Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 172: Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Friday, November 17

Following the national anthem, Chase gives her a quick kiss on the lips.

“Good luck,” he tells her as she just smiles back in return.

“Thank you,” she replies, kissing his lips once again. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Be safe. Last one for the yea-”

“Woah woah, easy now buddy. I still got one more to go.” He smiles, knowing exactly what she meant. It was always nice to go down to Florida in December.

“Regardless, make this one matter…” She nods her head as he walks away, headed for the pit box. After taking a deep breath, one last check on the shoes, she climbs in the truck, ready for a fun night.

The race did not start off as she wanted, though, fading from fifth to 13th in the first stage as she battled a very loose truck. It didn’t improve much in the second stage, only advancing up to ninth.

“It’s still a little free, but not as bad,” she tells Marcus, who works out the next sea of adjustments.

Starting off the final stage, she began to make up some ground when she felt a tire going soft. Heading down pit road, the unscheduled pit stop set her down a lap, causing her to finish 18th.

Climbing out of the truck post-race, clearly dejected, as she just leans back against it shaking her head. All she had wanted to do was finish the year off on a high note. But watching her guys come towards her, she couldn’t help but smile.

She had finished top-10 in points. She had won a race. She had come close many other times. She proved to the world that she could race right alongside the best of the series. She proved if consistency came, she could be standing on the frontstretch where Christopher was right now next year, celebrating a championship.

Rather than focus on the negative, she immediately shared high fives with each of the crew members, followed by some hugs, thanking them for their hard work all year.

“We’re going to come back stronger next year,” one of them assured her and she simply nodded back in return.

“We’re going to come out guns a blazing, focused on one goal,” she replies with a smile of her own.

“I’m proud of you,” Marcus shares as he is the last to hug her. “You’ve grown a lot since I met you back in February. I’ve watched you mature, overcome difficulties, and grow. You’re not as frustrated as you were sometimes, you’re more focused on the end game, and you’re even easier to get along with. Great job.”

“Thank you for everything. You are more amazing than Kyle could even describe to me.” Marcus glances over his shoulder at Chase.

“So I’m more amazing than this guy?” She laughs, shaking her head no.

“Nobody could be more amazing than him.” She then pulls him close, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to get someone like him in my life.”

“Because Sarina, just like him, you’re absolutely amazing and a great person.” She smiles. “See you Monday for Snowball preparations?” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can you believe it will be two complete years together when we go down to Florida?” Chase shakes his head no.

“It’s just flown by,” he comments as she just rolls her eyes. “Oh haha, I wasn’t meaning a joke…”

“I like our second year a lot better than our first,” she replies and he nods his head in agreement.

“It’s only going to get better from here, too.”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Saturday, November 18

After getting done an appearance for Toyota, Sarina made her way to the Cup garage to check on how things had been going for Chase during practice. She makes her way into the stall, glancing at the car, eyes opening wide as she glances over to where he was standing.

“What did you do?” She questions as he glances up from the data that he was looking over.

“Got a little loose up high and rubbed the wall a little,” he answers as she just shakes her head. “Relax, typical stripe here. Just go ask your great championship leader Martin Truex Jr. as he did the same thing, too. The guys are going to fix it.” She walks over as he looks back towards the data.

“You just wanted to give your guys more work….” Chase shakes his head no as he continues to flip through a couple different pages. From throttle traces, to various lap times, to notes on what lines his teammates were running, some of this had to help someway.

“We already got enough work to do. Did you see where I was on the practice chart?” She shakes her head no, but glanced up at the chart on the pit box, seeing he was 27th.

“Ouch. I can see why there’s work to do….”

“Car is loose as ever, and I can’t seem to roll that top line as smooth as either Kyles. Want to go ask your boss for some tips for me?” She laughs, and shakes her head no.

“He wouldn’t offer them anyway.” She then places a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. You guys always do. I bet you’ll have a great run Sunday.”

“I hope you’re right.” He then snags a quick kiss. “Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to miss Justin’s celebrati-”

“Excuse me?” She then laughs in response as he just smirks back at her. It was clear he wanted William Byron to win the title, while she had settled on Justin Allgaier. “We’ll see who is laughing when the checkered flag flies.”

“Deal, but don’t make me wipe your tears.” He just rolls his eyes as she heads out of the stall, knowing he needed to focus ahead of the second session.

“So was the car better that run?” Josh Kirk asks as he walks over to where Chase was standing following the second practice session.

“Absolutely,” he answers. “It felt way more secure, like I could work with it now versus almost out of control the first one.” Josh nods his head.

“That’s good. We’re making progress.” Chase couldn’t argue with that, but he still wasn’t quite satisfied.

“I just wish we had more time. I mean, we’re still 27th quickest.” Josh knew that was concerning, but he still felt confident ahead of tomorrow.

“Once you had 10, 20, 30 laps on the tires, you were solid and matching lap times to some of the quickest guys in the same situation. As long as you don’t lose a lot on the start of a run, we’ll be fine.” Chase nodded his head, feeling a little bit better based on Josh’s observation. “So I hear you’re going on an adventure Tuesday….” Chase glances over, intrigued.

“Oh really? Where’d you learn that from?” Josh just smiles back at his driver in return.

“A little birdie.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that was a big fat lie.

“Are you eve-dropping on my phone conversations?” Josh felt guilty, but these things happen in close quarters.

“I didn’t mean to, okay? We were just really close and I caught a glimpse.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it’d come out eventually.

“You can’t tell Sarina, okay?” Josh then looks at him surprised. He never would’ve seen Chase as someone to go behind someone else’s back. “It’s for a surprise.” Josh immediately felt relieved with that confession.

“The family search thing, right?” Chase nods his head as he had talked about with a couple crew guys before. He just hoped they, along with Ryan, Dale and Ricky, kept their mouths shut.

“She made mention of an Uncle Mike and Cousin Lindsay that were important to her in a couple different ways. I found where they live in Michigan so while she’s busy testing in Florida, I’m going to meet them and see where things go.” Josh knew the intentions were right here, but still felt nervous about Chase’s adventure.

“Are you sure about this? I mean, you’re a celebrity and well, so is she now – but you’re the people’s champi-”

“Let it go…” Josh shakes his head no with a smirk. He knew it got under Chase’s skin a little as he hated the new found tagline courtesy of Eddie Gosage, but it was true.

“You are Mr. Popular, though, as you’ve built quite the following. I’m just worried about your safety.” Chase was caught off-guard to hear Josh saying this.

“Aw, it’s nice that you care-”

“I’m serious, Chase!”

“That’s why Tom is coming with me and that’s why he ran a complete background check on them. I’m taking the right steps, Josh.”  Josh still wasn’t quite convinced.

“I still say that either Morgan or a couple of us guys should go, too – just be safe.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that Josh was now starting to become overbearing. How could someone on the crew be worse than Jared?

“I’ll think about it, okay?”

*********

After William Byron took the checkered flag in third-place ahead of his fellow three championship competitors, Chase couldn’t help but glance over at Sarina with a smile of his own. He knew for certain the little superstar would get the job done.

“What did I tell you?” He asks as they make their way down the stairs behind the grandstands so they can head out. Surprisingly, the crowds hadn’t recognized Chase too much and it was smooth moving. For the few fans that had recognized him, he was able to get an autograph or photo done before catching a big crowd.

“You are correct and you’re pick was perfectly amazing tonight,” she answers as he couldn’t help but glance back with a smile.

“I did feel bad for Justin, though. It had to be hard not having Jason here because of the suspension. But, I still say William would’ve beat him anyway. Willie has been the quickest of the group for the past several weeks.” She nodded her head, having watched that herself. Truthfully, there was pride in watching William do it. In the past two nights, a pair of KBM graduates had become champions. Hopefully she was the next one in the pecking order.

