Michael Annett’s return to the Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet was going very well early in the rain-delayed Wawa 250 on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway until he was swept up in a crash not of his making just 27 laps into the 100-lap event for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines. The resulting damage was too much to overcome for a top-10 finish, but the Iowa native and his Pilot Flying J team crossed the finish line on the lead lap in 30th place.
Stage One Finish: 38th
Starting the 100-lapper on Friday night, Annett was seeing his first action behind the wheel since Aug. 7 at Watkins Glen after recovering from the effects of leg surgery. When the green flag waved to start the race, which was scheduled for Friday night, Annett rolled off from the 19th position after NASCAR applied its mathematical formula to determine the lineup earlier in the week. The competition caution scheduled for lap 15 allowed Annett to feel out his car’s handling, and the Iowa native reported to crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his car was on the splitter heavily over the opening run. Racing as high as 15th over the opening burst, Annett took the yellow flag for the competition in 20th place, and Bumgarner called him to pit road for adjustments to raise the front end off of the splitter. He returned to the track just in time for the rains to come, and the inclement weather caused the race to be postponed until Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, Annett began from 16th position and wasted no time pointing toward the front. Teaming up with JR Motorsports teammates Sam Mayer, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson, Annett needed just two laps to enter the top 10 in eighth and was running sixth on lap 27 when chaos erupted around him at the start/finish line. Running the bottom lane, Annett’s car was struck by a spinning Myatt Snider, who had bumped Austin Cindric out of line and gotten clipped from behind. The accident sent Annett sideways at high speed toward the infield in Turn 1, and both Snider and Mayer made contact with Annett on the way to the inside wall. The crash damaged the front end of Annett’s car on both sides, requiring him to come back to pit road for repairs. Pitting to fix the damage, Annett exited and looked to complete the 30-lap opening stage before heading back to pit road to put tires on. Unfortunately, the left front tire come apart on track, necessitating another stop. The tire damaged the left front fender beyond repair, and he would race the rest of the day without it. More pit stops got the Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet fixed enough to continue, though the team used all but 45 seconds of its 6-minute Damaged Vehicle time to do it. Annett spent the rest of Stage One running a lap down to the leaders at the back of the field, crossing the green-and-white checkered flag in 38th.
Stage Two Finish: 37th
Soldiering on at the back of the field to begin Stage Two, Annett sorted out what his car would do, telling Bumgarner that the car was not holding its line. He couldn’t run the bottom, so he stayed on the top groove and did what he could. On the next caution flag at lap 36, Annett came down pit road again for more repairs and to check the car’s toe-in. A debris caution at lap 50 allowed him to come down pit road again for more body repairs and suspension work. At the end of Stage Two, Annett was able to finish 37th as the first car one lap down, earning the free pass back to the lead lap. On pit road, Annett came down for four tires and more repair work, as his team taped up the body and cleared the nose of the car as best it could. Annett would start the final stage from 34th position.
Once the green flag waved, Annett began to move forward, needing just two laps to advance to 28th. Four laps later, Annett was in 21st and maintaining position. With his car’s handling woes, Annett was not able to hold the bottom line and dropped back 29th by the time lap 72 was in the books. Over the remaining distance, Annett did the best he could, running as high as 24th before settling into 30th for the finish.
The crash that sent him out of contention did not help Annett’s playoff hopes. He entered the race trailing 12th place in the points by 41; at the conclusion of Saturday’s race, Annett was 68 points out of the playoffs with three races remaining.
Justin Haley won the race, with AJ Allmendinger, Allgaier, Jeb Burton and Daniel Hemric the rest of the top five. Christopher Bell was sixth, with JRM teammate Noah Gragson, Snider, Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst the top 10.
“That was a tough day, and not what we wanted here with three races left until the playoffs start. That’s speedway racing for you. We were in a good spot pace-wise until that accident, had my teammates around me. Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) and the team did a great job on damage control after the crash, a really good job. We have three more races to get this Pilot Flying J #ThankATrucker Chevrolet into the playoffs, and that’s what we’re going to do.” - Michael Annett