The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 30: “Just tell me what’s going on.”

Friday, February 3, 2018 – Winter Showdown – California

Chase takes a deep breath as he waits for Ricky to come out of the airport.

He had told Sarina that morning that Ricky had changed his mind, deciding to come out and watch that weekend’s event despite not being up to anything. He wasn’t about to speak about everything – still fearing that he was making a big deal out of nothing, and not wanting to scare her. He did warn her not once, but twice, before leaving to be careful. Though knowing she’d be busy with practice and surrounded by the team, it also gave him that extra security.

He watches as the back door opens, instantly looking back as he watches Ricky throw a bag in. He then smiles as Ricky gets in the passenger seat beside them, and they head out.

“How was your flight out?” Chase wonders as Ricky glances over.

“Not bad, considering it was a last minute deal,” Ricky answers as Chase nods his head. There were no words to express his appreciation.

“Listen, I really appreciate you coming out. Whatever I owe you, just tell me and I’ll pay ya back for su-”

“Just tell me what’s going on.” Chase takes a deep breath as they sit at the stop light, tapping his fingers on the wheel.

“I don’t know if it’s coincidence, de ja vu, someone just trying to mess with my head – or something is really goi-”

“Chase, I can’t tell you my take and help you if you don’t just tell me. Spit it out, man!” Seeing Chase nervous about talking about something with him, Ricky could already sense it was probably more than Chase was trying to make it out to be.

“I went up to the grandstands to watch practice yesterday, and there was a folded up piece of paper with my name on it. I opened it and there were some of Chris’ most memorable lines written on it.” Ricky then glances over a little confused. “Now, these lines everybody would know because I said them as part of my court testimony – they were the lines that I told you I’d never forge-”

“They’ll just take me away, and try to help me, but they won’t be able to like those times before?” Chase’s grip on the steering wheel increases a little as he nods his head. “Alright, take a deep breath…” Ricky glances out the window as he lets out a sigh. “So you’re thinking someone knew you’d go up there because that’s what you always do, and left the note to screw with you. Frankly, their plan is working because you froze up as soon as I said those words out loud. But obviously, I can see why you’d think it may be more.”

“It’s not the only thing that happened, either. I went to get ice last night – and the ice machine on my floor was not working. So I went down to the main floor, and I could hear a bunch of girls talking. Some of the words they said took me right back to the Hooters Pageant when I met Allison for the first time. I peaked and got a glimpse of them all, but I didn’t recognize her.” Ricky slowly nods his head as he sits back in the seat. “Now, it could be coincidence because those are just common words. But if you combine both of those togeth-”

“I can understand you’re freaked out. Now, have you told Sarina?” Chase shakes his head no. “Of course not. Have you told Kyle?” Chase shakes his head once again. “Why not?”

“Because what if I’m making a big deal out of noth-”

“But what if something is going on? It’s always better to safe than sorry, and the more eyes you have on the situation, the better. Secondly, if they could possibly be out for Sarina, it’d be best if she knew what was going on so she could be on the look-out for odd situations. You always talk about how you guys trust each other about anything, and you’re proud that she’s gotten to the point she can tell you stuff. Well buddy, it’s time for you to reciprocate that behavior.” Chase lets out a sigh as he turns the corner.

“Are you mad that I just called you instead?” Ricky shakes his head no.

“Actually, I’m glad that you called me – so that way I can help you deal with this properly. The only way to handle it is to be deal with it, right?” Chase nods his head. “When we get to the track, let’s watch practice and then tell both Sarina and Kyl-”

“Right before qualifying? Do you really want to throw off their game?” Ricky lets out a sigh as he looks over at Chase.

“What’s more important? Starting well tomorrow or their life? You decide.”

After parking in the lot and getting Ricky’s pass for the weekend, the pair made their way into the track grounds. With having arrived after the first practice started, it was an easy decision to watch the session from the grandstands.

A keen eye on both ends of the speedway, the pair watched each car make laps carefully, glancing at the tires as they came out to see if they were a sticker set, while checking handling through the middle of the corner. With each lap being made, certain things were pointed out by both – including a little slide form one driver, to how it appeared another got stronger with each lap put in the books.

As the session neared conclusion, Chase pulled out his phone, loading the live lap times to see where everybody stood.

“Gonna take a bet she was making qualifying runs?” Ricky questions as he takes his off the speedway and looks over. Chase looks over, with a nod and a smile.

“Top of the board!” He lets out as Ricky just shakes his head in return.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all…..”

“The boss was 15th quickest in race trim.” Ricky nods his head in response, as Kyle had looked nice and smooth through both of his laps.

“Now, are you ready to tell them?” Chase looks over, caught off-guard by the comment.

“I thought you said after practi-”

“I didn’t necessarily say after both sessions, and do I need to repeat my question for you?” Chase lets out a sigh as he looks out at the track. “If you don’t want to tell them, I will gladly do it for you. But, it will sound better coming from you – especially to Sarina, because she’ll see another layer of that trust you have together.” He knew he would do anything for and protect to her, and he knew he couldn’t keep putting this off.

“Alright, fine.” Chase then begins making his way down the stairs, with Ricky in toe. Eyes focused forward, he didn’t notice the banana that was slid out onto the step, with his foot landing on it. As soon as it did, it flung forward, sending him back on his ass, before sliding down the remaining steps. “Fuck!”

“Chase!” Ricky lets out, hurrying down afterwards, though taking glances in both directions to see if there was a source of where it came from. “Chase? Are you okay?”

“Sore…” Ricky holds out a hand, helping him up as a couple security officials make their way over. “I’m okay….” He then goes to take a step away from them, though a pain shoots up through his leg, causing him to almost fall – with Ricky grabbing him from behind in the process.

“Easy…..” Ricky slowly sets him down on the bench, while taking another glance around. Suddenly, the idea of coincidence didn’t sit well with him.

After consulting with the security officials and medical staff, they made it clear that they’d keep a watch out for anybody causing trouble, and make sure garbage was picked up efficiently. Although his knee was pretty sore, and hard to stand on right now, it wasn’t believed to be broken. They released him, with the promise to take care of himself and get checked out later if needed.

Ricky carefully helps him through the crossover gate and across the track, before they make their way over to Sarina’s hauler. Ricky finds a chair, sitting him down in it, before getting another to put his leg up.

“What happened?” Sarina asks as she walks over, arms crossed, though feeling every bit of concern.

“Do you have any ice?” Ricky questions, not even paying attention to her concern. Kyle, having witnessed Ricky taking care of him, had already grabbed a small plastic bag, and put a couple cubes in it from the cooler, bringing it over.

“So now we can’t balance on our own two feet?” Kyle questions as Chase glances up at him. “How do we trust you to drive a racecar if you can’t walk straight?” Chase just rolls his eyes in response as Ricky crosses his arms. “Why do I have a bad feeling about this looking between you both?”

“Because your jokes are falling on deaf ears right now.” Kyle looks between them intrigued, before focusing his eyes on Chase. “This wasn’t just a simple stumble, and I think something may goin-”

“Ricky!” Chase cuts him off as it was now Ricky’s turn to be surprised at him.

“You just fell down the grandstands because of a banana peel and you want to pretend nothing is going on?” Ricky questions, now catching more intrigue from Kyle and Sarina. “Okay, that’s fine. It’s your decision after all.”

“What the hell is going on?” Sarina now wonders, arms crossed as she looks between the pair.

Unable to lie to her straight in the face, Chase went through describing everything that had happened in the past 24 hours, and the reason for calling Ricky.

“So you were afraid to tell me?” Sarina questions, having come to her own realization as Chase lets out a sigh.

“I was thinking I may have been over-reacting, and I didn’t want you to worry if I was,” Chase answers as she nods her head, accepting.

“So trying to save me from worrying is better than protecting your ass from something happening? Okay, that makes sense.” Chase glances down at the ground.

“I screwed up, okay? I let my own fear and worry of your reaction and not wanting to hurt you stand in the way of probably doing the right thing. instead of going to you, I went to Ricky. I get that it hurts and stings and whatever because of our trust together, but I promise you that I love you and trust you. I just….” Chase takes a deep breath as he focuses on her. “I know how much everything has hurt you. I know how much everything that happened upset you and how emotionally trying it has been. I didn’t want you to suffer more.”

“Chase, what matters to me most of all is that we’re both safe and okay. I will suffer through whatever I need to emotionally to damn well make sure that you’re okay. I mean, look at what you did for me. It’s only the tip of the iceberg in paying you bac-”

“You don’t nee-”

“I don’t care what you say, but I will forever be grateful for everything that you’ve done for me, been through for us, and will always want to give that back to you in return.” She then leans down, kissing his lips. “I love you, I care about you, and nothing will change that.”

“I love you, too.” He then pulls her close, kissing her lips back in return, before she sits down beside him.

“Alright, before you both get too lovey gushy, who could be behind this – if it’s not a coincidence?” Kyle interrupts, grabbing everyone’s attention. They hadn’t expected him to come out with the comment of the day.

“Chris and Bethany are both in jail, which leaves Allison,” Ricky answers as Kyle crosses his arms.

“She was let loose with nothing?” Both Chase and Sarina nod their heads in return. Chase then takes his phone back out, seeing the cracked screen now from the fall.

“Second year in a row here I’ve done that,” he comments, unlocking it anyway. He then goes into his images, pulling up one in particular, before handing it over to Kyle.

“I’m not a genius,” Kyle starts as he hands the phone back. “What the hell am I supposed to see behind the spider web?”

“Restraining order. If I see her anywhere near me, I have the choice to get her arres-”

“Given the events, that shouldn’t be a choice anymore.” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“There’s also Shelley,” Sarina states as everybody looks towards her. “She didn’t seem too happy either time we spoke to her. I mean, she isn’t the type to do anything – but you just never know. What if she plans to torment us until we let Chris go?”

“There’s no way I’m agre-” Chase starts as Sarina places a hand carefully on his leg.

“I didn’t say we were going to agree to those terms, if that’s the case. I don’t believe it because that’s not her, anyway.”

“Regardless, we should all promise to be extra careful and just keep an eye out, okay?” Kyle offers and everybody nods their head in return. “And Chase, when the ice melts, there’s more in the cooler so feel free to steal some.”

“Thanks,” Chase comments as he glances down at his knee, seeing some swelling already there.

“Least you didn’t break your ribs this year,” Ricky offers as Chase glances over at him. “Too soon?” Chase simply flips the bird in return as Ricky laughs. “So no talk of tungsten or ribs – got it.”

“I still like you, but that could change….” Ricky chuckles as he kneels down to Chase’s level.

“Face it – there’s only a few that will put up with you. It’s in your best interest to keep me around.” Ricky then takes out his phone, glancing over a message, sending one back in response. “Besides, I could’ve been at the Winter Meltdown tomorrow, but instead I am here.”

“Wait – you were supposed to be at the Meltdown and I pulled you away from that?” Ricky nods his head. “Dude, why didn’t you tell me? You didn’t have to come dow-”

“Who would’ve been here to convince you to do the right thing? Who would’ve helped you when you fell?” Chase lets out a sigh.

“But you still didn’t need to drop everything for me. I mean, your new deal is more importan-”

“Your life or racing – what’s bigger? Besides, once I explained things over, they’ll understood so it’s not a problem at all. Just excuse me if you see me texting a lot of tips over the phone all day.” Chase sits back in the chair as he shakes his head.

“You didn’t have to do this for me, Ricky, really, but thank you. It means a lot to me.” Ricky looks over with a smile.

“I told you that I always have your back and I would do anything for you. That’s not gonna change – ever.”

For the rest of the day, Chase chilled out in the chair, icing his knee off and on while keeping a close eye on the on-track action. Thankfully, nothing else strange occurred either.