“Why do you call him Willie?” Chase smiles, remembering exactly where that came from.

“When you drive for Dale, everybody gets a nickname as he can’t just call you by your first name. For William, it became Willie B because it just rolls off the tongue. Josh Berry is known as Huckleberry, but keep that on the hush hush down low.” She smiles, nodding her head. It wasn’t like she would cross paths with Josh anytime soon, anyway.

“So what did he call you?” Chase remembered his clearly, knowing why it started, too. He had to laugh at how he brought it on himself.

“Clyde, because I reminded him of the 50s era with my Elvis-style sunglasses at Daytona in my rookie year.” Sarina smiles, remembering the photos that surfaced that season.

“Those were certainly some stylish shades…” Chase nods his head, still proud of how they looked too.

“If we really wanted to get under his skin, we’d call him Ralphie. Amy does that quite a bit just for the effect.” She then wraps her arm around Chase from behind as they walk through the tunnel together.

“So can I call you Clyde?” He then glances over his shoulder at her.

“Can I call you Chel-”

“That’s different.” He was a little confused, but didn’t say much as they kept walking. He knew the comment hadn’t set well with her and didn’t quite know how to respond. “Chelsy was my name for the first 15 years of my life, yes, but it means something different now. To me, it’s a reminder of the pain and suffering and everything that I went through. I don’t want to be reminded of that, but rather focus on the future and what I’ve accomplished. Sarina was my second chance to reset the stage, and live the life that I wanted. I want to focus on that and not remind myself of what was.”

“I understand perfectly. I’m sorry that I’ve used that to call you out sometimes and taken it the wrong way.” She nods her head, accepting, as they catch each others’ eyes at the end of the tunnel.

“My full name was Chelsy Samantha Dryer. I was named after a previous friend of my mother’s and my aunt Shelly. I almost changed my name to Samantha Ott instead of Sarina.” Chase was surprised by the instant confession, but could see the direction she was going immediately.

“I like Sarina for you better. It’s unique – just like you are in every way for what you’ve been through, who you are, and the future that you continue to go for. But, if you become annoying, I may just have to call you Sammy.” She then laughs, well appreciating the compliment in the same breath.

“Sounds like a perfect plan, Clyde…”  He just rolls his eyes as they head off together, set to go congratulate William on a job well done.

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Sunday, November 19

“Stay focused, believe in yourself, believe in this team,” she tells him. “You guys can do get up there and fight for the win. Be safe, and see you later. I love you.” She then gives him a kiss.

“I love you, too,” he replies with a smile. It was nice to get a little pep talk before the event.

Taking her usual seat on the pit box, she hoped she was in for a decent day.

She watched as he began to make up ground immediately, making his way into the top-10 during the first half of the first stage, placing sixth. He then kept up there throughout the second, scoring a solid ninth. The final stage would go steadily, as he kept himself solidly in 11th, before making a late charge on a restart with 40 laps to go to place fifth.

A series of smiles beamed off pit road in how far they had come over the weekend, really proud of their performance. More importantly, it gave me a good boost of momentum entering the winter ahead of next season.

As everybody finished up celebrating, Sarina snapped a selfie of her and Chase on pit road together, with the championship party going on in the background.

@Sarina18: Absolutely amazing season this year. I couldn’t be more proud of myself and @KBMteam for a great year. First career win, many top-10s, growth as a driver, and a solid top-10 in points. What more could you ask for a rookie season? This guy, though, is beyond amazing. It was so great watching him run well and get right up there. I guarantee next year that he will win a race – there’s no questioning that as I know he’s going to #DI9 hard. Next year, ladies and gents, one – if not both of us actually, will be celebrating right there. But for tonight, it belongs all to Martin and Sherry. Sherry, you’re absolutely amazing. For everything that you’ve been through, everything that you’ve battled, and the smile that always seem to grace your face. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people, including myself. Make sure to enjoy tonight.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 171: “Guilty”

Thursday, November 16 – Florida

“Just think – the last time we’re going to have to make this trip,” Chase comments as he opens the door, allowing Sarina to head in first, before following closely behind her.

“Thank God,” she replies, waiting for him to walk alongside her. “I just want to forget about everything…” He wraps an arm around her shoulders as they walk down the aisle together.

“You know that you can’t just do that. You just avoid addressing those emotions, and then they eat at you. We both know what happens then.” They sit down in their seats together and she looks immediately into his brown eyes.

“There’s no way I would ever do that to you, again. I’m not running.” He smiles, giving her hand a squeeze. That right there attested to how far they had come over the past year.

“And you know that you can always talk to me about anythin-”

“Absolutely.” She then takes a deep breath as they watch her brother be led into the court room and to his spot.

“Now presenting the honorable Judge Reynolds,” the clerk says and they stand, watching him take his spot. Chase had to admit that he didn’t want to see this judge ever again, either. But if he got the job done, then maybe their time will be worth it.

“You may be seated,” the judge states, which everybody in the room follows suit. “Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor,” the head juror says as Chase wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders, giving it a squeeze. She could only hope the jury swayed in their favor.

“On the charge of poisoning Ryan Blaney, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” The answer was obvious in Chase’s mind as Ryan had testified to seeing Chris, being handed the bottle, and feeling the effects afterwards.

“Guilty.” Sarina flashes a quick smile back to Ryan, who simply gives her a nod of approval. So far, so good.

“On the charge of poisoning Chase Elliott, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” Chase takes a deep breath. This wasn’t so obvious as they were basing on the fact that Chris had motive from previous dealings, and would be the only person with access to lace the bottle.

“Guilty.” Chase couldn’t help but be pleased that the jury was smart enough to put the pieces together. Maybe things were finally falling into place.

“Thank you. Combined with your previous guilty pleas, you will be spending the next 70 years in prison. You will have no chance of parole, given your antics previously displayed to the court room in other situations. A note has also been placed on your file in regards to psychological pleas. Court adjourned!”

Chase and Sarina trade a glance, sharing a quick hug, before walking out together. Chase just held her hand the whole way, knowing a whole series of emotions were trying to flood her brain. Obviously it was great for this all to be over – but what about the fact that he was her brother, regardless?

“Are you okay?” He asks once they get outside and she just nods her head.

“I’m just ready to get to the trac-” She answers and he squeezes her hand.

“Stop using something else as a distraction or a way to ignore. Tell me….” She glances down, taking a deep breath.

“As much as I love him somewhere inside of me, I am so glad that this is over. I am glad that he is going to be locked away. I’m glad that he can’t hurt anybody else. I’m glad to also have you in my life, too. Maybe it’s time for my happily ever after….” He pulls her close, kissing her cheek.

“I plan on giving you a happily ever after, as long as you promise to tell your boss to stop using my lines.” She then looks at him confused. “Did you not hear what he said today at the press conference?”

“I thought you ignored NASCAR newsy twitter….” He rolls his eyes as that was normally the case.

“Curiosity got to me when they asked him what he thought of Brad Keselowski.” She then laughed, knowing that response would probably be priceless.

“Oh Gosh….” Chase pulls out his phone, bringing up the response.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy. Fact of the matter. I never ran into Matt Kenseth. I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me. There is a respect factor out there on the racetrack, and you can certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like, but as once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those how they race me.” She just rolls her eyes, but had to chuckle a little at his wording.

“He’s good….” Chase puts his phone back in his pocket, eying her once again. “Trust me, I’m okay. I’m fine. I got my emotions out before. Like I said, I’m just glad that it worked out and now we can focus on us.”

Friday, November 17 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

“I think that last run was perfect,” Sarina comments. “I want to start off that way tonight…”

“I can make that happen as requested,” Marcus replies. “Fourth quickest isn’t too shabby either. We have a good truck this week. Just stay away from Christopher, okay?” She then shoots him a ‘really’ glance as he just winks back.

