Michael Annett overcame a balky clutch pedal and some late-race fireworks on Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to earn a seventh-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ B&L Transport 170. Annett’s finish in the Pilot Flying J Summer Is a Go Chevrolet was his sixth top-10 result of the season and it helped him rise two positions to 10th in the series point standings after 13 races. Stage One Finish: 9th Annett started the blue-and-white No. 1 Pilot Flying J Summer Is a Go Chevrolet from the 15th position and moved up two positions just after the first turn when several cars ran off the tarmac and into the grass. One of them, JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson, crashed after hitting one of circuit’s access roads and dropped a large quantity of oil for track crews to clean up. After four laps of cleanup, the field reset for another try, and Annett maintained 13th position. He stayed there until lap 22, when the lead cars began trickling to pit road for fuel only ahead of the lap-25 stage break. Modified pit rules in place for the day’s race meant that teams could stop for fuel only or tires, not both. Over the next three laps, Annett climbed the order to take the green-and-white checkered flag in ninth position, earning two valuable stage points. Annett told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his car was tight in the left-hand corners and he couldn’t roll the corners like he wanted. Additionally, his clutch pedal was no longer operating correctly. Bumgarner brought his driver to pit road for four tires and took a look at the clutch before sending Annett back out in 13th position for the start of Stage Two. Stage Two Finish: 9th When the green flag waved to start the second 25-lap stage, Annett again moved forward and climbed to 11th over the first circuit of the 2.258-mile course. Battling a still-tight Camaro and dealing with the clutch, Annett was 14th on lap 40 when the caution waved again for the stopped car of Jeremy Clements. Bumgarner brought Annett down pit road at that point to get fuel. When he returned to the track, Annett was 23rd, but as in Stage One, the lead cars began to come down for service at lap 47. Annett cracked the top 10 at lap 48 and moved to ninth on the final lap of Stage Two to bank two more stage points. Having already gotten the fuel he needed to make the finish, Annett pitted for tires and a chassis adjustment to help his handling in the left-hand corners on lap 53 under the caution and emerged in third position when the field was reset for the final 25-lap stage. Final Stage: As the field took the green flag for the final stage, Annett was locked in a battle with Ryan Sieg, and he passed for second behind leader Austin Cindric as the field reached the Keyhole on the first lap of green. Annett stayed put in second as Cindric built a lead, but early front runner Ty Gibbs was on the move and passed the Iowa native on lap 64. Brett Moffitt and AJ Allmendinger got by on the next lap to put Annett fifth, and Annett radioed to Bumgarner that he was at a disadvantage in the Carousel turn leading onto the short front straightaway. The caution flag waved at lap 70 when Jeb Burton was beached in the gravel trap in Turn 4, and Bumgarner kept his driver on the track for the ensuing cleanup. When the race restarted with just five laps remaining, Annett caught part of a three-car scramble for position, making contact with two cars on the rush to the Keyhole and losing one position to sixth. He was seventh at lap 73 when a three-car crash at Turn 9 brought out the seventh and final caution of the afternoon and sent the race to overtime. Conscious of a rapidly diminishing fuel supply, Annett lined up seventh for the final restart at lap 76. Heading toward the pivotal Keyhole, Riley Herbst and JRM teammate Miguel Paludo tangled and sent Paludo spinning. That moved Annett up to seventh, and he crossed the line there a lap later. Allmendinger won the race in overtime, with Justin Haley, Gibbs, Brandon Jones and Andy Lally the rest of the top five. Brandon Brown was sixth, followed by Annett, Josh Berry, Sieg and Josh Williams.
“We fought hard all day long, and it turned into a good day in the points for this Pilot Flying J Summer Is a Go team. Those last two restarts were wild. On the first one I lost momentum from bouncing off a couple of cars too many times. We had good strategy, and Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) and the team did a great job on pit road. We were a little close on fuel there at the end, but we got a good finish out of it and scored points in both stages, so that’s a solid weekend.” - Michael Annett