Homestead-Miami Speedway – Friday, November 17
Following the national anthem, Chase gives her a quick kiss on the lips.
“Good luck,” he tells her as she just smiles back in return.
“Thank you,” she replies, kissing his lips once again. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Be safe. Last one for the yea-”
“Woah woah, easy now buddy. I still got one more to go.” He smiles, knowing exactly what she meant. It was always nice to go down to Florida in December.
“Regardless, make this one matter…” She nods her head as he walks away, headed for the pit box. After taking a deep breath, one last check on the shoes, she climbs in the truck, ready for a fun night.
The race did not start off as she wanted, though, fading from fifth to 13th in the first stage as she battled a very loose truck. It didn’t improve much in the second stage, only advancing up to ninth.
“It’s still a little free, but not as bad,” she tells Marcus, who works out the next sea of adjustments.
Starting off the final stage, she began to make up some ground when she felt a tire going soft. Heading down pit road, the unscheduled pit stop set her down a lap, causing her to finish 18th.
Climbing out of the truck post-race, clearly dejected, as she just leans back against it shaking her head. All she had wanted to do was finish the year off on a high note. But watching her guys come towards her, she couldn’t help but smile.
She had finished top-10 in points. She had won a race. She had come close many other times. She proved to the world that she could race right alongside the best of the series. She proved if consistency came, she could be standing on the frontstretch where Christopher was right now next year, celebrating a championship.
Rather than focus on the negative, she immediately shared high fives with each of the crew members, followed by some hugs, thanking them for their hard work all year.
“We’re going to come back stronger next year,” one of them assured her and she simply nodded back in return.
“We’re going to come out guns a blazing, focused on one goal,” she replies with a smile of her own.
“I’m proud of you,” Marcus shares as he is the last to hug her. “You’ve grown a lot since I met you back in February. I’ve watched you mature, overcome difficulties, and grow. You’re not as frustrated as you were sometimes, you’re more focused on the end game, and you’re even easier to get along with. Great job.”
“Thank you for everything. You are more amazing than Kyle could even describe to me.” Marcus glances over his shoulder at Chase.
“So I’m more amazing than this guy?” She laughs, shaking her head no.
“Nobody could be more amazing than him.” She then pulls him close, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to get someone like him in my life.”
“Because Sarina, just like him, you’re absolutely amazing and a great person.” She smiles. “See you Monday for Snowball preparations?” She nods her head, accepting.
“Can you believe it will be two complete years together when we go down to Florida?” Chase shakes his head no.
“It’s just flown by,” he comments as she just rolls her eyes. “Oh haha, I wasn’t meaning a joke…”
“I like our second year a lot better than our first,” she replies and he nods his head in agreement.
“It’s only going to get better from here, too.”
Homestead-Miami Speedway – Saturday, November 18
After getting done an appearance for Toyota, Sarina made her way to the Cup garage to check on how things had been going for Chase during practice. She makes her way into the stall, glancing at the car, eyes opening wide as she glances over to where he was standing.
“What did you do?” She questions as he glances up from the data that he was looking over.
“Got a little loose up high and rubbed the wall a little,” he answers as she just shakes her head. “Relax, typical stripe here. Just go ask your great championship leader Martin Truex Jr. as he did the same thing, too. The guys are going to fix it.” She walks over as he looks back towards the data.
“You just wanted to give your guys more work….” Chase shakes his head no as he continues to flip through a couple different pages. From throttle traces, to various lap times, to notes on what lines his teammates were running, some of this had to help someway.
“We already got enough work to do. Did you see where I was on the practice chart?” She shakes her head no, but glanced up at the chart on the pit box, seeing he was 27th.
“Ouch. I can see why there’s work to do….”
“Car is loose as ever, and I can’t seem to roll that top line as smooth as either Kyles. Want to go ask your boss for some tips for me?” She laughs, and shakes her head no.
“He wouldn’t offer them anyway.” She then places a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. You guys always do. I bet you’ll have a great run Sunday.”