“Listen, I know what he has on the line tonight and I hope he gets it. He deserves it. Alright, I’m going to go see Chas-”

“You ditching me already?” She smiles and nods her head. “Why aren’t I surprised? You guys can’t stand to be apart. Go on little girl…”

She heads off, making her way through the garage area over to where the Cup cars were located. She immediately caught a glimpse of him, smile forming immediately as he looked cute as ever. Though her eyes immediately drew down to shoes, a little surprised.

“Another pair?” She questions and he smiles, holding a foot up and showing her all the angles.

“What do you think?” He asks as she rolls her eyes. She had to admit – she was absolutely in love immediately as the skeleton design just fit nicely with red touches. But, she wasn’t about to let Chase know that immediately.

“We already have a closet full of shoes. I believe you’ve worn like 16 different shoe designs for 36 races now, and we have about 14 of those at home.” Chase chuckles, knowing the collection was getting quite big. However, there was a reason behind it.

“Each of those designs has a special reason, or is meant to go with the firesuit. These ones, it’s a very special reason actually.” She crosses her arms, now intrigued.

“Oh really?”

“Dale Jr., of course. Since he’s started, he’s been known for the skeleton helmets and gloves, sometimes the shoes to match too. This is my little thank you, sign of respect to go along with the gloves. Besides, he signed them this morning…” She then looks at the signature near the heel, impressed.

“Okay, so this pair I can let slide, along with the throwback pair and your throwback to your dad’s record at Tallade-”

“What about the Hooters Throwback to Kuwicki?” She then lets out a sigh. Perhaps his collection was insane, but she had to admire it.

“So they’re all pretty cool, and these are actually one of my favorites that you’ve worn. Just promise me maybe less shoes next year?” He then laughs as he wraps an arm around her.

“I’ll try…..”

Chase could’ve been less than impressed with the session. They were decent, a little off in handling though, but 15th quickest. It wasn’t bad, but he thought they would’ve been better. But he was going to stay relaxed. They had two more chances tomorrow to make it better before Sunday.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He hears, recognizing the voice immediately as he peaks over the roof of the car towards the direction it was coming from. Christopher Bell – just as he thought. He also knew that if he was talking to someone near his stall more than likely that’d be Sarina.

“I’m fine,” he hears the female voice in response. Yep, just as he thought.

“I was just concerned because I know yesterday, things finally went down with your brother. I just can’t imagine what you’re feeling.” Chase could sympathize with Christopher’s concerns and actually didn’t mind him checking on her once in a while. It was nice to know she had someone on weekends they were apart. Now what would happen next year with Christopher moving up?

“I’m relieved and glad to know that he can’t hurt anybody ever aga-”

“But what about the sibling connection? What about how much you love him? What about those memories?” Chase couldn’t help but listen as Christopher was asking the tough questions that maybe he should’ve talked about yesterday.

“What about it? That’s in the past, Christopher. I can’t ever go back to what that was. He changed – whether due to outside influences or some internal demons, he changed. He’s not the same person he was before. I came to grips with that when he went after Chase in July. Why do you think I pushed so hard for the trial to go forth like it did? Why do you think I pushed for those psychological connections? For all I could care, I don’t have a brother anymore. He’s nothing to me.” The words coming from her mouth so coldly certainly pierced through every feeling you could imagine, as Chase just shook his head. It was amazing how strong she could be at times, which only made him worry about a collapse later on.

“So you have no family, again….” She shakes her head as that wasn’t true.

“I have a family in Chase, Cindy, Bill, Kyle, Samantha, Marcus, and you. It may not be like the conventional family, but it feels more real than anything that I’ve felt for years. You’re the pesky brother while Marcus is like a dad at times. Kyle and Sam – almost like an aunt and uncle.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as it was nice to see how well she had fit in, and saw all the connections. He just hoped none of that changed.

“So you’re still going to make sure to talk to me next year?” She laughs, nodding her head.

“Are you kidding me? Of course! You’re a friend for life now, Christopher. I’m going to make sure to keep an eye on you as I’m sure you’ll do with me when you can. Did you really think I was going to cut off all communications because you were moving up a series?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders. “Oh my gosh…..”

“Thank you for being assuring, though.” She smiles. “And I’m glad you’re okay. Just promise me you’ll take care of yourse-”

“I’m fine…..” She then walks into the garage stall as Chase tries to busy himself in doing something. “Eavesdropping?”

“No, I was jus-” He starts and she gives him a playful smack. “So I heard the conversation….”

“Jealous?” She asks and he shakes his head no as he pulls her close.

“I know who you love more than anybody else at the end of the day.” He then kisses her lips. “I also know that you have some place to be, too.”

“I just wanted to come say hi…”

“Well hello, and good luck.” She then squeezes in another kiss before heading off, set for pit road for truck qualifying.

As she left the garage, his mind immediately switched gears, knowing another topic was also on the brain. The loss of family in one way made another project even greater in importance to make it happen for her. He had texted the familiar names and small story to his contact, hoping that it led them to something happening in the future.

He began to wonder once again what her reaction would be. Would there be glee for finding good family to get back close with? Would she be angry that he went digging in her past? Would this be a gift that he could never top ever?

As his phone goes off, he pulls it from his pocket, answering immediately upon seeing the phone number.

“Hello?” He says as he watches the field of activity before him with final preparation being done ahead of qualifying, followed by backing the car out to take it over for pre-qualifying inspection.

“Hey Chase,” he hears on the other end. “It’s Tom Keo. How are you?” He knew the phone call wasn’t just a casual check-in.

“Alright. Car is decent, things have gone smoothly. How are you?” He actually wished Tom would just get to why he called.

“I’m doing great. So I checked into Mike Dryer and his daughter Lindsay. Both of them are still living in Michigan believe it or not, and they have a clean record. So if you’re looking for positive members, this could be a good beginning.” Chase was relieved to hear that Mike and Lindsay were still on a good page. It made the happiness in Sarina’s voice talking about them feel even better.

“So what are we going to do now?” It was obvious question. Tom wouldn’t just call with casual information for no reason.

“We could follow one of two approaches. We can surprise them with a visit and go from there in explaining our reasoning for showing up, or I could call them first.” Chase knew a call from a stranger could hurry them off. Besides, why would they trust somebody over the phone they didn’t know when they probably knew her family background of con people throughout?

“I say we follow the first approach. I can check my schedule and give you some days that I am free to do so.” He knew there were some days; it was just planning it perfectly so Sarina didn’t catch on.

“That’s a deal. I look forward to being able to do this soon.”

“Sounds good. Thanks Tom.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Chase then hangs up, smile forming on his face.

With a new found reason for some more happiness today, he made his way out to pit road, watching the end of qualifying as Sarina timed in fifth quickest. Certainly happiness was easy to come by today.

Ultimately, that smile wasn’t as big once Cup qualifying was over as he ended up 18th. Not too shabby, but certainly not super smile worthy. Hopefully Sunday went much better.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 165: “Race people how they race you.”

Thursday, November 2

Chase lets out a sigh as he finalizes getting everything packed for the weekend, glancing at the clock. It was early in the morning, but they had to leave shortly so they’d be there timely for Sarina’s pair of truck practices. He smiles as he looks towards the bed, seeing her lying there tangled in the sheets, sleeping. She had gotten back late from her appearance, so he was letting her sleep in a little.

“So, are you ready for the weekend?” He hears over the phone, which was on speaker. He wasn’t surprised to have received an early morning check-in call from Dad.

“Absolutely,” Chase replies. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He hears a small chuckle on the other end.

