Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 133: Feeling the Pressure

Saturday, August 12 – Michigan International Speedway

Sarina smiles after giving Chase a quick kiss, before walking over to the truck.

It had been a quiet morning so far as she had watched Chase take part in Cup practice, still pleased with how the No. 24 Chevrolet was performing. The pair then spent time grabbing a light bite to eat together, not much conversation, before heading out to pit road about 20 minutes before qualifying.

Sarina had been quiet most of the morning, lost in her own thoughts. This was where she grew up. This was where her journey had begun as a little girl. This was where she had spent the first 13 years of her life before everything got twisted around. Needless to say, for all the reasons above, she wanted to perform this weekend. She wanted to do well at her home track. She wanted to do well to put everything negative behind her.

Chase crossed his arms as he kept his eyes locked on her, taking a deep breath. Admittedly, it’d been tough to read her emotions. Sometimes she was confident and focused as always, while other times she was quieter than he could’ve imagined. He read some of the anger from her, as well as the sadness; it was why he had suggested story time the night before. He also spent that night cuddling her as they slept, and holding her after breakfast following some more comments. He couldn’t be disappointed, though, as at least she was opening up a little rather than running. It was nice to see the trust building more and more each passing day.

“Yo, is everything okay?” A voice catches Chase off-guard as he turns to the source. He immediately felt like rolling his eyes as he saw Christopher standing there.

“Everything’s fine,” he replies. “Why are you concerned?” Christopher glances towards Sarina, who was talking with Marcus, before eyes back on Chase.

“She’s quieter than normal, and you’re standing back here observing. It just doesn’t seem like you guys…” Chase smiles as he looks at Christopher; he had to admit that he was good.

“What are you talking about me not being observant? You were around when I was late model racing. How many times did I walk off to watch?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s not like this…” Chase sighs as he crosses his arms.

“Everything is fine between Sarina and I. It’s just, this is home for her. She wants to do well so badly. She wants to perform to the best of her ability. She’s also feeling some emotions, and fighting those. Needless to say, it’s a bit of roller coaster…” Christopher nods his head as he thinks it over. He knew Sarina’s backstory wasn’t pretty.

“So basically you’re standing back to make sure that she’s okay?” Chase nods his head. “And she’s like she is because of everything and maybe even feeling the pressure, some?” Chase nods his head. “That’s reasonable. Look, I didn’t want that to look like I felt you guys were having issues or trying to break ya’ll up, or whatever. I was just concer-”

“I know. Sarina told me that you guys had a heart-to-heart and you’re cool with things. I get it. You’re almost like a big brother to her at KBM, which sometimes she needs that.” Christopher now looked at Chase in surprise.

“Are we really finding a compromise after everything?” Chase laughs and nods his head.

“Surprising, as you barely lived after your comments in California.” Christopher laughs, remembering how he was doing everything in his power to break them up then.

“I don’t blame you for that, really. But I mean, I realize how much you mean to her, and she means to you. I mean, nobody should argue that after Indy.” Chase nods his head, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he could forget that whole experience – well, except for the meeting with Casey.

“I just did what I felt was right in the moment.”

“You did more than just the right thing, Chase. I hate to cut this short but I have to go quali-”

“Go before you get in trouble!” Christopher then gives him a nod as he heads off.

Chase remained in the same spot through the whole session, eyes focused on Sarina, then the scoring board, then the truck on track, followed back to her. The session ended up going quicker than he expected, and smoother as he didn’t see any cause for alarms. On top of that, she had a decent run, placing the truck fifth on the board.

“What do you think of our little superstar?” Marcus asks as he walks over and Chase just smiles.

“I think she did a great job,” he replies as he pulls her into a hug. “Truck looked good out there, and decent speed. Fifth is nothing to be bummed about.”

“I’m happy,” she comments with a smile. “We can do a lot from there. Just need to be calm, focused, not make any mistakes, and have a solid day.”

“That’s my girl!” Marcus says, giving her a high-five before walking away.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase asks as he looks into her eyes, and she just nods her head.

“I’m ready for what the day is going to bring me, not set to focus on anything else!” She tells him as he just smiles in return. “But thank you for being there this morning, caring, and asking.”

“I’m just doing what I need to do for you, because I love you…” She nods her head as she keeps herself leaned against him.

“You better be careful this weekend too though, mister. You’re still fresh off what happened.” Chase lets out a sigh, having heard reminders already from his parents and Alan.

“Trust me – I’m watching everything and keeping tabs. I’m feeling great.” She then looks up at him.

“You’re not just saying that to get me off your back either, right?”

“Straight up honest.” She then kisses his lips quick, before they head back through the garage. “Oh, I got a phone call today…” She then looks at him, confused. Normally, he didn’t announce these things. “Our attorney wondered if we were open to deal maki-”

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Chase smiles, having expected that reaction.

“I basically told her the same thing. However, there’s an argument to be made about Bethany’s involvement. Some people suspect maybe she was behind what happened to Ryan and I.” Sarina could only laugh.

“Come on Chase, really? Do you honestly believe that shit? I mean, we know my brother was behind all those incidents…” Chase wanted to spit back the same belief, but he wasn’t quite satisfied yet.

“To be fair, there’s no exact proof that Chris di-”

“He handed the bottle directly to Rya-”

“What about mine?” Sarina then stops and faces Chase, causing him to freeze and turn to face her. “That bottle was brought into the trailer by myself out of the fridge. What if she laced that bottle in hopes that you would drink it? They’ve been in discussion so she could’ve had access to everything, or been the key to him getting his hands on it.” Sarina then crosses her arms, surprised.

“So you’re saying that we should play with the devil’s cards and deal?” He shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m just toying with the possibility, that’s all. But for the record, I told her that I had no interest in making a deal with Chris, ever.” Sarina lets out a sigh. She didn’t want to have to go into lecture mode after all the work it had taken her at the police department those first couple of days to get them to where they were now.

“Thank God…” They then continue walking as Chase debates whether to carry the conversation forward.

“She then asked whether I wanted to strike a deal with Allison. I straight up told her that I was through with her after the threats placed on you, the team, everybody, and what I’d been through. She understood that, and told me striking the biggest sentence possible was up for grabs.” Chase then takes a deep breath, remembering his words. “But then she mentioned how Allison’s dealings may be due to Bethany. Now recall Bethany gave you the threat and comments, followed by landing that photo in your lap. So I am going to assume there’s a connection. Now how does that work? I don’t know.”

“Bethany has always been just words. She can’t deal things herself. I couldn’t see her forcing Allison directly, but she may have talked the right words to get Allison to go with what she wanted.” Chase smiles as he thought the same thing in the conversation with the attorney.

“Conspiracy, please?” Sarina nods her head.

“So, you told her to go forward with a deal then?” Chase wouldn’t put it that far.

“I told her that there may be a conspiracy, and if she could explore and exploit that out of Allison, then maybe we could lower the sentence just a touch but not much at all because of my pure anger and the level of what she did. I mean, I don’t want Bethany to walk if she’s conne-”

“Oh, she’s connected alright. She visits Chris on a regular basis if you look at the visitor log. I’m going to take full bet that she had some connection to Allison, and I would so love to see that revealed.” Chase smiles as he looks over at Sarina.

“So you’re okay with what I told her, right?” Sarina nods her head.

