Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 114: Solid Rebound

Thursday, July 6

Chase walked into the garage, smiling as some crew members from fellow teams walked over to ask how he was, followed by some other drivers. He simply answered their quick question, thanking them for the well wishes.

He makes his way into the motorcoach area, smiling as he lays his eyes immediately on Sarina. He walks over, pulling her close without any hesitation, followed by a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m surprised you survived a day without me,” he comments as she rolls her eyes.

“Just be glad that you haven’t heard half of the crap around here yet,” she tells him as he looks at her confused. “You got my text about Briscoe, right? Well, he was one of many with comments.” Chase firmly wraps his arms around her.

“Listen, those comments don’t bother me at all. I’m here to do my job, and that’s drive a racecar as far as I can and try to win for my team. If anybody wants to try and create other drama around us for whatever reason, let them, because it doesn’t faze me – same as the pressure, and whatever else. All that matters to me is what we have, together.” She smiles as she lifts his sunglasses off his face, looking into his eyes.

“Do you realize how special you are?” He chuckles as he takes his keys out of his pocket, twirling them around. He then reaches over, unlocking the door for the motorcoach.

“After you….” Sarina heads in first, with Chase going to follow her, before a hand lands on his shoulder.

“Can we talk first?” He hears and feels like rolling his eyes immediately as he turns around to face his mom. “Are you sure by what you told her? I mean, there’s going to be lots said. People are going to question your actions based on being with her after what Chris did. People are going question everything about her due to her brother, and her background – the same questions that I’ve been reminding you of. Are you ready for that to be thrown in your face?” Chase nods his head.

“Just like I told you on Monday, and will repeat 10 times over if need be, I have her back and nothing is going to change that,” he informs his mom. “Her brother’s actions are not her fault. That is his fault for choosing to do that for whatever reas-”

“What about the fact that she let it go on for longer than it should’ve?” Chase crosses his arms, having asked the question himself initially.

“There was no concrete evidence pointing him to the crime prior to Ryan’s admission and them finding the vials. Secondly, she loved her brother and wanted to believe in a future together reunited just like they were when they were younger. It’s understandable that she didn’t believe it. You wouldn’t believe it if someone close to you decided to do something like that, would you?” Cindy lets out a sigh, shaking her head.

“But you said it yourself – you didn’t know whether you could trust him. That should’ve been a warni-”

“It was a warning, and she did approach him so it wasn’t like she didn’t take any steps. I was guarded more than she was without a doubt, and reasonably so based on what happened. However, I will admit that I started to believe in the change for awhile there before a couple off-key conversations happened. So while you want to accuse her, you can accuse me the same thing because I also trusted him a little there.”

“There’s nothing that I can to say change your mind?” Chase shakes his head no. “You know, I do this because I love you and I want to protect you. I don’t want to see you hurt like that ever again, and I can’t help but look at her because that’s three times now. Normally it’s three times and you’re out. I also know what everybody in this garage is capable of doing with rumors and stories from your father, and I don’t want to see you go through that.” Chase places his hands on his mom’s shoulders as he keeps his eyes locked on her. If they were going to have this discussion, might as well get it all out at once.

“I appreciate how much you care for me, and how you’re looking out for me. But with all due respect, there’s nothing you need to worry about when it comes to Sarina. I won’t get hurt with her, and as I told her – what is said won’t bother me at all, no matter who says it. I’m a big boy; I can handle it.” He then gives her a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He then turns on his heels and heads inside, slipping the door closed as his eyes set on Sarina who was sitting on the couch.

“The usual discussion?” Sarina questions and Chase nods his head. “Chase, I’m sorry….” He walks over, sitting beside her.

“I told you that you never have to apologize, right?” He asks and she nods her head. “Well then, don’t apologize. Besides, she’s starting to come around slowly. She told me that she is just doing this because of how much she cares about me, how she wants to protect me and what not. I think she’s beginning to see why I love you so much.” She smiles as she places her hand on his leg.

“Well how about you begin taking advantage of my caring nature and we go head back there, and relax for a bit? You’re supposed to be resting and building up that energy, huh?” He lets out a sigh and nods his head. “It’s going to be one of those rainy ass days so I say we spend it being as lazy as possible, together as much as we can, until I have to race tonight.”

“Do I have a welcome seat on your pit box tonight?” She smiles and shakes her head yes, remembering her discussion with Kyle.

“Let’s just say that the boss is glad that we are back together.” Chase was glad to hear that as he didn’t need to hear any backlash from Kyle.

“It’s probably because he knows it puts you in a better mood.” She chuckles as she stands up, pulling at his hand.

“Come on. You need to listen to doctor’s orders.” He lets out a sigh as he stands and follows her. He wasn’t one for spending time relaxing quietly, so it was tough to follow the orders of keeping quiet and being lazy. However, if he had to follow them, this was the best way possible.

“Yes, Nurse Ott.”

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

After a quiet afternoon, the pair ventured out to the garage area, where Sarina headed into the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler for a pre-team meeting, followed by getting ready. The actions left Chase to himself in the garage area, obviously now surrounded by the same comments that Sarina heard the day before. Of course, they were heightened with the pair having being spotted holding hands.

“You look quieter than normal….” Chase hears and glances over, seeing Ryan leaning against a wall pillar.

“I could ask you why you look lost in a garage, but I’d assume that you’re here to watch Austin and Chase (Briscoe),” Chase replies as Ryan nods his head. “Besides, I’m normally quiet anyway.”

“Touché, but it just seems quieter, and I’ve heard all the comments that people have been saying. For the record, I have your back and I’m glad you guys are back to square one. As long as her brother stays locked away, I have no issues.” Chase walks over, leaning against the wall beside him.

“We’re both on agreement on that, and so is Sarina. She’s been checking in to make sure he isn’t pulling any tricks at all.” Ryan nods his head.

“And what about the comments?” Chase lets out a sigh as he glances around.

“I can’t deny what I’ve heard. I’m surprised by who has said some of the things, to be honest. I thought some of these guys in the garage were nicer and more understanding than that. I mean, hearing that Kyle only kept Sarina because she’s a girl, and hearing that I’m messing up my perfect life by aligning myself with a witch like her isn’t heartwarming.” Ryan couldn’t help but shudder at the comments. “But, for the most part, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t really listened to any of it and just let it blow over my head. I’m focused on two things – racing this weekend, and my girl.”

“So you’re for sure racing on Saturday night despite everything that happened?” Chase nods his head, feeling confident that he’d be able to endure the full 400 mile distance despite the heat and everything, even with still working at building his strength entirely back up. “Well, I wish ya the best of luck and hope you do well.”

“Right back at you.” The pair then fell quiet, waiting for their respective drivers as Ryan thought over whether to ask the next question.

“Has Sarina told you her thoughts on the comments at all?” Chase glances over, debating whether he should open up about the text message.

“Oh, about the fact that Austin approached her unfairly yesterday entering the garage with a bitchy comment? Yeah, that happened and she wasn’t pleased just because nobody would expect that out of him. You’d think Tim would’ve raised him better than that.” Ryan rolls his eyes, having heard the rough details from a couple crew members.

“I heard he apologized, though.” Chase nods his head. “I mean, I know that doesn’t excuse him, but hey, it’s something. Oh, and for the record, I have no agreement on that.”

“Other than that, she’s her usual self – focused on doing the best that she can and kicking his ass, fully without any other thought interrupting her. I mean, that’s what makes her so good – her focus. She will stay focused and keep pushing harder, and also take in whatever lessons she can. She was texting Christopher last night while texting me to get more advice.”

“They are on good terms?” Chase wasn’t quite sure how far that went, honestly.

“Working as teammates, and probably as friends too, but I won’t confirm it.” Ryan nods his head.

“Has she mentioned her brother or family at all?” Chase looks over confused. “We both said that it was going to be something that’d tear her apart and affect her emotionally. I was wondering if she began talking, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“She hasn’t said much, yet.” Chase glances down, before taking a deep breath. “Her tactic is to avoid everything, and focus on racing as her escape. I’m letting her do that right now, while continuing to assure her that I have her back. That way when it gets to where she wants to talk, she’ll open up to me rather than running away from it. That’s all I can do.”

“Well, I hope it works out because I want to see you both happy.” Chase smiles, wishing for the same thing.

“She deserves it.” They then smile as they watch her emerge from the hauler, dressed in her familiar white uniform with pony tail fixed appropriately, heading their way.

