Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 167: The Teammate Tangle

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

After a nice week away, it was just like clockwork as they were back to the daily grind at Phoenix Raceway. So far, the day hadn’t gone that bad. Sarina was fourth in the lone truck practice session, while Chase led the Cup session.

“So I take it those adjustments worked?” Alan questions afterwards as Chase nods his head.

“That was worth taking the time to do,” he comments as Alan glances over the notes, before setting them aside.

“We should qualify well later on today. Then I say we tweak on the car a little more tomorrow, and we’ll be fine for Sunday. We’re going to get this right.” Chase believed in the crew chief’s words as it was now or never to win that weekend.

“We’ve missed out on a couple different opportunities to win these last couple of months. I don’t see why we can’t win this weekend. I mean, I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t make the final four.” Alan could understand that, based on their performance, but he wasn’t quite that far down the radar.

“I wouldn’t say disappointed as we’ve done a lot better this year than we did last year, and we’re starting to find our groove here at the end of the year. If anything, it makes me look that much more forward to next year – not that I’m writing off this season, yet.” Chase understood where the crew chief was coming from, but felt thinking of next year was pointless right now.

“Let’s just stay focused on the task at hand, and get the job done – deal?” Alan nods his head, accepting, but his eyes don’t leave his driver one bit through the whole conversation.

“You’re quieter than normal…” Chase looks over surprised. “I just noticed that you got something else on your mind. Would I be right?” Chase just smiles back in return. It should be obvious what’s going on.

“Well, you do realize my trip got cut short because we had to go to Florida, right?” Alan nods his head, having heard about that minor detail. It was the next stage in the trial against Sarina’s brother Chris for everything that had happened. It was Chris’ turn to testify against the charges laid in his favor. “To be honest, he was smart with what he said. He stated enough words that it would make you believe there’s doubt that he poisoned me and Ryan. Now if the jury sees that, and doesn’t consider the other evidence enough, you know what happens.”

“But okay, let’s say they find him not guilty on those two charges. There are five other counts of poisoning that he pled guilty to, along with two other minor charges. Isn’t that worth enough time in jail?” Chase nods his head, having already done the math as he tried convince Sarina things were going to work out in their favor.

“He’ll be away for at least 60 years, if not 80, depending how the judge sees fit – which is great as you’re right, that is ample time. The problem lies in the fact of parole and making sure that he can’t sneak out under psychological insanity. Both terms need to be clear as day so he can’t sneak around them, or that chance of him doing something again is always there.” Alan could understand the theory behind that, and one look into Chase’s eyes said everything he needed to know.

“And that worries you, right?” Chase looks up at Alan and nods his head.

“It’s not the easiest thing to say, Alan, but he scares the bloody crap out of me. There’s twice now that he almost has gone too far – the plane crash, and the pois-”

“Don’t remind me of Daytona, please…” Alan didn’t need a reminder of what he saw that day, and the panic that set in once he found Chase up in the hauler. He was fine moving forward without any reminders. However, he understood how that played with Chase’s thoughts right now. “I absolutely understand the fear, and trust me – it’s not something to joke about, or realize that it’s not coming from a good place. You have every reason to feel the way that you do. I hope for your sake, and Sarina’s, that it plays out the way you want. I know what it would mean to finally have that peace of mind.” Chase laughs a little. “What?”

“Peace of mind? Please, I don’t think I’m going to get that. It seems Allison is great at showing up at the loveliest of times.” Alan nods his head, having seen her appearance at Texas.

“Well, at least you’ll be one step closer to that if you manage to get Chris where you need to.” Chase could live with that statement. “That makes me wonder. Exploring her family and finding more people that have connections to her, Chris, and Bethany. Do you worry about uncovering something that doesn’t need to be?” Chase shakes his head no right away.

“The potential of closing that chapter for her, and helping her deal with those feelings by finding something, outweighs that entirely. By the way, we are getting closer to the first piece of the puzzle.” Alan looks over surprised.

“Really?” Chase nods his head, remembering the text message he received.

“I think I’ll have it unwrapped and really down that road by Christmas.” Alan smiles, knowing exactly what Chase had in mind already. But still, a tinge of fear was there in knowing what had happened so far.

“Just be careful, okay?” Chase nods his head, accepting.

************

Following qualifying, Christopher Bell made his way down pit road to where Sarina’s pit was, patiently waiting as she discussed things over with Marcus Richmond. He then smiled as he caught her attention, with her walking over right away.

“Hey,” he simply says. “Nice job.” She then crosses her arms, with a smile of her own. Truthfully, she wished it was role reversal but instead, he got the pole with her second.

“I should be telling you nice job there,” she comments as he simply smiles back in return. “We’ve got a pair of good trucks.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Look, I stopped on my way down here because I just wanted to check on you. Are you okay?” She then looks at him confused.

“Why would I need someone to chec-”

“Yesterday, your brother, and everything that happened.” She then takes a deep breath, as she glances away from Christopher for a moment.

“I was actually trying to put that out of mind, truthfully.” He then glances down at the ground. “But hey, it’s okay. I’m still pissed and upset at what he did. All I care is that he gets locked away so he can’t do it again. He said what he had to say and now we’ll see what happens. If the courts do their job, I won’t have anything to worry about.”

“Do you think they will?” He didn’t mean to press the issue too far, but he couldn’t help but ask. He knew while she wanted to avoid, getting her to talk about it some would help.

“I think so. It’s clear as day that he was behind the other attacks, and he has a past history with Chase. If you add that together, no matter what freaking story he tries to con up to cover the last two, a little kid could put together that he was responsible. I don’t see there being any problems.” She then flashes trademark smile. “Hence why I am focused on this weekend, tonight, and kicking your ass.”

“Oh really?” She nods her head as he could only look back with a grin. “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens tonight. By the way, I’m not going to take it easy on you just because you’re my teammate and having a rough stretch…”

“I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Good luck tonight.”

“Right back at ‘cha.” He then heads off to his pole award photos, while she makes her way up pit road, knowing Cup qualifying was next on the docket.

“Uh oh, someone looks like he’s got something serious on the mind…” Ryan comments as he watches Chase walk by him following the qualifying runs. The session had gone decently, with Chase ending up qualifying fourth. The fun factor was the front row being made up of Ryan and Denny. “Thinking about if you should wreck Hamlin on Lap 1?” Chase laughs and shakes his head no.

“Chase wreck someone on purpose? That’d never happen,” a new voice chimes in as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. walks over to the pair. “Sorry, but I don’t see you doing that ever…”

“Never say never. Danica did tell us she’d never date another driver, and she’s been with you for a couple of years.” Chase grins between them, impressed with those words. “She also said she’d never be one to hang around the dirt tracks and oh wait, isn’t she doing that now?”

“So are you really going to wreck Denny on the first lap?” Chase laughs, enjoying the suspicions about his plans for Sunday.

“I don’t have any plans to wreck Denny on the first lap or at all,” Chase reveals. “I’m actually going to be solely focused on winning so I can be part of the Championship 4. And for your knowledge, Mr. Blaney, Sunday’s race is not even what I am thinking about.” Ryan then looks at him puzzled, but immediately has his suspicions.

“Are you thinking about Chris?” He wonders, though knew if that was the topic at hand they should walk away from Ricky now.

“I heard he had the trial on Thurs-” Ricky starts, having seen something about it in his twitter feed.

“It’s not about Chris, either,” Chase cuts him off, even though he had thought about it a little since his conversation with Alan earlier. He figured he might as well tell the pair, anyway. It’s not like they could spoil the surprise and maybe they’d have advice. “So I’m trying to find Sarina’s family – real family that she ran away from. She had six uncles and an aunt. I had someone looking into the information and he’s located the majority of those people, and they check out to be decent. Now it’s figuring out the best way to reach out to them.”

“What if you just call them one day?” Ryan suggests, not seeing the big deal in this process.

“They may not answer the phone so I say you just show up on their front door,” Ricky adds as Chase rolls his eyes. This wasn’t quite the advice he was looking for.

“What if they’re crazy and attack him?” Chase then looks at Ryan full of complete shock, with Ryan just shrugging his shoulders in response. “What? It could happen.”

“Good point. Bring security with you…” Chase rolls his eyes as he couldn’t believe he had enlisted these two.

“Joshua suggested that the first person we reach out to be someone that Sarina really knew well, trusted, and liked,” Chase continues. “But she doesn’t talk much about her family – except her dad here and there. How do I find out that person?” Ryan and Ricky were caught off-guard by the question, but knew there had to be a solution eventually.

“How about you tell her about what you’re doing?” Ricky questions and Chase shakes his head immediately. He wasn’t ready to ruin the surprise, yet.

“That’d ruin the surprise.” Ricky almost felt like smacking himself in the head.

“What if you bring up some stories, and see if she’ll complement with some of her own?” Ryan suggests. “Or maybe ask about family vacations, and tell a memorable story of your own. Just try to bring it out in casual conversation.”

“Or you could talk to people that have known her longer than you have and see if they know,” Ricky adds. Chase nods his head, accepting the advice. It was certainly somewhere to start.

************

He knew those concerns could be worried about later, as for now, he had a truck race to focus on. Seeing how strong she was through practice and qualifying, there were some high hopes entering the evening.

Chase watched as she pulled ahead early, leading a chunk of the laps, before Christopher got back around her for the top spot, leading the rest of the way in the opening stage. The second stage went smoothly, as well, with Christopher leading the whole thing as she ended up second.

Chase watched the slew of pit stops, small fist pump in the air as the teammates came off pit road together 1-2. Could this go any better?

The start of the third stage worked out perfectly, as she pulled ahead, taking the top spot. A smile formed on his face as he watched her pull further away from Christopher and the rest of the field, destined for smooth sailing from here on out.

Of course, none of these races come that easily as the caution would fly with 27 laps to go for a truck slowing. Marcus immediately made the call for Sarina to stay out, sighting the importance of track position, lack of tire fall off, and having enough fuel to make it to the end.

The ensuing restart did not go smoothly, as a move by Austin Cindric, followed by a block from Ben Rhodes, saw Ben spin around and hit the inside barrier hard, before collecting Matt Crafton in the process.

“Are you kidding me?!?” Chase says out loud, disbelief forming between the late race incident to the fact the pair had collided in their battle for the final transfer spot in that way.

“Same thing that Carl and Joey did last year,” Kyle comments from his vantage point, referring to the wreck at Homestead while battling for the championship. “Ben never should’ve blocked.”  Chase nods his head in agreement.

“He had to know that would happen as soon as he went down. But, does Austin make that move stick with enough room if they get to turn one? We’d probably see a repeat of Kenseth and Bowman here last year.” Kyle smiles, as he thinks back to Martinsville a couple weeks ago.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Both were desperate to make a statement and get to the next round.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, and began to wonder if the same type of move would be what it would take to transfer tomorrow.

After a lengthy clean-up – including a red flag, everything was set to go for another attempt at the restart. This time, the green lasted a little longer as they were able to at least make a lap – but it didn’t take long for the caution, either. Six-wide through the dog leg on the backstretch resulted in contact in turn three, and several torn up trucks.