“The Allison situation is yours alone so how you choose to go about that, I back you 100% fully no matter what.” He smiles as he wraps an arm around her.

“And your brother is your family, so no matter what, I back you fully there.” She smiles, but they already both knew the direction that was going.

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

Sarina lets out a sigh as she leans back against the truck, looking down pit road. It was almost surreal to be standing there right now, set to start in a NASCAR national event at her home track.

Was this really happening?

Glancing up at the crowd, she wondered if any of her high school mates were amongst the fans there. She also wondered if maybe they recognized her, too, and were set to cheer for her. Letting out a sigh, she sometimes missed those gals after having to pick up and leave the state.

“So you set me up on a date?” A voice chimes in, catching her attention as she spins around and smiles. This was certainly a good distraction.

“You need a girl Blaney,” she replies as Ryan just rolls his eyes. “I figured I’d help you out with some company tonight.” Ryan then crosses his arms.

“I don’t know a single thing about her. I don’t even know what she looks like, her personality, name, or age. I mean, can’t I know something?” Sarina shakes her head. “Okay, so what if I show up at this meeting place and I get kidnapped?”

“That won’t happen, Ryan; I’m not that evil. Besides, I’ll be hidden somewhere to make sure that it’s the right girl and nothing happens to you.” Ryan then looks at her with a glance of surprise. “I’m serious!”

“For some reason, I trust you….” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder. “Good luck…” He then walks away as Chase glances between the pair confused.

“Don’t ask…” Chase then gives an intrigued look to Sarina, who can only laugh. “Just make sure you’re there around 8 o’ clock tonight.”

“Another prank?” He questions as Sarina shrugs her shoulders, grabbing his hand.

“Like I said, don’t ask. Besides, it’s time for opening ceremonies….” Chase lets out a sigh as he stands by her, taking it all in.

The race that day went smoothly as Sarina ran up front all day long en route to scoring a solid seventh-place finish. She wasn’t overly excited, but she was pleased – it was a decent finish and that’s what she needed right now. She knew they could build on that in the weeks to come.

As promised, she found her hiding spot, alongside Chase, later on that night in the motorcoach lot. Glancing at her watch, she saw Ryan show up when he was supposed to per her original text message. She could only laugh as she glanced down the alleyway, cuing up her little project.

“Should I ask?” Chase wonders once again as Sarina laughs, shaking her head.

“Ryan is in for a surprise,” she offers with a smirk. She then turns the controls on, and hits a button. Chase could only watch in amazement as this robot came out of the alleyway, turning the corner, and walking up to Ryan.

“That looks almost real….” Sarina could only smile a little more.

“It pays to know smart people….” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Are you Mr. Ryan Blaney?” The robot then speaks, per it’s program, impressing Chase.

“Yes,” Ryan replies, taking a couple glances at it. “Are you Marybeth?”

“I am Marybeth…” Ryan then walks around her in a circle, as Sarina spins the robot around. “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah….” Ryan then tries to look behind a couple close bushes. “Your owner is a jackass!” Sarina burst out laughing as she stands up from her hiding spot.

“Really?” Sarina questions as Ryan looks over, shaking his head. “Admit it, though – I had you going for a good couple minutes.”

“You’re evil….” Ryan then walks over to where Sarina is. “Really evil. Like, you won’t want to know what prank I am going to have for you next for this one, missy.” She then laughs.

“I could let you dance with her if that makes you feel better.” Ryan just flips the bird as he walks away.

“Are you pouting, Ryan?” Chase questions as Ryan looks back. “Seriously, man, she may be evil, but I am willing to offer you to come hang out for a couple board games tonight.”

“Are you sure she’s going to play fair?” Ryan wonders with a glance towards Sarina.

“I never cheat,” she comments as Ryan rolls his eyes.

“Do you believe her?” Chase just laughs.

“Relax – I can catch any time that she’s cheating so she won’t pull one over on you,” Chase says as he walks over to Ryan. “I have to say, though – she got you good.”

“Evil….” Ryan comments again as Sarina burst out laughing, while going to pick her toy.

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

Sunday, August 13

Sarina smiles as she walks over to Chase, giving him a high-five.

“Nice job,” she comments as he just smiles in response. It had been another solid race with a eighth-place finish for the No. 24 Chevrolet.

“Thank you,” he replies. “It wasn’t too bad. Could’ve been better if those restarts wouldn’t been that messy, but not bad…”

“They’ll come with practice.” He smiles as he gives her a kiss.

“I’m going to go see Alan, and then we can head out, okay?” She nods her head as he hurries off.

“Sarina!” She hears as she’s about to run off after Chase. She then turns, watching Kyle head her way. She wondered whether he was in a good mood or not, considering it’d just been a solid 10th-place day for him.

“Hey Kyle,” she replies. “Nice run.” He nods his head, accepting.

“It was alright….I guess. Look, I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow morning’s meeting at KBM. I’m going to be there and I don’t want you to miss it.” She then looks at him intrigued.

“I don’t ever miss a meeting, Kyle….” He knew that, but was being rather safe than sorry.

“You have a good attendance record according to Marcus. It’s nothing bad tomorrow, but I just want to make sure you and Christopher are both there. I want to talk about this upcoming week at Bristol, and some tips, and I don’t want you to miss out. Considering your short track background, this is really a good chance for you to break out of your shell and really perform.” She nodded her head, accepting. That thought was already on her mind. She just wished Kyle hadn’t put this extra pressure now on her.

“I know what’s possible, and I’ll make sure to be there tomorrow.”

“Good girl. See ya later.” He then heads off as she lets out a sigh, turning the other way to head the direction that Chase headed.

Fingers crossed, she hoped things panned out well at Bristol.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 130: “You’re kidding, right?”

Tuesday, August 1 – Dixieland Speedway

Chase walks through the gates with her after getting his wristband, glancing over with a smile as they make their way into the pits.

“So we got a mid-week day where we both don’t have any meetings or appearances, and yet we’re at a race track?” Chase questions as Sarina laughs.

“Some people would think we’re crazy, huh?” Sarina replies as he laughs himself. “I just hope you’re not upset that I’m not running a Chase Elliott Motorsports late model this time around.” He had to admit it stung a little, but that wasn’t the worst case here.

“I know you got a good thing going with Kyle, and he’s got his program up to snuff. You’ll do great…” He then wraps his arms around her surprisingly. “I’m just upset that I didn’t bring that late model out here to kick your ass.” She then laughs as she spins around to face him.

“Are you sure you’re capable of doing that?” His jaw then drops shocked as she laughs. “Besides, you still need to focus on getting your ass better. I don’t want to have to tell Alan that he can’t have you for another week because you got sick out here in Dixie.” He knew she was right as he lets out a sigh.

“Just as we told my parents, I’m being careful and watching, okay? Besides, I’m pretty much back to myself.” She then looks on surprised.

“Pretty much?” He nods his head, having actually gotten through yesterday and today without any gravol – which he considered an accomplishment. “Just make sure you’re taking those pills that the doctor prescribed.” He simply nods his head again as they reached the hauler.

She went to meet up with the guys to talk shop, while Chase made his way out to one of the turns.