“I’m just wondering where your thought process is right now with regards to Denny.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that would obviously be a topic of discussion. He couldn’t wait for every person in the world to bring it up.

“I don’t really care about him. Like I said on Sunday, he ain’t worth the time of day. My focus is getting this team into the final four where we belong based on our performance, and that means winning either this weekend or next weekend. I’m ready to win, Dad.” Truth be told, Denny was in the thoughts a tiny bit based on his comments to Sarina yesterday. But, as Jimmie had told him earlier in the week, worrying about that wouldn’t help the cause he should be focused on.

“That’s where your focus should be. But what happens if you’re side-by-side on Sund-”

“Are you asking me if I’m going to pay him back? Are you asking if I’m going to wreck him?” Chase just wished people would come out with the question when they started to get curious.

“Yeah.” Chase takes a deep breath as he sits on the edge of the bed, thinking it over.

“I don’t flat out wreck people; you know that’s not my style. But, I’m not happy with what he did and he knows that.” Despite his feelings, he knew he could never bring himself to flat out turn Denny like Denny did to him.

“Well, just remember what Ricky would always tell you – race people how they race you. If they show you respect, then they deserve it back in return as you’re a respectful, clean driver. But, if they don’t, you need to show them how you feel and you won’t put up with it. Remember that…” Chase remembered hearing that constantly during his late model days, and even putting it into good practice a couple of those events.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Look, I got to go wake Sarina up and get ready. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright. Love you. Bye Chase.” Chase couldn’t help but smile.

“Love you, too. Bye Dad.” He then hangs up, setting his phone beside his bag on the dresser. He then works his way back up the bed, slowly untangling the blankets from Sarina. “Hey, it’s time to get up….”

 “Well, well, look at that….” Sarina comments as they fly closer to Texas Motor Speedway. While the track was within sight, she couldn’t have cared less. Instead, her eyes landed on the billboard that was on the backstretch. “Eddie Gossage was supposed to be taking full advantage of what happened and he certainly did.” Chase glances over towards the direction that she was looking, shaking his head.

“Oh boy….” was all he could manage seeing himself 12 feet tall up there. Sarina could only glance over at him and chuckle.

“Oh boy? That’s all you can manage?” Chase focuses his eyes back forward, knowing the airport was coming up.

“I could also say unnerving and strange…” She just laughs a little harder as she takes her phone out, snapping a photo. “Really?”

“Not every girl can say that her man was on a big billboard.” He just rolls his eyes. “I can’t believe that seems strange to you.”

“What can I say? I’m a simple guy….” She just shakes her head, though takes a deep breath as she feels them descending. “Relax, I got this….”

“I always believe in you. I just hate flying.” Chase could sympathize, based on past experiences. He just hoped that it got easier with time for her as he couldn’t wait to show her some of his favorite places to fly over.

“Deep breathes; we’re just about landed.”

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

Sarina walks back into the motorcoach, closing the door, glancing over to Chase on the couch with smile.

He had joined her in the garage area for both her practices, watching atop of the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler as she put together a pair of successful sessions – second in the first one, seventh in the second. He then headed back once they were done, letting her spend some time debriefing with Marcus, followed by some time with her teammates.

“You have a good truck for tomorrow night,” he comments as she walks past him.

“Marcus always gives me good equipment,” she replies, leaning down and kissing his lips.

“If you could drive for anyone in the truck series, Kyle is the man.” She smiles as she slips off the top of her firesuit.

“You know, it felt different today in practice compared to other weeks…” Chase sits his phone down, stopping his random twitter scrolling, as he watches her grab a drink from the fridge closely. “I actually felt relaxed and chilled. I wasn’t stuck up or overly focused – it just felt right. I actually feel like this is where I belong, more so than I did before.” Chase smiles as he watches her sit across from him.

“It’s amazing what a win can do for you and your confidence, huh?” She smiles, nodding her head.

“It just feels so right, but I don’t get why it’s different….”

“Like you said last week, the weight is off your shoulders and there’s no doubt anymore. You proved you belong, you proved you could get the job done, and you don’t have to listen that annoying question of when you’re going to win. Now you can just focus.” Her eyes lock into his as she reaches over, grabbing his hand.

“You’re getting your first win soon so you can feel what I’m feeling, and I mean that. Actually, I think it may come this weekend. I would say that you do look pretty hot when a cowboy hat.” Chase’s cheeks immediately turn red as he lets out a small chuckle. “I’m serious!”

“Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing you wear one tomorrow night.” She smiles back in approval. “Now, what do you say you go get changed and I take you out?” Her smile fades as she just gives him back a shocked face.

“Like a date?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Chase, a little more warning would be more appropriate. I don’t even know if I have something to wea-”

“You don’t need to dress up fancy or anything. It’s not meant to be like that. Just go with a nice pair of jeans and t-shirt, as all I’m wearing is this. It’s just a casual outing.” She then lets out a sigh as she stands up, letting it soak in.

“Alright, fine. Give me 15 minutes, okay?” He rolls his eyes as he kicks his feet up on the couch.

“Take your time. I know you girls are.” She then stops, turning back with a glance.

“Excuse me?” He then looks over his shoulder with a smile.

“Hair, make-up, choosing outfit – I get it.” She could only roll her eyes in response.

“You can sometimes take as long as I do getting ready.” He shakes his head no as she nods her head in response. “But whatever…” He then laughs as she heads to the back for a shower.

Friday, November 3

Chase lets out a sigh as he heads out of the hauler, following Morgan through the packed garage area to the media center. He would’ve preferred to just skip this experience, get in the car, and focus on the task at hand. Instead, he knew he had to follow the obligations at hand.

He also knew the topic at hand would probably surround Denny and their contact from Martinsville. It was obvious what the media wanted to know – his reaction a week later, whether there’d be payback, and if he could overcome being behind to make the final four.

As he enters the media center, he could only think of the conversations that he had with Jimmie and his dad earlier in the week, along with Sarina last night before bed. She had asked him once again his thoughts, which he restated hadn’t changed but he could care less about Denny entering this weekend. Truthfully, he just wanted to focus on winning.

Though as he sat down before the microphone, he could only think about the words that she told him as they lied there, knowing how to choose his words carefully. He could stay focused on the task at hand and not do anything in the long run, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mess with Denny a little in the process.

“As far as last week goes, I don’t know that my thoughts today are a whole lot different than they were then,” Chase says as part of his opening statement. “I am still pretty frustrated about it and you know, as long as the week has gone along it has given me a lot of time to think about how close we were to going to Homestead.  I think if anything else that will drive you up the wall more if you think about it.  Definitely not happy about it and I don’t think a whole lot has changed.

“But no, I am not going to answer your questions about whether I am going to get him back or not.   Don’t even ask because you are not going to hear it from me.  Just don’t go there.  But yeah, I don’t think my mindset has changed from that standpoint.  This is a point in this round where we are going to have to perform these next two weeks to have a chance at Homestead now.  We are going to have to do just that.”

Sarina sat in the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler, smile firmly planted on her face as she watched the video feed on NASCAR.com with a smile. She was certainly proud of how he chose to go about that, wishing she could see Denny right now to see how much he was squirming and complaining. She actually wondered if Chase would get another text message as a result.

“You seem too happy about his comments….” She hears Marcus comment from the other couch in the lounge as he works through some notes. He had glanced up, noticing the growing smile on her face as Chase said his opening statement, caught off-guard in honesty.

“Because they’re just perfection,” she replies as Marcus felt confused now.

“How so?” She smiles as she kicks back, sipping on her Gatorade, roughly listening to the rest of the words he had to say.

