Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 110: Slowly Healing

Sunday, July 2

From the initial time he opened his eyes on Sunday, from the sight of the sunrise out of the hospital window, through the morning and afternoon, it was a repetitive cycle. He’d roughly wake up, say a couple words, comment on the pain with the doctors giving him what they felt was necessary, followed by more sleep.

He felt weaker than he could even describe and he knew his body was fighting against whatever he drank that day in the trailer. With that, the sleep was very welcome as he knew he had to take care of himself.

He found himself wanting to request Sarina in a couple instances when he woke up, but he stayed away from the topic for now. He knew that request would come with resistance and an argument, something that wasn’t worth having based on how he was feeling. He just hoped that the time apart wouldn’t kill their chances at a future as he still believed in them, despite what happened.

As the sun began to sat on Sunday, he finally found some more energy to stay awake longer, entertaining some light conversation with the occupants of the room. He spoke roughly of how he was feeling, while getting caught up on some things that he missed. Ryan left out that he was texting Sarina for the time being, knowing that Cindy would freak and wanting to avoid that.

“Alan….,” he comments the crew chief’s name aloud as they sit there. “Is Alan and Greg here? Or did they fly back to North Carolina yet?”

“The crew guys refused to leave till they knew for certain that you’d be okay,” Ryan starts. “They’re staying at the local hotel, and have been spending the days down the hall in the waiting room. That’s where Darrell keeps going down every couple hours.” Bill remembers when he took the walk down there, suggesting to them that they fly back and they’d get Chase to face time when he was up to it. However, the entire team shook their heads no as they wanted to make sure their driver was okay.

“Dude, none of us leaving till you’re okay to leave,” Darrell adds. Chase hated to mess up everybody’s schedules, but appreciated their support. Though he knew he owed Alan and Greg a visit now, too.

“Mom, Dad, you guys have been sitting here constantly all day and now night,” he starts. “Why don’t you go get something to eat? Darrell and Ryan can go with you and get something, too. I feel up to seeing the team for a bit. Send Alan and Greg first….” The boys accept easily, though reluctantly could be seen on the parent’s faces.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Cindy questions and Chase shakes his head yes as he looks over at her.

“You need to take care of yourself, too,” he answers as he lays his head back against the pillow.

“Come on….” Darrell stands up first, beginning the effort of leading them both out of the room. Bill goes next, followed by Cindy as Ryan watches closely. He sees them exit the room, giving Darrell a quick nod before focusing his eyes on Chase.

“Sarina came to check on you but your mo-” He starts as soon as they left the room.

“I heard everything,” Chase cuts him off, remembering the argument clearly as Ryan looks on shocked.

“I’ve been texting her updates ever since so she knows how you’re doing because she’s worried. I just felt it was best to listen to Cindy’s request for now.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Thank you. Please keep doing that…”

“Anything you want me to tell her, specifically?” Chase debated giving her a message aimed towards his hope for the future, but didn’t want her to take that as a welcome to show up just yet. So he shook his head no. “Alright. I’ll go get Alan and Greg for you.” Ryan then leaves the room, heading to where the crew continued to sit.

Chase glanced around the room, letting out a sigh. It was odd to be by himself for the first time since everything happened.

He glances up at the monitor, seeing all the numbers that flashed across the screen. He could only hope that those numbers meant something good, and he was continuing to get better. His eyes then glanced down at his arm, seeing where the IV was, followed by a shudder. He wished he didn’t have to deal with that, but he couldn’t deny that whatever they were giving him was working.

Laying his head back against the pillow, he lets out a sigh. He knew he was thankful. Thankful that it wasn’t more serious.  Thankful that he was awake and feeling decent, considering. Thankful that Alan had found him when he did. Thankful that he could see the future, and strength was coming back.

“One day at a time,” he reminds himself, knowing that he couldn’t rush it. The thought of missing Kentucky pained him as he was looking forward to racing there, being one of the more fun ovals on the schedule. It was his goal to be healed by then. However, pushing to be ready and not fully letting his body do what it needed wouldn’t help him. Besides, he was meant to be thankful.

He hears the door open and immediately smiles, watching the two crew members smile in response. He could see the worry written all over Alan’s face, obviously struggling with everything in being the one to see how bad it was. He knew how close they had grown already in a year and a half, and wouldn’t expect anything else.

“Gosh, this is a sight that I’m glad to be seeing,” Alan comments as he walks over to the bed. He immediately goes in for a hug, which Chase easily accepts, knowing how frantic everything was in the hauler that night.

“You don’t look too bad,” Greg comments as he remains at the bottom of the bed, eyes focused on the young man.

“All the hard ass training that you put me through is certainly helping in trying to fight this off,” he replies as Greg smiles. He had no doubt that everything would be fine based on how strong Chase was.

“So, how are you feeling?” Alan questions as Chase looks back towards the crew chief.

“Still a little sore and still somewhat sick, but a lot better than I was. It’s coming, slowly….” Alan shakes his head, accepting. That’s all that mattered to him.

“That’s good. I’m glad, really. You scared me….” Alan didn’t mean to come straight out and admit it, but there was no denying what he felt.

“It scared the crap out of me, too. It’s the worst I’ve probably ever felt.” Alan could understand that after what he saw.

“Well then make sure you take your time, focus on healing, and let your body do what it needs to do,” Greg advises and Chase knew that for certain.

“Trust me – I’m not going far the next couple of days,” he tells them. “I know how hard everything is fighting. I can feel the weakness at times. I’ve been letting myself sleep as I need it. But, I had to see you guys. I mean, I had to say thank you. Thank you for being there, and doing what needed to be done.”

“We love ya, kid,” Alan says. “I would do it all over in a heartbeat. Just promise me that we’re going to damn well win a race finally.” Chase laughs and rolls his eyes. It was certainly getting frustrated not having broken through for their first Cup Series win yet.

“I promise that I’m going to try as hard as I can do that just for you.” He then lets out a yawn, laying his head back against the pillow. He knew he should give in and accept the sleep, but he didn’t want to yet. He had slept most of the day away already, and there were a bunch of guys who deserved some time. “Greg, can you go get the guys? I want to say hi before I go back to sleep.” Greg easily accepts as he leaves the room.

“Greg kept telling me that you were going to be okay. I wanted to believe him so easily, but man, I was worried. I didn’t know what to think with how much pain you were in….” Chase looks over at Alan.

“Trust me, that’s the worst pain that I’ve ever felt. It felt like my guts were being ripped out of me. It was torture.” He then looks at the crew chief in the eyes as he places a hand on his shoulder. “But I’m going to be okay, and we’re going to fulfill that promise.”

“I have no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” The door then cracks open, followed by a series of crew members making their way in. “Get ready for craziness….”

“I’m used to these guys.” Chase then glances over at the guys, with a quick wave.

“Easy boys. Let’s make this short and sweet as someone needs his beauty sleep.”

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

Sarina sits on the beach, reading the latest text message from Ryan, letting out a slight smile. It wasn’t much of an update, but it was something.

Ryan had simply told her that Chase knew about her being delivered updates, and the fact that he was doing better more and more throughout the day. He also told her that they were going to try and get him up on Monday, followed by some quick tests, to make sure things were panning out right.

