Thursday, November 30 – 5 Flags Speedway – Pennsacola, Florida
Lindsay looked around in awe as she followed Sarina into the infield, glancing at the sea of people that seemed to consume the infield. No matter where she looked, whether left or right, there seemed to be people beyond people, beyond people. How did they pack this many people into a short track? Was this really as big as she was told?
She continues appearing in shock as they make their way down pit road, watching the seas of crews that seemed to engulf their racecars, focused on the smallest details. She even swore that she recognized some of the faces, too, from the time that she watched NASCAR.
She realizes that they had reached their stop, going over to where a couple crew members stood together by the No. 18. It seemed weird that Kyle was running the event, but Sarina was behind the wheel of the 18.
“Any questions so far?” Sarina questions as she puts her hair up in a pony tail.
“You’re running the 18?” Lindsay wonders and Sarina nods her head. “What about Kyle?”
“51. Ever seen Days of Thunder?” Lindsay laughs, having watched that movie numerous times, and knowing that Sarina knew that very well. They had watched it quite a bit together.
“Rowdy Busch. So let me guess, the new kid on the block, Cole whoever, is running the 46 just like Cole Trickle?” Sarina then freezes, having not realized how Kyle did the numbers prior to that comment. That was actually impressive. “There’s so many people here….”
“Chase wasn’t kidding, and it’s only going to get bigger from here on out.” Sarina then double checks her shoes are done up accordingly, before taking her helmet out of the bag. “I’ve got two practices today – with the Snowflake practice session in between. You can either hang here, watch from the trailer, or watch from the stands. Fingers crossed that we got a good car under our belt.” Lindsay crosses her fingers as she watches Sarina climb the wall, climbing in the car, getting set for the first session.
Needless to say, it did not go anywhere near where they wanted as the frustration showed on her face following the first hour and a half. She just leaned back against the wall, shaking her head as she watched the fury of activity from the crew members. They had ran well here before, coming close to winning. They had won at Winchester just a month ago. How were they so far off, today?
“Well, I guess I should turn around…” She hears, glancing over and seeing Kyle Benjamin standing there. With Kyle Busch busy in Vegas with banquet preparation, he had gotten him to fill-in.
“Unhappy with the car, too?” Kyle Benjamin nods his head as he leans against the same wall.
“I tried to diamond the corner, I tried to roll the corner, and I tried the second groove. Nothing worked at all. I mean, I’ve never been here before, so I thought it was my problem.” She shakes her head no as she keeps her eyes locked on the car.
“I practically won this damn thing, and I’m fighting the same issues. It just seems no matter what Marcus tried, nothing worked. I’m actually glad they gave us the second session today, and another tomorrow because as of right now, we’re out to lunch.” Kyle couldn’t help but agree.
“So, you’re going to the banquet once we’re done practice?” She nods her head as she glances over. “That’s got to be mission impossible…”
“Oh trust me, it’s not going to be easy to make it work, but I plan on getting there on time.” He looks over surprised as she takes a deep breath. “Lindsay has our bags back there – dresses, hair accessories, make-up – everything that we need. The second practice ends at 4:30 – which is technically 1:30 if you’re in Las Vegas. It takes four and a half hours to fly to Las Vega-”
“The banquet red carpet is at 7pm, followed by the banquet. You’ll get there at 6. That gives you an hour.” She smiles, having worked out the calculations a couple times herself.
“I’ve got an hour to get my hair right, get in my dress, and get down to the red – uh, black carpet actually – at 7 with Chase. I am going to make it happen.” He shakes his head in disbelief.
“That’s love right there. I’m impressed…” She could only glance back with a smile of her own. “Say, does your friend there have a banquet date?” She looks back towards Lindsay, giving her a nod, before looking back at Kyle.
“Oh Mr. Benjamin, you know that you cannot come. Tickets have to be arranged in advance and I have no room on the helicopter.” He gives her a grin back in return.
“I could always get Lindsay to sit on my lap for the flight….” She looks at him shocked as he laughs, walking away. She then looks over at Lindsay, rolling her eyes, before focusing on the Snowflake practice session happening.
While the first session was a disaster, the second didn’t go much better as the speed or handling wasn’t found that they wanted. She ended up 43rd quickest out of 56 cars, struggling with corner entry throughout the entire hour and a half.
“I don’t get it….” She comments, shaking her head as she places the helmet securely in it’s bag.
“We didn’t mock up (on new tires), nor were we focused on lap time,” Marcus offers as he watches her closely. “That’s got to make a difference tomorrow.” She knew that would help, but still wasn’t having much faith in laying down a good lap tomorrow. What if she wasn’t in the top 30 tomorrow locked in?