“Don’t be getting any ideas, Ryan,” she states with a smirk, walking up to Chase. “I see you staring…” Ryan then looks at her as innocently as possible.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about as I wasn’t looking at nothing,” Ryan comments as Chase gives him a glance.

“Just because white shows everything doesn’t mean that you need to stare,” Chase says as he wraps his arms around her. “We know you’re jealous of our relationship. When Emma stops her cock-blocking games, I’ll find you a girl.” Ryan just rolls his eyes as Sarina laughs.

“Keep talking all you want, but remember who got you with the orange juice.” Sarina’s smile immediately disappears, turning into a ice cold stare on Ryan.

“That prank war isn’t over by a long shot, Blaney,” she says before walking away.

“You started a war that you’re not going to win,” Chase adds as he follows her with a smile of his own. It was nice to be getting back to their joking ways.

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

Sarina leans against the truck, sipping on a bottle of water following her post-race interviews, smiling as Marcus and Chase make their way over.

“Solid rebound,” Chase comments as he gives her a hug. “That was a job well done, considering.” She couldn’t help but agree. After running up front all race, she got spun at the beginning of the third stage, but managed to fight back for a fifth-place finish.

“Thank you,” she replies. “I just can’t help but think should’ve, could’ve and would’ve. If we could’ve stayed up front, we would’ve been able to possibly fight for the win and should’ve been right there with Christopher.” She then lets out a sigh as she takes another mouthful.

“Don’t let it eat at you. You’re performing great for a rookie – just ask anybody. The wins and success will come if you keep running like you are. You’re doing great.” He gives her a pat on the shoulder as Marcus looks on, nodding his head in agreement.

“Kyle found a gem in you, and we’re going to show everybody that soon,” he adds. “We’re working towards that. We’re running up front – now we just need to put it all together. Patience, young grasshopper.” She smiles as she simply gives her crew chief a hug.

“As long as we survive a night on dirt, I won’t complain,” she comments, knowing the next truck race was at Eldora Raceway. “That’s a whole new ballgame for me so it’ll be interesting.” Marcus chuckles nervously, though wasn’t too worried after seeing others adjust quickly.

“You have a natural feel. We’ll be fine…”

“You can also ask Christopher for advice,” Chase adds and Sarina nods her head, though slightly surprised. She thought that Chase was all set on those two not talking following Christopher’s previous comments.

“Keep doing what you’re doing, focus on your thing, and everything else will fall into place,” Marcus reminds her. “I’ll see you next week.” He then heads off as she turns to Chase.

“He’s right. It’ll work out, everything….” He then pulls her into a hug, knowing that the spin was still eating at her, as he rubs her back.

As she thought it over, she knew being frustrated with the spin was small in comparison to everything going on. If that was the only complaint on the day, than perhaps it wasn’t too bad and maybe Marcus was right. Maybe it was time for that happy ever after, finally.

Though letting out a sigh and seeing a missed call on her phone, she knew that was further from the truth given everything going on. She shakes her head, wishing the accompanying thoughts would disappear again as she deletes the notification.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 98: The Highs and Lows

Through the whole week, Sarina was quieter than normal – something that bugged Chase.

He knew that she wasn’t one to talk about her feelings much and guarded at times, so it wasn’t a surprise. He just wished on some occasions that she’d open up to him.

“Everything okay?” He questions as they’re packing for the weekend. She just shakes her head yes, double checking her bag. “If something is on your mind, you can talk to me.”

“I know; I trust you – completely,” she tells him as she looks across the room at him. “It’s just a couple different thoughts on my mind. Do you ever get the thought that you left something in the rearview and it wouldn’t bother you again, but it does?” Chase looks at her puzzled, thinking it over. Based on life experiences, it was hard to relate as he could see where she was going.

“I thought I could be completely over what happened with your brother, but that plagues my paranoia at times. Does that count?” She thinks it over, though rolling her eyes at the same time. Chase’s comment proved her point thoroughly and that her brother was right.

“Chris and I got into a discussion about me ignoring the idea of the family reunion and pissing off Bethany a couple weeks ago. He told me that I could change my name and runaway, but it would never leave me.” She then sits down on the bed as Chase makes his way around to her side. “I get that you can’t choose your parents and what happens around you. I get that decisions were made by my brother and my father that I cannot control. But regardless, they affected me and changed me. I just wish some days that I could look forward without that single thought in the rearview.” Chase sits beside her, grabbing her hand with his.

“We all wish that there are things we could just make disappear or change. I wish some days that I could’ve met my cousin Casey. I never got the chance to get to know him, but the stories that I hear from my mom, dad and Ernie are just crazy. There’s also some decisions that I’ve made through the years that I wish I could change – like completely going off on you that nigh-”

“I deserved that, Chase. I wasn’t truthful and in the end, you’re the one that got hurt.” Chase knew that she was right, however he could still never blame her for what happened.

“You were afraid, scared; you had lots of emotions and reasons for what you did. Remember, I don’t fault you for that. Besides all that, listen, I know your past affects you – it’s why you wouldn’t let me in at first.” She chuckles, remembering how much she forced him to push before a first date.

“You were a good help getting ready for Berlin, though.” He chuckles, remembering the couple of long nights in her garage helping her with the late model.

“As I recall, you had a decent finish that weekend, too.” She shakes her head yes as a smile forms on her face. “We’ve both heard the saying – what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger. I know you want to pretend some days as if nothing happened and you’re all powerful and invincible. However, remember that you’re human and you have feelings. It’s okay to have regrets, anger, sadness, and whatever else you’re feeling. Just know that you can always talk to me about it. And by the way, your past doesn’t affect how I see you. I still see you as the wonderful girl that I fell for, despite the desire to beat you so badly. But I also have more respect for you, who you are, and the strength that you have.” She smiles as she wraps her arms around, kissing her lips.

“You just know what to say at the right time. Thank you.” He gives her a kiss in response before standing up, and going back over to packing.

“Just think – this time next week, we will be headed to Florida together.” She smiles, knowing that was a good idea. “I still say you should fly out to California on Saturday with Amy.” Sarina knew the offer was very tempting, and considering that her mood was brightened, maybe it was a good idea.

“I will think about it, okay?” He crosses his fingers as he picks up his bag and leaves the room.

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

“So, did you talk to her?” Bethany asks as she meets up with Chris at Iowa Speedway. She was surprised that she was still on the list for available VIP passes for Sarina after their fight. She could only muster that she had forgotten to remove her name.

“She isn’t budging on going to the family reunion, or any thought of that matter,” Chris answers as Bethany rolls her eyes. “It’s like she doesn’t give a shit about anybody in the family.”

“She has to care about you to stand up for you in front of Chase.” Chris knew that was true as he looked out to the track, watching her practice.

“Sure, I supposed. But what about you? What about Uncle James? What about Uncle Nick? I mean, I get her reasons against Leon, but come on. There may have been some ruffled feathers at times, but no family is perfect.”  He then spins around. “I’ve always wished we could go back to when we were little kids and having everything just right.”

“Sometimes you don’t get what you wish for, Chris.” Chris then turned around as a smile formed on his face.

“No, but there’s other things that you can do so it works out as you want. It’s just working up to the master plan.” Bethany then looks over at him confused as he simply continues to smile.

“Chris Dryer, do I want to know what you got in mind?” Chris shakes his head no.

“Let’s just say that the world as she knows it is going to have some fun, and she will learn that you don’t turn your back on family.” He then heads for the stairs, as Bethany places her hand on his shoulder.

“What are you planning? Because whatever it is, I want in…” He then smiles as he turns back to face her.

“The past couple weeks and those accidents that have been happening to those around them is nothing out of surprise. It’s just working up to the top hits…..”

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

Sarina climbs out of the truck, pumping her fist in the air, before walking over and wrapping both arms around Marcus.

“Way to go!” Marcus tells her as they take a look at the top of the scoreboard to double check. Sure enough, she had scored herself the pole for that night’s race.

“Thank you for an awesome truck,” she replies. “I had a good feeling coming here, and damn, it just feels even better. I can’t believe it.”

“Just make sure to remember it’s a long night, and not to over jump the gun.” She shakes her head, knowing that.

She then makes her way through the crew members, giving them high-fives, before giving her post-qualifying interview. Once she was done the interview, she went through the usual routine of post-qualifying media center, followed by taking photos as the pole sitter. She easily accepted the accolades, glad that everything had come together perfectly after practicing well and knowing she had a good Toyota Tundra under her.

With some time to spare once she was done, she took her phone out of her pocket. She knew at about the same time as she was qualifying, Chase would be on track in Sonoma for their second practice session. Oh the fun of handling a time difference between their events. She smiled as she read his quick text message of congratulations, obviously sent between practice ones. She replied back, flipping through a couple others.

