Michael Annett returned to the No. 1 TMC Transportation Chevrolet on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Drive for the Cure 250 for NASCAR Xfinity Series cars, and the Iowa native had a chance for a solid finish taken away after another contact with another competitor sent him around getting into the backstretch chicane on the final lap. Annett eventually finished 27th on the day. The No. 1 team had already clinched a berth in the Round of 8 in the NXS owner’s playoffs next week at Texas Motor Speedway, seeking a berth in the Championship 4. Stage One Finish: 33rd NASCAR’s mathematical formula to determine the starting lineup had the No. 1 TMC Transportation Chevrolet in fourth, but Annett would start the race from the tail of the field because of a driver change. Rolling off from 40th position, Annett got off to a good start, advancing six positions to 34th on the first lap around the road course. Six laps later, Annett had risen to 28th. When the caution flag waved at lap 12, Annett told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his Camaro had no forward drive off the corners and had to be very careful with the throttle on exit. Responding to his driver’s diagnosis, Bumgarner called Annett to pit road for four tires, fuel and a couple of chassis adjustments to help his ability to drive off the corners. Returning to the track in 36th position with less than seven laps to go in the 20-lap Stage One, Annett held station and saved fuel until the green-and-white checkered flag waved at the end. The early stop allowed Annett to stay on the track for the beginning of Stage Two, which would see him take the green flag from fourth position. Stage Two Finish: 27th As the field raced into Turn 1 at lap 23, Annett got caught on the inside line and dropped several positions in the run into Turns 2 and 3 on the infield section. Settling out in 12th, Annett soon radioed that his forward drive was still problematic, and he slipped back to 18th over the next several circuits. On lap 29, heading into the backstretch chicane, Annett barely avoided a premature end to his race when another car’s brakes failed. As the car avoided the bigger curbs, the penalty curbs severely damaged the front of the car and nearly sent it into the side of Annett’s TMC Transportation Chevrolet. The resulting red-flag period allowed Annett and Bumgarner to strategize. During the crash, Annett had run through a mass of debris, so Bumgarner brought his driver to pit road to make sure there was no tire damage, putting on a set of scuffed tires for the remaining laps of Stage Two and making two adjustments to help forward drive. Annett finished 27th in Stage Two before heading back to pit road for four fresh tires, fuel and another adjustment under the stage break. Annett would start the final segment from 29th position. Final Stage: On the first lap of green-flag racing in the final stage, Annett got aggressive on the backstretch and improved seven positions in the running order, putting him 22nd. For the next several laps, Annett ran as high as 19th and as low as 22nd as the tires equalized among the field. The forward-drive problems continued, which limited Annett’s ability to continue forward. The caution flag waved at lap 64, three laps shy of the full race distance, and Bumgarner called Annett to pit road for his final set of sticker tires and another adjustment, sending him back out in good shape to advance. On the way off pit road, however, Annett was called for speeding and would be forced to restart from the tail of the field. When the green flag waved for the green-white-checkered restart, Annett was moving forward until another car sent him spinning on the way into the backstretch chicane. The incident put Annett in 27th, the last car on the lead lap, under the checkered flag. AJ Allmendinger won the race over Austin Cindric, Daniel Hemric, Justin Haley and Brandon Jones. JRM teammate Noah Gragson rallied to sixth, with Preston Pardus, Myatt Snider, JRM’s Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer rounding out the top 10.
“I thought we were going to be able to make something out of today, but we got turned coming into the backstretch chicane on the last lap. I struggled with forward drive all day in the TMC Transportation Chevrolet and Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) and the team worked very hard to get it fixed. We finally got it fixed on that last run, and then we got turned. It was really good to get back in the car and be with my team again. We’ll head to Texas and keep digging.” - Michael Annett