After avoiding an accident that caught all three of his JR Motorsports teammates, Michael Annett drove to a solid fifth-place finish in the Pocono Green 225 on Saturday at Pocono Raceway. Running fourth with five laps remaining, Annett came to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment, then drove from 13th to fifth in the final two laps under a green-white-checkered finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event. It was Annett’s first top five of the 2020 season, fourth in the top 10, and gave him an 85-point cushion on the playoff cut line.
Stage One Finish: 5th Starting 12th, Annett moved up early as a spate of crashes in Turn 1 kept the field bunched. He was 10th at the end of the first lap and up to sixth by the time the second caution waved at lap 5. As the field dealt with a precarious exit to Turn 1, Annett was able to hang tough and move forward. With several caution flags, NASCAR officials called off the competition caution and a crash on lap 15 brought out a 21-minute red flag. Annett was seventh when the race was stopped.
After the field was restarted under yellow, Annett elected to stay out as several cars in front of him pitted. That put him fourth for the restart with three laps remaining, and he ended Stage One in fifth place, earning six stage points. Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that he was tight on exit and could feel the splitter over the seams in Turn 3. Mack responded with a call for four tires, fuel, a track-bar adjustment and an air-pressure adjustment. Annett rejoined the field for Stage Two in 13th position.
Stage Two Finish: 6th Immediately as the green flag waved, Annett was up to 10th, and he was eighth just three laps later. Battling with Myatt Snider, Annett maintained ninth position until three laps remained in the stage. Two cars pitted ahead of him before the pits were closed, and Annett kept coming forward, grabbing sixth place over Snider at the checkered flag to end Stage Two. It also added five stage points to his total for the day. In an effort to help the tight condition, Mack made two adjustments to the chassis and gave his driver four tires and fuel. That put Annett in 12th for the start of the final stage.
Final Stage: Taking off at the green flag, Annett needed just two laps to get back to the top 10, and he crossed the line ninth after Riley Herbst was turned into the outside wall on the front straightaway at lap 49. Mack, knowing that fuel mileage numbers were against him, called Annett down pit road for fuel and an adjustment, sending the Iowa driver back out in 12th position with a much more manageable window going forward. On the following restart, Annett was in the middle of the lead pack when JRM teammate Noah Gragson got turned by Snider off Turn 1. Gragson slid across the track in front of the field, tagging teammate Daniel Hemric and collecting Justin Allgaier at the same time.
Annett drove his Chevrolet straight through the middle of the carnage with no damage, advancing up to fifth position at the line. Mack again called Annett in for service, putting on four tires and filling the tank with fuel to get him to the end of the race even in the case of a green-white-checkered finish. Rolling off 10th for the restart, Annett drove back to fifth in just three laps and took fourth with 29 laps remaining in the 90-lap event. He was still fourth on lap 69 when the leader, Chase Briscoe, spun with a flat tire to bring out the eighth of nine caution flags on the day.
Staying on the track, Annett re-started the race from second position. Falling back to fourth, Annett rode there until lap 85, when Chad Finchum clouted the wall in Turn 2 to set up the green-white-checkered. Giving up a spot in the top four, Annett came to pit road for another set of tires and a chassis adjustment, returning to the track in 13th position for the two-lap shootout. In those two laps, Annett climbed all the way back to fifth place at the checkered.
“We were just too tight all day to really push the leaders, but Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) kept us in it with some strategy calls and we got to fifth. We were just too tight when it counted. That’s something we could have fixed if we had some practice, but it’s a top-five finish and we’ll take that. Great job all day from the No. 1 Pilot Flying J team and my spotter, Jason Jarrett. We’re going to Indy next week and we’ll have some momentum for the road course there.” - Michael Annett