Darlington Raceway Race Report

With less than 15 laps remaining in Thursday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet team were running in the top five and looking to advance up the order. Coming into Turn 3 on that lap while battling to the inside of JRM teammate Daniel Hemric, Annett took the low line to avoid the lapped car of Joe Nemechek. The line was a bit too low to maintain traction and he spun, flattening both right-side tires. That ended a near-perfect run and relegated him to a 25th-place finish at the end of 147 laps. It was the first race back since March for the series and was postponed two days because of weather.

Stage One Finish: 9th Drawing the second starting spot prior to the race, Annett took off under the green flag and spun his tires hard. After catching the car, Annett pulled into line in 12th position for the opening run to the competition caution at lap 15. He was 11th when that caution came out, and headed to pit road for some diagnosis from crew chief Travis Mack and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J team.

Annett had said the nose of his Camaro was hard to control, and it felt like the rear tires were out of the track. Mack called for wedge and track-bar adjustments and removed a bit of packer from the front end before sending his driver back out in 11th place. Once the race restarted, Annett used the adjustments to move forward, breaking into the top 10 at lap 32. The Iowa native wasn’t done, grabbing the eighth spot in the remaining laps before settling for ninth and the two stage points when the green checkered flag waved over Stage One. On the stage-ending pit stop, Annett got four new tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment for Stage Two.

Stage Two Finish: 5th Starting Stage Two from ninth position, Annett continued to move forward. At lap 49, he advanced to eighth and just eight laps later was in seventh. He was still there with 15 laps remaining and passed Ross Chastain for sixth four laps later. As the laps clicked away, Annett’s Pilot Flying J machine kept getting stronger as others around him got worse, and he swept into the top five with three laps remaining in Stage Two. He would finish there, banking five more important stage points in the process. On his pit stop, Annett took four tires with an air-pressure adjustment and fuel to the end, returning to the track in fifth position.

Final Stage: Thanks to a speeding penalty issued to Kyle Busch off pit road, Annett would take the green flag for the final stage from the outside of the second row. Once the race restarted, Annett settled into fifth position and let the race come to him. At one point, all four JR Motorsports drivers were in the top five as the laps wound down. With 19 laps remaining, Annett caught Hemric and JRM’s Noah Gragson battling for third place. Those two made contact in Turn 1, bogging their run, and Annett slipped past on the low line to take third place.

A lap later, Hemric had gotten back to speed and caught back up, and he passed Annett back with 17 laps remaining. Annett kept the battle going in heavy lapped traffic, which set up the spin in Turn 3 that ended a sterling run. Once the tires were flat, the resulting pounding did damage to the front bodywork, and once he got to the pits, he lost a lap while repairs were made. He rallied to finish 25th, the first car one lap down. After five races, Annett remains 10th in series points.

“I just made a rookie mistake. We had a great Pilot Flying J Chevrolet here today that Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) and the team put together, ran top-five, top-three all day long and had a really good shot at being there at the checkered. I just got too low into Turn 3 and spun. I was so glad to get back on the track and we had a good car. We’ll put another one together for Charlotte and keep this going.” - Michael Annett