“That definitely wasn’t going to work,” Kyle comments after seeing the replay, shaking his head in surprise. “Ridiculous…”

“Are we ever going to finish this race?” Chase wonders, glancing at the lap count. Through the chaos, Sarina had managed to hold the lead with Christopher in second. There wasn’t much left now…

The restart came with 10 laps to go, and all eyes locked on the action in seeing Sarina and Christopher battle alongside each other for the lead. Both Chase and Kyle felt like they were going to jump out of their skin and nerves as they saw both trucks get a little sideways, followed by a little bit of bumping.

Neither driver lifted through the whole process, and finally with five laps to go, everything came to a head. Sarina got loose underneath Christopher off of turn four, truck spinning around, and backing into the outside wall, followed by Christopher slapping the wall with the right side of his truck. The wreck wasn’t over there, yet, as Justin Haley was left nowhere to go, hitting just behind the driver’s door of Sarina’s truck as it rolled across the track.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?” Kyle asked out loud, standing up in complete disbelief as he looked at the pair of torn up trucks. “They led all the laps to this point…”

Chase had his fair share of anger over the contact, almost set to give Christopher a piece of his mind, but that didn’t matter in that very moment as he sat there, eyes closed, waiting for the familiar words over the radio.

“I’m okay,” he hears after a bit, taking a deep breath to calm his own nerves.

He watches as she climbs out of the truck, taking a breather for a moment as she lays her head on the roof. Chase could feel each part inside of him ripping apart, concern filled in thinking about the pain that she could be in.

He felt somewhat relieved in watching her climb out the rest of the way, followed by walking with the official to the ambulance for the trip back to the care center.

Making his way down the steps and set to join her, he could only wonder as to what’s to come.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 164: “Look, are any of you on my side?”

Tuesday, October 31

Chase walks through the house, smiling as he enters the kitchen, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

“Something smells good….” He comments as she just smiles.

“Oh really?” She questions, before turning around to face him, lightly kissing his lips. “Well, I hope it tastes just as lovely.”

“I’m sure it will.” He then lets her go, so she can focus on dinner, going over to the fridge to grab a drink.

“Good day or bad day?” Chase glances over, shrugging his shoulders. Certainly the guys in the shop weren’t feeling peachy after the weekend, but things did go smoothly.

“Meeting goals accomplished, and ready to go kick some ass this weekend. I say it was a good day.” Sarina could see that easily happening, though her mind couldn’t help but wander.

“What about Denny?” Chase leans against the counter with a sigh.

“Not a single word spoken. But, I did receive a text and voice mail from him.” She then looks over surprised. “Something along the lines of an apology….” She then snatches his phone off of the counter, reading over the message, before handing it back over.

“I’m surprised you didn’t respond…” Chase shrugs his shoulders. He had thought about it initially, but there was no way he was going to accept an apology. You don’t lift someone’s tires off the ground by accident.

“Not worth my time, right?” He then walks back over, wrapping his arms back around her. “Besides, I have someone else I can focus on…” She just rolls her eyes.

“Did you get around to reading his apology on twitter?” Chase nods his head as he did load that when he went on to check college football updates.

Other than that, he had stayed away from reading everything else, knowing that the media was going to try and blow up the coverage to the extreme. There was no point getting warped in the midst of that?

“His apology was…umm….interesting….” Chase comments as Sarina immediately laughs.

“So that’s your response?” She questions as he shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s an interesting approach; I’ll give him that. However, Ryan is my hero.” She then looks on intrigued. “I was listening to his podcast and he goes, ‘I can kill an animal and apologize, but it doesn’t make a difference’ or something like that. Perfect! I literally texted him that I owe him ice cream.”

“So it looks like he’s getting ice cream and a basket of his favorite chocolate bars.” Chase shakes his head, not surprised by Sarina’s reaction. “Although Landon was pretty neat in how he broke down the race count factor.”

“Hence the interesting approach….” She just laughs as she focuses on finishing up dinner.

“After we’re done eating, we need to get changed. I did promise Brexton that we’d be dressed up when Samantha brought him by.” Chase nods his head, accepting. He had let Sarina pick out the costume of choice for the night, glad that it was better than what he wrote at Ryan’s party. They were going to simply be Mickey and Minnie for the night. “I still can’t believe Kyle is missing Halloween….”

“SEMA could’ve easily planned the show for another weekend.” Sarina nods her head in agreement.

They hear a knock on the door, both glancing at each other with a smile. They had finished dinner, got into their costumes, and been relaxing. Samantha had sent them a warning text that she was on her way over, and they knew that little knock belonged to a little hand. Sarina opens the door, with Chase popping out from behind her.

“Hey!” Sarina says as she smiles at the costumes by both Samantha and Brexton.

“Wow….” Chase comments in surprise as he looks at them. He never would’ve expected them to be done up based on the movie Psycho.

“Trick or treat!” Brexton says as Sabrina continues looking back, smiling. She then reaches back behind the door, grabbing the giant chocolate racecar, handing it over. “Cool! Thank you!” Brexton immediately gives Sarina a hug.

“You both look awesome,” Sabrina comments as she looks between Brexton and Samantha. “I never would’ve expected that costume…..”

“Kyle and I watched the movie a couple weeks ago,” Samantha explains. “I just fell in love immediately and knew it’d be perfect. I texted Kyle some photos and he’s just in pure joy.”

“I would be too as your make-up is perfect!” Samantha twirls around with a smile.

“You a cutie,” Brexton says as Sarina looks down at him, giving him another big hug.

“You’re always a sweetheart,” Sarina replies.

The pair embarked in some conversation, ranging from Kyle’s messages about SEMA to reflections on Sarina’s big win at Martinsville. From laughs to smiles, everything was going smooth as could be.

“Have you talked to Denny yet?” Samantha then asks mid-conversation, and Chase could only sigh. He figured she’d eventually bring it up given how Kyle and Denny were teammates.

“Sam, I’d rather not talk about this-”

“You know, I don’t think Denny really meant to do it.” Chase rolls his eyes, having expected a comment like that, as well. Being teammates, of course she would see the positives in Denny and believe that he didn’t do anything. Besides, she’d dealt with her fair of controversy in the past, thanks to Kyle. It was never Kyle’s fault when he and Brad got together, right?

“Samantha, you can say what you want. It doesn’t change my opinion on what happened.” Sarina could see the tension in Chase’s voice, and felt bad that their Halloween fun was being ruined by this.

“I think we should change the topic….” Her voice trails off as Chase keeps his eyes locked on Samantha. Instead of just moving on, he knew something needed to be said.

“I don’t mind hanging out with you and Kyle. Actually, Kyle isn’t that bad once you get to know him as we can relate on a couple different levels. But, there’s certain spots to draw the line – and that includes Hamlin. I don’t want to discuss it because we won’t come to an agreement.” Samantha lets out a sigh, though she understood where Chase stood right now.

“Okay, that’s fine,” Samantha accepts as Sarina’s eyes lock back down on Brexton once again.

“I can’t believe how cute he looks!” Sarina lets out as she picks Brexton up in his arms, spinning him around which causes a big smile on his face. “So, are you going around visiting the various driver houses?”

“I figured since it’s just me and little man, and he’d probably get tired if I took him everywhere, that I’d just hit up certain spots.”

“I can’t say I blame ya….”

“You know, it’s strange how even Brad sent a text saying to come by, too.” Sarina and Chase’s jaws drop in shock as they never would’ve expected that. If there was one thing for certain in the garage area, it was that Brad and Kyle just didn’t get along – period, no matter what. Although, admittedly, Brad had tried to soothe things over a couple times.

“Really?” Chase questions and Samantha nods her head.

“Yeah, it’s weird,” she replies. “Him and Kyle still don’t agree on a lot of things – which obviously I get why Kyle is still angry with him. But Brad wants them to come to a truce, in a wa-”

“Sort of like agree to disagree?” Sarina questions, having seen some of Brad’s previous approaches to do so, including his blog.

“That’s what I meant! So he sent me a text saying he wanted to see what Brexton was going to be for Halloween.” Chase just shook his head in surprise, as there was no way to wrap his head around that. He could only wonder what Kyle’s response was.

“That’s strange….” Chase comments as Samantha nods her head.

“That’d be like Denny and Jordan bringing Tay-“ Samantha starts.

“Samantha!” Chase and Sarina cut her off immediately, as Chase just rolls her eyes.

“Sorry, you’re right. I should just let it go…” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Actually, I better get going. We need to make these stops before it gets too late. Thank you for spoiling my prince.”

“Anytime,” Sarina says. They watch Samantha and Brexton head off together as Chase just shakes his head over the whole conversation.

“Do you think Denny put her up to asking us about things?” Chase wonders, catching Sarina’s attention as they head back inside the house.

“No, I don’t think so. I think her heart is in the right place as she’s looking out for her teammate, and friend, but just not realizing where you stand.” Chase could accept that as they reach the kitchen, sitting down across from each other. “I can’t believe I have to leave tonight…”

“Going to miss me?” She then looks over the table, giving him a look full of surprise. She had to leave late that night around 11 to catch a flight as she was taking part in Toyota’s big motorsports celebration day at their headquarters tomorrow. The manufacture was getting all of their drivers together to speak to the crowd of employees and interact with them.

“Obviously!” He smiles back in response, as he places his hand on top of hers.

“Just think – it’s only one day, and then we’ll be reunited tomorrow night before we head to Texas together. It’s just under 24 hours. We can handle it. We’re grown-ups.” She then laughs.

“Are you sure about that?” He nods his head as he leans across the table, kissing her lips.

“I’ll text you constantly if it makes you feel better. Just promise me you won’t kill Denny?” She then laughs even harder.

“I can’t that promis-”

“Sarina!” She then stops laughing, letting out a sigh.

“Alright, fine. I’ll behave.” She then focuses back on their dinner. “I wonder if Bell would offer to pay my bai-”

“Sarina!” She then looks up giggling as he rolls his eyes. “I mean it. I don’t want to hear any complaints from Joe and Kyle because you acted out of line.”

*************

Wednesday, November 1

It had been a jam-packed day full of action from top to bottom.

The day started with the entire group assembling on stage, speaking to the crowd about a variety of topics. Sarina then sat and signed autographs for a couple of hours, smiling and taking pictures along the way. It was almost robotic like some employees were just collecting for the sake of doing so, but a couple of them caused bonus moments with some surprised she was a female, as well as some more congratulatory messages for her win. Their day was then completed with a tour of the factory.

With everything complete, the group was let loose and headed off separately, airport bound, ready to take the flight home and get back to their lives. Sarina couldn’t wait to see Chase later on that night, daydreaming about their hugs and cuddles already. Letting out a yawn, those cuddles were going to be perfect…

“Hey Sarina, did Chase get my text message?” Denny’s voice ruins her daydream, as she immediately rolls her eyes. She remembered seeing that message on Tuesday, chuckling to herself at Chase’s lack of response.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” she replies. “You’re talking about the one you sent after the race, right?”

“Absolutely.  I also sent another one on Tuesday.” Sarina could only roll her eyes, as she had seen both of them – not that Denny needed to know that detail.

“Well, if he got the one, then he got the other.” Denny figured that as much, but was caught off-guard by having no response yet.

“Yeah, I guess. I was hoping he would’ve replied by now.” Sarina knew that was not going to happen by what Chase told her. Smiling to herself, it was time to have some fun as Chase hadn’t made her promise to not do that. She had just promised to not kill him.

