Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 174: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23 – Dawsonville, Georgia

“Are you ready?” Chase questions with a glance over at Sarina.

“As long as your sister keeps her claws out of me,” Sarina answers and Chase laughs.

“Oh come on, she’s not that bad.” Chase wraps an arm around her. “It’s just because she cares about me.”

“Threatening me with a whole army of men is a little overboard….” Chase lets out a sigh as they reach the front door.

“The more she sees us together, the more she begins to understand how much you care about me and I care about you, she’ll lay off. She’s just being like this because Starr was like that to her about Robert – and that was more so because Starr didn’t have, well, the best of luck.” Sarina nods her head, understanding. She understood where Chase was coming from with that point, and could sympathize with everybody. But, a little bit of wiggle room would be nice.

“Her daughter Kennedy is amazing, though.” Chase couldn’t help but smile in response, as both his niece and nephew were adorable. He opens the door, leading Sarina inside who just glances back a little confused, and he gives her a quick wink. He then closes the door behind him. “Mama, I’m home!”

“And they told me that I’d never hear that again once my baby got a girlfriend – unless he was broken hearted…” Cindy comments with a glance from the kitchen. “I hope that’s not the cas-”

“We’re still happy as ever,” Chase adds as he makes his way to the kitchen, giving her a hug and kiss. “You know I’ll always come to see you, no matter what.”

“Of course, cause you’re baby.” Sarina stands back with a smile on her face, watching them together.

“You didn’t go home for Thanksgiving?” She hears, catching her off-guard as Brittney walks over. She could only roll her eyes in response as Chase glances over.

“Brittney….” He says with a stern tone. He knew she would say something, but didn’t think it’d happen within minutes of entering.

“It’s okay Chase,” Sarina says as she turns to face Brittney. She might as well face the music if she was ever going to quiet down his security guard. “I don’t really have any family, to be honest, that I know – except my brother and cousin, and we’ve talked about that already. Chase invited me to join you guys.”

“She’s one of the family, Brittney.” Brittney glanced between the pair, letting out a sigh. She still wasn’t quite convinced yet.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Brittney comments as Sarina tries to keep a stern face and not it eat at her. Why did it take so much to get Brittney’s approval? “By the way, Chase, I told you that I could take care of that other problem for you.”

“They’re all locked in jail cells and can’t hurt us so I’d rather just move on and forget,” Chase tells her as she rolls her eyes. “Seriously?”

“Guys….” Cindy warns, seeing the glance between siblings.

“Move on and forget doesn’t happen when it’s her brother,” Brittney says as Chase crosses his arms. She did have a point, as his eyes caught Sarina’s.

“You’re right about that,” Chase concedes. “But, I’d prefer to not have it thrown in my face by everybody – especially those who care about me and understand. Besides, it’s clear that we all realize the problems that Christopher and Bethany both brought and where they belong. Is there feelings remaining? Of course, but that’s something for Sarina and I to handle. So if you could please just let it go, that’d be nice.” Brittney glances between the pair, finally letting out a sigh.

“Alright, fine. But don’t think that I’m fully set on you two ye-”

“What is it going to take to convince you?” Brittney shrugs her shoulders as she looks over at Sarina.

“Time to see trust, growth, and everything that is required. I don’t know how long exactly.” Chase nodded his head, accepting.

“I respect that,” Sarina spoke up. “And I totally understand why for the mistakes that I made. I’m fine with us working towards a mutual feeling over time. Just please, give me a small benefit of the doubt and don’t toss it in my face.” Brittney shed a small smile in response.

“Deal,” she replies. “I’m going to go make sure Dad isn’t getting little man into trouble.” She then walks out of the kitchen as Chase walks over to Sarina, wrapping both arms around her.

“Are you okay?” He asks and she nods her head.

“I’m sorry that she has to be a bit of a pain – heck, I feel bad for when I chewed your head off,” Cindy comments and Sarina could only chuckle now. It was amazing to see how far they had come since July.

“I deserved that so I would buy a clue,” Sarina replies as she leans back in Chase’s arms. “You’re his mother. You care about him. I probably would’ve done the same if it was roles reversed. As far as Brittney, it’s one of the things about siblings – and I actually admire how much she cares about you.” Chase glances into the living room, watching Brittney and Bill play with Brittney’s son.

“She’s pretty amazing,” Chase agrees as he focuses back to Sarina. “If she gets to me too much, just tell me.” Sarina rolls her eyes, knowing that it’d probably never come to that. if she was going to get through Brittney’s supposed time test, she was going to do it on her own.

“Food is all on and cooking so we should be eating on time as always,” Cindy interrupts as she wipes her hands off. “Time for some family games!” Cindy heads into the living room as Sarina glances at Chase.

“Games?” She questions and Chase nods his head.

“Pictionary, among others,” he answers as Sarina just shakes her head. “It’ll be fun and entertaining. Come on…” He leads her into the living room as they all sit around, set for one of Cindy’s many plans for the day.

After a couple hours of playing, Chase feels his phone go off. He reads the text message, smiling, responding back in return as he stands up.

“Where are you going?” Sarina questions as Chase smiles. He couldn’t wait for this to fall in place.

“I have to go pick up someone from the airport,” he answers, causing a glance back of confusion. Though Sarina immediately shrugged it off, probably being a cousin or uncle.

“Be careful,” Cindy says as Chase heads for the doorway. A glance amongst the Elliotts, they all knew the plan already. Chase had previously texted his dad about Lindsay, which he passed along to everybody before they showed up.

It was a short drive to the airport, and thankfully, it was easy to find a spot to park. He then heads inside, remembering where he had told her directions to where they’d meet by a small gift shop. He smiles as he makes his way to the spot, seeing her already there with a bag.

“Easy to find?” He asks and she nods her head, following him through the airport.

“You’re good with directions,” she answers as he just shoots her back a smile in return. “I brought enough for a week. I can stay until the Monday after the Snowball Derby. Despite my own skeptical thoughts, I’m going to take in the event.” Chase smiles as he was glad that he would accomplish two goals with one stone.

“You’ll get to see your girl because she’s racing a Late Model for Kyle Busch, against him and 50 of the best drivers in the province.” He puts her bag in the back of the Tahoe, before they both climb in.

“Are you running it?” He shakes his head no as they head out of the parking lot. “How can you brag about an event, saying it’s the biggest event ever with 50 of the best drivers, if you’re not included?”

“I only run an event of that magnitude if I can do it with a certain group of people, namely Ricky Turner. I also refuse to make a one-off Late Model start because you need to have some experience before you head into that deal. Needless to say, my schedule didn’t allow for either this year. It sucks because it’s the 50th. Look at it this way – you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to sit with you and teach.” She just rolls her eyes as he lets out a chuckle. “So we’re headed to my parent’s house. I’m going to take you around the back using the side door while texting my dad. He’s going to ask Sarina to go out and grab something and boom, there you go.”

“That seems simple enough…” He nodded his head in agreement as they turned down another road.

“Are you nervous?” Lindsay glances over, surprised by the question.

“How could you tell?” He chuckles as he stays focused on the road.

“I couldn’t tell. It was just a question of curiosity.” She then lets out a sigh as she looks out the window. The nice country scenery was calming.

“I haven’t seen her in six years, Chase. How would you feel surprising someone that you haven’t seen or talked to for that long?” He nodded his head, accepting. “At the same time, I’m beyond excited. It’ll be nice to have someone that I can share anything with, hang with, talk to, and everything we used to do together again. There was nothing like those times together.”

“How long have you known each other?” Lindsay smiles as she thinks back to some of her earliest memories.

“Since birth. My dad and her momma were close. So as soon as I was born, we were playing together. She was supposed to be the two-year-old teaching me all the crazy ways.” Chase chuckles in response. “Oh, did you get the package?”

“It arrived today – which is perfect since we’re not home. I left my house key with a friend of mine, Dale, and he stopped by and put it inside with the help of some family. I just told him to put in the living room for now.” Lindsay smiles as she was glad that things had gone accordingly. She also had to shake her head at how casually the name rolled off his tongue.

“That’s something that I’m going to need to adjust to – being around NASCAR royalty without going a little nuts.” He chuckles as they pull up to the house.

“Hey, it’s easy to do. We’re just like everybody else – except we happen to go around in circles for a living which makes people love us. Just promise me you won’t freak on my dad.” She laughs back in response, nodding her head, as he shuts the key off. “Are you ready?”

“I guess it’s now or never…” She climbs out of the Tahoe, following him down the side of the house, through the gate, and sits down in one of the patio chairs. He sends a quick text message to his dad with a smile.

“I’m going to go hide…” She then looks on shocked as she thought he’d actually stay to help them along, but couldn’t manage to say something as he darted back to the side of the house.

Sarina makes her way outside, glancing left and right. She couldn’t believe that she was in the backyard, looking for a board game that supposedly got left out there. Why was she elected to go find it? As she looks over to the right, her eyes catch a gaze back in return.

“I recognize you….” She lets out quietly, almost set to hit a panic button as she could only think about this person sneaking onto the property and being a burglar or worse. However, she found herself instead frozen, eyes locked on those before her.

“You haven’t changed much,” was all Lindsay could only manage in return as a flood of memories soared through Sarina. Sarina recognized the voice – but there was no way this could be happening.

“Lindsay?” Lindsay nods her head in response as Sarina’s jaw drops in total shock. “But? How? When? Honestly? Really? Lindsay Dryer, right?” Lindsay chuckles back as she reaches for her pocket.

“I can show you identification if that’s necessary.” Sarina just continues to shake her head.

“I don’t get it. How are you here in Georgia? Why are you here?” Lindsay wanted to reach around the corner and grab Chase as she wasn’t sure she could find the words for the answers.

“Your lovely boyfrie-”

“He picked you up from the airport?” Lindsay nodded her head, once again looking back to where he had gone to hide. “But why? How?”

“Chase, can you come out please?” Chase then slowly emerges from where he was, causing Sarina to glance between the pair shocked more than ever. If the next words spoken that they were old friends, she could’ve smacked Chase for not saying anything in the span of two years. If she was a one night stand and that’s how identity was found, she may just smack them both.

“Remember when you mentioned to me that you were missed family, and wished you could see them sometimes?” Chase questions and Sarina nods her heads. It was one of her lowest day in the midst of Chris’ trial. “I immediately wanted to do something to make you feel better, so I started looking into your family history. Through some help, I was able to put together your six uncles and aunt. It was about deciding who to go see first. Between the story of how Lindsay got you interested in racing and Uncle Mike’s toy box, I went that way first. I went to Lindsay’s house on Tue-”

“You told me you were just going to hang out with the boys…” Sarina remembers and Chase nods his head.