She could only hope those tests and everything continued to go smoothly, followed by some interaction to follow with him. It was nice to see he was okay with the updates as that represented hope, but didn’t mean the same as being able to see him.

“We’re flying out soon,” she hears behind her, glancing to see Kyle standing there.

“I’m not going home yet,” she tells him as he lets out a sigh. “I’m not going home till I get a chance to see Chase.” Kyle knew he had to tread lightly as he took a couple more steps, before sitting beside her.

“What makes you certain that’s going to happen?” She then hands over her phone, letting him see the latest update from Ryan. “Okay….”

“He is okay with me receiving updates. That means that there’s something still there in the mark of feelings. If I’m patient, like he was with me before, I feel that we can do this together.” Kyle wanted to believe her words, though also feared worse as he could see everything changing based on the last string of events. Trust was a big deal with Chase, and she hadn’t trusted his judgment on Chris, or took it seriously, and now was in the hospital. What if that laid on his mind?

“And what if that doesn’t happen? I know things are crazy right now with your brother’s arrest and this, but there’s responsibilities for this weekend….” She knew that she had to be at the shop at least one day before the upcoming race.

“I was going to come by on Tuesday before we all headed out to Kentucky together. I need another day down here, not just because of Kyle, but because of my brother. I need to go check in to see where they are on things. I want to see him locked up and pay for what happened as he blew his second chance totally, and I need to make sure that’s right on course for happening.” Kyle easily accepted that. He didn’t want to see Chris ever again, either.

“That’s fine.” He then glances out to the water, before looking back at her. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I know how Kurt and I argue at times, and sure he’s done some stupid shit over the years, too. But I can’t imagine having something happen like what you’re going through. But I want you to know that I have your back, this changes nothing about our agreement, and you can always come see me for advice.” She looks over, with a slight smile.

“Thank you, Kyle.” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder before standing up.

“And Sarina, for what it’s worth, I hope you’re right about your future with Chase. I’ll see you later.”

She then gives him a quick wave before he heads off. She then lets out a sigh as she looks out to the water once again, letting every thought of her life flow through her mind. It didn’t matter what she did, she always found herself in some predicament.

“When am I getting my happily ever after, daddy? You always said I was your little princess and everything would come together. I wanna know when. I can’t keep doing this…”

She then wipes the tear off of her face as she continues to stare outwards, almost blankly.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 105: Coke Zero 400

Saturday, July 1

 

Chase walks out to pit road, sunglasses affixed on his face, as he makes his way by his fellow competitors.

If he wasn’t so hard on himself about commitment, he probably would’ve stayed locked in the motorcoach till everything shook itself out with how he was feeling.

Once he had finished the conversation with Sarina, he met up with the team for a discussion about the race that day. The conversation wasn’t needed – but it was a good distraction for him to have. He went through the sponsor appearances, and then forced himself to eat something as he knew racing on an empty stomach would not go well at all.  He retreated back to the motorcoach, hiding out as he waited for a text or something from Sarina, making sure to head out to pit road just before start time.

Now following his introduction, he was hoping it’d just be a matter of minutes before he was in his own world strapped in the car.

“Chase!” He hears, stopping and rolling his eyes immediately as he turns in the direction of the voice. He could only roll them again as he noticed it was Kyle Busch making his way over. “Dude, have you seen Chris at all today?” Chase shakes his head no. “Damn. I heard there’s an arrest warrant out for him?”

“Ryan says that Chris poisoned him,” Chase states, knowing it was just a matter of time before the truth came out. Like Ryan had done the good duty in warning him, he had done the good duty in warning Kyle with him being Sarina’s boss. “Combined with Jared’s comment, it’s added up to enough for a warrant.”

“Sarina wouldn’t say much, but I thought that was the case. I haven’t seen him either, and truthfully, she hasn’t seen him as she’s been hanging around Christopher and I all day.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that had to be a great combination as nothing like hearing another round of Bell worries. “She went looking for her brother, and couldn’t find him, so she found us instead. We convinced her that we’d help look, but also watch just because.”

“Glad you had better luck than I did.” Chase knew he shouldn’t say too much, but as he took off his glasses to truly face Kyle, he knew it was worth saying. “Look, I went to her after Ryan told me and flat out told her what I thought. I said what Ryan said, and I said how I agreed based on the facts. She wasn’t too pleased, denied it entirely, was mad at me for that and walked out.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“She had told me you guys had a disagreement about it…” Chase knew that was putting it mildly.

“Kyle, I love her. I really do love her and I want to spend as much time as I can possibly muster with her. I want to see us work this out and everything be fine for us. I know I was a little over baring in what I said, but it’s how I felt. Just promise me that you’ll keep an eye out for her, please.” Kyle shakes his head, accepting. He could see the emotions in Chase’s eyes as he told him.

“I will, without a doubt. None of this is her fault or your fault. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find a way back together. Good luck.” Chase smiles, glad there was an understanding. It felt better to be on the same page this time around, unlike last time.

“Thanks Kyle, and same to you.” He then puts his sunglasses back on, continuing the long walk down pit road to where his No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet sat on the pole.

He then leans back against it, easily doing the required pre-race interviews without much emotion showing through. He then accepted a photo opportunity with the boss, Dale and Amy, though kept quiet the whole time. Alan had picked up on the events that had taken place, silently assuring the young man that he had his back.

Standing there for the anthem, Chase had to admit that it felt lonely standing there without a hand to hold onto from Sarina. It even felt worse climbing in the car without a kiss, yet knowing she was somewhere on the property.

Once buckled in the car with the window net up, he takes a deep breath and focuses his eyes forward. He couldn’t think about Chris anymore. He couldn’t think about Sarina anymore. It was time for him to win a race tonight.

As the field pulls off pit road, Sarina sat up near the top of the grandstands with Christopher Bell and Todd Gilliland. She affixed her headset on, tuning it to listen into Chase’s radio transmission. She was mad at him, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t care as she wanted to see him have a good, fun, safe night. She also held her phone tightly to her, trying her brother’s number every 15 minutes in hopes that he’d surface; it was very concerning to not know where he was. She was actually surprised the police let her go after a half hour of questioning.

“Be aggressive like you were in February all night,” Alan tells Chase over the radio and Sarina smiles. She’d have no problem with Chase putting himself in the same position as he did in the 500, but with a win this time around.

“Yes sirey bob,” Chase replies, which earns a small chuckle from Sarina.

The race started off well with Chase solidly running up front through the first stage without any problems. He also started off stage two well, putting himself in solid position. Sometimes he right at the front of the pack, and sometimes he started to fade back a little – it was all about putting yourself in the right lane.

As the second stage drew closer towards the end, the pack continued to close up more and more and chaos seemed to be happening more with nerves on edge. Contact was happening through the field as everybody seemed to want to bump draft. Going down the backstretch, trapped on the bottom lane, Chase felt a bump from behind, followed by the car going sideways as he went sliding through the grass. He managed to gather it up without a lot of damage, but felt frustration immediately in knowing who had turned him.

