The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 150: Snowball Derby

Sunday, December 3 – Pennsacola, Florida – 5 Flags Speedway

Taking the green flag with 75 laps to go in fifth place, Chase kept bidding his time carefully, hoping their prediction would work out as planned.

“Remember he has fresher tires,” Marcus reminds Chase as Harrison goes by for the spot with 45 laps to go, bumping Chase back to fifth. “Patience. A caution is coming late here…”

“Are you sure about that, honestly?” Sarina had to question as she wasn’t sure she saw the same progress towards that happening as he did.  However, she wasn’t about to give up faith yet, or any when she watched Chase pass Bubba Pollard for fourth four laps later. They had a good car; they just needed fortunes to swing in their favor.

Chase was able to gain a little more ground, getting by Ty Majeski for third and as expected, the new tires would take Harrison right to the front as he took the lead with 26 laps to go. However, just as predicted by Marcus with the strategy, the caution would come out five laps later.

“Pitting,” Marcus stated the obvious as Chase came down pit road, along with the rest of the field – except for Harrison, who was out of tires after making the choice to pit earlier. The pit crew would once again deliver the shop they needed to, allowing Chase to get off pit road first.

“Nice job guys,” Chase replies back easily. “Marcus has given me the car to work with. You guys have given me the shops that we needed. Now it’s time for me to get the job done here.”

“Remember he has 50 more laps on his tires than you do so bide your time nicely. Lessard and Pollard make up row two behind you.”

With the new tires, Chase was able to get the jump on the restart to take the lead over Harrison, but the caution immediately waved as Bubba went around due to contact from Ty.

“0 in 13,” Erik simply states as he shakes his head in disgust. “A little more patience there by Ty and they would’ve been fine.”  They then watched as the race officials began to get the field in order for the restart, putting Chase in line to restart first ahead of Harrison. “That’s odd..”

“He got the jump,” Christopher reminds him as Erik nods his head, having seen that yet.

“No laps complete should mean a complete restart, giving Harrison the lead once again, though. That’s why Jeff (Burton) is down there talking to the official.” As expected, the call was made to reverse the starting positions, putting Harrison back in front of Chase. “Told you.”

“Are you okay, though?” The boys look towards Sarina, who was sitting there nervously clutching onto the snowball necklace. She just gave the boys a simple nod, before focusing back on the track. “He knows how to get the job done. Relax, it’ll be fine…”

“Does she always get this nervous?” Christopher simply shrugs his shoulders as he reaches over to rub her back a little.

“Harrison is taking the top line here, giving you the bottom,” Marcus states on the radio to Chase. “I think he learned on that restart he’s just going to go backwards and wants it to be a smooth as possible without causing a wreck.”

“10-4,” Chase simply replies. “It sucks as he had a good car, too. Same tire strategy and it would’ve been a great battle.”  The green would be held off, with officials instead flagging Chase’s teammate Raphael down pit road.

“Fuel leak on the 51. That puts Majeski and Choquette in the row behind you guys. Watch out for Majeski as he’s being aggressive. He already dumped Pollard.”

“10-4.”

The restart would go smoothly, with Chase easily clearing Harrison for the top spot and beginning to pull away. Ty would work his way to second, and began to reel the gap in as the laps closed down.

Coming to the white flag, Ty was able to close the gap right up and find his way to the rear bumper of the 18. However, an attempt through neither corner worked, as Chase held him off for the win.

“Way to go!!” Sarina lets out, fist pump in the air, before wrapping her arms around Marcus’ shoulders. “Hell yeah!”

“I told you I was preparing a special car to bring down here and kick some ass,” Marcus offers with a smile back in return.

After laying down one of the biggest burnouts, Chase climbed out of the car, fist pumps in the air. He then hopped off, immediately catching the brown eyes he knew so well, wrapping his arms around her.

“I love you so much,” he tells Sarina, before giving her a big kiss. “I love you..”

“I told you this was meant to be, every single part of it,” she replies, as their left hands rest against her stomach together. “This just confirms everything for me even more. It also means that I need to come back next year and set the record even on wins.” He just chuckles back in response.

“I’m glad that you convinced me, and Kyle convinced Rick somehow.”

“I wonder how he did that…” Chase wished he knew too as he looked over at Marcus, giving him a high-five.

“I think it’s better working with you than competing against you down here,” Marcus comments, as Chase just smiles back. “Nice smooth driving all race long.”

“Nice job on the car,” Chase replies. “She was a rocket.”

The post-race interview then commences with Chase speaking about the race, and how the plan came together for him to drive the car this weekend. They then begin the victory lane photos with the Tom Dawson trophy, with Ms. Snowball Derby making her way over.

“The kiss,” the lead photographer instructs once they were done the first series of photos. She then tries to kiss him right on the lips, but he goes for the quick dodge, placing a quick kiss on her cheek instead.

“That was a little rude,” she offers, catching him by surprise.

“Sorry, but I only kiss my fiancé,” he replies before looking over at Sarina and Marcus with a smile.

“Alison would say otherwise…” She then goes to walk away as Chase looks on confused.

“Excuse me?” She then stops and glances back at him.

“Everybody heard about what happ-”

“She forc-”

“Keep saying that if it helps you sleep at night, Chase. besides, you also kissed Erin in Ireland, too.” She then continues walking away as Chase shakes his head, stunned.

“What was that about?” Marcus questions and Chase shrugs his shoulders. “I almost wanted to give her a smack for how rude she was being.”

“I almost wanted to yell at her here and now, but it’s not worth it,” Chase comments, as he takes a deep breath. “The main thing is that we, tonight, are winners of the Snowball Derby together and are taking home that prestigious trophy over there.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure yet…” a voice is heard from a distance as Chase looks over, seeing a crew member from another team. “You still have the room of the doom.”

“No Snowball Derby victory is ever official until you’ve gone to see Ricky Brooks and he’s happy,” Chase states as they push the car into the tech shed.

“Well you can still drive a late model at least,” Ricky comments as he walks over. “But please tell me there’s no tungsten this time.” Chase had to chuckle just a little bit, even if it still stung.

“No tungsten, and I know Marcus made sure the weight percentages were correct. We’re taking home the trophy this year.”

“Is it wrong that I am nervous every time I come to see Ricky Brooks?” Sarina questions Erik, and he shakes his head no.

“He can find the smallest things – even if it’s stupid and doesn’t mean anything,” Erik answers.

“I’m glad you both came, though. It was nice having some company to watch the race with.” Erik and Christopher both smile in return.

“I’m guessing you probably have your dress picked out for next weekend’s banquet?” Christopher asks and Sarina nods her head. “Any clues?”

“Chase doesn’t even know what I am wearing yet,” Sarina answers, causing both jaws to drop beside her.

“Morgan chose a nice ruby red dress as she told me that I have to wear a red tie to match it.” Sarina glances over at Christopher, thinking it over, before giving a nod of approval.

“Red is a good color for you. I bet you’ll look handsome next Saturday. As for Morgan, well, she’s always dashing.”

“Trust me – I know I am quite spoiled with everything she does for me…”

As they waited for the technical inspection to be completed, Chase caught the attention of Ms. Snowball Derby, walking over to her.

“I have a question for you,” he starts, as she looks over a little puzzled. “Can you explain what you said in victory lane?” She then crosses her arms.

“Can you explain how you made me look like a fool in front of the world?” She retorts as he lets out a sigh. He knew it wouldn’t be the best image floating around all the forth coming week, but there were no take-backs.

“Ms. Snowball always kisses on the cheeks, not the lips, so that’s what I was looking for. Also, like I told you, I only kiss my fiancé and not anybody else. You had your opinion and rightfully so, I suppose. I get it; Erin was a drunken mistake. I have apologized to Erin and Sarina for that, and know that I won’t do it again. However, your comments on Alison caught me off-guard…” She then just smirks back in return.

“I know every part of your type, Chase. The guy with all the power does what he can to control the female so she can get what she wants. Hence the metoo movement. In the same respect, there are girls that will do whatever they can to get what they want with you famous rich guys and at some points, you will accept it. However, we both know that you can’t have your fiancé knowing that you had feelings for another woman and you were willing to accept sex-”

“She sexually assaulted me, for your information.” Ms. Snowball just rolls her eyes.

“Like I said, say what you want if it makes you sleep at night and give you the life that you want with Sarina despite your other dealings.” He was almost set to walk away and give this up, but he didn’t budge yet.

“So you think I just made everything up that has happened before and since then?” She nods her head.

“You probably paid some person off to do it for yo-”

“So you think I paid someone off to rig my plane to crash, or crashed it on purpose with my best friend on-board? So you think I paid someone to write all the notes? So you think I paid someone to lay down all the clues? So you think that I paid someone off to take a shot at my crew chief? So you think I paid someone off to threaten everybody that I know and love, including rigging a bomb in the garage area?” She then crosses her arms once again.

“It’s simple – you knew it wasn’t going to go because you knew the password all along. Have you not noticed that no matter what happens, it always seems to work out perfec-”

“So you think I drugged myself not only once, but three times? When she drugged me at Indianapolis and made me wait days before going to see someone, I could’ve…” He then takes a deep breath, having not ever said it out loud to someone yet. “I could’ve died right then and there. You don’t realize just how close we’ve came to dancing the razor’s edge with what she’s done to me. You don’t realize just how threatening and evil she is, and the fact that two innocent people are dead because of what she is trying to do to me. But oh no, let yourself believe that I set it up for whatever reason.” Ms. Snowball takes a deep breath.

“Chas-”

“News flash princess – just like woman can be, men can also be psychologically threatened, mentally scared, and sexually assaulted. So stop judging by what you think you know and look at the damn facts. Alison is nothing to be joking about. The minute you joke about her or turn an eye is the minute that she strikes.” Ms. Snowball then glances away from them, before turning her head back to him.

“Okay, so maybe I had the wrong take on the situation. I’m sorry, okay?” Chase just shakes his head.

“That’s not going to make up for turning an eye. Here’s some advice for  you – smarten up or you won’t last long in the business.” He then turns around to walk away.

“Is that a threat, Chase?” Chase then stops and glances back.

“Nope, that’s a promise. Track promoters and sponsors aren’t going to accept people with that kind of attitude, nor are the drivers you will work with. That word is going to travel fast and you will be out of the garage area before you can dig your claws into whatever you want.” He then continues walking, rejoining the crew by the car.

While other things weren’t going accordingly to plan, the technical inspection did with Ricky Brooks officially giving the nod of approval that Chase was legal and giving him the Snowball Derby victory.

Tuesday, December 4 – Charlotte, North Carolina

Chase was getting ready to leave for Hendrick Motorsports, making sure he had his new helmet and firesuit all packed in the truck, along with any other essentials.

However, he wasn’t set to leave the house yet – making his way back inside after getting everything situated.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” He questions causing Sarina to roll her eyes for the millionth time.

“Chase, I’m fine,” she offers as he lets out a sigh, leaning back against the wall.

