A flat tire near the end of Saturday’s Contender Boats 250 ended what could have been a top-10 finish for Michael Annett and the Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association team at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Annett and crew chief Mike Bumgarner rallied to get back on the lead lap after the tire problem and ended up 14th at the finish of the extra-distance NASCAR Xfinity Series event on the 1.5-mile oval. Following the race, the second-place car of Tyler Reddick failed post-race technical inspection and Annett was moved up one place to 13th in the final finishing order.
Stage One Finish: 9th
Starting 18th by virtue of NASCAR’s formula for determining the lineup, Annett wasted no time moving toward the front of the field. At the initial green flag, Annett moved from 18th to 12th and kept it wound up, moving to 10th after just four laps. By lap 7, he was eighth. Staying in and around the top 10, Annett hit pit road at lap 27 when the caution flag waved for an incident involving Stefan Parsons. Bumgarner called for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to help a loose condition on entry to the corners. Exiting in 25th position for the final 10 laps of the 40-lap Stage One, Annett repeated his charge toward the front and cracked the top 10 in just four laps. Two laps later, he took ninth place and held it to the end of the stage, earning two valuable stage points in the process. Bumgarner again brought his driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and further adjustments. The Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association crew sent Annett back out in 10th position for Stage Two.
Stage Two Finish: 14th
Once Stage Two got under way, Annett lost a couple of positions in the initial scramble on the restart and was running 12th at lap 69 when the caution waved again for fluid on the track. Annett told Bumgarner that his Chevrolet had developed a bit of a tire chatter on the entry to Turn 3, but the team elected to stay on track and gained a pair of positions when others ahead came down pit road. Annett restarted from the eighth position with five laps remaining, but developed a loose condition on entry and ended up 14th under the green-white checkered flag to end Stage Two at lap 80. Under caution, Annett pitted again for four tires, fuel and another adjustment to cure his handling issues. He would start the final segment from 17th position.
As he had done the previous two stages, Annett was able to advance on the restart and gain positions on the break. Running 12th at lap 99, Annett was in position to make a pit stop when the caution waved for a crash that involved teammate Justin Allgaier. After taking four tires and fuel, Annett gained positions on the break and cracked the top 10 in less than two laps. The caution waved again at lap 111 with Annett eighth in the order. On the ensuing restart, Annett immediately began to experience a loose condition and dropped back to 14th. As the run wore on, Annett was able to regain his handle and moved back into the top 10 at lap 137. Still in 10th with just two laps remaining in the race and on the way to a top-10 finish, Annett came over the radio to Bumgarner and said that a tire was going down. Calling his driver to pit road, Annett was getting service when the caution waved again for a crash in Turn 3 that took out JRM teammate Noah Gragson, who was the race leader. Having lost a lap for the green-flag pit stop, Annett rejoined the race in 25th position. Over the remainder of the extra-distance race, Annett was able to take the wave-around to get his lap back. On the final restart at lap 177, Annett drove from 20th at the green flag to 14th at the finish on lap 179.
Myatt Snider won the race over Reddick, who was disqualified. That moved Brandon Jones up to second, followed by Daniel Hemric, Jeb Burton and Austin Cindric. Justin Haley led the second five, with Brett Moffitt, Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements and JRM’s Josh Berry in tow.
“We just had bum luck tonight. The Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association Chevrolet Camaro was a lot better than 14th, that’s for sure. We were in good shape for a top-10 finish when the tire went down and we had to come to pit road. We were better than where we finished, and I hate that it happened the way it did, but we rallied back after the flat and it turned out better than it could have been.” - Michael Annett