Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J/Call of Duty Endowment Chevrolet team closed out the 2021 season on Saturday night in the NXS Championship Race 200 at Phoenix Raceway with an 11th-place finish in Annett’s final race as a full-time NASCAR driver. The 35-year-old Iowa native ran in the top echelon all night long, scoring points in both stages, and had a chance to figure into the lead battle on the way to a solid finish amid the chaos of the final green-white-checkered restart. Stage One Finish: 8th Annett qualified his Pilot Flying J/Call of Duty Endowment Chevrolet in 13th position earlier on Saturday and started the 200-lap event from the inside of the seventh row. Using the bottom lane around the 1-mile desert oval, Annett needed just 11 laps to break into the top 10 and one more to take over ninth position from Championship 4 participant AJ Allmendinger. With no competition caution due to practice and qualifying sessions, Annett was able to concentrate on a long run in the 45-lap Stage One. With 24 laps in the books, Annett called to crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his Chevrolet was tight back to the throttle. Despite the handling issue, Annett stayed in the top 10 for the remainder of the stage, passing both Justin Haley and Riley Herbst on lap 41 to assume eighth position, which he held until the green-and-white checkered flag waved over the field to end Stage One. The result earned three valuable stage points for Annett and the team. Under caution, Annett relayed to Bumgarner that he needed more front turn when he got out of the throttle and was a little free getting back to the gas off the corners. He also said he could not turn the car well when it got into the resin at the top of the corner. Bumgarner called him to pit road on the stage break for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to help him with those issues, and he returned to the track in 11th position for the start of Stage Two. Stage Two Finish: 9th As the 45-lap Stage Two got under way, Annett was just back into the top 10 when the caution flag waved for a three-car crash on the backstretch. Annett told Bumgarner that his Pilot Flying J/Call of Duty Endowment Chevrolet could not turn as well as his rivals in the resin, which had acquired a lot of rubber at that point, but his take-off was solid. He needed more rear security to move forward. When the green flag waved again at lap 65, Annett dropped two positions in the order on the initial break before getting both back the next time around. A lap later, Annett moved up to ninth. With 15 laps remaining in Stage Two, Annett jumped to eighth position, which he held until lap 87, when he fell to ninth. The ninth-place finish in Stage Two earned a pair of valuable stage points for Annett and the No. 1 team. On pit road at the end of the stage, Annett took four more tires and fuel, with an additional chassis adjustments to smooth out his handling. He returned to the action in 10th position for the 103-lap run to the checkered. Final Stage: Choosing the bottom lane for the restart, Annett quickly gained two positions to eighth just as another caution flag waved at lap 98. When the race got started again, Annett held ninth place for two laps before sweeping into seventh position. Another quick caution flag stalled his run, but on the restart the driver of the Pilot Flying J/Call of Duty Endowment Chevrolet quickly rose to sixth, thanks to a deep dive into Turn 1. He held sixth for the next eight laps before yet another caution period. Bumgarner called Annett back to pit road for tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment and Annett wound up leading lap 131 while on pit road. After getting his service, Annett returned to the track in 11th. Once the race got going again at lap 141, Annett needed just one lap to return to the top 10, seizing ninth place the next time by. Over the next 30 laps, Annett maintained his position in the top 10, advancing up to seventh at lap 181, when the eighth caution flag of the night came out. Another trip to pit road saw Annett get four more tires and fuel, and the No. 1 pit crew got him back out in 10th. Two more yellow-flag periods would send the race into overtime, and on the final green-white-checkered start Annett took off from 11th place. He maintained that position over the first lap and was battling to crack the top 10 when several cars on the high line ahead of him bunched up, killing his momentum and leaving him 11th in the final rundown. Daniel Hemric won the race and the NXS driver’s championship. He was followed across the line by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, Herbst and Haley. John Hunter Nemechek led the second five with Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier and Sheldon Creed the rest of the top 10.
“We had a pretty fast Pilot Flying J/Call of Duty Endowment Chevrolet tonight, but we just couldn’t keep front turn in it when we needed it. I could run lower than some of the guys I was racing, but I just couldn’t turn through the resin. Bummy (crew chief Mike Bumgarner) took some swings at it all night long. I wanted to do this, 200 laps, one last time with my No. 1 JR Motorsports team and finish as high as we could to go out on a high note. You want to go out on the highest of highs, with a win. I can’t thank Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group and everyone who has supported me in my career enough for the opportunity.” - Michael Annett