Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 134: Her Trial and Those Nerves….

Wednesday, August 17 – Indianapolis, Indiana

Chase thins out the creases in his shirt once again, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he was in Bristol right now, but instead he had this to deal with.

“Thanks for coming,” he comments with a glance at his parents as they walk towards the court room doors.

“We’ve always got your back,” Cindy says as she follows him inside. “We would’ve been here whether you asked or not.” Chase smiles, knowing that was true. He just wished Sarina was there too, but she was in Bristol getting ready for practice.

“My phone is turned on silent. I told Sarina I’d text her updates, as long as she let me know how practice went. Hopefully, we’re out of here quickly…” He had already planned to fly to Bristol that night and be there for the truck race, no matter what. He wanted to be there to support his girl.

He heard from her the discussion with Kyle, followed by the extended meeting at Kyle Busch Motorsports on Monday. Everybody knew her short track pedigree and how she could master any track just like that – it was why she was so good behind the wheel of a late model. She also already had laps at Bristol with a late model and ran well. Now knowing the pressure to make the playoffs was picking up, it was now or never to win – and this was the best opportunity looking at the stretch of races.

He had comforted her as much as he could, assuring her that she had the ability to get the job done, but also to relax and just do her thing and it’d pan out right. He also texted Kyle that it may be a good idea to calm off a little as pressure wasn’t needed necessary right now with everything else going on.

Though now being in Indiana set for the first day of another trial spell, he wished with all of his might that he was in Bristol right now by her side, supporting her. Why couldn’t they done this a day before or a day later?

“There he is….” Chase hears, recognizing the voice – Eddie D’Hondt – as he enters the court room, instantly glancing over with a surprise as he sees the whole team sitting there.

“What are you guys doing here?” He questions as the team looks towards the boss. Alan was supposed to mention that they were going to be attending.

“She set up a bomb to blow all of our asses up,” Alan starts. “We’re in this as much as you, so we wanted to make sure and be here. We have to make sure she pays for what she did.” Chase admired the crew’s reasoning, but still felt bad for taking them away from focusing on things in the shop. He knew things were crazy right now at Hendrick with making sure he qualified for the playoffs, and were ready when they started.

“You guys are already working crazy hours, and now you’re putting in flight time and time away from your families, the team that you don’t need to be doing.”

“This is coming from the same guy that said we stick together no matter what and have each other’s back, right?” Jared Seate questions. “No matter what you say, Chase, we felt the need and right to be here. What if – Never mind, I don’t want to picture that happening. But still…” Chase lets out a sigh, knowing that Jared was right in his words – seeing the bit of fear the guys felt in the moment. It was another byproduct of the decision he made….

“Well, I appreciate you being here regardless, and don’t worry – she’s not getting away with this.” Chase then takes his seat, with his parents sitting on either side of him, as he quickly sends a good luck text to Sarina, knowing practice is about to start.

“All rise!” The clerk then states, causing Chase to focus his attention forward as he stands up. “The honorable Judge Mansions preceding!” The female judge walks in, taking her seat on the podium as Chase focuses his eyes on her. He wanted to read her, see whether she was someone that had sympathy or would lay down every ounce of the law in a second.

“You may be seated,” she states, as everyone in the room sits down. “Except for Ms. Alison Stevenson…” Alison remains standing, glancing over at Chase with a wink and smile, before looking back forward. Chase could only roll his eyes, and feel a bit of vomit rising at that thought. “We’re simply here to see how you plead to the charges, which seems to be a decent list. I am going to go through them and you will simply say guilty or not guilty, understood?”

“Yes ma’am,” Allison replies as Chase keeps his eyes locked forward, not wanting to take another glance at her.

“On the charge of attempted murder in a public place including over 100 people, how do you plead?” Everybody knew that charge surrounded the bomb that went off in the garage, as some of the crew guys still shivered at the thought. Jared couldn’t stop himself from asking the what if question, either.

“Guilty.” A series of gasps in surprise can be heard throughout the room in response to the charge as Chase glances back at the crew guys surprised. Perhaps this was going to be easier than expected….

“On the charge of poisoning Mr. Chase Elliott, how do you plead?” Chase sits back, closing his eyes as he wishes he could forget how sick he felt that afternoon, and continued to question why he let her play him and not do something sooner.

“Guilty.” Chase was once again surprised, but not willing to argue. It was nice to see everything going to plan.

“On the charge of kidnapping Mr. Elliott, how do you plead?” It was intriguing to hear those words used, given that Chase had voluntarily followed her helper to that location. However, he also did recall being held there against will with the door locked. There was also the fact the state attorney promised she was going to try and catch Allison on every charge possible.

“Not guilty – he came voluntarily.” Chase lets out a sigh, having expected an answer of that magnitude. However, he wasn’t going to worry about it. There was enough years with the other two charges combined.

“Your honor, my client has pled guilty to both charges due to being forced to follow orders from another female in this equation,” Allison’s lawyer speaks up, catching Chase’s attention as a smile forms. There was no question who that other party was, either.

“A plea deal was offered for the informatio-” The attorney starts, which Chase recalled the phone call conversation.

“My client should not serve any time for her wrongdoings simply due to how she was forced by another individual!” Laughter escaped people in the room in response to that, casing the judge to hit her hammer to quiet them down.

“Your honor, she caused Mr. Elliott to be hospitalized almost for a full week, knocked out for almost a whole day. She also caused fear among any person standing in the garage that weekend, which reached the 100s, but more specifically the entire team that works with Mr. Elliott. Just because someone was forced, she shouldn’t be allowed to escape every charge.” There were people who were almost set to cheer at the rebuttal, though stopped themselves as they saw the hammer being raised again.

“Any outbursts from here on out and you will be kicked out of my court room, possibly held in contempt of court,” Judge Mansions says, causing a frozen appearance to go over the room. “A trial will be held to determine whether a sentence should be levied against, and to what extent. We will begin with Allison Stevenson stating what she did, and why, before going from that point with whatever else is felt necessary. Jury or no jury? Media block or none?”

“We would like to keep the media out of this due to being a high profile case,” the attorney states, which Chase had his fingers crossed for. There was going to be enough for a mess caused by the Chris trial in Florida.

“Once again – special treatment for celebrity status?” The lawyer questions. “And we would like a jury, please.”

“The request for a media block has been denied as being high profile, the public does deserve re-assurance,” Judge Mansions says, as Chase lets out a sigh. It was going to be a media mess in the garage for a good bit. “Jury selection will be done, and then we will begin as stated. Has the individual responsible for the threats been arrested?”

“The paperwork is currently being processed as we speak,” the attorney reveals as Chase could only shakes his head. He knew that Bethany would be going into hiding with the thought of being captured – that or expediting whatever plan she had been cooking up in her meetings with Chris. Either way, he immediately found his fingers typing away on his phone quietly to Sarina with an update, including a fair stern warning.

“Thank you. Court adjourned!”

Everybody immediately files out of the court room as Chase glances at the time, figuring out in his head when they’d land in Bristol. Perhaps he’d actually get there in time for qualifying now.

“Surprised by her confession?” Bill questions, catching Chase’s attention as they walk out of the court room.

“Not one bit – Sarina and I figured there was a connection,” Chase answers, remembering their conversation. He also remembered another conversation with Sarina in the timing of the photo being sent, along with a comment traded. “She’s been dropping hints to Sarina for awhile now. It was how Sarina got her hands on the photo that weekend…”

“So she was going to use Allison to break you two up?” Chase nods his head, remembering the comment that Sarina mentioned from Bethany.

“On the first day of Chris’ trial when I wasn’t able to be there, Bethany mentioned something about how I may get bored or annoyed, and stray from her. That very same day was when I first encountered Allison at the Hooter’s Pageant.” Bill shakes his head in disbelief as they reach the car.

“At least Sarina was smart and listened to you and trusted you….” Chase nods his head as he climbs in the car. Though letting out a sigh, he couldn’t let it escape him that it took some convincing from a third party as she was almost set to run away.  “Did she do well in practice?” Chase glances at the results, knowing right away that his dad was trying to get his mind off of what happened.

“Fourth quickest. The boss was first with Bell third. They’ve got some quick trucks…..”

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

With both practices in the books, Sarina found herself leaning against the truck, awaiting for qualifying to begin. She kept glancing at her watch, checking the time, remembering the latest text from Chase – he was supposed to be on his way. She couldn’t help but glance towards the gates to see whether he was walking through them. She knew within five minutes of the session, the gates would close and he would be stuck on the outside until the session was over.

Crossing her fingers, she wanted to see her man before then.

She was trying not to be nervous, but she couldn’t help but remember the words chance to win, playoffs, short track queen, your wheel house that had been repeated by crew members, Marcus, Kyle, and the media entering the day. It was like everybody expected her to come in, run well, and battle Kyle for the win – just like her late model short track days.

Nobody understood the difference between the trucks and late models, it seemed. Nobody understood that she was a rookie still trying to learn. Nobody understood that pressure would drive her insane.

“Surprise!” She hears as a pair of arms wrap around her waist, instantly pulling her close. She immediately smiles as she recognized the voice and feeling right away. It was like every bit of anxiety she was feeling escaped immediately, too.

“Thank you….” She then spins around, facing him, wrapping her arms around him.

“Did you really need me that badly?” She nods her head as he keeps her held close.

“You wouldn’t believe the questions in the media center….” He then steps back, looking at her surprised. He could only connect those questions to everything going on with Chris and Allison. “Everybody just assumes that I’m going to be in contention to win because I know short tracks, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment. Like, I didn’t need to hear that. I can do that enough myself!” Chase then pulls her back close, running his hands up and down her back.

“Take a deep breath, relax….” He then pauses, looking into her eyes. “What did we talk about this week? What have we talked about every time something like this comes up?” She closes her eyes, remembering their conversations.