With practice starting soon, he pulled out his phone, set to lap time some of the quickest competition on the day. He also liked the vantage point of the corner as you could see how well their car was handling, and how deep they could drive it. It was always the best gauge as you could tell then who’d get the runs, who’d be good in a pack, and who’d be fine for a lap before falling off. As they say with racing, it was just as much about learning and analyzing as it was talent behind the wheel.

His mind immediately shifted to the past week, though, as he got lost in his own world. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t seen the cockpit of a racecar in over a week. While he played it off to everyone that he was feeling better, his mind still twirled in thoughts.

What if the muscle twitches totally weren’t gone and he got one at the wrong time? What if the sickness feeling wouldn’t totally disappear? What if there was some sort of permanent damage that they hadn’t found? While normally he was more than confident in his abilities, the questions couldn’t help but linger as he looked ahead to the upcoming weekend at Watkins Glen.

He also wondered about the fact that Allison was still walking the streets. Why couldn’t the cops locate her and arrest her? What if she struck again? She had easily played him once – there was no telling what she could do to play the roles again. How was the guy who was confident being anywhere in his shoes now set to deal with nerves because of a single female?

Taking a deep breath, he tried to escape everything for that one afternoon and focus on the cars screaming by before him. He watched the lines each driver took, seeing whether they were loose, tight or neutral on corner entry. He watched to see whether they had bite through the corner, or someone could be able to capitalize on a run.

“Surprised you’re not surrounded by security….” He hears, causing a chill to go up his spine.

“I don’t need protection,” he states bravely, though inheritably is choosing his own lip.

“Oh really? I thought you would’ve after our last meeting.” He then braves himself enough to look towards the source of the voice, a smile forming. He knew it before he had even looked. Of course she would find him here. While a NASCAR track had top notch security, the same couldn’t be said for events like these.

“I handled that, didn’t I? I protected my guys, my girl, and I dealt with it. Now, what is your plan this time around?” A smile forms on Allison’s face as she walks over to him, closing the gap.

“It doesn’t take much to make a girl jealous, you know?” He then laughs as he looks back away from her. As he kept his cool as much as he could on his face, his fingers fumbled in his pocket to the keys of pocket-dialing either Sarina or Kyle.

“How many times do you have to be told that your plan won’t work?” He then couldn’t help himself but to look back at her, again. “You tried to kill me. Do you want to go ahead and admit that to everyone?”

“Nobody will kno-”

“You wish that was the case,” a new voice chimes in as Kyle walks over, pointing out Allison to the pair of security guards. They walk over, taking her by the arms as they pull out a pair of cuffs. “Thank you.” Kyle then watches them walk away, before walking over to join Chase at the fence. “Are you okay?” Chase nods his head.

“Thank you,” he says simply as Kyle pats his shoulder.

“I told you – I got your back.” Chase nods his head as he lets out a sigh. “You can admit it if you were scared. I’d get it…” Chase closes his eyes, automatically set to defend his words. But yet, he remembered something – it was okay to be afraid given everything.

“I was nervous, okay? I was a little worried about everything after what happened. I mean, she played me perfectly. She played my weaknesses. She knew I could never have sex with her or think of cheating on Sarina. She knew that I’d do anything for my guys. I was just waiting for her to play on those again.” Kyle nods his head, understanding.

“That’s what people like her and Bethany do, though. Every person is vulnerable in a sense – nobody is superior and perfectly strong. Heck, even I have my faults even if I put that black cap on and wear it. Samantha and Brexton bring that out in me because I can tell you how I was going through the process with her. Those who are pure evil, though, play on that because they know it will eat us. It’s okay to fall for that – they’re masterminds. You just need to believe when you do fall that you can be okay…” Chase nods his head as he glances back at Kyle.

“You need to explain that to Sarina. She lets everything eat at her and wonders whether it’s her fault or she deserves it. She can’t find that feeling to where she’s comfortable, loved, forget it all. I’ve tried…” Chase then looks back away with a sigh. “I see signs of where I’m making that improvement. We’ve had our highlights, but every once in awhile – she brings that out. I just wish that wasn’t the case.”

“She’s been through a lot. It’s partially why I gravitated towards hiring her and helping her because I want to see someone who keeps fighting succeed. I know what you’re saying as I’ve talked to her, too. Chase, it’s just going to take time. One day at a time, one discussion at a time, and she’ll come around.” Chase smiles, knowing that Kyle was right. “If it’s worth it, she’s got the right guy in her corner….” Chase then rolls her eyes.

“Not you, too.”  Kyle then looks on confused. “She told me that I was amazing, perfect, special, and I argued with her that I’m just some ordinary guy.” Kyle then laughs. “Really?”

“Not many young guys like you, or Ryan for that matter, have the mindset that is needed here. They don’t have the patience, kindness, courage, sweetness that it takes for someone like her. She’s right, bud. That’s why you’re one of the drivers who could date my driver and not get wrecked.” Chase then chuckles.

“What would you do if she walked in the shop one day and said she was pregnant with no warning at all?” Kyle’s jaw drops.

“I’d probably kill you for not listening to my warnings…” Chase chuckles. “I mean, I know there’s a time you both will want kids together – probably. But please, give a guy some warning.”

“I’ll come drive your truck if she gets pregnant.” Kyle then shakes his head.

“I don’t think that’d go over well with the folks at Chevrolet, or Hendrick.” Chase nodded his head in agreement.

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

The race went better than planned as she put together an incredible performance, leading the most laps en route to picking up the victory. The entire team was beyond excited in victory lane, with high-fives and hugs all around.

“This is exactly what everybody needed,” Kyle proclaimed as he stood up on the small stage with Chase and Sarina together. The couple couldn’t deny that, enjoying a smile each that they knew had been missing through the summer headaches.

The pair continued to share happiness on the night, posing for a couple more photos, before relaxing together in the empty grandstands with some tales of the late model days. Chase told stories of how he came up through the ranks and the big crown jewel wins that he had, while Sarina thought back to the crazy nights of fixing the car across the country to make it to the next one.

Everything seemed perfect as they watched Kyle walk up the steps to join them – but they both turned a little sour once they saw the look on his face.

“We got disqualified,” Kyle states firmly as he sits down before them. They look at each other, not believing what they heard, before scattering down the couple of steps as quickly as they could to flank the boss.

“You’re kidding, right?” Sarina questions, not believing it. Kyle shakes his head no. “Seriously?”

“What for?” Chase wonders, curious from his own late model days and some issues he ran into, but also wondering what the latest rule push was.

“Weight,” Kyle states as Chase looks on confused. “There was supposed to be a fuel tolerance, but clearly it wasn’t enough based on the laps that we ran. We were fine for weight before the race, but yet under when it was over and beneath the tolerance.”  Chase shakes his head in disbelief as Sarina thinks it over.

“We knew we’d be close because wasn’t that why the crew asked me to save fuel under the caution?” She questions and Kyle lets out a sigh.

“Clearly, they went closer than I thought they would’ve…” He then glances between the pair. “Sorry to burst the happiness bubble up here, but that’s how she went. I argued with them for a good hour but no way were they listening.”

“Sometimes she goes your way, sometimes not…” Sarina says as she wraps an arm around Kyle. “I still say we put together the best car that we have in awhile so I’m not letting this get me down. I’m going to celebrate as if we didn’t get disqualified, and turn this into something positive, like say Chase winning this coming weekend.” Chase and Kyle then look at her surprised.