“That damn 95 (Michael McDowell) wrecks me one more time…..Damn it,” he starts off on the radio. “What in the hell is that MFer’s problem man? That is the biggest dumbass I’ve seen in my life. That dumbass can’t drive a wooden screw. Damn it.” Alan takes a deep breath, surprised at how quickly Chase went off as that certainly wasn’t like their driver. However, he understood that some of that frustration certainly wasn’t directed right at McDowell.

“We got a long way to go here, calm down and get back into it,” Alan instructs over the radio as he sits back on the pit box.

“Not much damage at all – maybe splitter a little,” spotter Eddie D’Hondt reports from his vantage point as Alan looks towards the crew, knowing that they had to put a game plan in action so they could fight back through the second half.

“Alan,” Alan hears after feeling a tap on his shoulder. He slips the headset off, looking over at Josh. “Is everything okay with Chase? I mean, he normally doesn’t flip that bad.” Alan could only let out a sigh.

“You’ve heard about the arrest warrant for Chris, right?” Alan questions, making sure not to cue the radio by accident as the car chief shakes his head yes. “Well, how would you feel if your girlfriend’s brother poisoned your best friend? Let’s just say that they had a little bit of a fight.”

“Do you think they’re going to work it out?” Alan shrugs his shoulders, as he wasn’t exactly sure. He believed in them, though, and had hopes that they’d be back to their usual togetherness next weekend at Kentucky.

“We’ll see. Right now, though, we have a race to focus on.” Josh shakes his head yes as he puts his headset back on, watching as the pit crew goes to work to fix the damage.

The second half of the race went smoother as Chase found his way out of trouble, working his way back to the top-10 to run 11th with three laps to go. However, all their hard work did not pan out as he would get spun just past the overtime line, resulting in a 22nd-place finish.

With the race over, Chase made his way back to the garage, parking the car in front of the hauler and climbing out. He shakes his head in disbelief as he glances back at it, before looking towards the guys heading his way.

“You did what you needed to do behind the wheel,” Josh says as he walks over first, patting Chase on the shoulder. “Nothing you can do about rotten luck and circumstance here.”

“I know – I just hate it because we had a good car,” Chase comments as he lets out a sigh.

“We’ll get them in Kentucky. Good effort, considering.” Chase shakes his head as he walks by the rest of the guys, giving them each a quick high-five or shoulder pat, before coming face-to-face with Alan.

“Relax, take a deep breath, and chill,” Alan tells him quietly. “I know you have a shit ton of bullshit going on right now. It’s going to work out, if it’s meant to be. Just don’t do something you regret.” Chase shakes his head, accepting.

“Did they find him?” Chase wonders, referring to Sarina’s brother and Alan shakes his head yes. “Did he take it easily?” Alan shakes his head yes once again. “That’s good. Have you seen Sarina?”

“One of Kyle’s guys came and told me that she went with her brother for support.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“She still doesn’t believe it….” Alan then watches Chase closely.

“Would you believe it, in her shoes?” Chase lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Like I said, don’t do something you’ll regret. Let her stand by him and do what she needs to do. Everything is going to come out and then afterwards, if it’s meant to be, you’ll find each other again.” Chase knew that Alan was right.

“I know…” Chase then heads up into the hauler, stopping at the fridge on the way by.

On Friday, he had grabbed his usual bottle of juice and placed it in the hauler so that way it was there to drink when he wanted it. Considering that he didn’t get thirsty yesterday, it was still there.

Taking off the cap, he takes a mouthful and lets it go down his throat as he lets out a sigh. He was sweaty and hot, but it was nice to have something cold to cool himself off, and hopefully find some sort of relaxation.

With the bottle in hand, he heads up to the lounge in the hauler, lying back on the couch as he takes a couple more sips. He figured he could chill out there for awhile, waiting to see how things shook out, before actually getting ready to head home.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 100: Sonoma

Ryan makes his way back into the hotel room after getting breakfast with his crew guys, grabbing his bag as he searches for something.

“Ugh!!!” Sarina lets out as she looks at herself in the mirror, trying to fix her hair.

“You realize that you look pretty without getting all frustrated over a simple piece, right?” Ryan questions as she looks out of the bathroom.

“Well I appreciate the compliment, this pony tail is pissing me off.” He then laughs as he sets his stuff down, walking over into the bathroom.

“Give me the hair tie…” She hands it over, slightly confused. He then grabs the brush off the counter, running it through her hair a couple times, before putting the hair up in a perfect pony tail. She then checks it out, swinging it back and forth a couple times, before looking back at Ryan impressed. “What? I have two sisters, remember?”

“Right, that’s the reason for this. But, thank you.” She then exits the bathroom, making her way over to the bed. She taps Chase’s shoulder, waking him up as Ryan just rolls his eyes.

“You should’ve let me put whip cream or something in his hand….” She then looks on, surprised.

“And let you have some fun? Nah, I got the honor of that last night.” He then rolls his eyes, still mad about how that prank played out.

“I still owe you one…” She then laughs as Chase sits up, glancing between the pair.

“Why does morning come so early?” He questions as he kicks the blanket off the bed.

“Technically, you slept in three extra hours than you would on the east coast,” Ryan comments as Chase just flips him the bird while walking by to the bathroom. “Is he always grumpy in the morning?”

“It depends,” Sarina reasons. She then walks over to the mini fridge, pulling out a small bottle of orange juice. She had put it in there the night before, set to sip on it in the morning before heading out with Chase to the track and getting breakfast. Chase couldn’t help but chuckle from the bathroom as he watched her undo the cap, causing him to quickly slam the door as she looked over suspicious. “He’s also goofy at times in the morning.”

“He’s a special one, isn’t he?” Ryan then sits back on the bed, set for the day and knowing he should head out, but he couldn’t resist leaving and watching the show. Sarina untwists the cap, bringing the bottle up to her mouth. She takes a mouthful, immediately spitting it out afterwards.

“What the heck?” She then looks over the bottle, confused as ever. “That taste like no tropicana. That is just crap!” She checks the expiry date, but it hadn’t expired.

“Did it taste cheesy?” She then lowers the bottle, looking at Ryan confused.

“A little….” He then smiles with a laugh as he opens the drawer, throwing her a box of kraft dinner that was missing the cheese packet. He then goes into the cooler that he had, throwing her a bottle of proper orange juice.

“The look on your face when you tasted it was priceless!” She then looks at the contents he threw her, slightly confused, before looking back over.

“You switched my orange juice with kraft dinner cheese and water?” He shakes his head yes with a laugh. “Oh you dirty rascal!”

“Check mate!” He then grabs his bag and heads for the door as she stands up. “And on that note, I need to get to the track…” He then quickly closes the door behind him and takes off down the hall before she could catch up.

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

Sarina climbs up on the pit box, uncertain of how the day would play out. She had hopes of a good finish, but felt nerves based on how the weekend had begun with the practice crash.

Her nerves were calmed in the beginning stages, as he completed the first stage in the 11th position. She watched as he moved forward, racing his way into the top-10 before the second stage was complete.

“We’ve got some significant front end damage here,” Alan says over the radio to Chase. “So we’re going to pit an extra time, fix it, and that way you’ll be fine for the second half. I just don’t want to screw us over.”