“Take a deep breath, relax, be calm, forget the outside world, focus on myself, and just do my thing because no matter what, it’ll play out how it is supposed to.” He nods his head as he pulls her back close, rubbing her back once again.

“Don’t let it eat at you. Your belief in yourself is all you need. Just focus on that, Marcus and everything will work out. You’ve had a great rookie season, showing improvement every week. Just keep doing that, and you’ll eventually get to where everybody thinks you should be. They keep forgetting that you’re just fresh out of late models, and it’s not just going to come to you. Not everybody is a William Byron.”  She then glances at him.

“….or a Chase Elliot-”

“Hey now, I made some costly mistakes when I first moved up, too, and tore up some equipment. I wasn’t no angel by any means.” She shrugs her shoulders, not too sure about that, as she remembered always hearing amazing things. “Look at Joey Logano, though. Look at Truex. Look at Keselowski. Heck, look at your car owner or even Bell. Those guys took time to come into their own. Bell had a bunch of horrendous moments last year, but came into his own as the year closed. Kyle got sent from one team to another due to how he was. It’ll come…”

“I hope you’re rig-”

“I know I’m right. Just believe, okay?” She nods her head as she lays it on his shoulder. “So, we were right about Allison….” She smiles immediately.

“I’m just glad that she had the courage to say something. But to not want any jail time at all?” She then stands straight up, staring at Chase in the eyes. “Are you sure she’s not actually insane?” Chase laughs.

“Hey now, I never said that she wasn’t, either. We saw what she did….” Sarina nods her head. “Regardless, it feels good that we’ve got them on all angles. See, things are starting to work out…”

“It’s a start, I guess…” He then rubs her shoulders once again.

“Believe in yourself – you’re going to have a great night, and the rest of stuff will fall into place. If it makes you feel better, think about the vacation coming up….” She smiles, remembering that discussion. She wasn’t absolutely certain about doing a vacation alongside Ryan, given the fear with what pranks may come, but she was ready to get away and have some fun for a couple weeks.

“What are you most excited for – Amsterdam, Germany, or the Belgium Grand Prix?” Chase thinks it over, remembering the planning that he and Ryan broke down earlier in the week together in places to hit up. It had already been an almost disaster trying to get passes to go to the Formula 1 event, but it paid off to have connections – thanks Jeff!

“Amsterdam looks like it’s going to be amazing with all the places that Ryan has figured out.” Sarina just shakes her head.

“You boys are just excited to try the different beers…” He then chuckles, shrugging his shoulders. He couldn’t deny it…

“It’s going to be a good time regardless, right?” She then rolls her eyes, already figuring she’d be babysitting them at one point. “What about you?”

“I actually can’t wait to go to the Belgium Grand Prix, to be honest. I’m always for exploring different forms of racing, and I’ve never been to a Formula 1 event. I’m ready to get up close and personal for a change.” Chase then thinks things over, pondering some thoughts…

“Maybe we can get the chance for you to sit in a car.” Her eyes open wide immediately and Chase makes a mental note to get a hold of Jeff or maybe Tony to see if he could pull that favor off, too. “I said maybe…strong maybe. I mean, I don’t know them. It’s going to take some convincing…”

“Have I told you today that you’re perfect and amazing?” He just rolls his eyes as she kisses his lips. “I got to go qualify. We’ll get back to these plans later, okay?” He nods his head as she heads off. He could only smile seeing the hop in her step, knowing their conversation had been perfect.

Now they just needed the bubbly attitude to carry them through the night….

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

Chase cautiously walks back to the garage area, seeing Sarina climb out of the truck, throwing her gloves back in frustrated. She then takes her helmet off, setting it down lightly – she never threw that no matter her anger due to how she cherished it – before letting out a sigh. She grabbed the bottle of water left on the truck by Marcus, downing the entire bottle, before chucking it across the pit area.

The race had started out well as she had started fourth, running up front right there with Kyle and Christopher. However, near the end of the second stage, she suffered a pit road penalty – crew member over the wall too soon – which set her back in the field. She pushed as hard as she could to make up the lost ground, ending up 15th.

Chase cautiously walks over, slowly wrapping his arms around her, as he lays her head on her shoulder. If it had been anybody except him, he knew she would’ve snapped around and chopped their head off. But being that it was him, she actually laid back into his arms a little.

“You did what you had to do,” he starts. “It’s not your fault that you got the penalty. It’s not your fault that you finished where you did. You did what you needed to do, and that’s all you can ask as a driver.” She sighs, knowing that he was right – no matter how angry she was.

“How could they not get that they jumped over the wall too soon?” She questions as Chase had to shrug his shoulders. He remembered instantly cursing on the pit box when he heard the call.

“They’re always trying to get that advantage of being as quick as possible. The one guy just timed it a little wrong…” She wanted to scream, possibly snap the head off of that crew member, but she knew that wouldn’t solve anything.

“I so badly wanted to do well. I so badly wanted to be up there in the top-five. I so badly wanted to win…”

“I know, and you did exactly what you needed to do. It sucks, but that’s racing and shit happens. These guys have done a great job all year. I bet that crew member feels worse than you do right now. You guys have a couple more races – you can make the playoffs. Just take a deep breath, and put your best foot forward as you can do this.” He then kisses her cheek.

“Thank you…” He nods his head as he lets her go, letting her walk up into the hauler to change as he lets out a sigh.

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Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 133: Feeling the Pressure

Saturday, August 12 – Michigan International Speedway

Sarina smiles after giving Chase a quick kiss, before walking over to the truck.

It had been a quiet morning so far as she had watched Chase take part in Cup practice, still pleased with how the No. 24 Chevrolet was performing. The pair then spent time grabbing a light bite to eat together, not much conversation, before heading out to pit road about 20 minutes before qualifying.

Sarina had been quiet most of the morning, lost in her own thoughts. This was where she grew up. This was where her journey had begun as a little girl. This was where she had spent the first 13 years of her life before everything got twisted around. Needless to say, for all the reasons above, she wanted to perform this weekend. She wanted to do well at her home track. She wanted to do well to put everything negative behind her.

Chase crossed his arms as he kept his eyes locked on her, taking a deep breath. Admittedly, it’d been tough to read her emotions. Sometimes she was confident and focused as always, while other times she was quieter than he could’ve imagined. He read some of the anger from her, as well as the sadness; it was why he had suggested story time the night before. He also spent that night cuddling her as they slept, and holding her after breakfast following some more comments. He couldn’t be disappointed, though, as at least she was opening up a little rather than running. It was nice to see the trust building more and more each passing day.

“Yo, is everything okay?” A voice catches Chase off-guard as he turns to the source. He immediately felt like rolling his eyes as he saw Christopher standing there.

“Everything’s fine,” he replies. “Why are you concerned?” Christopher glances towards Sarina, who was talking with Marcus, before eyes back on Chase.

“She’s quieter than normal, and you’re standing back here observing. It just doesn’t seem like you guys…” Chase smiles as he looks at Christopher; he had to admit that he was good.

“What are you talking about me not being observant? You were around when I was late model racing. How many times did I walk off to watch?” Christopher shrugs his shoulders.

“It’s not like this…” Chase sighs as he crosses his arms.

“Everything is fine between Sarina and I. It’s just, this is home for her. She wants to do well so badly. She wants to perform to the best of her ability. She’s also feeling some emotions, and fighting those. Needless to say, it’s a bit of roller coaster…” Christopher nods his head as he thinks it over. He knew Sarina’s backstory wasn’t pretty.

“So basically you’re standing back to make sure that she’s okay?” Chase nods his head. “And she’s like she is because of everything and maybe even feeling the pressure, some?” Chase nods his head. “That’s reasonable. Look, I didn’t want that to look like I felt you guys were having issues or trying to break ya’ll up, or whatever. I was just concer-”

“I know. Sarina told me that you guys had a heart-to-heart and you’re cool with things. I get it. You’re almost like a big brother to her at KBM, which sometimes she needs that.” Christopher now looked at Chase in surprise.

“Are we really finding a compromise after everything?” Chase laughs and nods his head.

“Surprising, as you barely lived after your comments in California.” Christopher laughs, remembering how he was doing everything in his power to break them up then.

“I don’t blame you for that, really. But I mean, I realize how much you mean to her, and she means to you. I mean, nobody should argue that after Indy.” Chase nods his head, as he lets out a sigh. He wished he could forget that whole experience – well, except for the meeting with Casey.

“I just did what I felt was right in the moment.”

“You did more than just the right thing, Chase. I hate to cut this short but I have to go quali-”

“Go before you get in trouble!” Christopher then gives him a nod as he heads off.

Chase remained in the same spot through the whole session, eyes focused on Sarina, then the scoring board, then the truck on track, followed back to her. The session ended up going quicker than he expected, and smoother as he didn’t see any cause for alarms. On top of that, she had a decent run, placing the truck fifth on the board.

“What do you think of our little superstar?” Marcus asks as he walks over and Chase just smiles.

“I think she did a great job,” he replies as he pulls her into a hug. “Truck looked good out there, and decent speed. Fifth is nothing to be bummed about.”

“I’m happy,” she comments with a smile. “We can do a lot from there. Just need to be calm, focused, not make any mistakes, and have a solid day.”

“That’s my girl!” Marcus says, giving her a high-five before walking away.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chase asks as he looks into her eyes, and she just nods her head.

“I’m ready for what the day is going to bring me, not set to focus on anything else!” She tells him as he just smiles in return. “But thank you for being there this morning, caring, and asking.”

“I’m just doing what I need to do for you, because I love you…” She nods her head as she keeps herself leaned against him.

“You better be careful this weekend too though, mister. You’re still fresh off what happened.” Chase lets out a sigh, having heard reminders already from his parents and Alan.

“Trust me – I’m watching everything and keeping tabs. I’m feeling great.” She then looks up at him.