“Watkins Glen tends to be Kyle’s house, and I’m not a road course guy…” Chase comments as Sarina laughs.

“Says the guy who won in Canada…”

“…only after he dumped Dillon,” Kyle adds as Chase rolls his eyes. For being such a clean racer, he could never live down that one incident.

“He blocked me,” Chase reminds them. “Recall, he lives with a silver spoon in his mouth.” Kyle and Sarina both chuckle. “I’m just looking for a good run this weekend.”

“So you’re fine finishing second to me?” Kyle questions and Chase looks over.

“Oh no way buddy. If I’m second to you, there’s a bump and run coming.” Sarina then rubs her hands together.

“This is getting interesting…” She comments.

“Careful – I may not allow boyfriend time if he does that,” Kyle adds as Sarina pouts.

“Big bad Kyle, such a big meanie taking candy from a baby…” Chase chuckles as Kyle rolls his eyes.

“That’s what they all say, right?”

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

Sunday, August 6 – Watkins Glen

Sarina walks over, wrapping both arms around Chase and giving him a kiss.

“Nice job,” she says following his fourth-place finish.

“Thank you,” he replies with a smile.

“Not bad for a guy who says he can’t turn left and right.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“I won in a Canada, remember?” She just rolls her eyes as she leans against him.

“So, how does it feel to be back where you belong, racing and finishing up front?” Chase smiles as he keeps her pulled close.

“It feels great. Now we just need to both have a good run next weekend and everything will be fine.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. Though seeing the cameras and knowing the stories that were coming, she couldn’t help but have lingering thoughts about the trial and future in her mind. “You’re going to hold up your end of the deal, right?”

“I’m going to give it my best shot!” He smiles, knowing that was all it would take as he believed in her talent. He just hoped that he’d finally find the Michigan victory lane keys this time around.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 129: Axaltra Pocono 400

Sunday, July 30 – Pocono Raceway

 

Chase lets out a sigh as he glances out the window of the motorcoach, tapping his finger on the window ledge. It seemed odd to be sitting there just a couple of hours before the race, but he had no choice in the matter this weekend.

He knew his body was still overcoming everything he put himself through the prior weekend. The fact that he woke up feeling a little sick that morning, combined with the random muscle spasm while getting dressed, were clear reminders. Well, that was if the pills he taking weren’t enough already.

He knew he made the decision to come that weekend to support Sarina, and rightfully so. He wanted to be there for her as he loved her a lot, and knew he would’ve driven himself crazy at home. But yet, sitting there that morning, the reality setting in that Justin Allgaier was going to drive his car, he didn’t know how to stomach the thought.

He fully understood the feelings people went through when they couldn’t drive their own racecars now.

“Hey, are you okay?” Sarina asks as she sits down on the couch beside him. He simply nods his head. “That doesn’t sound like you….” He then glances at her.

“I’d rather be dressed in my firesuit right now and getting ready to race than sitting here,” he comments as she lets out a sigh, reaching out to rub his shoulders.

“I know it’s tough. That’s why your parents suggested you stay home this wee-”

“I’m not regretting the decision to spend the weekend with you, one bit.” She smiles as she continues rubbing his shoulders.

“Trust me, I’m glad that you’re not regretting that as I love having you here. But, it’s those feelings that they were talking about.” She then pauses, glancing away from him. “And, like everything, that’s my fault…” He then looks at her confused.

“You didn’t do anything wro-”

“The only reason Bethany approached Allison was due to-”

“I accepted the deal, so with that, I accept the consequences. I’d rather deal with this than the alternatives.” She simply nods her head.

“You know, if you would’ve actually made the call to sleep with her, I wouldn’t have been too upset. I would’ve totally understood the fact that you had no other choice, and know you did what you had to survive – just like everything I’ve been through. It’s part of life.” Chase sighs as he reaches out for her hand.

“You may have been able to sit and live with it, but I never could’ve. It would’ve haunted me for months, years because I could never see myself ever doing that to someone. That’s why I made the decision that I did. I can deal with this – couple weeks feeling like crap is nothing new. But that, I don’t think I could.” Sarina sighs as she lays up against him.

“Have I told you today that you’re amazing?” He laughs and shakes his head.

“You’ve told me every day but today.” She then looks into his eyes.

“Well, I am telling you today, just like I’ll probably tell you tomorrow, and the day after that.” She then leans in and kisses his lips. “Whenever you’re ready, we’ll head out together. I just got to make sure to stop by and see Kyle and Sam. But, if you don’t want to head out, we don’t have too. I get it.” He nods his head, as he glances back out the window.

“I love my guys, and I said to them that I was here to support them. For that reason, I’ll head out and I’ll be fine. They’re going to do amazing. Justin is a good little driver.”

The pair relaxed there for awhile together, before keeping their word and heading out to the grid. They agreed to make their first stop at Kyle and Sam, before heading down to see his guys.

“Oh hey Kyle,” Chase says as he looks at the foam figure with a head twice as big as Kyle’s. “Whoops, you’re not Kyle.” He then turns around and looks at Kyle. “There’s the man…” Kyle could only look back with a face of confusion.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Kyle questions as Chase glances between the foam figure and Kyle.

“Does this thing creep you out at all? Because hate to say it, he’s creepy as ever.” Sam gives her nod of approval, remembering her first encounter with the figure.

“Hey, that thing is better than having myself as a blow-up doll or a dipstick.” Chase’s laughter immediately stops as Kyle just smiles. “Sarina, have you inquired about that doll yet?”

“Kyle!” She yells, giving him a smack as Chase looks at her with an intrigued glance. “I never ever did mention a comment about that before to him, ever, so you can tell him to kiss your ass.”

“I don’t feel like eating a terd before the race,” Kyle says as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Well unlike you, my ass is clean…” Chase replies as Kyle looks over, surprised.

“How would you know such detail?” Chase thinks it over, knowing the options were limited on comments.

“It stinks…” Kyle then smiles as he leans back against his car.

“My fans would say different, especially when I’m giving them my famous bow. I shall show you that post-race.” Kyle then pauses as he keeps his eyes on Chase. “And to be honest, I’d rather be having the chance to run with you than Justin. You make it more interesting.”

“Comment appreciated, I think….” Kyle gives him a nod.

“Are you going to be good to go for next week?” Chase nods his head.

“We’ll get to see if I can figure out the best way to turn left and right.” Kyle smiles, having already proven that he could do that quite well.

“Watkins Glen is easier to drive than Sonoma so you’ll be fine.” Chase could only hope as he knew there’d be significant ground to make up after this weekend. “So you’re getting a Chase waiver?”

“Special edition one at that.” Kyle was intrigued as Chase remembered the discussion with Alan and Rick. “It was technically a track staff member that poisoned me so it’s fault of the series and track, right? So they said that they’ll credit me with Justin’s points and if I am still in the top-16 by either points or win, I get in.” Kyle almost felt like arguing the point made, and probably would’ve – if it was anybody else.

“If you dare win the championship, be prepared to get your ass kicked because you saw how people reacted the year that I did it.” Chase nods his head, remembering the reactions. “But, we won’t get to see that because I see a good future ahead.”

“Oh really?” Kyle nods his head. “To be honest, if the guys in the shop don’t figure out the speed we’re lacking, you’re probably right. I mean, normally Jimmie slumps in the summer, but this is ridiculous.”