She then goes into the mobile internet, set to load the leaderboard on NASCAR.com. As she watches the main page load, her jaw drops in seeing an image of the No. 24 Chevrolet with the entire front end ripped off. She takes a deep breath, reminding herself to stay calm. If Chase was hurt in anyway, Alan or one of the guys would have texted her already.

She loads the video, watching as he gets loose through turn 10, spinning around and making contact with the outside concrete barrier. She notices the edge of the bumper catch the wall, ripping away from the car. She then sits down on the bench she had come across in her walk, telling herself repeatedly that the car looked worse than the hit actually was based on the video.

“Hey sis, are you okay?” She hears in the midst of her thoughts, glancing up to see her brother standing there.

“Yeah,” she answers as she flips screens, sending a quick text message to Alan, Chase, and a couple crew members at once. She kept telling herself not to worry, but she couldn’t help but send the message.

“What’s wrong?” Chris then sits down beside her as he watches her furiously send the message.

“Chase wrecked in final practice at Sonoma.” She sits back, hoping that she heard a ping back in response soon.

“Is he okay?” She holds her phone up, rolling her eyes, before clutching it back close to her. “I’m sure he’s fine. You know, you worry too much.”

“Well I’m sorry I damn well care about how he is doing. That’s part of loving someone, in case you didn’t realize that.” She then hears the phone ping, chuckling as she looks at the video that Jared sent her of Chase giving her a quick wave & dance. She sends back a thank you message, letting out a sigh of relief.

“What’d I tell you?” She just rolls her eyes as she sits back.

“It’s better to know and be safe, rather than regret it later. It’s a little comfort in having received or seen something. At least the boys get that.” She then stands up, taking a quick glance back at Chris. “Oh, and you can tell Bethany that as of Kentucky, she’s off the VIP list. Yeah, I saw you talking with her and my answer hasn’t changed. Now, I have a driver’s meeting to go to.” She then heads off as Chris just smiles.

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

Chase smiles as he keeps his eyes on the clock, watching the minutes tick by. He had promised himself not to dial her number for 20 minutes after the race. He knew that she’d be doing interviews, debriefing with the guys, and getting changed out of her driver’s suit. He figured if he gave her enough time to go through all that, she’d be ready to chit chat for awhile before flying out with the team.

18 minutes….19 minutes….19 minutes and 15 seconds….19 minutes and 30 seconds….19 minutes and 45 sec…

“Screw it!” He lets out as he hits dial on her number, lying back in the hotel room. Being out in California, he had forgone the motorhome route and instead split a hotel with Ryan Blaney.

“Hey!” She immediately answers the phone call, full of happiness.

“Nice job tonight, rookie. I’d say that laps led with a nice sixth-place finish is a great step in the right direction. You are finding your groove, and Marcus is giving you something to work with.” She smiles as she walks through the hauler, slipping the door closed to the lounge as she enters.

“Why, thank you sir. I appreciate the compliments from a Cup Series driver who has a lot of talent.” He then chuckles.

“I mean it. You did great out there. I think I could give you a couple restart tips, but not too shabby.” She then flops back, letting out a sigh. She knew the last restart could’ve gone a little better as there was a chance that she could’ve had a top-three finish if the others didn’t get the run on her.

“I’d appreciate those tips, Mr. Elliott. Actually, I have to say that tonight was just purely amazing. Can we race here every week? I mean, Iowa is beyond anything that I’ve done before.  I can’t explain how much fun I had tonight going three, four-wide at times and trying every groove. It has to be the funnest race of the year – besides racing you at Atlanta.” He smiles, knowing both truck races that he had gotten to run this year had been fun. He was wondering if possibly GMS would let him run another two later on this year.

“I always liked going to Iowa, too. Kentucky is just as much fun as that, but on a bigger scale. You’re set to find out why guys like Matt Crafton never want to leave the truck series.” She knew that she couldn’t wait for that, as a fun summer of racing would be a great way to put the past couple of weeks behind her. “So, are you coming out to California?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I still haven’t quite decided yet.” He lets out an aggravated sigh. He thought it’d be an instant yes, hence the text messages to Amy already.

“Oh come on. You know you want to see me.” She then chuckles as there was no way to lie about that.

“Hm, but I could hang around North Carolina this weekend. I could spend some time on the lake, work on my tan a little. I could even go to Hickory for a nice short track night out. You’re cutting into my fun time.” He couldn’t argue with her suggestions for a fun weekend, but that didn’t mean he was giving up yet.

“I still say coming and hanging out with me would be more fun. Besides, I miss our cuddles. I could use some tonight.” She then lets out a sigh, knowing that he was using the sympathy card on her for the qualifying wreck.

“Chase, good try but you’re fine and you’re going to do well tomorrow in qualifying, and race well on Sunday. I believe in you.”

“You should still come….” She then smiles as she finishes getting changed.

“I guess I should. Someone needs to keep your butt in line.” He smiles, letting out a fist pump.

“Oh hell no – I never agreed to sharing a hotel room with the both of you,” Ryan lets out from his side of the room as Chase looks over. “Oh no. I’m not listening to kissy sounds and cuddles each night. No way. That’s not what I agreed to.”

“Think of it this as a bonus – you can torment Blaney,” Chase teases as Ryan flips the finger at him.

“I’m sure there’s plenty of sounds that I can make to give him nightmares,” Sarina comments, followed by making some sexual noises over the phone. Chase breaks out laughing as he sees the look on Ryan’s face.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Ryan says as he throws a pillow across the room at Chase, making him laugh even harder.

“Suddenly, this weekend got a whole lot more entertaining. See you soon, boys!” Chase then hangs up as he looks over at Ryan with a smile, with Ryan just rolling his eyes.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 97: Michigan

Sunday, June 18

Chase wakes up the next morning, getting himself some breakfast.

Remembering how well practice went and how last year was, confidence seemed to come easy that morning. They just had to put together a solid 400 miles and perhaps today would be the day.

He was focused on eating his breakfast when he heard a knock at the door.

He gets up and walks over, half-expecting his parents. That would’ve been fine with him, considering it was father’s day and there was nothing wrong with seeing them anytime.

Though when he opens the door, he sees Alan standing there, catching him off-guard. They hadn’t agreed to any pre-race meeting.

“Good morning,” he says as he lets the crew chief in with ease.

“Morning,” Alan replies simply as he walks inside. He then sits on the couch as Chase walks by him to where his plate sat on the table. “Whatcha eating?”

“Bacon, eggs, toast and some orange juice. I would’ve made you some if you would’ve told me you were coming.” Alan chuckles, having grown used to some of their pre-race breakfast meetings. It was always a good weekend when they avoided those as that meant no last minute discussions.

“Sorry for the surprise visit. I actually came by because something came to my attention this morning, courtesy of Jared.” Chase then looks over, curious. It was never good when the crew members brought something to their chief’s attention.

“So why are we starting at the back this week then?” Alan looks on surprised by the response.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with the racecar, actually.” Chase was now even more confused. First the surprise meeting, followed by a finding by a crew member. “Do you remember when Bubba passed out last week during his post-race interview?”

“He was dehydrated, pissed at himself. I texted him later on to see how he was.” Alan shakes his head, surprised at how underwraps it had been kept.

“Welcome to your latest incident under the poison investigation. Jared said they pulled him for more questioning on whether he recognized anybody that was seen around the RPM pit or Bubba post-race with drinks that had been around him a couple weeks ago.” Chase shakes his head in disbelief.

“No way….” Alan shakes his head yes. “You’d think Bubba would’ve said something, considering he knows one of my crew members had been affected already.”

“It seems as though NASCAR and Richard Petty Motorsports wanted to keep it under wraps. You want to see the headlines when it gets out that a driver was poisoned? Hello paranoia 101, especially considering all the headlines about him going into the weekend.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, as he had seen the comments already by people on social media. He wished people could just leave the racism behind them, and get with the 21st century.

“Well, they are doing a good job at it…” Alan watches Chase carefully as he notices the young man thinking. “What?”

“Speak, please….” Chase lets out a sigh.

“Christopher Bell mentioned to Kyle that Sarina’s brother has been at the track every time something has happened. They flew in for Sunday’s race once she was done racing at Texas. Again, it’s another time that it checks out. Plus, we still can’t place him for that one time remember.” Alan crosses his arms.

“So you’re starting to believe the theory more and more based on what he told you that day, which you haven’t told me yet, and coincidence? Just by chance, have you said anything to Sarina?” Chase shakes his head no immediately.