“Technically, I hung out with Alan and Josh as they came for back-up. Anyways, I explained everything about how you changed your name and who you are now. She had some time off from a hectic dance schedule so she decided to come join us for the next 10 days.” Sarina looks over at Lindsay with a bit of shock, and Lindsay nods her head accepting.

“I wanted to see you again,” Lindsay tells her. “I wanted to reconnect. Damn girl, I’ve missed you since the moment you skipped town without a damn trace. I tried looking for you for awhile myself, but I gave up when nothing came up. When Chase gave me that opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. I don’t have much family left, either.” Lindsay’s eyes tear up immediately as Chase knew the next piece of news wouldn’t be easy on either of them.

“Uncle Mike passed away a year ago from cancer and your aunt died in a car crash just months earlier,” Chase reveals, causing Sarina’s jaw to drop immediately. “This reunion couldn’t have come at a better time because frankly, Thanksgiving is all about two things – being thankful, and being with family. You both need each other.”   Chase then looks over at Sarina, seeing complete silence, almost frozen state. “Say something, please…..”

“I don’t know what to say…” Sarina comments as she looks back over at him. He could feel his stomach drop immediately.

“Say something, anything. I don’t care if you’re upset, happy, surprised, sad, or angr-”

“I could never be angry at someone who totally just went out of his way to find my best friend in the whole wide world, who could use a full hand of comforting after everything she’s been through.” Lindsay smiles a little as the girls look straight at each other. “Chase, you always tell me how much you care for me and how you’d do anything for me. This is beyond anything I could imagine. I don’t even know how I could ever thank you enough, or repay you.”

“You don’t ever need to – you deserve this for everything you’ve been through.” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek. “You girls catch up on the past six years. Dinner will be ready in an hour so take the time that you need, and then Lindsay, I can introduce you to the rest of my family.”

“Thank you, Chase,” Lindsay could only imagine to say as he headed inside the back door. “Chels…shit, sorry. I need to get used to this, but Sarina…”

“I can’t believe this,” Sarina comments in response, as she walks over, immediately hugging Lindsay.

Chase smiles from inside, watching them together, as he feels his parents walk over on either side of him.

“You did something really amazing here,” Bill comments as the girls sit down and begin trading stories. “I mean, you can see the bond between them immediately.”

“She deserves it, and more,” Chase says. “I don’t know what I’d do without you guys, Brittney, Starr, or any of my family for that matter.”

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 173: “I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy or be sad.”

Monday, November 20 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

As she had done plenty of times before this season, Sarina made her way into Kyle Busch Motorsports. It was time for the classic Monday morning meetings to reflect on the weekend that was, and look forward.

This meeting, though, would be a little different in knowing that the focus forward wasn’t on the next truck race, but rather the Snowball Derby. Even though she was ready for what the future was set to deliver in her NASCAR career, she knew late model racing would always have a piece of her heart, and things would never be complete without a Snowball Derby victory. Maybe this year it would be time to celebrate.

As she made her way down the hallway destined for the meeting room, she immediately stopped partway, glancing into an office. She watched as Christopher packed a series of boxes, obviously collecting his various belongings. Of course, today was his last official day here as he’d be making the move over to Joe Gibbs Racing and the XFINITY Series.

“I don’t know if I should cry, smile, just be happy, or be sad,” she comments as she glances in the doorway, catching his attention. Truthfully, he sympathized with the array of emotions. He was ready for the next opportunity, set to make the most of it, and hopeful that it’d result in more success. However, he knew he would miss each of the guys.

“Why?” He asks, wondering why was she was feeling the emotions, too.

“You’re leaving….” He thought he covered this on the weekend when they met in the garage. However, he could understand her drive for assurance given how trust wasn’t her strong suit due to her past. He admittedly was surprised at how much they had grown to trust each other.

“I’m always a phone call or text away, if you want to talk. I cherish our friendship. We will always be friends, okay?” She hoped that went more than just words, but couldn’t help but wonder just a little bit. Why couldn’t she just trust him?

“Honestly?” He then wraps an arm around her shoulder.

“Honestly, always.” She smiles, watching as he goes back to his boxes.

“So that’s why you wrecked me….” He then rolls his eyes, knowing he’d never live it down. He was actually waiting for Kyle to give him a dish of it, too.

“I told you that I didn’t mean to do that. Going to hold it over my head forever?” She just smirks back in return. It was nice to have something to bug him about.

“Maybe…” He then looks at her with intrigue as she just laughs. “Nah, I know you feel bad and I fully accept your apology. Just don’t do it, again.”

“Never, ever. I promise.” She nods her head, accepting. She then looks at him surprised as he drops a box at her feet. “Since you’re here, can you help me out?”

“I would, but I have another appointment…” She then turns and heads down the hallway, destined for the meeting hall.

“You didn’t seem so set on leaving before I gave you the box…” She laughs as she just smirks back in response. “Whatever, I see how it goes….” He then retreats back in the office as she continues down her way.

***********

Tuesday, November 21

“So how did you manage to get out of the house without her knowing, again?” Alan questions from the backseat of the airplane.

“She’s in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Josh answers alongside the crew chief. The crew chief nods his head, accepting.

Chase, meanwhile, was focused forward, following the flight path they had designated earlier in the day. Now armed with the master of searching, a crew chief and a car chief, he was set to get them some answers. They were off to Michigan to visit the address and see what they could learn about Sarina’s family. Hopefully it went smoothly because he didn’t want to have to return with bad news.

“Shelly Dryer,” Chase speaks out mid-air. “That’d be next our lead. She mentioned how her middle name is based off of her mother and aunt Shelly’s friend Samantha.”

“I will look into her background next,” Tom replies back. “I still say that we didn’t need to bring Alan and Josh.” Chase didn’t even glance up or back at the pair. He knew exactly why he had brought them. Perhaps Josh had a point with his concerns after everything that had gone on.

“They both had a day off, and I’d rather safe than sorry.” Tom went back to his notes, flipping back and forth.

“So who are we going to see first? Uncle Mike or cousin Lindsay?” Chase wasn’t sure, nor did he care – as long as they got answers either way.

“I vote for cousin Lindsay,” Alan suggests. “I’d be afraid of my ass being kicked by a strange man.” Josh chuckles as Alan glances over, a little confused.

“You obviously haven’t seen a catfight, or pissed off your wife lately because woman can be more dangerous sometimes,” Josh counters as Alan shrugs his shoulders. “Uncle Mike, please.”

“I say we just let Chase decide…” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Flip a coin – I don’t care,” he answers. As long as they got answers and got somewhere in this quest, it didn’t matter to him.

Once they landed in Michigan and flipped the coin, tails determined they were off to see Lindsay first. Plugging the address into the rental car, it didn’t take them long to get there as they now sat in the driveway with a mix of thoughts.

“Are you ready for this?” Alan questions as Chase shuts the key off. They couldn’t sit in a stranger’s driveway all day long.

“Why would I be here otherwise?” He asks back in return, climbing out of the rental car.

He led the group to the front door of the house – which was rather large as you could easily classify it as a mansion. Taking a deep breath, he knocks on the door, silently praying things went smoothly.

He watches as a blond female opens the door dressed in a tight t-shirt and leggings. It was clear that she worked out, and probably was involved in something fit related – either some sport, or dance. Or maybe she just took good care of herself.

Her face lights up immediately as she recognizes the man before her, jaw dropping in shock. Why would Chase Elliott be standing in her doorway right now?

“You’re Chase Elliott….” She finally speaks slowly and he nods his head in response. “Okay….” She then glances around, expecting to see someone holding a video camera. Instead, she just notices three men standing behind him. “And you look like Alan Gustafson….”

“Hello,” Alan simply replies, not sure what was the next step right now.

“Did I win something? I mean, I don’t remember entering a giveaway, but maybe a friend entered me. it just seems strange that you’re here….” Chase knew it was awkward, but at least she wasn’t running away or kicking his ass.

“No, you didn’t win a giveaway and it isn’t for a candid TV show,” he explains to her. “But if you’re Lindsay, I’m here to see you because I want to tell you about something.” She felt a wash of confusion hit her immediately. What would a famous NASCAR driver have to tell her at her doorstep?

“Well I’m Lindsay,” she replies back in response and he nods his head. He figured as much, given the address and age range that he was certain she fit.

“I’m sure you know Chelsy Dryer…” It felt weird for him to say her old name, but he figured as much that she’d have no clue about why he was there if he said Sarina Ott.

“Do I know Chelsy? We were the best damn friends you could imagine until our early teenage years when she moved away. I mean, of course I know Chelsy. So wait, how do you know Chelsy?” Chase was surprised by the question as if she was a NASCAR fan, hadn’t she read the news? It was already out there about Chris Dryer, and any family should put the pieces together.

“She moved away when she was 15 after her father was sho-”

“Yeah, of course, everybody heard that. It was like gone without a trace. What are you getting at?” He could tell that she was very intrigued, either for reasons of hating they got separated, or maybe anger that she left without reason.

“The detectives and police forced her, her brother and her mother to do so, in hopes to protect them from another possible incident. They went to California and changed their names for identity sake. Unfortunately, they were tracked and her mother did not make it. She then moved to North Carolin-”

“Why am I not surprised?” Chase then stops, intrigued by Lindsay’s comment. She hadn’t said anything until now. “She was interested in racing, wanting to possibly drive herself. They say if you want to be a stockcar driver, North Carolina is where to go.” Chase nods his head.

“Sarina Ott. Do you recognize the name?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “How do you recognize me but not recognize that name?”

“Listen, I’ve gotten away from my NASCAR interest for the past five to seven years. Dirt tracks are just way better to watch, no offense. But, I recognize the faces because you were just starting to enter the fold and being Bill’s kid, and he was working with Jeff Gordon.” Chase glances back at Alan, who simply nods in response. The story made sense. “So why should I recognize the name?”

“Sarina Ott is Chelsy Dryer’s new name. She’s my girlfriend for two years, and she drives for Kyle Busch in the truck series.” Lindsay’s jaw drops immediately.

“Holy shit….” She just shakes her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe it. She actually made it.”

“She won a race this year in her rookie season, and finished top-10 in points.” Lindsay just continues to look back at him in disbelief.

“Should we dare mention her brother now?” Josh questions, causing Chase to look back instantly. “Bad timing?”

“What did Chris do now?” Lindsay asks as Chase looks back towards her. He wasn’t looking forward into revealing these details. “Sorry, I don’t follow nothing. I’ve been too busy focused on practicing and performing dance routines. It’s actually strange how timing worked out because I’m normally not home.”