“You’re not just saying that to get me off your back either, right?”

“Straight up honest.” She then kisses his lips quick, before they head back through the garage. “Oh, I got a phone call today…” She then looks at him, confused. Normally, he didn’t announce these things. “Our attorney wondered if we were open to deal maki-”

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Chase smiles, having expected that reaction.

“I basically told her the same thing. However, there’s an argument to be made about Bethany’s involvement. Some people suspect maybe she was behind what happened to Ryan and I.” Sarina could only laugh.

“Come on Chase, really? Do you honestly believe that shit? I mean, we know my brother was behind all those incidents…” Chase wanted to spit back the same belief, but he wasn’t quite satisfied yet.

“To be fair, there’s no exact proof that Chris di-”

“He handed the bottle directly to Rya-”

“What about mine?” Sarina then stops and faces Chase, causing him to freeze and turn to face her. “That bottle was brought into the trailer by myself out of the fridge. What if she laced that bottle in hopes that you would drink it? They’ve been in discussion so she could’ve had access to everything, or been the key to him getting his hands on it.” Sarina then crosses her arms, surprised.

“So you’re saying that we should play with the devil’s cards and deal?” He shrugs his shoulders.

“I’m just toying with the possibility, that’s all. But for the record, I told her that I had no interest in making a deal with Chris, ever.” Sarina lets out a sigh. She didn’t want to have to go into lecture mode after all the work it had taken her at the police department those first couple of days to get them to where they were now.

“Thank God…” They then continue walking as Chase debates whether to carry the conversation forward.

“She then asked whether I wanted to strike a deal with Allison. I straight up told her that I was through with her after the threats placed on you, the team, everybody, and what I’d been through. She understood that, and told me striking the biggest sentence possible was up for grabs.” Chase then takes a deep breath, remembering his words. “But then she mentioned how Allison’s dealings may be due to Bethany. Now recall Bethany gave you the threat and comments, followed by landing that photo in your lap. So I am going to assume there’s a connection. Now how does that work? I don’t know.”

“Bethany has always been just words. She can’t deal things herself. I couldn’t see her forcing Allison directly, but she may have talked the right words to get Allison to go with what she wanted.” Chase smiles as he thought the same thing in the conversation with the attorney.

“Conspiracy, please?” Sarina nods her head.

“So, you told her to go forward with a deal then?” Chase wouldn’t put it that far.

“I told her that there may be a conspiracy, and if she could explore and exploit that out of Allison, then maybe we could lower the sentence just a touch but not much at all because of my pure anger and the level of what she did. I mean, I don’t want Bethany to walk if she’s conne-”

“Oh, she’s connected alright. She visits Chris on a regular basis if you look at the visitor log. I’m going to take full bet that she had some connection to Allison, and I would so love to see that revealed.” Chase smiles as he looks over at Sarina.

“So you’re okay with what I told her, right?” Sarina nods her head.

“The Allison situation is yours alone so how you choose to go about that, I back you 100% fully no matter what.” He smiles as he wraps an arm around her.

“And your brother is your family, so no matter what, I back you fully there.” She smiles, but they already both knew the direction that was going.

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

Sarina lets out a sigh as she leans back against the truck, looking down pit road. It was almost surreal to be standing there right now, set to start in a NASCAR national event at her home track.

Was this really happening?

Glancing up at the crowd, she wondered if any of her high school mates were amongst the fans there. She also wondered if maybe they recognized her, too, and were set to cheer for her. Letting out a sigh, she sometimes missed those gals after having to pick up and leave the state.

“So you set me up on a date?” A voice chimes in, catching her attention as she spins around and smiles. This was certainly a good distraction.

“You need a girl Blaney,” she replies as Ryan just rolls his eyes. “I figured I’d help you out with some company tonight.” Ryan then crosses his arms.

“I don’t know a single thing about her. I don’t even know what she looks like, her personality, name, or age. I mean, can’t I know something?” Sarina shakes her head. “Okay, so what if I show up at this meeting place and I get kidnapped?”

“That won’t happen, Ryan; I’m not that evil. Besides, I’ll be hidden somewhere to make sure that it’s the right girl and nothing happens to you.” Ryan then looks at her with a glance of surprise. “I’m serious!”

“For some reason, I trust you….” He then gives her a pat on the shoulder. “Good luck…” He then walks away as Chase glances between the pair confused.

“Don’t ask…” Chase then gives an intrigued look to Sarina, who can only laugh. “Just make sure you’re there around 8 o’ clock tonight.”

“Another prank?” He questions as Sarina shrugs her shoulders, grabbing his hand.

“Like I said, don’t ask. Besides, it’s time for opening ceremonies….” Chase lets out a sigh as he stands by her, taking it all in.

The race that day went smoothly as Sarina ran up front all day long en route to scoring a solid seventh-place finish. She wasn’t overly excited, but she was pleased – it was a decent finish and that’s what she needed right now. She knew they could build on that in the weeks to come.

As promised, she found her hiding spot, alongside Chase, later on that night in the motorcoach lot. Glancing at her watch, she saw Ryan show up when he was supposed to per her original text message. She could only laugh as she glanced down the alleyway, cuing up her little project.

“Should I ask?” Chase wonders once again as Sarina laughs, shaking her head.

“Ryan is in for a surprise,” she offers with a smirk. She then turns the controls on, and hits a button. Chase could only watch in amazement as this robot came out of the alleyway, turning the corner, and walking up to Ryan.

“That looks almost real….” Sarina could only smile a little more.

“It pays to know smart people….” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Are you Mr. Ryan Blaney?” The robot then speaks, per it’s program, impressing Chase.

“Yes,” Ryan replies, taking a couple glances at it. “Are you Marybeth?”

“I am Marybeth…” Ryan then walks around her in a circle, as Sarina spins the robot around. “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah….” Ryan then tries to look behind a couple close bushes. “Your owner is a jackass!” Sarina burst out laughing as she stands up from her hiding spot.

“Really?” Sarina questions as Ryan looks over, shaking his head. “Admit it, though – I had you going for a good couple minutes.”

“You’re evil….” Ryan then walks over to where Sarina is. “Really evil. Like, you won’t want to know what prank I am going to have for you next for this one, missy.” She then laughs.

“I could let you dance with her if that makes you feel better.” Ryan just flips the bird as he walks away.

“Are you pouting, Ryan?” Chase questions as Ryan looks back. “Seriously, man, she may be evil, but I am willing to offer you to come hang out for a couple board games tonight.”

“Are you sure she’s going to play fair?” Ryan wonders with a glance towards Sarina.

“I never cheat,” she comments as Ryan rolls his eyes.

“Do you believe her?” Chase just laughs.

“Relax – I can catch any time that she’s cheating so she won’t pull one over on you,” Chase says as he walks over to Ryan. “I have to say, though – she got you good.”

“Evil….” Ryan comments again as Sarina burst out laughing, while going to pick her toy.

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

Sunday, August 13

Sarina smiles as she walks over to Chase, giving him a high-five.

“Nice job,” she comments as he just smiles in response. It had been another solid race with a eighth-place finish for the No. 24 Chevrolet.

“Thank you,” he replies. “It wasn’t too bad. Could’ve been better if those restarts wouldn’t been that messy, but not bad…”

“They’ll come with practice.” He smiles as he gives her a kiss.

“I’m going to go see Alan, and then we can head out, okay?” She nods her head as he hurries off.

“Sarina!” She hears as she’s about to run off after Chase. She then turns, watching Kyle head her way. She wondered whether he was in a good mood or not, considering it’d just been a solid 10th-place day for him.

“Hey Kyle,” she replies. “Nice run.” He nods his head, accepting.

“It was alright….I guess. Look, I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow morning’s meeting at KBM. I’m going to be there and I don’t want you to miss it.” She then looks at him intrigued.

“I don’t ever miss a meeting, Kyle….” He knew that, but was being rather safe than sorry.

“You have a good attendance record according to Marcus. It’s nothing bad tomorrow, but I just want to make sure you and Christopher are both there. I want to talk about this upcoming week at Bristol, and some tips, and I don’t want you to miss out. Considering your short track background, this is really a good chance for you to break out of your shell and really perform.” She nodded her head, accepting. That thought was already on her mind. She just wished Kyle hadn’t put this extra pressure now on her.

“I know what’s possible, and I’ll make sure to be there tomorrow.”

“Good girl. See ya later.” He then heads off as she lets out a sigh, turning the other way to head the direction that Chase headed.

Fingers crossed, she hoped things panned out well at Bristol.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 132: “I debated telling you….”

Friday, August 11

Chase climbs from the car in the garage, looking over at Alan with a smile as Alan nods his head in agreement. If things went as good as they felt this first practice for the rest of the weekend, it was going to be an amazing time.

“A happy driver is something that I have no problem with,” Alan comments as he walks over.

“It felt really good that run – even better than the first run,” Chase replies as Alan looks on surprised. “Like, I could run the top no problem, and then slip down to the bottom and just keep same pace. It’s everything I could ask for.” Alan crosses his arms, as he glances over their notes.

“I just don’t about qualifying….” Chase leans back against the car as he thinks it over.

“We’re not right there with immediate speed that Martin and Kyle have. I don’t think we have pole quality right there. But, I think we’ll qualify in the top-10 without a doubt, maybe top-five if I push it a bit more.” Alan nods his head, accepting.

“Just don’t cross the edge of no return.” Chase nods his head in agreement.

“I’m going to find my dad as we were going to talk about something. If you need me, text me, okay?” Alan nods his head as he watches Chase head off.

Chase takes a deep breath as he remembers the short conversation with his dad that morning, and the agreement to meet on top of the hauler. They were going to watch truck practice while having their serious chat.