“Denny, he is in no mood to reply to you.” Denny lets out a sigh, remembering the anger expressed. He had hoped that would’ve faded now three days later with reasoning setting in.

“Can you tell him that I asked, and still want to talk?” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that’d fall on deaf ears. She actually couldn’t wait for the laughs when speaking of this conversation.

“Sure, but I don’t see how it’s going to have any point.” Denny then glances over at her, surprised.

“Sarina, you know I’m a good guy. I mean, just ask Kyle.” Sarina then stops, eyes locked on Denny. Was this discussion seriously happening?

“Denny, you’re lucky it wasn’t me that you wrecked or else I would have punched you square in the face on the backstretch. To be honestly, you’re really lucky it was Chase because at least he knows how to be respectful.” Denny rolls his eyes, growing old of the threats. Why couldn’t people see that it was an accident?

“I did not mean to wreck hi-”

“But you basically  lifted his ass entering the corner. As soon as you did that, you had to know what was going to happen. I mean, you’ve been racing long enough.” Denny knew how it panned out, but that was never the intention. Why was it different than what happened between Chase and Brad? Why was it different than moves pulled by other drivers in the past?

“It was just supposed to be a bump and run.” Christopher then stops walking, glancing back at the pair, with a laugh of his own. This was getting ridiculous.

“Really, Denny?” Christopher questions, catching Denny by surprise.

“Oh, so now you’re on her side?” Denny asks and Christopher nods his head. There was no question what happened was wrong.

“Absolutely. That was the dirtiest driving that I’ve seen since Kyle wrecked Hornaday in that truck race.” The whole group stops mid-way down the hall, jaws dropping around the circle as Kyle focuses his eyes on his young driver. Why was he the focus now?

“Hey! That’s ancient history,” Kyle comments. “Can we like refer to Kenseth and Joey instead?” Matt then crosses his arms. He was never part of the aggressive driver discussion, but now he was the second name mentioned?

“Hey! Logano totally deserved that!” Matt replies as Kyle thinks it over. Joey had been acting like an ass for quite awhile….

“Good point….”

“But I mean, Chase got into Brad so really, he’s not innocent as you all may claim, either,” Denny interrupts, working back at defending his actions, as he focuses on Sarina. “I mean, being his girlfriend, you would know whether he’s totally innocent or not.” Jaws drop once again as Sarina resists every urge to punch Denny straight in nose as Christopher and Kyle both put a hand on each of her shoulders. Erik slowly takes his phone out of his pocket, set to record any punch that is thrown if one happens, knowing Sarina’s feisty side from the sort tracks.

“Do you seriously want me to kick your ass right now?” Sarina questions as Kyle just stands there, shaking his head. It was getting harder and harder to stand up for his best friend here…

“Denny, that was uncalled for,” Kyle comments as Denny shrugs his shoulders.

“I was just trying to crack a joke-”

“Very inappropriate.” Denny lets out a sigh, as he glances around the circle of surprised faces. He almost felt like he was on an island right now.

“Alright, fine, I’m sorry. Look, are any of you on my side?” Kyle lets out a sigh, shaking his head.

“I get being aggressive and doing anything for the win because you’re right – it’s ticket to Homestead,” he starts. “Hence why I got into you. It’s just I wouldn’t have done it like you did.”

“In my world, you crossed the line between respect and being an ass,” Christopher adds.

“You don’t want to know my opinion,” Sarina states, trying to calm herself with some deep breathes.

“I guess everything you’re all saying is well deserved,” Denny finally gives in, knowing he wasn’t winning the argument no matter how hard he tried. “Just let Chase know that I asked though, okay?”

“Yeah, whatever…”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 162: “It feels amazing!”

Saturday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

Following the slew of post-race interviews, they immediately went into the sea of photos that were necessary after a win. From full team photos, to individual photos, to a few of her and the boss by themselves. The entire time, Sarina couldn’t help but smile as she stood there in total disbelief.

Was this really happening?

“That’s everything we nee-” Andy starts, in relation to all the photos.

“Not quite,” Kyle cuts him off, as he motions for Chase to go up on stage with her. “Go on…”

“It wouldn’t be a complete collection without you getting a photo,” Sarina says as he walks up with her, standing beside her. The pair both smile, as the flashbulbs go off multiple times.

“I haven’t seen that smile leave your face since you got out of the truck,” Chase comments afterwards. She just glances back, smile still firmly planted there.

“It feels amazing!” She then snags a kiss, which results in some more photos being taken. “I can’t even describe it. I can’t believe it.” Chase then laughs as he pinches her arm. “Ouch!”

“Believe it, enjoy it, and savor it. You deserve this beyond words…” She then pulls him back close into a hug. “I’m so proud of you. I’ve told you that before, but I mean it. You fought for this, and deserve it…”

“Thank you for dealing with my rough moments, including before quali-”

“You don’t have to mention it. I get it…” He then kisses her lips once again.

“Hey, you both can celebrate later!” Kyle yells out. “We have media center business to attend to!” Sarina turns to face the boss, wrapping an arm around Chase.

“But I don’t want to leave my boo…” She whines as Chase just laughs.

“Actually, I think you should go tell the world how you kicked Matt Crafton’s ass,” Chase suggests as she just glances back with a smile.

“That was the icing on the cake, really. I mean, he’s a veteran. He’s been doing this for so long. To come out here and beat the guy whose a veteran, done this many times, supposed to be ultimate here – it’s just amazing.”

“Not to mention that your boss was quite happy after Christopher got spun…” Sarina rolls her eyes, still not believing that. She was actually looking forward to getting the chance to race Christopher for the win. “Go on; we can celebrate later….”

“You’re comi-” He shakes his head as he points towards pit road.

“Cup practice, reme-”

“Kyle is coming and he has to qualify, too. There’s enough time….” He didn’t want to leave her as he wanted to savor the moment, but he also didn’t want to be late for qualifying. However, a quick glance at the time and text to Morgan and sure enough, time was on his side.

It wasn’t long until he was standing in the back of the media center, watching as her and Kyle fielded questions about the race from the various media personnel in the room. He could only smile with pride, glad that everybody was seeing what he saw in her from the beginning.

For the most part, everything was going smoothly with the same usual questions that they always asked. What did it mean to you? How did you make the move? How did you know it’d stick? It seemed like it’d be a nice, smooth day in the media center, until a comment caught his attention.

“Based on your reaction post-race and how chummy you have been with a fellow driver – plus the sickness last week, one has to ask – are you pregnant?” A reporter asked, which immediately caused Sarina to break out laughing. Chase could only look on surprised from his location, shaking his head. Of course….

“Are you seriously asking me that right now?” She questions, which fit the surprised glance from Kyle.

“Well, based on what we’ve seen-”

“I can assure you that I am not pregnant.” She bit her tongue as soon as the words escaped, though, remembering that night – and smile returning once again. However, she knew that couldn’t had resulted in something because they were careful, right? Besides, she had her period last week.

“I really don’t even think that’s a question that should be asked here,” Marcus Richmond comments as he looks between Sarina and Kyle. Kyle could only shake his head, though found himself giving both Sarina and Chase double takes. It wasn’t a bad theory….

“It’s honestly none of his business to ask that,” Kyle adds, knowing even if it was a good theory, it had no business being discussed in this moment. “Kerry?”

“It seems you guys are trying to divert the topic immediately…” The report continues on, which catches Sarina’s attention. Was this seriously happening right now?

“I have nothing to hide as I stated, I am not pregnant,” she repeats once again, beginning to grow frustrated. She wanted to focus on the key today – winning. “Would you be damn well satisfied if I placed a stick in your hand with a big negative on it?” Kyle was caught off-guard by her comment, but understood her frustration as he placed his hand on top of hers.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again, hoping this would be a situation that NASCAR would handle swiftly.

“Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave, please,” Kerry Tharp requests, following Kyle’s lead.

“Hypothetically, let’s say that you do get pregnant,” the reporter continues despite the pleas. “Is there a plan in place? Have you discussed the possibility with Chase, your team?” Sarina immediately rolls her eyes, as Chase could only shake his head. It was taking everything he had to not say something himself right now as he kept his own eyes locked on Kyle.

“Am I hearing these questions correct?” Marcus questions as Kyle looks over at Kerry once again. He could feel the frustration boiling off of Sarina, and the resulting piercing eye glare from Chase.

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again.

“Sir, I am going to ask you to leave once again,” Kerry repeats. “If you do not leave, we’ll have security remove you.” It did not take long for the request to be followed accordingly, thankfully to all in the room. “I apologize for that out of line questioning.” Sarina takes a deep breath, knowing that one stupid reporter didn’t matter at that time. This was her moment, her time to celebrate, her victory. There was no way she was letting him spoil it…

“It’s not your fault,” she states. “For the record – that is personal, and will be kept between those who need to know. If I am ever pregnant, I’m sure you’ll find out in the proper time.” Kyle felt a nerve in those words, once again glancing between the pair, hoping he wouldn’t be getting that news anytime soon. While he wanted to see them have a great future together, he wanted to see Sarina reach her full potential with a championship, which he saw happening next season.

“Now, can we get back to talking about how awesome this win is?” Marcus questions, trying to get things back on track. “I mean, I want to know everybody’s reaction to that final restart. She was absolutely amazing!”

************************

They walk into the bedsroom together, flopping back on the bed together as Chase rolls over on his stomach, eyes locked on her.

“You still look like you’re on cloud 9….” He comments as she laughs, glancing over with a big smile.

“I can’t believe it still,” she tells him. “I’m in total disbelief. It just doesn’t feel real. It feels like a dream. I know I climbed the fence – and I know I had a moment there….” He chuckles as he had caught full glimpse of that.

“First win, being overwhelmed – it’s understandable….” She knew that, but of course there were some fans that had their share of comments, along with the reporter.

“And yes, we took all the photos and all the interviews – but it just doesn’t feel real. I mean, did I actually pass Matt Crafton on the outside on a late race restart with 10 laps to go to win?” He laughs, nodding his head. “I, a rookie driver, passed a series champion on the outside at Martinsville. You’re not supposed to pass on the outside here!”

“Well, you made it work – and that’s because you’re absolutely amazing.” He then leans in and kisses her lips. “Do I need to hold you and pinch you and tell you 100 times over for you to realize that this is actually happening?” She laughs and shakes her head.

“You know, I feel almost like a 100 times lighter today now. I feel like the world is off my back. I don’t have to sit there and tell people anymore. I don’t need to sit and hear people whine, moan, and make excuses. There are no longer those that say I’m just here because I’m a pretty face or dating you. There are no more comments about how I don’t deserve this opportunity, or how my hard work is purely worthless. It’s like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can be free almost…” Chase smiles as it was actually absolutely amazing to hear those words from her, considering the amount of relentless pressure she put on herself on a weekly basis. It was nice to see her letting go now.

“Kyle wouldn’t hire you for a simple reason because you’re pretty or because of me. He hires drivers that are talented, and can be molded into stars one day. Sweetheart, that’s yo-”

“I know that now. I believe in those words. But I will admit, there were times this year where I questioned whether I belonged here. Was this the right time for me to be here? Now, I don’t even know what to say…”

“Then don’t say a word….” He then curls up closer to her, kissing her lips lightly.

“Why is that?” He looks at her with a smile, his hand finding it’s his way to the zipper on her firesuit. “What do you have in mind, Mr. Elliott?”