“Maybe you should just read this…” Tom suggests, handing over a piece of paper. He could tell that Chase wasn’t in the warrant of wanting to tell the whole story himself.

“This is insane but not surprising. He was always one strange dude, caught up with the wrong people. It’s why Chels… I mean, Sarina and I grew so close together. I was like her escape from the insanity of her house with her brother and her mom. I’m glad that you’re okay, and he’s locked away – finally.” Chase nods his head, accepting, surprised that went smoother than expected. “So, why are you here? Did something happen to her?”

“She’s actually in Florida testing for the Snowball Derby,” Chase comments, which causes a little confusion on Lindsay’s face. “You don’t know the Snowball Derby?” Lindsay shakes her head no. “A race fan that doesn’t know the biggest late model event in the United States; I’m going to have to change that immediately. If you’re available Sunday December 2, I can make that happen.” Josh and Alan both shake their heads with a laugh immediately. They wouldn’t expect any other reaction from Chase.

“I am available but you didn’t answer my question,” Lindsay tells him and he can only smile in response. He wondered if the Snowball Derby would mark a good re-introduction.

“Obviously, you can see how family and Sarina don’t get along very well, and she mentioned at some point she wonders what if and misses everybody. I was hoping to surprise her with something positive.” Lindsay could only grin back in return. She had always wanted to see her best friend, again.

“I’d be all for that as I miss our fun times together.” Chase smiles back in return, as things were going well. He just hoped that the cake topper fell nicely.

“Are you available on Thursday to come to Georgia? And what about your dad, Mike?” Lindsay glances down at the ground at the mention of her father. “I’m sorry….”

“No, it’s okay. It’s just…” She wipes a stray tear as she takes a deep breath. “He passed away from cancer a year ago. I lost both of my parents within three months.” Chase could only nod his head in response, almost in disbelief.

“I can’t imagine going through that….” She glances away, taking a deep breath, before looking back towards Chase and the group.

“I threw myself into my work as a dance instructor and performer, not wanting to think about it. You standing here today, being able to say you can connect with family, my best friend, it means the world to me. I know you’re just trying to be caring to her – and she deserves it, but thank you so much.” He nods his head, accepting her praise. Who knew this would be helpful in more ways than one. He just hoped he got the same praise from Sarina. “I’m available to come to Georgia, though.”

“Perfect. I’ll pay for your flight in, and then I can welcome you to Thanksgiving dinner on a surprise reunion. Is that a deal?” Lindsay nods her head, accepting.

“Can I show you something, first?” Chase was caught off-guard, but curious at the same time. He follows her inside, through the halls of the house, into a small room in the back corner. “When they left, they didn’t take anything with them. As family, I asked if I could get some stuff which they easily allowed. I’ve been waiting for a chance to give it back to her.” He smiles as he follows her into the room, recognizing the first object immediately.

“The toy box your father made for her.” Lindsay then glances back at him, surprised. “She told me about how he made each of you a toy box. She also talked about how amazing your dad was, and how sweet he was. She mentioned how you took her to a race, sparked that interest. That’s why I reached out to you first.”

“Inside the toy box, there’s some special photos, a couple of her go-karting trophies – things I knew she would’ve wanted to take with her if she could.” Chase was in total shock as he glanced in the box, immediately smiling. While this started as a journey to just help bring closure to family, he could already see it helping her in other ways. “Maybe we could get this down to her in Georgi-”

“She and I share a house in North Carolina. I’m just doing Georgia because I always do Thanksgiving with my parents. But I agree with your idea so I will definitely fund that, too.” She then looks back ,surprised.

“Are you sure?” He nods his head. “You’re certainly a sweet Georgia peach, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise…”

“I just can’t wait to see her reaction.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 172: Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Friday, November 17

Following the national anthem, Chase gives her a quick kiss on the lips.

“Good luck,” he tells her as she just smiles back in return.

“Thank you,” she replies, kissing his lips once again. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Be safe. Last one for the yea-”

“Woah woah, easy now buddy. I still got one more to go.” He smiles, knowing exactly what she meant. It was always nice to go down to Florida in December.

“Regardless, make this one matter…” She nods her head as he walks away, headed for the pit box. After taking a deep breath, one last check on the shoes, she climbs in the truck, ready for a fun night.

The race did not start off as she wanted, though, fading from fifth to 13th in the first stage as she battled a very loose truck. It didn’t improve much in the second stage, only advancing up to ninth.

“It’s still a little free, but not as bad,” she tells Marcus, who works out the next sea of adjustments.

Starting off the final stage, she began to make up some ground when she felt a tire going soft. Heading down pit road, the unscheduled pit stop set her down a lap, causing her to finish 18th.

Climbing out of the truck post-race, clearly dejected, as she just leans back against it shaking her head. All she had wanted to do was finish the year off on a high note. But watching her guys come towards her, she couldn’t help but smile.

She had finished top-10 in points. She had won a race. She had come close many other times. She proved to the world that she could race right alongside the best of the series. She proved if consistency came, she could be standing on the frontstretch where Christopher was right now next year, celebrating a championship.

Rather than focus on the negative, she immediately shared high fives with each of the crew members, followed by some hugs, thanking them for their hard work all year.

“We’re going to come back stronger next year,” one of them assured her and she simply nodded back in return.

“We’re going to come out guns a blazing, focused on one goal,” she replies with a smile of her own.

“I’m proud of you,” Marcus shares as he is the last to hug her. “You’ve grown a lot since I met you back in February. I’ve watched you mature, overcome difficulties, and grow. You’re not as frustrated as you were sometimes, you’re more focused on the end game, and you’re even easier to get along with. Great job.”

“Thank you for everything. You are more amazing than Kyle could even describe to me.” Marcus glances over his shoulder at Chase.

“So I’m more amazing than this guy?” She laughs, shaking her head no.

“Nobody could be more amazing than him.” She then pulls him close, wrapping an arm around his waist. “Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to get someone like him in my life.”

“Because Sarina, just like him, you’re absolutely amazing and a great person.” She smiles. “See you Monday for Snowball preparations?” She nods her head, accepting.

“Can you believe it will be two complete years together when we go down to Florida?” Chase shakes his head no.

“It’s just flown by,” he comments as she just rolls her eyes. “Oh haha, I wasn’t meaning a joke…”

“I like our second year a lot better than our first,” she replies and he nods his head in agreement.

“It’s only going to get better from here, too.”

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Saturday, November 18

After getting done an appearance for Toyota, Sarina made her way to the Cup garage to check on how things had been going for Chase during practice. She makes her way into the stall, glancing at the car, eyes opening wide as she glances over to where he was standing.

“What did you do?” She questions as he glances up from the data that he was looking over.

“Got a little loose up high and rubbed the wall a little,” he answers as she just shakes her head. “Relax, typical stripe here. Just go ask your great championship leader Martin Truex Jr. as he did the same thing, too. The guys are going to fix it.” She walks over as he looks back towards the data.

“You just wanted to give your guys more work….” Chase shakes his head no as he continues to flip through a couple different pages. From throttle traces, to various lap times, to notes on what lines his teammates were running, some of this had to help someway.

“We already got enough work to do. Did you see where I was on the practice chart?” She shakes her head no, but glanced up at the chart on the pit box, seeing he was 27th.

“Ouch. I can see why there’s work to do….”

“Car is loose as ever, and I can’t seem to roll that top line as smooth as either Kyles. Want to go ask your boss for some tips for me?” She laughs, and shakes her head no.

“He wouldn’t offer them anyway.” She then places a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. You guys always do. I bet you’ll have a great run Sunday.”

“I hope you’re right.” He then snags a quick kiss. “Are you going to join me in the grandstands tonight?”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to miss Justin’s celebrati-”

“Excuse me?” She then laughs in response as he just smirks back at her. It was clear he wanted William Byron to win the title, while she had settled on Justin Allgaier. “We’ll see who is laughing when the checkered flag flies.”

“Deal, but don’t make me wipe your tears.” He just rolls his eyes as she heads out of the stall, knowing he needed to focus ahead of the second session.

“So was the car better that run?” Josh Kirk asks as he walks over to where Chase was standing following the second practice session.

“Absolutely,” he answers. “It felt way more secure, like I could work with it now versus almost out of control the first one.” Josh nods his head.

“That’s good. We’re making progress.” Chase couldn’t argue with that, but he still wasn’t quite satisfied.

“I just wish we had more time. I mean, we’re still 27th quickest.” Josh knew that was concerning, but he still felt confident ahead of tomorrow.

“Once you had 10, 20, 30 laps on the tires, you were solid and matching lap times to some of the quickest guys in the same situation. As long as you don’t lose a lot on the start of a run, we’ll be fine.” Chase nodded his head, feeling a little bit better based on Josh’s observation. “So I hear you’re going on an adventure Tuesday….” Chase glances over, intrigued.

“Oh really? Where’d you learn that from?” Josh just smiles back at his driver in return.

“A little birdie.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that was a big fat lie.

“Are you eve-dropping on my phone conversations?” Josh felt guilty, but these things happen in close quarters.

“I didn’t mean to, okay? We were just really close and I caught a glimpse.” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that it’d come out eventually.

“You can’t tell Sarina, okay?” Josh then looks at him surprised. He never would’ve seen Chase as someone to go behind someone else’s back. “It’s for a surprise.” Josh immediately felt relieved with that confession.

“The family search thing, right?” Chase nods his head as he had talked about with a couple crew guys before. He just hoped they, along with Ryan, Dale and Ricky, kept their mouths shut.

“She made mention of an Uncle Mike and Cousin Lindsay that were important to her in a couple different ways. I found where they live in Michigan so while she’s busy testing in Florida, I’m going to meet them and see where things go.” Josh knew the intentions were right here, but still felt nervous about Chase’s adventure.

“Are you sure about this? I mean, you’re a celebrity and well, so is she now – but you’re the people’s champi-”

“Let it go…” Josh shakes his head no with a smirk. He knew it got under Chase’s skin a little as he hated the new found tagline courtesy of Eddie Gosage, but it was true.

“You are Mr. Popular, though, as you’ve built quite the following. I’m just worried about your safety.” Chase was caught off-guard to hear Josh saying this.

“Aw, it’s nice that you care-”

“I’m serious, Chase!”

“That’s why Tom is coming with me and that’s why he ran a complete background check on them. I’m taking the right steps, Josh.”  Josh still wasn’t quite convinced.