“10-4.” Sarina hated to see him lose the track position, but understood the crew chief’s theory. She just hoped that the pit strategy turned out in their favor through the second half of the event.

As the race winded down, he was able to continue moving forward, running as high as third before he made his way down pit road with 30 to go for his final stop. He quickly got himself back into the top-15, racing his way up into the top-10. He was then able to retain the track position, crossing the finish line in eighth.

While the finish was nothing to write a big book about and be super proud of, it still brought smiles to Chase, Alan and the crew after the race. After struggling so hard at the beginning of the weekend, it was nice to see him finding his groove turning both left and right.

“I’m proud of you,” Sarina says as she gives him a kiss on the lips. “I can’t wait to spend this whole week with you.”

“I can’t wait to see you sun tanning all nice at the beach while I’m swimming,” he comments, and she couldn’t deny that herself. There was nothing to deny about seeing a cute, well-fit boy in just his swim trunks.

“Aww something to keep me entertained while I work on my tan. There’s nothing wrong with that.” He then smiles as they watch Kyle walk over to them.

“Well well, glad to see the love birds are still enjoying paradise,” Kyle Busch comments as the pair just smile. “Sarina, I just wanted to double check something. You put a request in to have Bethany’s credential revoked?” She shakes her head yes. “Okay, that’s fine. I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t an issue there.”

“We’re not talking because she obviously can’t let go of the past or understand that I am done with family,” Sarina explains, in which Kyle just simply shakes his head in agreement.

“What about your brother? Is everything still cool there?” She shakes her head yes, even if his comment a week ago wasn’t the most well-thought out. “Alright. I’m just asking so I know who to put on the list for Kentucky, and who not to. It just seems odd that your brother is hanging out with her a lot, too.”

“Let’s just say that he gets where I’m coming from, but still doesn’t want to let the family connection go. I can’t deny that with him because of what we’ve all been through.” Kyle shakes his head, understanding.

“As long as there’s no issues, then I’m not going complain.” She puts her hands up, knowing that there’s no problems.

“I’m going to go actually catch up with him for a quick second, and then we can head out, okay?” Chase shakes his head yes, before giving her a quick kiss as she heads off. Kyle watches, before turning to Chase.

“I haven’t mentioned what we talked about, in relation to her brother. Have you talked to her at all?” Chase shakes his head no. “I don’t want to bring it up, but it’s still concerning….”

“I feel it’s coincidence, but that’s just me,” Chase comments as he glances towards the direction she headed. “Why are we talking about this, though?”

“I’m just concerned, that’s all,” Kyle says. “I don’t want her judgment of her brother to mess things up for her, and everybody else.” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

“Well like I said, I’m not concerned.” Chase knew that was a lie as he couldn’t deny keeping an extra eye out for Chris at times.

He also hoped that maybe the police would find a lead, and arrest somebody for what had happened lately so they could leave all the worries behind.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 99: Saturday @ Sonoma

Saturday, June 24

 

Sarina walks into the garage area, adjusting her lanyard as she lets out a yawn. With no sleep through the previous night, needless to say she was ready for a long nap somewhere.

After a busy day at the track yesterday, she flew home to North Carolina with the team. Right upon landing, she walked into the house and switched out her firesuit and a couple other items for some jeans and t-shirts, re-zipping the bag. She let herself grab a quick shower – she was sweaty and sticky and hated it – before heading out to meet up with Amy.

The girls then boarded the plane, making the flight out to California for Saturday morning. She thought of sleeping on the flight, but that didn’t happen as her fear of planes caused her to keep watch thorough the entire experience.

The pair landed in California, adjusting the three hour time difference, with plans set in motion. Amy invited Sarina to join her and some other ladies on a wine tasting tour, but she proudly declined. For her, she’d rather spend a day at the track than sitting around drinking fancy wine.

Now armed with a Mountain Dew Kickstart (perks of boyfriend sponsored by them), she had made her way to the track and was set to find the person of the hour.

She walked into the garage area, smiling as she noticed a familiar No. 21 Ford. Setting a smile on her face, she walks over, wrapping her arms around the driver by the back of the car.

“Hey Ryan,” she says with a smile as he jumps out of his skin, spinning around to face her.

“Hey!” He lets out as he glances around the garage. “Do you realize what Chase would say if he saw us together like that?” She shrugs her shoulders with a smile.

“Oh Blaney, oh Blaney, I guess Chase didn’t fill you in the details for tonight, now did he? We’re going to have our own little lifesaber battle. Hope you’re up for it, Jedi.” His jaw drops in shock as he takes another glance around, hoping nobody was hearing. “What’s wrong? Scared someone will hear of your dirty plans for tonight?”

“Are you sure that you’re the same girl that I met that day at Hickory? Wait – are you the same girl that I saw just a couple weeks ago? Are you sure you’re not some twin or something? And what have you done to Chase? I mean, this is….No, that can’t be happening.” She laughs as she notices the look on his face.

“Ah boy, this is going to be a fun weekend. I can’t believe that you actually fell for it. Nice seeing you, and good luck.” She then puts her sunglasses back on and walks away as he stands there, shaking his head in total shock, before walking back to his team.

She continues making her way down the stretch of garages, destination already in sight as she couldn’t wait to see her actual man of the hour. If there was anybody that keep her awake it was him.

“Sarina!” She hears and stops in her tracks, rolling her eyes immediately as she spins around. She wanted to avoid him, but it would rude to ignore the boss.

“Hey Kyle,” she says in the politest way that she could muster.

“I’m surprised that you’re here – well, sort of. I mean, I get wanting to be with Chase, but really after last night?” She shakes her head yes, wishing that she could just get the conversation over with.

“We have to take advantage of what time we can get together with our schedule, right?” Kyle couldn’t argue that.

“I just wanted to say great job last night. You handled yourself very well, and took what the truck was willing to give you. I was impressed by what I saw. We’ll talk on Tuesday about restarts so you’ll be better for Kentucky, okay?” She shakes her head yes, knowing that she was probably going to get enough advice from Chase already. However, it didn’t hurt to also listen to the restart master.

“I appreciate the tips and advice whenever you get a chance. Thanks for the compliments, and good luck today.”

“Thank you.” He then glances at her hand and shakes his head. “Really? I thought you would’ve been carrying around a NOS instead.” She then lets out a sigh, knowing the balance of everybody having their own sponsor commitments.

“Let’s just say easy access with flying out with Amy is my reason. Don’t worry – I still love you and your great drinks. See you later.” He then returns back to his stall, which was the only cue that she needed to keep walking as she had originally planned.

Taking a couple more sips of her drink and depositing the can in the garbage, she walks through the stall, passing crew members left and right. They each wave and go to say something, but she motions for them to be quiet as she makes her way to the front of the car. She stands back for a second, letting Chase and Alan talk about whatever was on their minds ahead of qualifying later on that day. As they finish up their discussion, she makes her move.

She walks up behind Chase, wrapping both arms around him, and pulling him close as she plants a kiss on his cheek. A smile immediately forms on his face as he spins around to face her, placing one in return on her lips.

“Gosh I missed you,” he says as he keeps her held close. “I love you, and thank you for coming.”

“Any reason to torment Blaney is a good reason for me,” she replies as he laughs.