As Chase makes his way through the garage, signing a couple autographs along the way, he debated whether this was a good idea. Was this something that he should keep to himself based on what happened? What it supposed to be kept to himself as a private moment between them?

However, something felt right in saying something to his dad at least about it. It was like the perfect assurance, comfort feeling in what happened. Maybe he was supposed to say something as a sign.

Letting out a sigh, he knew there was no turning back now and it felt it right in his heart then it probably right. He climbs the steps, joining his father up top as he glances at the speed chart quickly.

“She hasn’t made any laps yet,” Bill informs him, knowing what Chase was checking.

“Bell is fast so she should be good,” Chase comments as he looks back out towards the track. His dad walks over, leaning over the same railing as him.

“So you wanted to talk?” Chase nods his head. “It sounded pretty serious, to be honest.”

“It is, actually. It’s probably one of our most serious discussions, I guess.” Bill then looks at Chase intrigued. “And before you ask, don’t worry – it’s not like I’m danger, trouble, worrisome, or something is wrong. This is something that’s already happened – not the worst thing either, but enough that I wanted to tell you.” Bill nods his head, trying to piece the puzzle together as he felt confused in Chase’s words. Normally, Chase just came out and said something.

“Well, the rule has always been if you want to talk, I’ll listen. So, I’m listening…” Chase takes a deep breath, once again debating saying something.

“I debated telling you, to be honest. I’m still debating whether I should tell you.” Bill crosses his arms.

“If it’s that important that you’re debating it, then I think it’s worthy. Besides, you normally don’t stall like thi-”

“You’ve heard about near death experiences, right?” Bill freezes as he slowly nods his head. “You’ve heard the stories about how people have seen or felt something in that moment. They’re transferred to a separate place sometimes…”

“I’ve heard plenty of those, Chase. I mean, you’ve even heard them, too. Remember what Dale told you about his wreck at Sonoma?” Chase nods his head, remembering how Dale felt it was his dad who pulled him from the wreck.

“I can honestly say that I didn’t believe in that stuff originally when I’ve heard the stories. But, after the second poisoning incident at Indianapolis, I have a different appreciation.” Bill was then even more confused as he kept his eyes locked on Chase. “When I was lying in the hospital room, totally out of it, mom was crying waiting for me to wak-”

“You knew she was crying?” Chase nods his head as he looks over at his dad.

“Even though I couldn’t say a thing, I saw everything and heard all the discussion. I know how worried you both were.” Bill nods his head as he takes a deep breath.

“Can you blame me, though?” Chase shakes his head.

“I still feel awful for the decisions that I made and how I went abou-”

“You can’t take back what happened now. You can just learn from that and never do that again – got it?” Chase hears the sternness in his father’s voice, catching his attention, and nods his head. “Good, because I don’t know if I can handle that again.”

“I don’t want to go through that again, anyway.”

“So while you were lying there, hearing everything….” Chase takes a deep breath, remembering where he left off.

“I had one of those experiences. I was transferred off to almost like a peaceful perfect garden away from everybody – felt almost too peaceful.” Chase then looks up and looks over at his dad. “I saw Casey…” Bill’s expression immediately freezes as he keeps his eyes locked on Chase.

“As in your cousin?” Chase nods his head. Bill found himself lost for words in what to say in hearing the revelation. Part of him wanted to yell out that it was a hallucination and not real, but he couldn’t find the ability to do that as he heard about these moments. In exchange, there were a series of questions running rapt through his mind.

“We had a short conversation. It was first surprise in being there, followed by making sure that it was not perma-”

“I would hope not!” Chase puts his hands up, defensively.

“Trust me – as soon as I realized where I was, I was looking for the door out of there. That’s when he assured me that it was going to be okay.” Chase reaches over, placing his hand on his dad’s. “Dad, I’m not making this up. I would never do that, especially with something like this. I’m telling you the truth. It felt almost too rea-”

“I believe you, Chase.” Bill then takes a deep breath, composing his emotions. “I believe you completely. It’s just a shock to hear….” Chase nods his head as he glances back out towards the track.

“That’s why I debated even saying something because it was a total complete shock.” Bill felt the questions growing even more as he kept his eyes focused on Chase.

“You mentioned a conversation….” Chase nods his head as he takes his eyes off Sarina’s truck on track to look at his dad.

“I expressed regret in not getting a chance to get to know him, meet him, spend time with him based on everything that you, mom and Uncle Ernie have said. He then told me he remembered when I was born, getting to see me a brief little bit, and assured me that he’s never far. He always has my back.” Bill felt his eyes growing a little wet, as he reaches up immediately and brushes away the tears.

“There was someone in the family who mentioned that he’d probably be your guardian angel, and you’d always be blessed. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s like perfect…” Chase nods his head as he glances up for a second, before looking back over at his dad.

“He assured me I wasn’t staying there, but it was a reminder that no matter what, he’s always watching over me. No matter what happens, it’s going to be okay – whether Sarina, myself, or whatever. I then gave me the instructions to get home so that way we could make mom stop crying.” Bill chuckles.

“That sounds like Casey, really. He never liked to see anybody upset. He was the perfect upbeat kind of guy, and always wanted to transfer that positive energy on everybody.” Chase nods his head, having heard that a couple of times.

“I then asked him a quick question – is it okay to be afraid? He assured me that it was okay because of everything, but to know that Sarina was the perfect gal for me and it was worth it if I believed.” Bill smiles as he wraps an arm around Chase.

“And recall that the second day you were home, Cindy seemed to be starting to like Sarina some more…” Chase smiles as he remembers the conversation that night.

“The conversation that night with Sarina about how to make sure she didn’t lose the memory of her father – through conversation, stories, scrapbook, whatever it took – it really set in that night. You guys have always done that with Casey, and others for me, so I know my family closely. I didn’t appreciate that before, but I do now.” Bill smiles as he keeps Chase held close.

“We just wanted you to know that you’re a special guy from a great family.” Chase nods his head.

“Can we just keep this between us?” Bill nods his head. He knew it’d be assuring to Cindy and Ernie to hear this, too, but understood Chase’s want to keep it quiet.

“Your secret is safe with me. I do appreciate you telling me, though. It’s nice to hear you have a guardian angel.” Chase smiles as he glances back out to the track.

“So wanna tell me a story?” Bill laughs as he thinks through everything over the years.

“What’s the best story that I could tell you about Casey?” Bill thinks it over, before beginning, as Chase listened intently.

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

Chase walks into the motorcoach, smile on his face, as Sarina follows in behind him. She sits down on the couch as he slips the firesuit off.

“You said that you’d probably end up in the top-five but not quick enough for pole,” she comments as he nods his head. “Fifth isn’t too shabby at all.”

“I’m not complaining,” he replies as he walks back to the bedsroom. He then slips off the firesuit, grabbing a pair of shorts and t-shirt before returning. “I told Alan that’s where we’d end up, and I’m happy. As long as the car feels that good on Sunday, I’ll be fine.”

“Are you trying to say that you’re ready to call your shot?” Chase laughs as he plops down on the couch beside her.

“I’m not that brave, to be honest. I mean, I know how quick Kyle and Martin are, and I know it’s going to take perfection on Sunday. I know the car is good, but maybe not perfect yet. So I’m just confident in a really good day, being in contention probably, but I won’t pull the Hamlin in calling my shot and look like an ass.” She then laughs as she leans against him.

“You could never look like an ass. Even if you did, you’d be cute doing it.” Chase then looks down at her.

“Ms. Ott, are you trying to flirt with me for any particular reason?” She laughs and shakes her head. “I don’t know if I believe that….”

“Maybe I have a motive…” Chase then laughs.

“I knew it! So what is it?” She then sits up and glances towards the kitchen.

“Dinner is my favourite tonight…and I don’t know if you’re up for that.” Chase thinks it over. He had to admit the first time she made it, it wasn’t too bad.

“I can accept your chicken and rice tonight, as long as it turns into you having a good day tomorrow.” She then lets out a laugh as she walks to the small kitchen.

“That’s nothing like pressure…” He then puts his feet up as he watches her.

“Let’s just say that I believe in your talent, like always, and know you can get the job done. Relax, have fun, and just drive the snot out of that truck tomorrow.” She then gives him a thumbs up as he takes a deep breath. He couldn’t help but think to the conversation with his dad, and a couple stories shared. “Say after dinner, I have an idea for tonight.”

“Uh oh….”

“It’s going to be a nice clear night. What if we go out, find a nice spot and lay under the stars together? We can share some stories together. You can tell me about your father and family, and I’ll tell you about my family.” She then looks over, intrigued.

“Really?” He nods his head.

“I told you that I was willing to listen to stories from you if that helped you remember all the good times and made everything else easier. I figure a nice night, clear sky, nothing for us to do, it’s the perfect opportunity to start.” He then gets up and walks over to her, wrapping his arms around her as she cuts the chicken. “Besides, I know how special Michigan is to you. It’s home no matter what, right?” She nods her head.

“It’ll always be home – even if there’s things that I wish I could forget.” He then takes the knife out of her hand, spinning her around to face him.

“As much as those things hurt, they made you who you are. They pushed you and made you stronger, and brought you down the journey you took. Rather than forget them and run, be thankful that you got through that and use it as motivation for a stronger future. Then in process, try and think about the good times. Like, those positive memories with your dad and the times you spent together.” She smiles as she nods her head.

“Sometimes it’s not that easy….”

“I know, I can see that on your face when we talk about it. That’s why I want to be here for you, holding you up when you need it, offering you that shoulder, and ready to listen to those positives.” She then looks up into his eyes.

“How did you know that this is what I needed tonight?” Chase smiles.

“I know how you get at times. I saw how this weekend was already playing on you. Also, let’s just say that a conversation with my dad helped, too.” She then looks on surprised. “We talked about Casey a little….”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing a couple of those stories based on what your mom had to say already.”