The second practice went smoothly with Kyle topping the charts, with Sarina mid-pack due to working on getting the car comfortable for the long green flag runs. While they never got it exactly perfect, it was better than when they started by the end of the session and she felt confident going into tomorrow’s main event.

The qualifying session to finish the day also brought smiles, as she qualified 11th with the boss up in fourth. It wasn’t the top-10 start they envisioned, but it was something to work with for 300 laps.

Despite his pleas, Kyle and Ricky both made certain that Chase did get his knee checked out, having seen the swelling. Thankfully, it was nothing too serious – nothing broken, and would simply heal over the next couple of days with rest, heat and ice.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him tonight,” Sarina comments as she lays on the bed beside him. Kyle and Ricky had helped them back to the room, wanting to make sure they were safe and careful.

“I don’t wanna know!” Ricky immediately lets out as he hurries out of the room to a simple eye roll from Sarina.

“Just remember that gloves are important at all times,” Kyle adds with a wink before following Ricky out.

“Can you believe them?” She questions as Chase just lets out a sigh. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m okay, as long as I have you by my side,” he comments, as she gets comfortable beside him.

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The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 29: California Bound

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The blond crosses her arms, with a big smile forming on her face as she watches the fellow person lean against the wall.

“So you know everything from that time?” She hears and simply nods her head in return.

“I was right in the midst involved,” the blond reveals. “I played quite the role too, almost breaking them up. It’s just too bad that they hadn’t bought the e-mail, or accepted the offer. Instead, the blink of death could be seen. Needless to say, I know everything. I also have spoken with both on a limited basi-”

“I thought they weren’t allowed visitors.” The blond smiles as she leans back in the chair.

“I have my ways. I am a genius after all. I mean, I did play the perfect role to get off of the charges, right?” She watches as the person leans against the counter top.

“It’s clear that you’re a conniving little bitch, taking advantage of Chris’ condition to play out what Bethany wanted for your own advantage. What happens if your plan is spoiled?” The blond immediately laughs as she rubs her hands together.

“You wouldn’t out me, Shelley Dryer, because then you’d ruin the perfect plan that’s in mind – which will actually be what you want in the end. Don’t you want to see Chris be released?” She watches a face of confusion meet her back in response.

“What do you have in mind?”

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

Thursday, February 1, 2018 – Kern County Speedway

Sarina leans back against the car as they stand in tech lane prior to practice later on that day.

Unlike last week, they had got out of North Carolina in a timely fashion and were able to arrive at the track early, set to take full advantage of the ample practice time. Being Sarina’s first KBM Late Model race of the year, she knew she had to leave a good impression. Besides, it’d be the best way to put last week’s disappointment behind her.

“There’s something odd about this situation,” Sarina hears as she watches Kyle walk over with Brexton in his arms. She could only imagine what was on his mind. “I mean, you in a firesuit with a racecar – that’s no surprise.” He then turns to Chase. “But yet, you’re here, no firesuit, no racecar. I also haven’t seen Ricky walking around either.”

“And that seems odd?” Chase questions, caught a little off-guard by the comments. Sarina, meanwhile, had immediately focused in on Brexton, making faces at him which caused him to laugh.

“Given the news that came out the past couple weeks, wouldn’t you agree?” Chase couldn’t help but nod his head accepting. Admittedly, he had talked about coming out to possibly shake the rust off ahead of the season with this race, but last week’s events put a wrench in those plans.

“Ricky’s plans for this year with his new team are totally up to him, when it comes to what races they’re going to run. I guess they decided to forego running this and wait a couple wee-”

“You’d think Chandler would want to come stand up for himself at this end of the country after winning Speedfest, though.” Chase nods his head in agreement, as he was caught off-guard not seeing Chandler Smith on the entry list.

“You could say the same for Bubba Pollard, too.” Kyle crosses his arms – with Sarina having taken Brexton out of his arms – as he glances through the cars lined up in tech,

“Really, there’s a lot of talent here – but there’s so many faces missing. And obviously, I know why you didn’t bring a car here anyway…” Chase lets out a sigh as Sarina glances over.

“That wasn’t my faul-”

“I didn’t say it was!” Kyle immediately cuts her off as he puts his hands up in the air. “It just answers my question.” Kyle then glances over towards the line-up, resuming his previous pose. “Preston….”

“He’s got a lot of talent,” Chase comments. “I was watching him closely last week and he equals the expectations. It’s not just luck. He has the speed in the car, but the talent to know what to do with it. Chris didn’t give him any breaks. If you want someone to keep an eye on, that’s where my eyes will be – him and Majeski.”

“You can never count out Majeski.” Chase nods his head in agreement. “So, I hear you’re running the ARCA race at Daytona…”

“What?” Chase then looks over at Sarina confused, as she looks over at them. “When was that revealed?”

“Did I speak too soon? I mean, I saw the press release so I thought it was an open discussion…” Sarina shakes her head as she lets out a sigh.

“The deal just came together on Monday,” she reveals. “I meant to say something – but it got lost in discussion. I’m running it so I can get some more drafting experience.” Chase couldn’t help but shiver at the thought, considering how her last restrictor plate ARCA event went. “Is there a problem?”

“Absolutely not,” Chase offers as he flashes a smile her way.

“So, everything is good in paradise?” Kyle questions as he looks between them.

“I don’t see any problems. Do you, Sarina?” Sarina shakes her head no. “Yep, everything is good.” Kyle couldn’t help but smile.

“That’s good. Now, can I have little man back?” Sarina pouts a little as she hands Brexton back over to Kyle. “You can play with Sarina later – I promise. But Mommy will be here soon since daddy and Sarina have work to do.”

“Racecar!” Brexton says as he points the car and Kyle nods his head.

“He’s just so adorable,” Sarina comments as she leans back against the car once again.

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

Halfway through the practice, Chase makes his way to the top of the grandstands, stopwatch in hand. With a full view of speedway, his eyes immediately traced over the various cars. He watched Sarina for a while, before watching Kyle, Preston, Ty, and a couple of the others. His mind immediately began to pick up on spots where he believed both Sarina and Kyle could be better, but spots where they were certainly stronger in return.

Taking his phone out of his pocket, he sends a text message to Rudy Fugle with some of the notes in mind, smiling back in the response that he appreciated the feedback. He may not be set to contend himself, but he was going to give his girl the best opportunity to succeed.

He was set to head down the steps to grab a drink during the quick break, when he noticed a piece of paper. A little confused, he reaches over and picks it up. It only increased his confusion as he saw his name written on the piece of paper.

“That’s strange,” he comments, wondering if it had fallen out of his pocket by accident. But then again, he never had anything in his pockets before.

Sitting down, he slowly unfolds the piece of paper, revealing the typed up note inside.

“I knew that I’d get caught,” he reads the words out loud. “But that’s okay – they’ll just take me to the hospital….and….try to….fix….me.” Chase swallows the lump that had formed in his throat, taking a deep breath. “They’ll fail like they have every other time. So I figured I’d make your trip out here memorable. After all, you were the one who broke my sister’s heart, and ultimately broke this family.”

Closing his eyes, taking a deep breath, the words immediately transported him back to a year ago, as he could picture Chris standing there right before him, spewing word after word. He immediately opens his eyes, double checking there was nobody around that resembled Chris’ description, or anybody else that he had ever come across.

“What am I doing?” He finally comments to himself as he looks back at the note. “Everybody knows what he said. Anybody could’ve done this. Good try, but whoever you are, the plan is not going to work.”

Figuring it was just someone messing with him – knowing his usual practice, he tosses it aside before going about his day as normal.

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

Sarina glances up at the chart following the three and a half hour practice session, letting out a sigh. it wasn’t the best feeling sitting 19th on the chart, but she had to chuckle at being faster than the boss.

“We didn’t do a qualifying run,” Rudy comments as he walks over. “A lot of teams did qualifying runs. Once we put on those sticker tires tomorrow, we’re going to be fine.” She nods her head, accepting. It was the same situation that they found themselves in at the Snowball in December.

“Let’s just make sure that we start the race where we need to be so I can make moves when it counts,” she offers and Rudy nods his head in agreement.

“I know. We have 30,000 reasons to win tomorrow.” She smiles back in response as he walks away. Chase then wraps his arms around her, lying his head on her shoulder.

“You know, it’d be fun in victory lane if they’d shower you in $1 bills.” He chuckles, almost shaking his head in response.

“Would you like to sit around and pick up that many bills afterwards?” He questions as she thinks it over, chuckling to herself now.

“Maybe $100 bills instead?” She offers as he just lets out a sigh. “Actually, I don’t care what it pays. All that matters is the trophy, being able to say that I can beat the best – east or west coast.” He rubs her shoulders as he kisses her cheek.

“You’re going to be fine tomorrow. Just take a deep breath, relax, and focus. You have the right team around you and you’re talented beyond words. You’ll be fine.” She knew that, and spinning around to face him, her confidence matched the smile on her face.

“I don’t have a single worry on my mind. that’s why, as my treat tonight, I would like to take my man out for a nice date.” He then looks at her a little surprised.

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” She knew that was typically the case, but certainly not the plan for that night.

“You’re always doing stuff for me, but you deserve to be taken care of just as much in return – if not more. Like I told you last night, I will do anything for you. So tonight, let me take care of you.” He smiles, kissing her lips.

“Lead the way…”

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

After a nice night out together, the pair retreated back to the hotel together, laying down watching movies. Chase got up, grabbing a pair of drinks out of the fridge. Noticing they hadn’t gotten cold yet, he lets out a sigh as he looks at the ice bucket.

“I’m going to get some ice,” he comments and Sarina simply nods her head in response. “Do you want anything else?” She shakes her head no.

“Just make sure you hurry back,” she replies, blowing him a kiss as he just smiles in response.

He grabs the hotel key off of the desk, tucking it in his pocket, before heading out of the room. He makes his way down the short walk way, pressing the button to dispense some ice. Though to his surprise, nothing came out. Letting out a sigh, it meant that the trip was going to be longer than warranted. He made his way to the elevator, taking the ride down to the first level. He goes to the ice machine there, pressing it as he watches the frozen cubes begin to dispense.

“A couple of us are going to hang out in the pool,” he hears as he stands there. “Do you want to join us?” He immediately looks towards the source, seeing a bunch of ladies hanging out in the lobby together. Though it wasn’t why it caught his attention as those words were very familiar in tone and question. Where had he heard those before? “I mean, it’s okay to flirt and hang out; nobody will say anything.”

As he goes to walk away from the ice machine, his feet almost freeze in place as the words came to him immediately. The first phrase was exact, while the second had been adjusted slightly. He knew where those words came from.

“Alison,” he says to himself, remembering that night as part of the Hooters Pageant week. It was when she had entered their lives, and attempted to destroy them piece by piece.

He remembered her words and how she never meant anything, and how she promised to stay away. But that moment, he began questioning everything all over again. He then glances around the corner a little more, trying to catch a glimpse of the girls together – seeing if he recognized one of them.

“It’s okay to not have any fun,” he hears as his eyes scan over every single person. “We know the girl has you whipped into shape.”

“De ja vu?” He questions himself as those words seemed very familiar, as well. but another scan over the room, and nobody fit any descriptions.

Rubbing his eyes, putting it to the fact that he was probably needed sleep, chalking it up to coincidence, he makes his way to the elevator, and climbs on. Leaning back against the wall, he lets out a sigh as he thinks back to the note, before replaying everything that happened in the lobby over and over in his mind.

“It’s nothing,” he tells himself once again as he takes out his phone. “You’re just overreacting. It’s nothing. Everybody knows what Chris said, and those words could be said by anybody. Plus, how was she supposed to know that the ice machine…wouldn’t be working…on your floor?”