“I’m just worried about you. I don’t like when you’re feeling dizzy like this at tim-”

“Just like Dr. Grayson told you, it’s part of the pregnancy. It’s all about the blood flow changing with the baby growing. All I need to do is making sure I am drinking plenty of fluids…” She holds up the bottle of water she had been sipping on all morning. “…while lying on my side to improve circulation, and taking it slow. We’re only supposed to worry if it starts happening too close together. Go and do your photo shoot. I’ll probably just lay here curled up on the couch binge watching sappy Christmas movies.”

“I wish Lindsay could come stay with you..” Sarina almost wished for the same thing herself.

“Instead, her and Ryan decided to jet off to Hawaii with Darrell and Amanda. I can’t blame them as Hawaii is nice and obviously she’d want to squeeze in another vacation before having the baby.” Chase nods his head in agreement. He remembered their discussion about a possible off-season vacation, however they both agreed that it’d better to stay home and relax with the baby and wedding planning already.

“Could you imagine if her water broke and she had the baby there?” Sarina shakes her head.

“That’d be crazy, and there’s no way that I’d be allowing that to happen as I want to see their baby shortly after he or she is born.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “And no, you’re not calling Samantha to come sit with me.”

“I wouldn’t even think about that as her, Kyle, and Brexton need to spend time together right now. I think Kyle said he was going to go out to the dunes as they always find peace out there, just like we do at our cabin.” He then lets out a sigh as he walks over to her. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay by yourself?”

“Trust me, I’ll be fine. If I run into any problems at all, I will text you immediately.” He lets out another sigh, hating every bit of this.

“I love you…” He then leans in, giving her a kiss.

“I love you, too. Go and look sexy today, okay?” He then chuckles, giving her a small butt wiggle as he leaves the room. “Damn sexy boy…”

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 149: A Rainy Opportunity

Friday, November 30 – Pennsacola, Florida – 5 Flags Speedway

Sarina stood on pit road, taking a deep breath as her fingers found their way back up to the necklace. She didn’t know whether it was her pregnancy, knowing Chase was in unfamiliar territory, or the prestige of the Snowball Derby, but something had her more nervous than normal and the only comfort was clutching the necklace.

Perhaps it was the fact that they were going out later in qualifying than they wanted. Marcus had drawn then 37th at the qualifying party draw, which certainly wasn’t what they wanted as it was best to be earlier in the order. Now with the supposed dew of Florida around, it made putting down the lap they wanted harder.

Sarina kept her eyes focused on the No. 18, rather than even glancing towards the stop watch that Marcus clutched in his hand. However, a simple nod afterwards and she knew the lap he had put down was good enough to set them up right.

Once all the cars had gone, they were officially in the show, set to start eighth on Sunday afternoon. More importantly, there was no b-main in their future.

With qualifying in the books, the No. 18 Late Model was loaded back in the KBM hauler, with the team gathered around in the lounge to discuss.

“To be honest, I think the set-up was closer than our lap showed,” Chase comments, earning a nod from Marcus.

“We already knew we’d be off due to where we drew anyway,” Marcus replies, remembering their discussion on Wednesday night. Chase still shook his head at getting caught red-handed with his phone texting Marcus at the birthday party.

“But I also feel the car was closer, too. I could’ve probably gotten you a little more, maybe enough for top-five, if I drove it in a little harder. I was worried it wasn’t going to rotate the middle, though.” Marcus understood that, based upon their discussions after practice. “That said, we had nothing for Harrison. He’s fast as hell right off the drop of the run.”

“But can he sustain for the full length?” Chase shrugs his shoulders as he hadn’t gotten a chance to watch Harrison in practice or know the game plan they were following.

“Chris Wimmer isn’t stupid.” Marcus knew that, as he had lost his share of races to that team in the past.

“Oh I know that obviously they’d be focusing on both, but the set-up at the end of the day determines the answer.” Chase’s phone then goes off as he pulls it out of his pocket.

“I told Kyle not to worry….” He then easily answers the phone call, knowing he couldn’t ignore the boss – not like he’d ignore Kyle anyway. “We’ve got it under contro-”

“Alison was by the house earlier today,” Kyle interrupts, causing Chase to freeze immediately. “She was here between 10 and 12 as she wanted to see me. She had a simple message – don’t be messing with my boy’s schedule or you’re going to receive consequences. She then left before I could even do anything.”

“The main thing is you’re okay….right?” Chase had to wonder about that given the delay in Kyle making this phone call.

“Absolutely. She threatened and had the weapon of choice, but didn’t use it. Essentially, it was all about delivering the message.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing that had been Alison’s mark. She was the queen of delivering you messages and proving she could do what she wanted whenever. Then when she chose, she would strike and you wouldn’t be able to prevent it.

“She was here this afternoon and left a baby rattle by the trailer during the second practice. Since everybody was focused on the car and on-track action, she wasn’t spotted. I’m glad you’re okay, and I’m sorry I brought yo-”

“I accept this chaos when I kept Sarina as my driver despite every warning dished out to me from her when everything began. I won’t break that promise even to you – I am willing to do whatever it takes. I just wanted to let you know so you’re aware, but didn’t call earlier as I know you were focused on the Derby.” Chase lets out a sigh, understanding the delay, but still not totally satisfied.

“Can you please forget about focus precaution next time and give me a damn call? I’d rather know then not know and something happen. I hope you understand that.”

“Perfectly clear. I’ll let you go but just remember that I believe in each of you guys, and you better get the job done.”

“That’s the goal. Thanks for calling, boss.”

“No problem. Talk to you later. Bye Chase.”

“Bye Kyle.” Chase hangs up as he lets out a sigh, only to be met by shaking heads courtesy of others in the room.

“I want to act surprised, but I can’t honestly say that I am after what she did to me,” Marcus comments, remembering that experience after the late model race.

“The only problem is she’s gotten worse since then which makes me more relieved that Kyle is okay,” Chase adds. “She killed a doctor, and I’m pretty sure she was behind Brittney Teals’ death.” Marcus’ jaw slowly drops. “Evidence is there to prove both.”

“You’re both being as careful as you can be, right?” Chase and Sarina nod their heads. “Well, I hope they find her soon and I hope you both stay safe – especially you, sweetheart.” Sarina could only think back to the note that she was left shortly after revealing her pregnancy.

“I don’t think you need to worry about this little one as babies are a touchy subject for her,” Sarina offers, rubbing her stomach as she does so. “But don’t worry, I am being careful and I will do whatever I need to so I can protect this baby. That’s not a threat; that’s a promise.”

Saturday, December 1 – Pennsacola, Florida

Sarina looks out the window, watching the rain drops continue to fall down. She takes a small glance back at her bag, knowing what laid inside, before looking back out the window.

“What has you feeling down?” Marcus questions as he walks over, sitting beside her.

With the rain continuing to fall and hold water everywhere, Marcus and the guys had met up with Chase and Sarina at the hotel before going out to breakfast. Now, everybody was back in their room, with some of the guys enjoying a couple games together.

“Did you seriously lose already?” She asks, knowing that he had been playing Monopoly with everyone else.

“Everybody bought all the properties before I did, and bankrupt me,” Marcus answers with a sigh. “Now, can we get back to my question?” She then lets out a sigh as she looks out the window.

“If it was going to rain all day, I could’ve given Chase his birth-”

“We can leave if you want some time alon-”

“It’s not what you’re thinking!” She then takes a deep breath. “I bought him tickets to the SEC Championship game with Alabama and Georgia.” Marcus froze immediately upon hearing the words.

“Does he know?” Sarina shakes her head no.

“Kyle came over on Tuesday and started talking about the Snowball Derby. I could see his eyes light up immediately and I didn’t want to diminish any thoughts that he had about running this event. I mean, you can already tell how he like being back in a late model, and personally, I wanted to really see him do it so I wasn’t going to spoil that. So instead, I kept the tickets a secret. I thought I could get someone else to go, but I never got a chance. So now, they’re sitting in my bag unused and he has no clue.” Marcus then looks out the same window that had her attention.

“And now with the rain, your spirit is spoiled because you could’ve still gone….” Sarina shrugs her shoulders.

“Is that too much to ask?” Marcus shakes his head no as he puts an arm on her shoulder.

“I think you should tell him about the tickets.” She was now confused as she looks over. “It’s going to rain all day and even if it stops raining, there’s standing water. I got a photo from Harrison and the track is flooded; there’s no way we’re getting anything done today. Instead of sitting around watching a bunch of grown men whine about fake money, I think you should go enjoy the game.” She then looks over to where Chase sat with the crew members. “You still have plenty of time to get to Georgia for the game.”

“Are you sure this is what I should do?” Marcus nods his head as he follows her lead to look at the table.

“They can play games anytime together. A birthday surprise only comes once a year, and I know how much he loves his dawgs and he’d enjoy it. Besides, you both need some time of your own before that little one turns your life upside down.” She then chuckles a little as she looks back at Marcus.

“Alright, fine….” She then stands up and walks over to the group, placing her hands on Chase’s shoulders. “I got something that I want to talk to you about.”

“If Marcus paid you to distract me so I’d lose because I bankrupted him, it’s not goin-” Chase starts, though stops as she drops the two tickets on the table.

“Before everything started about the Derby, I bought these for us to go together – so I could take you,” she starts. “It was supposed to be your big birthday present. I know how much you love your dawgs, and how you wanted to go to a couple games during the off-season. I also know how much you’ve been bragging in how important this game is. It’s raining, nothing is getting done today. How much more fun does a football game sound compared to this?”

“I was just starting to get somewhere, too…..” He then places the deeds and money in the middle of the table. “But you guys can divide this up as I can never pass up a chance to go watch my dawgs win.”

“Good luck with that one,” Brandon Setzer comments with a chuckle as Chase stands up. “Roll tide young man.”

“My dawgs are going to roll the tide all the way to the championship this year,” Chase replies with a grin.

Saturday, December 1 – Georgia

Chase and Sarina walk out of the stadium, holding hands, both adorning Georgia Bulldog jerseys.

“I can’t believe that….” Chase lets out as she looks over at him. “They were doing what they do perfectly, and had everything going their way. And yet there they go throwing it away in the second half.” After leading through the first half, the Bulldogs ultimately lost the game 35 to 28.

“You can’t blame it fully on them,” Sarina offers, earning a confused glance. “The referees made some questionable calls in the second half.” Chase nodded his head in agreement.

“I can’t say that I would’ve called those plays like they did, to be honest, but our game wasn’t where it needed to be. The defense needs to get stronger to match the offense. It sucks that they didn’t get the job done today, but I know they’ll get there. The potential and the players are there.”

“Do you think they’ll make the playoffs?” Chase nodded his head, despite hearing skeptical comments as they left.

“They’ve had a good year and they’ve played well enough that they should be ranked in the top-four. We’ll just have to see.” He then glances over at her. “Regardless, though, I had a great time today.”

“I’m glad that I could give you the birthday present that I intended to.” She then lays her head on his shoulder as he wraps an arm around. “I just hate the game didn’t go like we wanted.”

“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. I got to spend a day with my sweetheart, and that beats staring at rain or playing monopoly with those guys any day. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” They then share a quick kiss, before climbing in the Tahoe, ready for the drive back to the airport. “Hopefully tomorrow we’re winning.”

