For the second straight day at Richmond Raceway, Michael Annett drove his No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish, his seventh consecutive finish in the top 10 in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition. While the first race on Friday locked him into the NXS playoffs, Saturday’s run in the Virginia Is for Racing Lovers 250 set him up with some momentum for the seven-race stretch to the series championship, which begins Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In between is a race at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Annett has had solid success.
Stage One Finish: Annett started from ninth position on the grid for the second straight day, and it took just one lap for the Iowa driver to leapfrog into the top five. As the 75-lap stage continued, Annett kept position in the top seven until the competition caution waved at lap 40. Under caution, he reported to crew chief Travis Mack that his No. 1 Chevrolet was loose on entry, tight in the middle of the corner and loose again coming off. Staying out to preserve a set of tires, Annett resumed racing from seventh position and made it work, launching back into the top five in short order by passing Chase Briscoe on lap 53. Annett would stay fifth until just four laps remained in the stage and eventually finished sixth. Annett told Mack that his entry had gotten better but the tight condition in the center had gotten worse. On pit road, Annett got four tires, fuel and both wedge and track-bar adjustments to improve his drive off. He would start Stage Two from 13th position.
Stage Two Finish: In just 12 laps, Annett had advanced from 13th to 10th, battling with Brett Moffitt and others for the spot. Over the next 28 circuits, Annett held the 10th position, but the handling started to go away and he dropped to 11th. He was 12th on lap 134 when he told Mack that his rear drive off the corner was rapidly going away. The caution flag came out seven laps later with Annett holding 11th position. Several cars ahead elected to pit while Annett stayed on-track, and that put him fourth for the restart with just four laps remaining in Stage Two. The cars who pitted for fresh tires had a distinct advantage and powered past, leaving Annett 11th when the green-checkered flag waved at lap 150. On pit road, Mack took a swing at fixing the handling with a chassis adjustment, four tires and fuel for the 100-lap final segment, and Annett would start from 14th position.
Final Stage: When the green flag waved to start the final segment, Annett was on the other side of having new tires and he grabbed three spots on the initial lap. As the tires equalized, Annett fell back to 12th, and at lap 169 he started to move forward again by passing Moffitt. Four laps later, he passed Riley Herbst for 10th and at lap 175 took Briscoe to move to ninth. Continuing to move forward, Annett got Kaz Grala for eighth at lap 180 and nine laps later took care of point leader Austin Cindric for seventh. With 60 laps remaining in the race, Annett was in position to challenge for the victory. Annett held seventh position until just 20 laps remained in the race, when an incident in Turn 2 brought out just the second caution flag of the day for a racing mishap. Annett told Mack that he was better in the center of the corner but that he still needed lateral grip and drive-off. Coming to pit road, Annett got four tires, fuel and a couple of adjustments for the run to the checkered flag. When the green waved at lap 238, Annett rode the high line into Turn 1 and swooped into fifth place, holding it until lap 241 when JRM teammate Noah Gragson got past. Justin Haley got by two laps later and Annett held seventh over the remaining laps to finish there.
“It was a great feeling to not have to worry about points today since we clinched our playoff berth last night, and at times today we had a pretty good Pilot Flying J Chevrolet. We went back and forth on the handling in the sunshine, sometimes loose, sometimes tight at different places and sometimes both at once, but our No. 1 team made good changes and we came away with another top-10 finish. We are getting ready for the playoffs and there are some good tracks in there for us.“ - Michael Annett