As the elevator reaches his floor and he climbs off, his fingers immediately quickly scanned through his phone, bringing up a very familiar number.

“Hey Chase,” he hears on the other end shortly after hitting it. He takes a deep breath, trying to reason it’s all coincidence and there’s nothing to worry about. But just in case, this conversation was necessary.

“Hey Ricky,” he replies. “How soon can you get to California? I’ll pay your flight, just get out here please.”

“What’s going on Chase?” Chase pauses as he reaches his hotel room, taking the room key out of his pocket.

“I don’t know yet. It could be a simple case of de ja vu, coincidence, or something could be goin-”

“I’ll be there in the morning. Flight is already booked.” Closing his eyes, Ricky was immediately transported back to a year ago when everything happened, remembering clear as day as he sat in the hospital room alongside him, talking about things. He wondered if it was simply nerves, or fear, or reminders playing with Chase – but he wasn’t about to take any chances.

“Thanks man. See ya then. I owe you.”

“I always have your back. Bye Chase.”

“Bye Ricky.” Chase places the phone back in his pocket, entering the room and shutting the door behind him.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 27: Chilly Willy 150

January 27, 2018 – Chilly Willy 150 – Tucson Speedway

“Are you feeling good?” Chase questions as Sarina glances up at him.

“For the millionth time today, Chase, I am fine and ready to go,” she answers. “If you want to drive, just damn well say it.” He chuckles, shaking his head no.

“I just want to make sure you’re good to go.” He leans in, giving her a kiss, before tightening the belts one last time and putting up the window net. “Do your thing.”

While he was thinking of retreating back to his usual spot in the middle of the corner, he instead climbed the pit box to join Ricky on top.

“One to go at the line,” Ricky tells her after a series of pace laps. “Focus, focus, focus. Remember – we got a long way to go here.”

“We can do this,” Sarina assures him.

“One lap to go at the line,” the spotter says and force of habit, Sarina gives the belts one more tug to make sure they’re tight. “Nevermind. Brandon Schilling stopped on the exit of turn two. Looks like he made contact with the wall.” Chase and Ricky then glance at each other confused.

“How do you hit the wall under pace laps?” Chase questions as Ricky shakes his head in disbelief.

“Strange things always happen at these late model events,” Ricky answers and Chase couldn’t help but agree, having tuned into highlights from Speedfest.

After Brandon’s car was towed off the track, the field was doubled back up and the green flag came out. It didn’t take long for business to pick up, as Sarina found herself in the midst of a three-way battle for fifth on Lap 4, but the caution flew for an incident further back in the pack.

“Patience, patience, patience,” Ricky reminded under the yellow flag. “This is a long race. We don’t need to be making a mistake in the early stages.” Ricky then looks over at Chase. “Besides, someone may wear his tapping foot out at this rate.” Chase immediately stops tapping his foot as Ricky just chuckles. “Are you nervous there?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Chase brushes it off as Ricky just rolls his eyes, focusing back on the race.

When the green flag came back out, it didn’t take long for action to pick right back up, enough for an ‘oh crap’ to escape Chase’s lips when she went four-wide for position. It didn’t take long for another caution, either, as a car went around in turn one on Lap 19.

“They’re racing like it’s the last 19 laps,” Chase comments as Ricky nods his head in agreement.

“Your races were the same way, bud,” Ricky says. “Why do you think I was glad when I could keep you up front in the top-three out of that mess?” Chase just shakes his head in disbelief as he gets comfortable, knowing they were in for a long night. It certainly was different than the calmness of how the Cup races began.

Sarina was initially get a good restart, set to continue charging forward in the top-10, but then it seemed like complete opposite. The car twitched sideways off of the corner, causing her to lose her momentum.

“Talk to me,” Ricky requests, as both he and Chase could tell something wasn’t right. It almost reminded Chase of a tire beginning to go down, or possible rear suspension issue with how quickly the car stepped out.

“Tire losing air possibly,” Sarina answers as she fights the handling, now back to 28th by Lap 23.

“Hold on to it. There’s going to be a fuel stop coming soon.” Everybody was told in the driver’s meeting there would be a chance to put fuel in between Lap 25 and 50, and that was all you were supposed to do at that time and you wouldn’t lose position. Chase knew that as soon as the yellow flag came out, it’d be the opportunity they needed – even if they had to restart from the tail. He just hoped that she could hold on to until then as the car looked evil, almost dead sideways off the corner that past lap.

“Caution!” The spotter lets out as the yellow flag is dropped from the flag stand as a result of fluid being dropped all the way down the backstretch. Chase and Ricky just glance at each other with a quick high-five, knowing it was the break they needed.

“Which tire is it?” Ricky requests as he focuses on the team, knowing the next task at hand.

“Left rear, I believe,” she reports and Ricky makes a motion to the pit crew below.

While the rest of the teams came in and simply put fuel in, the team went ahead and took the left rear tire off, replacing it with another. A quick glance over the tire and Ricky found a small hole, giving a nod to Chase, before reporting the finding to Sarina over the radio.

“Tires are not supposed to be chan-” An official begins as he walks over.

“Slow leak in the left rear,” Chase cuts him off, rolling the tire over. “We’ll take the penalty.”

Ricky and Chase then climb back on top of the pit box, set for the restart. Now back to last for the green flag, Chase could only take a deep breath and hope for the best. There was still over 100 laps to go. This wasn’t over just yet.

A couple pace laps in the books, and the field was back under green. The tire change was certainly the necessary fix as Sarina began to make up ground immediately, moving from the back of the field to run 13th as of Lap 31. She would fall back a couple spots, though, before the caution flew at Lap 45.

“Where am I?” She questions on the radio, immediately.

“16th,” Ricky answers, feeling pretty satisfied. If they could drive through half of the field in just 20 laps, then certainly another 100 was enough to get back to the front. “You’re doing a great job.”

“I’m trying to push to get up there, but not too hard. We need tires at the end of this thing.” Ricky smiles as he glances over at Chase with a bit of surprise. He could certainly see how much she had grown since their last time working together. it was obvious that both Marcus and Kyle had a hand in teaching patience.

“Do you see why I had no problem with her driving for Kyle?” Chase smiles, nodding his head, as he had seen the change too. Rather than always charging and being determined, she had taken a step back to make sure calculated moves were made, to therefore make sure to complete all the laps.

After a short clean-up, the green flag was back out – but not for long. As Sarina looked to make a move to continue gaining ground, a fellow competitor came down on her, causing her to spin and back it in the wall.

“Shit!” Ricky and Chase both let out together, knowing by the damage that they were done for the night.

“Son of a bitch!” She yells on the radio as she takes the steering wheel off, tossing it on the dashboard. She then climbed from the car, walking over to where the other car had come to rest. “Can’t you see when someone has a nose inside of you? Ridiculous! It’s Lap 46. There are still like 104 laps to go. You don’t need to be driving like an asshole this early!”

She then makes her way into the infield, heading directly to the trailer and inside.

“Welp, that sucks,” Ricky comments as he packs up everything on the pit box.

“We had a good car,” Chase adds as he follows Ricky. “She could’ve gotten back up to Preston easily.” Ricky nods his head in agreement as they reach the hauler. They go to enter, but Chase puts a hand on Ricky’s shoulder.

“I know what she’s like when she’s ma-”

“Just give her some space for a minute, please. Besides, I have a question for you.” Ricky turns around, facing him, as he crosses his arms. “You have an offer from a top-notch driver to work with them on a full-time basis at all the big events and such across the United States. Why haven’t you accepted that?”

“Because I wanted to work with you and Sarina. I told you that, Chase.” Chase nods his head, remembering the discussion.

“What if I told you that you had my blessing? What if I told you that it was fine to separate and you go do your own thing? This Late Model deal that we have was only going to happen, say three or four more times this year. Someone of your talent deserves to be working with a driver every single week, winning races. I can’t hold you back from an opportunity like that. They deserve the same chance that I got, Sarina got.” Ricky smiles a little as he thinks it over.

“I appreciate that, because to be honest, it was the hardest thing to walk awa-”

“Then why did you in the first place?” Ricky’s smile widens as he places a hand on Chase’s shoulder.

“My commitment, my friendship, my loyalty to you. The fact that you’ll always be the little rug rat to me, and I’ll always have a soft spot for you. Maybe I also didn’t want to let go of what we had, either.” Chase smiles, knowing it was pretty special, based on the success both he and Sarina had gotten to enjoy. “Are you absolutely certain about this?”

“Yeah, I am. You’ve earned this, Ricky, and I hope you win a ton of races this year – as long as you don’t beat Sarina too much when she runs a couple for Kyle.” Ricky chuckles as he thinks it over.

“I’ll try not to blow your doors off, how’s that?” Chase laughs. “Promise you’ll always come say hi, though?” Chase nods his head. “Alright, it’s settled.” They then watch the tow truck bring the car back in, setting it down before the hauler, as the pair look it over, before eyes glance at each other. “What are you going to do about that thing?”

“Sarina and I know our way around a racecar. I’m sure we can find something to do in our spare time now, and when it’s ready, we’ll figure out a way to bring it out.” Ricky shakes his head, almost wanting to take a seat in the shop to see the show.

“I don’t know if I could see either of you as a crew chief.” Chase raises his eyebrows, actually intrigued by the idea. It’d certainly be different calling the shots for Sarina.

“We could definitely not see Sarina in tha-”

“Hey now, you don’t give that girl enough credit. You got to remember that she worked on her own stuff for years, and she beat you sometimes.” Chase thinks back, knowing that Ricky was actually right.

They then watch as the trailer doors open and Sarina steps out, changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

“I’m okay before you ask,” she states, knowing that Chase was probably going to ask that next. “I’m just surprised neither of you came in to say something to me.”

“We got talking,” Chase offers and she nods her head, having seen them together outside the window the whole time.

“Well, I took some time, deep breathes, and realized that not everybody is a smart racecar driver. What else can I say about tonight? We had a good car, and we did everything that we could right. It wasn’t our fault that we had the tire leak, and it wasn’t our fault that he wrecked us. I’m happy with what we did, and ready to move forward.” Chase and Ricky both smile, as neither felt like entering a calm-down session with her.

“There is something we need to tell-” Ricky starts, knowing she had a right to know what he had discussed with Chase.

“I overheard the conversation and my feelings match Chase’s,” she cuts him off, to his surprise a little. “You should’ve taken that opportunity and ran with it. I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to competing against you at times this year.”

“Promise you’ll take it easy on my driver?” Sarina smiles, knowing already who he was going to be working with anyway.

“Are you kidding me? I know crazy talented Chandler is!” Chase nods his head in agreement. “Besides, when have I ever taken it easy on someone?”

—————————-

Sunday, January 28, 2018 – No Name, Colorado

Chase and Sarina walk over to where they were supposed to meet up with Dale, as he glances between the pair in a bit of surprise.

“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” he comments, as the pair glance at each other, before turning back to him.

“It was a bit of a late night at the Chilly Willy,” Chase offers and Dale nods his head, having been following the updates.

“I heard about that, and hated to see that. I was cheering you on for the greatest comeback ever.” Sarina smiles, as she had already envisioned the headlines after the initial charge halfway up through.

“We had the car,” Sarina comments. “We just failed to teach our competitors how to drive.” Dale chuckles, knowing how that felt at times.

“I see that you’re ready to go,” Dale starts as he notices the skis and poles in Chase’s hands, before his eyes go to Sarina. “Where are yours? I thought you were excited.” Sarina smiles, as she remembered the initial discussions on Friday.