“That’s the plan.”

Sunday, December 2 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

Chase leans back against the car, glancing up the grid with a smile. It was going to be a fun afternoon – as long as the car kept co-operating like it was.

“You made it!” He hears Sarina let out, glancing over to see Erik and Christopher walking over. Admittedly, he was confused in seeing both.

“I always come check out this race,” Erik comments as Christopher and Sarina share a quick hug.

“A promise is a promise – even if you’re not driving anymore,” Christopher offers, bringing forth a little more confusion from Chase. “I really don’t get why I came.”

“You wanted to see your bestie,” Sarina says as she leans back against the car with Chase. “I told him that he needed to take a break from all his dirt racing and come check out some late model action again. I was hoping to show him how to get it done. Now, that’ll be your job.”

“We’ve got a good car so we’ll see,” Chase comments as he wraps an arm around her shoulder.

“You should know how good those KBM cars having finished behind them before,” Erik adds as Chase had to chuckle, remembering the several late model races across the province where he raced against Erik. “I just hope there’s no tungsten this time.”

“Actually, I just hope the weight is right in general.” Erik had to let out a sigh, knowing that they’d all ran into issues with technical inspection at one time or another.

“The driver who crosses the finish line first is the winner as you’ve all gone through enough technical inspection before the race to know whose legal,” Christopher starts. “I mean, why would things be different afterwards? I’ve always thought some of Ricky’s DQs are a little crazy.”

“He has a rule book and you have to follow it to the letter – simple as that,” Chase states, remembering the words that Ricky Brooks offered many times in the tech shed.

“I still don’t agree with everything…”

Starting off from the eighth spot, Chase was able to make his way forward in the beginning stages to run third by the first caution at Lap 50. The pit crew then delivered on pit road, getting him out in the lead. He led the first couple laps off the restart, before falling in line in second behind Raphael Lessard.

“Keep bidding your time,” Marcus says over the radio. “Lots of racing left to go here….”

Sarina could only smile in knowing Chase didn’t need the bonus tips like her, as he had been here and done this before. it was about keeping yourself in position through the first 200 laps, before making your charge in the last 100.

By the halfway mark, he was back to fourth as he had also been passed by Jeff Choquette and Harrison Burton. With no caution laps over a span of 75 laps, the officials would throw a competition yellow at Lap 165. The race off pit road would be won by Choquette ahead of Lessard, then Chase, Bubba Pollard, and Harrison.

“Bubba still hasn’t won this race, right?” Erik double checks and Sarina shakes her head no.

“0 wins in 12 chances,” Sarina replies. “It’s like his Daytona curse.” Erik had to nod his head in agreement as he knew Bubba had pretty much won every single other race across the United States.

“Do you guys still talk regularly?” Sarina nods her head, having texted him just a couple weeks ago. He was one of the late model drivers that she had gotten to know and kept in contact with.

“I can understand why Kyle said he wanted to be like him one day…”

Shortly after the restart, Chase dropped back a couple spots to fifth, complaining the car was not completely to his liking, fighting the same tight condition they fought in practice. Despite not being totally happy, he was able to maintain the position until the caution came out at Lap 225 for Stephen Nasse having a wheel come off.

“Did he just go after his pit crew?” Christopher asks, confused as he looks down towards where Nasse was pitted.

“When you’re paying like 5k to have a NASCAR pit crew come out for your late model operation for one race and they leave a wheel loose, I’d be mad too,” Sarina comments. “I’d be sharing my opinion with them so they clearly knew how I felt about it.”

“That may be crossing the line a little,” Erik offers and Sarina just shakes her head no.

Under the caution, Marcus made the decision to leave Chase on the track with most of the leaders.

“Harrison is the only one ahead of you to pit,” Marcus informs him after the round of stops. “The 12 has no more fresh tires on pit road. I still think there’s going to be more cautions and I’d rather you have fresh tires late.”

“10-4 I agree as the speed difference is noticeable,” Chase replies, having dealt with his fair share of the rough Florida pavement in the past. “I’ve been just riding here lately. I can handle the handling issue no problem, but keep in mind for final round of adjustments.”

“10-4. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 148: Most Popular Driver Award

“I try to be me. If people like that, I thank them for their support. If they don’t, that’s fine too.” – Chase Elliott

Thursday, November 29 – Las Vegas, Nevada

Chase walks back over to the table, taking his seat once again. He had done this part of the banquet – gone up and spoke about finishing sixth in points, and now it was time to relax the rest of the night.

As he had been walking through the room, he passed a glance over at Kyle and Samantha, still thinking about what Sarina had told him just before the banquet. He then takes his phone out, knowing the message needed to be sent. He selected both of them, before taking a deep breath as he began to type out what he wanted to say.

Sarina told me the news. My heart is broken for you, and thoughts are with you both. Through everything, you guys have been there for Sarina and I. You stood by our side when we were at each other’s throats, and you helped us find our way back to each other. You gave Sarina all the tools to succeed the past two years. You’ve shown us both support through everything that we’ve had to deal with. Most importantly, I don’t think we would’ve gotten through January without you both.

So anything you need – whether a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, someone who fully understands your pain, or even someone to keep an eye on Brexton one night so you can have some time to yourselves, just call me. Whatever you need, I’m here for both of you.

Don’t worry about the Snowball Derby this weekend. I’ll take care of everything on that front from you, from my guys to Raphael’s guys. We’ll go and put together the performance you and your team are deserving of, and that’s getting to victory lane.

“Are you okay?” Sarina asks as she glances over to see him typing out the message.

“Yeah,” he answers as he clicks send, before placing his phone back in his pocket. “I sent a message to Kyle and Sam, offering my support.” He then wraps an arm around her shoulders. “Are you okay?”

“As long as I have you, absolutely.” She then looks over, kissing his lips. They both then focus back on stage, watching the introduction for the Most Popular Driver Award. “Are you ready for your moment in the spotlight?”

“I’ll laugh if everybody assumes I am winning this award and someone else does.” She just rolls her eyes as she glances over at him.

“I’m sorry but I can tell you right now that’s not happening.” They then watch Dale come out on stage as Sarina shakes her head. “I still can’t believe sometimes that I am going to driving for Dale and Kelley next season.”

“I still remember Dale giving us the third degree when you showed up with me at Hendrick Motorsports that day.” She chuckles, remembering the line of questions offered by Dale combined with Jimmie’s teasing.

“I still can’t believe that I froze a little when Kasey walked over.” Chase had to chuckle in response, still remembering that day perfectly. The pair focused in on the ceremony as Dale talked about the history of the award, and smoothly let that lead him into introducing the winner. “I told you. Nobody can deny the charm of my Georgia peach.”

“Let’s hope I don’t screw this up….” Chase then stands up, accepting the hugs and quick congratulatory messages from various crew members at the table before heading to the stage.

Chase stood there, initially posing with the trophy in front of the NASCAR Awards banner, followed by a series of photos with the white background.

“That’s perfect,” the photographer says after taking a series of images. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Chase replies as he walks over to where Sarina stood.

“I like how they designed the trophy,” Sarina comments, taking in the full image. It was nice in having the appearance of someone offering a helping hand to someone on top. “Now, do you believe what everyone was saying?”

“It’s soaking in nicely…” She then leans in and snags a quick kiss.

“I like what you said up there about legacy, by the way. It is nice to see the Elliott tradition continue.” He then reaches out and grabs her hand.

“It also continues with you, as well, and for the right reasons as you’ve worked hard to do what you can for the fans as I told you.” She smiles, nodding her head in approval. His speech on Wednesday was slowly beginning to soak in more.

“I just realized that you are the first female winner of the award, and obviously first couple to share the award in one season,” the photographer interrupts, catching their attention. “When you receive your award next weekend Sarina, we’ll have to do some photos of you both together with them.” Sarina and Chase nod their head in agreement.

“Speaking of next week, I need you to wear your tan colored suit that you wore yesterday,” Sarina says, catching Chase’s attention.

“I was just going to wear a black tuxedo as I am simply your esco-” He starts and she shakes her head no.

“It won’t go with my brown dress. Besides, the pink looks amazing on you.” He was still stuck on her first comment.

“So your dress is brown? Do I get any clue as to what it looks like?” She shakes her head no with a grin. “I can’t see your wedding dress, and I can’t see your banquet dress. Do you realize this is torture?”

“It’ll be worth it, trust me.” She then gives him a kiss, before walking away so he could focus on his media availability.

Friday, November 30 – Penscola, Florida – 5 Flags Speedway

Chase and Sarina make their way through the infield, making their way out to pit road where the No. 18 team was set-up.

“Marcus…” Sarina says as she walks over, wrapping her arms around the crew chief to give him a hug.

“Sarina…” Marcus replies as he easily accepts the hug from her. He then takes a step back, giving her a glance over. “You look absolutely amazing today.” She then takes a glance at herself.

“I’m just wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. What’s special about that?” He could only smile as he thought about the entire 2017 season spent with her and everything he watched her and Chase go through together.

“For being about halfway through your pregnancy, I have to compliment the fact that you look great. It seems the pregnancy is giving you a good look, and you’re starting to show a little.” She nods her head, hands finding their way to her stomach as they had plenty of times over the past couple of weeks.

“The baby is certainly growing, I can’t deny that. I’ve even began to feel the kicks a little.” Marcus’ jaw drops surprised as she simply nods her head to emphasize what she said.

“I was really looking forward to working with you again before you moved on, but…” Marcus then looks over at Chase. “I can’t deny the chance to work with this superstar.”

“Kyle thinks that you guys should gel together well with your attitudes, and I have to agree. Oh, and Chase is getting his dad to spot for him instead of Tony.” Marcus admittedly wasn’t surprised.

“Just like old times – back in a late model with your dad spotting.” Chase nods his head with a smile. “Should I call Ricky over here for you?” Chase chuckles, as he glances down pit road to where Ricky Turner was working with Chase Purdy.

“They have a good thing going,” Chase comments before focusing on his eyes back on Marcus. “But given the equipment that KBM has, along with your talent on the pit box, I have a feeling we’re going to do well this weekend.”

“I like your thinking,” Marcus replies as he grabs his notebook off of the pit stand. “Raphael ran about 20 laps in each session in his car yesterday and found some things out. Combined with past years here, I figured it’d give us somewhere to start today.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “We also know that we’re good to go starting off as he shook down the car with five laps in the second session, and was already ranked top-15.”

“Seriously?” Marcus nods his head.

“He was just supposed to be taking it easy, making sure nothing was dragging, and he said it came to him with ease.” Marcus then looks over to where the car was sitting on pit road. “We don’t mess around when we build cars for the Snowball Derby, and I was making sure this was special for her.”  Chase then looks over at Sarina stood beside him.

“Well then it looks like I owe you, her, and our baby something special this weekend. I am going to get ready..” Marcus and Sarina easily accept as Chase heads up into the KBM hauler with bag in hand.

“Are you going to be able to handle not being in a car down here this weekend?” Sarina then looks over a little surprised.

