Michael Annett drove his No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to a 12th-place finish on Sunday afternoon in the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Pocono Green 225 at Pocono Raceway, overcoming a handling condition that plagued him from the wave of the green flag. The solid finish was enough to increase his lead over the playoff cut line by three points to 56 as the battle to set the field for the postseason continues. Stage One Finish: 19th Lining up in eighth position for the start of the 90-lap odyssey around Pocono’s 2.5-mile triangular layout by virtue of NASCAR’s mathematical formula earlier in the week, Annett immediately diagnosed a strange feeling in his Pilot Flying J Camaro. After the first lap of green-flag racing, Annett had fallen from eighth to 14th and told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that he had no security in the rear end of his Chevrolet and that the rear tires felt out of the track. After losing two more positions to 16th on lap 2, Annett stabilized there and continued to work the problem. The first caution flag waved at lap 10 for a two-car crash, and Bumgarner used the slowdown to call Annett to pit road for a couple of chassis adjustments as well as fuel. Returning to the track in 23rd position, Annett rallied to 19th by the time the 20-lap Stage One ended. Back on pit road at stage end, Annett took four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. He would start Stage Two from 22nd position. Stage Two Finish: 19th As Stage Two got under way, Annett moved up three positions on the initial lap of green-flag racing, only to have the caution wave one lap later for a hard crash at the exit of Turn 1. The cleanup required a red-flag period, where the Iowa native told Bumgarner that his handling was improving as the run went on, with more security in the rear tires. When the green flag waved again at lap 29, Annett was 19th and on the move. He was 16th four laps later and had cracked the top 15 when the caution waved again for a single-car spin. Under caution, Annett told Bumgarner the security in the rear tires was building, but he needed more of it. Bumgarner called his driver back to pit road at lap 36, four laps from the end of Stage Two, for four tires, fuel and a pair of chassis adjustments. Taking the green flag with just two laps remaining in the stage, Annett was 14th under the flag, but finished 19th when the green-and-white checkered flag waved at lap 40. Annett radioed to Bumgarner following the stage that the car was tighter over the short run, but much of that had to do with no air on the nose, as he was racing in a tight pack for most of those two laps. Having pitted before the stage break, Annett stayed on track to begin the final segment. Final Stage: When the green flag waved for the final 50 laps of the day, Annett cracked the top 10 and was up to ninth before the caution flag waved after just two laps. On the ensuing restart, Annett dropped to 11th and settled there for the next six laps until cars ahead of him began hitting pit road. He was third at lap 59 and came to pit road the next time by for fuel to the end of the race. That dropped him to 29th in the order, and the long chase up through the standings began. Over the remaining laps, Annett kept moving forward, cracking the top 20 at lap 71 and hitting the top 15 five laps later. At one point during that period, Annett called to Bumgarner that he might have a tire going down, but the problem resolved itself without the need for a pit stop. Over the remaining laps, Annett moved up to 12th with eight circuits remaining and finished there. Annett’s 12th-place finish saw him stay 10th in series points with 10 races remaining in the regular season, solidly in the playoff field. Austin Cindric won the race, with Ty Gibbs, JR Motorsports teammates Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger the rest of the top five.
“I just couldn’t get the car to feel like I needed it to all day. There was a feeling that it didn’t have the security that I needed to drive it the way you have to here at Pocono. This No. 1 Pilot Flying J team never gives up, and we didn’t at all today. We’ll put this one behind us and go on. We’re finishing races and building points for the playoffs, and that’s what we’ll continue to keep doing.” - Michael Annett