“Trust me – I was all set to hit the slopes with you guys. But, I hate to admit it, I’m a little sore today. So while you guys have some fun, I’m going to go get a nice relaxing massage, manicure, pedicure, and then go soak in the hot tub for awhile.” Dale admittedly was surprised by some of the items on her list, given what he knew about her, but couldn’t argue with her reasoning.

“Well make sure to take it easy, and hope you’re feeling better.”

“Text me if you need me,” Chase adds, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Be careful and have fun,” she replies back, giving him a kiss on the lips before walking away. the entire time, Chase’s eyes didn’t leave her as Dale just crossed his arms.

“You know, we can postpone this if you want to go spend tim-” Dale starts.

“Nah, I’m good,” Chase immediately cuts him off as he looks back over at his friend. “Let’s go have some fun.” The pair then make their way out of the lodge, heading towards the lifts to go up the hill.

“It’s okay to admit that you’re deeply in love, can’t take your eyes off of her, want to spend every minute with her, ador-”

“I get it, Dale.” He then glances over as they wait for their lift. “Yeah, I am in love and I would do anything for her. She absolutely is amazing and perfect, and I can’t stop those feelings. I’m not afraid to admit it, okay?” Dale nods his head, accepting, as they get on the lift.

“But you haven’t asked her the important question yet, have you?” Chase lets out a sigh, shaking his head no.

“What does it matter, anyway? As long as two people are happy together in love, isn’t that all that matters? I’m happy, she’s happy – there doesn’t need to anything else said.” Dale keeps his eyes locked on Chase, intrigued by the comments. He always thought Chase would be up for asking the question. Given that he and Sarina had hit two years together, everything they’d been through, and the adoring love – where was the next step? Just like he bugged Martin each time he saw him, Dale wasn’t afraid to bug Chase now. But, he was also able to sympathize if any apprehension, due to his own experience.

“You’re right, as no matter what you choose, as long as you’re both okay with it, then it’s fine. I just don’t want her to begin to wonder whether you’re going to ask or not, and whether you’re committed to her.” Chase was surprised by the comments, given everything that happened, almost letting out a chuckle. “What?”

“I can assure you that there is no way she questions my commitment to her. I have showed that time and time again I am always going to be there by her side. No matter what happened, Dale, I was always committed to her and willing to do what it took for her and I together. Even when I kicked her out, I was longing and ready to work at building that road back together, again. I’ve told her time and time again how much I love her and car-”

“Relax, it’s okay. I understand. You don’t need to be offended.” Chase glances over at Dale, intrigued by the comment.

“It just bothers me that people question that – whether you, Ricky, Ryan, Jimmie – because I haven’t asked her to marry me. What happened to good old fashioned belief in people?” Dale lets out a sigh as he glances around the hill.

“We’ve seen your relationship go through a yo-yo experience. We’re just looking out for you, Chase.” Chase wanted to argue back in response, but he couldn’t. It was the same way that he was always looking out for Sarina.

“Because of everything we’ve gone through and the fact that we’re still together, I don’t question it anymore. I actually think it helped us both because it made us realize how much we love each other, and need each other. We’ve talked about our future together. We’ve talked about being parents one day down the road. I know that she’s in it with me, and that’s what matters to me.” Dale smiles, glad to hear about the commitment, and even discussions of a future together. But it almost left him caught off guard a little bit more.

“Then what’s stopping you from asking her?” Chase glances down at the hills, taking a deep breath. It wasn’t just a simple answer in return as his mind had a series of questions to ask. “You don’t have to tell me, but make sure you think about it for awhile. Sure, people can live together and be in love forever without marriage. But, to be married together, to say your vows and express that before a room full of people, it gives a whole new meaning that I can’t even describe. I was worried, and I was scared because of my parents, and how love wasn’t the easiest at times. Part of me wondered if I should ask Amy, scared to mess it up. But now that we’ve been married for a year, I don’t regret it.” They then hop off the lift together having reached the top of the hill as Dale looks over at Chase. “Are you ready to go down?”

“Yeah.” Chase fixes his goggles and gloves, as he takes a deep breath, clearing his mind. But he knew later on, he would probably be brought back right to this discussion, with a flurry of thoughts and theories to think about.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 26: Qualifying Day

Friday, January 26, 2018 – Tuczon Speedway

Sarina walks out of the hauler, stretching a little along the way, as she lets out a sigh. The nap had actually been better than she could’ve imagined at first, as she actually refreshed. Thankfully, the pain pills were working, too, and the cramps had eased off.

“Are you feeling better?” Ricky asks as he glances back at his driver. He was just about to head inside to go grab her, knowing qualifying was coming up real shortly.

“Yeah, I’m good to go for tonight,” she answers with a smile.

“What’s wrong?” She then hears, letting out a sigh as Chase makes her way over.

“Mother nature’s monthly gift,” Sarina offers as Chase glances over at Ricky, before turning his eyes back to Sarina. “I went in the trailer to take a couple pain pills and catch a snooze, and Ricky noticed – well, that and the tampon out of the pocket.” Even though he had insisted it was nothing, her cheeks burned up simply recalling the meeting in the trailer.

“Oh,” was all Chase could manage as Ricky just shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s part of mother nature – why make a big deal?” He questions. “Like I said, our secret. I won’t say a word.” He then walks away, set to focus on his to-dos, but knowing the pair needed some time to talk. Although Ricky cared deeply about them both, he was all fine with giving them their space.

“Why didn’t you tell Ricky to come to get me?” Chase wonders as he would’ve skipped watching the modifieds practice and qualify for her.

“You were enjoying watc-” She starts and he shakes his head.

“You matter to me more than tha-”

“I was fine, Chase. it was simple cramps. Besides, I ended up going to sleep anyway. I just need to go be quiet, and chill, and that’s what I did. I don’t need a babysitter. How many times do I need to tell Kyle, Marcus, Rudy and now you?” Chase closes his eyes, taking a deep breath, trying not to let it fully feel personal that she was putting him on blast. He knew the known fact – girls were sometimes more cranky than usual at this time.

“I know you can take care of yourself, but I care about you, and knowing you’re in pain, knowing what those are like for you, I would like to be there to take care of you. even if you were sleeping the whole time, I would’ve been fine sitting there, rubbing your forehead, or your hand, and offering comfort.” She knew she should immediately feel the ‘awww’ reaction in response, but that wasn’t the first thought on her mind.

“Offer appreciated, but not necessary. Like I said, I don’t need a bab-”

“I know. But sometimes, it’s okay to accept a helping hand to feel better. You don’t need to be superwoman.” She smiles a little as she lets out a sigh.

“I’m not winning this argument anytime soon, am I?” He smiles, shaking his head no. “So, did you learn anything from the modif-”

“Not willing to admit defeat?” She then sticks her tongue out as he simply laughs. “Actually, not really. They should put on a good show tomorrow, though.” He then fixes the collar of her suit, before putting a loose strand of her hair that had fallen from her pony tail behind her ear. “Ready to go?”

“Absolutely. Like I said, I’m f-”

“You don’t need to repeat yourself, because we get it. Come on…” They then walk out to pit road together, watching a couple of the cars that were lined up ahead of them go first.

Like he had yesterday, Chase helps her get all buckled in nice and tight, before making his way over to the pit wall with Ricky.

“Don’t ask me why girls are extra cranky, and don’t ask me if there’s a magic solution,” Ricky starts immediately as Chase looks at him confused. “I saw the discussion. I offered to go find you for her, too, but she didn’t accept. I didn’t want to against her word, either.”

“I just wish sometimes she would just agree with me about that,” Chase comments as Ricky crosses his arms.

“Before you met her, she had spent four years of her life solely independent, doing everything for herself, focused on her needs and everything alone. She grew strong during those years, knowing that to her, she had to depend on herself for everything. So now being with someone else, it can be hard to open up and realize that the person beside her is just trying to offer comfort and support. It’s probably difficult for her to realize that you just want to help because you care, not because you don’t believe in her. At the same time, it’s the only thing she’s known so maybe it just comes with ease – unlike what we believe.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

“So what do I do?” Ricky glances at him with a sigh.

“There’s not much you can do, really. When she wants to have that distance, accept it, but also assure her that you’re there if she needs you and all she has to do is ask. If she ever asks, be there fully so she knows you’re there. Listen, you’ve brought her out of her shell more than anybody ever has because you had patience to wait until she was ready to talk to you about her emotions. This goes the same way, bud, and I know how difficult that is because of that kind heart of yours. But hey, it could be wor-”

“Don’t say that, Ricky. We’ve been there and I don’t need any reminders.” Ricky couldn’t agree more, as even just the thought of Kern County next weekend brought a shiver.

“You don’t need to tell me twice.”

Both of their eyes focus on the track as it was Sarina’s turn to go out and lay down her pair of laps for night. Their eyes didn’t leave focus at all during the two circuits, fingers crossed that they were able to back up their performance from Thursday. Ultimately, it didn’t play out as warranted, as she qualified eighth, setting her up to start second in the second 50-lap qualifying feature that night.

“How did it handle?” Ricky asks after she had climbed out of the car and put the helmet on the roof.

“It was pretty tight actually,” Sarina answers and Ricky simply glances at the notepad, making a note in return.

“I may have gone too far in my adjustments, overcompensating because I was thinking the track would’ve been loose given later in the day.” He then looks over the tire temperatures, and various notes that were handed to him by the crew. “I could loosen it a bit before the 50-lap feature tonight, unless you feel the track will continue getting looser as it cools off.” She glances out to the track, thinking it over. She had raced there plenty of times before, including this event with a previous runner-up, so it wasn’t like it was a new place for her. But trying to predict the weather and track conditions wasn’t ever an easy task.

“It’s not the worst thing ever to drive, so I say we should leave it and see where it goes. I don’t want to adjust, and then be wrecking loose all night.” Ricky nods his head in agreement as Chase crosses his arms.

“We still have the first 50 lapper before us, so we could always see how that goes and then adjust accordingly,” Chase interrupts them, eyes focused on the pair throughout their discussion. He was used to how things would go with Ricky. He would always analyze the situation, and explain his theories, before allowing you to offer your input on what to do moving forward.

“I’m not the one driving the car so it’s up to yo-” Ricky says as he looks back at Sarina.

“Isn’t your job as crew chief to set it up and I’m just supposed to drive it?” Sarina interrupts as Ricky gives her an intrigued glance. Chase could only cross his arms, surprised by the response.

“Absolutely, but I do my job based on feedback from my driver, which is you. I could easily make the decision if you want me to, but I would rather you have a say since you know what that car is doing more than we do.” She nods her head accepting, as she runs her hands through her hair.

“Alright, that’s fair.” She then lets out a sigh. Re-running the words through her mind, she actually wished she never would’ve said them in the first place. But, there was no rewind button on life. “I’m sorry if that came off stronger than I  inten-

“You don’t need to apologize, as I understand being a little frustrated. We’ll just focus on tonight and go from there. I’ll let you know if I think of something, and you do the same.” She simply nods her head as he walks away from them.

“I never should’ve opened my big mouth…” Chase wraps his arms around her, pulling her back in his arms. He couldn’t help but agree, but he wasn’t about to lecture her right now either.

“Like Ricky said, it came out of frustration and there was no meaning behind it,” Chase begins. “Ricky knows that, and he didn’t take it personally. Just take a deep breath, relax, and stay calm. Like he said, we have 50 laps tonight, and then there’s another 150 tomorrow. We have a lot of time to make this work.”

“I know,” Sarina replies as she turns around to face him. “I just don’t want to come out and flop tonight and tomorrow after winning the opener.” Chase could sympathize, seeing how the pressure was mounting.