“We need to celebrate your win, Ms. Ott…” He then gets up, moving so he was over top of her, kissing her lips once again as he toys with the zipper.

“Oh really?” Her fingers immediately find the way to his zipper, as they both begin to pull each other’s suits off.

“Oh yeah. I need to spoil you…” She then grins as they carefully slip each other’s firesuits off, tossing them aside, before he reaches for her undershirt.

“I wouldn’t mind that, either…”  He then grins as he keeps his brown chocolate eyes locked on her blue eyes.

“Good, because you’re not going anywhere…” She then grins, putting her arms up above her head as she relaxes on the bed.

“I’m not fighting for your offer, am I?” He then laughs as she slips off her undershirt.

“Then what are you waiting for?” She then points towards him. “Me?”

“You said you were going to spoil me because to the winner goes the spoils, right?” He laughs as a simple grin forms on his face. “As long as we don’t give Kyle a surpris-”

“Did you see the look that he gave me when the reporter asked that question?” She laughs, nodding her head. She had watched the glances that Kyle was giving them both carefully then. “For that reason, you’ll be glad that some important shopping was done this week…” He then reaches over to his nightstand, slipping the drawer open, reaching his hand in a box, throwing a small package on to the bed.

“I’m glad you did because I don’t want to see my boyfriend dead before year’s end…” She then gives his boxers a tug, bringing him back to her. “Now, where were we?”

“I was about to spoil you…”

**********

Sunday, October 30

The joy of victory didn’t fade on Sarina the next day, either, as the smile remained on her face throughout the entire morning as she spent time at the Toyota Racing display answering questions, and signing autographs.

It didn’t fade when she made her way out to pit road before the Cup race, accepting an array of congratulations from various drivers and crew members along the way. She politely accepted each of them, still in disbelief at times.

As she stood there holding Chase’s hand during the national anthem, her focus immediately shifted away from her own joy to the task at hand that day for him. The goal was to have a solid day, no mistakes, and continue to lock down the top-fives to work towards punching their ticket to Homestead. She knew the day came with pressure and unease, as Chase was the first to say that Martinsville wasn’t his best track. While he had finished well there in the spring, he still hadn’t grown comfortable in finding the line he wanted to run there. She almost chuckled to herself on the thought as he had qualified third earlier that morning. Now it was just about turning that starting spot into a great day.

“Good luck,” she tells him, kissing his lips. “Be safe. I love you.”

She then walks away as he climbs in the car, making her way over to the 24 pit box. She climbs the familiar steps, taking her usual spot behind Alan Gustafson, flashing a quick smile to Josh and Jordan.

While Chase would insist that Martinsville wasn’t his best track, that didn’t show at all through the first half of the race as he kept himself in the top-five, battling for positions, looking as comfortable as the others around him. It especially didn’t show as he challenged for the lead, taking the top spot for the first time that day from Brad Keselowski on Lap 385.

“Watch the cross over,” she hears Eddie D’Hondt over the radio, but Brad’s attempt to get back by was to no avail. “Nice work, nice and smooth.”

Glancing down, she couldn’t even fathom the amazement and joy that would be if everything played out accordingly today. Wouldn’t it be ironic if they both got their first wins the same weekend?

Taking a deep breath, she had to get the thought of her mind. There was still a long way to go as plenty could happen in 115 laps.

“You’re doing a great job out there,” Eddie’s words fill her ears once again, and he spoke the truth as Chase began to build a gap between him and Brad. “Just keeping show a little more discipline. That diamond looks good there….”

She kept her eyes locked on the track, trying to ignore the thoughts of what could happen knowing that’d just cause nerves and knowing how crazy things could go. However, her heart couldn’t help but wonder as the gap continued to grow more and more.

Then it happened……

Caught right in the midst of lap traffic with 63 laps to go, Chase tried to make a move to get by one of the many cars that he was working his way through. However, a little contact, and you could see a bit of smoke off of the fender immediately.

“Got a left rear tire rub here,” Eddie reports back to the crew as Sarina feels her heart sink immediately. If the tire blew out or they had to pit under green, that’d certainly end all hopes….

“Try to adjust your track bar up and down to see if it’ll clear up a bit,” Alan suggests and Sarina crosses her fingers, hoping that Chase could do something to survive here.

The smoke would soon fade – causing a mix of concerns. That could be good as the rub may have gone away, but that could be bad as next thing they may end up with a punctured tire and a big mess.

She was then caught off-guard another way when the caution flew with 43 laps to go for Carl Long spinning. She hated to see the field bunched up, but she knew the caution was the perfect opportunity. Now they could fix the fender…

Her eyes stay locked on pit road, focused down below the pit box as the crew goes to work immediately. She watches the tires go on and off, fuel dumped into the tank, along with a careful tug on the left rear quarter panel to pull it back out. She watches him peel out as soon as the work is done, lifting her fist in the air immediately as she watches him lead the field off pit road.

Taking a deep breath, her leg beginning to tap on the pit box, she knew the nerves were going to pick up from here on out.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 161: Concerns….

Friday, October 27 – Martinsville Speedway

Christopher Bell kept a keen eye on his teammates – there were a slew of them this week as Kyle Busch decided to enter four trucks, giving each of the kid’s a shot at glory. It was either going to work out really well, or really ugly as he knew they all wanted to win badly.

“Where’s Sarina?” Harrison Burton asks, catching Christopher’s attention. He points to the trailer, where she stood on top watching the Cup practice session. Harrison went to leave the group, possibly go get her, when Christopher grabbed his arm.

“Just leave her,” Christopher instructs as he lets out a sigh. “She’s watching her boyfriend.” Harrison figured that, but knew that they should have all of them together for a practice debrief. The session had gone better than expected, with all four trucks in the top-10, including both Christopher and Harrison in the top-five.

“And that’s an excuse for missing our meeting?” Christopher lets out a sigh, all ready wanting to strangle his teammates.

“No, but there’s other reasons. There’s other stuff going on that you guys don’t understand. She’s been quiet and that’s not like her around me. So I think it’s best that we give her some space.” Harrsion and Todd both glanced to where she was as Todd crossed his arms.

“What if we go tease her and loosen her up a bit?” Todd suggests as Christopher could only let out another sigh. “Or not. Look, I think we all have great trucks for tomorrow and I think it’s going to be a great day.”

“Just both of you just be smart about it. It’s not a long race – but it’s not super short, either. You have time to make moves so be patient.”

The group continued to share words through the rest of the Cup practice, with Christopher’s eyes leaving the fold at times as he glanced up at the hauler to see whether her demeanor had changed.

Once their discussion was over, the group separated and Christopher made his way down through the Cup stalls. He knew he shouldn’t be concerned – maybe he was over reacting, maybe it was none of his business – but he couldn’t help but worry about his teammate.

He stands by the No. 24 garage stall, watching as Chase breaks down the session with Alan and Josh. He waited until the group separated.

He could see the serious look on Chase’s face – wondering if the practice had gone according to plan. Chase had shown speed, but Christopher also knew of his struggles at the paperclip. Maybe this was a bad time…

Against his own judgment, though, he made his way up through the stall over to the driver in question.

“Hey,” Christopher says, catching Chase’s attention out of his daze.

“Hey,” Chase simply replies, caught off guard a bit to see Christopher standing there. His mind immediately wandered to the possibilities about Sarina. “Is everything okay?”

“Don’t worry, your girl is fine. She was actually on top of the KBM hauler watching your practice.” Chase smiles, not surprised as that was her normal spot if she wasn’t on top of the NAPA hauler. “Look, I don’t want to come across at the wrong time or interrupt something important, but I have to ask – is everything okay?” Chase crosses his arms, caught off-guard by the question.

“Why are you asking?” Christopher takes a deep breath, hoping his observations weren’t off.

“Sarina just seems quieter than normal, almost in a moody state at times – if you don’t mind me saying. I’m just concerned.” Chase was used to Christopher being concerned, and sometimes knew to accuse of overstepping boundaries. This weekend, though, he knew the thoughts were valid via conversations prior to arriving at the track.

“She hasn’t won a race this year and she hasn’t run as well as she thought. Plus, there’s the pressure to succeed because everybody wins in KBM equipment. It’s eating at her some as she and I talked about that this week. Now combined with the fact we’re at a short track where she’s expected to do well, and knows that she could win, she’s really entering this serious focused mode, set for nothing less than success. You understand where she’s coming from, right?” Christopher nods his head, remembering a couple moments like that of his own last year.

“Did you give her the common it’s okay for rookies to struggle, she’s done a great job, and to just have fun with it because if it’s meant to be it’ll happen?” Chase smiles, having said those exact things.

“But for her, combine that with the other crap. She can’t get her mind off the lack of sentence for Bethany, or literally nothing at all for Allison. It also doesn’t help that the process for a restraining order is a little ridiculous. Then on top of that, we don’t know where things stand with her brother. How long will be behind bars? Will he be found guilty of poisoning me and Ryan? She’s got a lot on her mind.” Christopher was glad that his observations weren’t too far off.

“I just gave her some space, let her think and do her own thing. I hope that’s right…” Chase nods his head. There wasn’t much else you could do in Christopher’s shoes.

“Yeah, that’s all you can do. I’m trying my hardest to give her advice, as well as Marcus and Kyle. We’ve all agreed that we just need to take it day by day, step by step, and try to make this weekend fun.” Christopher glances at the speed chart, shedding a smile as he sees Kyle at the top of the charts.

“You’re not too bad….” Chase glances behind him, seeing that he finished the practice in the top-five.

“Anybody can knock off one quick lap around this place. It’s all about getting that rhythm to be there all race long.” Christopher puts a hand on Chase’s shoulder, catching him off-guard.

“You will figure it out, and as much as I love my boss – I do hope that you get a win soon. Good luck.” Christopher then turns on his heels, leaving the stall as Chase lets out a sigh.

Crossing his fingers, he knew both he and Sarina needed a good weekend to turn things around.

************

Saturday, October 28

Chase rubs Sarina’s shoulders as they stand on pit road, waiting for the truck qualifying session to begin. It was quiet day for Chase as there was a practice scheduled later on, but time trials weren’t until Sunday. With that in mind, his number one focus was going to be her.

“Are you okay?” He questions and she nods her head. “Are you sure?” She then glances over her shoulder at him.

“You’re being extra caring, as well as Marcus and Kyle,” she starts. “Is this the way you’re going to be the rest of the year because of Dega?” Chase lets out a sigh as he stops rubbing her shoulders, turning her around to face him directly.

“This has nothing to do with tha-”

“Then why are you guys all being overbearing?” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to find the words.

“We’re concerned about you, okay? Everybody can see that you’re not in your perfect happy place, and we get it. We’re all racers so we get the pressure, the focus, and everything else you’re thinking about. I also understand your thoughts about your brother, Bethany, Allison, because those match mine. Because we care, we’re looking out for you.” She then rolls her eyes as she looks back towards the track.

“Well, I’d prefer if you just leave it alone, please. I’d like to focus this weekend, okay?” He nods his head, accepting.

“That’s fine.” He then grabs her hand, catching her attention. “But know that I love you, I care about you, and I’d do anything for you. If you need someone to vent to, or a shoulder to cry on – anything, just let me know. Stop running…” Her eyes freeze immediately as she catches the meaning behind those words, glancing down at their fingers interlocked together.