“I still say that either Morgan or a couple of us guys should go, too – just be safe.” Chase rolls his eyes, knowing that Josh was now starting to become overbearing. How could someone on the crew be worse than Jared?

“I’ll think about it, okay?”

*********

After William Byron took the checkered flag in third-place ahead of his fellow three championship competitors, Chase couldn’t help but glance over at Sarina with a smile of his own. He knew for certain the little superstar would get the job done.

“What did I tell you?” He asks as they make their way down the stairs behind the grandstands so they can head out. Surprisingly, the crowds hadn’t recognized Chase too much and it was smooth moving. For the few fans that had recognized him, he was able to get an autograph or photo done before catching a big crowd.

“You are correct and you’re pick was perfectly amazing tonight,” she answers as he couldn’t help but glance back with a smile.

“I did feel bad for Justin, though. It had to be hard not having Jason here because of the suspension. But, I still say William would’ve beat him anyway. Willie has been the quickest of the group for the past several weeks.” She nodded her head, having watched that herself. Truthfully, there was pride in watching William do it. In the past two nights, a pair of KBM graduates had become champions. Hopefully she was the next one in the pecking order.

“Why do you call him Willie?” Chase smiles, remembering exactly where that came from.

“When you drive for Dale, everybody gets a nickname as he can’t just call you by your first name. For William, it became Willie B because it just rolls off the tongue. Josh Berry is known as Huckleberry, but keep that on the hush hush down low.” She smiles, nodding her head. It wasn’t like she would cross paths with Josh anytime soon, anyway.

“So what did he call you?” Chase remembered his clearly, knowing why it started, too. He had to laugh at how he brought it on himself.

“Clyde, because I reminded him of the 50s era with my Elvis-style sunglasses at Daytona in my rookie year.” Sarina smiles, remembering the photos that surfaced that season.

“Those were certainly some stylish shades…” Chase nods his head, still proud of how they looked too.

“If we really wanted to get under his skin, we’d call him Ralphie. Amy does that quite a bit just for the effect.” She then wraps her arm around Chase from behind as they walk through the tunnel together.

“So can I call you Clyde?” He then glances over his shoulder at her.

“Can I call you Chel-”

“That’s different.” He was a little confused, but didn’t say much as they kept walking. He knew the comment hadn’t set well with her and didn’t quite know how to respond. “Chelsy was my name for the first 15 years of my life, yes, but it means something different now. To me, it’s a reminder of the pain and suffering and everything that I went through. I don’t want to be reminded of that, but rather focus on the future and what I’ve accomplished. Sarina was my second chance to reset the stage, and live the life that I wanted. I want to focus on that and not remind myself of what was.”

“I understand perfectly. I’m sorry that I’ve used that to call you out sometimes and taken it the wrong way.” She nods her head, accepting, as they catch each others’ eyes at the end of the tunnel.

“My full name was Chelsy Samantha Dryer. I was named after a previous friend of my mother’s and my aunt Shelly. I almost changed my name to Samantha Ott instead of Sarina.” Chase was surprised by the instant confession, but could see the direction she was going immediately.

“I like Sarina for you better. It’s unique – just like you are in every way for what you’ve been through, who you are, and the future that you continue to go for. But, if you become annoying, I may just have to call you Sammy.” She then laughs, well appreciating the compliment in the same breath.

“Sounds like a perfect plan, Clyde…”  He just rolls his eyes as they head off together, set to go congratulate William on a job well done.

Homestead-Miami Speedway – Sunday, November 19

“Stay focused, believe in yourself, believe in this team,” she tells him. “You guys can do get up there and fight for the win. Be safe, and see you later. I love you.” She then gives him a kiss.

“I love you, too,” he replies with a smile. It was nice to get a little pep talk before the event.

Taking her usual seat on the pit box, she hoped she was in for a decent day.

She watched as he began to make up ground immediately, making his way into the top-10 during the first half of the first stage, placing sixth. He then kept up there throughout the second, scoring a solid ninth. The final stage would go steadily, as he kept himself solidly in 11th, before making a late charge on a restart with 40 laps to go to place fifth.

A series of smiles beamed off pit road in how far they had come over the weekend, really proud of their performance. More importantly, it gave me a good boost of momentum entering the winter ahead of next season.

As everybody finished up celebrating, Sarina snapped a selfie of her and Chase on pit road together, with the championship party going on in the background.

@Sarina18: Absolutely amazing season this year. I couldn’t be more proud of myself and @KBMteam for a great year. First career win, many top-10s, growth as a driver, and a solid top-10 in points. What more could you ask for a rookie season? This guy, though, is beyond amazing. It was so great watching him run well and get right up there. I guarantee next year that he will win a race – there’s no questioning that as I know he’s going to #DI9 hard. Next year, ladies and gents, one – if not both of us actually, will be celebrating right there. But for tonight, it belongs all to Martin and Sherry. Sherry, you’re absolutely amazing. For everything that you’ve been through, everything that you’ve battled, and the smile that always seem to grace your face. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people, including myself. Make sure to enjoy tonight.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 171: “Guilty”

Thursday, November 16 – Florida

“Just think – the last time we’re going to have to make this trip,” Chase comments as he opens the door, allowing Sarina to head in first, before following closely behind her.

“Thank God,” she replies, waiting for him to walk alongside her. “I just want to forget about everything…” He wraps an arm around her shoulders as they walk down the aisle together.

“You know that you can’t just do that. You just avoid addressing those emotions, and then they eat at you. We both know what happens then.” They sit down in their seats together and she looks immediately into his brown eyes.

“There’s no way I would ever do that to you, again. I’m not running.” He smiles, giving her hand a squeeze. That right there attested to how far they had come over the past year.

“And you know that you can always talk to me about anythin-”

“Absolutely.” She then takes a deep breath as they watch her brother be led into the court room and to his spot.

“Now presenting the honorable Judge Reynolds,” the clerk says and they stand, watching him take his spot. Chase had to admit that he didn’t want to see this judge ever again, either. But if he got the job done, then maybe their time will be worth it.

“You may be seated,” the judge states, which everybody in the room follows suit. “Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor,” the head juror says as Chase wraps an arm around Sarina’s shoulders, giving it a squeeze. She could only hope the jury swayed in their favor.

“On the charge of poisoning Ryan Blaney, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” The answer was obvious in Chase’s mind as Ryan had testified to seeing Chris, being handed the bottle, and feeling the effects afterwards.

“Guilty.” Sarina flashes a quick smile back to Ryan, who simply gives her a nod of approval. So far, so good.

“On the charge of poisoning Chase Elliott, how do you find Mr. Chris Dryer?” Chase takes a deep breath. This wasn’t so obvious as they were basing on the fact that Chris had motive from previous dealings, and would be the only person with access to lace the bottle.

“Guilty.” Chase couldn’t help but be pleased that the jury was smart enough to put the pieces together. Maybe things were finally falling into place.

“Thank you. Combined with your previous guilty pleas, you will be spending the next 70 years in prison. You will have no chance of parole, given your antics previously displayed to the court room in other situations. A note has also been placed on your file in regards to psychological pleas. Court adjourned!”

Chase and Sarina trade a glance, sharing a quick hug, before walking out together. Chase just held her hand the whole way, knowing a whole series of emotions were trying to flood her brain. Obviously it was great for this all to be over – but what about the fact that he was her brother, regardless?

“Are you okay?” He asks once they get outside and she just nods her head.

“I’m just ready to get to the trac-” She answers and he squeezes her hand.

“Stop using something else as a distraction or a way to ignore. Tell me….” She glances down, taking a deep breath.

“As much as I love him somewhere inside of me, I am so glad that this is over. I am glad that he is going to be locked away. I’m glad that he can’t hurt anybody else. I’m glad to also have you in my life, too. Maybe it’s time for my happily ever after….” He pulls her close, kissing her cheek.

“I plan on giving you a happily ever after, as long as you promise to tell your boss to stop using my lines.” She then looks at him confused. “Did you not hear what he said today at the press conference?”

“I thought you ignored NASCAR newsy twitter….” He rolls his eyes as that was normally the case.

“Curiosity got to me when they asked him what he thought of Brad Keselowski.” She then laughed, knowing that response would probably be priceless.

“Oh Gosh….” Chase pulls out his phone, bringing up the response.

“Sometimes you just don’t like a guy. Fact of the matter. I never ran into Matt Kenseth. I don’t think Matt Kenseth ever ran into me. There is a respect factor out there on the racetrack, and you can certainly do a better job sometimes when you’re around some of those guys that you may or may not necessarily like, but as once a wise man told me, I think it was Chase Elliott, I race those how they race me.” She just rolls her eyes, but had to chuckle a little at his wording.

“He’s good….” Chase puts his phone back in his pocket, eying her once again. “Trust me, I’m okay. I’m fine. I got my emotions out before. Like I said, I’m just glad that it worked out and now we can focus on us.”

Friday, November 17 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

“I think that last run was perfect,” Sarina comments. “I want to start off that way tonight…”

“I can make that happen as requested,” Marcus replies. “Fourth quickest isn’t too shabby either. We have a good truck this week. Just stay away from Christopher, okay?” She then shoots him a ‘really’ glance as he just winks back.

“Listen, I know what he has on the line tonight and I hope he gets it. He deserves it. Alright, I’m going to go see Chas-”

“You ditching me already?” She smiles and nods her head. “Why aren’t I surprised? You guys can’t stand to be apart. Go on little girl…”

She heads off, making her way through the garage area over to where the Cup cars were located. She immediately caught a glimpse of him, smile forming immediately as he looked cute as ever. Though her eyes immediately drew down to shoes, a little surprised.

“Another pair?” She questions and he smiles, holding a foot up and showing her all the angles.

“What do you think?” He asks as she rolls her eyes. She had to admit – she was absolutely in love immediately as the skeleton design just fit nicely with red touches. But, she wasn’t about to let Chase know that immediately.

“We already have a closet full of shoes. I believe you’ve worn like 16 different shoe designs for 36 races now, and we have about 14 of those at home.” Chase chuckles, knowing the collection was getting quite big. However, there was a reason behind it.

“Each of those designs has a special reason, or is meant to go with the firesuit. These ones, it’s a very special reason actually.” She crosses her arms, now intrigued.

“Oh really?”

“Dale Jr., of course. Since he’s started, he’s been known for the skeleton helmets and gloves, sometimes the shoes to match too. This is my little thank you, sign of respect to go along with the gloves. Besides, he signed them this morning…” She then looks at the signature near the heel, impressed.