“That’s not going to happen. You and Ricky have always figured things out and made magic, and this weekend will be no different. Sure, we’re not starting as strong as we wanted, but there’s still a lot of laps.” Sarina lays her head against him, as she felt a number of thoughts swirling through her mind. The biggest of those was surrounding the secret of the day.

“If I don’t perform tonight or tomorrow, Ricky is going to assume it’s because I’m sick and not as focused as I need to be. He’ll simply blame it on my monthly gift, same as the attitude.” Once again, Chase understood where she was coming from, as perhaps he was giving her more breathing room than normal about comments due to that. But, he also knew Ricky well enough to know that wouldn’t be the case.

“I disagree with you, actually. Ricky knows and trusts you. If you tell him that you’re totally focused, totally up for driving, and feeling fine, he’ll fully believe you and not wonder if you’re lying. Ricky knows what you’re like, and Ricky knows that a loss here would not be because of that. We all know that, Sarina. Just because you’re a girl and having your time of the month, we don’t look at you differen-”

“Oh really?” Chase nods his head as he glances down into her blue eyes.

“This is a brand new car. We’re going to have some slip-ups before we figure out every single little secret to making it work. It’s also been a bit since you, Ricky and I have worked together so we need to re-work our chemistry. The lack of testing before coming also plays a factor. You may want to focus on one thing, but we all know how racing works. The struggles were facing today are due to new car, chemistry, and sometimes in general, being stum-”

“Ricky doesn’t get stum-”

“Do I need to remind you of that Easter Bunny 150?” She shakes her head no immediately as that weekend had actually turned out to be a nightmare. “It doesn’t always work out, perfectly. Ricky may be a genius, but this isn’t just show up and win everything every time.”

“Yeah, I guess so. But don’t tell me that about this weekend because we are going to win tomorrow.” Chase smiles back in response.

“Absolutely.”

After sitting together and watching the first 50-lap event, it was agreed to make a slight change to make it a little looser, but not much as the track was beginning to enter the transition period that Ricky originally predicted.

With a quick kiss and another hand buckling in, she was all set to go as Chase made his way back to pit road, joining Ricky on top of the pit box.

“10th or better, right?” Ricky questions and Chase nods his head in agreement as each feature allowed 10 cars to transfer to the main event, for a total of 20 before tomorrow b-mains. They certainly didn’t want to be in the b-main tomorrow.

On the drop of the green flag, Sarina kept herself right up there with the leaders, showing the speed they expected before the first yellow flag at Lap 4. She would get a good restart, allowing her to jump up to the second position early. She was able to stay right on the tail of the leader, until the red flag was displayed at Lap 15 for a big wreck mid-pack.

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” Ricky encourages her. “That’s what we need to do. You’re putting down lap times right up there with the front runners.”

“Car is driving better than it was earlier,” she offers, causing smiles all the way around.

“I’m going to go to my usual spot,” Chase comments as he climbs down the steps, earning a simple nod in response from Ricky.

Chase makes his way through the infield, setting up camp in the middle of turn one and two. They were doing good, but he knew that close eyes and improvement were needed still yet.

Sarina would get a good restart, staying right on the tail of the leader initially, before he began to pull away slightly. She would then find herself in the midst of a battle for the runner-up spot, ultimately dropping back to third by the halfway point. Everything seemed to even out smoothly, as Sarina wasn’t gaining on the top-two, but she wasn’t losing much to those behind her, when another caution came out on Lap 42.

Chase tapped his foot nervously, taking a deep breath, just hoping the final eight laps went smoothly – but knew it was going to be a wild shootout from here on out. he had also noticed some things about the line she was taking, as well as the leaders’ line, making mental notes for both Ricky and Sarina after as there was no point telling them now.

The restart went smoothly up front to Chase’s surprise, but was shortly lived with another caution coming out at Lap 45. Now with five laps to go, and restarting single-file rather than double, the pacing intensified.

Sarina was able to get a good solid restart, but ultimately dropped back another spot, crossing the finish line in fourth. Admittedly, both Chase and Ricky were pleased, knowing they would start Saturday’s 150 lap main event in ninth.

After giving her some time to relax and have a nice cold drink, the three of them retreated to the lounge in the trailer.

“What do we need to do before tomorrow’s practice?” Ricky questions as he looks over at Sarina. She lets out a sigh as she thinks it over, trying to recall every bit of the race.

“I really don’t know,” she answers. “The car wasn’t too bad. I mean, I was a little tight at the start, but I was able to drive it and stay up there. But then at the end, it just seemed to fade a bit – but not really change in handling. I don’t want to go too far one way or too far another way because we’re not off by much, but it’s just enough. But what if we mess with it and screw it up worse?” Ricky couldn’t help but agree as he looked over his notes regarding her lap times during the race, as well as others.

“We got to try something as we’re not going to learn anything this way.” She knew that, but what do you do when the car wants to do two different things at either end of a run?

“I think we need to change your line up a little,” Chase offers, catching her attention. “I know you’ve ran well here before, and I know you’ve finished well and know this play like the back of your ha-”

“Just get to your suggestion, please,” she requests, knowing exactly what Chase was doing in trying to butter her up first.

“It seems as though both Preston and Chris are getting in a little deeper than you are on entry, but it gives you a better run off from the center. So maybe try backing up the corner a little tomorrow, and seeing what it does for you.” She nods her head, accepting.

“What about this handling issue?” Ricky wonders, catching Chase’s attention. “I think we may gain time doing that, but we can’t fall off a whole bunch like we are because it’ll just continue to get worse.” Chase couldn’t help but agree, even if Sarina was scared to make an adjustment right now.

“We have two hours of practice tomorrow, so why not try going both ways at least once and then she can pick what she prefers?” Chase suggests and Ricky nods his head in approval. “She says it didn’t change in handling but faded, so that could be a product of fighting the tires being tight. So we make the handling neutral, does that fix the tires?”

“It’s worth a shot, right? I mean, let’s try that, and then we’ll also try going back to the other set-up we played around with on Thursday.” All of them could agree on that as Ricky finalized it in the notes, so he would make sure to implement accordingly tomorrow. “With that said, I will see you both tomorrow bright and early. Make sure you get a good rest tonight, and Sarina, let him take care of you.”

“Thanks Ricky, and see you tomorrow.” Sarina just shakes her head as she glances between them.

“I’ll try to follow your advice, sir majesty,” she comments as Ricky just gives her a wink back in return. She then slips out of her firesuit, hanging it in the closet, before changing into her jeans and a t-shirt. “Are you ready to go?”

“Absolutely,” Chase tells her as they walk out of the trailer together. “We’re going straight to the hotel, where I think there’s a nice massage waiting for your arrival.” She then smiles as she looks over at him.

“Oh really?” He nods his head as she just smiles more. “How do I know that the massage is going to be good?”

“When have I ever let you down before?” Her cheeks blush a little as he wraps an arm around her shoulders and pulls her close. “They say relaxation is the best medicine for cramps, as there’s not much else you can do – well, and that the pills. So once we get back, I am going to give you a nice massage, before we cuddle up together, watch a movie, and get a good night sleep.”

“I have no objections at all.” They then reach the parking lot, climbing into the rental car and taking the quick drive back to the hotel. “Dale wants to go skiing, huh?” Chase smiles as he thinks back to the random twitter conversation from yesterday.

“I was thinking maybe we could go Sunday as a way to get a quick break in before we go back to the daily grind.” She nods her head, accepting. She actually was trying to find a spot to fit in some slope time, as she wanted to see if she could master her snowboarding skills just a little more, too. “Unless you had a different plan in mind.”

“Absolutely not. You gave up three da-”

“I wouldn’t call this giving up three days, as I’m having just as much fun as you are.” She then rolls her eyes, but she knew that was probably true anyway.

“Regardless, I decided what we were doing here without saying too much – actually, okay wait a minute. You actually had a decision in this before I did. But who cares. The point is I have no issue going up to Colorado on Sunday.” Chase smiles back in return.

“I’ll send Dale a text after and we’ll make sure that the plan is ready to go.”

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 25: Surprise Success

Thursday January 25, 2018 – Tucson Speedway

Chase Elliott walks out to pit road, giving a couple nods and waves to various people who were shouting hellos, before making his way over to where he was headed. Running a hand from the tail of the car to the roof, he stops as he reaches his destination.

“Are you nervous?” He questions, catching Sarina’s attention as she glances over his way. She had been leaning against the car, watching everyone else take to the track for qualifying.

“I wouldn’t say nervous,” she answers as she wasn’t ever the type to be nervous. Being behind the wheel of a racecar was always where she felt most comfortable. It was why it became the driving success when she wanted to get away. “We just didn’t get as much practice as I would’ve hoped.” Chase nods his head, accepting.

With her morning photo shoot and the late notice, they had arrived after everybody was done the first practice session of the day. While they were set to have ample time in the second, a variety of problems with the new car ultimately saw them only make a handful laps.

Knowing it was now or never to put down the best lap of their lives, it’d be understandable if confidence was lacking.

“Ricky knows what he is doing, though,” Chase offers, catching her attention once again. “He always could set up a car without much offering in retur-”

“He can still do that, Chase,” Sarina cuts him off, offering a smile as they look over to where Ricky was standing talking to some crew members. “That’s why I’m not nervous, but rather confident because of who were surrounded with.” She then places her hand on top of his, both of them looking into each other’s eyes. “Tonight is just a trial run. The 50 laps for tonight are meant to set us up for the next two nights. We’re just seeing where we stand tonight so we know what to work on tomorrow, and Saturday. Remember, all that matters is Saturday and those 150 laps. That’s where the Chilly Willy is won.”

“I have every bit of confidence in the world in you, and Ricky, and this team.” He leans in, kissing her lips. “You’re almost up. Time to get set to go.” She nods her head, accepting, taking a deep breath as she pulls the zipper on her firesuit all the way up.

Taking one final glance at the latest lap being laid down, she climbs in the car, pulling the belts over her shoulders. Chase reaches in, doing the belts up, making they were tight and snug. With a nod of the head, he puts the window net up, followed by a pat on the roof before walking away.

“Going to your usual spot?” Ricky questions and Chase simply nods in return. “Watch Pres-”

“Already on my radar,” he answers. Ricky could only smile back in return. It was just like the old days together again.

Eyes focused on the speedway, he watches as Preston Pelltier comes out with a finger locked on the stop watch. Pressing the button in hand, his eyes were drawn to the full length of the corner, watching as he came through and gripped the center like nothing. Both laps in the books and a glance at the time, he knew that was the mark to beat.

His eyes didn’t have time to be taken off the speedway as Sarina was the next car out, and he once again followed the same procedure. The lack of practice time didn’t show at all, as she rotated through the middle of corner like it was nothing. A glance at the stop watch, a smile could easily be seen.

With qualifying in the books, they had qualified third overall – placing them second in the first of the two 50-lappers that night. It wasn’t a move that bothered Chase, either, as they would able to keep eyes on Preston for the second.

“Who said practice was important?” He questions as he walks over, giving Sarina a high-five as she climbs out. “That was a good clean lap.”

“There’s more speed in this car,” she offers, not set to settle on where they had ended up. “I admit I took it a little easy there going into on-”

“Who can you blame you?” She shrugs her shoulders as she fixes her hair.

“I think a couple tweaks, and we’ll be right where we want to be.” Chase smiles as he leans back against the car.

“I say we’re already where we want to be, if not further along.” He watches as Ricky comes over, joining them. “This actually wasn’t as bad an idea as I thought.”

“Don’t tell me you want to drive now…” Chase chuckles, shaking his head. Knowing the busy year ahead of them, he was fine with a couple more weekends to relax. However, understanding that drive for success that Sarina had, he had no issues coming out for her.

