“I don’t know if you can judge it off the numbers on a paper at the end of the year. You can’t measure yourself off of someone else’s ruler.” – Noah Gragson
Friday, November 16 – Homestead-Miami Speedway
“Are you okay?” Chase questions, rubbing her shoulders, and she simply nods her head yes.
“It’s just another race,” she tells herself. “I just have to do what I’ve done all season long, and we’ll be fine.” Chase just continues to rub her shoulders, knowing that despite her words, the stress was there.
“Sarina!!” Brexton yells as he runs over, wrapping both his arms around her legs.
“Hey buddy.” She then kneels down to his level, accepting the hug immediately.
“Good luck.” He then holds out his fist, getting a fist-pump back in response as she just smiles back in response.
“He wouldn’t even finish dinner tonight because he wanted to come say good luck,” Samantha starts as she makes her way over. “He was so excited to come see you.”
“He can always come see me – no matter what time or day he wants,” Sarina comments, earning a chuckle in response from Samantha.
“Don’t be telling him that, or I’ll be coming over to your place at all hours of the day and night.” Sarina could only shrug her shoulders as she looked back at Samantha.
“It wouldn’t bother me, Sam. I love him, I love you, and I even love Kyle.” Chase had to chuckle a little in seeing the look on Kyle’s face. Sarina then stands up, walking over as she wraps her arms around Kyle and Samantha. “Really, I don’t know where I’d be without you both right now. You gave me a chanc-”
“Chase put you in his late model…” Kyle reminds her, and she looks over at him with a smile.
“But you took the chance in trusting your truck in my hands,” she continues. “That meant a lot to me in having your faith in me as a driver despite everybody else saying you should hire that person, or that person. It means a lot to me, Kyle.”
“It paid off, though.” She nodded her head, knowing they’d been successful over the past two years together.
“But also personally, I don’t know if I’d be here where I am today without you both. You guys believed in me when a lot of people were ready to give up on me. You guys held my hands, and told me to weather the storm because it’d be okay. You guys helped me personally with my relationship. Chase and I are ready to get married in two months, and I don’t think we’d be there without you both. You guys helped us so much at times.”
“I can attest to that,” Chase offers with a smile, remembering some of the rougher patches. While he would turn Alan or his parents, she turned to Kyle or Christopher and it paid off each time.
“And Samantha, I don’t know what I would’ve done without you in January,” Sarina continue, feeling a couple tears trickle down her cheeks. “I was ready to throw in the towel, swallow into self-pity. But with you, Chase, and Lindsay, you helped me move forward. You also took it into your own hands to help me find the answers that I didn’t realize I needed, and help me find what I needed to move forward. You also believed in me when I came to you and said, ‘I’m pregnant’. You stood by me, and continued to help me, believe in me. I wouldn’t be at this stage in my life, my love, my pregnancy without you both.” By that time, the tears were trickling down her cheeks steady as she reached up to wipe them away. “It’s got to be the hormones making me tear up…”
“Sweetheart….” was all Samantha could manage, as she wiped her away her own trickle of tears, before pulling Sarina into a hug. “I will always love and cherish the moments we had together.”
“Oh, this is not goodbye by any means.” Sarina then looks straight at Samantha. “I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with me for the rest of your life. You almost feel like an older sister at times, maybe even motherly.”
“Hey, friends forever as I better be seeing you and that little one at my place a lot.” Sarina nods her head in agreement.
“Why do you think I told you to be in my wedding?” She then looks over at Brexton. “And I better see lots of this guy as he gets better.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” Kyle comments as Brexton could only look up at her with a big smile.
“Can we get a group photo?” Sarina questions, earning a series of nods as the group stood together – Chase, herself, Kyle, Samantha, and Brexton. Chase then allowed the car owners to get a photo alone with Sarina, before getting a photo of just them together.
“I want in!” Rudy lets out as he runs over, wrapping his arm around Sarina’s shoulder for a photo as everybody chuckles.
“Maybe Todd was right….” Kyle offers, earning a nod from Sarina in return.
“I’ve gotten so used to seeing you sitting up here that I may actually miss you next year,” Kyle teases as Chase takes his usual seat beside the boss.
“Awww does Kyle need a buddy?” Chase questions, laying his head on Kyle’s shoulder, only for Kyle to give him a little smack.
“Sarina is going to love that one,” Rudy comments while laughing, having taken a photo of Kyle and Chase before Kyle got him to move.
“I think we should have the season finale at Daytona, Rudy,” Kyle offers, earning an immediate head shake from Chase. Kyle could only chuckle at the response. “I will never get over how nervous you were at Daytona and Talladega sitting up here with me. It’s insane.”
“She’s the same way according to Jordan,” Chase comments, having heard the stories from his team. “To think if you would’ve stayed at Hendrick Motorsports. We could’ve been teammates.”
“That would’ve been ridiculous. Instead, it seems Dale has a habit of stealing my drivers.” Chase could only chuckle.