“Do you seriously think we’re going to pick up that much time? And what happens when those tires fall off 50 laps into the run? We’re going to get lapped by Bubba before we can even think of kissing the snowball.” She then glances down, looking back towards the car. “I hate leaving on this note. We need to figure out something…”
“That’s why Kyle has guys like me and the others in place – this is what we do for a living, right? There’s not much else you can do as you’ve told me what the car is doing. Go and enjoy yourself. You deserve it – as crazy as you are.” She gives him a slightly smile, instantly remembering the conversation with Chase last night.
“If you need anything at all, text me.” Marcus nods as he takes the bag, complete with her helmet, gloves and racing shoes packed away.
“Don’t forget your firesuit in the hotel room…” She nods accepting, before heading off with Lindsay in toe.
As they had hoped, they were able to get out of the track in a timely matter and make it to Pensacola International Airport within a half hour, as Sarina realizes it is 5pm (2pm Las Vegas time). She begins to tap her leg nervously as they sit on the airplane that was already waiting for them.
“Thank you for doing this again,” she comments as Bill glances back at the girls with a smile.
“I’d do anything for him,” Bill adds, before focusing on getting them up and in the air accordingly.
As originally calculated, the flight time was four and a half hours – which equaled four and a half hours of nerves for Sarina as she still hated the thought of flying entirely. As they touch down on the ground, she glanced at the watch – 9:30 (6:30 Las Vegas time).
“The limo is waiting right there for you,” Bill states as he stops the plane, looking back at them.
“Are you coming?” Sarina wonders, having not figured out all the details. Bill nods his head yes, as he climbs out of the plane, grabbing the bag.
“You girls take the back seat of the limo, and I’ll sit up front. You may want to think about changing on the way…” Sarina and Lindsay glance at each other in horror, before looking back towards him.
“There’s no way in hell that I can change into my dress in a limo, Bill!” He understood that as they climbed in the limo, but knew their options were running out.
“It’s going to take at least 11 minutes, probably more with traffic, to get there. Think about it…” He then pushes a button, putting the divider between the seats up, as the girls glance back at each other in horror.
“We’re going to get there for 6:41 at the earli-”
“You know how traffic works, though,” Lindsay ponders as she begins to unzip the bag. “I’d prepare for the worst….”
Sure enough, their original 11 minute timing was met with frustration, followed by wanting to punch a hole in the seat, as they found themselves sitting parked on the road, bumper-to-bumper traffic, not moving.
Thursday, November 30 – Wynn Las Vegas
Chase glanced at his watch once again, shaking his head, before returning his eyes to the mirror before him. He once again fixed the tie, making sure it was straight, before adjusting the jacket slightly.
“Nervous?” He hears as he glances over his shoulder, watching Morgan walk over.
“No, just impatient,” he replies as she nods her head. They were supposed to be heading out to the carpet in five minutes and Morgan wanted them to begin to make their way there. However, each previous time she asked, it was meant with a protest from Chase.
“We need to get goin-”
“I told you that I am waiting for Sarina…” Morgan rolls her eyes, having heard that now four times.
“Chase, are you sure that she’s coming?” He holds up the phone, showing her the text message from his dad that they had landed in Las Vegas. “There’s a ton of traffic out there, and she’s probably stuck in it. They’re probably going to run late. Let’s head down and then she can join you once she shows up, please…” Another glance at the time, and he knew that he couldn’t put this off any longer.
One more glance at the shoes to make sure they looked alright, and another glance at the tie, he reluctantly made his way to the carpet.
He smiles as he begins the walk down, posing for a photo with the Monster Energy girls as instructed. He then stands there, smiling as cameras go off to take photos of himself. The smile faded for a quick second as he wished Sarina was there at that moment, but immediately came back as he made sure to look the part.
He continues to walk down, talking to the various radio outlets, almost feeling a bit of jealousy as he watched other drivers and their wives and girlfriends joke around together. Where was she?
He then went through the TV interviews, answering their questions with a smile firmly on his face. A glance at his watch between them, it was 7:30. They had landed an hour ago. Where was she?
“No date tonight?” Matt Yocum asks as part of his bit with NBC. The comment only made his heart break more, as he shook his head no.
“I guess I got to get better at my game,” he offers.
“Our understanding is Sarina is down at the Snowball Derby….” Chase nods his head, knowing that was partially true. She was somewhere in Las Vegas, but where?
“I can’t say I blame her for choosing to go race there. Hopefully she can pull out a win on Sunday.” Matt then went to say something, a small smile beginning to form, but hid it immediately after being motioned to do so.
“So you’d prefer your girl to choose a race over being your date tonight?” Chase nods his head.