“I feel bad for him already.” She laughs as she remembers the bag she had previously placed in the hotel room before heading over.

“Just wait till we get back to the hotel later on tonight.” He rolls his eyes, knowing that she was going to be up to no good.

“Suddenly, I feel better about this weekend,” Jared Seate comments from his vantage point, getting a curious glance from the pair. “Chase is always in a better chipper mood now that his girl is here. I say we’re going to have a great weekend and put yesterday behind us.”

“Awww was Chasey not smiling yesterday?” Sarina questions as she slips his sunglasses up, looking into his eyes.

“Would you be smiling if you wrecked your racecar?” He asks and she shakes her head no.

“Well, as the boys have said, you’re going to put yesterday behind you starting today. You’re going to do great. You know how to turn left and right. You proved that in Canada. You also proved that you can’t see a slower truck in front of you, too, or judge the closing gap well enough and hit it.” He then rolls his eyes, still in disbelief that some people bugged him about how he got his first win.

“I’ve said it time and time again – he cut me off, plain and simple. Do I need to show you my mom’s evidence?” Sarina just smiles in response, having seen the pictures and agreeing with what happened.

“Awww is mommy protecting her baby?” He then rolls his eyes.

“You can pick on me all you want. I’m just glad that you decided to come.” She glances around the garage, before returning her eyes back to him.

“You cut into my beach and sun-tanning, but I guess I made the right decision.” He then smiles as he rubs her shoulders.

“Think about it this way – now you get racecars and a California suntan. Just promise me you put sunscreen on.” She then rolls her eyes, remembering the summer they were racing the same tracks in late models and she got a real bad burn one week and how he kept walking over, flicking it.

“Oh, so now you care about my skin? If you must know, I did put some on this morning and brought the bottle to put more on this afternoon, if I need it.” He smiles as it was always good to see her taking care of herself.

“Aren’t they just adorable?” Chad Avrit questions as he looks over Jared’s shoulder. “I’m wondering if we should start planning the wedding now….” Jared laughs as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Bachelor party at Jr.’s Whiskey River?” Jared asks and Chad shakes his head yes. “Of course, we don’t want to scare off our sweet innocent boy, so no strippers allowed. Unless Sarina has turned him….” Chase just rolls his eyes once again, all the meanwhile keeping his eyes focused on Sarina. The boys could say what they wanted as he didn’t care – he got his girl to join him this weekend.

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

The rest of the day played out decently. Chase had a decent run in qualifying for a solid starting spot, and the pair enjoyed the K&N Pro Series West show from the top of the hill, thrilled by the close finish between Kevin Harvick and Will Rodgers.

Following their fun day, Chase texted Ryan to tell him that he was taking Sarina out to dinner before returning back to the hotel that night, and to sadly inform him that he wasn’t invited. Ryan accepted, though, having already agreed to go out with his team.

Once the pair were done dinner, they retreated back to the hotel room, making it back before Ryan.

“Want to see how high we can make him jump?” Sarina questions as Chase rolls his eyes. He knew he was in for a troublesome night.

“What do you have in mind?” He asks, knowing that he couldn’t miss out on pranking Ryan.

“A bag of tricks…” She then pulls out a smaller bag from her duffle bag, sifting through it. She then pulls out two items, showing both of them to Chase. “Which would work better?”

“Is that what I think it is?” She laughs and shakes her head yes.

“And I know how to make it look the part, perfectly. Let’s just say that pranks on the road while racing were always fun.” He then rolls his eyes as he flops back in their bed.

“Go for it….” She then lets out a cheer of ‘yay,’ setting everything in motion. “Really? We have to go with all this?” She then jumps in the bed beside him, looking into his eyes.

“Just go with it, okay? Oh, and make sure the blanket is all the way up so he doesn’t know.” Chase rolls his eyes as he pulls off his shirt, flicking it off across the room. “And you could also do that….”

The pair laid there quietly, watching a couple different TV shows and using the time to get in some quality time. They then heard the lock on the door engage to unlock, causing the pair to look at each other. Chase reached over, switching the light off as he pulls her close in his arms. He began to giggle a little, with Sarina putting a hand over his mouth.

“Shut up!” She says quietly as they hear the door open.

“Chase? Sarina?” Ryan questions, noticing the darkness of the room with the TV turned off. “Well, guess someone was tired….” He then flicks the light on as he kicks his shoes off. His eyebrows then fuse together confused as he notices a trail of clothes. “Okay, we joked about this, but that was supposed to be all jokes. I mean, come on. Really, Chase?”

Sarina keeps her hand over Chase’s mouth to muffle his want to chuckle as Ryan walks across the room, shaking his head at the scattered clothes across the floor.

“Lace bra – I wouldn’t have pictured that,” he comments as Sarina resists the urge to wonder on the assumption.

Out of the corners of their eyes hidden by the blanket, they watch as Ryan sits on the edge of his bed, slipping off both his pants and t-shirt so he was down to just his boxers.

“Stop looking!” Chase whispers quietly into Sarina’s ears as he makes a motion to cover her eyes, but making it appear as if he was just moving in his sleep.

“Jealous?” She whispers back in response, keeping herself cuddled close to him.

They hear Ryan stand up and walk around the bed, grabbing the remote off the table as he turns to the bed. He pulls back the comforter, set to climb into the bed.

“What the hell?!? Ewwwwwww!” He yells out as he jumps, causing both Sarina and Chase to break out laughing. “Ewwww. Okay, that’s like wet. It’s milky white. That’s used…recently….in my bed. Ewwww.” The pair then break out laughing even more as Ryan spins around. “Really? I mean, okay fine you’re human so you did it before I got back. But really? In my bed? Why not in your own?”

“Who’s to say we didn’t? Let’s just say someone was horny tonight,” Sarina says, as she pulls one out from under the covers, set in the same form as the previous, flicking it at Ryan – which it hits him in the chest.

“Ewww ewww ewww! Oh my gosh! Ewww! There’s not enough showers that I could take to get rid of that. Ewww!” The pair laugh even harder as Ryan keeps his eyes locked on them. “And you think this is funny?” Sarina and Chase shake their heads yes as they sit up in the bed.

“I was wondering if you’d take me up on my earlier offer next…” Ryan’s jaw drops as Chase looks at her confused. “Oh Chase, I forgot to tell you what I was planning….”

“I don’t think I want to know,” Chase comments as he pulls out his phone. He watches the video, cracking up laughing. “All I know is that Bubba is going to kill himself laughing when he sees this.”

“You recorded my reaction?” Ryan asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “Why?”

“Because you’ve just been punk’d!” The pair let out together as Chase sends the video to Darrell.

“I’m confused….” Chase kicks off the blanket, revealing that he’s still in his boxers, with Sarina wearing her PJ shorts and one of his t-shirts.

“We got back about an hour ago,” Chase starts. “We’ve actually just been chilling here, watching TV, enjoying America’s Funniest Home Videos actually. Sarina wanted to see how high you could jump so she planted the evidence – the clothes, the used condom. By the way, that wasn’t used at all. That’s just a nice look-a-like prank liquid sprayed on it.” Ryan then looks around the room, before looking back at them.