“Chase is just worried that you’re going to show him up,” Ricky teases, causing a surprised glance immediately on Chase’s face as Sarina chuckles.

“I thought you were my friend man,” Chase offers as Ricky just shrugs his shoulders.

“She’s prettier bud.” Chase looks over at her and smiles.

“Yeah, I can’t argue with that.” She just looks over, blushing a little bit.

Choosing to relax until race time, they spent the time sharing jokes and stories while the local divisions were on-track. Sarina was always open to hearing what Ricky had to share, as there were certainly some memorable times from when Ricky and Chase worked together. She also found herself offering her own stories from her late model days, which always caught the intrigue of both.

“The strange thing here is that we have two people who have been disqualified from the Snowball Derby in love,” Ricky chimes in after a bit, causing a shocked glance from them both. “Too soon?”

“I told you that a man doesn’t forgive someone for costing them a snowball,” Chase comments, as his eyes catch the snowball hanging from around Sarina’s neck. “But, in a way, I can’t be mad about your disqualification. I got the win that day, but I also got to get to know a beautiful young lady.”

“That doesn’t excuse what happened,” Sarina replies, remembering the frustrations. It was that day that she fired her crew chief, ultimately partnering up with Chase and Ricky. “But it certainly swayed my vote to accept your offer.”

“I can’t believe you almost drove for Bubba Pollard…” Ricky glances between them. “He offered her a ride about a week and a half before we did. Then he joked that I only offered a ride because of the crush I had on her.”

“Typical Bubba,” Ricky comments as Chase nods his head in agreement.

“Okay, but let’s admit – Bubba is not that bad of a guy,” Sarina offers, causing a couple questionable glances. “His heart in a good place at least, and he’s pretty friendly if you get to know to him.”

“Just watch your step, though, because that can change quickly in this game.” Sarina nods her head, having seen that all too often herself. “I remember there was people who wanted me to leave Chase, or Chase to go somewhere else. We heard offers a couple different ways, actually. But no matter who walked up to me, no matter what they offered, I couldn’t say yes.” Chase smiles, remembering those times together and the bond that was shared.

“If Dad would’ve told me that he was getting someone else or doing something else, I would’ve objected,” Chase tells him. “You’re one of the best in the business, and we wouldn’t had won some of those races without you at the helm and the decisions you made. But beyond that, you helped shape the driver that I am today. Look at all the lessons you taught me.” Ricky smiles, remembering the countless lectures at the tracks and in the shop.

“I should’ve taught you to be a little more aggressi-”

“I got Denny back, fair and square; that’s what matters. I’d rather race people clean, and with respect, then be known as a dirty driver. Like you’ve always said – race people how they race you, but be willing to stand up for yourself so it doesn’t happen again. Denny knows I won’t play games this year.” Ricky smiles, nodding his head with a bit of pride. He wasn’t about to deny the cheers he had at Phoenix.

“I told Josh that I wanted a copy of the video so I could run it on replay,” Sarina jokes as Ricky laughs.

“I think that’s the biggest cheer that I let out – other than when you were leading the Daytona 500,” Ricky offers as Chase lets out a sigh.

“I’d rather not talk about that one,” Chase suggests as he glances away. “Who runs out of gas with a couple laps to go while leading the Great American race?”

“Who gets wrecked battling for the lead with their teammate with eight laps to go?” Sarina reminded, remembering her battle at Phoenix with Christopher.

“I thought Kyle was going to kill one of you that night.” Sarina nods her head, remembering the anger that Kyle had expressed. “I was sitting on the pit box and his reaction was just over the top.”

“Isn’t that the way it always is with Kyle, though?” Ricky comments and Chase nods his head in agreement as Sarina lets out a sigh. “Hey now, I’m not saying that in a bad way. Actually, I admire the heck out of him for what he’s done in the late model scene, and the truck series with his team. I like his ability to bring up new talent, and he can certainly get the job done on track. But I’m sorry, there are sometimes where he needs to just shut up.”

“Like on media day?” Sarina questions and Ricky nods his head, having read the comments expressed.  “I admit that it sounded like jealousy when he said that NASCAR is over-promoting the young stars. But, he does have a point. You can’t let the known stars, the characters, the personalities, get lost in the shuffle.” She then wraps an arm around Chase. “And that includes, too. We can’t let your quietness, your down to earth persona, your sweetness, get lost amongst that. But we also don’t need to change that because a lot of people like you for who you are.” Chase smiles, as she kisses his lips.

“Can I get a warning before the next PDA?”

“Warning!” Sarina and Chase both say together, before sharing another kiss as Ricky lets out a sigh.

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

Thursday January 25, 2018 – Tucson Speedway

The evening went by quickly and before they knew it, night time had arrived and it was time for the event of the night.

Settled in on pit road, Chase and Ricky were ready for an entertaining night of action, hopeful that things would simply go smoothly. If they could come out tonight with all four fenders on the car, it’d mean no extra work before tomorrow and that was necessary.

Starting second, Sarina’s eyes were locked on the flagstand as they came to the start-finish line to start the event. As soon as the green flag dropped, her foot mashed the pedal and she drove it as hard as she could into the first corner. With the car rolling the center as she wanted, she rolled off the corner smoothly, taking over the top spot ahead of the field.

From there on, it was a simple casual night as the lead just continued to extend with each passing lap.

“Should I get the ice cream out?” Ricky offers about halfway through, seeing the lead up to a couple car lengths.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” Chase comments as his eyes were locked on her late model the entire time. He could see the chaos happening behind them, and he knew a bit of contact, followed by a spin or wreck, and they would have a late race restart on their hands. He believed in her ability, but knew how much that could change the game.

However, that yellow flag never came, and with ease, she crossed the finish line ahead of the field, scoring the victory.

The winner’s circle was filled with pride shortly after, with high-fives being shared amongst everybody. Ricky took a turn with each of the crew members, before giving a hug to Chase, followed by a hug for Sarina. Chase was next to find Sarina, giving her a kiss and a hug right away.

“Not bad for a trial run,” he comments, remembering her words from earlier in the day.

“If this is a sign of things to come, we’re going to have a great weekend,” she replies, before giving him another kiss. “I love you, and thank you.”

“I love you, too. Oh, and it was Ricky’s ide-”

“I know who paid the bills, Chase.” Chase gives her a wink before backing away to let reporters and photographers do their job.

“And you were nervous,” Chase hears, followed by an arm being wrapped around his shoulders. He just looks over at Ricky with a smile of his own.

“I never doubted her ability,” Chase replies as Ricky nods his head.

“I’m glad to be back. Thank you for giving me the green light on this project. I’m just surprised that you managed to keep it a secret while I put the pieces together.” Chase was surprised at himself, too, as he had known for a couple weeks before Sarina had gotten the call that Ricky was putting together a late model, set to begin fulfilling the plan. He had almost put the brakes on everything with the chaos they went through, but seeing her smiling now, he was glad that he had kept his faith.

“All that matters is her happiness, Ricky. Look at how happy she is. I could do anything for her.” Ricky smiled as he kept his arm firmly wrapped around Chase’s shoulders.

“I know, but promise me that you’re also taking care of yourself. Don’t ever reduce your happiness to make her happ-”

“Trust me when I say this, Ricky. Everything is fine right now.” Ricky was glad as he gave Chase’s shoulder another squeeze.

“I know. I just worry about you – like always.” Chase looks over at him.

“Some things will never change…” Ricky then heads off to go celebrate with the crew, and make sure that tech inspection went smoothly that night.

“Are you going to come celebrate, or just stand on the sides and beam with pride?” He hears and looks over immediately, smiling as his eyes catch Sarina’s. “Come on!” He then comes right in the midst of everyone, wrapping an arm around her as they pose for a couple photos together.

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

Friday January 26, 2018 – Tucson Speedway

Sarina walks over, looking at the speed charts, seeing that after three practice sessions, with all the speeds culminated together, she had ended up ninth.

“What did I tell you about looking at that?” Ricky questions, placing his hand over top of the screen.

“I couldn’t help but be curious,” she answers as he lets out a sigh.

“Remember, we didn’t do a qualifying run as we learned last night how strong the car is there. We just focused solely on long distance, and handling, so we’ll be fine come Lap 110, 120 on Saturday. Don’t let that get in your head.” She nods her head, accepting, as she moves his hand off of the screen.

“I never lose my trust in you, Ricky. I know that you know what you’re doing, and we’ll be fine.” Ricky smiles as he gives her a pat on the shoulder.

“That’s my princess. But one has to ask – why are you still staring?” She then glances over at him.

“Because I’m curious as to where everybody else stacked up. Is that a crime?” He shakes his head no.

“Remember what I said. We qualify at 5:30, okay?” She nods her head, accepting, as he walks away.

She then turns around, leaning back against the pit box as she smiles at the crew guys working feverishly before her. It was certainly nice to be back at the race track, surrounded by the best guys ever, with eyes focused on one goal.

Taking a deep breath, her hand finds its way to her stomach, rubbing it. She then walks back into the trailer, popping the bottle open as she puts two pills in her mouth, followed by a bottle of water. She then makes her way through, leaning back on the couch as she tries to relax. If she was lucky, it would be gone by race time.

“Hey, are you okay?” She hears, catching by her surprise as she looks to see Ricky standing there.

“I’m fine,” she answers, but he wasn’t totally sold on her answer.

“I can go get Chase if you want.” She shakes her head no, knowing that he was out watching the modifieds practice, and she wasn’t set to disturb him. Besides, some rest and time was all she needed.

“I’m fine Ricky.” Ricky wanted to believe her, but still wasn’t sure. Setting down his notebook, he makes his way over, sitting on the edge of the couch.

“Chase told me about the miscarriage at the New Year’s Party, because he needed someone to talk to. I don’t know if you know that he tol-”

“It’s fine. I figured he would tell you and Alan, and that’s fine. I know those emotions, so I know how you need to be able to talk it out with someone.” Ricky was glad that went over smoothly, but still felt his concern.

“If something is going on, or there are any lagging effects, you can tell me. I won’t judge you differently. I won’t baby you, or over care for you – even though I do care a lot about you. I’m just worried because I can tell that you’re in pain.” She takes a deep breath as she rubs her stomach once again.

“It’s not related to the miscarriage. That’s all dealt with, and in the past. Trust me, I’ve gotten all the clears on that you can get. This is something different.” She then shifts a little on the couch, causing a tampon to roll out of her firesuit pocket.

“Oh…” Ricky easily put the pieces together as he picked up the tampon, handing it back over to her as she quickly stuffed in her pocket. Her face immediately went beet red. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. It’s a natural woman thing. Every woman gets her menstrual cycle once a month, and every guy knows that. So these are simply cramps, and once those pills settle in, you’ll be fine for tonight. Am I right?”

“Yeah…” Ricky stands up, giving her a pat on the shoulder.

“Don’t be embarrassed. I won’t tell anybody. It’s our secret. But if it gets to be too much, let me know and we can convince Chase to drive.” She looks over at him.

“You would actually like tha-”

“Oh hell no. Listen, you’re much easier to work with than he is any day of the week.” She then laughs as he stands up, grabbing a blanket out of the cupboard.

“Can I get that in writing?” He chuckles, shaking his head no as he lays the blanket on her.

“That’ll be our secret, too. Get some rest and I’ll see you in a couple hours.” Ricky then walks away, grabbing the notebook before heading back out.