“This is one race that I absolutely hate to miss, but there’s other important things,” Sarina replies, her hands still resting on her stomach. “I want to do everything that I can for this baby, Marcus. I have fallen so in love with him or her already, and I can’t wait till the first day that I get to hold the baby in my hands, watch him or her clutch my finger.”  Marcus lets out a sigh.

“I still remember sitting in the trailer and we were talking about motherhood and babies. You had so many questions about your life moving forward and where this relationship would take you. I remember you even telling me how you didn’t know how much you wanted that. Do you remember what I told you?” Sarina smiles, nodding her head. “I guess that I was right after all, as motherhood is certainly a good look for you. That said, I expect you to be kicking ass next year in the XFINITY Series while raising that baby.”

“Oh trust me, I am not going to hold back a single inch on track.”

Over the next three hours, there were a pair of practices for the Snowball Derby scheduled, with Marcus electing to take a different approach to both of them.

He focused on getting Chase comfortable in the car for the opening session, which didn’t take much work at all. They then did a total of 16 laps, making mock qualifying runs so they’d have a game plan for later on that night.

“I’d rather we know what we have for qualifying so we know that we’ll be able to make the show and get a decent starting spot,” Marcus told him beforehand. “If we’re struggling, then we’ll start off the second session that way. Though if we’re good to go, we can switch to race runs.”

The focus on qualifying paid off and showed the potential both driver and crew chief wanted with them ending the session ranked eighth quickest.

As per the plan, Marcus switched over to race trim for the second session with a focus on making sure the handling was where they needed it to be. They’d only get 14 laps in with the time allotted on the schedule, ending the session ranked 13th.

“It’s tight on corner entry and through the middle,” Chase explained afterwards. “It was better when we ended the session compared to the beginning and this morning, but it’s still there. I just don’t feel like I can carry the speed through there necessary to get the number we want.”

“You know how much the tires fall off during the race,” Marcus starts, earning a nod in approval from Chase. “As long as you are still consistently fast at the end of a run compared to the beginning and the handling isn’t too bad, I’d say that we’re going to be fine.” Chase crosses his arms as he glances back towards the car as the crew guys work on it.

“I just worry about being tight and how much I’ll wear the left front tire out fighting that. I’d rather be loose than tight as I can compensate.” Marcus nods his head in approval.

“Knowing what the adjustments did today, we are heading in the right direction. We just need to perfect on that tomor-”

“Have you seen the forecast? It looks like a monsoon is going to come through Florida tomorrow.” Marcus lets out a sigh as he had been trying to forget that, hoping something changed. However, seeing a 90% chance of rain wasn’t promising.

“I hope Tom Bryant is smart this year. I don’t want to be stuck here till 4am because he decided to throw the green at midnight.” Chase had to chuckle, remembering that year at the Snowball Derby.

“I woke up that morning and said to Ricky that it was going to rain all day and we should just relax and not worry about everything since Tom would probably re-schedule to tomorrow. I couldn’t believe he kept waiting it out and trying to dry the track, and I even said to him how do you expect to have any fans here? But hey, the fans stuck around and we went racing. The best part was Sarina won.” Marcus had to chuckle in response.

“The only good thing is Sunday’s forecast looks better.” Chase rolls his eyes, having seen mixed reactions on that virtue of the different models he looked at.

“Why is there a baby rattle here?” Raphael questions, causing everybody to look over at their KBM teammate confused. “Anybody lose a rattle?” A slow series of head shakes respond back to the driver.

“A fan probably dropped it,” his crew chief Brandon Setzer comments as he walks around the front of the car. “Just thro-”

“There’s a piece of paper, as well.” That comment peaked Chase’s interest as he walks over, with Marcus and Sarina right in toe. “It has your nam-”

“Not surprised,” Chase interrupts, snatching the paper and rattle from his teammate. “Hope you’re taking care of your pregnancy while the boy plays. Perhaps I can have some fun, too.”

“Alison?” Marcus asks, earning a simple nod in return as Sarina handed Chase his phone so he could make the phone call. “Before the weekend, I alerted every single KBM employee that wasn’t aware of her appearance and details. I wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Thank you,” Sarina replies as she watches Chase carefully on the phone, placing her hand on his arm. He simply glances over, leaning in for a light kiss.

“How does she sneak in?” Raphael asks as Sarina shrugs her shoulders while keeping her eyes on Chase.

“That’s the million dollar question that we’ve been asking every single week. If we knew that, then maybe we could catch her and this would be over.”

“Give them some space, Raphael….” Marcus instructs as he leads the young driver away from the pair.

“Are you okay?” Sarina asks once Chase is off the phone, earning a simple nod in return.

“Are you okay?” He questions, earning a simple nod. “They said they had warned track security. They’ll be down there as soon as they can to collect the evidence while questioning track security and running their own search.”

“In other words, the usual bullshit that we’ve heard since the beginning of the year.” Chase lets out a sigh as he pulls her close to him, letting her lean against him.

“It’s going to be okay. She’s not going to get to me, or you, or the baby. We’ve got your guys and they’ll do everything – along with us – to take care of us.” He then looks into her eyes. “Just promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Absolutely.” She then kisses his lips, before watching him walk away to catch back up with Brandon, Marcus and Raphael to discuss their plan for qualifying.

Standing by the trailer, she takes a deep breath, letting her fingers clutch around the snowball that hung around her neck.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 21: “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.”

Monday, January 22 – North Carolina

Chase sits at the kitchen table, eyes focused on the eggs, as Sarina walks over, wrapping her arms around him from behind.

“Are you sure you can’t just come back to bed?” She questions and he looks up at her with a smile.

“If I missed today’s meeting, Rick may have my head,” Chase offers as he focuses back on his breakfast. She then lets out a sigh as she places her head on top of his.

“But you have to admit that our activities together are more fun.” Chase chuckles as he pauses in his eating. Despite avoiding intercourse with the waiting period, it hadn’t stopped them from laying kisses from head to toe the past couple of nights.

“Trust me – they’re a lot more fun than listening to speeches.” She then rubs his shoulders.

“When you get bored today, just think of me and our fun together.” She then kisses his cheek lightly, before heading off to get a shower.

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

“It’s like he has a certain glow to him,” Chad Avrit offers as Chase walks by the crew members, taking his place at the front with his fellow teammates.

It was time for the annual Hendrick Motorsports kick-off meeting together, where Rick got every employee together in the big conference room and a series of pep talks were offered in hopes of success for the season ahead.

“He’s not wearing any new rings,” John Gianninoto comments, glancing over Chase’s shoulder at his hands.

“Not every guy wears an engagement ring, though. He just seems a little more happier in his step today.” Each of the crew guys watch their young driver pull out his phone, sending a quick message, before placing it back in his pocket. When they were at the track, it was easy to read his reactions and figure out everything. But at the shop, it was a bit of a mystery and brought conversation. At least it’d keep them entertained while everyone filed in.

“Haven’t you guys been told to mind your own business?” Alan interrupts the crew members, who all look up innocently as if they weren’t discussing anything. “If he’s happy, then that’s great. We don’t need to dissect the very reason why.”

“Where’s the fun in not doing that?” Jared Seate questions as Alan looks over at him, surprised. He thought entering a third year together, they would be done with the childish games.

“Didn’t you learn your lesson the last time?” Jared just shrugs his shoulder as a smile forms on his face.

“If it wasn’t my phone call, they would’ve been apart longer. I was the right encouragement for Sarina to go see him that night. You would’ve had to deal with a grumpy driver a lot longer.” Alan rolls his eyes as he sits back in his seat.

“Are you ever going to stop reminding us about that?” Chad wonders and Jared just shrugs his shoulders. “Alan, please let me tape his mouth shut this season.” The other crew members nod in agreement as Alan can only chuckle in response.

Though his eyes then rested on his young driver, seeing exactly what the crew members were talking about as he smiled himself.

“What’s got you in a good mood?” Alan questions, certainly against his own advice for the crew guys.

“I’m just ready to get the year started,” Chase answers and Alan just rolls his eyes in response.

“No no, you’re smiling for another reason all together…..” Chase glances over, surprised that Alan had caught on so quickly. Was it that obvious?

“Everything is going better than I could’ve dreamed at times, Alan. We’re growing closer and closer with each passing day. We also finally had a discussion about our future together, in relation to children, and it went so much smoother than I could’ve imagined. Every worry that I discussed with you – it’s almost like it doesn’t exist anymore.” Alan could only smile back in response, glad to see that Chase was happy. A happy driver meant that he would be more focused, and easier to get along with, meaning that success should be inevitable this year. Plus, he couldn’t help but be happy on a personal level, too.

“See, that wasn’t that hard after all. It’s amazing what happens when you put faith into it.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “So if you talked about a future, is there a ring missing here?”

“Oh no, not at all. That didn’t come up at all…” Chase then glances back forward at the mention as Alan watches him closely. He was intrigued in how Chase automatically closed that door without a thought.  It was weird to see him set on planning a future, but not opening the engagement or marriage door.

“Is that going to be a future topic of discussion in the near future?” Chase looks back over at Alan, and shrugs his shoulders. “I mean, it doesn’t matter to me. You can just ask Sherry or Martin about that, or even Jordan and Danny if you really want to. But normally when you see someone mention a future, the next topic is marriage. Given your happiness, the guys were even suspecting it.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it was only a matter of time before more people asked the same questions. But just like the children discussion, he hadn’t given it much thought. Besides, he was still a young lad. Was it fair to be faced with all these grown up questions just like that?

“I haven’t thought about it, okay?” Alan nods his head, accepting.

“If you want to talk, you know where to find me. I’ll always be there for you.” Chase nods his head, accepting. “Just as long as you don’t scare the wits out of me this year.”

“I don’t plan on crossing paths with any evil people once again. I don’t want to repeat that experience.” Chase then closes his eyes as he rests his head back against the seat. “When I do think back to either Daytona, or especially Indy,  I can only shake my head. it continues to set in just how much I put myself through, and how close we came to that being worse. What was I thinking at Indy?”

“I asked you that very question, remember. When you and Josh came up with the plan, I kept asking you what you were thinking because I couldn’t believe you would subject yourself to that. The same way that my stomach still flip flops in seeing how white you looked, and just how bad things spiraled so fast.” Chase glances down at the ground as he takes a deep breath.

“I’m sorry I put you through tha-”

“Hey, it’s okay. I would do it again in a heartbeat for you – as long as you’re okay, and we have a future working together.” Chase looks back over at Alan, giving him a smile.

“I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.” Alan then looks at him a little surprised.

“Not even Greg or Ricky?” Chase shakes his head no.

“Greg was great for XFINITY and sure we won a championship together, but it’s not the same. And yes, Ricky is amazing and I still look up to him a ton. But at this level, seeing what we’re going through, you’re the man.” Alan smiles back in return as Rick takes to the stage, set to get everything started.

——————————–

“Excuse me miss, but what are you doing here?” Sarina hears, instantly spinning around immediately. She had been focused on the late model, checking out the interior, making sure everything was place – from mirrors to the shifter handle – for the Winter Showdown.