“So this was all just a prank?” He asks and Chase shakes his head yes. “You’re mean!”

“I couldn’t let you off with nothing after last night’s comments,” Sarina comments as Ryan just shakes his head.

“Payback is a bitch, sweetheart. Remember that.” She shakes her head knowing that, as she pulls Chase back close to her.

“Yeah, but just remember that I have my knight in shining armor to protect me, always.” He then rolls his eyes as he goes back over to his bed, flopping in it. “You have to admit – I got you good.”

“Well played, actually. I give you credit…” She then lets out a yawn as she cuddles back up against Chase, laying her head on his chest.

“Tired?” Chase questions and Sarina shakes her head yes. “Close your eyes. I’ve got you, and I promise Ryan will stay over on his side of the room. I love you.” He then kisses her forehead, rubbing her back as she closes her eyes, finally glad to be able and snag some sleep after the past 48 hours.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 96: “Thank you, Kyle.”

Sarina leans back against the truck following the first practice, pleased with how it felt. There was nothing wrong with having posted the quickest time on the charts.

She hears her phone going off, expecting it to be Chase. She then smiles when she sees ‘Rowdy’ instead, hitting answer.

“That’s my girl!!” He lets out on the phone as she laughs immediately. “I just had to call you and say that it is awesome seeing your name on top of the pylon. That is great. Nice job.”

“If you’re this excited over practice, I can’t imagine what you’ll be like if we can pull it off later on tonight,” she replies with a chuckle. “But thank you boss, much appreciated.”

“It is not a problem. I know how rough some of these weeks have been on you, so it is great to see you and Marcus finding your groove.” She lets out a sigh, knowing those words hit deeper than probably Kyle would’ve thought so.

“Do you actually have some time right now, Kyle? I want to talk to you about something….” She then walks off pit road, heading through the garage area in search of a quiet spot. She just hoped he said yes as she took the walk.

“Yeah, of course. What’s up?” She knew he was expecting something competition related, but this was far from it.

“I’ve talked with Chase about this, but I want an outside opinion – and I feel we’re close enough to where I can say this. You won’t say anything, will you?” Kyle felt intrigued about her words as he walked up into the lounge, closing the door behind him.

“Absolutely not.” He knew if it was serious enough, though, that he would have to say something to Chase.

“So you know my past as I made sure to open that box when my brother’s identity and involvement came out. That was all about full discretion because I didn’t want you to walk into something that you weren’t comfortable with. With that said, did it change your opinion on me at all?” Kyle remembered the meeting in his office with him, Samantha and Marcus as she broke out her life story for him. He remembered the mix of feelings experienced through the discussion, as well as his words with Samantha afterwards.

“You didn’t choose for your brother to get involved in drugs and mix up things. You didn’t choose for your father to take his police job, and try to protect your brother in the process and get shot. You didn’t choose for those people to find you and take your mom away from you, especially at such a young age. Everything that’s happened – that’s been a matter of circumstance around you, not your choic-”

“Even separating myself from my brother and family at that point?” He took a deep breath, seeing where the regret was probably coming from.

“Even that. He was making the wrong decisions at that time, and nobody would’ve blamed you from wanting to get away from that and get a fresh start after what you’d been through. Sarina, every choice that you’ve made has been a good choice. That said when we were done the meeting, I respected you even more because of everything that you’ve been through and how you’ve been able to fight back from it. The will to fight and be strong no matter what is one of those many reasons why I love having you drive for me.” She felt a little more confidence, and felt the feelings of yesterday fading slightly.

“Thanks Kyle. I appreciate that…” He couldn’t help but wonder now, though.

“Why did you ask about this, anyway?” She lets out a sigh. She didn’t want to bring it up, knowing everybody had differing opinions on Chris already.

“Let’s just say that it was bugging me for some odd reason, and I wanted a vote of confidence. I admit that I can be hard-headed, and I will do whatever the hell it takes, but I still have my worries here and there.” Kyle knew that, remembering her questions surrounding Chase, and whether that step was right.

“Well whenever you need a pick me up, I’m here. I told you that I was here for advice whenever you needed it, and I mean that. I have your back, no matter what.”

“Thanks. Listen, I better let you go as Marcus is going to be looking for me.”

“Alright. I’ll talk to you later. Keep up the good work.” Kyle then hangs up, sitting back with a smile.

He knew that Marcus and Samantha both were skeptical about keeping her on board through everything, but the choice was the right decision. She was proving it behind the wheel, and there was something about her desire that seemed familiar.

Meanwhile in Michigan being father’s day weekend, Chase had made the decision to take his parents out to dinner the night before the race since he knew Sunday would result in being too busy. However, he made them both promise that they’d be back to the motorcoach before the truck race started as he wanted to watch how his girl made out.

“She’s doing better each week,” Bill comments as they drive back to the track.

“Well, she’s never driven mile and a half tracks so it’s a whole new ball game for her,” Chase says. “But she says that she’s trusting Marcus more, and they’re finding the chemistry that you need. Combine that with getting used to the trucks, I think she may get her first win in the next couple of weeks.” Bill shakes his head in agreement.

“Iowa or Kentucky are two good places, if not tonight. I mean, Iowa drives like a short track and then Kentucky is like some of the places that she’s been already. I don’t think you’re off in that prediction.”

“Think she can beat Christopher, though?” Cindy questions, referring to Christopher Bell.

“She was quicker than him a couple weeks ago,” Chase reminds his mom.

“I was talking to Kim (Burton) the other day. She was saying how much Harrison likes it there, and how helpful everybody is with advice. She said that she was surprised, really. She even mentioned how well Harrison, Todd, Christopher and Sarina were getting along. She then asked me what I thought of Sarina and you together, and I told her that I was still skeptic-”

“Mama…..”

“But that you guys were alright together. She said based on Harrison’s words that you picked a gem in her as Sarina was a sweetheart with giving him some tips and a tour.” Chase smiles, knowing that he’d have to thank Harrison later for the vote of confidence on the girl. It was nice to see his mom speak positively about Sarina for a change.

“Well, for what it’s worth, Sarina loves having Kyle as a boss, and says that they get along great. I’ve also talked to Kyle a couple times, and he’s happy with her and been great about it.”

Once they get back to the track, they separate with a quick wish goodbye for the night, with Chase heading inside the motorcoach and flipping the race on. He then relaxes on the couch, set for a fun night.

He hated to hear the news that she had to start at the tail of the field after having water pump issues in time trials. However, it was great watching her come through the field, despite battling a tight truck. Throughout the night, Marcus was able to make it better and better, with her crossing the finish line in ninth. Considering how the night started, he had no complaints for her on the night.

He took out his phone, sending her a quick text message on a nice job, a little pick me up, followed by a quick ‘love you, talk to you later.’

He then grabs himself a shower, before getting comfy in bed, knowing that he had a busy day ahead of him on Sunday. It had been a great dinner out with his parents, including some complimentary words from his mom finally, and capped off with a solid truck race. Now he knew he just had to take the solid car they had and turn it into a great performance tomorrow.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 95: “It’s just ironic, considering…..”