“Then we have a deal after dinner?” She nods her head as he lets her go. “I’m going to grab a shower, and then I look forward to enjoying your lovely cooking.”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 131: Ryan’s Testimony

Thursday, August 10

“My mom said I should cut my hair,” Ryan comments as they get out of the car. “She mentioned something about not looking good or proper for today – or whatever. What do you think?” Chase glances back at his friend.

“I think you look fine, but then again – my hair is probably longer,” Chase says as Ryan rolls his eyes.

“As long as it not looking like a mess and you have somewhat styled it, they’re not going to say anything,” Sarina comments. “You both look fine. Let’s go and get this over with, please.” Chase lets out a sigh as he walks over to her, wrapping an arm around her.

“Are you okay?” She then glances at him.

“I’m trying to put my brother away in jail for years for poisoning friends of mine. What do you think?” Chase lets out a sigh as Sarina instantly freezes. “Shit! That came out wro-”

“It’s fine. It’s honest. I told you I’d rather you be honest than try and sugarcoat your feelings as I don’t want them to eat at you.” He then pulls her a little closer to him. “I know it’s hard. I know it doesn’t make sense. But regardless, I’ve got you through all this, I love you, and you’re still amazing.” He then leans in and kisses her lips as she looks back at him with a smile.

“Promise me you’ll never cut the mop then?” He then rolls his eyes as he fixes a stray couple pieces again.

“I actually don’t mind it so we’ll see, okay?” She smiles and nods her head.

“I bet you’ll cut yours before I cut mine,” Ryan says as he holds the door open for them.

“You’re probably right,” Chase replies as he leads Sarina inside. The group then walks down the short hallway, stopping at the doors. “Whenever you’re ready…”

“I just want this done and over with,” Sarina states as she opens the door, leading the boys into the court room. The group takes their seats accordingly as Sarina taps her fingers on her legs.

“Just keep thinking of the fact that we’ll be in Michigan tomorrow, far far from here, and you’ll be mashing that gas pedal as hard as you can so you can go super fast and win.” She then smiles as she looks over at Chase.

“Can we just skip today and go there now?” Chase wished they could do that as he wrapped an arm around the back of her.

“I wish, but unfortunately, we have to listen to Ryan tell a story.” Ryan then smoothes his pants out again as he glances at the pair, before looking forward. “Have you ever done tiral before?” Ryan shakes his head.

“Hence the questions for my mom, and the hair comment, and the what if I fuck up comments,” Ryan says as he takes a deep breath. “Momma told me that I just need to go up there, answer the questions, say what happened, and the law will take care the rest. That’s all I’m going to do.”

“You’ll be fine….”

“All rise!” The clerk’s voice catches their attention as they each look forward, standing up. Chase instantly clutches Sarina’s hand with his own as they bring Chris into the room, by them, before over to his spot in the court room.

“Don’t look over there,” Chase whispers as he could tell the instinct that Sarina had – it was the same one that he was fighting. “Judge Reynolds preceding.” They watch the judge come in and take her seat at the desk as Sarina sits down, rolling her eyes.

“That’s the fucktard that wouldn’t listen to anything we said before,” she whispers. “I was hoping we’d get a different trial judge…” Chase just rubs her back, focused on keeping her as calm as possible.

“First witness…” Judge Reynolds states, getting to business right away as Ryan feels a lump form in his throat.

“We would like to call Ryan Blaney to the stand please,” the attorney states as Ryan stands up. He clears his throat, making his way to the front of the room and taking his seat accordingly.

“Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?” The clerk asks as Ryan holds his hand up. He couldn’t help but feel the butterflies build more in his stomach.

“I do,” he replies as he keeps his eyes focused forward on Chase and Sarina. Chase gave him a simple nod in response, seeing the nerves written on his face.

“Just tell them what you told me that night,” Chase whispers to himself, remembering when Ryan called him into the room for the confession. He remembered the complete shock that came over him, as well as uncertainty with his future. Squeezing Sarina’s hand once again, he was glad that they had made it to here.

“Mr. Blaney, do you remember the night that you were poisoned?” The attorney asks and Ryan nods his head.

“XFINITY race got cut short due to rain – it was the Friday of our Daytona weekend,” he answers, silently wishing he could think of the exact date.

“Let the court be known that was Friday, July 30. Do you remember all of the events leading up to that?” Ryan nods his head, running the night through his mind like a movie.

“I do.”

“Please start wherever you would like…” Ryan takes a deep breath, thinking through everything.

“We did the national anthem and I climbed into the car afterwards. We ended up running some laps, and then skies opened up – raining. NASCAR called us to pit road, set to go under red flag conditions while they debated post-phoning or drying the track. I stopped on pit road, took my stuff off, got set to climb out – just like any other night.” Ryan then stops, trying to remember everything exactly.

“Then what happened, Mr. Blaney?” Ryan takes another deep breath, thinking it over.

“I got out of the car like normal. Normally Jesse or Jessica are there with an umbrella and a drink, but Jessica was on duty that night and busy doing something else for the team PR. So I figured I’d just walk over to the pit box through the rain, no problem no foul. As I made my way down pit road, Chris walked over with an umbrella, offering to hold it over my head. I accepted.”

“How did you know Chris, prior to this meeting?” Ryan smiles as he keeps his eyes focused on Chase and Sarina.

“I met him through Chase and Sarina. I knew that Chris was her brother. I heard he was there that weekend with a friend taking in the sights.” Ryan was almost set to spit out Chase’s discussed nerves, but figured he’d save that unless asked.

“Then what happened?” Ryan takes a deep breath, picturing it in his mind once again.

“We talked a little – he had a couple generic racing questions, I answered them. I then mentioned something along the lines of ‘let me grab a drink from the guys and then maybe we can talk some more’ as I wasn’t minding the company, actually. He had a bottle of Gatorade in his hand, and offered it to me. I took it, taking a sip, thanking him. I ended up fully drinking the bottle.” The attorney crosses her arms as she glances over at Chris, before back at Ryan.

“Would it be safe to say that the bottle contained what you were poisoned with?” Ryan nods his head.

“I had nothing prior to that to drink since I finished team dinner, and I had nothing after that point. I don’t see any other thing that would’ve affected me.” Chase smiles, as he couldn’t help but look over at Chris at this time. Ryan’s story was close enough to fool’s proof as you could get.

“How did you begin to realize what was wrong?” Ryan thinks it over, continuing to watch the movie in his mind.

“NASCAR called the race and I was going to go watch the ocktagon fight with friends, but I started to feel a little sick. I went back to the trailer, thinking I’d just relax a bit before heading back to the motorcoach. I threw up a bunch, and that’s when my crew chief Greg Erwin noticed and suggested I get checked out. We were thinking maybe flu and get some fluids into me, but then they discovered it was poisoning.”

“Let the court be known that his toxicology report showed the same poison of others that Mr. Dryer has already admitted to. Your witness.” The attorney sits, with Chris’ lawyer standing afterwards. Ryan could only bite his lip with nerves in what questions were to come.

“What happened to the Gatorade bottle?” The lawyer asks as Ryan looks on puzzled.

“I threw it out after I was done like any other human,” he answers, causing a couple chuckles in the court room.

“So it was never tested or linked to my client, correct?” Ryan shakes his head. “So all of this is based on a story that you have from memory?”

“They asked me what happened, and I told them. I don’t know what else to say.” Chase glances down, knowing how the tactics of lawyers worked. He just hoped that Ryan stayed strong.

“So it is possible, though, that somebody else could’ve done it, right?” Ryan thinks it over, shaking his head.

“Like I stated – only person I crossed paths with, only drink I had – I don’t see other chances.”

“But we still don’t know without a shadow of doubt, and that’s needed for a conviction. So I’m done.” Ryan glances back at the attorney, feeling nervous based on things.

“You may step down,” the judge tells him as Ryan stands up, walking over to Chase and Sarina. “We will resume at the next hearing date with the next witness. Court adjourned!” Ryan still felt tingly in nerves as he stood up, following Chase and Sarina out of the court room.

“Did I do a good job?” He questions, as Chase looks back at him.

“You answered every question accordingly, and you told the truth,” Chase answers. “You were fine, Ryan.” Ryan wondered if Chase was just saying that to assure him.

“But what about the lawyer’s comments? Without a shadow of a doubt? Suspicion?” Chase rolls his eyes as they reach the car.

“That’s the lawyer’s job – to create that cloud to try and get the jury to not look at her client. It’s the jury’s job to try and see through the smoke and mirrors for the truth. Based on his previous confessions and based on what you said, the smoke and mirrors will probably fade quicker than you imagine. Ryan, it’s fine. You did a good job.”

“You were great,” Sarina adds as they all climb into the car together. “I’m surprised the media isn’t trying to eat us all up.” Chase pulls his eyes out as he looks over at her.

“They don’t anything to use yet,” he comments. “That comes once I get up there, hence why Chris wants me to say something – or when Alison gets started on her trial with me.” He then stops, reaching over for her hand once again. “But like I told you – I love you, I’m always going to be by your side, I’ve always got your back, and I’ll do anything for you. Let them talk…”

“Are you sure?” Chase nods his head.

“It’s worth it for you…”

“Seriously, don’t screw this up; you have something special,” Ryan whispers to Sarina as Sarina looks back with a smile.

“Don’t worry – I plan on keeping him for a long time to come,” she replies. “You’re just the fifth different person to tell me that.”

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

“Ryan’s testimony was good….” Chris starts as Bethany lets out a sigh.

“I’m not worried about the puppet,” she replies. “It’s Chase that’s going to provide the entertainment. He’s got lots to say between you and Allison.” Chris then smiles, knowing Bethany’s doings always turned out good eventually.

“What about you?” Bethany smiles as she sits back.