“So if you’re lacking so much speed, how did Kasey win Indianapolis?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“They figured it out there, which gives me hope that we got more good stuff coming down the line.” Kyle knew the other teams were working to close the gap, but that didn’t mean he was ready for that.

“Well, all I can say is good luck because right now, I’m liking how things are.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Of course….”

“Did you see this conversation happening and being so awesome at that?” Samantha wonders and Sarina shakes her head as she picks up Brexton.

“It’s actually amazing to be honest,” Sarina comments. “I mean, I didn’t see them getting along this well.”

“You’re spoiled…” Sarina nods her head, knowing that quite well. “And I think someone loves you…”

“You know, I’d babysit him whenever you and Kyle want a night out.” Samantha then looks at her surprised.

“Oh really? I didn’t picture you as the kid/motherly type…” Brexton laughs as Sarina tickles him.

“I’ve always loved kids, and they seem to always like me as I get along with them almost immediately. I mean, I could never see myself raising my own, but I am always open to watching someone else’s.”  Samantha almost asked her why she didn’t want to raise her own, but bit her tongue as she didn’t want to touch upon Sarina’s past. She heard from Kyle it wasn’t all roses, so she wasn’t sure where the boundaries lied.

“I’ll make sure to remember that because Brexton seems to love you, too.”

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

Chase watches as the race finishes, glancing over at Sarina, and giving her a nod.

The day hadn’t gone amazingly or perfect, but it was better than what they had seen recently with Justin Allgaier consistently running in the top-10 throughout the event en route to a solid 10th. He had been bullshitting Kyle earlier when he said he thought there was some better equipment coming down the line, but perhaps there was more truth than he realized there.

Taking a deep breath as he heads down the stairs, he couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel himself next week.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 123: Qualifying

Saturday, July 22 – Indianapolis

Chase emerges from the bathroom, giving his hair the final touches as Sarina sits up in the bed, smiling.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come out with you?” Sarina questions and he shakes his head no.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he answers. “I mean, I’m just going to do my job and come back.” She then stands up, and walks over. She grabs the brush off the counter, running it through the back of his hair, taking out some of the tangles before fixing it some. “Thanks….”

“I offer to fix your hair anytime of the day – seriously. I love it long.” He then glances back at her surprised.

“Really? Most girls love short hair…” She shakes her head no.

“Those curls at the end of the strands are just….perfect.” He then glances in the mirror, having grown used to it. He was undecided on it, but had a plan.

“I guess. I don’t know. It just gets so sweaty at times.” She then chuckles.

“And now you know how I feel, right?” He nods his head. “Besides, why don’t you just cut it if it bugs you?”

“Darlington. Need I say more?” She then thinks it over, before shaking her head. She had already seen the drawings done up of how the car was going to look.

“That’s commitment.” He then grabs his shoes, putting them on.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” She thinks it over, shaking her head.

“I’m going to grab a shower, do a couple things, and then be set for our fun day ahead….” He smiles, giving her a quick kiss before heading out.

It wasn’t a long walk from the motorcoach lot to pit road, though he had to admit = it felt a little lonely without having Sarina beside him. He did reach there easily, smiling as he saw the crew guys.

“Oh shit,” he hears from behind, though, and glances to see Kyle. “Where’s Sarina?”

“Relax, she’s back at the motorcoach,” Chase assures him. “We talked it out. Everything is fine.” Kyle nods his head, having heard the details of what actually happened from Christopher.

“I’m glad. Let’s just try to make that not a practice, okay?” Chase nods his head in agreement.

He then goes and jokes with the guys for a bit, before the session began. Ultimately, it went how he pictured it – qualifying a decent, but nothing impressive 16th. At least the car felt a little better than it had throughout the entire Friday practice.

The debrief was quick following qualifying, as he talked to Alan about how it was in both rounds, comparing it back to notes from the day prior. The pair discussed some ideas heading into Sunday’s race, with Alan promising he’d figure something out.

With everything complete for the day, Chase began the walk back through the garage, signing some autographs along the way. Knowing it was still early in the afternoon and not really caring for the XFINITY race that typically happened at a track like Indy, he thought about plans for the afternoon and evening with Sarina. He knew of some places close that’d be great for fun activities, followed by a nice evening dinner spot.

He was caught in his own thoughts to the point he was barely paying attention, and was caught off-guard when a hand landed on his chest.

“Credential, please?” The female voice asked. Chase then glanced at her in surprise. Seeing the yellow shirt, he knew that she was one of the many security guards across the property.

“I’m a driv-” He starts, which typically worked everywhere since they’d recognize him and see the driver’s suit that he wore.

“Credential is necessary.” His jaw then drops in shock.

“I’m Chase Elliott. I’m a Cup driver. I just got done qualifying. Don’t you recognize me? I mean, drivers never need credentials. Can’t you see the firesuit?” He watches the female stand up taller, and feels like rolling his eyes. He had heard stories from other drivers about some tracks, especially Indianapolis, having issues with security guards not knowing them or being hard-asses.

“You could be an imposter and we need to think of everyone’s safety. Now, credential, please.” Chase then lets out a sigh, knowing exactly where it was.

“It’s in my motorhome. I can lead you there, get it and show you. I could also get my girlfriend to deliver it.” He couldn’t believe he was about to have to make this phone call to Sarina.

“So wandering around the garage without a credential in restricted areas? You do realize that’s against the rules, right?” Chase nods his head. But again, he was a driver – this was never an issue.

“I do it every week and nobody has said anything because they know I’m Chase Elliott, a driver, easily able to go everywhere. I’ll remember it next time if it makes you happy. Can I go?” The female then shakes her head no as she walks over.

“You’ll need to come with us to the offices. There we can go through the necessary steps to make sure everything checks out and go through the process of breaking the rules.” The surprise continued to form even more on Chase’s face as he looked at her.

“Seriously?” She nods her head as he lets out a sigh. “Fine. You’ll just look ridiculous in the end when one of the NASCAR officials see me…”

He then sent a quick text message to Sarina that he was going to be delayed due to a security issue, quickly trying to describe everything in a few words as possible as he followed the female through a series of fences.

He supposed thought they’d head to the Pagoda as that’s where all the important people led, and then he’d get some good miles of exercise walking back as soon as he walked through the doors. Perhaps he could skip the bike ride later and focus on his fun with Sarina after all.

Though he was caught off-guard when they didn’t head in that direction, but rather to a small building off to the side and entered, going into one of the first few rooms.

“Ma’am, as requested,” the female that led him there says, before backing towards the door.

“As requested?” Chase questions in a puzzled way, glancing around. As it came to him that something wasn’t right about everything, the female bolted and he heard the lock on the door click behind her. He then glanced towards the chair, letting out a sigh. He knew who exactly was there – well, at least he had two ideas. “Allison?”

“Aww you remember my name,” she comments as she spins around, smirk forming on her face. “Chase, it’s so nice to see you. I’m actually surprised you’re in such a good mood. I haven’t seen your darling….” A face of anger instantly forms on his face as he eyes her.

“How about you just simply kiss my ass? For your information, your trick didn’t work. Sarina was tired and stayed back at the motorcoach.” Allison’s smirk leaves her face immediately.

“Aww, such a poor thing. I guess I would be if I had to deal with a crazed brother like hers, huh?” Chase just rolls his eyes as he glances around.