“Why don’t you go see Kyle and ask him what I said?” She questions, before turning her focus back on the car. He was caught off-guard by her attitude as he places a hand on her shoulder lightly.

“I know you’re pissed that you’re missing this weekend, and I know you’re angry for how he handled things. But please, I didn’t have a say in the matter. Give me a bit of benefit here.” She then stops, closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath as she slowly turns around to face Marcus.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have flipped on you. You’re right as it was rude and unfair. And to be honest, I’ve come to grips with Kyle’s decision after talking to him.” She then leans back against the car, glancing down at the floor. “I just am getting annoyed of everyone babying me, trying to protect me and take care of me. That’s never been my style. I’ve always been right out there, focused on my dreams, independent, able to take care of myself, determined, and not needing to be taken care of delicately. But since everything happened, that’s all that everyone – Kyle, Sam, you, and Chase sometimes – want to do.”

“It’s because we care about you, and that comes out by us trying to do what we feel right in helping you. It’s because we know there’s pain involved, and we want to make everything as easy as possible to handle for you.” She nods her head, accepting, as she looks up at him.

“I know there was pain – I felt that pain everyda-”

“So you understand where we’re coming fro-”

“But I dealt with. I healed physically and got through the days of pain as the doctor described. I healed mentally, coming to grips with what happened and everything that I was feeling with. I fought through the confusion. I made my way through the sadness, and anger, in my own way, over those couple of weeks, with Chase by my side. We talked for long nights about how I felt emotionally – to the point that he hid his emotions from me because he didn’t want to hurt me more.” She then takes a deep breath. “But it’s done with. That was the past. We’re both – Chase and I – are moving forward. Now it’s time for everybody else to do the same.”

“Is it really dealt with? You mentioned Chase hiding his emot-”

“He talked to me about why he did it, and how he felt on a couple different occasions. I made him assure me that he wouldn’t ever do that again for my sake if something happened. We talked about it, Marc-”

“Including your future together, and whether you want kids?” She nods her head, remembering the conversation with a small smile on her face. She found herself imaging the day dream that he had told her about. “Okay, that’s great to hear and see. But you do see where we’re coming from and can give us a small break, right?”

“Absolutely – hence why I am not mad at Kyle for what he did. But on that same note, I’m here because I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to have this car ready for Kern County.” He then looks at her, surprised. “Kyle didn’t tell you yet? He has put Kern County back on my schedule.”

“That’s great. I know how much you wanted to race there last year….” Marcus’ voice trails off, knowing that it was a sore subject with everything that happened, as it marked the beginning to the turmoil with her brother all year long.

“I can’t wait to see if what we tried in practice actually pays off to being strong enough to win the thing.” She then reaches out, grabbing Marcus’ hand. “You can bring up last year all you want – its okay; it doesn’t hurt me anymore. I’ve come to grips with everything that happened with Chris. I’m ready to head there without a single thought back in reverse.”

“What about Chase? I know he’ll want to be there to support you.” She takes a deep breath as she glances back to the car.

“I have a feeling that he’ll be fine, too. He didn’t hesitate or freeze up in the mention of what happened. We’re going to be fine, Marcus.” Marcus smiles, giving her shoulder a pat.

“I know. I always knew it’d work out between you both eventually. Now, why don’t you climb in there and we can make any adjustments needed?” She nods her head, accepting, as she climbs in the car as instructed. He then kneels down, looking through the window at her. “I have one question. If you talked about your future together, did you mention your hesitation about marriage?”

“Nope. We didn’t discuss that – just whether we wanted kids together, and when. We both agreed on waiting for three, five years – whatever it took for me to do my thing.” A smile immediately comes to her face. “Marcus, I got lucky in him. I keep saying it over and over, but I mean it. He’s so patient with me, and he helps me on so many emotional levels like nobody could have before. But here’s a guy whose willing to wait to have a family so I can have a chance to chase my dreams. Can you believe that?”

“He’s one of a kind. Don’t lose him because of the smallest thing…” He then stands up, and walks away to get the clipboard as she lays her head back against the seat. What if she was making a bigger deal about a future engagement, marriage than she needed to be?

“Hey, what are you doing?” Marcus then glances over the clip board, curious. “Were you not present at the competition meeting?” Marcus nods his head. “Then you know that we’re not working togeth-”

“I’m not crazy, Sarina. I know that Kyle wants you to work with Rudy (Fugle) this year, and I’m fine with that. Why do you think I’ve left your truck stuff alone, handed all notes over to Rudy, and am focused on what I am doing?” She then points to the clipboard. “I figured I’d give you a hand. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. You know, I am going to miss you this year.” Marcus smiles as he nods his head in agreement.

“I’ll miss our fun times, too, but there’s a lot that you can learn from Rudy that I can’t teach you. That’s why he has helped Erik (Jones), and Christopher (Bell) become the drivers they are today.” He then places a hand on the window ledge as she glances out at him. “But know that you can always come to me if you want to talk. I’ll understand.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 20: “I don’t need babying!”

Sunday, January 20 – North Carolina

After the busy day spent at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the past two nights, it was actually nice to be able to put her feet up and relax once again on a Sunday afternoon. She wasn’t about to take these afternoons for granted, given that race season was set to kick off shortly.

Glancing at the calendar, she knew everything began next weekend with a trip to Cordele, Georgia for Speedfest. After the frustrations of the Snowball Derby, she couldn’t wait for a chance to redeem herself in the late model.

She pulled out her phone, texting Marcus a note of interest, knowing that they’d want to have things finalized before the car got loaded. She was actually surprised last week’s seat fitting hadn’t included some time sitting in the late model, too.

Her brows fused together at the text in response, though, as she sat up.

“You’re kidding me, right?” She questions out loud, catching Chase’s attention away from the game he was playing. He paused it, confused.

“Do I want to know?” He wonders, immediately thinking to Chris based on the past couple of days.

“Kyle is only fielding a late model for Raphael (Lassard) for Speedfest,” she informs him. “My effort was shelfed. Marcus thought he told me already, hence a lack of questions.” Chase knew the lack of questions wasn’t totally for no fault, given the plenty of other things occupying her mind lately. However, it did feel weird to not hear much discussion just a week away.

“I thought you and Kyle were cool….” She immediately begins to dial Kyle’s number as Chase places a hand on top of hers. “Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and calm down before you hit dial. Remember he gave you a chance and he has done a lot for you.” She follows the instructions, reluctantly, before dialing Kyle’s number.

“Hello?” She hears immediately as her eyes remained locked on Chase, who is full on giving her reminders to stay calm.

“Hey Kyle,” she says as calmly as she can manage. “It’s Sarina. I have a question for you.” Chase nods his head in approval, seeing that his suggestions were being taken to heart – so far.

“What’s up?” She could almost cross her arms, and go into furious mode at what she was feeling. Why wasn’t she notified? Why was she just finding out now? And why was this happening as a whole?

“I thought I was running Speedfest next weekend – until I talked to Marcus today, and found out that you cancelled the effort.” Chase nods his head once again, glad that she hadn’t flipped on him – yet.

“Oh crap, I meant to call you before I left to go away, but was caught up in making sure we had everything. With what happened at the end of the year, I cancelled all of the pre-season late model events so you could have as much time as you needed to relax, take care of yourself, and handle what’s going on.” The concern was appreciated. It was nice to know that Kyle cared about her enough to do that. However, it still didn’t erase her frustration.

“Well, I can let you know that I am fully healed physically and have been for awhile now. Like I said to Marcus at the shop and I will say to you, I don’t need babying. I am perfectly fine and can take care of myself. Everything healed accordingly, per the doctor, and I am set to return to life as normal. Can I please get that respect from you?” In her eyes, she didn’t want to be treated differently. It was the same as having a simple surgery, or coming down with a disease. Why did everyone have to make a big deal about it? Besides, she didn’t need Kyle becoming overbearing and others catching signs, and then getting curious about what happened.

“I understand your perspective fully. I was just looking out for you, and didn’t know whether you’d be good to go in time. I didn’t want to have to shift plans at the last minute and mess up the guys. I was looking at it from an overall perspective.” She takes a deep breath, once again appreciating the concern, but certainly not removing her anger. She was set to get back to the grind, enjoy some late model racing before getting in the truck, having some fun. Now what was she going to do?

“So is Kern County off the table, too?” Chase knew he could deal without the trip out to California, having strong memories of last year’s incident before the race even happened. But taking a deep breath, he knew he couldn’t play the guilty association game.

“I had cancelled that event, but we’re far enough out that it is back on the card for you. I will let the guys know on Monday.” She smiles, glad that everything wasn’t thrown away.

“Thank you, Kyle. I’m sorry if I came on a little strong. It’s just I was frustrated and caught off-guard when Marcus told me.”

“I understand. I should’ve told you like I had planned, and I apologize. It’s great to see you both doing so well.” Sarina glances over at Chase, flashing a smile.

“Yeah, it is a nice change of pace actually.” She just hoped it stayed that way with the Shelley situation in the back of her mind.

“Well, don’t mess it up. Go enjoy these couple of weeks with Chase before your schedule gets busy. I’ll talk to you later. Goodbye Sarina.”

“Bye Kyle.” She hangs up, setting the phone on the table as she lets out a long sigh. “I didn’t kill him, yell at him, or threaten him. I listened.”

“I know, and I’m proud of you,” Chase comments, leaning over and stealing a kiss. “But just because I made the comment about the ang-”

“Don’t sugarcoa-”

“I’m not!” He sets the controller down, scooting closer to her on the couch. “I was just going to say that we don’t need to make a big deal over every situation that happens. We don’t need to focus on your behavior and reactions. Feelings and emotions, yeah I want to know those so I can help you feel better. But other than that, we don’t need to go crazy. We just need to quietly handle.” She then reaches into her jean pocket, pulling out a card and placing it in his hand.

“I was talking with a fellow crew member and he mentioned something about how he was going to be late on Monday due to having a psychologist appointment. I didn’t mean to intrude, but I asked him what about and he mentioned some emotional stability issues. I then asked if I could have the psychologist’s card so I could schedule an appointment as I was looking into possible anger management. After joking about my anger handling abilities, he handed it over.” Chase picks it up, reading over the name and number, before handing it back to her.

“That’s good. I’m glad that you’re being proactive. Just keep at it and everything will come together.” He then reaches to grab the controller to unpause the game, but she places her hand on top of his.

“You know, they said that we had to wait four to six weeks before we could have sex again. I’m not racing next weekend, so I’d be open for a special night for two together.” Chase then looks over at her intrigued.

“That just came out of nowhere…” She chuckles as she lays back on the couch.

“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile actually. I miss those special, close moments. I miss showing you how much I love you, care about you, and want to be with you. I miss touching every inch of you – even if you may taste a little digus-”

“Hey!” She then laughs as he throws a pillow at her. “You’re no better sometimes.”

“We need to agree to not do anything while we’re super sweaty after races – no matter how excited.” He chuckles in agreement. “But really, I’m serious about this. There’s sometimes I just want to reach for you, pull you close, and strip everything down. I have no shame in saying that I have a good thirst for a Georgia peach.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“What about your fears of repeating what happened?” She then pauses, taking a deep breath, having thought about that, as well.

