he was scored eighth. Alan would make a strategy call with the yellow flags close together, electing to put just two tires on the NAPA Chevrolet. This would allow them to jump up to third for the restart.
The discussion on the radio through the caution turned interesting, though, with a couple comments from both in a side skirt that was flared out on someone else’s car after contact. While normally that would be something concerning, it seemed to be giving them an advantage.
“I can put it back if it helps that much,” Chase joked on the radio, causing a couple chuckles from Alan and Sarina.
“Let’s just focus on our race,” Alan offered. “We’re doing a great job so far, bud.”
The two tire called proved to be a little tougher than imagined, but Chase was able to hold on to score a seventh-place finish to end stage one.
“I am going to pit you here – setting us up for later,” Alan tells him as he brings him down pit road at the end of the stage. With several others staying out, it drop Chase back to the 20th position for the restart. Sarina took a deep breath, not sure if it was butterflies or baby jitters swirling in the stomach right now.
The plan worked by the crew chief as they stayed out through the stage while others pitted, gaining track position in the process, crossing the finish line with a second-place finish.
Alan would bring him down pit road, wanting to put new tires on to start the run to the checkered, which dropped him back to ninth. The strategy worked as even with a green flag pit cycle, Chase would make his way up to fifth. The caution then came out with 18 to go, as Alan debated what to do next. Track position was nice, but tires seemed critical.
“Bring it in….” Alan finally decided as Sarina let out a sigh of her own. Personally, she felt they had a better chance by staying out.
Restarting 14th, Chase would gain four spots before the next yellow flag came out with seven laps to go. The final restart with three laps to go would not go accordingly with Clint Bowyer spinning his tires, backing up the line, causing Chase to lose valuable ground. he’d ultimately cross the finish line with a 15th-place finish.
“I shouldn’t have brought you down pit road that late in the race,” Alan comments as they meet up together after the race. Both of them, along with Sarina, were wanting to get out of Indianapolis as soon as possible, but that wasn’t happening as Chase needed to do playoff photos.
“I still agree with the call,” Chase offers, catching the crew chief’s attention. “I think we would’ve lost a lot of ground with tires being so important. If Bowyer doesn’t spin the tires, we finish inside the top-10 about seventh or eighth, where I’d finish without new tires. It was a gamble either way, and I’d rather try so we know than wonder.”
“I was happy with the performance.” Chase nods his head in agreement as he reaches down, rubbing the back of legs. “You had a busy day…”
“I just want to go home, just put my legs up, and relax..” He then lets out a small yawn, as he continues rubbing the back of his legs. “My calves are sore.”
“Did you drink enough?” Chase wasn’t sure on the answer to the question, but he felt he had. “Well, at least Sarina can take care of you. Oh wait, you already took care of her in good fashion.” Chase then gives Alan a glance as Alan begins chuckling.
“Am I supposed to expect these jokes for the next seven months?” Alan thinks it over, before nodding his head. “As long as you don’t say anythi-”
“I may not agree with every bit of your plan, but I won’t spoil the party. Are you sure that Kyle and Samantha won’t say anything?” Chase knew that for certain based on their conversations the past two days, especially with Sam.
“They’re both totally on-board.” Alan was surprised to hear that, given the risks involved.
“I thought Samantha would’ve said something given her experience.” Chase had expected that, as well, however she seemed to be the strongest one in Sarina’s corner of them all – or it seemed. Sarina had hinted otherwise based on what she had discussed with Samantha without Chase.
“Samantha is on the fence, but says she’ll do whatever we need to support us with our decisions.” Alan smiles as he puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder.
“I promise to follow through with that, as well, even if I want to smack sense into you both sometimes.”
“Thank you everybody,” the photographer says once the last photo is taken of the three Hendrick Motorsports teammates together.
“We need a selfie for social media and then you can go,” the one PR rep states, as she hands a phone over to Alex.
“Get in here guys!” Alex says as he sets it up, ready to take the image of the three of them together.
“I’m good…” Chase comments, earning a glance from Alex and Jimmie.
“What? Are you afraid the trophy is going to bite you or something?” Chase then gives it a glance over, before looking back up at his teammates.
“I’m not touching it.” Jimmie just rolls his eyes as he looks over at him.
“Scared of the jinx?” Jimmie questions, earning a nod from Chase. It was one of the oldest tales in racing – don’t touch the trophy before you get it, or you’ll jinx yourself. Chase had always followed that rule, and even ready to drop suspicions away, he wasn’t going to break that today. “Well, I don’t believe in those crazy suspicions. As a matter of fact, I believe you should become friends with it so it comes home with you.” Jimmie then leans right on it, giving Chase a smirk before looking back at Alex. “Make it work, kid.”
“Say cheese!” Alex lets out as he gets it centered so they were all in the frame with the trophy.
Tuesday, September 11 – JR Motorsports
“Are you nervous?” Chase questions as he holds the door open for her, following Sarina inside.
“A little,” Sarina answers as she glances back at him, taking his hand before heading towards the office doors. Sarina had called ahead of time, saying she wanted to stop by. Kelley had told her to make her way through, no need to stop at the desk, as she’d be in her office. “You’ve got some great memories here.”