“So how about you open the door and let me go? I won’t say a word…” Allison then chuckles as she stands up and walks around the desk.

“And what about if I don’t let you go? You can’t do anything, Chase…” Chase knew he could simply knock her out, but where would that get him? From what he could see, you couldn’t unlock the door from the inside. He also thought of calling for help, but realizing no cell reception was showing on his phone took away that option. “What’s the matter?”

“What do you want?” A smile on her face answered the question immediately as a shiver escaped through him.

“Kiss me, have sex with me. Do anything that’s remotely cheating….” Chase shakes his head. There was no way he was going to break his promise to Sarina, no matter what was at stake.

“That’s not happening. What’s the second optio-”

“There’s no other options, Chas-”

“What are you going to do to me if I don’t do what you said? Keep me locked here all day? That’s not gonna work as eventually people are going to come looking for me, and then you’re in trouble.” She then smiles as she reaches out for him, but he backs away immediately.

“You know, it’s a shame that Bethany and I have to do such things to make you co-operate….” Chase then looks at her puzzled.

“Explain….” He was getting annoyed with the games and just wanted to get to the point.

“We knew that you wouldn’t co-operate so she sort of got me to do something lovely.” Chase was now puzzled, feeling every bit of fear in those words. “It’s funny how they didn’t think twice with my security background to let me be on the security team this weekend. Did you know when you’re on the security team, you can sneak anything into the joint?” He then glanced around, wondering what weapon she had on her and the plan with such weapon. Was it kill or sleep?

“Well, that’s not the best security policy….” She then nods her head as she takes out her phone.

“Now, I thought about bringing a gun or a knife, but I mean – that’d be too easy. So I thought we’d play into your heart.” Chase was now puzzled even more, feeling the sickness in his stomach grow at the possibilities. He then watches as she pulls up an image, showing it before him. “That box there on the wall is a bomb. Do you know where that’s located?” Chase felt his heart leap into his throat, knowing the guys were there right now working on the car.

“Cup Garage in my stall, of course…” If he could stall her for at least an hour, maybe they’d be gone.

“So this is how it goes. You do as I ask, or I may as well set the trigger off, and who knows how many lives we’d lose.” Chase felt a lump in his throat, almost feeling like he was going to be sick. He couldn’t bare to stomach the guy’s lives on his conscious, but he couldn’t bare to stomach getting closer to her, either.

“Give me another option, please…” His voice quivered as he said it, allowing her to know she had him exactly where she wanted him. However, he couldn’t help but try the board.

“Chris developed a beautiful concoction, as I know you tried out a couple weeks ago.” Chase closes his eyes, remembering the steps that took place from when he was poisoned, every bit of pain and angst felt, to the healing process. He never wanted to repeat that again if he could. “The third option is simply rolling that sleeve up and letting me inject you straight up with another version.”

“Another version?” A smile forms on Allison’s face once again, making Chase quiver even more.

“This one won’t work as quickly. It’ll slowly eat at you and cause sickness, before it begins tearing you apart piece by piece from the inside. So here’s how this works – either you sleep with me, let me play boom, or you take this and hope you can survive a weekend with it eating at you. If you say a word before the weekend is up, I can play boom. Keep quiet and let it eat at you till weekend complete, then maybe you can take your chances of survival. What is it going to be, Chase?”

Chase knew he couldn’t bring himself to ever sleep with her.

He also knew he couldn’t take a chance of the guys having left the garage.

Besides, he could figure this out. He could find a time to reveal to Alan and the guys when the garage was clear so that way nobody would be harmed in the process. Besides, he was strong – he could fight through this for everybody.

He then slips the top of his firesuit off, tying it around his waist, as Alison licks her lips. He then takes the undershirt sleeve on his right arm, pulling it up to his shoulder, before looking into her eyes.

“There’s no way you’re convincing me to cheat on Sarina, no matter what,” he tells her sternly as the smile wipes away from Allison.

“That’s unfortunate,” she says, before sticking the needle in his arm, and dumping the contents as quickly as she could. She then pulls it out, snapping her fingers, which in return the door clicks and opens. “Remember the deal.”

“Kiss my ass.” He then heads out without another word, taking a couple glances at his arm.

On his way back to the motorcoach, he glanced at the garage, seeing the guys hanging around. A couple glances at his arm, he debated going and saying something and get them to clear the area. However, he couldn’t take the chance that she’d be watching and know what he was doing.

Taking a deep breath, he continues the rest of the walk back to the motorcoach, silently trying to divulge some way to make this work. He debated telling Sarina – but nope, what if they were being spied on? He debated texting Alan, but was worried the timing wouldn’t work out right.

He enters the motorcoach, and smiles as he sees Sarina relaxing on the couch, reading a magazine.

“Well, that took longer than expected,” she comments as she sits up. “Everything okay?” Chase simply nods his head as he walks by her.

“Just a simple mix-up by someone who obviously shouldn’t be working a NASCAR race since they don’t know anyone,” he replies. “Took a longer as I signed a couple autographs for some of the others, and discussed things.” Sarina simply accepts the explanation, but couldn’t help but notice something was off.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He stops and glances back at her, nodding his head.

“Why?” She takes a glance over, shrugging her shoulders.

“Something just seems off. Maybe it’s just because of yesterday….” Chase simply accepts that, before heading into the bedsroom to change out of his firesuit.

Though as he goes to do so, he sits on the bed, glancing at the ground, followed by back to his arm. Every part of him was fighting the urge to say something, but he couldn’t do it. He had to play the game, just in case.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 120: Playing in the Dirt

Wednesday, July 19 – Eldora Raceway

Sarina lets out a sigh as she looks around at the ground below her.

There was no way she could ever get used to having a personal flight attendant set to fly them to each race on the schedule on their own timing. It felt like a blur after all the times that she had fought hard to just get to races on time.

She also couldn’t shake the nerves from the previous incident that they had incurred, even though that was over a year ago now. Each time they got ready to fly, and each time they began to lift into the air, she felt her breath hitch in her throat. Though a quick glance from her special pilot in command, along with reaching over to hold her hand mid-flight when he felt confident enough, was enough to relax her and get through those times.

There was no time to think about those nerves as her mind switched to the happenings of that week already. They had spent Monday both busy at their respective race shops, doing their usual jobs. She had gone through the final meetings ahead of the dirt adventure she was set to endure, while Chase had gone through his meetings as they tried to get better.

Though Tuesday was the topic on her mind, as she remembered their quick trip up to Georgia. Chase had suggested that she come with him, set for a family dinner. She remembered her protests with how Cindy seemed to have treated her, but yet the comment “mom insisted you come” had caused her to go, against that judgment. It had gone smoother than expected, though. Cindy and Bill never brought up her brother in the conversation. Instead, they focused on both of their racing adventures, as well as some off-track discussion. She even had a private discussion with Cindy, just the pair of them, and felt like decent girl talk with topics covered.

“Chase, can I ask you a question?” Sarina finally speaks through her thoughts and Chase nods his head. “Did you say something to your mom prior to yesterday?” He looks over with a small smile. “Of course…” She could now only wonder if the dinner was truly genuine.