“I will admit that I was originally scared – but you can’t let fear drive your life, and like the doctor and Samantha both said, it was a small chance of probability and we hit the lottery. If we take the right steps, from changing condom brands to the new birth control pills that I am supposed to be taking, I have every faith in what we’re going to do.” He nods his head, accepting, as he keeps his eyes locked on her. He knew that the questions wouldn’t end there, though, as he didn’t want any regrets down the road.

“What if you get pregnant again, by chance?” She glances down, knowing that he was definitely covering all his bases and she respected that.

“What do you thin-”

“I’m not the one who would have to give up racing mid-season if that happens. But I will say if it did, I would support you completely and fully, and be right by your side for whatever happened.” She smiles, glad that they could equally state the fact that they’d never leave each other again.

“It’s the chance that I am willing to take to be with you, because I can’t do this for an entire year. I know they say absence makes the heart fonder, but damn my heart can’t take that.” He smiles as he lays on top of her, kissing her lips.

“I’m glad, because I don’t think I could stand to keep my paws to myself, either.” She smiles back in return as she runs her fingers up underneath the edges of his shirt.

“Can I ask you a question now?” He nods his head, accepting, before laying his head on her chest. “Did you ever think about being a father?”

“I can’t say that I did, honestly. I was focused on so many other things that I never paused to think about being a dad.” He then glances up at her as she thinks it over.

“What about now? Do you want kids, someday?” He thinks it over, as he lets out a sigh. He didn’t realize they were going to lead right into this discussion that night.

“I still haven’t given it a lot of thought. If you wanted to have kids of our own, I would fully be there ready to be a father – but it’s not a deal breaker for me.” He then looks back at her. “As long as I’m with you and you’re happy, then I’m fin-”

“What did I say about sugarcoating shit?” He gives an instant look of shock. “Stop trying to solely make me happy, and tell me what you want for once.”

“I am telling you what I want, completely and honestly. I’m fine either way.” She nods her head, accepting, as he lays his head back against her. “I can’t deny that I was torn apart and broken in hearing that you had suffered a miscarriage. Whether we knew or not, that’s a life, a piece of us just gone like that. I admit that I had more emotions than I even let on for you, because my focus towards you was taking care of yo-”

“And I told you what I thought about that, right?” He nods his head, accepting.

“I know, but at the time, that’s what I thought was the right thing to do. That’s why Samantha really became my person to vent to because I needed to get it out, but I didn’t want to blow your world further apart. No doubt it was tough, it was emotional, and even discussing it now it still stings. But whatever happens moving forward, whether we have kids or not, it doesn’t matter to me.” She then runs her hands through his hair.

“I never thought about being a mother before. I never imagined my life in that way before. I guess you could say that I was focused solely on survival, everything I was going through, moving forward. Besides, who would want to be a mother when you’ve seen what I’ve seen? I didn’t want to be my parents, either.” She then takes a deep breath as she continues making swirls in his hair with her fingers. “But, I can admit that’s changed. Going through this whole experience, pondering different topics, I can say that I would like to be a mother one day. I would like to have a little daughter or son of my own. I want that little piece of me and you to take care of. Now, I don’t want that today or maybe in the next month – really, maybe not even the next couple of years. Right now, my focus is solely on my career. I want to make the most of this opportunity with KBM and establish myself as someone who can win races, and championships. Maybe I even want to move up to that next level and see what I can do there. I keep pondering this, and sometimes I keep saying to myself in three, five, or maybe even eight years, I will take a year off and have a baby of my own. Then after that, I’ll find my way back and show that I can raise a child while kicking some ass at the same time.”

“If anybody can do that, it’s certainly you because you’re absolutely amazing. I think you’d make a great mother, too, after what you did yesterday. I actually found myself daydreaming about you and I having a family together, and how you’d be settling the sibling diff-”

“Sibling? You day-dreamed two children?” He nods his head. “What were they?”

“A boy and girl, two years apart.” She smiles to herself as she closes her eyes, seeing the image in her own mind. “Sarina, no matter how long you want to wait, whether three or eight years, I’ll be willing to do that for you. You deserve a chance at this first, and I know you’re going to make it – beginning with a championship this year.” She then lets out a laugh.

“No pressure, huh? You sound like everybody else out there.” He had seen the pre-season predictions. Everybody had Sarina near the top of the heap simply based on her limited success last year, and the way Kyle Busch Motorsports typically grew drivers.

“But unlike them, I believe it more than just on paper. I’ve seen your talent behind the wheel. Heck, I hired you to drive my late model. I know you can do it so that’s why I’m saying it. But win or lose, I’ll be here, too.” She smiles as she glances down at him.

“Just like I’ll be here no matter what, but I know you’ll get that first career win this year, and I’ll be right there ready to celebrate in victory lane. It’s time to #di9 boy.” He then smiles, seeing how she had gotten back to the perfect use of the hashtag already.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 183: Their Special Night

Saturday, December 2 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida

“So you asked Lindsay…” Chase starts, as he wraps his arms around Sarina.

“I’m driving – as long as you trust me,” Sarina states as they reach the rental car. Chase pulls out the keys, placing them in her hand as she looks back with a big smile.

“I’ll always trust you. I know that you won’t let me down…” He then walks around the car, climbing into the passenger seat, while Sarina flicks the keys around on her finger before getting in.

It was a good 20 minute drive, but there were no regrets once they reached their destination. Chase looked over at her, smile firmly planted, before climbing out of the car. He watched as she grabbed a picnic basket, along with a small box, before leading him down to the beach.

Pulling out a blanket, she lays it out underneath the moonlight, with them both taking a seat.

“This is nice,” Chase offers as she reaches back into the box.

“Burgers and fries, okay?” She questions and he nods his head. She pulls out a pair of burgers, along with a fry, handing him his burger. “When I went to the bathroom, I actually went to get food.”

“Sneaky…” She just smiles as they both dig in.

“Anybody can go to a fancy restaurant for their anniversary. But, let’s face it – that’s not us. We’re just two simple, laidback, feisty at times, fierce racecar drivers who can get the job done. With a little country, and a back road to escape on, our lives are complete…” Chase smiles, nodding his head. She obviously read him to a perfect t.

“But let’s face it, we have the most chaotic lives, ever. Our schedules almost consume us sometimes – but because of our love, we can handle it and know the other person is always there. Speaking of which, what is your schedule for December?” She looks at him, confused.

“I have a banque-”

“…which I am coming to, no ifs ands or buts. I can’t let you down after you attended my banquet.” She laughs, nodding her head accepting. She just hoped she had picked out the right dress for the occasion. “Before that, I have production shoots for the week that we get back, and Dale’s retirement party. By the way, you’re invited..”

“I got a text message already from Dale.” He wasn’t surprised by that, to be honest. “Don’t your parents have an anniversary?”

“December 12. Oh, the Hendrick Motorsports Christmas Afternoon Get Together is the Friday before the banquet. It goes from like noon to 6. Rick told me that you’re invited whether you like it or not, and the crew guys have begged me to make sure you come.” She laughs, not believing his team at times.

“For their pleasure, I will attend – as long as you promise to attend the Kyle Busch Motorsports Christmas Party that night. Oh, and you have to wear an ugly sweater – as picked out by Kyle.” Chase gives her a concerned look as she breaks out laughing. “Yeah, I’m not looking forward to what he picks for me and Christopher, either.”

“Oh come on. You have to know that Sam is the one behind it…” Sarina shakes her head no. “Seriously?”

“Christopher told me about last year’s deal. It was ridiculous. Needless to say, be prepared to be embarrassed…” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing this was going to be interesting.

“So after that, your schedule is clear?” She nods her head as a big smile forms on her face. “Great. We’re spending Christmas at my parents house – purely by tradition. But before then, we’re going to Colorado for some skiing and snowboarding.” It didn’t surprise her, as that played into a gift for later. But, she did have a couple concerns.

“You’re serious?” Chase nods his head, yes. “I haven’t ever done either of those.” A big smile forms on his face.

“Looks like I get to teach you how to snowboard this winter…” She was still a little concerned, fearing that this would go affray. She also still had one big other concerning question.

“I also wanted to put up a tree this year, and decorate for the holidays.” Chase was caught off-guard as he had never seen that from her before. But, he could see that more of her fun side was coming out.

“Well, you can decorated the cabin as it could use some Christmas cheer. We’ll go cut down a tree, and get some ornaments, and make it look amazing. Then you can get some decorations for the outside and make it look good.” She smiles, glad that he was on-board. She just hoped she didn’t scare him off with all of her crazy plans for decorating the small space. “Now, about my surprise….”

“I suppose you can finally have it…” She then reaches into the small box, wrapping her hands around it, taking a deep breath. “I love you with every part of me. Sometimes, it’s even hard to find the words to say to you to describe that love. I don’t know what I’d do without you, and I can’t even begin to describe how you complete me. I never thought I could love like this – until I met you. Love wasn’t something I believed in, but you obviously changed that.” He smiles as he watches her.

“You taught me a lot of things, too. I thought love and relationships were supposed to be perfect without a single hurdle. I guess that’s because I grew up with that image due to my parents, making sure everything was just perfect for me. But, you showed me that flaws are okay. You don’t need to be perfect because those flaws can teach you the most valuable lessons about yourself. So thank you…” She was surprised by his confession, but had noticed it with how he wasn’t always critiquing over the top about every little thing he did now.

“I fought with myself for days, a couple months really, debating what to get you for your birthday. I wanted that perfect gift that meant something special to you. I wanted that special gift that showed how much I love you. Then I remembered something my dad told me – anybody can go to the store and buy a gift, but something that comes from the heart can mean so much more.” He watches her closely, waiting for her hands to begin to lift whatever was in the box.

“The guitar meant the world to me. it’s perfect, actually. My favorite artist, but also a reminder of how we met to always hold onto.” She smiles, glad that he had seen it like she wanted him, too. She just hoped the same happened here.

“Well, this is a little closer to the heart, actually…” She then lifts the book out of the box, placing it down in front of him. “You told me that I should do a scrapbook of my family memories – whatever photos and stories – so that way I could hold onto everything, and not be afraid of losing it anymore. The book that I have of my father, now complete with the images from Lindsay, it helped me so much.” She then takes a deep breath, releasing the book into his hands. “I wanted to give you something so no matter what happe-”

“You’re scaring me…” She then looks at him confused. “Is there something wrong?” She shakes her head no, even more confused. “Your words, they make me think that something is wrong. Like, there’s some danger, or we’re going to get pulled apart, or you’re dying…”

“I can promise you that’s not why I am doing this, Chase. Trust me, we’re going to get to spend a lot of time together – enough that I may finally drive you crazy.” He laughs, smile coming back. “But I wanted to give you something so you could always hold onto our relationship. I wanted to give you a reminder of the special memories, moments, and what we mean to each other. Then at times when you’re feeling a little lost, lonely, or skeptical – like say last week, you can look through.”  His smile simply grew as he looked it over, before opening to the first page.