“Since I was 13, the only person I could depend on was myself – five years where I could not trust a single person in my life. It’s hard at times to realize that I can do that now. It’s hard to open up, to tell you, to explain.” She looks up into his eyes. “I love you, too, and I care so much about you. That’s why I want to do everything right for us. But sometimes, how do you open that door when it’s been shut for so long?”

“You believe, you trust, and you put faith in the person on the other side. I’ve never let you down, ever, and I don’t ever plan too. You need to believe that, no matter what…” She nods her head, accepting. She then takes a deep breath, trying to clear her mind as she leans in for a kiss. “Go get ‘em!”

“That’s the plan….” She then walks away as he stands there, running his hands through his short hair.

“I feel like we’re going in circles sometimes….” But he also knew the reason for it, respected that, understood that, and was willing to be patient.

They had made so much progress over the past two years that he couldn’t ignore, giving him fuel and belief for the future. They had gone from her not willing to open her heart at all, to being able to fully open up at times with love knowing no boundaries.

This minor moment was simply because of everything going on, which he understood that being mentally taxing – he found himself lost in the thoughts at times, too. He knew once they got through what was ahead, and things being able to stable out, everything else would fall into place too without anymore worries.

For now, his eyes focused on the track as he watched her lay down two impressive qualifying runs, setting herself up to start fifth later on that day.

**************

Chase sat on the pit box, watching the action around the paperclip closely. It had been an exciting race so far, as Sarina had kept herself up in the top five throughout the first stage, and was doing so as the laps closed down in the second. He watches as the checkered flag flies, seeing her cross the line in third once again.

So far, so good….

Pulling off pit road in fourth, she kept herself right up there, immediately moving into third behind Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton. His eyes were so focused on her No. 18 Toyota Tundra, that he was surprised when he heard the curse words begin to fly in constant fashion out of Kyle’s mouth. An immediate glance towards the corner told him why, though, as he saw the No. 4 truck of Bell turned around backwards.

“Would you believe that Matt says that bullshit was unintentional?” Kyle questions out loud as Chase shakes his head. He then watched the replay on the big screen, even more surprised. Matt basically just drove in there, spinning Christopher around. “Unintentional – yeah right. Meanwhile, your crew chief had just told you to pick him apart. That just goes over nicely….”

“Bell has time – he will get back up there,” Chase offers, not knowing what much else to say as Kyle put his headset back on. “Well, this is interesting….”

“Don’t let a truck struggling to make a pass in front of you get you bogged down in return,” Kyle then advises Sarina over the radio. Chase had been listening all day, intrigued by the advice he was giving, also eating some of it up himself. Kyle knew his way around Martinsville, and anyway he could be better he was going to use it. “And I don’t care what you do with the 88 (Matt) here. You can wreck the shit out of him.”

“Oh lawdy….” Chase knew that Kyle was venting frustration, but he also knew that wasn’t necessary here on the radio.

There was still over 70 laps left. Sarina just needed to be smart here restarting second, keep herself in position, and do her thing – and maybe it’d come together. But filling her head with other unnecessary banter wasn’t going to help things.

Chase’s eyes were locked on the paperclip over the next several laps, watching as the laps continued to tick down with Matt Crafton leading over Sarina easily. He watched as the gap didn’t seem to close, despite Sarina locking down solid laps, one after the other, after the other.

With 15 laps to go, the game changed as a caution flew for a spun truck near the back of the pack. Chase ran his hands over his face, taking a deep breath, knowing shit was about to crazy here.

“Be careful about pinching him because he’s racing for a championship, ” Kyle advises Sarina about Matt. “He’ll probably wreck you…” Chase could understand where Kyle was coming from. After seeing Matt’s aggressive style against Christopher earlier and everybody knowing that a win here locked you into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, everybody was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.

His eyes are immediately locked on the frontstretch, watching the green flag fly with 10 laps to go. Crossing his fingers, he watches Matt and Sarina dive into turn one. She gives him room, running her line, hitting the gas up off the corner to stay even with him down the backstretch. He stand up on the pit box, watching them go around the corner side-by-side, again Sarina picking up the gas, this time getting the run off.

With nine to go, he watched as the No. 18 truck scurried ahead, getting clear of Crafton, before slipping down in front of him through the next set of corners.

Chase could feel his stomach flip flopping, butterflies swirling. His fingers instantly crossed themselves, followed by toes looking to do the same. He found himself nervous to watch, afraid of a late caution or Matt coming back, but wanting to watch as this was Martinsville – everybody liked watching a good short track race.

Each time she passed by start-finish, he clicked off another lap in his head, just wanting it to be over. 2 to go….white flag…..

As she came around with the black and white flag flying, it was almost disbelief came over him as he watched her drive underneath it first. It was over….

“WOOOHOOOO!” She lets out the biggest scream over the radio immediately as Chase pumps a fist in the air. He and Kyle immediately catch each other, sharing a hug before they both pat Marcus on the shoulders.

“Way to go!” Marcus says over the radio in response.

“Spectacular driving at the end!” Kyle adds. The group hurries down the steps, eyes focused on the frontstretch as the No. 18 truck comes around. “Burn ‘em down….”

They watch as the epic burnout as they make their way across pit road, sharing high-fives with various crew members along the way. Chase beams in total glory as he watches her come to a stop, climb out, dancing on the back of the truck, fist pumping in the air. She then jumps off, climbing the fence, as the crew hurries to join her.

“You’re coming too!” Kyle lets out as he motions for Chase to hop the wall with him. Chase couldn’t deny being happy for her as he joined the fray, pausing to stand on top of the wall and take a couple photos on his phone himself.

Sarina hops off the fence, feeling a bit of vomit rise, immediately bending over and letting it come up, falling into the cracks of the safer barrier. She feels a pair of hands on her shoulders, half-expecting them to be Chase, but is caught off-guard when it’s Kyle.

“Are you okay?” He questions as she looks back, smile still firmly planted on her face.

“Just got a little over excited, overwhelmed,” she answers as she wipes her mouth off. “I can’t believe this….”

“Believe it, embrace it, and enjoy it. You’re a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winner. You get to take home a clock!” She immediately grins even more, pulling Kyle into a tight hug.

“Thank you for the opportunity!”

After letting herself calm a bit more, she moves the truck to the official victory lane location on the frontstretch before the stage, climbing out once again with her arms up in the air. She didn’t care how many times she had to do this – she would do it all night if she needed to.

She then hops off the truck and feels a very familiar set of arms immediately wrap around her from behind, kissing her lips immediately.

“I’m so proud of you!!” Chase lets out as he spins her around. “You did an absolutely amazing job. That was spectacular. I don’t know you made that move on the outside on the restart, but wow. You’re amazing!” She just smiles back in return, still in disbelief, a couple tears trickling down the cheeks in the process.

“Thank you for believing in me,” she tells him. “Thank you for the chance with your late model team, and thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being there, giving advice, letting me lean on you, and for being you. I love you so much….” She then kisses his lips one more time, before turning around, set to face the world with her comments. “Finally!!”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 160: The Photoshoot

Wednesday, October 18

Chase emerges from the change room, smoothing the suit out as he flashes a quick smile to Morgan.

He would’ve preferred to be at the shop. He would’ve preferred to be biking, hanging out. He could’ve even spent some time hanging out with Sarina. Instead, it was another day of work for the sponsors – this time, being a photoshoot for Hooters.

“Okay, so let’s get this started,” one of the many sponsor representatives says as he comes down the hall. “Chase, this is the girl that you will be taking the photos with…”

Chase glances over his shoulder, his breath catching in his throat immediately. There was no mistaking that face anywhere as it was one to never, ever forget no matter what happened moving forward. Sure, she had changed some of her appearance since their last meeting – but it was her without a shadow of a doubt.

Was this really happening?

“Alison?” He finally finds her voice, as she glances up to finally meet his eyes.

“Chase?” She asks, puzzled as ever, as Chase felt confusion wash over him immediately. Maybe that was restraining order wasn’t looking too shabby now….

“What the…..?” She puts her hands up immediately, knowing that his thoughts were probably flying a hundred miles an hour as they stood there frozen.

“This is total coincidence….” Morgan then glances up from her phone, seeing the tension immediately.

“Do you know her?” Morgan questions, and Chase looks at her with a total face of surprise. How could Morgan not recognize her? Didn’t she remember the chaos endured?

“Yeah….” He states, as if to try and implicate that it should be obvious.

“Well?” Chase couldn’t believe he was having to explain this outloud.

“She’s the one that went after me at Indianapolis….” Morgan’s face turns serious immediately, as she takes another glance at Allison once again. The hair or contacts didn’t fool her anymore as she found the recognizable facial features.

“Oh hell no, there is no way this is getting done…” Allison then glances at her, surprised. Who was this person to say what happened in Chase’s life? Wasn’t that the duty of Chase himself? Besides, she looked nothing like Sarina. Had something happened? Did Bethany and Chris finally get their wish.

“Who are you? His assistant or something?” Morgan then looks at the brunette in immediate surprise from her tone. She knew there was no chance around it – she needed to be thrown out of there as soon as possible.

“I am his media and public relations representative,” Morgan states firmly as she crosses her arms. “I am supposed to handle everything when it comes to those departments to protect him, and our marketing partners.”

“She’s also there so I don’t have to shift through pointless requests,” Chase adds, though Morgan shoots him a glare right afterwards. She knew she needed to get this handled right away. there was no way that she could let this go any further, or she might as well kiss her job goodbye immediately.

“Now, where is the boss so we can get this cancelled?” Chase was still caught off-guard by seeing her standing there, remembering her words in the court room. Didn’t everything that happened in Las Vegas ruin a chance of this ever happening?

“I thought you lost your role with Hooters totally. You also said you didn’t mean what happened. Why are you here?” Morgan rolled her eyes, wishing Chase wouldn’t even give her the time of a day.

“Chase, I can explain…” Allison starts, followed by taking a deep breath. “I had no idea that you would be here. And yes, I lost the pageant but they keep every  girl’s name on file. They liked my modeling work so they called and asked me if I do a photoshoot. They didn’t explain the details at all. I can give you copies of all the paperwork for proo-

“I’d like to see those, plea-” Morgan interrupts, not believing a single drip of her story. She knew how stalkers worked and wasn’t about to let this go through at all.

“Morgan….” Chase states, caught off-guard by Morgan’s tone as she looks over at him.

“Liability, Chase. I have to per the terms of my contract with Rick.” Chase really didn’t know her contract, but figured that may be along the lines. Still, he wanted to at least hear what Allison had to say.

“Listen, I’ll let you see them, no problem,” Allison immediately offers. “They’re my change room in my bag actually. But anyways, I took the job. I’m short cash, and I need money, so I took the job. I had no idea you were involved. If I knew, I would’ve said no for obvious reasons. I never wanted to see you again, cause anymore problems, violate any conditions  from the trial…. I’ll go tell John and he can get one of his other girls.”

Chase knew that would solve all the differences of opinion here, but he also knew how that’d go over. John would have two million questions, they’d need to spend time explaining, and then it’d create tension moving forward.

He also remembered her statement from the court room, her regrets, the fact that she never meant to do it. What if she truly meant that? He had gotten to know how insane Chris and Bethany could be.