“William drove Late Models for him first, and well, let’s face it – Sarina was always mine.” Kyle just rolls his eyes in response.
Starting up front, Sarina ran second throughout the first stage – to Grant Enfinger, which was fine since he wasn’t in title contention. So far, so good.
Their chances looked to be increasing as when Matt Crafton spun the tires on the restart to start the second stage, Sarina was able to get by on the outside and take the lead. However, the short run speed wasn’t there, causing her to fall back to fourth just two laps later. She would work her way back up to second before the stage was over, finishing there this time behind Brett Moffitt. It was decent, but they couldn’t stay behind him all night if they wanted a title.
“Nice job sweetheart!” Chase let out as she put together another stellar restart, taking the lead to start the third and final stage. Unlike the time before, she was able to stretch it out, holding the advantage despite being closely stalked by Moffitt through the early laps.
As the laps continued to count down and the final pit stops neared, it seemed everything was falling in place just like they needed it too.
“Right rear going down….” She says over the radio, causing an instant panic through Chase. obviously battling as hard as they were, she had abused the tires.
“We’re in the window,” Rudy informs her after watching Moffitt go by to take the lead. “Pit now.”
She brings the No. 18 Toyota Tundra down pit road on Lap 102, with the crew performing the four-tire pit stop. While it was clean without any mistakes, it was a little slower than they wanted due to the flat tire. As a result, it cost her valuable ground on track, cycling out to being four and a half seconds behind Moffitt.
“It’s all on you now,” Kyle tells her over the radio with 20 laps to go. “Go and get it!”
Despite trying both lanes and doing what she could to gain ground, it wasn’t happening. She managed to gain a couple seconds, but a small hang up in traffic was the end of their chances. She’d get within two seconds of the lead, but obviously that wasn’t enough.
She’d ultimately cross the line in the third position, finishing second in the year-end standings with Brett Moffitt winning the race.
As she climbed out of the truck and leaned back against it, letting the defeat soak in, she felt a strong arm wrap around her shoulders to pull her close. She didn’t even need to look up anymore to know whose arms she was in.
“I’m proud of you,” Rudy tells her quietly. “You did what you had to do. He had the stronger truck – end of story. You pushed as hard as you could, and ultimately we came up short. I should’ve given you a bett-”
“No Rudy, you did a great job,” she tells him as she finally looks up to meet his gaze. “You gave me a truck capable of winning tonight. You did everything you could. We just got beat on strategy there.” Rudy nods his head, knowing it was a combination of strategy in when to pit, along with maybe pushing a little hard the run before per his encouragement.
“I’m sorry….” He then goes to walk away, but she holds firm on his arm.
“You don’t need to apologize, Rudy. You did everything that you could. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you for this season. It’s bigger than I could’ve dreamed of.” Rudy could only smile a little in hearing her upbeat attitude in defeat.
“You’re amazing, truly. I wish you the best of luck next year, and please kick Chirstopher’s ass for me.” She had to chuckle back in response before finally letting him go so he could walk away.
She didn’t even need to move before she was locked in another person’s arms, not even needing to look at the face to know who they belonged to.
“Great job all season,” Kyle tells her. “I remember when you started driving for me. I look at the driver that you’ve become now and I’m super proud of you. You’ve soaked up everything that I’ve taught you, Rudy’s taught you, Marcus taught you, and heck even Chase has taught you. Keep doing what you’re doing. I look forward to racing against you one day.” He then holds a fist.
“Deal,” she replies, giving him props back in return, before going for the full fledged hug. “I meant what I said pre-race. Thank you for everything – on the track, and off the track. You and Samantha are truly special.”
Kyle separates from her, heading over to where Rudy was standing by the pit wall with a couple crew members.
Her eyes finally caught the eyes of the one person she had been expecting from the beginning. With all the emotions on the surface, tears came to her eyes as he walked over, with her immediately burying her head into his shoulder.
“You did everything you could,” Chase tells her quietly, rubbing her back. “I’m proud of you, probably more proud than Kyle and Rudy are right now. You did everything that you could all race long to run with Brett, and beat him. Do not hang your head.” He then forces her to lift her head up, and look into his eyes. “Do not hang your head. You did an amazing job all year. I love you, and I’m proud of you.”
“I love you, too,” she replies as she clutches onto his hand tightly. “I’m so happy for what I was able to do this year and Kyle’s right – we’ve come so far from where I star-”
“You just began racing yourself five years ago in late models. Brett has been driving for years. Johnny has been racing for God knows how long. Justin started when he was really little. For you to be where you are with the experience that you have, it says so much. It shows the drive that you have, how much you want to push to get better, how you soak up everything, and where you can go from here. If we can get to here in just that much time, the sky is the limit sweetheart.” She nods her head, easily accepting his vote of confidence.