“Mind games. Denny is one of those drivers that lets people’s comments get to him, and urge a response out of him. It’s easy to get under his skin. We saw that in years past, thanks to Kevin when they were fighting for the championship. Tony has done it to him, as well as Jimmie, Joey, and even Brad. You carefully word what you have to say, and boom – you’re in his head. Now rather than focused on his own business, he’s going to be wondering what Chase is thinking.” Marcus shakes his head as he couldn’t believe they had reached this point, but had to admit her observations were on point.

“So in reality, Chase is going to do nothin-”

“How do you know that?” Marcus then gives her a surprised glance in return.

“We know Chase. That’s not his style, Sarina.” She smiles, glad that was clear. “But anyway, he’s just making Denny think that something may happen to try and throw him off these next two weeks.”

“Genius, right? Meanwhile, what Denny doesn’t get is that Chase is solely focused on winning one of these two races. He’s focused on what his team is doing, and making sure they get to the championship 4 somehow, whether this week or next. Like he says to me, you can’t get yourself thinking about other things because they’ll eat at you. For example, when I was worried about what everybody was saying about me – why should that matter? While I’m worrying about that, I’m not focused on my own game.” Marcus nods his head, accepting, as that seemed pretty reasonable.

“I got to say, you got a pretty good advice system between him and Kyle.” She smiles as she glances over.

“I don’t take it for granted ever, Marcus. Kyle is amazing for giving me a chance, letting me drive for him, letting me prove to the world that I could do this, and for being a good close friend. Chase, on the other hand, I can’t even begin to describe how much I love and care about him. I mean, I don’t even know where to sta-”

“So I’m invited to the wedding, right?” Her jaw then drops as Marcus just laughs. “Oh come on now. We know that the wedding is coming eventually. I mean, you guys have been together for two years.”

“Sherry and Martin have been together for 13 and they’re not married.” Marcus then stops, watching her closely as he crosses his arms.

“Are you scared of marriage?” She then stops, glancing down at her lap, realizing that she said too much. “Hey, it’s okay to be scared of the word. I get it and understand why from your background. I’ve seen it with other people. Just go ask Dale as it terrified him due to his parents and everything, until he finally got up the courage to ask Amy. You can admit it and hey, if you don’t want to officially be married, that’s fine too. All that matters at the end of the day is that you’re happy.”

“What if Chase proposes one day and I can’t bring myself to say yes?” Marcus could hear the fear laced in her voice as he kept his eyes focused on her.

“Then you tell him that you’re afraid, and explain why. Knowing him, he’ll get it and understand it. I also know he’ll accept it because he loves you so much that he couldn’t stand to be without you. I also know that if anybody can help you work through that, it’s him. I mean, look what he’s done for you already.” She smiles back, nodding her head, accepting.

“Thanks Marcus…” He smiles as he watches her stand up, taking a quick glance in the mirror. “I’m going to head out and watch Cup practice. I’ll see you later?”

“Of course.”

So far the day had been going smoothly from that point. It was like the frustrations from Martinsville were in the rearview and set to stay there. Chase showed speed in practice, popping up sixth quickest on the board, while she qualified second for the truck race behind Justin Haley.

But of course, the weekend couldn’t just go smoothly.

Sarina stood in the corner of the garage, watching as Chase stood before the camera, debating what to say next.

He had a car quick enough to qualify up front for the race, but of course – things couldn’t go that smoothly. Thanks to being stuck in inspection longer than planned, he did not get through in time, failing to make a qualifying attempt, set to start 37th on Sunday and miss 15 minutes of practice tomorrow.

While frustration boiled through her at the situation, she watched as he took it in stride. He spoke about how they had a good car, could make it even better in tomorrow’s pair of sessions, and had plenty of time to work their way from the back to the front. She even smiled as he referenced Jimmie driving from last to a win in the spring.

She watches as he finishes up, walking over to where she was standing.

“How do you do it?” She questions simply as he just shrugs his shoulders.

“I believe in my guys and this team,” he answers as he gives her a kiss. “I’ll be fine Su-”

“Are you going to tell me how you really feel, or what?” He then looks at her surprised. “What?”

“This is how I really feel. 80 laps is plenty of time to go from 37th to the top-10. Besides, I don’t need stage points as that doesn’t matter right now. Winning is what matters, so as long as I’m leading by the final lap, that’s what counts. I got lots of time to do that. I just made it more entertaining.” She rolls her eyes, knowing that was going to translate into her nerves going crazy. “Now, I love you and good luck toni-”

“Aren’t you joining me on pit road?” He shakes his head, almost set to smack himself as he had forgotten to tell her earlier.

“I have a Hooters appearance at the same tim-”

“You’re missing my race? Are you kidding me?”

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

Saturday, October 29 – Martinsville Speedway

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

Was this really happening?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cup practice, reme-”

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, based on what we’ve seen-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kerry….” Kyle states once again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was about to spoil you…”

**********

Sunday, October 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it happened……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 161: Concerns….

Friday, October 27 – Martinsville Speedway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 28

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

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

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

“This has nothing to do with tha-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, so good….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you for the opportunity!”

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

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

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

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

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 155: Mixed Plans & Emotions

Thursday, October 5

Sarina glances into the bedsroom, smiling as she sees Chase glancing in the mirror, putting the final touches on his outfit for that night. While she was all for a simple t-shirt and jeans, there was nothing like a sharp dressed man, and he looked mighty fine.

“Are you just gonna stand there and watch me, or are you going to say something?” He questions as he catches her eyes, glancing towards her. She just smiles back in return as she enters the room.

“I was just admiring how handsome you look right now,” she answers as he smiles. She then walks up behind him, rubbing his shoulders. “Besides, I know how much you’re not one for dressing up all perfect snazzy. I take the moment when I can get it.”

“I thought you hated the make-up and dresses, too.” She then laughs, knowing how much she wished make-up never existed.

“I do have a love for fashion, remember? I can understand having an appreciation for having that perfect look. It’s just I can’t handle doing it myself for hours upon hours, and impressing people with something fake for no reason.” She then leans in and kisses his cheek. “But I do know when a man looks plenty hot, and I take full appreciation when I get the chance.” He nods his head, accepting.

“Normally, I’d be for all getting out of the shirt, pants, and jacket, and just kicking back. But tonight, I don’t think so. I’m looking forward to this.” She smiles, knowing perfectly why. There was a special sense of pride in knowing the No. 9 was returning back to his door next year. Now set to unveil what the car would look like and having played a small part in the design, everything just seemed to be coming together.

“You haven’t even shown me a preview of what it looks like. Don’t I at least get that?” He laughs and shakes his head no.

“I don’t even have a copy of it anywhere saved to show you.” She then looks on surprised. “I’m serious! Go through my phone!”

“Can I get a hint on color? I know there’s some blue and yellow involved – but tell me something, anything!” He laughs, shaking his head. He just loved how flustered it seemed she was getting at that moment.

“You’ll just have to wait and see like everybody else….” She then lets out a sigh as she flops back on the bed.

“There’s no really advantages to being your girlfriend at times, is there? I mean, you got to see what my truck looked like before everybody else!” He then walks over, pulling her arms to lift her up so she was sitting on the edge, eye-to-eye with him.

“One advantage – you get to spend time with me that nobody else does. Another advantage – you get to know my inner secrets. You also get to feel this…” He then brushes his lips lightly across hers. “There are girls that for some reason would scream and faint if they got that honor. Do I need to go on?” She simply smiles as she wraps her arms around his hips.

“I also get the secret of knowing the fact that you can dance and sing quite decently, too – which makes missing the Cup banquet that much more painful.” He then looks at her surprised. “Same day as Snowball Derby practice and qualifying. I checked.”

“There’s got to be some way that you can do both. Have you talked to Kyle?” She shakes her head, though knew that was a possibility. He had done both in years past without any issues. “You better talk to him. I don’t want to go through the banquet without you by my side, even if you’re only there for a bit.”