“Okay, so this pair I can let slide, along with the throwback pair and your throwback to your dad’s record at Tallade-”

“What about the Hooters Throwback to Kuwicki?” She then lets out a sigh. Perhaps his collection was insane, but she had to admire it.

“So they’re all pretty cool, and these are actually one of my favorites that you’ve worn. Just promise me maybe less shoes next year?” He then laughs as he wraps an arm around her.

“I’ll try…..”

Chase could’ve been less than impressed with the session. They were decent, a little off in handling though, but 15th quickest. It wasn’t bad, but he thought they would’ve been better. But he was going to stay relaxed. They had two more chances tomorrow to make it better before Sunday.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He hears, recognizing the voice immediately as he peaks over the roof of the car towards the direction it was coming from. Christopher Bell – just as he thought. He also knew that if he was talking to someone near his stall more than likely that’d be Sarina.

“I’m fine,” he hears the female voice in response. Yep, just as he thought.

“I was just concerned because I know yesterday, things finally went down with your brother. I just can’t imagine what you’re feeling.” Chase could sympathize with Christopher’s concerns and actually didn’t mind him checking on her once in a while. It was nice to know she had someone on weekends they were apart. Now what would happen next year with Christopher moving up?

“I’m relieved and glad to know that he can’t hurt anybody ever aga-”

“But what about the sibling connection? What about how much you love him? What about those memories?” Chase couldn’t help but listen as Christopher was asking the tough questions that maybe he should’ve talked about yesterday.

“What about it? That’s in the past, Christopher. I can’t ever go back to what that was. He changed – whether due to outside influences or some internal demons, he changed. He’s not the same person he was before. I came to grips with that when he went after Chase in July. Why do you think I pushed so hard for the trial to go forth like it did? Why do you think I pushed for those psychological connections? For all I could care, I don’t have a brother anymore. He’s nothing to me.” The words coming from her mouth so coldly certainly pierced through every feeling you could imagine, as Chase just shook his head. It was amazing how strong she could be at times, which only made him worry about a collapse later on.

“So you have no family, again….” She shakes her head as that wasn’t true.

“I have a family in Chase, Cindy, Bill, Kyle, Samantha, Marcus, and you. It may not be like the conventional family, but it feels more real than anything that I’ve felt for years. You’re the pesky brother while Marcus is like a dad at times. Kyle and Sam – almost like an aunt and uncle.” Chase couldn’t help but smile as it was nice to see how well she had fit in, and saw all the connections. He just hoped none of that changed.

“So you’re still going to make sure to talk to me next year?” She laughs, nodding her head.

“Are you kidding me? Of course! You’re a friend for life now, Christopher. I’m going to make sure to keep an eye on you as I’m sure you’ll do with me when you can. Did you really think I was going to cut off all communications because you were moving up a series?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders. “Oh my gosh…..”

“Thank you for being assuring, though.” She smiles. “And I’m glad you’re okay. Just promise me you’ll take care of yourse-”

“I’m fine…..” She then walks into the garage stall as Chase tries to busy himself in doing something. “Eavesdropping?”

“No, I was jus-” He starts and she gives him a playful smack. “So I heard the conversation….”

“Jealous?” She asks and he shakes his head no as he pulls her close.

“I know who you love more than anybody else at the end of the day.” He then kisses her lips. “I also know that you have some place to be, too.”

“I just wanted to come say hi…”

“Well hello, and good luck.” She then squeezes in another kiss before heading off, set for pit road for truck qualifying.

As she left the garage, his mind immediately switched gears, knowing another topic was also on the brain. The loss of family in one way made another project even greater in importance to make it happen for her. He had texted the familiar names and small story to his contact, hoping that it led them to something happening in the future.

He began to wonder once again what her reaction would be. Would there be glee for finding good family to get back close with? Would she be angry that he went digging in her past? Would this be a gift that he could never top ever?

As his phone goes off, he pulls it from his pocket, answering immediately upon seeing the phone number.

“Hello?” He says as he watches the field of activity before him with final preparation being done ahead of qualifying, followed by backing the car out to take it over for pre-qualifying inspection.

“Hey Chase,” he hears on the other end. “It’s Tom Keo. How are you?” He knew the phone call wasn’t just a casual check-in.

“Alright. Car is decent, things have gone smoothly. How are you?” He actually wished Tom would just get to why he called.

“I’m doing great. So I checked into Mike Dryer and his daughter Lindsay. Both of them are still living in Michigan believe it or not, and they have a clean record. So if you’re looking for positive members, this could be a good beginning.” Chase was relieved to hear that Mike and Lindsay were still on a good page. It made the happiness in Sarina’s voice talking about them feel even better.

“So what are we going to do now?” It was obvious question. Tom wouldn’t just call with casual information for no reason.

“We could follow one of two approaches. We can surprise them with a visit and go from there in explaining our reasoning for showing up, or I could call them first.” Chase knew a call from a stranger could hurry them off. Besides, why would they trust somebody over the phone they didn’t know when they probably knew her family background of con people throughout?

“I say we follow the first approach. I can check my schedule and give you some days that I am free to do so.” He knew there were some days; it was just planning it perfectly so Sarina didn’t catch on.

“That’s a deal. I look forward to being able to do this soon.”

“Sounds good. Thanks Tom.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Chase then hangs up, smile forming on his face.

With a new found reason for some more happiness today, he made his way out to pit road, watching the end of qualifying as Sarina timed in fifth quickest. Certainly happiness was easy to come by today.

Ultimately, that smile wasn’t as big once Cup qualifying was over as he ended up 18th. Not too shabby, but certainly not super smile worthy. Hopefully Sunday went much better.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 170: “That’s all I had there, buddy.”

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

25 laps to go. 23 laps to go. 20 laps to go. The laps couldn’t count down quick enough in Sarina’s mind as she watched Chase continue to pace ahead of the field. Her leg began tap more, nails began to disappear, hand clutched the bears tighter – couldn’t they just drop the checkered flag right now?

She then felt her nerves pick up even more as with 15 laps to go, the gap between the No. 24 Chevrolet and No. 20 Toyota began shrink more and more. It was obvious that the handling was going away for Chase, as noticed how he was getting off turn two compared to just five laps earlier.

She just crossed her fingers – they couldn’t lose it now. Maybe they’d get a caution as they were better on the short run. Maybe Chase would find something. Maybe Matt would begin to struggle more as he got closer. Something, anything needed to happen now.

“10 more at the line here,” Eddie tells him over the radio as Sarina’s leg bounces more. “Track bar, dial brake in, whatever you need to do. We are fighting for our lives here.” She knew those tidbits of advice from Eddie were useless as knowing Chase, he was already exploring ideas for change in line or adjustments in the car. They didn’t need the obvious right now. “On you, half a lane lower, looking…” Just like that, anger and heartbreak began to course through her in seeing Kenseth get underneath, and pass him off of turn four for the lead. “Stay with him now….”

“Getting so damn tight!” Chase comes over the wall, as Sarina just looked down, shaking her head. This couldn’t be happening.

“Fighting for our lives here. Stay with it…”

She almost felt like throwing the bear – not caring which one – across pit road onto the track to create a caution as the seconds click by. How could this be happening, again?

She didn’t know what to feel over the course of the next eight laps as she silently prayed for a caution, or something to happen to Kenseth’s car, as the emotions just seemed to blur together. She kept her eyes focused ahead, watching Kenseth take the checkered flag first ahead of Chase.

She wanted to be happy for Matt. She wanted to express pride for him. He was one of the nicest guys in the garage. It was nice to see him go out with a win near the end of his career as it seemed to be happening.

But, there was no drop of happiness, as anger and heartbreak just sat there. Sixth runner=up finish this year alone. How does that happen?

“Ugh, that’s all I had there, buddy,” Chase comes over the radio and her heart breaks even more hearing the disappointment laced in his voice. “I’ll get it right one day there. I’m sorry.” Tears threatened to fall, combined with angry enough to punch something. If she wasn’t feeling it before, Chase’s words just cut it even deeper to the core.

“Don’t be sorry,” Alan says. “You did a helluva job. I think we overachieved with that second. We put ourselves in a position, so be proud of it.” Sarina couldn’t help but smile a little in the crew chief’s encouraging words. Certainly they couldn’t forget how far they fell behind mid-race, and the comeback they managed the final 100 laps.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, man,” Eddie adds. “You gave us a shot at it.”

She takes off the headset, placing it on the box where it belonged, before climbing down the steps. She just shook her head, trying to ease her own emotions, as she watched the cars roll down pit road, before making her way out to where Chase was.

She stood back, watching as NBC approached him for his post-race thoughts. She couldn’t believe how composed he was, easily giving them an explanation on those final laps. She knew if roles reversed, that interview wouldn’t had gone near that smoothly with anger searing off of her.

“What do you have to say about the contact with Denny?” The reporter asks and Sarina rolls her eyes. She knew that incident would be overplayed on every network this week.

“A wise man once told me that you race guys how they race you with a smile on your face, so that’s what I did today,” Chase replies and Sarina couldn’t help but form a grin. She had heard the same advice previously before in the late model shop, and almost wanted to send Ricky a praising text for his lessons because that certainly paid off today. “That’s about all I have to say.”

She watches as he does a few more interviews, before the media glob walks away. She then makes her way over, instantly wrapping her arms around him.

“You did a great job today – no matter the result,” she tells him. “You guys fought hard from struggling to being in a place to win. You did the best you could. Be proud of yourself…” He looks at her with a small smile, giving her a kiss.

“I just can’t believe it….” He lets out as he lets out a sigh. She knew no matter what she said, it wouldn’t change his mind or thoughts – just like her theory on Christopher on Friday. So, she took another approach.

“Your move on Denny was genius, by the way. It was nice to see him not make it either.” A small smile forms on his face as he glances back, wondering if Denny had hung around to pay a visit.

“Did I push it too far?” She laughs and shakes her head no.

“An eye for an eye, right?” He nods his head.

“I know what you’re doing, and it’s a very good attempt….” She then focuses on his brown eyes as he pulls her close. “I’ll get over this in a couple days. It just stings to come close. I’m going to say congratulations to Matt, go do some media room stuff, and then we can get out of here.”

“I wouldn’t mind that all….” She was actually beyond through with this weekend.

***********

“Unbelievable jackass!” Sarina lets out from the bedsroom, as Chase looks in, intrigued. He had just gotten out of the shower and was taking his time drying off. But obviously, her outburst caught him off-guard. He saw her phone in her hand immediately, almost rolling his eyes.

“What are they saying now about you and your brother?” Chase wonders, having grown used to the ridiculous remarks. He already half-expected another dosage when the trial finished off with the results and sentencing.