“What evidence do I have to go by? She’ll think that it’s coming completely from left field, that I’m paranoid, and shoot it back in my face. Heck, I might as well kiss the progress that I’ve made away.” Alan knew there was a good chance of that, but he couldn’t let his own guard down.

“And what if something happens to you, or this gets outta control? I mean, we’ve been alright so far with everybody being fine. But what if the worse happens?” Chase knew there was a chance of that, but he wasn’t changing his approach.

“Right now, I believe that it is my own paranoia just because of what happened and the fact that I can never trust him, ever. However, if there’s any sign of evidence, I will be the first one to be knocking at her door.” Alan shakes his head in agreement. It seemed like a good plan. “Now, can we focus on today?”

“Of course. We have some goals to accomplish, right?” Chase smiles and shakes his head yes.

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

Sarina takes a deep breath as she looks into the graveyard. She clutches the rose to her chest, taking another deep breath, before walking forward. She slowly walks down the walkaway, hearing the footsteps in toe. It had been last minute, but she was glad that she had company.

“Thank you for coming,” she whispers quietly as she looks back over her shoulder at Marcus.

“It’s not a problem,” he replies as he pats her shoulder lightly, before giving her some space. “Your brother didn’t want to come?” She shakes her head no.

“In his mind, my father caused his own problems and only made my brother’s life worse.” She shakes her head as she stops, glancing down at her feet. “He could be further from the truth, actually. He was trying to help him, even if he went about it the wrong way.”

“Take your time. I’ll stand here and just watch over, or come closer if you want. I can give you a hug, hear you out. Whatever you need, Sarina.” She shakes her head, accepting, as she takes another careful deep breath. She then makes her way onto the grass, walking up to the stone as she places the rose on top.

“Happy Father’s Day, daddy. Just like every other year, I’m here to say the same thing – I miss you, and wish you were here with me every day. You always my inspiration, and the reason why I think I took the chaotic life that I did. I wish you were here to see where I am now, and watch me drive for someone as amazing as Kyle. Heck, I wish you could meet Chase. I know you were always a Darrell Waltrip fan and wanted him to wreck Bill one night, but heck – his kid turned out amazing.” Marcus couldn’t help but chuckle at that comment.

“So your dad wasn’t the biggest Elliott fan?” She shakes her head.

“He was one of those ones that desired the crazier personalities, like Waltrip. Maybe that’s why I’m a little hard-headed and stubborn sometimes, just like him.” Sarina stops, taking a deep breath. “I miss you. I hope you’re proud of me. I wish you were here. Thank you for everything….” She then turns around, wiping a stray from her eyes. She then keeps walking, feeling her legs to start to give out. Marcus instantly reaches out, grabbing her and pulling her close.

“Ssssh, it’s okay. I’ve got you….” He keeps her held close as he rubs her back. “I’ve got you….”

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

Chase unlocks the door, walking in the house and shutting it behind him. He slips his shoes off as he sets his phone on the table.

It had been a solid day, capped off with another runner-up finish. While he wanted to be disappointed, he couldn’t be as they finished better than they ran all day, and that’s all you could ask for. He knew if they kept working at it, his day would come.

He looks into the living room, smiling as he sees her curled up on the couch. Marcus had texted him earlier about their quick trip to New York. He makes his way into the living room, grabbing the blanket off of the other chair, and slipping it over her.

“Chase?” She says a little groggy, looking up at him. “Hey babes…”

“Hey,” he replies as she sits up. “How are you?” She then lets out a sigh as she looks around the room.

“How long have I been sleeping for?” He shrugs his shoulders, showing her what time it was. “Wow, five hours. I was going to watch the recording of the race and then I just zonked out.” He sits down beside her, wrapping an arm around her.

“It’s okay. I understand. Emotionally drained, it happens. Don’t fret. You didn’t miss much. I just finished second to Kyle Larson.” She then grabs his hand, rubbing it as she leans against him.

“Your day will come….” He looks into her eyes.

“I don’t care about that right now. All I care about is you. I totally forgot about how you would be feeling today, and I hate that. I’m sorry. I should’ve texted or called you, or something….” She shakes her head.

“I didn’t want to mess up your focus today, and it’s fine. You’re here now, and that’s what matters. I love you.” She leans in and kisses his lips.

“I love you, too. Wanna go upstairs?” She shakes her head yes as she gets up and follows him up the stairs.

“Can we just cuddle and watch a movie?” He spins around and smiles.

“That was my plan. I have someone you should meet – Chase Race-a lot.” She then looks on surprised.

“Oh really? Is he cute?” He shrugs his shoulders. “Wait, how do you have Cars 3 already?” Chase smiles as he pulls the DVD out of his bag, and places it on the bed.

“There’s perks to be one of the stars of the movie. Now, are you ready to see my staring role?” She then rolls her eyes as she flops back in the bed.

“Sure, but I heard that Inside Laney is cooler.” Chase rolls his eyes as he pops the movie in, before slipping his shirt off and climbing in the bed with her. He pulls her close, keeping her cuddled in his arms, as they take in the move together.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 93: A Watch Party

Everybody meets up in the hotel room, taking various spots on the pair of couches and floor with snacks and drinks spread out. It was going to be an entertaining night….

“Calling it now – Johnny Sauter for the win!” Alan proclaims, causing a couple surprised glances.

“You’re seriously saying that in front of Sarina’s boy?” Eddie D’Hondt questions as Alan shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m going to win….”

“In your dreams,” Chase says, having a good feeling about that night.

“I’m taking Bell,” Eddie comments, causing Chase to roll his eyes. “We all know who Chase is taking.”

“BKR trucks deserve a win – Briscoe or Cindric, I don’t give a damn which one,” Jared Seate comments.

“How are you guys betting against Crafton on an intermediate track?” Chad Avrit wonders, noting down everyone’s picks on a piece of paper.

“Well you guys are unfair in taking all the good picks, but I’ll snag Rhodes,” Jared Erspamer says.

“Guess that leaves me Nemechek,” Nick O’Dell figures as he glances through the driver’s list. “Can we come up with a better picking order next time?”

“Long as I get Sarina each time, I don’t care,” Chase says as the boys just roll their eyes.

All the eyes focused on the screen, watching Sarina lead the first several laps ahead of the field to Chase’s joy. Though as they got into the run, there was no stopping Johnny Sauter as he made the pass, taking the lead with a smile forming for Alan.

As the guys focused on various parts of the event, Chase focused on Sarina and how she was running, watching her fade back a couple spots. He watched as she dropped back to eighth by the end of the stage, knowing some adjustments were needed for the long haul.

“You’re not growing nervous, are you?” Jared questions, eyes focused on Chase. “There’s still quite a bit to go….”

“I’m confident in Marcus and know that they’ll get her working better,” he comments, knowing that Marcus was always good in adjusting for Timothy Peters through the years and had grown a good reputation with Sarina so far. He just hoped that paid off tonight.

“I told you that I’d win!” Alan comments, as he steals the chip bowl from Chad, earning a stern look from him.

“That’s just a stage – doesn’t mean shit,” Chad says as Alan looks on, intrigued.

“Do you realize how much that one playoff point could come into play come November?” Chad knew that Alan was right, but wasn’t set to give in.

“It doesn’t matter who is leading now, but who gets the white and black flag at the end of the race, and I told you who’d that be.”

“It’s not going to be Crafton tonight,” Chase comments. “Notice how much he is struggling on the get go of a run? He loses too much time.” Chad rolls his eyes, but he knew that Chase was right in his comments.

“Junior Joiner can make just as good as an adjustment as Marcus so don’t be counting your chickens yet,” Chad states. “Besides, I think he’s running better than your girl, and that’s how the night is going to go…”

“Those are fighting words,” Nick O’Dell comments, holding up a pillow as he peeks from around it, causing laughs.

“I don’t want any food fights tonight, okay?” Alan declares. “I don’t want to tell Rick that I had to void the security deposit due to needing them to clean the room since I had a bunch of rowdy kids as crew members get into a food fight, again.” The boys laugh, remembering the last time they got together to watch something – hockey – and the result being food flying across the room as they debated penalties.

“I still say that call against Crosby was unfair,” Chad states as Nick rolls his eyes.

“Will you let it go already?” Nick questions. “Your team is in the finals. Shouldn’t that be a big enough reason to forget?” Chad shakes his head no as Nick lets out a sigh. “Ridiculous. I hope Nashville kicks his ass.”