Kyle Busch walks through the garage between the practices, stopping by Chase Elliott’s stall. He watches the young man speak with his team about the debrief from what had happened, before watching him as he walks towards where Kyle was standing.

“Hey!” Chase says, having gotten used to seeing Kyle over the past couple of months. It was one of those things he knew he would have to get used to, thanks to Sarina. It didn’t bother him, though, as Kyle was truly not that bad of a guy, all things considered.

“Hey,” Kyle replies. “How were you in practice?” Chase shrugs his shoulders, but he knew Kyle was making small talk. He didn’t come by and not have much to say.

“The car is pretty good, actually – but that’s nothing new here,” Chase comments. “How about you guys?”

“We could use a couple adjustments, but I have no complaints.” Chase crosses his arms, leaning back against the post. He was waiting for Kyle to drop what he truly had to say. “So I was talking to Christop-”

“I already know about his comments to Sarina and his concerns. I don’t honestly want to hear another thing that Bell has to say, considering he has no grounds for what he’s saying.” Kyle takes his sunglasses off, looking at Chase with surprise.

“No grounds for what he’s saying? So obviously you forgot about everything that happened in January, right?” Chase rolls his eyes. There was no way he could forget what happened. He was reminded of that every weekend when Sarina’s brother was there.

“I haven’t forgotten about what happened, and don’t expect me to ever forget what happened. I guess you forget that he tried to kill me twice, and pushed me, right? But Sarina and I have moved past it. We’re closer than we ever were, probably closer than I thought we would be at this point considering her feelings. So if we can move forward and become stronger, why can’t everyone else accept it?” Kyle shook his head, understanding.

“Hey, I have accepted it so that’s something. I know that most people have accepted it so you guys are doing good, actually. But by the way, Christopher’s comments – you shouldn’t have your guard up. He’s been busy and he hasn’t had a chance to see you or get your number from Sarina. Anyways, he wanted to apologize for being an ass actually, because he feels bad after talking to her and seeing you guys together. He said it was totally out of character for him – which I can attest you, but he said the only reason was because he cared about his teammate.” Chase relaxes, accepting the apology. He heard from Sarina that the pair got a chance to talk things over a couple weeks ago, but hadn’t put much thought beyond that. He wasn’t quite ready to relax in his concerns, yet.

“Well you can let him know that I accept his apology, by the way. I appreciate it.” Kyle shakes his head, accepting.

“The other thing I wanted to mention you – this whole poisoning deal. Other than what happened in Bristol, it’s been focused around us weirdly.” Chase looks at Kyle with a bit of concern, but was getting where this was going. “Your guy, and then two of my crew members – one from KBM at Dover, and then one from JGR last week at Pocono. It’s just ironic, considering….”

“Yeah, I hadn’t put much thought into it actually.” Kyle glances down, having his own thoughts.

“Christopher made mention of the fact that Sarina’s brother was at all four races, and he has an interesting past. I told him that he was far-fetching, the tumor deal, and to just can the thought. However, it has been on my mind ever since.” Chase glances away, knowing the feeling after conversations with Alan.

“I think it’s just coincidence, to be honest.” That’s what Chase had been telling himself to keep sane through the whole ordeal.

“Is that what you told Jared? I mean, someone mentioned that Jared said Chris was one of the last people he saw before feeling sick.” Chase remembered hearing that detail during a weekly shop meeting from Alan, which had triggered his senses again.

“I haven’t talked to Jared about it, and he’s pretty much moved forward. Listen, they’re going to find who is doing this and it’s going to be put to rest soon. For now, we just need to be careful. I even told Sarina that.” Kyle was glad to hear those words, having his own suspicions.

“Well, I don’t want to keep you so I’ll see you later. I heard the boys built your girl a good truck for tomorrow night.” Chase smiles as that was always good news to hear as Kyle walks away.

He then lets out a sigh, shaking the mix of thoughts out of his head before continuing the walk he had originally been set to follow to the trailer.

Meanwhile, Sarina was at home, finalizing what she was talking with her to Gateway for tomorrow’s busy day. She knew it’d be one of those long days that would feel like it was going on forever with practice, qualifying and the race all scheduled for the same day.

It was even worse with this being the second straight weekend away from Chase, and the fact that she wouldn’t be making the trip up to Michigan for Sunday’s cup race. She didn’t know what she’d do sitting at home watching as it was going to feel weird.

Taking a deep breath, she knew that this was part of life, and she could handle it. If she wanted to chase the dream of doing this for the rest of her life and take advantage of the great opportunity before her – sometimes she even pinched herself not believing it, there were going to be weekends that they’d spend apart.

She zips up the bag, carrying it to the front door and setting it down, as she thanks herself that there was only one more weekend apart before they would be relaxing at Daytona together, followed by racing together at Kentucky.

“Chris!” She yells out, calling her brother as he comes out of the kitchen. “Do you have everything that you need? We’re leaving tonight and Marcus said, the plane waits for nobody.” He shakes his head yes, having placed his bag by the door already.

“I just need to add two more things and it’s ready to go,” he comments, before returning to the kitchen. She then looked on intrigued, but immediately shrugged her shoulders, shaking her it off as she flips the TV on. Considering she didn’t have to leave for another hour, she might as well watch qualifying. She hears her brother make his way down the hall, putting the things in, before zipping up his bag. “Okay, it’s packed now.”

“What did you forget this time?” It was usual that he’d always forget something to the last minute, but seemed to always remember just before they were leaving.

“Toothbrush and tooth paste. I wouldn’t want my breath smelling bad.” She then chuckles a little as she sits back on the couch.

“Don’t worry – the pretty girls won’t be there this weekend. You can return to staring at them at Daytona.”  He then looks at her, surprised.

“How did you figure that out?” She looks over with a grin.

“You’re single, ready to mingle, and always were one for chasing the cute booty. Let’s just say that those girls fit that style. No wonder you keep running off because you found their hang out.” He then laughs.

“Have you heard anymore about the investigation into the poison incidents?” She shakes her head no.

“Why do you ask?”

“I just worry about you and Chase with someone like that, walking around. It’s just ridiculous, you know?” She shakes her head, accepting. “Have you spoken to Bethany lately?”

“I haven’t talked to her since the incident, and that’s how it’s going to stand. Till she understands where I’m coming from, she can jump off a cliff.” Chris looks on surprised, though a glance away and he knew that the comment wouldn’t go well.

“I guess…..” Sarina then looks over at her brother.

“What do you mean by that, Chris?” He then glances up.

“I just hate seeing everybody tore apart piece by piece in this family.  I mean, I always dreamed that we’d be close. Mom always wanted that.” Sarina lets out a sigh, knowing everything had been most difficult on her brother. For her, she had racing as a distraction through the years. For her brother, there wasn’t much – especially considering when their father was killed in part due to her brother’s behavior back then.

“Sometimes you don’t get what you want, you should know that. I hate to be a debby downer and I hate to crush the dreams of perfect family, but it’s just not happening. I’m not repeating the bullshit over. I got away from that, and I’m staying away from that.”

“Just because you change your name and run away doesn’t mean that it leaves you. Bethany was just trying to get everything back to where it was before it fell apart. We could’ve fixed things..…” Chris then gets up and leaves the room before Sarina can reply, as she lets out a sigh.