Besides, he had a date planned that night with Sarina and knew any delays here would cause him to be late. While he knew that she’d forgive him, he didn’t want it to come to that.

What was the harm in taking a couple photos together for promotional reasons?

“No, it’s fine,” Chase speaks, catching both Morgan and Allison off-guard. “We can do this.” Morgan’s shocked expression lands directly on Chase, arms still firmly crossed. She had expected Chase to throw Allison out after everything.

“What?” She questions as Chase takes a deep breath.

“It’s going to take forever for them to find someone else right now at this moment. Let’s just do the photos, and get it over with. I want to get back home.” Morgan glances around, not believing this. Was this really happening?

“Can we talk alone?” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that it was a waste of time.

“Of course,” Allison answers, before Chase can say anything. “I’ll go get you the papers…” Allison then leaves, as Morgan locks her eyes on Chase in the hallway.

“Chase, I am so sorry,” Morgan immediately begins. “I should’ve checked into these conditions and everything. I should’ve asked about who they were making you pose with. I shou-”

“It’s fine, Morgan,” Chase cuts her off immediately. Why were they having this discussion? “It’s not your fault.”

“No, it is! I’m paid by Hendrick Motorsports to do your public relations, media relations, and damn well security through that. I should’ve been on the ball knowing that sleezeball was walking around. I mean, I didn’t even recognize her and I was sitting in the damn court room with you! I should’ve done a background check!” Chase could see that she was beating herself, perhaps worried that she’d be fired in a matter of days. However, Chase didn’t see it that way. These slip-ups were possible, and he was willing to give Morgan the benefit of the doubt, for now.

“Look, you do a great job. We’ll just get these photos over with, and then we can talk to them, okay? If we try and hold this over, it may take hours and that messes up schedule and I want to get home. Can we just go forward, please?” Morgan hated the thought of moving forward, but felt obligated to listen to him.

“Sure….” Chase smiles a little, as he places a hand on her shoulder.

“And Morgan, please lay off a little….” She gives him a ‘really’ glance.

“I’m just doing my job, Chase.” They both watch as Allison walks over, handing a couple pieces of paper over to Morgan.

“Here are those papers. I’m sorry once again….” Allison says as her eyes find their way to Chase.

“Thank you,” Morgan replies, as she begin to look them over.

“Are we ready?” The representative looks down the hall, having grown tired waiting.

“If you are?” Allison asks, eyes locked on Chase. Why had she screwed things up so badly?

“Let’s get this over with, please….” Chase simply states, before following her to where they needed to be.

The representative got the pair to stand back-to-back, her flowing hair brushing his shoulder, eyes locked forward. The shutter closed a couple times, with flashbulbs around them

“Chase, relax a little man,” the camera man requests. “Let’s try and make these look natural….”

Chase takes a deep breath, trying to follow suit with the request, though he couldn’t help but feel the nerves Morgan previously warned of creeping in. He wasn’t sure about her story in the court room now…

********************

Friday, October 20 – Kansas Speedway

Sarina makes her way down off of the 24 hauler, making her way across the garage, signing a couple autographs for some fans that recognized her. She flashes a couple smiles for some photos, too, knowing her destination in mind.

“Don’t you ever spend a weekend away from the track?” She hears a familiar voice, seeing Kyle immediately as they cross paths with him headed to the 18 hauler.

“Once upon a time, there was a guy who rarely spent time away from the track, too,” she reminds him of his younger self as he just chuckles. “You know why I’m here…”

“It doesn’t surprise me one bit that you’re here supporting him, actually. Just make sure you’re having and kicking it loose. This is your last break before the end of the season.” She nods her head, accepting. She was actually excited for the next four weeks as they were going to be four really good tracks, hopefully producing a win or two.

“Of course, boss. Any other advice for the day or am I escaping your butt chewing?” He then glances back surprised, as he looks back towards the garage.

“Go cheer up your man….” She then crosses her arms.

“How about you share those secrets that make you so fast?” He then laughs right away. She was good…

“Not happening, but good try….” They then separate as she walks into the garage stall, waiting back patiently as she sees Chase standing here debriefing with Alan and Josh. It had been a decent qualifying run as he would start Sunday’s race in 15th.

Taking a deep breath, she just quietly asked for a nice, clean, quiet race day come Sunday.

***************

Saturday, October 21 – Indiana

“This is ridiculous!” Chase lets out as they climb out of the car, bound for the familiar court room once again. “I thought we told them that we didn’t want to do these things on race weekends?”

“The judge is trying to expedite the process,” Sarina comments as she wraps an arm around his shoulders. She understood and sympathized with his frustration. He had finished practice that day all the way back in 22nd, and now ad to fly from Kansas to Indiana just to see Bethany. She had suggested that she just go herself, not wanting to add more to his day and also giving him time to talk with Alan, but he wouldn’t allow that to happen.

“The judge is also an asshole…” Sarina nodded her head as they walked inside, taking their familiar seat.

They just hoped that the process went as quick as possible. Thankfully, they were just there to hear how long she would spend behind bars, hoping that it was for a long time.

“Ms. Bethany Adams, I would like to throw you away for a long time given what you’ve done – but I can only do as the law allows,” the judge begins. “You pled guilty to coercion against Ms. Allison Reynolds. Coercion in the form of a Class C felony because it involves threatening with a deadly weapon gives you up to eight years in prison – which you’re receiving completely as words cannot describe the level of actions you caused Ms. Reynolds to follow suit with by your actions. The level of fear experienced to the amount of people involved – it’s unfathomable.

“You also pled guilty to poisoning Mr. Elliott through coercion since you put the method in motion, while supplying the vile that was injected into his system. That’s a class C felony of coercion, equaling another eight years. On top of that, a charge of poisoning at a degree to where life was without reasonably a doubt threatened based on medical record findings – actually, attempted murder is more like it for Mr. Elliott was on the verge there for a period of time. That right there brings you another 10 to 15 years – which I am placing 15 years, once again.

“Therefore, if I was to add everything together, you will be spending a total of 31 years behind bars for your actions against Mr. Elliott and Ms. Reynolds. You will also have no chance at parole for you showed no remorse for your behavior during the court proceedings. Court adjourned!”

Satisfied with the results and how quickly the events took place, Chase and Sarina immediately make their way outside, taking the back door to escape the media field of questions that surrounded the main gates.

“Feel better now?” Chase questions as he rubs her shoulders.

“I’d feel if she was dead and I had no chance of seeing her face again,” she answers as Chase lets out a sigh. He could sympathize with her feelings as they climbed in the car together.

“Both of us would feel better. But hey, 31 years behind bars isn’t too sha-”

“You will be 52 and I will be 51 when she gets out. We’re both easily able to be found, Chase. Do you not realize we’re never going to get away from this?” Chase runs his hands across the steering wheel, finding patience in her words despite his own frustrations. That thought wasn’t lost on them.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. For all we know, seeing how she’s unruthless, she could get herself in trouble in prison to earn more years or get killed. We don’t know what the future holds. All we can do is focus on each day ahead, and put that out of mind. When she does get out later on, if she does, we will handle it. We will get the right papers and details put together.” She wanted to firmly believe in his words as she nodded her head. “And I’ve put in for that restraining order against Allison.”

“Really?” He nods his head. The more he moved away from Wednesday, the more nervous he felt about the whole ‘random coincidence’ meeting.

“I don’t want to take any chances. I know she felt, and I know she says she didn’t mean it – but what if?”

***********

Sunday, October 22 – Kansas Speedway

“Nice job!” Alan gives him a high-five post-race following a fourth-place finish. “You did a good job sticking with it all day.” Chase smiles, as he was certainly proud of the effort.

They hadn’t started out as strong as they wanted, fighting the balance of the car from start to finish. However, they kept working at it, getting it a touch better, and found their way to the front in the late stages using a bit of driving know-how and strategy. It wasn’t the day they may have envisioned, but it was enough as they were now off to the Round of 8.

“We just got to keep working at it….” Chase tells him and Alan nods his head in agreement.

“Let’s just go survive next week at Martinsville, and go from there, okay?”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 158: Talladega Chaos

Saturday, October 14 – Talladega Superspeedway

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase asks as he and Sarina stand on the grid together. She simply nods her head yes, as she looks into his brown eyes.

“I’m alright,” she answers. “It’s a little sore, but I can handle it.” He then grabs both her hands, his eyes still focused on her blue ones.

“Just promise me that if it gets too bad, you will bow out…” She nods her head, accepting, but knew that wasn’t happening in a million years.

“I’ll be fine….”

The pre-race ceremonies went smoothly as they stood together, followed by a kiss after the national anthem. He then walked away as she climbed in the truck, set for a fun day at Talladega.

He takes his usual spot atop the Kyle Busch Motorsports pit box behind Marcus, his leg already tapping nervously. Why was it so nerve-whacking to watch any restrictor plate racing now? He then watches as Erik Jones climbs the steps next, firesuit in hand, taking a seat beside him.

“Just to let you know, you probably will be stuck here all race,” Chase comments as the trucks peel off pit road for the beginning of pace laps. Although he had offered the promise to Sarina, he knew there was no way that she would give up during the race. That was never in her nature from the time he met her.

“Oh really?” Erik questions, as he glances over at him.

“Yeah, I don’t see her getting out no matter how crappy she’s feeling. You should know. You’ve raced against her.” Erik smiles, remembering some of their short track battles together in late models. He won a couple of those, but admittedly, had been beat more times than he could count by her and left in disbelief.

“You should be her back-up, actually.” Chase chuckles as he looks at Erik surprised.

“Really?” Erik nods his head as he glances around.

“You’re here anyways…” Chase had to admit that he had a good point. However, was there ever a day that you would see him behind the wheel of a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra? Probably not.

“Can’t though. Conflict of interest.” Erik knew the tight rope that was walked there.

“I know. Maybe you should get a Toyota.” Chase laughs as there was no way he was leaving Hendrick Motorsports in the near future, and that meant sticking with Chevrolets knowing the boss.

“Never, you know that’s not happening. Maybe her and Busch should get Chevrolets. Busch did once upon a time…” Erik laughs, remembering Kyle’s time spent at Hendrick.

“Yeah, not happening again. I can guarantee that.” Chase was caught off-guard by the direct approach – to a point. He had to admit that the relationship between Kyle and Toyota had blossomed really well, and worked good for both parties. But, he wasn’t about to let Erik know that.

“Never say never. Look at Byron.” Erik knew the story as William drove for Kyle for a year, before moving to JR Motorsports this season. However, Erik also knew where William started in late models – JR Motorsports.

“That’s different. He’s young, no room at the inn, and he started there. Great talent though.” Chase couldn’t deny that as he actually hoped it’d be William taking home the crown this season.

“I know. I can’t wait until next year.”

The pair then glance towards the stairs, watching as Kyle Busch climbs up, taking his usual spot in the top back corner as he glances at the pair with a smile.

“Ready to rock n roll?” Kyle asks the pair as Erik glances back over towards Chase.

“Great,” Erik muses. “We got to hang out with him, too?” Chase laughs as he looks back at Kyle with a smirk.

“Absolutely. Why would you expect otherwise?”

“He is the boss, after all….” Chase comments as Kyle simply smiles, nodding his head in return.