“And I hope you choke on your chips.” Nick looks on shocked as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Boys, they’re going back green,” he says. “Let’s just focus on the race, please…..”

Everybody quiets down as the race goes back green for the second stage. Just like the first stage, everything went smoothly without any major incidents. While Sauter led throughout, it’d be Christopher Bell snagging the stage victory with Sarina finishing eighth as she ran just outside the top-10 throughout.

“Come on Marcus,” Chase comments, fingers crossed that Marcus actually adjusted the truck enough this time.

“Any comment, crew chief?” Eddie asks as he looks over at Alan, in reference to Christopher beating Johnny.

“That’s not the final checkered on the night so like they said, no counting chickens yet,” Alan says. “She seems like she’s loose. If he would go up on the trackbar or adjust the air pressures, she’ll probably be fine.” Chase knew that Alan was probably right, hoping Marcus got the idea based on what they were seeing.

“Isn’t it tricky though with the turns configured a little differently?” Jared Seate questions and Alan shakes his head yes.

“But we got it trickier with Pocono having three different corners. By the way, Chase, I want you to jot down after what you felt each corner and scale it so I can think it over tonight.” Chase shakes his head accepting as he takes the piece of paper from the crew chief.

“Chasey got homework….”

“Jared is still a little brat,” Chase comments, causing some laughs amongst the group.

Everybody turned serious as the race went back to green, with Christopher leading as Chase Briscoe moved into the second spot, looking for every way he could around the No. 4. All eyes were focused on the battle for the lead – well, except for a pair, who were watching for some progress out of the No. 18.

With about 65 laps still on the board, though, a grasp of shock escaped Chase as he watched the No. 18 make an abrupt turn off the track on to pit road.

“Not again,” he comments out loud, referencing the fact that it seemed each week, trouble found them. He watched as she made the pit stop, before returning back to the track.

“Loose wheel,” Chad Avrit reads off of twitter as Chase looks over in surprise.

“Seriously?” Chad shakes his head yes. “Of course because what else would it be? I mean, it’s not like anything can just go normal for a night. Oh no, that’s been her season with one thing after another. If she could just knock out some solid quiet nights, then maybe she could be like Mr. Bell and winning and leading. But oh no, we got to find issue after issue after issue.”

“She was also speeding so she has to come back down.” Chase then rolls his eyes, ready to head out then and there.

“You’re kidding?” Chad shakes his head no. “Why oh why, Sarina? You should know better. She got busted for that some place else. You’d think she’d remem-”

“She thought she had a serious problem and turned quickly. It’s understandable if she speeds a little.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“You’ve done it, too,” Alan reminds him as Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Alan was right. However, it didn’t make this any easier watching as he watched her slip two laps down, sitting back in 19th.

Chase was set to give up entirely on the night when the caution flew about 20 laps later for Stewart Frisen hitting the wall. He immediately put faith in that they’d take the wave around to at least get one lap back.

“She won’t make it on fuel if she does that,” Alan concedes, watching her head down pit road. “Remember she pitted about 10 laps shy. If we get no more cautions, she’s screwed worse than already.”

“Besides, there’s still vibration complaints per twitter,” Chad adds.

“Of course there is,” Chase says as he rolls his eyes. “They should be putting on a wheel spacer as they probably fucked the studs.” The comment catches a couple of the crew members off guard as they look back at their driver. “It’s true…”

The race goes back to green, with the caution flying once again sooner as Myatt Snider gets into the turn two wall and spins. Chase could only let out a sigh, wondering what Kyle was thinking between the issues for both Sarina and Myatt now.

“The way this is going, Bell is going to get taken out by Briscoe,” Chase comments, barely even wanting to pay attention.

“Hey!” Eddie and Jared Seate both let out at the same time as Chase rolls his eyes.

“Nothing would surprise me anymore.”

“Wheel spacer is on now,” Chad comments, having read the latest tweet from KBM.

“Now?” Chase questions. “So they didn’t do that before? Geez, what are they? A bunch of rookies? I bet Kyle is fuming in his motorcoach right now.”

They watch the race go back to green, eyes focused on the battle up front between the leaders, along with seeing Justin Haley get loose, sliding up to Nemechek with Nemechek getting in the wall heavily for the caution.

“There goes my bloody pick, thanks to Haley,” Nick O’Dell comments. “I told you being stuck with Nemechek was shit.”

“He should’ve had ran down as close to Haley’s door then,” Chase replies as Nick could just roll his eyes in annoyance. “On a brighter note, thanks to your buddy for getting me my girl a lap back.”

“Feeling a little better there?” Jared Seate questions as Chase perks up a little.

“Just need one more caution and with the way these guys drive, that shouldn’t be hard.”

“Can I have a new pick, please?” Nick questions and the boys shake their heads no. “So first I get last pick and get stuck with crap-head, and then now I don’t even get a second shot?”

“Cheater cheater pumpkin eater,” Chad teases as Nick flips the bird.

“Boys….” Alan warns as he glances up from his notes at them.

“Just because your guy is still in it, you can’t be an ass for us,” Nick says as Alan just rolls his eyes.

“Remind me that this is the last time that we do this.” Jared then pouts, having ideas for next weekend already.

“But I wanted to have a get together for Gateway,” he states as Alan rolls his eyes, again.

“Do it somewhere else, but not with me involved, please. Oh, and Sauter is going to win because jackass 1 and jackass two are going to wreck each other like Chase said originally. They’re driving each other too hard to keep it clean.” Eddie and Jared then both laugh as they watch the field get ready to go back green.

The green flag flies with eyes set on the battle for first between Bell and Briscoe. The battle didn’t last long, though, with the caution flying once again for smoke pouring out the back of Grant Enfinger. It brought a smile to Chase’s face, though, as he knew that meant Sarina was back on the lead lap with 14 laps to go.

“I’ve never seen someone smile at someone blowing up,” Alan comments with a glance over towards Chase.

“You obviously haven’t seen those who hate Kyle Busch when he has a bad day,” Chase says. “But everything’s great now that Sarina is back on the lead lap.”

“Should we remind you of when you were throwing in the towel?” Jared Seate questions and Chase rolls his eyes.

“I never give up on my girl.” The boys then chuckle as they think back to his words.

“You almost left….”

“You figured it was all over with no hope in the kitty,” Chad adds as Chase lets out a sigh. Perhaps he did over-react, but you couldn’t blame him. He was passionate about how well she was going to do that night.

“Well maybe I’ll get a top-10 after all,” he comments, eyes focused as the restart was set to take place.

Over the final stretch of laps – and two more cautions, eyes never left the screen as they watched Sarina battle back, crossing the finish line in seventh for another solid top-10. Meanwhile, among the controversy of the last lap caution (Timothy Peters flipped), it was Bell snagging the win ahead of Briscoe by a nose.

Down in Texas, Sarina climbed from the truck with a smile on her face. It certainly wasn’t the win or top-five she had envisioned after setting the quickest time, but she wasn’t going to complain. If you would’ve told her that she would’ve had a top-10 after going two laps down, she would’ve said you were nuts. However, with high fives for all the guys and a hug for Marcus, she knew they’d put in a good nights work with a well-deserved finish.

“Sorry about that loose wheel there,” Marcus apologizes once she’s done media interviews. “I got to get these guys in line as we can’t be having that.”

“It happens as we all make mistakes,” she comments. “I’ve made my fair share this year. One mistake by the guys is going to happen. As long as we can come back stronger, that’s what matters. We’ll go get them at Gateway.” Marcus couldn’t help but smile with her positivity, knowing that she could be hard on herself from Chase.

“I’m confident about Gateway and Iowa. We have a good short track program at KBM, and I know you have ran well there previously. It’s just about putting it all together.”

“We’re going to make magic happen…..” Marcus could only smile, liking the sounds of that.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 89: Bar Harbor 200

Friday at Dover International Speedway

Sarina walks through the garage area with Chase, giving him a quick kiss before letting him head off for practice. She then took a deep breath, continuing to make her way through the garage. She signed a couple autographs throughout her walk, before reaching the Kyle Busch Motorsports hauler.

“This needs to be done,” she calmly reminded herself as she took another calming deep breath. “This needs to be done….” She then walks up to the door, sliding it open and walking inside. She immediately comes face-to-face with her teammate, giving herself some more calming deep breathes. She wasn’t ever good at staying calm in these situations.

“You called?” Christopher Bell questions and she shakes her head yes.

“We need to talk about our issues,” she answers as he crosses his arms. Needless to say, she could tell that he had the same attitude as her normally.

“Our issues?”