She flips off the television, running her hands through her hair. She knew that her brother was right. The memories remained there, and the reminders continued to surface throughout events that had happened since. Whether she wanted to admit or it, Chelsy Dryer was who she was truly and there was no way to leave behind the life that Chelsy had lived.

As she sits up, though, she knew that she had no regrets. She had to do what she could to survive the mess that she found herself in then. The decisions she made were all about protecting her, and she would’ve done it again in a heartbeat to break away from everything. Ms. Sarina Ott was who she was now, and that’s who she would remain with her heart focused on making the most of her life.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 82: “You’re an All-Star!”

Sarina walks into the hauler, lets out a sigh as she flops back on the couch.

She had been quick throughout testing and practice, even laying down the quickest lap ever seen at Bristol in a super late model. However, come qualifying, everything went to shit and she ended up mid-pack. That was just going to make Sunday interesting.

She hears her phone go off, lets out a sigh as she sees the caller ID and answers the call.

“You should’ve gone with one of my late models….” She hears Kyle’s tone and rolls her eyes immediately. He never missed an opportunity to rub it in how she should be running Kyle Busch Motorsports late models to go with the truck. However, she liked working with Ricky Turner.

“Do I need to remind you of the practice speed set earlier today?” She questions in response.

“You didn’t get the job done when it counted, though. What happened?” She knew the explanation, having spoken with Ricky already. It didn’t make her happy, but it is what it is.

“We didn’t adjust correctly for the changing conditions. We went a little too far and she was just a tick loose. That’s not the best feeling when flying around this half-mile.” She hears a chuckle at his end, glad that she at least got a laugh out of him.

“Well, least you know you have a good car. I’m coming up after the All-Star race tomorrow to watch. Strangely, your boyfriend is the one giving me the ride.” Sarina could only laugh as she wondered how a flight with Kyle and Chase would go.

“Well, I’d suggest finishing second to him tonight so he doesn’t leave you stranded at the airport.” She hears a laugh in response, knowing there was no chance in Kyle listening to her suggestion.

“Hey, your boy has to qualify first. Good luck with that.” She then lets out a sigh. In her heart, Chase should’ve been qualified already for this event. There were a couple races last year he should’ve run, and a couple already they should’ve had. Instead, he was stuck in the Open and hopefully would be able to snag one of the segment wins.  “If it makes you feel better, I voted Daniel for the fan vote.”

“That’s just mean!”

“He’s my teammate. I couldn’t just not vote for him….”

“You could’ve and not told anyone. Regardless, it’s going to be a good night. I got some popcorn and me and Ricky are set to relax, and watch him kick butt in the open.”

“Well then I better let you go. See you tomorrow.”

“Bye Kyle.” She then hangs up, letting out a sigh as she relaxes back on the couch.

“You know he’s going to rub it in like hell if Chase doesn’t qualify….” Ricky comments as Sarina rolls her eyes. She wasn’t ready to accept that fate tonight.

She sat there, nerves at a high at times, as she watched him battled amongst the top-three through all the segments. However, one after the other, he came up short of winning, including a loss by just a bumper in one of them.

“Are you kidding me?!?” She lets out after the final segment as Ricky gives her a glance.

“We have the fan vote….” Ricky suggests as she rolls her eyes. She already had the winner picked out for that.

“It’ll be Danica because she’s Ms. Pretty Princes-”

“You’re forgetting her selfish act after Almirola hurt his back. That lost her a bunch of respect.” Sarina remembered that interview well, and how she wanted to strangle Danica for not being more thankful and worried on Aric’s part.

“Well there’s also Matt DiBenedetto. Look at the campaign he put together!” Ricky crosses his arms as he places a smile on his face.

“You’re not giving your boy enough credit. He’s an Elliott. Elliotts are popular. Just ask Bill.”  Sure enough, Ricky predicted it correctly as they announced Chase as the fan vote winner. “See?”

“Well, least we got a reason to watch tonight…” She then stands up, grabbing a drink out of the mini fridge, before returning back to her spot on the couch.

“What about your boss? Is he not a good enough reason?” She then rolls her eyes, though knew that Ricky was right as she didn’t mind watching Kyle at all.

Throughout the night, she kept her eyes locked on the television screen.

She found herself impressed with a couple of Chase’s strong moments, allowing him to be one of the 10 drivers in the final segment. She wasn’t exactly happy with the finish, but knew that they’d learned a lot ahead of the Coke 600.

A smile still found her face, though, in watching the event as she let out a big cheer in the restart that Kyle got to start the final segment, taking Jimmie and Brad three-wide into turn one and grabbing the lead. From there on, he flat-out dominated and snagged the win.

With the race completed, the pair headed out to grab a quick snack at the local Waffle House before heading to bed. They walked in, caught off-guard by the group sitting at one of the tables.

“I heard the guy will be alright but still….” They heard one person say.

“That’s just scary,” another commented as the group shook their heads in unison.

“They’re supposed to put an advisory in the morning to be careful around the track and with what you accept,” she noticed Christian Eckes comment. “Remind me not to go to the Bristol snack bar tomorrow.”

“What’s going on?” She asks, catching Christian’s attention. She hated to interrupt a conversation that she was originally not part of, but she hoped Christian excused her given their friendship and how well they had gotten to know each other with racing across the country.

“Someone was poisoned at Bristol today,” he reveals. “Supposedly they ate or drank something – not sure from where – but it had something in it and they were throwing up pretty bad. The guys said that he’d be okay as they got him to the hospital in time, but still. It just seems strange.” She shakes her head in agreement.

“Very strange. Thanks for the heads-up, though. Good luck tomorrow.”

“Same to you.” She then walks over to where Ricky had sat down, taking a seat across from him.

“Did you hear?” Ricky shakes his head yes, as he was caught off-guard as well.

Who would poison someone at a race track?

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

Sarina glances over the car, letting out a sigh as she leans back against it. If only she had qualified better…..

The next day at Bristol, she started where she had qualified – in the back half of the top-20, and began to slowly make her way forward. However, a pair of cars got together in front of her, leaving her nowhere to go as she crashed into them, resulting in heavy front end damage and the end of her Short Track Nationals.

“And we just had fixed it, too,” she comments, remembering the most recent outing with the car as she looks over at Ricky. “I’m sorry….”

“It’s my fault for screwing up yesterday,” he replies as he leans back beside her. “As long as you’re okay, that’s what matters.” She looks over, shaking her head yes.

“I’m fine…” She then glances down, twirling her ankle around a couple times, which caught the attention of Kyle as his eyes looked down.

“Twirling your foot?” He questions as she looks over at him.

“They said that it’d be tender for a bit after I wrecked at Talladega,” she answers. “It’s fine, just a tick stiff and whatnot. You don’t need to worry, okay?” He shakes his head, understanding.

“As long as you’re ready for the Monster in a couple weeks….” She then smiles, having looked forward to going to Dover from the beginning of the year. It was one of the races she had circled on the schedule when they put this deal together.

“Miles isn’t touching me….” Kyle then laughs, knowing how things usually went at Dover for rookies. He just had his fingers crossed that they avoided the usual rookie downfalls.