“That’s the sweetest gesture, ever. I mean, I was so confused and worried, and curious, and now I’m just….” He flips the page again, laughing at the memory, before meeting her eyes with his own. “Thank you. I don’t even know how to describe my feelings. This is just perfect.”

“See why I wanted to wait till we had some time?” He nods his head, accepting.

“Now, I want to look through this, and trust me – I want to do that with you by my side. But, I have something for you for our anniversary.” She then looks at him surprised as he reaches in his pocket, pulling out a small box.

“Chase, you didn’t have to….” He looks back up at her, eyes focused on hers.

“No, I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. You deserve something special for our anniversary.” He then hands the box over, as she looks at it intently. “Go ahead…” She slowly opens the box, smiling immediately as the white ball comes into view. It was a necklace with a snowball at the end of it. “We officially got together after the Snowball. I figured you could use a reminder of that with you, always, close to your heart.”

“It’s adorable. I don’t wear much jewelry – never wore an-”

“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to just to make me happ-”

“No Chase, I want to wear it. I want to be able to hold that moment close to me, and have you always with me right there by my heart.” He smiles, slowly moving over to her, taking it out of the box. He undoes it, placing it around her neck, doing it up, before kissing her cheek. “Thank you…”

“I’ll always love you, no matter what. You’re always going to be my girl.” He then sits down right beside her, arm wrapped around her as he pulls the scrapbook close to them. “So, what all did you put in here?”

“Everything that I could think of. Every single special moment that is engraved in my mind. Every single sweet reason why I love you so much. I wanted you to know it all, and have it all.” He smiles as he flips it open, gazing over the photos from Hickory. “I remember when I got you to admit that you were crushing on me. You looked to be caught between frustrated at Ryan and Darrell, but you also seemed relieved to get it off your chest…” Chase reads over the note that she had included with some photos from the weekend.

“You have never written a love letter to me before – well, except for a certain text message, but this is just beyond adorable…” He smiles as he glances back over the note. Taking a deep breath, he begins to read it out loud. “I loved you as well, but I was afraid to admit it. I was told then to guard my feelings because you never know what could strike. I didn’t want to suggest the feelings strongly in return, so that’s why I didn’t tell you back, instead assuring that you were a cool guy. I thought maybe it was enough to keep the door open.”

“I thought if I ever got through my crazy emotions and finally open up, I would be able to tell you back in return what you wanted to hear, what we both knew in that moment. Truthfully, I often wonder if I would’ve done that without you pushing me in the days that followed because if I am being honest, I didn’t open up until you peeled back the layers..”

“I’m glad that I did because I don’t regret a single mome-”

“Oh come on, Chase. Admit that you regret crashing the plane, or falling down the grandstands, or being poisoned. You, Mr. Perfectionist, always pulling every situation apart, can’t have no regrets.” Chase takes a deep breath, knowing that she was right. it was no lie that situations had fluttered through his mind multiple times.

“My regret is that I didn’t protect you more. My regret is that I didn’t stop Chris sooner and trust my gut instincts. My regret, and don’t take this the wrong way because I don’t hold it against you for the reasons that you told me then, is that I didn’t learn who was behind this sooner so we could’ve maybe stopped the forthcoming chapters. So yes, I do have regrets.” She glances down, as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “But I don’t regret a moment that I’ve spent with you, helping you handle your emotions, working through your problems, earning your trust, and especially don’t regret kissing those soft lips of yours.” She then laughs.

“Yours are just as wonderful, for the record.” She then leans in and steals a kiss as they stay close together.

“Now, what else is in here?” He then flips the page as curiosity blossoms, while she keeps her eyes focused between his, and those darling lips. One more lick across those and it may be game over. “Waterbowl, of course. I promised myself that I was running it because I wanted to have some fun and get away from the pressure, but I was also set on seeing you again.” She nods her head, remembering how he walked over immediately.

“Your cheeks that day gave you away.” He looks over surprised that she remembered that small detail. “Like I said in the previous note, I always had that crush on you, too.” The cheeks then go that shade of red they did that day as she opens the envelope on the page, pulling out the small piece of paper. “I remember you walking over to me, and how I picked on you immediately. I remember how you asked about a lack of phone call, and I blamed it on racing. But truthfully, I was doing everything that I could to avoid you; I didn’t want to be faced with showing my true colors or emotions. I also didn’t want you to find me out either, so hence the well-time excuse about the car. If I’m being honest, I maybe did work a little too har-”

“I told you! Gosh, doesn’t it feel great to admit it finally?” She smiles, nodding her head. “And doesn’t it feel great to spend a night away from the track rather than so focused on the set-up it’s driving you insane?” She nods her head, once again.

“You learned that the hard way, per Ricky…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that he used to have his own flaws, too. “See, I think that’s what bounds us together. We both have that same drive and determination. We’ll do whatever it takes to win.” She then looks back to the book, turning the page once again, as Chase focuses his eyes back on the pages, watching her open another envelope that rested beneath the photo of them standing together pre-race. “I remember this conversation so clearly for two reasons. The offer to drive a car prepared by a guy like Ricky was a dream come true, and I realized that my career was coming together before my eyes. I realized all of my hard work was paying off beyond anything. There was also the offer to join you at Michigan. I remember accepting, because once again, I was drawn to you, wanting to spend time, despite knowing that I could never tell you how I fel-”

“See, I knew that. I knew you were afraid to admit it to me by those beautiful blue eyes, and how they’d turn a shade darker when I glanced into them then.” She looks over, surprised. “That’s why I offered you the way I did – like an opportunity to talk to people, and see an event behind the scenes. If I had came out and said it otherwise, you probably would’ve ran for the hills before I could finish even speaking.” She knew that he was right – like always, as she focused her eyes back on his, again. She wanted to see if she could read those baby browns like he read hers.

“What do my eyes do now?” He meets her gaze, smile appearing immediately as he brings himself right close to her, noses brushing against each other.

“Sparkle, dance with excitement, and come out to be the purest blue that I could’ve imagined. I could possibly call it a royal blue, full of happiness, knowing that you’re the Queen of my world now.” She didn’t know what happened, but she brought her lips to his once again, going for one of their longest kisses she could ever remember, while their eyes locked on each other. She slowly pulls back, fighting for her breath as Chase takes a deep breath of her own. “Sarina…”

“Can we forget about the book for tonight? I mean, I want to go through it, I want to break down all of these emotions together, bu-”

“You don’t need to say another thing. I’ll grab the blanket and garbage, if you could grab the jewelry box and book.” She nods her head, accepting, as they both stand up. Grabbing what they needed to as instructed, she failed to find any words as she followed him back to the rental car. She stands back, resisting the urge to grab him right there as he opens the trunk, and they place everything in. He closes it, before looking back to her.

“I don’t know what has come over me….” She was caught off-guard by the emotions, and he knew that as he pulled her close to him in a quick sweep, arms wrapped around her hips.

“You don’t need to describe these feelings because trust me, I’m drawn as close to you as you are to me right now. this is just made me realize how much more I love you, and how grateful I am for you, and how much I want you to see that, tonight.” She smiles, glad the message was loud and clear.

“Then why are we still standing here?” His smile matches her as they both climb in the car, and make the quick drive back to the hotel.

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

Sunday, December 3 – Snowball Derby – 5 Flags Speedway

Sarina leans back against the car, shaking her head. They had been so strong in practice, and had a decent car through the first half. But as the race got into the second part, she began to lose the handle, slipping back and ending up 12th at the checkered.

“I’m sorry,” Marcus offers as he pats her shoulder. “I should’ve went further with that adjustment.” She nods her head, accepting.

“We’re a team – we win and lose together,” she tells him. “I’m pissed, I’m frustrated, and I damn well want to win this damn race. But I can’t be mad at you for your effort. Thank you.”

She then glances towards victory lane, smiling as she watches Kyle celebrate with the team. If she couldn’t win, it was nice to see the boss notch down another victory. However, it wasn’t lost on her that once again, the opportunity had slipped right out from under her grasp.

“You’re going to get yourself a snowball eventually,” Chase states as he hands her a bottle of water.

“I know that, but it will mean as much as this snowball right here,” she offers, hand reaching up to clasp the necklace in her hand as he smiles.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 181: “Did you guys have fun last night?”

Friday, December 1 – Wynn Las Vegas

Chase opens his eyes, smiling as he feels the warmth of Sarina’s body next to his, as he keeps his arms around her closely. He takes a deep breath, kissing her bare shoulder, not wanting to move though he needed they had to do so, soon.

A grin forms on his face as he sees her dress carefully laid on the back of the chair, with his dress shirt and jacket on the desk. He almost laughed noticing that his pants got thrown on the floor, desperation coming to Sarina by that time to not even care about discarding properly.

For every bit of emotion that he had experienced just one night ago, the reminder of the heartbreak he had felt, fear of a repeat, this was the assurance that he needed so it certainly didn’t happen once again.

He glanced over at the other bed, seeing Lindsay buried in the blankets, wondering when she got back as she obviously didn’t interrupt them. He reminded himself to say thanks to Ryan for showing her a good time, hoping it panned out well for both of them.

Another glance at the time, he knew that he couldn’t put off getting up any longer as he carefully unwraps his arms from her, slipping out of the bed.

“Chase?” She questions, obviously his movement not going unnoticed. “Where are you going?”

“It’s 8,” he answers, catching a glance from her blue eyes. “I’m going to get a shower. Coming?” She smiles, nodding her head as she gets up, keeping the one sheet wrapped around her as they head to the bathroom.

Once the water was warmed up, the pair climbed in together, getting all cleaned up, with Chase even helping her with her hair and back. Once they were both clean, they emerge, towels wrapped around them, looking for their clothes.

“Lindsay!” Sarina calls, knowing that she needed to get ready too.

“Did you guys have fun last night?” Lindsay questions, peeking out from underneath her blankets. “The evidence says so…” Sarina knew the clothes were enough of a clue, but the carefully discarded item in the trash certainly convinced, too.

“It was special. Did you have fun?” Lindsay smiles, nodding her head.

“Ryan is a great guy. We had a good night together.” She glances out the window, smile widening on her face. “I needed that, you know? I’ve been so caught up with work, trying to bury my emotions and everything that has gone on. Last night, I got a chance to just release, and have fun. Are we going to see Ryan before we go? I want to thank him.” Sarina glanced over towards Chase, and Chase immediately pulls out his phone.

“I just sent you his number,” Chase declares. “He won’t mind. You can text him as I have no clue where he is this morning.” Lindsay accepts, as she climbs out of the bed, heading to the bathroom for her shower. “What if your cousin starts dating my best friend?”

“I think they’d be great together,” Sarina offers as she gets dressed. “I just don’t know how they can handle each other’s schedules. She’s not about to give up her dancing for any guy, and that takes a lot of time.” Chase nods his head, accepting. He wanted to see his best friend happy, having seen that his luck with girls hadn’t played out well so far – despite being charming.