“Lots of fun times, actually. I wouldn’t change the decision to drive for Dale and Kelley.” He then squeezes her hand, catching a gaze from her eyes. “I know you’ll make your own memories here, too.”
They make their way down the short hallway, knocking on Kelley’s office door. She motions for them to come in, surprised when she sees Chase with Sarina.
“Chase, I wasn’t expecting you,” Kelley says, giving them both a hug before taking her usual seat back behind her desk. “So did you bring a new bargaining partner?” Sarina chuckles as she takes a seat across from Kelley.
“I figured he should be here when I told you the news,” Sarina starts, catching Kelley’s interest immediately. What would Sarina have to share that she’d want Chase to be there for her?
“Well Dale can’t be here today due to NBC and sponsor commitments, so please go ahead…” Sarina takes a nervous deep breath, debating how to tell Kelley the news.
“I want to say yes to the deal, and agree to drive for you next season as it’s a spectacular oppor-”
“Please tell me you didn’t go to Mike Beam for her, Chase…” Chase puts his hands up defensively immediately, knowing that he didn’t want to be Kelley’s bad side.
“I haven’t done a single bit of negotiating for her,” he confesses. “I always believed that she’d stay with KBM and move on to JGR next.” Kelley knew that was a possibility, but also knew the dynamics at play over there – hence the move for William a couple years ago.
“Please continue, Sarina,” Kelley instructs as Sarina takes another shaky breath.
“As I was saying, everything about it is perfect as I can’t find any argument against it,” Sarina continues. “Under any other circumstances, I would’ve come here and said yes without another discussion. However, I have a unique situation. I am pregnant.” Kelley’s jaw drops immediately as she glances between the pair.
“Seriously?” Sarina nods her head as Chase places a hand on her shoulder. “How far along are you?”
“Two months..” Kelley’s deadpan surprise look remained as she glanced between the pair once again. “I just found out this past weekend at Indianapolis. It’s strange what you can uncover during a rain delay, huh?” Chase almost wanted to chuckle already imagining another couple having baby news in a couple weeks as a result of the boredom. “I am in due early in March. I wanted to come and talk to you about this today because I believed you had a right to know before you decided or announced anything. I’ve thought about this, and I was thinking that once I have the baby in March, if you are willing, I would like to begin driving for your team then.”
“So in other words, you’re going to miss about three or four races and then planned to step in as if nothing happened?” Sarina slowly nods her head, the nerves growing in hearing Kelley’s tone.
“The playoff format allows for her to do so…” Chase offers, trying to ease Kelley’s heavy presence.
“I am still in shock that you’re pregnant – and you got her pregnant,” Kelley comments as she tries to process everything they just told her.
“I was taking birth control, he was using condoms – it still happened,” Sarina confesses as Kelley’s shock hit a new level. “And trust me, if you do agree to all of this, I won’t be marching in your office next year mid-season saying oh surprise I’m pregnant again.” Sarina then glances down, taking a deep breath. “I just can’t give up this baby because it wouldn’t feel right after everything that we’ve gone through.” She then slowly glances back up at Kelley. “But at the same time, I don’t want to let go of this opportunity because it’s everything.”
“If you came to any other plain old car owner with news like this, you’d probably get a strip torn off your ass and sent back out the door for messing with plans.” Sarina felt every nerve tingle, but also wanted to argue that after her own discussion with Kyle and Samantha. “However, we’re family. I’ve known Chase for a very long time, and my happiness for him soon to be a father is bursting at the seams. I remember the days he’d spend here playing with Wyatt while waiting in between meetings or sponsor commitments, and he was great with him. I know he’ll make a great father – just like you’ll make a great mother. I’ve believed in you since day one when Chase started bringing you around. I’ve watched you grow as a driver. So given the circumstances, how well I know you both, I’ll work with your so-called plan.” Sarina smiles as it was a big relief off of her back to have someone else committed to everyone. It was also nice in hearing Kelley’s sentiments as it further solidified her decision to join JRM for 2019.
“Maybe Elliott will drive the first couple of races,” Chase suggests as Kelley nods her head in agreement, already having made a note to ask him. “Oh, the other thing – we’re not revealing she’s pregnant till after the season.”
“I am going to finish the year at KBM as committed with a focus on that championship,” Sarina adds, catching Kelley’s surprise glance once again.
“Are you sure you can handle that while carrying a baby?” Kelley questions and Sarina nods her head. “Well, I hope you come away as the champion as you’d certainly deserve it for all of your effort.” She then takes a deep breath, glancing over her calendar. “That said, I won’t say anything to anybody else within the company – other than Dale, that is – until you’re ready to do so. We’ll reveal you’re driving for us as originally scheduled in a couple weeks, and then handle the fall-out when you announce the pregnancy.”
“Thank you….” She then glances at Chase, knowing where their next stop would take them. “Now let’s just hope that Cindy and Bill are as accepting.” Kelley then looks up from her notes.
“Expecting grandparents better be a happy reaction. Actually, I expect Cindy to smother you with love.” Sarina had to chuckle at the thought considering where their relationship started.
“What about the plan, though?” Chase questions, having his own nerves in revealing that to his parents after Alan’s reaction.
“All I can say is good luck on that one,” Kelley offers. “I can already sense their fears perking up because they understand the dangers of racing having grown up around it just like me. However, if you explain your motives, you may get Bill on your side at least.”