Michael Annett and the Pilot Flying J team were running in the top 10 near the end of Stage Two on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway when an engine problem derailed his 300th NASCAR Xfinity Series start. Prior to the mechanical issue, Annett had run to a ninth-place finish in Stage One and was in the top 10 when the issue became apparent. He finished the Call 811 Before You Dig 200 in 38th position. Stage One Finish: 9th Starting eighth for the 200-lap event, Annett sorted out the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet over the first few laps and stayed within or just out of the top 10 over the first 20 laps, when the competition caution waved. Sitting 11th at the time, Annett told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his Camaro was loose from the start and had just started to come back when the caution waved. Staying out to preserve a set of tires, Annett withstood the initial scramble on the restart and settled in, waiting for the car’s handle to come to him. At lap 37, Annett passed Myatt Snider to get back into the top 10, and two laps later passed JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry for ninth. He would stay there over the final five laps of Stage One to earn two valuable stage points. It was the third straight stage in which the Iowa native had earned points, dating back to last week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A crash on the final lap of the stage closed pit road for several laps before Annett could get in for service. Once on pit road, Bumgarner called for four tires, fuel and a slight adjustment, and the Pilot Flying J pit crew held serve, sending their driver back out in ninth position for Stage Two. Stage Two Finish: 20th Stage Two got underway at lap 57, and Annett stayed ninth for the first two laps before another crash slowed the field. Annett told Bumgarner that he was sideways on the restart, yet managed to maintain his position. On the ensuing restart, Annett dropped two spots before recovering to ninth and was still there on lap 69 when JRM teammate Noah Gragson suffered a mechanical failure to bring the caution out once more. After an extended cleanup period, the race got back under way at lap 77, and that’s when Annett’s problems began. As he accelerated for the start, he called to Bumgarner that something was amiss under the hood. He dropped from ninth on the restart to 17th the next time by the flag stand and eventually fell to 20th, hoping to make it to the end of Stage Two. He did, but went directly to the garage for analysis. Bumgarner and the team reported that the mechanical issue was too much to overcome and Annett retired from the race shortly thereafter. With the finish, Annett dropped one spot to 12th in series points. Austin Cindric won the race, followed by Ty Gibbs, Brandon Brown, Riley Herbst and AJ Allmendinger.
“We had a good Pilot Flying J Chevrolet today, and had earned points in the first segment. We were managing the handling and had a good plan for the end of the race, but it wasn’t to be for us. It’s a shame, because we’ve run really well here at Phoenix. We will regroup and go to Atlanta looking to put another solid race together.” - Michael Annett