“You can’t measure yourself off of someone else’s ruler, right?” Chase smiles, knowing that was the perfect explanation. “I burnt my front tires off those final two runs because the truck just got too tight. She then lets out a sigh. “I need to get better at communicating what the truck is doing so Rudy or whoever can make the adjustment.”
“That’ll come with time. I still even struggle with that and look at how long I’ve been racing for, and the fact that I’ve worked with Alan for three years now. You’d think that we would understand each other but we still have issues. It’ll come with practice.” He then pulls her back into a hug. “I’m proud of you. You’re my champion.”
“Thank you.” She then lets him go, taking a deep breath as she tries to get all of her emotions about her. “Banquet, we share the news?”
“Whatever you want to do, sweetheart…” She then glances towards the swarm of media heading their way. She could easily spit it out this week, or she could wait two weeks and say the news everybody wanted to hear.
“My banquet or yo-”
“It’s up to yo-”
“You’re the fath-”
“Figure something out before they get here!” Kyle yells, grabbing both of their attention as the swarm gets closer.
The pair share a simple nod, which Chase couldn’t even figure out what meant, but went with it as he stepped back to let her face the media. Though as she went to step forward, she kept a firm hold on him, not allowing the space to form.
“I’m not going to lie – this is going to sting for awhile,” she starts with a deep breath. “I was driving my ass off there at the end. I was doing whatever I could – trying different lines, looking for debris, just anything. I was soaking up everything Rudy and Kyle were trying to tell me, too. Heck, even the advice from Tony Hirchman. But I just got too tight at the end and burnt the front tires off – it’s simple as that. Communication is critical, and I know what I need to do moving forward as a driver.
“Certainly, it’s not the championship that I envisioned, and it hurts. But, at the end of the day, you have to look at this with perspective. I remember the driver I was when I walked in the door at KBM. I also remember the driver I was at the beginning of this season at Daytona. Now when I look at that mirror, I see how much I’ve grown, learned, improved. I see all those things that we’ve polished from Daytona to now, and I’m proud. I’m proud to see where I am going as a driver and know that given this trek, we’re going to be in for a successful future.
“I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports. I can’t thank Kyle and Samantha enough for these two seasons. They’ve been even more than I could’ve imagined. I also can’t thank them enough, personally, for what they’ve done for me. Rudy and Marcus, each team member, I thank them all so much. I’m grateful for what we were able to accomplish together.
“I’m also excited for the opportunities ahead in the future with JR Motorsports. I can’t wait for next year already to see what happens. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel, and see how much more I progress, how many races I can win, and what I can do. I can’t thank Dale and Kelley enough for that, along with their understanding on everything.
“I talked about perspective….” She then takes a deep breath as she squeezes a little tighter onto Chase’s hand. “Things could be worse. Everybody knows what’s been going on with Alison. That really forces you to sit back and put your life in perspective. Life may be a bitch at times, but here I am, stronger than ever.
“I finished second in the year-end truck series points with a race win under my belt and lots of other great memories, surrounded by a great team. I have a great opportunity ahead of me for the future. I’m getting ready to get married in January to the love of my life. While I may miss Daytona next year, I also know that I am ready for what the new year comes for me, Chase and our family…” She then takes a deep breath, as Chase keeps hold of her hand. She had debated on what to say, but knew she had to do this a certain way.
“I was told once upon a time that I would not be able to carry a baby to full term due to some scientific uterus research. I also experienced what it’s like to lose a life, and it broke me more than you could’ve imagined.” She then takes a deep breath, feeling a couple tears. “But I pushed forward. They say things happen for a reason, and I believe this happened for a reason. I found out in August that I was pregnant. I could’ve easily terminated the pregnancy because I was told that I wouldn’t able to carry a baby to full term, but I believed it happened for a reason.
“I know I’ve taken a lot of your time and the light should be shining on our new series champion, which congratulations to Brett, so I’m just going to say this straight out. I am pregnant.”
The pair watch the jaws drop on all the media that was surrounding them, certainly not having that on their topic of questions. The reaction even caused a chuckle from Kyle and Rudy.
“How far along are you?” “Who knew about the pregnancy?” “What is everybody’s reaction?” “What was it like racing while pregnant?” “What are your comments to those who feel you did the wrong thing?” “What happens next year at JR Motorsports?” “Does this affect your XFINITY contract?”
The series of questions came one after the other, with some media members even shouting over each other to try and get their question answered by the pair.
“Easy guys….” Chase tries to manage the situation, putting his arm around Sarina’s stomach immediately. “We’ll take the time to answer every question, one by one…”
They were easily standing there for another full half hour, fielding the various questions, followed by Kyle being asked a couple afterwards.
“Well, it doesn’t matter who wins the championship the next two days,” Kyle comments afterwards as he wraps his arms around the pair. “Now the focus for the rest of the weekend is going to be your pregnancy. Are you ready for what the tornado is going to bring?”
“Bring it on,” Sarina replies, as she looks over at Chase. “As long as I have Clyde, I can face whatever is thrown my way.”