“Besides, I’m here to give Sarina some in-race advice,” Kyle starts, as he grabs one of the headsets. “She’s got the talent, it’s just about honing it in, perfecting her craft, and breaking that barrier down. Sound familiar?” Chase and Erik both smile, nodding their heads. They could both think back to their rookie years, remembering how those went. “You’re both going to win races soon – yes, both of you. But for now, I’m doing my part for Sarina…” Kyle then puts the headset on, ready to go for the day as Chase focuses his eyes forward.

It was time to get the party started…..

Once the green flag dropped, there were no complaints from the pit box as things started off decently with Sarina keeping herself in the thick of the top-10. However, on Lap 13, a paniced transmission over the radio, followed by watching the No. 18 truck come down pit road caught them off-guard.

“How do you start the race with a loose left rear?” Chase ponders, feeling a bit of frustration as it was just a disaster to think that was possible. Erik could only shrug his shoulders, though feeling more and more with passing moment that he was just going to sit there the whole event. Might as well have a good seat for the action, right?

Back on-track, she was able to avoid going a lap down, keeping up with the draft, looking for a way to the front. Marcus then came up with a plan, bringing her down pit road just before the end of stage 2. With points not mattering at this point in the game, it was the perfect strategy as who cared if they missed out on the top-10 in a couple laps?

Following the completion of the stage, everybody watches the field of trucks head down pit road, with Sarina cycling to the top-five as she stayed out. Chase could only feel the butterflies picking up, leg bouncing a little more, as Erik glanced over with a grin.

“Nervous?” He questions as Chase just rolls his eyes. “Relax, she knows what she’s doing…”

Following the restart, she kept herself right there in the top-five, looking set to challenge for the win as she worked her way further to the front, up to second. The butterflies for Chase began to hit their max, wondering if today was truly the day, when he watched the front bumper of Parker Kligerman catch her back bumper with nine laps to go.

“Oh shit…” Chase lets out, fingers crossed that she’d keep the truck in one piece. She wiggled a little, but managed to save it, but had fallen back out of the top-five, almost outside of the top-10. So much for a change to win….

Sarina didn’t give up behind the wheel, though, working at charging back to the front in the final stages. She made her way up to sixth as she came across to take the white flag, diving for a three-wide move. Another truck didn’t realize she was there, contact resulting, causing the No. 18 to go sliding across the pavement.

“Fuck!” Kyle, Chase and Erik all let out together as they watched her get it straightened out and back on-track.

Rather than a win and dream of a day, she ultimately crossed the line in 15th.

Following the event, both Kyle and Chase make their way over to the No. 18 truck, with Chase letting Kyle go first in his post-race greeting.

“None of that was your fault,” he assures her. “You did an amazing job as a driver all race long. I am so proud of you. There’s nothing you could do there…” She then glances towards victory lane, seeing Parker celebrate, as she just shakes her head.

“That bump he gave me was ridiculous!” She lets out and Kyle nods his head in agreement.

“I couldn’t believe it, either. I even flipped to Christopher’s channel during the caution and told him that Parker was going to push him like crazy and ain’t going to give a shit whether he wrecks him or not. Christopher held a pretty wheel…” He then looks back at her. “And you did, too. Nothing you could do that last lap…”

“Just go get them next week, right?” Kyle smiles as he gives her one final hug.

“Let him take care of you…” She rolls her eyes as Kyle walks away. She then turns to Chase with a smile as he walks over, wrapping his arms around her.

“I’m fine, you don’t have to worry. I don’t need you to baby over me. I’m fine. Go get ready for Cup qualifying and impress me, superstar!”

********

Chase put in his initial qualifying lap, pleased as it backed up the time that they were hoping to run. Now, it was just about waiting around for the second round.

“That time is good enough for the pole, I think,” Alan comments as he glances at the top of the scoring pylon. It was always a great sight to see the No. 24 at the top of the board at the plate tracks on qualifying day.

“Do you honestly think we can do it in the second round?” Chase questions as Alan looks towards his driver.

“Oh, I think we can do it. I know we can do it. We’ve done it before. But, are you ready to be called the villain when you take it away from Dale in Earnhardt Country?” Chase laughs as he caught the reference from earlier in the season.

“That’s right, I forgot. I’m a villain if I go for the win and do the best that I can for my team, and beat my teammate without helping him. I guess that’s a price to pay to be so awesome….” Alan just chuckles.

“Oh, I meant to ask you. I overheard your discussion with Dale in the driver’s meeting at New Ham-”

“That’s a couple weeks ago now, Alan….” Alan lets out a sigh as he knew he had lost track of time.

“There’s been a lot going on so excuse me. Anyways, you mentioned something about finding Sarina’s family and five uncles and an aunt.” Chase nods his head, remembering the discussion clearly. It was also something that he had continued to pursue quietly. “Any luck yet?”

“I just wanted to go find them via facebook search and such, but Dale suggested that we go through his conta-”

“I can’t say that I blame him…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it was probably the right idea, too.

“Anyways, I e-mailed the contact what information that I had. He’s been running it through, checking backgrounds on people, trying to find them. He says he’s found some stuff, but nothing that really has been forwarded to me to take that next step.” Alan crosses his arms, cautiously.

“Why not?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, not quite sure himself.

“He just says it’s not ready for that step, yet. He still isn’t 100% on it and wants to be careful because of who I am and who Sarina is. What if someone fits the claim, says they are that person despite not being, just so they can get a piece of the pie?” Alan could understand that side of it. “Plus, there may be more illegal dealings and we don’t need those to re-surface.”

“No, that’s for sure. You got enough going on with what you’re handling…” Chase nods his head, in agreement. “By the way, Allis-”

“Restraining order?” Alan nods his head, glad that he didn’t need to say much. “We’re looking into that. Relax – we’re fine…”

The first round finished up, and as expected, Chase was one of the 12 drivers to make it through. He then went and did his job, laying down his pair of laps and making sure to run the perfect line as described, but would come up short ultimately.

He wasn’t too disappointed, though, as he shared a quick high-five with Dale. He knew it’d be fun starting beside Dale on the front row for the man’s final start there.

*********************

With a full day of racing in the books, the pair went for the relaxing route that night so Sarina could simply focus on staying as best as she could. It was why they were laying in bed, watching the next episode of Stranger Things on Netflix as they were determined to get caught up.

“I wanted to ask you about something…” Sarina’s voice catches him off-guard as he goes to select the next episode. He then glances towards her, curiously.

“Okay, what’s that?” He wonders as she takes a careful deep breath, remembering the discussion in the care center that morning.

“What the doctor talked about, and taking birth control to help my cramps….” Chase nodded his head, remembering how she briefly mentioned that in conversation.

“Okay. Well, what do you think?” She takes a deep breath, thinking it over.

“I think it’s a good idea. I mean, anything that helps has to be a good idea. I can’t keep going through that pain.” Chase knew she was right about one thing for sure as it tore his heart apart to see like that in the morning.”

“Oh gosh no, please no. I never want to see you in that much pain again.” She never wanted to feel that much pain, either.

“They’ve talked about it before for me, but I never took the thought seriously. I am now, though.” He could see that, based on bringing up the conversation.

“Okay. Well, it’s up to you…” There was a reason why she brought up the topic.

“What do you think?” He shrugs his shoulders. He wasn’t having to take the pills or handle the pain.

“It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s what you feel is best for you.” She then rolls her eyes with a sigh.

“Chase, I’m serious. I want to know your thoughts.” He was caught off-guard by her outbust as he kept his eyes locked on her.

“It doesn’t matter to me. I mean, I don’t know why you so badly want my approval or opinion.” She then takes a deep breath, trying to find the right words to describe it.

“Because this is something that normally a couple talks about and decides together. I didn’t want to do it without asking you in case you said otherwise…. “ He then glances at her with a bit of surprise.

“You really think I’d stop you?” She shrugs her shoulders. Was she supposed to be a mind reader now?

“I don’t know!! Hence why I asked.” He then takes a deep breath, trying to find the right words to say. He actually could see why she brought the conversation up.

“Okay, other couples talk about this – yes. That’s because they’re trying for a baby. We both know how we stand on that topic, right?” She nods her head. They hadn’t quite decided whether they wanted a family or not down the road, but had decided to shelf the idea for a couple years at least. He wanted to give her an honest shot at chasing her dream without other things going on.

“Absolutely, and Chase, I absolutely adore you for fully supporting me to do that…” It hadn’t taken much effort to agree to that, though.

“Hey, someone gets where I am coming from. So with that said, the connections to it for me are off the table.” She didn’t care if they were or not, in that sense, hence why they were having this conversation.

“So you’re okay with it if I am?” He nods his head.

“Absolutely. If you feel it will help you, then I say go for it because you should do what is best for you. If you don’t want to, then you don’t have to. I support you 100% the whole way.” She smiles as she loved that he had her back no matter what.

“I keep telling myself it’s a good idea…” He sensed a bit of hesitation in her voice.

“But?” She then shrugs her shoulders. Why had she ended the sentence that way?

“There’s no but. I haven’t thought of any negative reason.” It was pretty much decided, but he could still see the hesitation.  He was beginning to see why she wanted to have his support behind her…

“Then why don’t you make that appointment and do it? I’ll come with you if you want me to.” She then looks at him surprised, but thankful.

“Really?” He nods his head, catching her glance back in return right away. He had hit the buzzer.

“If it’s hard for you to just talk about openly and you need support, absolutely. I’m always here for you, no matter what.” She smiles as she curls up against him.

“Chase, have I told you lately I love you?” He laughs as he intertwines her fingers with his.

“Not today…” She then rolls her eyes, knowing that was a lie.

“Well, I love you so much.” He kisses her cheek, as he hits the button to play the next episode.

“I love you, too.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 157: “Tell me how you really feel…”

Friday, October 13 – Talladega Superspeedway

Done with the final session of the day, Chase headed back to the motorcoach lot, satisfied. Glancing at the time, they still could go out if they wanted. Though as he walks inside, he notices Sarina sitting on the couch with the magazine in hand.

“What are you doing with that?” He questions as she looks up at him.

“Just looking at it in disbelief,” she answers as he walks over, holding his hand out.

“Give it to me. You don’t need to consume yourself with that…” She hands it over, and he takes it to the kitchen, placing it directly in the trash. “You said earlier that you were fine. So, tell me how you really feel…”

“You wouldn’t want to know…” He then looks on surprised as he walks back over to where she sat, kneeling before her.

“Don’t ever say that. I care about you, and I always want to know what you’re thinking and feeling – good or bad. Please, tell me…” She takes a careful deep breath, eyes focused on his.

“I knew it was going to come out. I knew that everybody would know eventually. I just didn’t expect it to come out like this. I wanted to have some control over it so I could explain. Have you seen twitter today? Have you seen the fans out there? Have you seen the guys and gals off other teams? The looks I am getting are just….they’re hard to stomach, okay? It’s like everything that I worked for since moving down to North Carolina is being swept out from under my feet. Why did I bother with a dream?” He wanted to wrap his arms around her, hold her tight, and never let her go, as he grabs hold of one of her hands.

“Because everybody deserves a chance to dream, and a chance to chase after those dreams. After what you’ve been through, from heartbreak to torn apart from your family, to seeing and witnessing everything you did, you deserve that more than anybody else could. All that pain that you’ve experienced deserves to be turned into something good. And no, everything is not getting swept awa-”

“Again, have you seen those looks?” Chase nods his head, having noticed them on the way to the garage that morning.