“I hope you’re right.” He then snags a quick kiss. “Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to miss Justin’s celebrati-”
“Excuse me?” She then laughs in response as he just smirks back at her. It was clear he wanted William Byron to win the title, while she had settled on Justin Allgaier. “We’ll see who is laughing when the checkered flag flies.”
“Deal, but don’t make me wipe your tears.” He just rolls his eyes as she heads out of the stall, knowing he needed to focus ahead of the second session.
“So was the car better that run?” Josh Kirk asks as he walks over to where Chase was standing following the second practice session.
“Absolutely,” he answers. “It felt way more secure, like I could work with it now versus almost out of control the first one.” Josh nods his head.
“That’s good. We’re making progress.” Chase couldn’t argue with that, but he still wasn’t quite satisfied.
“I just wish we had more time. I mean, we’re still 27th quickest.” Josh knew that was concerning, but he still felt confident ahead of tomorrow.
“Once you had 10, 20, 30 laps on the tires, you were solid and matching lap times to some of the quickest guys in the same situation. As long as you don’t lose a lot on the start of a run, we’ll be fine.” Chase nodded his head, feeling a little bit better based on Josh’s observation. “So I hear you’re going on an adventure Tuesday….” Chase glances over, intrigued.
“Oh really? Where’d you learn that from?” Josh just smiles back at his driver in return.
“A little birdie.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that was a big fat lie.
“Are you eve-dropping on my phone conversations?” Josh felt guilty, but these things happen in close quarters.
“I didn’t mean to, okay? We were just really close and I caught a glimpse.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it’d come out eventually.
“You can’t tell Sarina, okay?” Josh then looks at him surprised. He never would’ve seen Chase as someone to go behind someone else’s back. “It’s for a surprise.” Josh immediately felt relieved with that confession.
“The family search thing, right?” Chase nods his head as he had talked about with a couple crew guys before. He just hoped they, along with Ryan, Dale and Ricky, kept their mouths shut.
“She made mention of an Uncle Mike and Cousin Lindsay that were important to her in a couple different ways. I found where they live in Michigan so while she’s busy testing in Florida, I’m going to meet them and see where things go.” Josh knew the intentions were right here, but still felt nervous about Chase’s adventure.
“Are you sure about this? I mean, you’re a celebrity and well, so is she now – but you’re the people’s champi-”
“Let it go…” Josh shakes his head no with a smirk. He knew it got under Chase’s skin a little as he hated the new found tagline courtesy of Eddie Gosage, but it was true.
“You are Mr. Popular, though, as you’ve built quite the following. I’m just worried about your safety.” Chase was caught off-guard to hear Josh saying this.
“Aw, it’s nice that you care-”
“I’m serious, Chase!”
“That’s why Tom is coming with me and that’s why he ran a complete background check on them. I’m taking the right steps, Josh.” Josh still wasn’t quite convinced.
“I still say that either Morgan or a couple of us guys should go, too – just be safe.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that Josh was now starting to become overbearing. How could someone on the crew be worse than Jared?
“I’ll think about it, okay?”
After William Byron took the checkered flag in third-place ahead of his fellow three championship competitors, Chase couldn’t help but glance over at Sarina with a smile of his own. He knew for certain the little superstar would get the job done.
“What did I tell you?” He asks as they make their way down the stairs behind the grandstands so they can head out. Surprisingly, the crowds hadn’t recognized Chase too much and it was smooth moving. For the few fans that had recognized him, he was able to get an autograph or photo done before catching a big crowd.
“You are correct and you’re pick was perfectly amazing tonight,” she answers as he couldn’t help but glance back with a smile.
“I did feel bad for Justin, though. It had to be hard not having Jason here because of the suspension. But, I still say William would’ve beat him anyway. Willie has been the quickest of the group for the past several weeks.” She nodded her head, having watched that herself. Truthfully, there was pride in watching William do it. In the past two nights, a pair of KBM graduates had become champions. Hopefully she was the next one in the pecking order.