“Well duh. Do you not recall what happened yesterday in the garage?” He rolls his eyes, shaking his head yes. His crew chief had already mentioned to him that it’d be best to clean up his actions.

“Let me guess – Marcus told you that we should work out our issues?” She shakes her head yes. “That figures as I got the same lecture. So, what’s it going to be?” She crosses her arms, knowing there was only one way through this.

“What is it going to take for you to damn well lay off Chase and I? It’s clearly obvious that you have a problem with us. You told me straight up at the shop that you didn’t trust him because of what happened. Well news flash, I trust him from one end of the earth to the other. If anybody should have a reason to not trust, it’s him for what I did. Now should that concern you? I don’t think not as it doesn’t concern me, hence why we’re together and better than ever. So, can you lay off please?” He lets out a sigh, wishing he could just say the words and do as she pleases. However, he couldn’t allow himself to do that.

“If you’d prefer that I lay off, I supposed I can keep my mouth shut for your sake. However, don’t think that I’m not going to keep my eye on you or him. I have some reasonable concerns that I’m sure plenty of others have as well based on what happened. I mean Sarina, how is it he can take you back so quick after you lied to him? How is it that you can handle things with him when he straight up admits that he’s nervous about your brother?” She lets out a sigh, having explained this already to Christopher.

“I’m not going through this again with you, Christopher. Can we just agree for you to shut your flap?”

“Can we just agree for you to consider my concer-”

“What is it going to take to get through your damn head?!?” A smile forms across his face as he keeps his eyes on her.

“Sarina Ott, the tough as nails female racer that nobody could crack and always held her own. Despite any challenge her way, she would never back down and stood guard to that person. Here was the girl that would never crack, shout – just give you straight up attitude back and let the talking happen on the track. But yet, here we are, and you can’t keep your damn cool and are shouting at me about your boy. Do you see what’s happening? You know my concerns are valid so therefore you have to push beyo-”

“Did I ever tell you that your concerns weren’t?” She then takes a deep breath, knowing that he was right though. It was amazing the things that love caused you to do. “I explained the trust deal. I explained why he was able to easily forgive me – hello the fear and everything. I explained why things are a mess with him and my brother – understandably as my brother basically tortured him for a good year. Like I said, their valid and I get why you can’t get it right away. The same way I get that Cindy has iss-”

“So his mom doesn’t like you, either? Oh man, that’s never going to fly knowing that boy as family means everything to him.” Sarina glances down, knowing that he was right in those words. She knew she’d have to work on Cindy over time if their future was going to be set, but she was fine with that. Like everything else, she understood the concerns.

“Like I was saying, everything is fair and valid. But, can you please give me the benefit of the doubt and shut up about it? I don’t need constant reminders. I don’t need you getting under his skin. I don’t need you always trying to shove it in my face. I get the damn mistakes made. Now give me the space to fix them, please!” Christopher leans back against the drawers, understanding where she was coming from as he keeps his eyes locked on hers.

“Why does this mean so much to you, Sarina? I want the truth…” She then glances back down as she looks away partially.

“My life has always been a mess. I’ve always been fighting against my own family and issues – just ask my brother about the deals that happened with our parents. My father was no perfect man and that caused tensions and resulted in what happened. I’ve always been on the run, trying to leave demons behind.” She then takes a deep breath as she looks up at Christopher. “When Chase gave me the chance to drive for him, it really set things down and gave me a chance for the life I wanted. It gave me a chance to have solid grounding, to stop worrying, and actually build towards what I wanted. Then when we started dating, he is the only second person in my life besides Tony Leons that I could truly trust and know that no matter what happened, things would be okay. I don’t want to lose that….”

“What about your cousin Bethany and your brother?” She lets out a small chuckle.

“Things have never been smooth there, nor has there ever been any grounding. Let’s just say that what we’ve seen this year is the first time I’ve seen something I wanted out of them both.” Christopher felt himself breaking for her, understanding her perspective.

“I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and leave you be. I get it and understand why you want this so badly now. To be honest, even though I was ribbing the heck out of you and bugging you, I want you to be happy. I want things to work with you and Chase. I hope they do work out, and you both get the happiness you deserve.” She looks up with a smile on her face.

“Thanks Christopher. You won’t say anything about this conversation to anyone, will you?” He shakes his head no. “Good, or else I may actually kick your ass.” He then walks over to her, wrapping an arm around her.

“Everybody has a vulnerable side, and that’s okay. As long as you handle it right and trust the right people, it’s fine. I’ve got your back.”

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

Chase Elliott walks up the steps, taking his usual seat on the pit box as he was set to take in the truck race that afternoon. Silently crossing his fingers, he hoped that Sarina had the good run that she wanted.

He watched her through the first stage, seeing how loose the No. 18 Toyota Tundra was off the corners. However, like she had impressed him a couple years ago in the late model, she managed to keep it out of trouble and gain some track position, crossing the finish line for the first stage in fifth.

His eyes remained focused on her through the next stage, in hopes that she’d continue to make up ground. Restarting 16th, his nerves for her were edgy in knowing how quickly Miles could snatch you up with a single bite. However, she kept it clean, moving forward up to the eighth spot by Lap 74.

Ahead of her, a couple trucks got together, sending someone spinning. She slowed up to avoid after the call on the radio from her spotter, just to be hit from behind.

“Shit!” He heard her curse over the radio, feeling his heart drop. So much for the good run that she needed. “How bad is it?”

“It’s easily repairable,” the spotter announces over the radio, peaking Chase’s interest. “Left rear and bumper cover, crew chief.”

“10-4 bring it in,” Marcus instructs as he focuses his eyes on the pit crew. It was obvious what they needed to do.

The repairs came easily, with her returning to the track near the back and ready to make up the lost ground. Both Marcus and Chase crossed fingers in hoping the repairs were enough, watching her drive from 17th to 12th over the next 12 laps to complete the stage.

“Stay out!” Marcus instructs at the end of the stage, given that they only had 12 laps on their tires. “Going to gain some position here.”

“Whatever you say boss,” she replies, knowing that she could trust Marcus in seeing their work together already this year, and his past with Timothy Peters.

Restarting seventh, she made her way up through the traffic to the third spot, before having to under green for fuel on Lap 156. Now trapped a lap down, the field began to cycle through stops which was set to put her back on the lead lap. However that happened, the caution flew as Chase Briscoe’s wheel went rolling onto the track after coming loose.

“Crap!” Marcus lets out as he shakes his head. He knew that was pretty much the end of them getting the top-five finish they deserved. “Just try to do what you can here, and hope you get a caution for the lucky dog.”

She would put herself into position, running in the lucky dog spot after the restart. However, a caution failed to fall in the final 25 laps, trapping her a lap down and handing them a ninth place finish.

“Solid day everyone,” Marcus says over the radio. “Great effort all day. Great truck. Great driving. Sorry about the strategy.”

“It happens – you were just trying to make up what we lost,” Sarina says, not feeling a drop of disappointment. “Great job today guys!”

Climbing from the truck afterwards on pit road, a smile was firmly planted on her face the entire time. Normally, she had to admit in the past that she’d pissed about coming so close and falling short at the end. However, given how the past month had gone along with the fact that they still got a top-10, it was a great effort. It was the solid footing that they needed moving forward into the summer. It also didn’t help that she found Dover to be a very fun track, and couldn’t wait to race there again sometime.

“I’m proud of you,” Chase says as he gives her a hug, followed by a kiss. “You did a great job all day. Great driving, great maturity – you’re growing into quite the driver.”

“Why thank you Mr. Elliott,” she replies with a smile.

“I just may have to treat you out to dinner tonight as a present.” She then looks on surprised as they hadn’t gone out for dinner much since they started dating.

“Really?” He shakes his head yes. “I wouldn’t mind that one bit, actually. It’d be nice to get some alone time…”

“Just promise me you’ll both behave,” Marcus comments over her shoulder as she glances back, giving the crew chief a smack as he laughs. “I don’t want to find out my driver is preg-”

“Marcus!!” They both yell together as he laughs even harder while walking away.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 88: “Good luck with that, jackass!”

Thursday, June 1

Sarina walks into the garage, placing her helmet and gloves on the dash of the truck. She then noticed her teammates and their crew chiefs standing around, concerned. She then grabs her phone out of her pocket, walking over to join them.

“What’s going on?” She questions her crew chief Marcus Richmond.

“Another crew member has been poisoned,” Marcus tells her, causing her jaw drop to immediately. “One of our guys, actually – Jake. He’s going to be okay, so you don’t have to worry. But it just caught us off-guard.” She shakes her head in obvious agreement.