“I asked her on Sunday to give you a chance,” he explains. “She was questioning things a little, but I promised her that we were committed, trusted each other, and there were no issues. I also instilled things were dealt with, in relation to Bethany and Chris. She told me that she’d try and open up for my sake as maybe I was right. She insisted that she couldn’t ever probably let it go totally with what happened, but was willing to try a little for me.” A small smile forms on Sarina’s face, knowing that’s a reaction she’d get from her father in relation to something that meant a lot to her if he agreed.

“She’d do anything, wouldn’t she?” Chase nods his head.

“Why did you ask, anyway?” Sarina lets out a sigh.

“It just caught me off-guard that they’d invite us both to dinner, and that she’d be willing to talk as much as she did after the reaction that I got from her just two weeks ago. That’s all.” Chase nods his head once again. “It’s okay, though. I appreciate the fact that she’s giving me a chance even with everything that happened. To be truthful, I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t let it go and forget. I mean, I did bring you into my worl-”

“And I wouldn’t change what happened for anything, Sarina. I love you, I love what we have together, and I’d go through all that again if it gave me the chance to have this. In no way is everything that happened your fault – it’s their actions, not yours. You don’t need to blame yourself, and nobody should hold on that your head.” She looks over with a sly smile. It always melted her heart when he expressed his love for her so dearly.

“I get that. But I wouldn’t blame her if she did for the same reasons as we’ve discussed previously. And by the way, I love you just as much – and I am thankful that we found this common trusting ground.”

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

Bethany sits in the small room, facing her cousin, glancing over her shoulder as she sees the guard standing there watching closely.

“Has Sarina come to visit you at all?” Bethany questions and Chris shakes his head. “That shouldn’t surprise me…”

“I can’t blame her, considering,” Chris answers. “I mean, would you talk to someone who tried to poison your boyfriend?” Bethany lets out a sigh as she keeps her eyes locked on Chris.

“Do you regret what happened at all?” Chris laughs and shakes his head.

“My reasons still stand as they did then, Bethany. I’m sick of her playing ‘house’ and acting as if nothing happened. I’m sick of her pretending as if her family doesn’t exist, and she doesn’t have the same torn past that we do. I mean, our past is what made me who I am. Our past is what drove me to this. But yet, here she goes, pretending as if nothing happened. It’s like a slap in the face. Why should she get the dream life with Mr. Perfect NASCAR driver driving for someone like Busch when we get shit?” Bethany nods her head in agreement.

“You know, he’s such a goodie-two-shoes it’s not even funny. I heard he went to some Christian school. Still, you know some people that go to those are forced by their parents and are dirty as they come on the inside. But yet, come to find out, he is equal to all those perfect things.” Chris rolls his eyes.

“He has to have something hidden in his closet…” Bethany shakes her head, having done her research.

“Other than his cousin Casey dying of cancer when he was really little, there’s nothing that seems to shakes his core. Even planting a sexy girl in his hotel room dressed skanky didn’t work.” Chris looks on surprised. “Yeah, I convinced one of the pageant girls to do some dirty work for me. Let’s just say that he didn’t fall for any of her tricks.”

“You thought he’d cheat on Sarina and you’d have dirt to ruin their relationship, right?” Bethany nods her head. “Damn….”

“Oh well, that plan was a bust but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to stop trying. I have another idea up my sleeve. Those two aren’t getting their happily ever after if I have anything to say about it – and you will get out of here.” Chris was now really surprised.

“Do I want to know?” Bethany laughs and shakes her head. “Okay then….”

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

Chase leans back against her truck, giving it a look over, before turning his eyes back to her.

“I thought you said you had no dirt experience,” he comments as she shrugs her shoulders.

“I have never raced dirt ever before tonight,” she repeats as he crosses his arms.

“Well you didn’t show that on the track. You were right up there contending for the win very nicely…” She smiles, proud of that moment as it was fun to be running up front.

“I guess you could say the tips from Christopher were good then.” Chase nods his head in approval. “I just wish I would’ve finished up there…” He then wraps his arm around her and pulls her close.

“Seventh-place in your dirt debut is nothing to be ashamed of. Just keep rattling off these top-10’s and you’ll be fine. You’ll qualify for the Chase, and you’ll get that win you’re craving. Believe me. You’re talented enough to do it.” He then leans in, kissing her lips lightly.

“Thank you for always believing in me.” He then looks into her eyes, as he brushes her hair out of her eyes.

“It doesn’t take much for me to do that, honestly. I mean, you’re pretty amazing and make my job easy.” She then glances away, before looking back at him. “You don’t take the compliments easy….”

“I’m not used to them, Chase. I was always focused on making it, doing something with my life, that I never slowed down to accept the smaller things. I always focused on the disappointing side, knowing it was stopping me from reaching my goal. That was the disappointment that I always saw when I looked back to before…” He nods his head as he rubs her shoulder.

“Well, I want you to try and change that. It’ll drive you crazy if you keep doing what you’re doing. Sure, look back and see the mistakes that you’ve made. Look at those, see how you can be better, and make a note to be different next time. But then also reflect and see what you did right, and give yourself some praise. Then stop, think, and be thankful to be where you are. Only few get a chance to race at this level and especially for someone like Kyle. Don’t take it for granted, or get too wrapped up in the moment that you lose that.” She nods her head, accepting the advice with ease.

“Do you know that from experience?” The pair hear and look to see Kyle standing there. Chase simply nods his head.

“I may have been a little too focused, too perfectionist, too stubborn at times when I was starting,” he admits as Kyle shakes his head.

“I was the same way so we both know where you’re coming from,” Kyle says. “Regardless, you did an amazing job tonight, Sarina. I just wanted to stop by and tell you that. So great job, keep up the good work, and don’t change a thing.”

“Thanks Kyle,” she replies as he walks away to go find Christopher Bell.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 118: “I’ll see you later…”

Sarina walks into the shop, glancing over the trucks as a smile forms on her face. Earbuds firmly placed in her ears, she checks out the inside of the truck being prepared for her next race – Eldora.

She admittedly hadn’t ever raced on dirt before. She had no clue about any tricks to the trade, except the old adage she heard that you turn right to go left. Weird, huh? She had picked Christopher Bell’s brain earlier in the week, knowing that he had a ton of experience, to get some tips and hands on video of past races at Eldora. She hoped with some decent studying she’d be able to pull off a solid finish next Wednesday.

For now, though, she was doing her usual deed. She would climb in the truck, check to make sure everything was placed on the interior as she liked it – from the mirrors, the pedals, to even the small things like the seat braces. She’d make sure that she was comfortable beyond anything, playing racecar driver for a bit as she ran her hands across the wheel and pretended to shift through the gears.

Smiling as a familiar voice fills her mind, she couldn’t argue with the team here – they had done a good job following her expectations as there were no complaints about how she felt that day.

Climbing out of the truck, she puts the window net back up, before signing the bottom of the piece of paper that was taped to the windshield. Marcus had implemented the checklist policy – each truck have a list that must be gone through prior to being deemed ‘complete.’ Her section was small, with ‘check interior’ and a signature required below. For some of the other guys, they had five or six boxes to check before signing.

She twirls around, smile still firmly planted on her face, only to come face-to-face with a very surprised boss. Kyle reaches over, pulling one of the buds out as he looks on intrigued.

“I’m surprised to see you so happy considering your boy is away for the week and staring at other girls?” He questions as she could only laugh. She knew other girls would probably be freaking out in her situation, jealous beyond anything, envisioning their man playing hook-up. However, she knew Chase better than that, and besides – she had a gift to keep her happy.