“Why do you call him Willie?” Chase smiles, remembering exactly where that came from.
“When you drive for Dale, everybody gets a nickname as he can’t just call you by your first name. For William, it became Willie B because it just rolls off the tongue. Josh Berry is known as Huckleberry, but keep that on the hush hush down low.” She smiles, nodding her head. It wasn’t like she would cross paths with Josh anytime soon, anyway.
“So what did he call you?” Chase remembered his clearly, knowing why it started, too. He had to laugh at how he brought it on himself.
“Clyde, because I reminded him of the 50s era with my Elvis-style sunglasses at Daytona in my rookie year.” Sarina smiles, remembering the photos that surfaced that season.
“Those were certainly some stylish shades…” Chase nods his head, still proud of how they looked too.
“If we really wanted to get under his skin, we’d call him Ralphie. Amy does that quite a bit just for the effect.” She then wraps her arm around Chase from behind as they walk through the tunnel together.
“So can I call you Clyde?” He then glances over his shoulder at her.
“Can I call you Chel-”
“That’s different.” He was a little confused, but didn’t say much as they kept walking. He knew the comment hadn’t set well with her and didn’t quite know how to respond. “Chelsy was my name for the first 15 years of my life, yes, but it means something different now. To me, it’s a reminder of the pain and suffering and everything that I went through. I don’t want to be reminded of that, but rather focus on the future and what I’ve accomplished. Sarina was my second chance to reset the stage, and live the life that I wanted. I want to focus on that and not remind myself of what was.”
“I understand perfectly. I’m sorry that I’ve used that to call you out sometimes and taken it the wrong way.” She nods her head, accepting, as they catch each others’ eyes at the end of the tunnel.
“My full name was Chelsy Samantha Dryer. I was named after a previous friend of my mother’s and my aunt Shelly. I almost changed my name to Samantha Ott instead of Sarina.” Chase was surprised by the instant confession, but could see the direction she was going immediately.
“I like Sarina for you better. It’s unique – just like you are in every way for what you’ve been through, who you are, and the future that you continue to go for. But, if you become annoying, I may just have to call you Sammy.” She then laughs, well appreciating the compliment in the same breath.
“Sounds like a perfect plan, Clyde…” He just rolls his eyes as they head off together, set to go congratulate William on a job well done.
Homestead-Miami Speedway – Sunday, November 19
“Stay focused, believe in yourself, believe in this team,” she tells him. “You guys can do get up there and fight for the win. Be safe, and see you later. I love you.” She then gives him a kiss.
“I love you, too,” he replies with a smile. It was nice to get a little pep talk before the event.
Taking her usual seat on the pit box, she hoped she was in for a decent day.
She watched as he began to make up ground immediately, making his way into the top-10 during the first half of the first stage, placing sixth. He then kept up there throughout the second, scoring a solid ninth. The final stage would go steadily, as he kept himself solidly in 11th, before making a late charge on a restart with 40 laps to go to place fifth.
A series of smiles beamed off pit road in how far they had come over the weekend, really proud of their performance. More importantly, it gave me a good boost of momentum entering the winter ahead of next season.
As everybody finished up celebrating, Sarina snapped a selfie of her and Chase on pit road together, with the championship party going on in the background.
@Sarina18: Absolutely amazing season this year. I couldn’t be more proud of myself and @KBMteam for a great year. First career win, many top-10s, growth as a driver, and a solid top-10 in points. What more could you ask for a rookie season? This guy, though, is beyond amazing. It was so great watching him run well and get right up there. I guarantee next year that he will win a race – there’s no questioning that as I know he’s going to #DI9 hard. Next year, ladies and gents, one – if not both of us actually, will be celebrating right there. But for tonight, it belongs all to Martin and Sherry. Sherry, you’re absolutely amazing. For everything that you’ve been through, everything that you’ve battled, and the smile that always seem to grace your face. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people, including myself. Make sure to enjoy tonight.