“Those who know the whole story, though, and those who have gotten to see who you are, aren’t looking that way. Instead, they’re giving you looks of pride in watching you continue to fight the battles thrown your way. Kyle applauded your courage today in the media center. I heard other drivers applaud your talent 10 times over. Heck, my guys have told me that they have your back no matter what. Just ignore what everybody else is saying. Once they see what I see in you, they’ll back off.” She smiles a little as she glances down at his fingers interlocked with hers.

“I feel bad for when you get thrown in it, though. There are people on twitter saying that we shouldn’t be together, that I truly don’t love you, that you just feel bad for me…” He takes a deep breath, knowing that they’ve been down this road before. However, he didn’t mind repeating it if necessary.

“We’ve talked about this. I love you for who you are. I love you for that sparky fun girl that I saw when I was late model racing and loved to race against. I love you for those fun, sassy conversations that we’d have. I love you for the fire and the desire that you have, and the passion for this sport. I love you for the quiet moments that we spend together. Oh, and I certainly damn well love you for the other night…” She then chuckles. “I’ll deal with their comments. I’ve heard it all my life how I’m the spoiled little brat that got everything handed to me because of daddy. Now you’re throwing those comments in – sweet, let them talk. It’ll just make them that much more upset when we both win.”

“We’re going to win before this year is over – both of us.” He nods his head in agreement as he stands up.

“Now, what if I go get changed and then we go out for dinner?” She then lets out a sigh as she grabs her pillow, curling back up on the couch. “…or not. We can stay in if you want.”

“I don’t feel like going out – and it has nothing to do with them. I just don’t feel good.” She then rubs her stomach as he grabs a blanket, putting it over her.

“Flu?” She shakes her head. “Cramps?” She nods her head as he lets out a sigh. He had been with her long enough to understand her periods sucked and brought forth painful cramps. “Did you take an-”

“I took them as soon as practice was over, Chase. It’s helped some, but not a lot…” He then stands up, glancing towards the kitchen. He knew he couldn’t go out and leave her there by herself.

“I’m going to get changed, and then I’m going to make dinner. You can either have what I’m having, or you can just have some soup. I love you.” He then gives her a light kiss before heading to the back of the motorcoach.

Throughout the rest of the night, things were pretty quiet in the motorocoach. Chase ate dinner while she just sipped on a little bit of soup.

They then retreated to the bed later on that night, with Chase keeping his arms wrapped around her, cuddling her as she tried to soothe the cramps with a hot water bottle tucked against her as they watched a movie.

By the end of the movie, her eyes were closed and she was fast asleep. He slips the bottle out from her, setting it aside, knowing that it may need to be refilled sometime in the middle of the night. He then pulled the blanket over them, set to get some sleep himself.

****

Saturday, October 14 – Talladega Superspeedway – 3:04am EST

Sarina felt a strong pain in her stomach, eyes stinging her eyes. She then slips out of bed, quietly and carefully, not wanting to wake Chase up as she retreats to the kitchen. She opens the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water.

Leaning against the counter, tears threatening to fall, she takes a big swig of water along with swallowing two more pills. The pain, feeling as though, it could almost rip her into two, brought the threat of more tears to her eyes.

Continuing to intensify, she immediately runs to the bathroom, head leaning over the toilet, the contents of her stomach coming up all at once.

“Sarina?” Chase says as he glances in the bathroom door. He immediately rushes in, grabbing her hair, holding it back as she continues to lean over the toilet.

“I’m fine…” She tells him quietly, sitting back after she was sure to be done. he then stands up, dampening a cloth, before sitting back down beside her, as he gently wipes her face.

“Really?” She nods her head as she looks over at him.

“It’s like I told you earlier. Sometimes, they get so bad that I throw up. I’ll be fine once the pills kick in…” She  then slowly stands up, making her way back to the bed, grabbing her pillow and holding it against her stomach, as she lies down, curling in a ball. Chase lays down behind her, rubbing her forehead.

“Sarina, are you sure you’re okay? I mean, you look like you’re in a lot of pain.” She felt the tears threatening to fall even more as they laid there. Why weren’t they easing?

“It’s just cramps, part of my usual cycle. I’m fine…” Chase wasn’t convinced as he hadn’t seen them this bad in all the time that they’d been together.

“Maybe we should call for help, or get you looked at.” She didn’t want any part of that as she was certain it was just the usual.

“No, it’s fine.” He wasn’t quite convinced, though, as he continue to rub her forehead.

“Are you sure?” She glances outside, seeing the rain pounding down. There was no way they were both getting soaked in the middle of the night over some lady problem.

“It’s like 4 right now, Chase. We’re not going out in the middle of the night. I’ll be fine.” He knew there was no sense in arguing with her, as that was going to get them nowhere with how stubborn she was. Besides, the best thing she could do was relax.

“Well, I still say you should get looked at in the morning at the care center before qualifying. Maybe they can give you something…” She knew there was no getting around it, as if she didn’t agree, he’d make a fuss to both Marcus and Kyle. She didn’t quite want the boss to know everything.

“Ugh, fine. Can you just cuddle me for now?” He nods his head, accepting, continuing to rub her as he stays curled up with her in the bed.

Once her eyes were closed, he grabs his phone off of the night table, bringing up Jimmie’s number. He knew his teammate would be getting up for an early run and knew he’d know the information warranted from experience.

“Jimmie, what time does the care center open?” He texted his teammate, turning his phone on vibrate to not wake up Sarina.

“8,” Jimmie texted him back shortly thereafter. Chase glances at the time, seeing as though that was just three hours from now. “Why?

“Sarina is not feeling well. Going to take her over then.”

“Hope she feels better man.”

“Thanks…”

For the next three hours, Chase continued to lay there quietly, cuddling her, rubbing her, and giving the odd comforting words as a small cry escaped her lips.

As the cries continued, his eyes caught the clock at 8:15, and he knew there was no waiting around any longer.

“That’s it, you’re going,” he says, standing up. He instantly scoops her up in his arms, which she doesn’t fight one bit as she wraps an arm around his neck. “Trust me, you’ll thank me…” She was feeling too much pain to fight against his requests as he carried her through the motorcoach and out the front door.

Sitting her down on the golf cart, it didn’t take long for them to make their way over to the care center, followed by him taking her in. They immediately took her in, going over every bit of symptom that she was experiencing, followed by a couple various tests.

“Well, it’s most certainly menstrual cramps,” the doctor states as Sarina gives Chase a ‘told you so’ glance. “But there’s also a bit of flu mixed in there, based on what we’re seeing, too. Let me guess – you didn’t eat a lot yesterday, did you?” Sarina lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“I couldn’t keep it down,” she lets out as her body strains from the continuous pain.

“We’re going to give you some intravenous fluids, along with a dosage of Ponstel, which is stronger than what you’ve been taking. It should help relieve the symptoms and make you feel better. If everything looks to be improving, and you can eat even just a bit of toast, we’ll let you go for truck series qualifying and the race.” She nods her head, accepting. Anything that made the sensation go away in her stomach right now would be heavenly.

“Okay…” She then held out her arm, eyes focused on Chase as they put the intravenous in her, hating every single moment as she tensed a little. She then lays back once it is in, trying to relax and let everything do its job. “You need to go….”

“I can’t leave you here alone,” Chase tells her and she nods her head.

“You have a sponsor appearance that you have to get to and you know you’ll be in shit if you miss. Go…” He then lets out a sigh as he stands up.

“What if I call Kyle or Marcus or Sam for you?” She shakes her head. “What about my mom?” She shakes her head.

“I’ll be fine. I’ll probably just sleep while this works…” He really hated to leave her, but knew that she was probably right – sleep would do her wonders right now. he leans over her, kissing her lips. “I love you…”

“I love you, too.”

Chase made to the sponsor appearance barely on time, but Morgan understood his reasons once he told her a couple brief details of where he’d just been. He gets through the question and answer session with the guests relatively quickly, before signing some autographs.

With that out of the way nice and early, he was ready to relax the rest of the afternoon until qualifying later on that day. Of course, he knew relaxing and Talladega was totally out of the question with the truck race later on that day. There was no doubt he’d be on a top of her pit box, nervous beyond belief each lap.

While they’d been through a lot that morning, he knew no matter what Sarina would convince the doctor to let her qualify and race, as that was the determined style that she always followed. There were very few things that could keep her from driving, including cramps.

“Chase!” He hears his name shouted at the same time his phone goes off. He stops the golf cart, checking the text message as Kyle runs over to see him. “Where’s Sarina?” Chase reads the text message, smiling. It was like the universe had perfect timing.

“She’s coming,” Chase replies as he sends Sarina back a text message, stating that he was glad that she was feeling better but to make sure to be careful all day and good luck in qualifying. He also made a note that he’d come see her directly afterwards.

“Marcus has been looking all over for her….” Chase finally looks up from his phone at Kyle.

“Like I said, she’s coming now….” Kyle crosses his arms, intrigued. He had expected the pair to be stuck together, like usual.

“Where was she?” Chase really didn’t want to get into the details. He didn’t want to say something if she didn’t want it to be said.

“Catching up on some sleep. She had a rough night.” Kyle then felt bad for his immediate demanding, now feeling worry. He knew the article wasn’t pretty, but didn’t think it’d twist emotions around this much.

“Oh. Is everything okay?” Chase nods his head, pleased with the results of the text message. However, it didn’t hurt to make the boss slightly aware in one way.

“Yeah, it should be now. Just keep an eye out, Marcus too. She wasn’t feeling well last night.” Kyle remembered Marcus’ words about how Sarina seemed off during the second session of practice yesterday.

“Marcus thought maybe she was late due to being sick.” Chase was glad that the crew chief was already on the case. It made him feel a little better about the situation.

“Yeah, a little flu. She stopped by the care center this morning for some fluids.” Kyle was surprised to learn that, not thinking it’d be that serious.

“That’s good. Just tell her to take it easy and if she’s really feeling bad, we can work something out….” Chase nods his head, accepting. It was really nice to have everybody on the same page.

“I will let her know.”

The pair then head their separate ways, ready for the chaos that Talladega normally brings.

Chase eventually made his way out to pit road before the end of qualifying, watching as she laid down the eighth quickest lap. Taking a deep breath, at least she wasn’t right in the needle of the storm.

“Hey,” he says as she walks over to him following a quick round of conversation with Marcus. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” she answers as she sits down on the golf cart. “That stuff did the trick. He gave me some more to take if I need them later, and made a suggestion for a prescription for me to give to my family doctor. I hate to say this, but thank you….” He smiles as he wraps an arm around the back of her seat.

“I care about you. I’d do anything for you – even if that means dealing with your stubborn ass sometimes.” She then chuckles.

“Marcus said they’re going to have Erik on stand-by in case I need him.” Chase was comfortable with that option being made available, but knew that Erik would probably sit there for the whole race for no reason. Once she got in the truck, he knew there was no way they were getting her out.

“Ready to go relax for a couple hours?” She nods her head, accepting, as a quick yawn escapes him.

“I think someone could use some sleep….”She then looks down at the ground. “Shit. I messed up your sleeping patte-”

“It’s fine. I just have two laps to run today – actually four, because I plan on making the second round of qualifying. But I’ll be fine. It was worth it, for you.” He gives her a kiss before they drive off together.