The Tale of Love & Racing: Sarina’s Story – Chapter 24: Chilly Willy

January 25, 2018 – North Carolina

Sarina glances over her bags once again, double checking everything was in there accordingly. Helmet was already downstairs by the door in its bag, along with her gloves and racing shoes. She had just packed her new firesuit in the suitcase, along with some pajamas, undergarments, couple t-shirts, socks, and jeans. Double checking that the clothes were all in there – throwing a sweater in for good measure, she makes her down the stairs with the bag in hand. There was no need to stop by the bathroom, because she had already packed the essentials already.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she sets the bag down, before making a quick trip to the kitchen to grab a drink and snack to take with her. Cursing late notice, combined with having to fulfill morning photo shoot details at KBM, she hadn’t had a chance to grab herself anything to eat – besides a bagel and coffee before the photos.

She returns back to the door, double checking everything was ready to go, set to head on out when the door opens before her. Chase glances over all the bags, almost taking count as to make sure she had everything with her.

“And where do you think you’re going?” He questions, as she looks at him. She knew she never had to ask permission, or get his approval on something. However, they always had a good deal of keeping track of each other.

“Chilly Willy bound,” she answers with a smile on her face. He almost met her back with a smile, but stayed serious instead.

“Really? Without telling me?” She felt bad as that hadn’t occurred to her to do so in the midst of all the craziness since finding out the details in the morning hours.

“Listen, I just found out about it and I’ve been going non-stop. I was going to text you after, I promise.” He crosses his arms, even more caught off-guard. Where was his invite?

“So you were just going to run off to the Chilly Willy by yourself…” She nods her head, immediately feeling absolutely terrible and stunned. She should’ve known that Chase would want to go with her.

“Bad timing on finding out, crazy mind – sorry for no thought in the process.” He almost let his guard down with a smile, but figured that wasn’t set to happen.

“So why are we running off to the Chilly Willy? Kyle decide to gift you a ride?” She shakes her head no, almost glad that he hadn’t anyway because this was a unique, special opportunity. Actually, it was odd to see that Chase had no idea about it in her mind.

“No, my deal with Kyle still stan-”

“So I thought we were both going to make the best of the weekend in our own special way.” Her cheeks go red in remembering the discussion, and knowing that being able to touch him, feel him head to toe, and feel him inside of her was the greatest feeling of all. But, getting a chance to do this was also pretty special.

“Can I take a rain check, please? I mean, you know what the Chilly Willy is and you know the bragging rights associated. I mean, did you see who is going to run that event this weekend? Basically a lot of whose who that are not at Speedfest, including myself.” Chase understood her want and belief to run the event, and couldn’t blame her. Besides, it had a cool name to it.

“You can have your rain check – as long as I get some details.” She lets out a sigh, wishing that she was heading out the door already. One glance at the time and she was running late.

“Can I also get a rain check on that? I’m running late and I need to go. I am supposed to meet up with my flight at the airport in 20 minutes.” Chase nods his head, accepting, visualizing the flight plan in his mind already.

“You’re going to get stuck in secur-”

“Ricky assured me that my ride would be waiting…for….me…and there’d be no issues.” A big smile forms on her face, matching the one that was slowly creeping onto Chase’s face. “You’re my flight, aren’t you?” The smile comes out fully as she lets out a sigh. “You’ve been standing here playing me, wasting valuable precious time, when meanwhile I bet Ricky called you first.” Chase just laughs as she crosses her arms. “But yet, I got the ride?”

“Ricky offered me the ride, actually. I turned him down, but suggested that he give it to yo-”

“Chase, you didn’t have to do tha-”

“I know how bad you felt about not being able to do Speedfest, so I figured you’d be fully willing to do this event.” She shakes her head in disbelief as she walks over, wrapping her arms around him.

“Do you know how much I love and adore you?” He just laughs.

“That goes both ways…” She then glances around, now feeling a little confused.

“If you know about this so-called planned, why aren’t you packed?” Chase looks outside, before turning back to her.

“My stuff is in the truck already. I just need yours, and we’re ready to go.” She could only smile back in return as she kissed his lips.

“There’s one thing that Ricky didn’t tell me. Why are we doing Chilly Willy instead of Speedfest?” Chase remembered asking the exact question, as it felt weird to not be going to Speedfest.

“Brand new car without a lot of testing being done. Speedfest just gives you a couple rounds of practice, before throwing you into the deepest pool imaginable. Chilly Willy, meanwhile, has practice and the opening 50-lapper on Thursday – which is used as a test session by many teams, including Ricky’s plan. There’s also another practice session on Friday, before qualifying and Saturday’s race. He figured everything together would be enough ample time – and he’s not throwing you right to the wolves but instead a pack of dogs.” He then picks up her bag as she double checks once again, before grabbing her purse and helmet bag to follow him out of the house.

“Ricky is a smart guy…” Chase nods his head in agreement as he throws the bag in the truck.

“Consider this ride one that we can play around with in the midst of other commitments, and just have some crazy no pressure fun. While, until we get to December that is.” Chase just smiles as he gets in the truck. Sarina can only roll her eyes, smiling as she climbed in the passenger seat.

“This is your ride to the Snowball Derby. Ricky kept his promise that you two would not return unless you had a car together.”  Chase glances over at her, continuing to smile.

“Ricky doesn’t break promises to me, ever.”

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

January 25, 2018 – Tucson Speedway – Arizona

Ricky stands at the back of the trailer, arms crossed, checking his watch for the time, before glancing up at the pair of drivers walking towards him.

“I was beginning to think that you’d never show up,” he offers, causing a glance of surprise between them.

“What else do you expect when you call us in the morning?” Sarina questions in response as she sets her bag down. “I had a photoshoot this morning.”

“I feel bad for that poor soul that had to deal with you.” She then sticks her tongue out as he just laughs. “Actually, you didn’t make bad time.”

“We would’ve been here sooner, if not for someone else…” Sarina glances over at Chase, who simply shrugs his shoulders in return.

“Do you realize this is the first year that we’re skipping Speedfest – whether car or just attending?” Chase smiles, nodding his head. He had thought about that during the flight. It was strange to be in Arizona for a Late Model event when one was happening in his home state that very same weekend, and a big one at that.

“It feels a little strange, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have to support my girl.” Ricky just rolls his eyes as Sarina’s cheek go a darker shade of red.

“I’m going to go get ready,” Sarina announces, heading into the trailer.

“You know, you could race against your girl next weekend…” Ricky’s voice trails off as Chase knows immediately what he was referring to. Everybody knew the next big event to talk about would be the Winter Showdown, especially due to the purse that Kern County was putting up.

“You have my answer already,” Chase tells him, referring to their phone conversation. Chase had turned down running any pre-season Late Model events, wanting to stay solely focused on his Cup racing. with all the canges at Hendrick Motorsports, combined with a new car and last year not going as totally planned, he wanted to make sure all focus was there so they came out of the box swinging. Besides, it was now or never for him to get a win.

“It doesn’t hurt a guy to try and try and try some more once again. I mean, you’re part of the reason I did this.” Chase sighs, nodding his head, as he knew it referred to their deal made at the Snowball Derby.

“This is why I also hadn’t given you the green light or discussed it further.” Ricky understood, and was willing to accept – no matter how it made him feel. “You can put someone else in the car, if you wan-”

“I’m only working on this deal for either you, or Sarina. You know how I feel about strange people.” Chase smiles, remembering the discussion. When Chase had suggested a development team, Ricky had been reserved about it was he was picky in whom he’d closely work with. Luckily, Sarina had won him over in the first couple events together.

“I just don’t want to see your good talents go to waste – despite my reservations.” Ricky then walks over, wrapping an arm around Chase.

“My good talents never go to waste when I look over and see the success that you’re having, and the man that you’ve become. Now, bare with me, we’re not perfect – nobody is, though – but you’re pretty darn close. There’s just that one thing that still bugs us both.” Chase knew what he meant immediately.

“Frustration over what we knew we could’ve done different, and better, to get the job done. The fact that we push ourselves so hard to be as perfect as we can and do as well as we can. The fact that we won’t settle for second.” Ricky nods his head, as the pair had the discussion on multiple times, prior.

“I watched your media day frenzy, and I saw your comments. I know you’re feeling that win pressure, and I know how that can be. But trust me when I say this, you’re going to win this year, and once you do win, they’re going to come like wild fire. Don’t let everybody’s words and discussion about it bug you. Oh, and don’t change who you are either. Everybody that says you should be different is full of crap. For me, and I know a lot of your true supporters, they love the quietness, the sweetness, the down-to-earth persona; I know they love you for who you are. The main thing is inner happiness. If you’re happy with yourself, don’t change.” Chase smiles, as he looks over at Ricky.

“I’ll keep your advice in mind as you’re right. Thank you.” Ricky then walks away, grabbing his notes off of the pit box.

“You know the drill…” Chase nods his head. it was always known no matter what the problem he could always go to Ricky and Ricky would offer advice. In Ricky’s eyes, Chase was still the little kid that he had started working with originally. “Oh, do I have to worry about any of Sarina’s family?” Chase then looks over, now caught off-guard and confused. “Lindsay mentioned how you were going to see Shelley, and I haven’t heard much sin-”

“Don’t even go there, please.” Ricky then crosses his arms, walking back over to Chase, now concerned. “That meeting didn’t go well at all. Shelley believes that Sarina handled everything wrong, and that we should’ve done more for Chris. They had a pair of fights, and it actually tore Sarina apart pretty good.” In Chase’s mind, all he could see was the image of her sitting at the kitchen table crying with a hole in the wall in the background. Taking a deep breath, he couldn’t let Shelley control his thoughts – just like he had told Sarina. “We’re cutting all ties so that way Shelley can’t continue to cause anymore pain, so just please drop and let it go.”

“Done. I have no problem with that – as long as I know that you’re safe, and she’s safe.” Chase nods his head. As of right now, that fact was true, and Chase believed that it would stay that way – despite Sarina’s initial concerns. “Lindsay warned that some family members may not be so comforting and there may be more issues than we realize with the family. I told her then and there that I wanted to know anything that went on because I would do anything to protect you guys. I meant those words, Chase.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. But really, everything is fine right now. There’s nothing going on – except Sarina and I enjoying our time together before life gets crazy.” Ricky glances up as he watches Sarina walk out of the trailer, dressed in her firesuit, ready to rock and roll.

“I understand, but don’t ever forget those words. I was there with you both through that, and I don’t want to see it happen again.” Chase nods his head accepting as Ricky walks away.

Sarina glances between the pair slightly confused, intrigued by what they were talking about, before making her way over to Chase. She knew asking Ricky would get her nowhere, but Chase couldn’t lie to her by default.

“Everything okay?” She questions and Chase simply nods his head, again.

“Ricky was just concerned about family relations and possible trouble,” Chase offers as Sarina lets out a sigh. she knew it was no surprise to hear people talk about her family that way, but she wasn’t going to lie that it did bother her sometimes, still. “I explained part of the Shelley situation – very briefly with a little detail as possible, since Lindsay had mentioned us connecting with her. I then assured him that there’s nothing to worry about, but he wanted to make sure I knew he was there if needed.” Sarina smiles as she looks towards Ricky.

“You know, we’re pretty damn lucky Chase. Not a lot of people can say that they have someone in their lives who would do anything for them. But here we stand, and we’ve got Ricky, Alan, Marcus, Kyle, Samantha, your parents, Christopher, and both our crews telling us they have our backs no matter what.” Chase wraps his arms around her, holding her close.

“That’s because you’re an amazing person who deserves every bit of happiness that you get. All these people see what I’ve always seen – how special you are, how charming you are, inspiring, determined, beautiful – and want you to be happy.” He then kisses her lips.

“You’re not so bad yourself, Prince Charming…” He then chuckles as he gives her a glance over.

“Yeah, but not everybody can make a firesuit look as amazing as you do. God damn, I was skeptical on you switching from white to black, but I can damn well say now that I am in total love.” She rolls her eyes in response.