“Actually, this has nothing to do with that.” He then looked on confused as she normally didn’t over panic unless it was about that. “Denny’s spotter is about as dense as he is.”

“Chris Lambert? Really?” She nods her head, still shocked by the quote that she read in the article.

“So did you realize that Denny tried to let you go for two laps, but you were set to stay behind him, and supposedly accomplish what you finally did?” Chase almost broke out laughing as he hurried over, not caring that the towel came loose in the process, flopping down beside her.

“I’m sorry, but did you at any point see Denny give me the bottom fully?” Sarina shakes her head no. “I mean, he bumped me first. Why would I worry about wrecking him anyway when my focus was on winning?”

“He even says that Denny moved up to give you the bottom, and even slowed down to let you go – but yet you slowed down to keep with him.” It was now official; the laughter he previously held onto was in full blast as he just shook his head. Was this guy serious? He now understood why some people demanded sanity tests for NASCAR employees.

“Denny got put in the second line because I got underneath him, and Denny didn’t just move over because he tried pinching my ass. And slowed down lap times? Does one guy not realize we have data?” Sarina was now laughing herself as she just shook her head.

“Least we know that he and Denny go together quite well….” Chase nods his head. “To be honest, Denny didn’t hold back either. I actually wanted to hop off the pit box, walk down to the care center, and smack some common sense into him.” Chase looks at her surprised now.

“Oh really?” She scrolls up in the article, finding the quote.

“Each person had their own opinion of how they do things and it just proved to people that thought I was a bad guy that he would do the exact same thing in the same circumstances, so I mean, you know, it’s just part of racing. I got into him and he chose to retaliate, so I’m in the garage and that’s the way it is.”

“Is he for real?” Sarina holds out the phone, as if Chase should read it himself to let it set in.

“Clearly, he learned nothing because last I checked initiation and retaliation were two totally different things.” Chase nods his head.

“I would’ve raced him cleanly for the rest of my life if he done the same for me. But, that’s how it goes…” She then sets her phone aside.

“So, can I smack him for you?” Chase laughs, but shakes his head no. “Then I guess I am going to have to help you with that towel…”

“Oh really?” She then moves down closer to him.

“Well, you did do a great job taking care of me Friday night and Saturday, so I owe you a favor…” She then runs her hands down his chest. “Besides, you need a distraction tonight…”

“That’s not a bad idea…..”

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

Monday, November 13 – Kyle Busch Motorsports

Sarina walks through the doors, coffee in hand, making her way up the stairs. Every Monday morning at KBM resulted in the same thing – meeting in the big office with all the crew chiefs and drivers, with the boss making an appearance.

Though having already checked twitter, she knew that Kyle wouldn’t be there due to being on the Championship 4 tour in New York fulfilling media obligations. If he was set to make an appearance, she was going to bring a combination of popcorn, ear plugs, and Tylenol for the butt-chewing that probably would’ve went down.

She makes her way through the doors, spotting Christopher already in his usual seat.

“You’re lucky he’s not here today…” She comments as she walks by Christopher, taking her spot. He just shakes his head, catching the reference already. When was she going to let this go?

“I know,” he replies. “You know I didn’t mean to, right? I still feel terrible. I love you, you’re my buddy. I take full blame once he does yell at us. But you know I meant the apology, right?” She felt herself crack a little, shaking her head as he looked like a little kid right now trying to say whatever would work.

“I love how you’re blubbering. You went full tilt on Erik, but here you’re acting like this.” He was almost set to yell back in response. How did the two teammate incidents even begin to compare? Clearly, Erik screwed up when he forgot to turn the wheel left or hit the brakes upon realizing a car was right in front of him.

“Because I really am sorry. That situation, I just messed up…” She couldn’t hold back anymore, shooting a small smile his direction.

“We were both going for the win, and we’d both probably do the same thing over again. I get it, Christopher. All is forgiven and forgotten, as long as you forget that I was willing to kill you on Friday night.” He then laughs, reaching over a quick hug.

“Deal. By the way, your boyfriend makes an impressive bodyguard.” She then laughs as she had to give Chase credit that he did a decent job handling things.

“I just wish he could get that dang win out of the way.” Christopher sits back, relaxing, smile forming on his face. He had a theory already.

“A win for Chase Elliott in a number other than 9 just wouldn’t seem righ-”

“Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, No. 94. Need I say more?” Christopher almost felt his plan was crushed, but could only smile back in return.

“No. 94 is an exception, though, as his dad ran that number for numerous years. McDonalds scheme, right?” Sarina smiles, nodding her head. It was nice to see Christopher getting to know more NASCAR history. “His dad ran the 9 for years, and Chase has run the 9 for all of his career – except those truck races and Cup Series. Elliott and 9 just go together naturally. HMS put it perfectly when they mentioned legacy. I have a funny feeling that he will win as soon as the 2018 season starts now he’s back where he belongs.” Sarina couldn’t help but admit that maybe Christopher was onto something. That didn’t mean she was giving up on this year, yet.

“We still have Homestea-”

“Kyle Larson is winning that one, and you can’t deny it – unless he blows a motor.” She actually couldn’t argue with that based on Larson’s statistics. “Besides, only one other driver has won in the 24 before – Jeff Gordon. It’s one of those number deals where you just know it’s not right.”

“So what about poor Willie B next year?” Christopher then smiled, already having worked that detail out in his head.

“Willie B has broken every mold since he entered the sport. Just four years experience in racing and he’s doing things that some of us wish we could do with 10 years of experience. He’s going to break this mold, too.” She smiles, as it was a decent way to solve the debate on hand.

“You’re pretty smart…” He just gives her a wink back in response as the crew chiefs enter, set to get things started.

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

Wednesday, November 15

 

“You look like you found something to kill again….” Chase comments, looking over at her sitting at the kitchen table scrolling through her phone. After a busy day, they were set to relax with a nice home cooked meal and a movie.

“How do you know me that well?” She questions and he just shrugs his shoulders. “Mike Wheeler also goes well with Denny and Chris, too.” Chase could only roll his eyes as he walked over, set to snatch the phone out of her hands.

“Do you realize why I avoid twitter after an incident at the track now?” She nods her head as she holds her phone out of his reach. “You need to leave it alon-”

“Admit it – you want to know what he said.” He then lets out a sigh, walking back over to the stove. “I knew it.”

“Curiousity is the worst thing at times, but lay it on me. Besides, I need a good laugh.”

“I’m going to read his exact words and leave nothi-”

“Go ahead….” She then takes a deep breath, still shocked at Mike’s words.

“Even in Phoenix, I thought Chase was grown up enough to just move on and realize that it was just an accident at Martinsville, and we didn’t mean to wreck him – and Chase couldn’t get ove-”

“So basically he’s comparing me to a toddler?” Sarina laughs as she rolls her eyes.

“That, or your one of those gossip girls in a high school now…” Chase just shakes his head in surprise.

“Ridiculous!” Sarina then goes out of the message, sitting back in the chair. “What are you thinking because no, you can’t smack the crap out of Mike too?” She then laughs, but felt letdown. Every good plan she had….

“Nah, I’m not thinking about that at all. My Uncle Mike came to mind actually and how he’d always pick on my dad about having no policeman gossip like those TV shows.” Chase carefully eyes her, remembering the name was mentioned as one of her uncles in his search. It made sense that Mike would be one that she’d say easily, too, given that his daughter was Lindsay – her introduction to short track racing.

“Really? What was your uncle Mike like, anyway?” Casual conversation, just like the boys suggested…..

“He was amazing, Chase. I mean, he was the sweetest guy you could know. He built me a toy box when I was eight years old. It had my name on it, along with teddy bears, toy blocks, other toys – everything hand painted. I actually wish I still had that today. But oh man, the stories I could tell….” Chase brings over a pair of plates, setting them down.

There was no question where his search was going from here.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 169: “Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?”

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

“You seem like you’re in a happy mood….” Josh comments as he makes his way over to Chase in the garage stall. Chase simply glances over at the car chief with a smile.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Chase questions. “Second quickest, happy with how the car feels, ready to perfect it the next session. I have nothing to complain about.”

“That’s probably more than you could say about last night…” Chase looks on intrigued, but immediately caught the reference. He figured that the guys would bring up what happened with Christopher and Sarina eventually.

“I heard you were playing referee,” Jordan adds as he glances over at the group assembling.

“I don’t see Sarina anywhere either,” Jared Seate continues the comments as Chase could only roll his eyes. “Time out?”

“No, she was feeling a little sore this morning so I told her to relax today,” Chase comments. “And sure, I may have played referee…”

“Did you hear your man is taking care of his lady?” Jared questions and Jordan nods his head.

“Are you honestly surprised?” Jordan asks back in response and Jared shakes his head no. Chase could only imagine the teasing if they knew the plan for later. “But I really want to know what happened when she and Christopher meant face-to-face.”

“He apologized right away,” Chase tells them. “No questions asked, simply said sorry. She accepted the thought, but admitted she wouldn’t feel perfectly right about what happened for awhile.”

“Can’t blame her,” Josh comments as Jordan still had his arms crossed. There had to be more to the story.

“No punches or shoving?” Jordan questions and Chase shakes his head no. “Man, you got to be lying. I mean, you’re covering for Kyle or something. You can’t tell me that nothing happe-”

“Go ask Christopher or Sarina yourself,” Chase cuts him off. “Look, they’re friends and even in anger, she knew that he didn’t mean it 100%. It’s hard racing, and sometimes contact happens.”

“So you’d be cool if same thing happened with, say Jimmie?” Josh questions and Chase rolls his eyes. Why were they still discussing this?

“No, I’d be mad as she was initially. However, I’d come to understand that it was hard racing.” Josh nods his head, accepting. “Alright, we got another practice to focus on….”

“Should we wonder if he has a treat to take care of the lady later?” Jared asks Josh as Chase walks away. Josh just gives him a quick glance.

“Did you not learn earlier this year to keep outta the man’s business?” Josh wonders and Jared simply shrugs his shoulders.

“They weren’t talking at one point. Who made the girl surprise him at home and get them back on the same page?” Josh rolls his eyes immediately.

“Are you going to hold that over his head forever?” Jared simply smiles in return as he goes to do his job. “You son of a bitch….”

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

With practice in the books, Chase made his way back to the motorcoach to see Sarina. Certainly, the second session did not go as well as the first as he was 17th on the charts – which meant that those experiments by Alan were a failure. Hopefully when they started the race on Sunday, the set-up was something they used in the first session.