“What do they have me on? It’s not like Allison is going to squeal as she had fun with the kid. It’s not like you’re going to squeal because you know you’re going away and I’m going to fulfill everything that’s warranted that for that sweetpea. They don’t know, Chris…” Chris could only smile more in amazement.

“I just want to know when everything is going to go into action.” Bethany laughs.

“In due time, in due time….”

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 130: “You’re kidding, right?”

Tuesday, August 1 – Dixieland Speedway

Chase walks through the gates with her after getting his wristband, glancing over with a smile as they make their way into the pits.

“So we got a mid-week day where we both don’t have any meetings or appearances, and yet we’re at a race track?” Chase questions as Sarina laughs.

“Some people would think we’re crazy, huh?” Sarina replies as he laughs himself. “I just hope you’re not upset that I’m not running a Chase Elliott Motorsports late model this time around.” He had to admit it stung a little, but that wasn’t the worst case here.

“I know you got a good thing going with Kyle, and he’s got his program up to snuff. You’ll do great…” He then wraps his arms around her surprisingly. “I’m just upset that I didn’t bring that late model out here to kick your ass.” She then laughs as she spins around to face him.

“Are you sure you’re capable of doing that?” His jaw then drops shocked as she laughs. “Besides, you still need to focus on getting your ass better. I don’t want to have to tell Alan that he can’t have you for another week because you got sick out here in Dixie.” He knew she was right as he lets out a sigh.

“Just as we told my parents, I’m being careful and watching, okay? Besides, I’m pretty much back to myself.” She then looks on surprised.

“Pretty much?” He nods his head, having actually gotten through yesterday and today without any gravol – which he considered an accomplishment. “Just make sure you’re taking those pills that the doctor prescribed.” He simply nods his head again as they reached the hauler.

She went to meet up with the guys to talk shop, while Chase made his way out to one of the turns.

With practice starting soon, he pulled out his phone, set to lap time some of the quickest competition on the day. He also liked the vantage point of the corner as you could see how well their car was handling, and how deep they could drive it. It was always the best gauge as you could tell then who’d get the runs, who’d be good in a pack, and who’d be fine for a lap before falling off. As they say with racing, it was just as much about learning and analyzing as it was talent behind the wheel.

His mind immediately shifted to the past week, though, as he got lost in his own world. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t seen the cockpit of a racecar in over a week. While he played it off to everyone that he was feeling better, his mind still twirled in thoughts.

What if the muscle twitches totally weren’t gone and he got one at the wrong time? What if the sickness feeling wouldn’t totally disappear? What if there was some sort of permanent damage that they hadn’t found? While normally he was more than confident in his abilities, the questions couldn’t help but linger as he looked ahead to the upcoming weekend at Watkins Glen.

He also wondered about the fact that Allison was still walking the streets. Why couldn’t the cops locate her and arrest her? What if she struck again? She had easily played him once – there was no telling what she could do to play the roles again. How was the guy who was confident being anywhere in his shoes now set to deal with nerves because of a single female?

Taking a deep breath, he tried to escape everything for that one afternoon and focus on the cars screaming by before him. He watched the lines each driver took, seeing whether they were loose, tight or neutral on corner entry. He watched to see whether they had bite through the corner, or someone could be able to capitalize on a run.

“Surprised you’re not surrounded by security….” He hears, causing a chill to go up his spine.

“I don’t need protection,” he states bravely, though inheritably is choosing his own lip.

“Oh really? I thought you would’ve after our last meeting.” He then braves himself enough to look towards the source of the voice, a smile forming. He knew it before he had even looked. Of course she would find him here. While a NASCAR track had top notch security, the same couldn’t be said for events like these.

“I handled that, didn’t I? I protected my guys, my girl, and I dealt with it. Now, what is your plan this time around?” A smile forms on Allison’s face as she walks over to him, closing the gap.

“It doesn’t take much to make a girl jealous, you know?” He then laughs as he looks back away from her. As he kept his cool as much as he could on his face, his fingers fumbled in his pocket to the keys of pocket-dialing either Sarina or Kyle.

“How many times do you have to be told that your plan won’t work?” He then couldn’t help himself but to look back at her, again. “You tried to kill me. Do you want to go ahead and admit that to everyone?”

“Nobody will kno-”

“You wish that was the case,” a new voice chimes in as Kyle walks over, pointing out Allison to the pair of security guards. They walk over, taking her by the arms as they pull out a pair of cuffs. “Thank you.” Kyle then watches them walk away, before walking over to join Chase at the fence. “Are you okay?” Chase nods his head.

“Thank you,” he says simply as Kyle pats his shoulder.

“I told you – I got your back.” Chase nods his head as he lets out a sigh. “You can admit it if you were scared. I’d get it…” Chase closes his eyes, automatically set to defend his words. But yet, he remembered something – it was okay to be afraid given everything.

“I was nervous, okay? I was a little worried about everything after what happened. I mean, she played me perfectly. She played my weaknesses. She knew I could never have sex with her or think of cheating on Sarina. She knew that I’d do anything for my guys. I was just waiting for her to play on those again.” Kyle nods his head, understanding.

“That’s what people like her and Bethany do, though. Every person is vulnerable in a sense – nobody is superior and perfectly strong. Heck, even I have my faults even if I put that black cap on and wear it. Samantha and Brexton bring that out in me because I can tell you how I was going through the process with her. Those who are pure evil, though, play on that because they know it will eat us. It’s okay to fall for that – they’re masterminds. You just need to believe when you do fall that you can be okay…” Chase nods his head as he glances back at Kyle.

“You need to explain that to Sarina. She lets everything eat at her and wonders whether it’s her fault or she deserves it. She can’t find that feeling to where she’s comfortable, loved, forget it all. I’ve tried…” Chase then looks back away with a sigh. “I see signs of where I’m making that improvement. We’ve had our highlights, but every once in awhile – she brings that out. I just wish that wasn’t the case.”

“She’s been through a lot. It’s partially why I gravitated towards hiring her and helping her because I want to see someone who keeps fighting succeed. I know what you’re saying as I’ve talked to her, too. Chase, it’s just going to take time. One day at a time, one discussion at a time, and she’ll come around.” Chase smiles, knowing that Kyle was right. “If it’s worth it, she’s got the right guy in her corner….” Chase then rolls her eyes.

“Not you, too.”  Kyle then looks on confused. “She told me that I was amazing, perfect, special, and I argued with her that I’m just some ordinary guy.” Kyle then laughs. “Really?”

“Not many young guys like you, or Ryan for that matter, have the mindset that is needed here. They don’t have the patience, kindness, courage, sweetness that it takes for someone like her. She’s right, bud. That’s why you’re one of the drivers who could date my driver and not get wrecked.” Chase then chuckles.

“What would you do if she walked in the shop one day and said she was pregnant with no warning at all?” Kyle’s jaw drops.

“I’d probably kill you for not listening to my warnings…” Chase chuckles. “I mean, I know there’s a time you both will want kids together – probably. But please, give a guy some warning.”

“I’ll come drive your truck if she gets pregnant.” Kyle then shakes his head.

“I don’t think that’d go over well with the folks at Chevrolet, or Hendrick.” Chase nodded his head in agreement.

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

The race went better than planned as she put together an incredible performance, leading the most laps en route to picking up the victory. The entire team was beyond excited in victory lane, with high-fives and hugs all around.

“This is exactly what everybody needed,” Kyle proclaimed as he stood up on the small stage with Chase and Sarina together. The couple couldn’t deny that, enjoying a smile each that they knew had been missing through the summer headaches.

The pair continued to share happiness on the night, posing for a couple more photos, before relaxing together in the empty grandstands with some tales of the late model days. Chase told stories of how he came up through the ranks and the big crown jewel wins that he had, while Sarina thought back to the crazy nights of fixing the car across the country to make it to the next one.

Everything seemed perfect as they watched Kyle walk up the steps to join them – but they both turned a little sour once they saw the look on his face.

“We got disqualified,” Kyle states firmly as he sits down before them. They look at each other, not believing what they heard, before scattering down the couple of steps as quickly as they could to flank the boss.

“You’re kidding, right?” Sarina questions, not believing it. Kyle shakes his head no. “Seriously?”

“What for?” Chase wonders, curious from his own late model days and some issues he ran into, but also wondering what the latest rule push was.

“Weight,” Kyle states as Chase looks on confused. “There was supposed to be a fuel tolerance, but clearly it wasn’t enough based on the laps that we ran. We were fine for weight before the race, but yet under when it was over and beneath the tolerance.”  Chase shakes his head in disbelief as Sarina thinks it over.

“We knew we’d be close because wasn’t that why the crew asked me to save fuel under the caution?” She questions and Kyle lets out a sigh.

“Clearly, they went closer than I thought they would’ve…” He then glances between the pair. “Sorry to burst the happiness bubble up here, but that’s how she went. I argued with them for a good hour but no way were they listening.”

“Sometimes she goes your way, sometimes not…” Sarina says as she wraps an arm around Kyle. “I still say we put together the best car that we have in awhile so I’m not letting this get me down. I’m going to celebrate as if we didn’t get disqualified, and turn this into something positive, like say Chase winning this coming weekend.” Chase and Kyle then look at her surprised.

“Watkins Glen tends to be Kyle’s house, and I’m not a road course guy…” Chase comments as Sarina laughs.

“Says the guy who won in Canada…”

“…only after he dumped Dillon,” Kyle adds as Chase rolls his eyes. For being such a clean racer, he could never live down that one incident.

“He blocked me,” Chase reminds them. “Recall, he lives with a silver spoon in his mouth.” Kyle and Sarina both chuckle. “I’m just looking for a good run this weekend.”

“So you’re fine finishing second to me?” Kyle questions and Chase looks over.

“Oh no way buddy. If I’m second to you, there’s a bump and run coming.” Sarina then rubs her hands together.

