On Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, Michael Annett had a Pilot Flying J Chevrolet that could have contended for victory in the regular-season finale Food City 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines. Running in the top five early in Stage Two of the 300-lap event, Annett was clipped by a lapped car while making a pass and slammed the wall in Turn 3, ending his night on lap 121. The 31st-place finish was just the second outside the top 10 for the Iowa native in the last 15 races.
Stage One Finish: Annett started from ninth position on the grid for the third straight race, having done so twice last weekend at Richmond. Having to start from the inside line put him back to 12th on the first lap of the night, but the Iowa native needed just seven laps to regain the top 10. By lap 24, Annett was ninth and moving forward. He would keep the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet in that position until the competition caution waved at lap 40. Under the caution flag, Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that the front of his Camaro was turning really well, but he needed more lateral grip to get off the corners going forward. When the green flag waved again with 40 laps remaining in the stage, Annett took off and immediately annexed eighth place. Two laps later, he was seventh, still with a head of steam. He ran there until lap 64, when the caution waved for a crash in Turn 4. Annett told Mack that he had swung to the tight side and needed more lateral grip to counteract it. When the race resumed, Annett remained in the top 10, eventually finishing the opening stage of the evening in eighth and earning three stage points in the process. On the pit stop at the end of the stage, Annett took four tires with an air-pressure adjustment and fuel for Stage Two. The Pilot Flying J Chevrolet would start from 10th when the green waved again.
Stage Two Finish: Once the green was in the air to start Stage Two, Annett wasted no time moving up. The first time by the flag stand, Annett was ninth and he picked up eighth place two laps later. On lap 97, he was seventh and starting to flex his muscles. At lap 104, Annett was sixth and he cracked the top five three circuits after that. With a little room on the crowded track, Annett gained on the fourth-place car and was leading a pack when he encountered lapped traffic. As the lead pack negotiated the lapped cars, Annett got trapped on the high side and lost positions, finally getting clear to the high side off Turn 2. As he raced into Turn 3, one of the lapped machines clipped the left rear of Annett’s Chevrolet, which caused it to lurch to the right and slam the wall with the right front. The impact was severe, damaging the suspension among other components, and the crash forced the team to retire from competition after 121 laps. The driver of the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was ultimately scored with a 31st-place finish. Annett will open the playoffs next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway tied for ninth in points.
“I was looking forward to those five points (for winning the race) to carry us into the playoffs and through the playoffs. This one stings, when you have a car that fast. I told Travis (Mack, crew chief) after the wreck we had a race-winning car. We came in here with all the confidence in the world, being part of JR Motorsports and how fast our cars are here. I was running with Noah (Gragson) and I’m kicking myself for putting us in a bad position. I went to the outside among the lapped cars and made the wrong move, obviously.” - Michael Annett