“Thankfully, he doesn’t have to choose between both,” Chase hears as a pair of arms wrap around him from behind. A smile immediately forms on his face as he looks over his shoulder at her. His jaw almost dropped as he took in full view. From head to toe, she was just absolutely looking amazing. From her hair being perfectly in place, to the shine of the blue gown from head to just above the heels. He was then surprised by the heels, too, seeing they had a couple inches on them as the navy blue complimented her dress perfectly. “It was a tough trip, but I’m here – barely, and ready for a night with my man. I’m proud of him for his year, and I wouldn’t miss celebrating it.”
“Now that’s true love,” Matt comments. “Krista, ever had someone do that for you?” He then gives them a quick nod before walking away, set to catch another driver.
Their eyes immediately lock together as Chase stands there, still frozen, caught off-guard more than he could’ve even realized – as he takes another glance at her.
“Did you think I wasn’t coming?” She breaks the silence and he slowly shakes his head no.
“I didn’t lose my faith for a single minute,” he answers, before pulling her back close to him. “And might I add that you look absolutely amazing? I don’t even know what to say, except you’re beautiful. You look dashing…” She smiles back in response.
“Not bad for getting dressed in a limo, huh?” He looks on surprised as she nods her head. “I would’ve been here earlier, but traffic was a nightmare. You look very handsome.”
“The main thing is you made it here in time, and stole the show looking absolutely amazing. I love you.” He kisses her lips, before taking her hand and heading into the ballroom together.
“Damn….” The various crew members let out as the pair sit down together.
“Not bad for someone that just got done practice, huh?” He offers, snagging another quick kiss.
Following the banquet, the pair joined the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports team at the after-party, sharing in a couple dances together as everybody shared compliments for Sarina on how she looked. Throughout their time together, even as he twirled her around a couple times, Chase was just in awe at how amazing she looked. How was he spoiled to have an amazing girl like her in his life?
After a couple hours, he whispered in her ear that it was time for turn in for the night. Knowing that she had a long day tomorrow with flying back to Florida and Snowball Derby practice, followed by qualifying – all beginning with their flight at 7am (10am Las Vegas time), he knew a good night sleep was in order.
“Can I say that I am still in awe at how amazing you looked tonight?” He offers as she slips her shoes off.
“I could say the same about how handsome and charming you are,” she replies as he pulls her back close, again.
“I’m so glad that you came. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted you here until I was standing there alone.” She grabs his hand with hers, rubbing it.
“Chase, like I told you last night, it’s okay to admit your emotions to me. I’m here for you as much as you’re here for me. I knew it wouldn’t feel right not being here – same as last night felt odd being apart from each other, too. You know, when I’m missing you, I play that song over and over.” He smiles as he keeps his brown eyes locked on her blue ones.
“You have a beautiful voice yourself. That message this morning was perfect. I don’t even know what to say in response to that, or you being her-”
“Same thing that I say to you in how you’ve helped me, how you haven’t given up on me, and how you’ve been for me – absolutely nothing because of total shock. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.” He then kisses her lips. “By the way, where did you leave with Lindsay?” Sarina could only smile in return.
“Her and Ryan were sharing a drink and a dance together…” Chase looks on impressed, but couldn’t help but smile. He’d have no issue with setting his best friend up with her cousin. “Can you help me, please?” He turns her around, undoing the zipper on the back of dress slowly, pulling it down, hand running across her shoulder. “Chase….”
“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” She nods her head, as he had told her a couple times already that night. Regardless, she didn’t mind as she could listen to those words as many times as he wanted. “Have I told you lately how much I love rubbing my hands across your skin?”
“I believe you’ve shown me that nicely before…” He nods his head as he spins her around.
“So, what’s the surprise?” She smiles, knowing how badly he wanted to know the birthday secret. However, again, she knew they needed more time. Besides, weren’t they supposed to be sleeping? They had to be up in six hours for a busy day.
“You’ll find out tomorrow night, I promise. I want to show you when we have time…” He nods, accepting, filled with intrigue, as he pulled her close to him.
“Can I get a clue?” She shakes her head no. “Could I earn that clue?” She was intrigued by the request, wanting to feel his skin against hers, but she still didn’t want to offer anything, yet.
“I thought we were supposed to come up here, relax, and catch up on sleep…” He smiles, remembering the original intention. But a glance in her eyes, the softness of her skin meeting her fingers, he had other plans now.
“I realized how badly I need you…” She smiles, kissing his lips lightly, as she slips the coat off of his shoulders. She then begins tracing the finger tips of his dress shirt with her fingers.
“I need you too, baby…” The grin on his face widened as he backed towards the bed.
“Then help me out of these clothes…” She immediately begins undoing the buttons, slipping the dress shirt off carefully and setting it alongside with the coat.