“I’ll see, okay? Besides, I was looking forward to showing you the dress I picked out.” He could only imagine how cute she would look as he knew her taste in dressing was right up there. “But let’s make this clear – you’re coming to my banquet, right?”

“My schedule is completely that day so yes, I will be there to support you. I just hope you can return the favor.” She nods her head, showing him her fingers crossed.

“Besides, I’m surprised you’re not running the Derby….” He then lets out a sigh, having heard that question plenty of times over in the past couple weeks.

“You know how I run my late model program. I only do it one way and that way only. There’s no way I can get that group of guys together for that weekend this late in the year. Besides, you can’t just waltz in there and run that race without some others on your belt to get your program right.” She nods her head, accepting. It’s why her and Kyle had developed the schedule that she had.

“So you don’t mind that I’m going to be missing your race on Sunday to be in Winchester?” He then gives her an odd glance, surprised that she hadn’t mentioned it sooner. “Last minute deal put together by Kyle and the guys once they realized it was a truck off-weekend. We both figure that a week in the late model would be good right now.”

“Hey, I can’t argue with that. I’d do the same thing in your shoes.” He then takes one final glance in the mirror before grabbing his phone off the dresser. “Ready to go?”

“Absolutely. Let’s go see what this beauty of a car looks like….”

**********

Friday, October 6 – Florida

Sarina took a deep breath, fixing her dress slacks, before entering the court room.

She would do anything right now to be anywhere but here. She would even take working on her trucks and late models over being here. She would take doing anything right now at Charlotte Motor Speedway as Chase practiced and qualified than being here.

But nope, she was there – without her man, and she hated every single moment of it.

Taking another deep breath, she knew she needed to get her testimony over and done with as quick as possible as she couldn’t stand being there any longer than she was already.

Taking the stand, she spoke to the court room about her brother’s temperament as a younger boy, and the trouble that he found which eventually led to her father’s death. She spoke about how he re-entered her life, the layers he went through in hiding himself while attacking both her and Chase, followed by the reveal. She spoke of how he convinced them of his crazy act, followed by the reunion scenes that almost made her feel like her family would be whole again. She then went into detail about how that slowly fell apart, how others began to see it, how she didn’t want to believe it, and why, followed by watching the pieces fall apart eventually.

With her words in the books, she could only fidget nervously as she watched Chris’ lawyer stand up, knowing any excuse to get him off the remaining charges would be fought for.

“When Mr. Elliott first told you that Mr. Blaney said your brother was to blame, what was your reaction?” The lawyer questions, as Sarina takes a deep breath. Why was she having to repeat herself?

“I already told the court that I didn’t believe him,” Sarina answers. “I kept questioning him as to what he was saying, trying to find some other theory. I kept that belief in my brother because I didn’t want to believe what was happening. I didn’t want to see my brother as the bad guy. I wanted that same brother back that I had years ago.” She felt her eyes beginning to get wet, holding back every urge to cry as she focused her eyes straight forward on a single spot on the wall.

“What if your brother didn’t do it then and your suspicions are right – almost like sibling intuition?” Sarina now had to laugh as the lawyer was certainly stretching for some far with her assumptions now.

“My brother isn’t innocent, as we saw with him pleading guilty to the other charges. Also, hearing his opinion on myself and Chase’s relationship, as well as faking insanity for sympathy, that’s all I need to know. I believe Ryan fully now that I have taken a step back and looked over everything. I can promise you that it wasn’t something that was telling me he didn’t do it at all.”

“Is there a possibility that Ms. Adams could’ve poisoned Mr. Blaney and Mr. Elliott?” She knew the lawyer was now reaching for suspicion, same as she had done with Chase. She wasn’t about to let her guard down as her eyes turned to her brother.

“Absolutely not. Bethany didn’t take any actions until my brother was behind bars and unable to act further. She was just someone working alongside in the background, only taking charge when he couldn’t get his way. Besides, he poisoned the other people so it shows he know what he’s doing. Why would he stop there when we know the target was eventually breaking my life apart, piece by piece?” Her heart was tearing apart even more in saying those words out loud. How could your own sibling want to tear your life into pieces?

“How do you believe that to be the target of his behavior?” Sarina now laughs as she turns to the lawyer.

“He and Bethany told me themselves. What else can I say?” She wanted to glance at the jury, making her point stick, hoping these people were smarter than those who met Allison.

“Nothing more I supposed. We’re done….” Sarina felt satisfaction in seeing the lawyer done early, seeing as though nothing went her way through the entire testimony.

She slowly steps down, going past where she was supposed to take a seat afterwards and out the doors. As the door slips closed behind her, she barely makes it to a bench before sitting down quickly, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Sarina…..” Marcus lets out as he sits down beside her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close as he rubs her back. “Sssh, it’s okay…”

“Why does it have to be my own brother?” She questions outloud as she continues crying into Marcus’ shoulder. “Why not someone else? Why not a stranger?”

“I don’t know sweetheart…”

“My own family, my own flesh and blood. They say all you have is your family. What the hell do I have?” Marcus continues to rub her back as Christopher sits down beside them.

“You have your racing family,” Christopher speaks up, catching her attention. “You have myself, Marcus, Kyle, Sam, Todd, Harrison, and your whole entire team. You’ve also got Chase, Alan, and heck – I think Chase’s team loves you, too. You’re not alone, ever. You have so many people that love you, support you, and have your back. You may not have that family everybody envisions, but you have people. Heck, I’m like that pesky little brother that won’t go away.” She then chuckles as he hands her a Kleenex.

“I guess that makes me like an uncle who is there for support and advice,” Marcus adds as she looks between them with a smile.

“We’ll never give up on you, and we’ll have your back – no matter whatever happens. I hate to say it, but you’re stuck with us.”

“You both are amazing,” Sarina comments as she wipes some of the tears away. “But sometimes I question letting you guys and Chase grow closer. What if I’m just tainted and bad news? What if that’s just in my bloo-”

“If that was the case, Kyle and Sam never would’ve hired you,” Christopher cuts her off. “If that was the case, sympathy wouldn’t be in your vocabulary. You wouldn’t be feeling sorry for those around you, or sorry for yourself. You’ve shown so many signs of being great beyond what has happened that I don’t doubt who you are.”

“You told me on father’s day that your father was a great man,” Marcus starts, remembering their trip together. “You talked about how courageous he was in the line of duty, but you also mentioned how understanding he was if you brought a problem to his attention. You talked about how kind he could be in helping someone in trouble, and how compassionate he was to the point that you really thought he got their level. Sweetheart, there may be some bad seeds in your family, but I can tell you that you’re not one of them. If anything, you remind me of how you talk about your father. You need to carry that legacy forward…” Sarina nods her head, remembering the stories she shared with Marcus that day.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you both today, any day actually. Thank you for being here,” she comments as Marcus keeps her held close.

“It’s going to be okay….”

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

Saturday, October 7 – Charlotte Motor Speedway

Chase knew his mind should be focused on the upcoming practice session, but he couldn’t bring himself to think about. Instead, he was stuck on everything that had happened over the past couple of weeks.

He was thinking about Allison. How could she be found innocent? What if she did something, again? What if they didn’t escape it next time? They had already tempted fate too many times to count.

He was thinking about Chris. Would he actually be found guilty on both of these charges? Either way, he was going to jail having pled guilty to the others – but it would be nice to have the icing on the cake. But what if he convinced the guards to let him out sometime? What if he played the insanity card again, but yet succeeded, while in prison? What if these thoughts were just nothing of the possibility?

He was thinking about Sarina and her emotional breakdown as Marcus told him about. He was thinking about what Sarina had to say about it later on that night. He was thinking about those family connections, and whether it was a good idea. What if he just found more bad news? But what if he found something good?

