Michael Annett was in position for an eighth consecutive top-10 finish on Saturday on the road course at Daytona International Speedway, but a broken axle on the final lap relegated him and the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to a 15th-place finish in the UNOH 188 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines. Despite finishing outside the top 10 for the first time since June 20 at Talladega, Annett remains eighth in series points, a solid 186 points above the playoff cutline.
Stage One Finish: In the first week using NASCAR’s new starting lineup selection method, Annett lined up seventh for the start of the inaugural 52-lap event on the storied Daytona road course. With no practice and on a new course, Annett gained a pair of positions on the first lap. The Iowa driver remained in the top 12 until lap 12, when the caution came out for the first time. Several cars took the opportunity to come to pit road, but crew chief Travis Mack elected to keep Annett on the track for track position in the 15-lap Stage One.
Restarting from the front row with two laps remaining, Annett finished ninth at the green-checkered flag to bank a pair of stage points. Needing forward drive on the slow infield sections, Mack called Annett to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment to help his driver move forward. The drivers who pitted ahead of Annett moved up during the stop, and Annett would take the green flag from 20th position.
Stage Two Finish: After a couple of incidents on the restart brought out another caution flag, Annett moved up to 15th for the second start. Another caution for debris two laps later put Annett in the top 10 until Mack called him back to pit road on lap 27 for tires and fuel ahead of the Stage Two break. Exiting pit road after his stop, Annett slotted in 26th and remained there until the end of Stage Two. Returning to pit road, Annett got a full tank of fuel for the final 20-lap run to the checkered flag and would start the final segment from 12th.
Final Stage: Still battling handling issues on the infield part of the circuit, Annett was running 15th in the order on lap 43 when the yellow waved again for debris. Mack brought Annett to pit road for fuel and four tires with an air-pressure adjustment. Firing off 15th, Annett was in the thick of a massive off-track excursion in Turn 1 which saw several cars leave the racing surface. Annett managed to miss the carnage and gained four positions. On the following restart attempt, Annett was 10th when Jade Buford spun directly to Annett’s right. Annett managed to miss the spinning car and gained a spot in the exchange, putting him back in the top 10. Annett was eighth with three laps remaining and was holding 10th position on the final lap when the axle broke after hitting a curb in the chicane. He would finish 15th on the day.
“I hit the curb on the final lap and the axle broke. We were in line to finish in the top 10 again, and the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was pretty good all day. I just couldn’t turn in Turns 3 and 5, and that made it difficult to make up positions that we needed. It was pretty wild out there, even for a first visit. On the final restart, I just followed everybody off the track, which wasn’t that smart, but I didn’t dent any fenders. We’ll go to Dover next weekend and start another streak.” - Michael Annett