“This is getting interesting…” She comments.

“Careful – I may not allow boyfriend time if he does that,” Kyle adds as Sarina pouts.

“Big bad Kyle, such a big meanie taking candy from a baby…” Chase chuckles as Kyle rolls his eyes.

“That’s what they all say, right?”

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

Sunday, August 6 – Watkins Glen

Sarina walks over, wrapping both arms around Chase and giving him a kiss.

“Nice job,” she says following his fourth-place finish.

“Thank you,” he replies with a smile.

“Not bad for a guy who says he can’t turn left and right.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“I won in a Canada, remember?” She just rolls her eyes as she leans against him.

“So, how does it feel to be back where you belong, racing and finishing up front?” Chase smiles as he keeps her pulled close.

“It feels great. Now we just need to both have a good run next weekend and everything will be fine.” Sarina nods her head in agreement. Though seeing the cameras and knowing the stories that were coming, she couldn’t help but have lingering thoughts about the trial and future in her mind. “You’re going to hold up your end of the deal, right?”

“I’m going to give it my best shot!” He smiles, knowing that was all it would take as he believed in her talent. He just hoped that he’d finally find the Michigan victory lane keys this time around.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 129: Axaltra Pocono 400

Sunday, July 30 – Pocono Raceway

 

Chase lets out a sigh as he glances out the window of the motorcoach, tapping his finger on the window ledge. It seemed odd to be sitting there just a couple of hours before the race, but he had no choice in the matter this weekend.

He knew his body was still overcoming everything he put himself through the prior weekend. The fact that he woke up feeling a little sick that morning, combined with the random muscle spasm while getting dressed, were clear reminders. Well, that was if the pills he taking weren’t enough already.

He knew he made the decision to come that weekend to support Sarina, and rightfully so. He wanted to be there for her as he loved her a lot, and knew he would’ve driven himself crazy at home. But yet, sitting there that morning, the reality setting in that Justin Allgaier was going to drive his car, he didn’t know how to stomach the thought.

He fully understood the feelings people went through when they couldn’t drive their own racecars now.

“Hey, are you okay?” Sarina asks as she sits down on the couch beside him. He simply nods his head. “That doesn’t sound like you….” He then glances at her.

“I’d rather be dressed in my firesuit right now and getting ready to race than sitting here,” he comments as she lets out a sigh, reaching out to rub his shoulders.

“I know it’s tough. That’s why your parents suggested you stay home this wee-”

“I’m not regretting the decision to spend the weekend with you, one bit.” She smiles as she continues rubbing his shoulders.

“Trust me, I’m glad that you’re not regretting that as I love having you here. But, it’s those feelings that they were talking about.” She then pauses, glancing away from him. “And, like everything, that’s my fault…” He then looks at her confused.

“You didn’t do anything wro-”

“The only reason Bethany approached Allison was due to-”

“I accepted the deal, so with that, I accept the consequences. I’d rather deal with this than the alternatives.” She simply nods her head.

“You know, if you would’ve actually made the call to sleep with her, I wouldn’t have been too upset. I would’ve totally understood the fact that you had no other choice, and know you did what you had to survive – just like everything I’ve been through. It’s part of life.” Chase sighs as he reaches out for her hand.

“You may have been able to sit and live with it, but I never could’ve. It would’ve haunted me for months, years because I could never see myself ever doing that to someone. That’s why I made the decision that I did. I can deal with this – couple weeks feeling like crap is nothing new. But that, I don’t think I could.” Sarina sighs as she lays up against him.

“Have I told you today that you’re amazing?” He laughs and shakes his head.

“You’ve told me every day but today.” She then looks into his eyes.

“Well, I am telling you today, just like I’ll probably tell you tomorrow, and the day after that.” She then leans in and kisses his lips. “Whenever you’re ready, we’ll head out together. I just got to make sure to stop by and see Kyle and Sam. But, if you don’t want to head out, we don’t have too. I get it.” He nods his head, as he glances back out the window.

“I love my guys, and I said to them that I was here to support them. For that reason, I’ll head out and I’ll be fine. They’re going to do amazing. Justin is a good little driver.”

The pair relaxed there for awhile together, before keeping their word and heading out to the grid. They agreed to make their first stop at Kyle and Sam, before heading down to see his guys.

“Oh hey Kyle,” Chase says as he looks at the foam figure with a head twice as big as Kyle’s. “Whoops, you’re not Kyle.” He then turns around and looks at Kyle. “There’s the man…” Kyle could only look back with a face of confusion.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Kyle questions as Chase glances between the foam figure and Kyle.

“Does this thing creep you out at all? Because hate to say it, he’s creepy as ever.” Sam gives her nod of approval, remembering her first encounter with the figure.

“Hey, that thing is better than having myself as a blow-up doll or a dipstick.” Chase’s laughter immediately stops as Kyle just smiles. “Sarina, have you inquired about that doll yet?”

“Kyle!” She yells, giving him a smack as Chase looks at her with an intrigued glance. “I never ever did mention a comment about that before to him, ever, so you can tell him to kiss your ass.”

“I don’t feel like eating a terd before the race,” Kyle says as Chase just rolls his eyes.

“Well unlike you, my ass is clean…” Chase replies as Kyle looks over, surprised.

“How would you know such detail?” Chase thinks it over, knowing the options were limited on comments.

“It stinks…” Kyle then smiles as he leans back against his car.

“My fans would say different, especially when I’m giving them my famous bow. I shall show you that post-race.” Kyle then pauses as he keeps his eyes on Chase. “And to be honest, I’d rather be having the chance to run with you than Justin. You make it more interesting.”

“Comment appreciated, I think….” Kyle gives him a nod.

“Are you going to be good to go for next week?” Chase nods his head.

“We’ll get to see if I can figure out the best way to turn left and right.” Kyle smiles, having already proven that he could do that quite well.

“Watkins Glen is easier to drive than Sonoma so you’ll be fine.” Chase could only hope as he knew there’d be significant ground to make up after this weekend. “So you’re getting a Chase waiver?”

“Special edition one at that.” Kyle was intrigued as Chase remembered the discussion with Alan and Rick. “It was technically a track staff member that poisoned me so it’s fault of the series and track, right? So they said that they’ll credit me with Justin’s points and if I am still in the top-16 by either points or win, I get in.” Kyle almost felt like arguing the point made, and probably would’ve – if it was anybody else.

“If you dare win the championship, be prepared to get your ass kicked because you saw how people reacted the year that I did it.” Chase nods his head, remembering the reactions. “But, we won’t get to see that because I see a good future ahead.”

“Oh really?” Kyle nods his head. “To be honest, if the guys in the shop don’t figure out the speed we’re lacking, you’re probably right. I mean, normally Jimmie slumps in the summer, but this is ridiculous.”

“So if you’re lacking so much speed, how did Kasey win Indianapolis?” Chase shrugs his shoulders.

“They figured it out there, which gives me hope that we got more good stuff coming down the line.” Kyle knew the other teams were working to close the gap, but that didn’t mean he was ready for that.

“Well, all I can say is good luck because right now, I’m liking how things are.” Chase rolls his eyes.

“Of course….”

“Did you see this conversation happening and being so awesome at that?” Samantha wonders and Sarina shakes her head as she picks up Brexton.

“It’s actually amazing to be honest,” Sarina comments. “I mean, I didn’t see them getting along this well.”

“You’re spoiled…” Sarina nods her head, knowing that quite well. “And I think someone loves you…”

“You know, I’d babysit him whenever you and Kyle want a night out.” Samantha then looks at her surprised.

“Oh really? I didn’t picture you as the kid/motherly type…” Brexton laughs as Sarina tickles him.

“I’ve always loved kids, and they seem to always like me as I get along with them almost immediately. I mean, I could never see myself raising my own, but I am always open to watching someone else’s.”  Samantha almost asked her why she didn’t want to raise her own, but bit her tongue as she didn’t want to touch upon Sarina’s past. She heard from Kyle it wasn’t all roses, so she wasn’t sure where the boundaries lied.

“I’ll make sure to remember that because Brexton seems to love you, too.”

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

Chase watches as the race finishes, glancing over at Sarina, and giving her a nod.

The day hadn’t gone amazingly or perfect, but it was better than what they had seen recently with Justin Allgaier consistently running in the top-10 throughout the event en route to a solid 10th. He had been bullshitting Kyle earlier when he said he thought there was some better equipment coming down the line, but perhaps there was more truth than he realized there.

Taking a deep breath as he heads down the stairs, he couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel himself next week.

Short Track Lovin’ – Chapter 128: Overton’s 150

Saturday, July 29

 

Sarina lays there, quietly, eyes locked on Chase as he lies beside her, sleeping away.

She had woken up a couple hours ago, grabbed some breakfast and a shower, before returning back to bed to lie beside him. She didn’t want to disturb him, knowing that he needed his sleep as the focus was put on him getting better.

Taking a deep breath, she couldn’t let everything that they’d been through escape her mind. Though despite everything, he put his full trust in her, promised to always love her, and would do anything for her. On top of that, he had convinced his parents to give her a second chance.

She couldn’t get it through her mind everything that he had done, for her. He stood up to everyone with her brother. He allowed Allison to inject the needle, instead of cheating. He always found the small time of day to reach out to her. Rather than be at home this weekend where he belonged after the week he’d been through, he was there with her instead.

Letting out a sigh, it was hard to believe this was happening before her. She never got this lucky in her life. It was always when one thing came together, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. But yet, here she was, under contract with the top team in the truck garage and dating the sweetest guy ever. For the first time ever, it felt everything with happiness was just within reach.

“Can I help you?” His voice freezes her thoughts as she looks into his brown eyes.

“No, I’m good,” she replies as a smile forms on her lips.

“You’re just staring at me for no reason?” She nods her head. “How long have you been laying here like this?” She was almost afraid to offer her answer.