“First Bristol, then one of Chase’s guys and now Jake,” Harrison Burton says as he finds himself puzzled by the events.

“When did this happen?” She wonders as she glances amongst the group.

“Earlier today while we were going through tech, he seemed a little off and sure enough, that was it,” Marcus explains. “He said he had some food and he had a couple drinks while we were working before then so who knows as that could’ve been the cause.”

“You guys cleaned out the cooler incase, right?” Todd Gilliland wonders as he looks over the bottle of Gatorade that he had grabbed and Marcus shakes his head yes.

“So you’re late getting here,” Christopher Bell comments, in reference to Sarina’s late arrival. “Where have you been? Hanging out with the boy?” Sarina just rolls her eyes, getting annoyed of Christopher’s comments.

“I’ve been here since early this morning, just doing some sponsor things and other commitments – you can ask Marcus,” she states in a stern tone. “And as far as your comments with regards to Chase, he’s not even here today. He has his own commitments, you know?”

“We don’t need to get defensive,” Marcus comments, noticing the change in Sarina’s behavior as she focuses her eyes on Christopher.

“I’m sorry. It’s just Christopher can’t seem to keep his nose out of his business lately. Ever since Chase and I had that fight, he’s been riding my ass about everything. I thought you had a girlfriend, Bell.” Todd and Harrison look between their teammates with their own look of shock as Marcus could only roll his eyes.

“So I’m in trouble for caring about your well-being now?” Christopher asks as she just laughs.

“Caring?” She repeats. “Dude, you’re always accusing his ass of something when you feel something is off. Like today with whether we were busy today. There was also the trouble in paradise comment at fan day. Oh, and the best was the catch me off-guard in shop for discussion. It’s one thing to care, it’s another thing to be an annoying little brat who just annoys me!” Marcus could only look on in shock as he hadn’t heard of anything going on, nor did he feel like being a babysitter today.

“Well I’m sorry for offending you with my way of caring, Ms. Princess. I’ll be sure to keep my paws away from your little crown. Hope I kick your ass this weekend.” Christopher then turns and heads towards his garage stall as she just rolls her eyes.

“Good luck with that, jackass.”  She then turns and heads over to her truck, taking a glance inside to make sure things were how she wanted.

“Good luck with them,” Harrison says as he gives Marcus a quick pat on the back. “We’ll see you later…”

“Yeah, thanks,” Marcus replies as he watches Harrison and Todd head off together. He could only let out a sigh, knowing that it was going to be interesting with Sarina and Christopher at odds. The boss’ reaction would be priceless at this time.

“Ready for practice, Marcus?” Sarina questions as she turns to face her crew chief. He immediately heads over to her direction, working at putting what happened aside.

“You know, you and Christopher need to work out whatever is going on. We can’t be having that crap.” She then rolls her eyes as she turns away from him. This was why she hated having teammates sometimes.

“So I’m just supposed to let go what he said, Marcus? Yeah, that sounds right. Until he learns his boundaries, he can kiss my ass. Now, we have a practice to focus on, right?” He lets out a sigh, shaking his head yes.

He knew he could argue more with her, but knew that wouldn’t get him anywhere, given how stubborn she was per Kyle and Chase. That was something that would be left up for her to either deal with, or Kyle since he knew how to handle behavior like that.

The practice ended up going better than they could’ve originally imagined as she topped both practice sessions on the afternoon. She also felt comfortable with the truck’s handling, feeling that she’d be good over the course of a long run through the entire stage lengths.

Wrapping up the day and putting her helmet back away, she couldn’t help but smile at the prospects for Friday.

Once she was done for the day, she headed into the motorcoach lot and walked to where Chase’s motorcoach was parked. She brought up the password in her phone, while pulling the key out of her small purse. She punched the password in, before unlocking the door and heading inside.

She walks in, tossing her purse on the small table as she goes to the fridge and pulls herself out a drink. She then walks over, flopping back on the couch as she looks at her phone. She could only count the hours till he landed in Dover, Delaware and would join her there.

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

Chase unlocks the door and heads inside, slipping his shoes off. A smile immediately forms on his face as he sees her sprawled out on the couch, sleeping. He walks by quietly, setting dinner on the small island table. He heads back to the couch, kneeling down to her level. He then lightly kisses her lips as he runs a hand through her hair. As if on call immediately, she sits up, sending him flying backwards as he falls back on his ass.

“Ouch!” He lets out immediately as she sits up, reaching for the first thing she could – the remote.

“Get up and walk any closer and I’ll throw this at your face!” She yells as he sits up slowly, putting his hands in the air. “Oh….” She then sets down the remote as he laughs.

“Who did you think I was?” He questions as she shrugs her shoulders.

“Are you okay?” He stands up, brushing off his jeans, shaking his head yes.

“My ass is a little sore, but I’ll be fine. It’s nice to see you, too.” She just smiles as she reaches out for his hand, pulling him back close to her.

“Now that I know it’s you, I wouldn’t mind that kiss again.” He smiles as he kisses her lips once again, before picking her up in his arms. “Woah….”

“I brought you dinner.” He then carries her over to the table, sitting her down on the bench on one side, before taking his place on the other side.

“Thank you. Maybe I’ll give your butt there a little rub after to make it feel better.” He laughs as he opens the bag.

“That’s certainly one way to get a greeting from your girlfriend….” She chuckles herself as she takes her dinner from him.

The pair focused on their food. She talked a little bit about how practice went. She also told him about Jake being poisoned earlier in the day, and how he was going to be okay. He talked about the sponsor appearance he had to go to. He also mentioned the crew lunch with the guys. It was more or less small talk for dinner, till they got near the end of their meals.

“So I pissed off Christopher today,” Sarina reveals quietly, catching Chase’s attention.

“Bell?” He asks and she shakes her head yes. He rolls his eyes, remembering their last conversation about him. He had been a little pushy from what Chase could recall. “What happened?”

“Well, I showed up later to the garage than he, Harrison and Todd did because I had that appearance with Toyota and the interview to film for that local TV station. So he made the comment of my late arrival, asking where I’d been and whether I was hanging out with you, basically implying it was your fault that I was late.” Chase could only shake his head as he heard that.

“Of course…..”

“So I told him that I’d been there since the morning, doing commitments and told him to talk to Marcus if he didn’t believe me. Then I added that you weren’t even here today, and that ‘you have your own commitments’.” Chase shakes his head, accepting. It seemed reasonable so far. He had to admire her tactic of response.

“That’s fair…”

“So then Marcus goes that I don’t need to be so defensive towards Christopher as obviously, he has no idea about what happened previously so he didn’t get the true meaning behind the tone of his voice. That’s when I said that I was sorry, but Christopher can’t keep his nose out of my business. I told Marcus and basically everybody there that since we had our little fight, Christopher’s been on my ass about our relationship and then told Bell that I thought he had his own girlfriend.” Chase couldn’t help but laugh, even if perhaps she had taken her response a little too far.

“Well, they say if someone is bugging you that you should make them aware. You were just telling him how he was bugging you since things happened. What’s wrong with that?” Sarina rolls her eyes, remembering the comments from Marcus and Christopher afterwards.

“Well then he said, ‘So I’m in trouble for caring?’. I basically flipped on him, saying that it wasn’t fair that he was always accusing of you shit from one end to the other and that there’s a difference between caring and what he was doing. I basically told him that he was an annoying little brat who just annoys me.” Chase’s jaw drops in shock, but he couldn’t help but cheer inside. He knew how annoyed he had made her.

“Please tell me that Marcus backed you up….” She then laughs.

“Marcus didn’t say a bloody word, or bother to take anybody’s side. He’s rather more concerned about team morale, but more on that later.” Chase was ready to eat the rest of his dinner, but couldn’t with what was on tap to be said.

“There’s more?” She shakes her head yes. “Oh boy…..”

“Well after my comment, he apologized for offending the ‘princess’ and that he’d keep his paws away from my crown. Then he said he hoped to kick my ass this weekend. That’s when I told him, ‘Good luck with that, jackass.’” Chase laughs as he couldn’t believe what he had missed earlier that day.

“Can’t blame you…..”

“Well then after he left, Marcus suggested that Christopher and I talk about whatever we got going on and work that out as we can’t have that crap going on. That’s when I turned to Marcus and basically said, ‘So I’m just supposed to let go what happened?’ He didn’t say anymore as we focused towards practice, but I could tell that he was a little ticked.” She then looks down at the table, before looking back up across at Chase. “Did I do anything wrong?”