He makes his way into the bedsroom as he slips off his firesuit, instantly smiling as he spots her immediately curled up in the blankets.

“Feeling any better?” He questions as he hangs the suit up in the closet.

“With this type of view, how can a girl think about any pain that she’s in?” She asks in response as he simply looks back with a grin. “I mean, the next best thing would maybe be a Magic Mike dance, or strip show…”

“That’s totally not happening.” She then pouts as he could only giggle back in response. “I’m serious….”

“I guess I’ll take what I can get…” Besides, how was a lady supposed to complain in seeing her man stripped down to boxers and an undershirt? The next best thing would only be to take that off, too. “And, actually, your relaxation idea worked perfectly. Muscles are feeling a little better and not as sore. Maybe once and awhile it wouldn’t hurt to take a step back.”

“So aren’t you glad that you listened?” She smiles as she grabs her hand, pulling her close to the bed.

“You did say, though, that you’d make it worth my while. Can I cash in my payment?” He then laughs as he flops back on the bed.

“I don’t know. Have you been a good little girl?” She then rolls her eyes.

“When am I not a good little girl? I mean, I did listen to you last night and didn’t kick Christopher’s ass. I mean, I could’ve snuck out today and kicked it while you were busy.” He then glances back at her surprised. Did he really just hear that?

“Please tell me that you’re not mad at him still…” She lets out a sigh. She wanted to be mad as she hated to lose as much as anybody – if not more, and hated how tore up the truck was. But, his apology was worthy.

“Why do some people make it so hard to stay mad at them?” Chase smiles, knowing what she meant immediately.

“See, you’re a good little girl. You’re beginning to see things…” She then moves a little further down to the bed to be closer to him at the bottom.

“So, what’s my payment cutie?” He looks over, his smile matching hers immediately.

“I was thinking I give you a nice massage while we watch the XFINITY race, and then I take you out for a nice dinner.” She smiles in response, certainly approving the suggestion.

“I say after dinner, we come back and cuddle up with a movie.” He nods his head in agreement.

Sunday, November 12 – Phoenix Raceway

After Chase had made his way to driver introductions, Sarina headed out to pit road, giving Samantha and Brexton a quick hello, before making her way to where the No. 24 Chevrolet sat.

It didn’t surprise her to see Hootie sitting up on the roof, perfectly placed after some of the pre-race Hooters photos; she even caught the sponsor representative taking a quick photo. She smiles as she reached into her pocket, placing a green beanie baby beside him.

“Did that just out of your pocket?” She hears and glances back, seeing Cindy standing there. She nods her head, feeling a tinge of nerves in wondering how Mommy would accept it. “He’s cute….”

“That’s my lucky buddy Shamrock,” Sarina reveals. “Let’s just say that he came from a friend one night, and gave me some extra luck that gave me a special victory. I figured someone could use him today.” Cindy could only glance back with a smile, as she snapped a quick photo on her phone.

“Hootie and Shamrock look great together. Hopefully your plan pays off…” Sarina holds up a pair of crossed fingers.

“You were ready to kill Hootie at one point,” she then hears as she takes her own photo of the pair, recognizing the voice immediately. She then feels a pair of arms wrap around her, and she instantly leans back in them. “And now I hear you given him a friend. Do I get an explanation?”

“When Hootie and I met at Talladega, you’re right – I was ready to murder him,” she tells him. “However, I took your advice and gave him a bath and tried to be nice to the little guy. Besides, he is kind of cute. Then last week at Texas, he redeemed himself with a decent run. So now I figure if I give him a lucky friend, he’ll make some magic happen for you.”

“I hope you’re right…” He then gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before walking over to the guys for a last minute conversation.

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

“Alright, it’s show time here,” Eddie says over the radio. “All we gotta do is do it all day long here.”

Sarina takes a deep breath as she takes her usual seat on the pit box, headset on her head, ready to endure a race that would probably seem like it was 24 hours long. She knew it was just another race, just another day at the track. However, what could possibly happen with the result of a good day didn’t leave her mind. What if today was the day?

Her hopes instantly opened up as she watched him take the lead on Lap 12, passing Ryan Blaney for the top spot. So far, so good, as the car seemed to be handling great with consistent lap times. But, it was early, so she couldn’t get ahead of herself either.

Everything seemed smooth until Lap 26 as she watched the No. 11 FedEx Toyota begin to close the gap to the rear bumper. Her eyes opened wide and she shook her head in surprise, combined with some anger mixed in probably too, as a small bump saw Denny go by for the top spot two laps later. She had to grin as she watched Chase give him a small bump in return entering turn one, putting himself back out front.

“That’s my boy,” she comments to herself. It was nice to see him standing his ground and not taking Denny’s crap. Though a sigh escaped her lips as Denny passed him back a lap later, beginning to pull away.

“Stay with it, nice and smooth,” Alan says over the radio, set to keep his driver focused on the bigger picture. Yes, it sucked that it was Denny leading. Certainly, Denny would be the worst person to see transfer to the next round or win today. But there was still a long way to go and they wouldn’t get there if they let him get into his head.

The first stage finished off solidly, as he crossed the line in third behind Denny and Kyle Larson. She then watched him come down pit road – tires off, tires on, fuel inserted, and pull off easily. Letting out a sigh, she almost let out a curse word in seeing him drop two spots to fifth

“Lots of time,” she reminded herself with a deep breath.

While she tried to stay positive and focused, admittedly her heart was almost set to break in watching the second stage. Fighting a loose condition throughout the run, he slipped back one position at a time, ultimately finishing the stage in ninth. Letting out a sigh, this certainly wasn’t helping their cause at all. Something had to change, and soon….

She somehow managed to keep her wits about her, and slowly things started to turn around. Alan’s adjustments paid off as with 100 laps to go, he was back to being happy with the overall balance, set to make his way to the front, already up a spot to eighth. Though closing the gap to those ahead wasn’t coming easy, with everybody’s times being so close together.

“What line are they running?” He asked a couple times on the radio, looking for anything to make up the ground.

Everybody felt almost stuck in a routine, till she felt a tap on her arm from Jordan Allan and instantly glanced at the big screen, watching Trevor Bayne blow a tire and hit the wall. Perfectly timed caution as that’d help with the problem. Now if they could make something happen.

“Really used the brakes today,” Chase comments over the radio. “They’re used up. I don’t think heat is the issue, but they’re used up…” She felt her heart sink in the thought of a problem, but knew that she couldn’t panic. He was a big boy, and he could handle the brake issue.

“Come on Shamrock, come on Hootie…” She says, clutching tighter to the pair of stuffed animals in her hands. After he had climbed in, she had been put on babysitting duty for the pair, according to practically everybody on the team since Shamrock was hers anyway. She just hoped that it didn’t result in Hootie going flying off the pit box at some point.

The restart went perfectly, as she found herself on the edge of her seat, more impressed than usual as she watched him crack the top-five with a pass on Kevin Harvick.

“Keep it rolling, best lap times….” Eddie D’Hondt encourages, which was backed up by his performance on track as he got around Erik Jones to move up into fourth. Three more spots to go now. “All clear. We’re coming to the party, boys!” The smile only grew more as it seemed like destiny now.

It didn’t take long for another yellow flag to come out, though, as Chris Buescher blew a brake rotor and hit the wall with 61 laps to go. Perhaps another restart would be perfect….

“I don’t know what that was, but that was balls out!” Chase comes over the radio. “That was really good.” She couldn’t help but agree in watching him go from eighth to fourth in 10 laps. Maybe rubbing the pets was a good idea as she gave them both another rub.

“What the hell is that?” Jordan catches her attention, pointing to big screen. Her jaw drops as she sees the safer barrier on fire.

“Is that really happening?” She questions and Jordan nods his head. “So much for being fire retardant…” She almost had to laugh as if something would happen in these playoffs, it seemed to take place.

Once the fire was out and they lined up for the restart, she takes a deep breath. It was now or never, and anything was possible in Phoenix. She just hoped it played in their favor.

Once again, he got the restart of his life, going from fourth to second before the caution flew once again, now with 50 laps to go, for someone in the back hitting the wall.

“Our car likes these short runs,” Chase says over the radio afterwards. While these runs made her more nervous than she could take at times, she was willing to deal if he continued to move forward like this. Just make sure to have some gum and tums ready, too.

Unfortunately, this restart did not pan out as she wanted as he fell back to fourth. More importantly – Denny was now right there in front of them. Letting out a sigh, it seemed no matter what they couldn’t get away from each other all day. This was not what they needed right now.

She even found herself cursing a little, ready to punch Denny herself post-race, as she watched the pair trade contact back and forth. She knew if this kept up, the laps would just continue to tick away and everything they were truly working towards would not happen.

As Chase got underneath Denny through the dog leg, her hand clenched into a fist, pumping up and down on her knee, small cheers filling her in hopes that this time he would complete the pass. She ten watches them through turns three and four, followed by contact off the corner as Denny got into the wall. She couldn’t help but smile in watching Chase clear him.

“All clear,” Eddie goes on the radio, not even deterred by the contact. “Flip your bead fans on now. Nice and smooth…

“Well played Chase,” Sarina couldn’t help but comment herself as the smile remained in seeing the tire smoke off of the No. 11 Toyota. It wasn’t a direct payback or wreck that you’d replay over and over, and know it was purposely done. It was enough contact to send a message and do the damage – without going say overboard. Perfectly short track executed.

Of course, her smile only widened some more in seeing the tire blow out for Denny, followed by him hitting the outside wall.

“Oh snap!” Jordan lets out with a high-five to a couple of the crew members.

“Can I get that on replay please?” Sarina questions, almost to the point where she wanted to break out laughing. She knew there was going to be a reward for that move.

Though with Denny out of the picture, it was time to focus on what they were there to do. They had a fast enough car; now it was just making it happen.

Her smile didn’t even get a chance to fade as her eyes locked on the restart with 30 laps to go, seeing Chase take the top spot.

“All clear, all clear,” Eddie says over the radio. “Alright, nice and smooth now….”

She just needed to find a way to be calm and collected. 30 more laps. They could do this, finally.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 168: Christopher vs. Sarina

Friday, November 10 – Phoenix Raceway

Sarina emerged from the care center, having been checked out and deemed okay besides being a little sore, and had only one thought on her mind.

“Where is he?” She immediately questioned as her eyes landed on the first person she recognized. The brown eyes that glanced into hers could care less about finding Christopher at this moment, though, as they were filled with concern and worry from what they had just witnessed.

“Are you okay?” Chase asks in response, ignoring her question totally. Wasn’t it obvious that she was okay?