Why was he thinking about all of this when he should be focused on his racecar and the playoffs? There was no way he would make the next round if his mind was elsewhere and they didn’t do a good job today in practice to get the right set-up to run well tomorrow.

“I know that look on your face….” Chase hears as he watches his father enter the garage stall. “That is a look of too much on the mind to process, and no time to focus. Am I right?” Chase nods his head as he quietly looks over towards his dad. “Is it because Sarina is in Winchester?”

“It has nothing to do – okay, it has something to do with her,” he answers. “But it’s not because she’s not here. I’d be having these thoughts no matter what.” Bill then looks at him intrigued, but nothing else needed to be said. Bill had gotten the lowdown on what happened at Chris’ trial as he was keeping tabs, making sure that justice was served for what happened.

“I heard that she was on the stand yesterday to speak about her brother’s relationship, and involvement.” Chase nods his head.

“Christopher and Marcus went with her. She had a complete breakdown afterwards, and then when she got home, she broke down again to me with all of her emotions and regrets.” Bill could sympathize with that happening, knowing it had to be tough to be in her shoes.

“It’s understandable. How would you feel if one day you woke up and found out that one of your sisters was doing stuff like that, and going behind your back?” Chase knew the reaction he would have, and it wouldn’t be pretty. It took a lot to wile him up, but that would do it.

“It’s not that I don’t understand it and get it. It’s just it breaks my heart to see her going through that – and with no family to lean on for support, on top of that.”

“Did you remind her that she has peop-”

“Marcus and Christopher did. Christopher related himself to a pesky brother who won’t leave her alone, while Marcus says he can be the caring and advising uncle.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing this conversation was going to get them nowhere. “Dad, what can I do to make it easier for her? I just hate seeing her in this much pain….”

“There’s no magical cure that you can follow, Chase. You can’t just wipe your hands and make it all better. It’s going to take time for her to come to grips with those emotions, and sort her way through them. It’s like she talked about before – she kept moving around the country, running, so there’s probably a lot that she never faced then. With this bringing all that out, on top of what happened, it’s like a tidal wave for her. The only way to fight that wave is to ride it. Be there for her, hug her, cuddle her, comfort her, hold her, assure her – just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing an amazing job even if it seems like you’re doing nothing at all. That’s all you can do, and at some point, you’ll both see that light and it’ll be okay.” Chase nods his head, accepting. It wasn’t the best answer that he could hear, but it was something.

“Thanks….” He then takes a deep breath, glancing towards the car, seeing as the guys were done the pre-session adjustments. “Now, I got a job to do…”

“Don’t let me stand in your way…” Bill then walks back out of the stall, glancing back with a small smile. He was willing to give Chase his space and let him grow, but also knew the times to step in and offer some advice.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 154: Frustration

Friday, September 29 – Dover International Speedway

“I am going to miss you this weekend,” Chase says as he sits in the lounge of the trailer.

“I am going to miss you more,” Sarina replies. He just smiles, as that response was no surprise from previous conversations. It was one of those split weekends as she was off to Las Vegas, while he was at Dover.

“Just remember – it’s the last weekend that we have this problem.”

“That makes the heart swell and feel good. Hopefully I make it worth my while out here…” He knew what she was eluding too, and he hoped the same – even if he wouldn’t be there to celebrate with her.

“Just remember to stay focused, do your best, and don’t be too hard on yourself. I meant what I said. You’re having a great rookie year.” It seemed like he was on repeat, saying the same words every week, but he was going to do that till they soaked in and meant something for her.

“That’s the plan, superstar. You better do the same. Put together a nice solid run and get yourself into the next round. One race at a time, right?” He smiles, knowing that was the goal at hand. It also felt good to have both Alan and Josh back in the fold.

“Exactly, and let’s make sure we call each other every night at a decent hour, too. I got to remember the time change.” Being that she was in Las Vegas, she was three hours behind him. Hence why he asked her to call that morning when she woke up, not wanting to call too early.

“Three hours, that’s all you have to remember. That, or you can call me an hour after my final time on track so you know I’m available and it’s not too late for you.” He liked how she immediately come up with a plan.

“Alright. Well, I got to go as practice is soon so I will talk to you later. I miss you, and I love you.”

“Love you, too. Stay safe, babes. Bye Chase.”

“Bye Sarina.” He hangs up, leaning back as he lets out a sigh. There was no time to focus on her any longer.

Taking a deep breath and standing up, he knew that the focus had to shift to that No. 24 Chevrolet. They had to have three good practices this weekend, qualify well, and run well, if they wanted to be in the next round.

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

Friday, September 29 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Sarina was pleased with how her first practice went as the truck felt decent, and they’d shown enough speed to put themselves in the top-10. Now it was just carrying that forward in the second session, and tomorrow.

“So you’re happy?” Kyle’s voice on the other end of the phone catches her attention.

“So far,” she answers as she relaxes in the hauler. Like every other weekend, she spent time debriefing not only with Marcus, but also with the boss, even if by phone on weekends like these. It was worth it every time as he had good advice.

“That’s good. Just follow this advice, though – try the high side in the second practice. You may be surprised.” She had to chuckle, knowing that was coming after her conversation with Marcus. She was a bottom feeder, and it showed during the first session. But at a place like Las Vegas, trying everywhere was critical.

“I’ll give it a shot, just for you and Marcus. Are you happy now?” She hears a chuckle at the other end.

“Actually, I’m greatly satisfied. Did you see where I was on the speed chart?” She smiles, having checked those speeds before her session. She was impressed by her boss but not surprised, and satisfied with the boyfriend.

“You’re doing great so far. Now let’s see if you can actually beat Truex on Sunday for a change.” She knew the comment would sting, but it was always fun to pick on Kyle a little bit.

“Are you sure you don’t want to be here on Sunday?” She was caught off-guard by him asking the question, but should’ve known it was coming. With being in Las Vegas, he had offered to fly her to Dover for Sunday’s Cup race so she could be there for Chase. However, she felt it was just not necessary as Chase would be fine by himself. Besides, she wanted to fly at least as possible if she could help it.

“I appreciate the offer, Kyle, but it’s fine. Chase will be fine one weekend without me.” Based on the phone conversation earlier, she knew that he’d probably prefer she accept the offer, though.

“But will you be fine?” She then lets out a sigh, shaking her head. When was she ever known to solely rely on a guy?

“I’m a grown woman, Mr. Busch. I can handle myself. How about you just focus on kicking ass this weekend, okay?”

“Alright, fine. Don’t say I never offered though. Good luck…”

“Thanks, and same to you. Bye Kyle.”

“Bye Sarina.”

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

Friday, September 29 – Dover International Speedway

Chase had to look back at the scoring monitor, decently satisfied. It wasn’t the best qualifying effort, but it was also not their best. It also didn’t help that he had just posted the slowest speed of the drivers in the third round. But still, starting 12th for Sunday wasn’t too shabby.

Knowing they were done for the day, he begins his walk back to the hauler and change. He debated sticking around and watching the K&N Pro Series event, or going to grab a bite to eat. Either way, it still felt a little weird not having his best friend to help make the decision with him.

“Chase!” He hears and glances back, rolling his eyes. He would’ve preferred to finish this walk without being bothered, but that obviously wasn’t happening.

“Hey Denny,” he says as his fellow competitor catches up with him.

“Hey. Where’s Sarina this weekend?” Chase was caught off-guard by the question as Denny was the first person to ask. He obviously didn’t follow the truck series schedule. Furthermore, why did he care?

“Las Vegas for the truck race. Where else would she be?” Denny felt like smacking himself in the head. That should’ve been obvious.