“You stood up for yourself. Christopher is just going to keep being an ass if you don’t say anything. If he gets it through his brain that you’re annoyed, he’ll let it go maybe. That’s all you were doing. Did you take the wrong approach? Perhaps as some of the comments weren’t needed, but he also didn’t need to make the princess comment. Anybody that knows you knows better than that as you’re no perfect princess.” She shakes her head, accepting. It felt better that Chase had her back, even if she knew a possible lecture from Kyle was coming in the future.

“Thanks. I appreciate the support.” He then reaches across the table, grabbing her hand and holding it.

“I’ve always got your back, just like I know you have mine. Oh, and if Kyle says something, just explain what is going on. He’ll understand and perhaps say something to Christopher, too.”

“Kyle understanding? Do you realize how many people would laugh if they heard you say that after this past weekend?” He shakes his head yes.

“Dale is bringing him a snickers on Friday.” She then laughs with a shake of her head.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 81: North Carolina Education Lottery 200

Chase smiles as he watches Sarina head through the garage with her cousin Bethany and brother Chris in toe.

It was nice having her back at the track with him every week. It gave him someone to pass time with, chat with, and she was understanding enough to give him the balance he needed. She knew the racing pressures and world, was like him in some ways about perfection and concentration. This was the perfect mix of ying and yang, knowing when to push and when to not.

“I’m surprised you’re so relaxed this weekend,” Alan comments as he walks over to join his young driver. Chase then gives him the crew chief an intrigued glance.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” He questions as Alan looks towards the direction that Sarina was walking.

“I’m just shocked that you’re so comfortable around him.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing what Alan was referring to.

“Are we going to have the same discussion that we had in California?” Alan lets out a sigh and shakes his head no.

“It’s just that guy tormented you and Sarina for just over a year. He caused a plane crash that you were both in. He pushed you down a flight of stairs. You’re not going to stand there and tell me that there’s not a single feeling about that all that, are you?” Chase focuses his eyes forward, knowing that it would be a lie to say nothing remained.

“He had a tumor that was causing that. You heard what the doctor said. You heard what Sarina said. He’s totally different with the surgery complete now.” Alan knew of the medical science, and believed it from those he had talked to. It didn’t mean that they were going to avoid the topic.

“Look, that’s all great and lovely. Great for Chris. Great for Sarina. But what about you, Chase?” Chase then looks over at the crew chief.

“What do you want to say? Sure, I feel a tinge of fear when he steps near me. Sure, I’m reminded of the discussion we had before he pushed me. Sure, it’s not totally over with. But I’m trying because I know how much I love Sarina, how much we love each other, and what we have together.” Alan rolls his eyes at the thought, remembering the distrust they went through. He wasn’t on board yet, and couldn’t help but listen to Cindy’s warning of keeping an extra eye on Chase when she wasn’t around.

“I just don’t want you to cause yourself a bigger mess because you’re trying to put on a pretty face for her, okay?” Chase shakes his head, understanding.

“Everything is fine. Now, can we focus on practice?” Alan shakes his head yes as he looks through his notes.

*********************************
Sarina stood on pit road, leaning against the truck as she looked around smiling. She was hopeful for a strong night after running really well in practice, topping the charts in the second session.

“So is sissy going to win?” She hears her brother ask, and looks at him with a smile.

“The truck is good enough to win,” she answers. “Let’s just hope the driver can do the job.”

“You can do it. You’re really good.” She couldn’t help but smile. It was nice to see that everything that happened was left in the rearview mirror, and he was back to being her buddy little brother smiling. It was also nice to see him enjoy a glimpse into her world.

“Thank you.”

“The questions remain whether she can beat her boss, though,” Chase comments as he walks up, wrapping his arms around her, and kissing her lips. She leans back in his arms, smiling even more. It was great to see her brother and boyfriend finally able to stand within a couple feet of each other without something happening.

“So now you don’t believe that I can beat Kyle, even though you’re the one that hired me to drive your late model and kick his ass?” She questions as he laughs.

“Oh, I believe you can beat him. Just be smart out there, okay?” She shakes her head yes, letting out a sigh. She knew that she hadn’t had the cleanest record so far, perhaps wrecking more equipment than intended.

“Are you going to watch from the pit box?” Chase glances over at Chris, before focusing his eyes back on Sarina. Even though he was playing it cool, he couldn’t help but keep an extra eye on the guy.

“Of course.” She smiles as she looks over at Bethany and Chris.

“You guys better be up there, too….”

“Are you sure it okay?” Chris questions and Sarina shakes her head yes. “Chase?” Chase then looks over intrigued.

“It’s not my decisi-” He starts, wondering if perhaps he hadn’t been briefed on that being Kyle and Samantha’s call.

“I don’t want you uncomfortable.” Chase bit his tongue, about to spit out the full truth in how he wanted to ignore it, but kept an extra eye. However, a glance at Sarina said otherwise to play it cool. Besides, she knew of his little tendency so it wasn’t lying.

“It doesn’t bother me, Chris.” Chase could only say those words in knowing Marcus and the engineers would be up there, too. He wasn’t quite ready to be alone with him, yet.

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

Sarina climbs from the truck, smile on her face. It wasn’t the victory or top-five she wanted, but she’d take a solid top-10 finish and move forward. They learnt a lot, and she found herself growing more comfortable with the mile and a halves. Hopefully that’d parlay into having success at Texas next month.

“Solid night,” Marcus says as he walks over, giving her a high five. “Great feedback. Way to stay in the game. Nice driving. That’s what we need to do on nights where we’re a tick off.”

“I have no complaints,” Sarina replies with a smile. “Thank you for a great job calling the race.” Marcus then pulls her into a hug.

“Kyle said we could make a driver out of you. I’m believing that more and more.” She smiles, hoping those words turned out to be true. It’d make every decision she made through the years worth it.

“I’ll keep working at it, that’s for sure…” Marcus knew that, having seen the determination so far.

“Oh, Bethany and your brother went for a walk to check things out and were going to stop by victory lane a quick second to see how that went with Kyle. Chase, meanwhile, said he’d meet you back at his trailer when you got done.” She shakes her head, leaning back against the truck. It figured they’d all get separated. She’d hope they would’ve stayed together, came over to see her, and then they could have a nice little desert trip before she headed off to Bristol. “What’s going on?”

“Is my life ever going to make normal sense?” Marcus then crosses his arms, confused. “Throughout everything, it hasn’t been like the normal life you’re used to. I had parents who were doing things that I couldn’t comprehend. My mother was left asking questions as to my father’s police activities, and then him hiding what he did illegally. My brother went and did his strange behaviors, sand then went after my boyfriend. Nothing in my life has made sense or norm-”

“Nothing?” She then stops, knowing that was a lie as there was a constant.

“Okay, so racing and being damn good and loving it has been. But that’s not the poin-”

“Your boyfriend?” She then laughs, remembering their first couple days together.

“Oh, Chase and I are far from the normal, Marcus. I mean, I put him through the ringer before I’d simply accept a date.” Marcus was surprised, but could see that with her determined style. “But seriously – my brother and Chase are just spending enough time together to keep me happy. But inside, I know the guilt eats at Chris for hurting Chase unintentionally with the tumor, and then Chase wanting to forgive him for it but not able to forget what happened. Will I get to a time where they can be around each other and not think of that?” Marcus thought it over, not sure what answer to give her.

“I don’t know, to be honest. That all depends on Chase and Chris. It depends on whether they can choose to move forward, or not. Given Chase’s nature, I say that he could over time once he believes and trusts in Chris. Look at how he got over you lying to him about your brother’s involvement and everything. Now your brother, I don’t know because I don’t know him.” Sarina runs her hands through her hair, turning around as she lays her head on the truck.

“That doesn’t help me!!” Marcus then turns to face her, rubbing her back.

“All you can do is be honest with them. Tell them your true feelings. Let them express how they feel about each other to you. Keep that honesty going, and maybe it’ll get better. Sarina, if you love Chase and your brother as much as you claim, this is all worth it. But if you find yourself questioning it, then mayb-”

“There’s no way in hell I’m questioning this, ever. Don’t ever think that.” He then takes a step back, accepting immediately.

“I’ll see you in the shop, Monday?” She shakes her head yes as she watches the crew chief walk away.

“Marcus – thank you!” He looks back with a slight smile before continuing to head off in the chosen direction.

Taking a deep breath, she knew she better go find everybody as she had to get out of there and make her way to Bristol. It was time to prove once again why she was one of the best at short track late model racing.