“Well, they can play it by ear, but for the record, I wouldn’t mind it. Lindsay seems like a great girl from what I’ve seen this week.” Sarina smiles, glad that it had gone smoothly as Chase probably would’ve hoped – if not even better than that. “By the way, Tom got back to me. He knows exactly where Samantha and Shelly are – both moved to Indianapolis, actually. So that could be an off-season starter activity.”

“That sounds great, Chase. I can’t say enough for what you’re doing, by the way. It means more than words could even describe, or relate to. Heck, it means more than the simple gifts that I got you.” He glances over with a smile as he fixes his jeans.

“So, do I get to see my surprise now? I mean, I worked for it…” She laughs, but shakes her head no.

“I told you – I want to be able to talk about it.” He nods his head, accepting.

It didn’t take long for everyone to get ready, and get everything packed up for the trip to Florida. They had everything that they’d need for the next couple of days, with the various birthday gifts and other stuff all set together to be returned back to North Carolina – another favor Ryan had arranged prior.

Thankfully, the traffic was much calmer that morning and they reached airport with ease, climbing on the board the airplane.

“Everybody buckled in?” Chase questions, and both girls nod their heads yes. He then reaches over, squeezing Sarina’s hand as they eye each other. “Deep breaths, stay calm – it’ll be over before you know it.”

“Never soon enough,” she answers as she takes a deep breath, trying to relax as they head towards the runaway.

Things continue to go smoothly, with the flight from Las Vegas to Florida going accordingly, landing in timely matter so they arrived at the track with still an hour before the first practice hit the track.

“So how close did you cut it?” Marcus wonders as Sarina rolls her eyes, still frustrated about that last night.

“I got there at like 6:30, and ended up meeting  halfway down the carpet while he was doing an interview with NBC,” Sarina answers. “Traffic was just a nightmare once we got to Las Vegas.”

“Do you believe that she changed in the limo?” Chase questions, catching Marcus off-guard.

“That takes talent as I saw the photos and you looked good,” Marcus comments, causing a smile to form on her face. “Thankfully, after you left last night, I was able to find some things in the notes that just seemed a little off. I think I have a solution for your corner entry problem. Oh, and Kyle has got us all new tires to run the first session.”

“Four Hoosiers is better than diamonds any day,” she offers as Marcus laughs. “That’s truly a girl’s best friend, am I right?” Marcus nods his head.

“Are you the usual faces quick?” Chase asks, having missed checking the time sheet.

“What else would you expect?” Marcus questions. “Bubba Pollard is quickest. Are you surprised?” Chase shakes his head no. Bubba was always an interesting talking point, considering he almost signed Sarina to a contract before Chase signed her. Sometimes, he wonders how that would’ve changed things.

“It’s just a matter of whether he finally breaks through this year…” Marcus nods his head, in agreement, knowing how Bubba’s luck worked down there. “Lindsay, I am going to go stand in my usual spot. You can either hang here, or come along with me.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be my tour guide?” Lindsay questions, catching Chase off-guard as he smiles. She wasn’t forgetful at all as he remembered her words to her.

“That was about Sunday’s race, but I can do the same today, too,” he answers. He then walks over to Sarina, seeing her emerged dressed in her suit and gloves. “Good luck. Stay safe, stay focused, and work at making sure it handles for when it counts.  You know your way around here…” He then gives her a kiss, before walking away so she could focus.

As the first practice of day started, Chase made his way down to the middle of turns one and two, stopwatch in hand, eyes focused on the middle of the corner.

“Do you always watch practice down here?” Lindsay wonders and Chase nods his head.

“The way the car handles in the corner is what matters at the end of the day,” Chase offers. “Anybody can make it work on the straightaways and have speed. But what happens when you have to turn left? You need to have a good corner entry, being able to roll the center if you want to keep that momentum. The quick cars down here – the 26 of Bubba Pollard, the 15 of Christian Eckes, Sarina, Kyle, Cole, 12 of Harrison Burton, and Raphael Lessard – watch their corner say versus someone else.” She watches the first couple cars go through, noticing his finger hitting the stopwatch on a couple, one eye on the number, another on the track.

“So this is your normal spot, no matter what?” He glances over, nodding his head.

“If I was racing, I would come down here and do this for the Snowflake practice to see where the line was really working so I could try for myself. When I owned Sarina’s car, I would come down here and then pass a long a couple notes to her and Ricky Turner.” Lindsay crosses her arms, watching the series of cars go by.

“Why don’t you own her car this weekend if you guys were masters down here?” He lets out a sigh, knowing like everybody else, she just didn’t get it.

“You can’t just throw a one-race deal together and come down here and kick ass. You need to have a team that has chemistry and experience, and having worked on your set-up. There’s been no time for me to do a late model program this year properly, so therefore it’s folded right now. If I had a program, you would have no teacher right now because skipping this race isn’t easy.” She was a little confused as she continued to watch the session.

“So why not ask Kyle to drive one of his?” He laughs, shaking his head. “What?”

“It’s not that easy. They’re heavily supported by Toyota and I’m heavily backed by Chevrolet. Besides, I haven’t worked with his guys at all. I wouldn’t feel comfortable.” She nods her head, accepting.

After all the struggles yesterday, it was pleasant surprise to see Kyle, Cole and Sarina in the top-10 at the end of the session, sitting second, seventh and 10th respectively. It was no surprise that once again Bubba Pollard topped the charts.

“Did Chase Elliott get a new girlfriend?” Chase hears as he and Lindsay make their way through the pits. He glances towards the direction, rolling his eyes immediately.

“For your information, Sarina and I are still happily together,” he offers. “This is Sarina’s cousin Lindsay. I’m giving her an introduction to short track racing.” Bubba glances her over, before looking towards Chase. “Don’t even think it.”

“Relax, I’ve always respected boundaries. You do realize that I still care about her, right?” Chase pauses, nodding his head. “Alright, that’s all.”

“Let’s go…” Lindsay simply follows Chase without another word, glancing back one quick time, before focusing forward. “Bubba Pollard flirted with Sarina quite a bit, and even talked a little smack on the idea of her driving for me. He has good intentions as I can believe that he cares, but sometimes I wonder…”

“I think that’s a bit of jealousy and over-protectedness speaking, which is no problem at all,” Lindsay comments as Chase looks over at her.

“Do you realize that I have a damn good reason to watch and wonder?” Chase questions and Lindsay nods her head. She had heard the back story about Chase and Sarina’s relationship. “I trust her and I love her. But damn, I don’t take chances with people. Look at where that got us.”

“You don’t need to justify yourself for me, Chase. Actually, it’s comforting to hear that someone has her back no matter what. She hasn’t always had that, and sometimes I wondered about whether she felt truly loved. So, thank you.”

They joked about it on pit road together, while quickly debriefing the session and watching some of the Snowflake practice. Though before they knew it, it was time for the second and final practice session of the day.

Once again, Chase retreated back to his familiar corner, eyes focused on the middle of the corner.

“Cut deeper….” He says to himself, arms crossed as he watches her. He shakes his head as he glances at the speed chart. “She needs to be cutting it like Kyle is…”

“Sounds like you guys need to tighten it a little for her to do so,” Chase hears, smiling, as he looks over and sees Ricky Turner, same posture as he is. “I’m surprised you’re not down here driving something.”

“I’m surprised you’re not down here with someone.” Ricky looks over at Chase with a grin.

“I told you – I only come down here with my buddy, or I guess his girlfriend.” Chase laughs as it was nice to see Ricky for a change. “That’s the same thing we fought at Cordele that time. She pinches it, making it seem that it may be loose, when really if you tighten it and tell her to not pinch as much, you’ll be golden.”

“I’ll throw a suggestion Marcus’ way.” Ricky nods his head, accepting. “It feels weird being down here together without the car.” He then notices Lindsay watching them a little confused. “Lindsay, this is Ricky Turner. You can thank this man for all of my short track success, followed by your cousin’s. Ricky, this is Lindsay – Sarina’s cousin. Don’t worry, she checks out..”

“Oh, so now there’s a disclaimer?” Lindsay questions, caught off-guard by Chase’s comment.

“He was heavily involved and saw how things can go from one feeling to another like that,” Chase answers. “I figured it was only fair to give him assurance. He trusts my judgment and if I say that you’re cool, then he won’t bother you.” Ricky glances down, remembering the instance at Cordele, and the fear that ran through him when he was made aware that Chris had snuck onto the grounds, pushing Chase. He immediately worried that he would have to tell Cindy and Bill the worst news.

“I’ve known Chase for a long time now,” Ricky adds with a smile. “I treat him like my own kid at times. I will lecture him, offer advice, and protect him.” Lindsay slowly nodded her head as she glanced out at the track.

“I understand,” she offers. “I should expect it with a family as mes-”

“Lindsa-” Chase starts, not wanting to get into this discussion.

“No, Chase, let me just say it. It should be expected. I mean, of course there’s nerves because you’ve got a brother that’s gone completely off his axis, with a cousin that will back up every single move. You have a mother that couldn’t give a damn about her children, just getting that fix – which obviously passed along to one of her children. Then you have a father trying to do his job as an officer, but not wanting to prosecute his own family and actually protects them because he loves them. Am I right?” Chase takes a deep breath, nodding his head.

“That sounds right, but listen – it doesn’t define what I think of you or Sari-”

“You don’t need to explain that, Chase. But I understand when it comes to family or someone new – there’s that fear of a repeat. What if this person you welcome is one of those? I get it, and I understand. Your fear is easily understandable. It’s just never been forced in my face before.” He could understand that, as Lindsay hadn’t heard about anything until he showed up at her door that day.

“Thank you for understa-”

“Don’t ever forget that fear. I know you want to put this family back together, but I’m damn well glad that you’re doing your homework. We may have six uncles along with Aunt Shelly, but you don’t want to meet them all. There’s a lot of stories that should remain buried.” Chase slowly nods his head, accepting, almost biting his tongue in the process. Taking a deep breath, he wondered if after Shelly he should close the project and not even worry about anymore family.

“I will remember that. Thank you…”

The group watches the final practice together, decently satisfied as Bubba topped the charts again with Kyle sitting third, Sarina 20th, and Cole back in 21st. Chase passed along the suggestion from Ricky afterwards to Marcus, which was accepted for ‘consideration’.

Chase then took a step back, watching Sarina interact with her teammates and team members, running his hands through his hair. In an instant, a simple conversation with Lindsay, he understood the fear that Sarina held now. That’s why she wondered whether the time they had put Chris and Bethany away was enough, and whether Allison would truly stay away. She was probably also wondering who else would surface, too.

Catching a glimpse of her eyes, he silently promised himself that no matter what happened moving forward, he would always protect her and make sure her happiness was at the forefront.

Through the rest of the night, Chase remained quiet, allowing the group to focus. His happiness didn’t increase or decrease with qualifying, though, as Sarina ended up 20th with Kyle in 15th.

“300 laps is lots of time to work your way to the front,” he offers, as he rubs her shoulders, following qualifying, kissing her cheek. “You’ll be fine.” She nods her head, focusing on his eyes.

“I’m not worried,” she tells him. “I have a good car underneath him, great crew around me, and I know I can get the job done. Like you said, Sunday is going to be a long day…..”