“Right, I’m sorry. I totally forgot about their schedule.” Chase just shakes his head, already wishing the conversation was over. “Bet it feels good to have Alan and Josh back this weekend.”

“Obviously…” Denny knew he had started off the conversation on the wrong nerve based on the responses, but felt a turnaround was possible.

“Tell me that you knew they wouldn’t get away with the crap they pulled there. I mean, there’s no way that they could’ve thought they’d get away with that.” Chase lets out a sigh, having grown annoyed of talking about it already.

“I didn’t know what they were up to, and that’s their decision. Listen, nice seeing you, but I need to go.” Chase then picked up the pace, hopefully Denny just simply obliged and headed another direction. He really didn’t need this discussion right now.

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

Saturday, September 30 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Sarina leans back against the truck following Saturday night’s truck race, letting out a sigh. She actually wished she was heading to Dover now as it would be a good way to forget the night.

She had started off great, running up front and looking poised for a good strong finish. However, the handling faded during the second half and she fell back some positions. Unable to fix the handling or make up ground, she ultimately crossed the finish line in 13th – exactly where she started.

“That sucked….” She comments as she takes a sip from a bottle of water.

“Yeah,” Marcus agrees with her as he glances over his notes. “I’m sorry. I tried everything I could.” She knew of the adjustments that they’d gone through, knowing it wasn’t for lack of effort.

“You did a great job from your perspective, Marcus. There’s nothing else you could’ve done. I maybe could’ve been a bit better on my feedback to you, or maybe tried a different line. We did what we could.” He nods his head in agreement, still not happy about it.

“Live and move on, right?” She nods her head. “We got a week off so I’m going to go through everything and make sure that we’re on our A-game for Talladega.” Her thoughts paused immediately as she remembered the plan for next week.

“Ah shit!” He then looks at her confused. “I told Chase that this was our last weekend apart. Well, that was a lie. He’s going to be at Charlotte, and I’m going to be at Winchester.”

“Right, because you agreed to run the Winchester 400 for Kyle?” She nods her head, remembering that discussion. She absolutely adored late model racing, and knew she needed a break from the chaos that was ensuing at the NASCAR level. It was why she agreed to take a weekend away to get some late model driving in. She wondered now, though, if that was the right decision.

“I absolutely want to be there for Chase and support him, and I damn well hate missing his races. But, I couldn’t pass up the chance. I mean, I love late models so much and I haven’t gotten to run as much as I wanted this year.” Marcus could understand why, seeing the chaos that had gone on in their lives.

“Chase will understand. You just need to explain why…” She nods her head, knowing that he wouldn’t say a thing even if he wasn’t happy. That’s just how he was – always making sure things were good for them both, no matter what. “By the way, it seems things are quiet on a court front for once…”

“We handed in our schedules and they’re supposed to work around those. Ultimately, it doesn’t work with the judge’s schedule that well so hence why we haven’t returned to court in Florida for my brother in what seems like forever. I’m supposed to speak next as to what happened. I’m ready for it. I’m not letting him get away with anything. When it comes to Bethany and Allison, it’s in the jury’s hands as to whether they want to lock Allison up for her doings or not.”

“You’d think the jury would’ve decided by now…” Sarina could accept that perspective, as it had been a couple weeks since Allison stated her full confession as to what happened.

“It’s a tough decision for them, I guess. Do you find fault in her actions or sum it up to a threat? I mean, if it was up to me, you know where she’d be right now.” Marcus could sympathize with that as he was in agreement.

“And until that’s decided, Bethany is on hold?” Sarina didn’t know what was up there, nor did she care. All that mattered to her was all guilty parties are held behind bars.

“I guess. I don’t know, nor do I care. I’m just glad that she’s finally been caught for being a total asshole.” Marcus laughs, though fully understood the viewpoint.

“Well, I do hope it works out for you both and Chase. You guys deserve happiness, and we’re going to get that first win soon.” She smiles, knowing that Marcus was right, as the next couple weeks produced some great opportunities. She then felt her phone buzz, glancing at it.

“Oh great, of course…” Marcus then looks at her confused. “Jury has reached a verdict on Alison, and they’re not waiting until Monday to give it out. So looks like I’m headed to Indiana instead of home, while Chase races this weekend. Isn’t that just swell?”

“I’m coming with you….” She nods her head, accepting, knowing support of any kind would be nice.

***********

Sunday, October 1 – Indiana Court Room

Sarina’s eyes focused on the floor as she watched Alison walk in, the judge file in, and the head jury member stand with his envelope in hand. Why was her stomach flip flopping so much?

“The defendant pled guilty and requested no time in jail due to coercion,” the judge begins. “How does the jury find the defendant in relation to the charges?”

“We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty, and therefore wave all charges,” the head juror states, causing Sarina’s jaw to drop immediately.

Sure, Bethany had threatened her. Sure, Allison was probably scared for her life in some ways. But to totally just let her off of every single charge? There had to be some guilt associated with the fact that she had followed the steps, cornered Chase, and almost succeeded in accomplishing what Bethany wanted.

“Thank you,” the judge states. “Ms. Reynolds, you may be released without any re-precautions. Let this be a warning to you about who you choose to associate with, and how you choose to handle situations. Court adjourned!”

The court room immediately begins to file out as Sarina sits there completely stunned and in shock still. How was this happening?

“If you would like, we can file a restraining order request against her for both you and Mr. Elliott,” the prosecutor states as she faces Sarina. “I know it’s not much at the end of the day with what she put you through, but it is something and security for the future.” Sarina nods her head, accepting the narrative, almost laughing back in response. It seemed ridiculous now.

“Restraining order is just a piece of paper,” she states as she stands up. “It doesn’t fix what she did, nor does it stop her from doing it again. You have to love our justice system, right?”

Sarina then turns and heads out of the court room without a single word as Marcus just follows quietly in return. He knew if she wanted to talk or say something, she would offer the first glimpse.

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

Sunday, October 1 – Dover International Speedway

Following a slew of media interviews, Chase returns back to the trailer, closing the door behind him and just leaning back against the counter.

“Fuck!” He could only let out as he reflected back to the final laps of the race just a half hour ago.

He had been leading and looking set to finally break through for his first career victory. However, lap traffic was another thing and he found himself stuck behind Ryan Newman. Fearing the car wouldn’t work up high, he stayed in the groove he was in, hoping a bit of respect would eventually be shown. Instead, Kyle was able to run him down, pass him, and score the win – with Chase finishing second instead.

Since that moment, those laps had been going through his mind repeatedly as he wondered what would’ve happened if he would’ve taken the chance. Would he have made it by Ryan? Would he have stopped Kyle from chasing him down or passing him? Would he have finally broke through for his first win?

Like he had earlier this year, another mistake had cost him a shot at finally being able to celebrate in victory lane like he desired.

Frustration, anger – it just seemed to consume him and matched perfectly when he looked over his text messages, seeing how Allison was just getting off scot-free after everything she had done. How does someone just get away with drugging someone and bombing a bunch of others like that? It didn’t even seem fair.

He notices the door crack open a little, expecting Alan or another crew member as he glances over. He was almost ready to yell back and tell them to go jump in a lake with how he was feeling at that moment. Instead, he was caught with his guard down when he saw Jimmie instead.

“Can we talk?” Jimmie asks quietly as he takes a careful slow step inside.

“What about?” Chase questions in response as he focuses his eyes back forward on the cabinets.

“Those last lap couple of laps, and what you’re feeling. I have some advice that may help you…” Chase glances over slightly, before turning back forward. He wanted to run and hide and just dwell in the disappointment and frustration. But, that wouldn’t make things better for the future. If he wanted to move forward, he needed to figure it out and do what he needed to do so this didn’t repeat itself again. Maybe listening to Jimmie was a good idea.

“I’m all ears….”