“Where is Bell?” Chase knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere unless he answered her question. He actually wished that he didn’t have to give her this response as it was unfair.

“They fixed some of the damage, changed the tires and he’s back out.” She immediately rolls her eyes, feeling disgusted right away. Of course he would not have enough damage to end his race early.

“Son of a bitch! I’m going to kill him.” Chase takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm, hoping they could focus on how she was doing instead.

“Sarina….” She was surprised at his disagreement in her plan. Wasn’t he upset about what happened?

“What? He deserves it!” He felt like rolling his eyes, knowing her plan had many layers of failure. It also didn’t address the biggest concern that still filled him.

“Sarina…..” She didn’t care anymore what he said or thought, as it was clear that he wasn’t going to be supportive or do what she wanted. How was that even fair after she backed him all the way with Denny?

“I am going to go wait for his ass and he better watch out.” She then begins to walk away, creating a new sense of panic for Chase. How was he supposed to get his answer this way? What if she did approach Christopher? What would the team, or more importantly Kyle say afterwards?

“Sarina, no…. Sarina…. Chelsy!” Upon the name slipping out of his lips, she froze immediately, spinning around on a dime to face him. Was this really happening?

“What the hell is your problem, William?” It was Chase’s turn to be caught off-guard by her response, but that didn’t deter him from the plan at hand. He was going to get his answer, and solve the other problem at the same time. With eyes locked on each other, he immediately reaches for her arm, grabbing a stern hold. “Let me go…”

“You’re not going out there….” Sarina couldn’t believe this was happening right now. Shouldn’t he be simply following her, ready to back her up on all accounts?

“Let me go, Chase….” Chase knew there was no way that was going to happen based on her frame of mind right now.

“Not until you calm down.” She didn’t want to say the next words, but she was willing to do whatever it took to get her hands on Christopher.

“William Clyde Elliott, let me go before I kick your ass, too!” Chase knew she was just saying that out of frustration and lack of rationalization in her state. He also knew that she could try, but he would keep a hold on her to prevent her from doing something she’d regret later on. Besides, he had another concern on his mind…

“Sarina, are you okay?” Wasn’t it obvious to him that she was okay? She was walking around, willing to go kick some ass, and not deterred one bit.

“I told you to let me go….” Chase figured he better let the question go, because it wasn’t getting them anywhere. Maybe he had over-paniced a little when the wreck happened.

“Alright, I guess I got my answer – but I’m not letting go. You’re not going out there…” Her eyes immediately began to roll in response. If he got his answer, why did it matter anymore?

“Why not?” Chase knew the dead obvious answer.

“Because you’re not approaching him on pit road.” She had to laugh in response. He could easily approach Denny two weeks ago, but now she wasn’t allowed to go talk to Christopher?

“Why? Because I’m a girl? Because you want to protect me, Chase? Gosh, you approached Denny and you guys weren’t even on pit road! You were on the bloody backstretch! What is different here?” Chase knew his response immediately. An argument between two drivers was one thing, but punches thrown between teammates would be a whole other level.

“You’re a lot more fired up than I was and willing to kick his ass.” Again, a laugh escaped her lips. She had an obvious reason to be upset with him based on what happened.

“Oh, so because I’m going to get myself in a fight with possible punches you’re afraid now?” He had to shake his head as he knew she could stand her ground against any driver in this garage area. He had witnessed that already enough racing against in late models.

“No. I’m saying this because you guys are teammates. Do you really want to piss Kyle off by causing a scene out there? It’s not Kyle’s fault that it happened. It’s not the team’s fault, and it’s not the sponsor’s fault. But if you dare go and approach Christopher out there, cause a bloody scene, every one of those people are going mad at you for making a bigger headache.” She knew that he had a point on many levels, but that didn’t deter her plan for Christopher. He had to know that she wasn’t happy with what happened.

“So I’m just supposed to sit back and let him get away with that?” Chase knew there was no way that was happening as he did want to give her a chance to tell Christopher just how she felt.

“No – you’re just supposed to handle it appropriately. Why don’t we go back to the trailer, sit back and watch the final laps, and then you can approach him back there away from everybody? That way he knows your angry and gets to see why you’re so upset – and deservingly so, without a problem, please.” As long as she got the chance to talk to Christopher, she didn’t care how that happened.

“Fine. Can you let me go?” Chase shakes his head no. He wasn’t going to take a chance of her changing her mind in accepting his plan.

“No….” He then leads her back to the trailer and inside, closing the door behind them with his fingers still attached to her arm.

“Is this how it’s going to be? Are you keep doing this until I talk you about how I am feeling or give up on approaching Christopher?

“I’ll let you go when he gets back here….” She lets out a sigh, though knew she wasn’t winning this argument so she relaxed back, letting her eyes focus on the TV in the hauler.

After all the chaos that ensured, she watched as Johnny Sauter took the victory ahead of John Hunter Nemechek, with Christopher back in eighth. She almost wanted to scream watching Johnny do his celebratory burnout, though crossed her arms as Christopher came onto screen with one of FOX’s reporters.

“Can you take us through the side-by-side racing with Sarina Ott?” The reporter asks as Sarina just shakes her head. She couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say.

“It was really intense and we were both doing everything we could to go for the win,” Christopher starts. “It’s a big advantage to be on the outside because you have all the side force and whenever you crowd her like that you take all the air off the side of her truck. I knew that I was playing with fire there and that there was a good possibility that I was going to get us both in trouble. She was doing a really good job down there of hanging onto it and keeping it up – we were just racing really hard and it didn’t work out.” She almost laughed at how quickly he brushed off the contact. Like, it was supposed to mean nothing because they were both racing hard for the win and sometimes shit happens. She understood that, having found herself on both sides of coin previously. But you at least expect your teammate and best friend to give you a little more room.

“Are you mad at Sarina for the accident?” Chase then looks over surprised at the reporter. Why would Christopher have any right to be mad at Sarina when he was the one that crowded her to begin with?

“Everybody that drives a truck or any NASCAR, the aerodynamics are huge. Like I said earlier, you’re at a major advantage whenever you’re on the outside because you can just pinch that guy or girl down and make them loose, loose, loose and when they get loose, they lose momentum. You’re playing with fire whenever you do it and that’s the risk you run whenever you run like that and it didn’t work out for me.”

Sarina reached up, hitting the knob to turn the television off. She didn’t need to hear anymore of the post-race coverage as she had heard enough. Crossing her arms, she looks out the window to watch for him coming.

It wasn’t long before he was back in the pit area, and bound for the trailer. Chase kept a hold on Sarina, giving her a simple nod as she looked back.

“You can speak and rant and yell all you want – I don’t care,” he tells her. “But I’m holding you back enough so you don’t punch the guy.”

She watches as the door opens, her eyes immediately meeting his as he knew what was coming without saying a single word.

“What the hell were you thinking?” She questions before he even has a chance to say anything.

“I was just thinking about the win,” he answers, which he thought was pretty obvious. Weren’t they both focused on that?

“Well, congratulations because you gave it away to Johnny rather than letting one of us get it. Are you happy now?” He lets out a sigh, as he was nowhere near happy with what transpired.

“I was trying to crowd you to get you loose – yes, for sure. I wanted to get you to wiggle a little so I’d get the momentum and clear you and drive away. I didn’t expect you to get that sideways or to come around. I guess I got a little too close off of turn four, and I apologize. I never intended to wreck you and I am so sorry. I was looking forward to battling right to the flag. I didn’t mean to do that and I feel absolutely terrible.” She was caught off-guard by his instant apology, and how sincere it sounded that it caused her to take a step back. That didn’t mean all was forgiven, though.

“But you did, and you saw what happened. Your words don’t fix trucks, Bell.” He nods his head, knowing that he certainly wasn’t done apologizing for what happened yet. Clearly each employee at KBM deserved an apology, too.

“I know, and I plan to apologize to everybody for what it is worth. We’re all learning here and I made a mistake. While I can’t take back what happened, I can tell you that I’ve learned from it so I won’t do that again. I don’t know what else to say, really.” She didn’t know what else to say either as how could you argue with a guy that was taking the full blame? But, that didn’t make her feel better at that moment.

“I accept your apology for what it’s worth, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to hang out and be super buddies quite yet. I’m going to need some time to let this go.” He nodded his head, accepting.

“Take whatever time you need, but know I am sorry….”

“I know…” She then head out of the trailer, with Chase in toe, ready to turn in for the night.

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

Saturday, November 11 – Phoenix Raceway

Sarina lets out a long sigh as she glances at the clock. How could it be morning already?

“Are you okay?” Chase asks, causing her blue eyes to focus on his brown ones. “And please don’t lie…”

“I am sore,” she answers, as she moves closer to cuddle up with him. “My back, my shoulders – a little bit everywhere. That wasn’t pretty last night…” It didn’t take much for him to agree as he wrapped an arm around her.

“Now do you understand why I was so worried?” She nods her head, almost set to kick herself in the butt for how she acted.

“I’m sorry I was a pain in the ass. I should’ve been understanding of your concerns for me, and I should’ve co-operated a little more. I guess I have some work to do in the anger department.” Chase chuckles a little, glad that she realized what many had seen the past couple of years.

“Least you have a boss that can give you some advice…” She rolls her eyes. “And hey, it’s okay. I understood your frustration. I wasn’t too pleased with Christopher, either.”

“He did apologize, though, and I don’t think he meant it, unlike say someone else…” Chase sighed, not surprised that a reference had been made back to Denny’s behavior at Martinsville. He would rather not hear a single word about that moving forward.

“Do you forgive him?” She nods her head, knowing that she couldn’t find a reason to stay mad any longer – despite how sore she was feeling. “Now, I know you want to stay and cuddle all day, but I do have to go practice…”

“Can’t you just tell Alan you’re not feeling well and get Justin to fill in?” Chase had to admire her attempt, but wasn’t about to go for it as he slipped out from their cuddle, standing up. “Chase….”

“I’m sorry, but that’s just how things go.” He then grabs the bottle of Tylenol and water off the night table he had placed there in the middle of the night, knowing this moment would happen sooner than later. “Take 2 so you ease some of the pain. Then after I grab a quick shower, I am going to run you a nice warm bubble bath so you can soak in it while I go pract-”

“I was going to come wit-”

“No, you need to take care of yourself today. So you’re going to soak for a good bit, and then I want you to either relax on the couch or in the bed. You need to take it easy so you don’t make all this soreness worse. But if you’re good today, I’ll make it worth your while once I’m done both sessions….” She then looks at him, intrigued. “Trust me.”

“You haven’t let me down before….”