“Whether he’s here or not doesn’t make my happiness solely depend on that,” she answers as Kyle could only act more surprised.

“I know, but I thought you’d be missing him. I mean, you guys have hit a couple rough patches.” She could let out a sigh, knowing the reference immediately. She knew that wasn’t even dealt with, either, as the trial still remained, along with continuing to fight through emotions. No matter guilty or not, Chris was her brother – and she had to live with that fact.

“I do miss him, and I wish he was home right now. I wish we could cuddle at night, spend time talking, share some laughs, and be like we want to be together. But hey, that’s not our life. We both have responsibilities to tend to. He can’t just drop everything for me, you know?” Kyle nods his head, knowing exactly what the life entailed, having seen his own schedule. Thankfully, Samantha was always up for traveling, and didn’t mind taking Brexton on the road with them.

“But still, you just seem too happy…” He then goes to snag the ear buds away, but she holds them firmly. “Ah of course, the audio is what makes that smile go pop. So what song do I have to play to make you smile when you’re grumpy?”

“That is not up for discus-”

“Is it some little kid song? Oh my gosh, it’s probably ‘I love you’ from Barney, or the teletubby theme song.” Sarina chuckles at the comment as she crosses her arms.

“I’m surprised you know both of those shows, Mr. Busch.”

“Well, I do have a toddler, Ms. Ott.” She nods her head, having grown used to seeing Brexton around and loving the time that they did get together, as well. “So why are you so quiet about the song?”

“Because it’s not the song that’s the reason for the smile.” Kyle raises his eyebrows, intrigued.

“Is it the singer? Oh my….Chase sent you a sing-a-gram last night, didn’t he?” She glances away as Kyle could only laugh. “Having heard a glimpse of that boy’s singing voice thanks to Ryan’s video, I don’t want to hear that actually. That’s just…how can you listen to it?”

“Because it’s actually very sweet, and he’s not as bad as Ryan says he is.” Kyle just rolls his eyes. “And yes, he did send me one. He left it on my voice mail last night while I was sleeping. I immediately found an app to record the voice mail and save it as an mp3 so I could listen over and over.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I admit – that was very sweet of him, and no wonder you’re smiling. Just promise me that they’ll be funky dunky pregnancy knocks on my door in a month?” She then gives him a smack as he walks away with a laugh. “There’s a reason for plastic!”

“Shut up, Kyle!” He laughs even harder as he continues to walk away from her.

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

Chase jotted down his notes on the piece of paper, handing it to the head judge of the afternoon. Glancing at the group of the ladies, he was glad to see they were near the end very soon, knowing that after this round of cuts there’d just be five left.

After 15 minutes of patience, the host announces the eliminations, one of those being Alison. Chase had to admit that she wasn’t that bad up there, and she had made his final seven. From there, though, the bias of the second night encounter played a role as he quickly crossed out her name.

“I have a protest to make about this elimination, please,” Alison states as she walks off the stage and over to the judge’s table. “One of these judges here made his decision not based on my performance.”

“Which judge do you speak of?” The head judge, Alan, asks as he glances down the row.

“Our dear celebrity guest, Mr. Chase Elliott.” Chase glances down at her, surprised to see him call her out. “He wasn’t pleased with my opinion on something the other night so he told me that he’d make sure that I didn’t get a future here. Isn’t that true, Mr. Elliott?” Chase takes a deep breath, firmly remembering those events.

“I can’t deny it,” he starts carefully. “I did say those words to her because in my belief, that night showed her true character and I told her that it wouldn’t be fit for Hooters to have someone like her representing the company.”

“May I ask what happened?” Alan questions as Chase takes a deep breath. He was hoping to never discus the events.

“She came to me and asked if I wanted to hang out by the pool with her and some others. I politely declined. She then said the only reason I wasn’t doing that was because my girl was probably worried I would stray, someone was probably spying on me, and a whole sort of other reasons. Let’s just say that I wasn’t pleased with her assessment of myself as a person, my girlfriend, or the fact she was butting in my personal life to begin with. Hence my comment in return, in sole focus on character alone.”

“Thank you.” Alan then looks over the sheets of paper, before looking up at Alison. “Mr. Elliott wasn’t the only person to not check your name. Only one judge of the five checked your name, giving you a lower vote total than the five chosen. Even if I was to give you a bonus check because of your assessment of Mr. Elliott, you were still not eligible.”

“He probably told you guys to not vote for me,” Alison starts. “I mean, he can do that. He can say that he won’t represent your company well or whatever and sway the vote. That’s what celebrities do.”

“Mr. Elliott made no mention of those events. I know you’re disappointed to make it so far and not make the finals. Every girl who didn’t make it is just as disappointed as you are. Please take what you learned, and take it with you moving forward. We look forward to you working for us at your store location, and perhaps you can try again in the future. Just ask Melanie. It took her four go-arounds before she made the finals this year. Now, you can leave as we have business to attend to.”

“Of course…” Alison then walks down the table, stopping in front of Chase. “I’ll see you later, cutie.” She then continues walking, purposely giving her butt a sway in the skimpy bathing suit as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“We’ll make sure security is alerted so you have no problems later, sir.” Chase nods his head, while taking a sip of his drink. He just needed to survive 12 more hours and he would have his girl back in his arms.

The rest of the day went smoothly and the next Ms. Hooters was elected. Following a series of photos, Chase was let go as his duties were complete.

He makes his way through the conference hall, dead set on heading straight to his room, packing his bags, and heading to New Hampshire as soon as he could. The sooner he landed, the faster he’d be reunited with Sarina as he knew she was flying up with Kyle and Samantha.

He climbs in the elevator, hitting his floor number, nerves flowing as he couldn’t wait to head out. He gets off the elevator, bolting to his room and inserting the key card quickly. He enters, noticing his bag on the floor where he had left it. He had mostly packed everything before leaving for the day, already having his plan in mind.

“Well well, he’s here….” A voice is heard through the room, causing Chase to practically jump out of his skin as his eyes turn towards the source.

“What the hell?” He questions at the sight before him.

“Do you like the costume change?” Alison licks her lips, as she pulls the tiny strap of her pink bra to the side a little, allowing more of her breast to show. Below that, the lining of her lace thong could be seen as she laid spread out on the bed. “I told you I’d see you later.”

“Please leave, please…” Chase walks past her, opening the drawer and grabbing the small things that were left in the night table. He throws them in the bag, before walking into the bathroom.

“Oh come on, Chase. We both know that you could use some entertainment before you head back out on the road. Everybody deals with stress – it’s all about letting it go in the right way. Come on…” Chase glances up at her as he returns back to his bag.

“I told you to leave. Either you can leave now, or you can leave when security comes back up here after I report you to the front desk. It’s up to you. But I’m outta here…” He grabs his bag, opening the door and leaving without another word. He made a mental note when he dropped the key cards off to say something to the front desk.

Alison sits up, grabbing the jeans she had stashed by the bed and slipping them back on. She grabs the t-shirt that went with it, slipping it over the bra. She then pulled her phone out from under the pillow, finding a familiar number. She knew with a recent arrest for the person in question that it may take a bit for the text to get to her.

Mission failure. He’s more goody-two-shoes than you said.

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.