“An hour or so. You were sleeping, I didn’t want to disturb you, but I didn’t want to leave you.” She then reaches over, rubbing his shoulder. “Relax, it’s fin-”

“You were spaced out at first, though.” He then brushes her brown hair out of her face. “What’s on that mind of yours?”

“I am just thinking how lucky and spoiled I am to have an amazing guy like you in my life.” He then looks at her with surprise as he rolls over onto his back.

“I’m just an ordinary guy who happens to go fast for a living.” She then chuckles, causing him to look back her way. “What?”

“Ordinary guy? Have you been outside of your own little universe lately, Chase?” His eyes widen even more surprise.

“Listen, just because I may be a little fam-”

“That’s not what I’m talking about, Prince Charming.” He then freezes, caught off-guard by the comment. “I’m talking about how sweet you are. I’m talking about how caring you are. I’m talking about how you’d do anything for me. I’m talking about how we’ve been through everything, and yet you’re still here beside me 100% committed. I’m talking about how you stood up to Alison, for us. There are very few guys in the world that can equal that level of charm and sweetness, honey. I’m gonna say that you rank up there in the 5% range.” He then rolls his eyes.

“Listen, I’m nowhere near perfec-”

“I didn’t say you were, Chase. But you’re damn close to that – at least to me, and a lot closer than a lot of people.” He then rolls back on his side so he can look right into her green eyes.

“So you’ve been lying here for the past hour contemplating all that?” She nods her head. “Why?”

“I’ve never ever felt this right and perfect in a moment with someone. I’ve never felt this type of love before, or felt that I was wort-”

“Excuse me?” He then scoots closer to her, wrapping an arm around her as he pulls her close. “Don’t you ever dare say that you’re not worthy of being loved. Sure, you had a rough hand. Sure, you had things go off plan. If anything, it makes you worthy so you can feel what you’ve been missing all these years.” She then lets out a sigh.

“I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, thoug-”

“I’ve made mistakes, too. We all make mistakes every day. Do you want to know my response? Accept your mistakes, admit that you were wrong, and learn from it so you do not do it again. That’s why when you lied to me under those circumstances, I gave you the second chance with the understanding to not repeat that mistake. Sarina, you’re a beautiful young lady and there’s nobody that could tell me different in loving you.” He then leans in and kisses her lips, as she smiles back in response.

“How do you always know what to say?” He smiles as he takes her hand, placing it on his chest.

“I speak from the heart with every bit of honesty that I have. It’s okay to open up and be honest. It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to express feelings.  It actually feels good.” She then smiles, nodding her head.

“I’ll make sure to give it a try then.” He then lets her go, sitting up in the bed as he glances at the clock.

“Don’t you have to qualify soon?” She then lets out a sigh, nodding her head. As much as she loved racing her truck, she wouldn’t mind lying around with Chase all day.

“Yep.” She then stands up, heading to the closet to grab her firesuit, as Chase gets up behind her. She then spins around, surprised.

“I am coming to watch you qualify, followed by seeing the guys before final practice. Then we can chill and wait till your race, which I am sitting on your pit box.” She was even more surprised by the assertion in his voice.

“Oh really? Are you sure you’re up to all that?” He nods his head as he pulls the drawer open, grabbing a pair of jeans. “Are you sure that your parents will let you do that?” He then glances over surprised.

“I’m an adult. I can do what I want…” She then rolls her eyes.

“Cindy is going to put up a fight…” He then pulls the jeans up, before walking over to her and stealing a kiss.

“Tough for her. I’ll be fine.” He then goes to find a shirt, as she focuses back on getting ready for the upcoming qualifying session.

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

Chase stood on pit road, satisfied with the session as he took a glance at the scoring pylon. A solid eighth-place starting spot was a good start as it was going to be a long race, with drama all the way around. As long as she played it cool, and Marcus was good with his adjustments, she’d be there at the end in contention to win.

After sharing a couple comments between them, he gave her a kiss and headed away. He knew that she had to talk for a bit about Marcus in regards to the session and their race strategy, so it was time to take advantage of the time that he had. There was a crew of guys who needed to see their driver for themselves as he made his way to the trailer.

He gives a wave to a couple other Hendrick Motorsports guys hanging around, before opening the door and heading inside.

“So we’re going with this set-up, followed by this one?” Josh questions as Alan nods his head. “Got it!”

“Does that mean we have lots of work to do between runs?” Jared Seate wonders as Chase crosses his arms, clearly not noticed by the guys with his entry.

“Oh Jared, you never want to do much work, huh?” Chase then joins in, catching a bunch of surprised glances.

“Chase!!” A couple of the crew guys let go, before tackling him with hugs.

“Easy guys….” Alan tries to calm them off with a laugh.

“You know that for you, I’ll always put in a full day’s work,” Jared then comments as Chase rolls his eyes.

“What am I? Chopped liver?” Justin Allgaier, who was filling in for Chase, questions as Chase laughs.

“Please tell me that you’re here to get rid of this little short ass.” Chase laughs once again as he glances between them. He knew the pair had a history together as Jared came over from JR Motorsports.

“Unfortunately, you’re stuck with him for the rest of the weekend,” Chase comments as Jared lets out a sigh. chase couldn’t help but agree with him as he wanted to be racing more than anything. But given how he was feeling earlier that morning and knowing that the feeling would probably come back, he knew he wasn’t ready for 400 miles tomorrow.

“You’re stuck with me, Jared!” Justin says as he pulls Jared close, causing a series of laughs through the trailer.

“So if you’re standing here, you can’t feeling that badly….” Jared Erspamer then joins in the conversation, catching Chase’s attention. “Of course, a little birdie told me that you’ve been here all weekend.”

“He’s kidding, right?” Jared Seate asks and Chase shakes his head no. “And you just came to see us now? How rude!”

“Did you watch Full House?” Alan questions as Jared smiles.

“Oh puhleeeeze, who didn’t watch that show?” Alan just rolls his eyes.

“For the record,  I didn’t even leave the motorcoach at all yesterday so you weren’t just left out for no reason,” Chase starts, catching their attention. “I didn’t want to stay home because I wanted to be here to support Sarina. That said, I did not feel up to moving at all yesterday. As it is, this tour here, followed by the truck race, will probably eat up whatever energy I have made up. But I knew I couldn’t go a whole weekend without seeing you guys.”

“He loves us!” Jared Seate lets out, now taking a turn wrapping his arms around Chase.

“I thought you already would’ve figured that out a long time ago….”

“To be honest, speaking on behalf of everybody here, there’s nothing that we could do to make up for what you did last weekend,” Alan starts as he focuses his eyes on Chase. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart and we all discussed that when Josh and I told everybody. You put your ass on the line for us. That’s more than we can say for a lot of people that we’ve worked together, and we thank you.” The rest of the crew guys nod their heads in agreement with the boss.

“Well, you guys are like family to me,” Chase replies. “I mean, we spend the whole year together on this traveling circus, getting close, getting to know each other and each other’s families. You guys sacrifice all this time in your lives so you can make us the best that we can be on Sundays – basically, to the point where most people just give me the credit. I’ve always said that I wouldn’t change a single thing about this team, and I meant that.”

“So we’re not going to get traded around ever and sent away when the playoffs start like some teams?” Jared Erspamer questions and Chase shakes his head.

“Never, ever,” he assures them. “For the record, we work as a team and we do everything together – come high or low water. If things go wrong, we all accept the blame, work to improve, and go forward. That’s how it’s always been, right?” The guys nod their head. “So for that reason, you better give it your 110% for Justin on Sunday, okay?”

“Yes boss!” The guys let out together as Chase makes his way to the front of the group, wrapping his arms around Alan and Josh.

“And to both of you, don’t ever change. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for help with my absolutely crazed plan and thanks for getting me the help when I needed it – twice, now. It really  means a lot to know how much you both care. And Alan, let’s not meet like that ever again.” Alan nods his head.

“I don’t want to repeat that, ever,” Alan assures him. “I love ya, buddy. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“You’re coming back next week though, right?” Jared Seate questions, as Chase looks over at him.

“Are you really trying to get rid of me that badly?” Justin asks as Jared shrugs his shoulders.

“There was a reason I was glad to be leaving JRM for Hendrick….” Justin looks on shocked as the guys let out a bunch of cheers and laughs.

“If everything goes according to plan, I will be back next weekend at Watkins Glen,” he assures Jared, who lets out a big yes.

“Can you please convince Dale that he should work with us both so I can torture him?” Justin asks as Chase laughs.

“Unfortunately, I can’t do that. He was the one that convinced Sarina to call me, so I ow-”

“Save me this weekend?” Jared interrupts as Chase rolls his eyes.

“You’re on your own, this time buddy,” Chase tells him. “Cash in your favor another week. I’ll see ya boys later.”

Chase then heads out of the hauler, a smile firmly planted on his face. He couldn’t wait until he was back in the saddle next weekend.

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

Chase sits on the pit box, intently watching the action on track as he watches the laps count closer to the end of the event. Sarina had done a great job all day, running with the front runners, keeping herself in contention for a good finish, and possibly a win. Though taking a deep breath, he knew anything was possible on a late-race restart – good and bad.

“Oh shit!” He lets out as he watches the No. 18 truck go sliding up the track in turn one, hitting the outside wall. He watched them go into the corner with Chase Briscoe taking her and Kaz Grala three-wide. Briscoe then caught the corner of Kaz, which caused Kaz to hit her and send her up into the wall.

“I’m okay….” Sarina lets out immediately on the radio, using every ounce of energy to not start blasting both Briscoe and Grala over the radio.

“10-4,” Marcus replies. “You did an amazing job all day. Nothing you could do there. Just one of those deals. We’ll get them in a couple weeks.”

“Thanks for the amazing truck, boss.”