“Save the compliments for later. I know what you’re getting to…” He just grins as she walks away, set to focus on the day at hand.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 182: “Why is Kyle kicking Chase’s ass now?”

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

“We never got to my surprise last night…” Chase comments as he wraps an arm around Sarina during their walk to the track together.

After practice was over, the pair along with Ricky and Lindsay retreated to the stands, taking in the modified and street stock main events. They then stopped in the local Hooters later on that night, treating themselves to some wings for dinner. Unexpectedly, it went later than anticipated with stories being shared by everyone, ranging from Ricky’s tales of a younger Chase to Lindsay and Sarina crazy adventures. Before they knew, they got back to the hotel at 2am.

“Tonight – I promise,” Sarina assures him, giving him a kiss. “I want to make sure to have time to talk you about it.” He looks at her, growing even more intrigued with each passing day. “Besides, I talked to Lindsay. She wants to have an early night so she’s going back to the hotel once were done here today, giving us the evening to spend to ourselves since it’s our anniversary…” Chase’s smile widened as he kept her held close to her.

“Sometimes, I can’t believe that we made it two years – but I wouldn’t trade a single moment,” he comments as she looks at him, a little surprised.

“Not a single moment? Because I can damn well tell you there’s a couple that I would.” Chase nods his head, knowing what the list consisted already.

“I wouldn’t. Those events helped us grow into the people that we are today. We took the lessons learned from those experiences, grew from it, and that’s what makes us amazing.”

“You know, I am glad that we have the suite for tonight by this talk,” Lindsay interrupts them, catching their attention. When booking the hotel room, Chase had done the liberty of getting them a suite so Lindsay could have her own personal space and they could explore in the main area, if warranted. “Just make sure you follow the number one rule…”

“Be quiet?” Chase offers and Lindsay rolls her eyes, shaking her head no.

“Well, actually, yeah because I don’t need those mental images of my cousin. But I meant the other golden rule. The Chase saves his ass from being kicked by Kyle Busch rule.”

“Why is Kyle kicking Chase’s ass now?” A voice joins the conversation as Ricky catches up with them.

“I’ll let you handle that one…” Sarina offers, as she wraps an arm around Lindsay’s shoulders. “Come on..” The girls head off, leaving the guys to themselves as Chase’s cheeks go bright red.

“Well?” Ricky asks again as Chase avoids eye contact. “Oh, okay. You don’t need to say anything else.” Chase looks over, surprised.

“Great, now you know everythin-” Chase starts as Ricky laughs.

“How old are you now? Even if you hadn’t said a single word, I’m sure that I can figure out that you, a grown adult, madly in love with a sweet girl, would be having sex. So Kyle threatened you if you get her pregnant?” Chase nods his head, remembering the conversation quite clear. “Well, I can’t blame him because of her line of work. But, I do have to wonder. Do you want kids one day?”

“I haven’t thought about it, honestly.” Ricky understood, as it seemed there were only certain things in this world that Chase remained focused on.

“I think you’d make a great dad, for what’s it is worth. Sarina is also sweet enough to be a great mother, too.” Chase glances away, taking a deep breath.

“Would she be willing to do it with the childhood that she had? What if she’s afraid of repeating that for her child?” Ricky looks over confused.

“Have you guys talked abo-”

“No, I’m just thinking based on what I know…” Ricky wraps an arm around Chase’s shoulder.

“Look, you can’t just go ahead and think that. I mean, for all you know and how sweet she is with Brexton, she will be willing to have children one day. Perhaps maybe she doesn’t want to have her own child, but rather adopt. The only way to know is communication. You need to ask her. Promise me you’ll do that when the time is right.” Chase nods his head, knowing he would for sure. Their communication had certainly improved over the years.

“Ricky, can you promise me now that we won’t be down here next year without a car? This is killing me.” Ricky laughs and nods his head, accepting.

“I’m always available to work with you.” Chase glances over with a smile.

“Let me guess – Dad pays well?” Ricky gives him a ‘really’ glance. “Oh, so I need to look into a raise for you…”

“Well, you’re a superstar now so that should come with an upgrade. But honestly, you were the easiest driver that I’ve ever worked with. Well, except Sarina. She may have been a little better.” Now it was Chase’s turn to give the surprised look as Ricky laughs. The pair then watched the practice together, glancing at the stop watch throughout, followed by a look at the final speed chart once it was over. Kyle ended up sixth, with Sarina in ninth and Cole Rouse in 10th.

“Your suggestion worked….” Ricky looks over a little surprised as Chase gives him a wink. “Marcus wouldn’t try it for the qualifying session – set on his wa-”

“He’s smart, and he knows his driver. Besides, us crew chiefs are stubborn sometimes.” Chase laughs, remembering some of the arguments through the years.

“But once he saw the lap she laid down, he thought he’d give it a try to see if it got them anywhere. After all, we’ve won this thing before – twice.” Ricky nods his head, accepting.

“It should’ve been three times. Have you forgiven me for the tungsten mistake?” Chase looks over, keeping as serious face as he can, shaking his head no. “Really?”

“You realize what you cost me that day, right? I mean, you don’t cost a man a Snowball Derby win and get forgiven.” Ricky lets out a sigh, having expected that, as a small smile forms on Chase’s face. “Well, your reaction wasn’t quite what I expected because of course I forgive. If I didn’t forgive you, why would I still be your friend?”

“Because I work for cheap?” Chase rolls his eyes as they heads towards pit road together.

“Remind me about that raise next year, if we keep our promise.” Ricky looks over, a grin of his own forming.

“There’s no way we’re coming down here without a racecar. I don’t care what happens – even if you win the damn championship. I’m putting the pieces together mid-summer, getting you in at least one event before, and we’re going to get that third trophy.”

The pair made their way to pit road, standing back as Sarina debriefed with her teammates and the crew chiefs. Smiles on their faces, confidence was there heading into Sunday.

Sarina emerges from the group first, walking over to where Chase was standing, glancing at Ricky with a smile.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” Sarina offers and Ricky simply nods his head.

“I was always good at setting up your calls, your Majesty,” Ricky comments, catching both Chase and Lindsay off-guard as Sarina laughs. “Well, you’re my king since you’re the boss, right? That makes her my Queen. We always had fun together.”

“I still wish we would’ve won the snake for Chase.” Ricky laughs as Chase makes a gross face immediately.

“I’m going to have look into when that race is…” Sarina glances between the pair, intrigued, as Chase just gives her a wink.

“I knew you couldn’t go without a late model for long.” Chase just smiles as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. “I need to go get changed, and then we can go up to the stands, okay?” He nods his head, accepting, kissing her cheek.

“We’re going up to the stands?” Lindsay wonders and Chase looks over at her with a nod.

“I always watch the Snowflake for the stands – ask Ricky,” he answers as Lindsay crosses her arms.

“You’re a Cup Series driver. Heck, wait no – you’re a damn superstar actually. Trust me, I’ve seen the video from Martinsville and the Texas billboard.” Chase just rolls his eyes – he was never going to live that down. “Anyways, how do you expect to blend in up there, surrounded by people? You’re going to get mobbed.”

“Just watch and learn…” He then goes to follow Sarina back to the trailer as Lindsay looks over towards Ricky.

“He isn’t joking, is he?” Ricky shakes his head no.

“He does this a lot actually,” Ricky offers. “Truck races, XFINITY races, and even late model events. He finds a quiet spot to sit and focuses on the race. There may be the odd fan or two that recognizes him, but we keep it quiet with a photo and an autograph, and it’s just like any other day.” Ricky glances to see if they’re headed back yet. “Look, Chase is a simple guy. He’s still the same kid that I met all those years ago. Stardom and power isn’t something that has gone to his head one bit. He’s just an ordinary guy, enjoying life, doing ordinary things.”

“As Sarina said – sweet southern Georgia peach.” Ricky nods his head. “For the record, you don’t have to worry. I don’t have any concerns about him and Sarina being together. I’ve seen everything to know that they’re good for each other. Frankly, it wouldn’t even be my place to judge as I haven’t seen Sarina in six years; I’m still getting to know my best friend once again.” Ricky accepted, keeping an eye out for Sarina and Chase.

“What about your words to Chase last night about family? How serious is this supposed possible danger if we re-connect certain people?” Lindsay takes a deep breath, thinking it over, remembering some of the memories.

“It’s not as bad as what Chris and Bethany have pulled already; they’re the worst of it, for what I know. It’s just the others aren’t supposedly squeaky clean. If they really meant anything, we all know that Sarina is Chelsy, thanks to the trial and media coverage; they would’ve been here already. I just put the warning because I don’t want those semi ones to watch for coming out.” Ricky nods his head, accepting. “Are you worried or something?”

“Like I told you – I will do anything to protect that kid. He may be 22 now, but to me, he’s still that little scrappy teenager that I babysat for multiple weekends.” Lindsay could understand that as she follows Ricky’s lead in the direction of his eyes.

“But yet, you don’t want him to realize you’re like that. That’s why you’re making sure they’re not coming back as we talk about this, right?” Ricky smiles.

“He’s an adult now, Lindsay. He’s plenty capable of taking care of himself. I know that, and I want to respect that. But at the same time, it’s hard to take the hands off completely when I sniff something that may seem off.” Ricky thinks it over, taking a deep breath. “When Chris pulled the whole behavior switch thing, a small part of him believed something was off. He even mentioned something to me about that. But, he ignored that and trusted the other side, wanting to believe him for the sake of Sarina and the relationship. Look at what happened. What if he doesn’t trust his instincts next time and something happens again? We can’t risk that.” Lindsay once again understood Ricky’s place as she focused her eyes back on the older man.

“You don’t have to worry about that from what I know of my family. However, if there comes a time where you are wondering and afraid, you can always ask me. I understand because trust me, I don’t want to see Sarina go through anything else.” A small smile forms on Ricky’s face.

“Thank you.” The pair both smile as they watch Chase and Sarina come back to them – Sarina now adorning a t-shirt and jeans. “I see Chase passed off his sense of style to you…”

“These classic NASCAR t-shirts look amazing,” Sarina offers as she looks over at Chase. “We saw you both talking…..”

“We were just sharing a couple more small stories – nothing to worry about,” Lindsay comments with a wink towards Ricky as they all head towards the grandstands together.

“Since Lindsay is going to be hanging around, I better get to know her more,” Ricky adds, causing Sarina to look over at Lindsay with excitement.

“Really?” Sarina questions as Lindsay lets out a sigh. She wished it was so simple.

“I’m going to try and make it out to some of your races and hang with you more next year,” Lindsay tells her as Sarina could only smile back in return.

The group made their way over to the grandstand side, scanning the stands, before Chase led them down to the far right, climbing the series of steps. Just a couple rows from the top, he moves down the row, seeing a series of seats for a group of four, with them sitting down together. He gives a quick nod to someone behind them, before focusing his eyes on the track.

“We’re surrounded by some NASCAR crew members, and a couple other drivers actually,” Ricky offers Lindsay as she glances around. It just seemed like any other night at a local short track. Nobody was staring and gawking at having Chase right in the midst of the crowd. “Like he said – he can do this with ease.”

“That’s insane,” Lindsay comments. “But hey, this whole weekend has been insane from the beginning…”

The group watched the Snowflake 100 together, impressed by the racing action they saw. Chase even made some quick comments throughout about how the groove was coming in, pointing out a couple things to Sarina to take note of for tomorrow.

With the race in the books, the group separated. Ricky agreed to give Lindsay a ride back to her hotel so she wouldn’t get lost – and make sure she grabbed a bite to eat on the way, too.

With her headed back early, it left Chase and Sarina to follow through with their plan.