Michael Annett and the Pilot Flying J myRewards Plus™ team were in position for a solid finish on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway when another car cut a tire and hit the left rear of Annett’s Chevrolet with 28 laps remaining in the Ag-Pro 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series cars. Despite little cosmetic damage, the impact broke the left rear shock absorber and caused a delay making repairs, putting the Iowa native 32nd before the rains came to end the event 22 laps early. Stage One Finish: 16th Starting the race from the 12th position following NASCAR’s mathematical formula, Annett took some time to sort out the Pilot Flying J myRewards Plus™ Chevrolet and cracked the top 10 for the first time after 10 laps. As the laps wound down in the 25-lap Stage One, Annett rode the top line around the 2.66-mile speedway, in line with his JR Motorsports teammates. Near the end of the first segment, a middle line formed and had some success, which pushed Annett back in the order and he finished Stage One in 16th position. Upon its conclusion, Annett told crew chief Mike Bumgarner that his Chevrolet was loose and needed to be tightened up to get the rear tires into the track. On pit road, the Pilot Flying J crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a chassis adjustment to help Annett’s handling, as well as urging him to save fuel. He returned to the speedway in 21st position for the start of Stage Two. Stage Two Finish: 9th As the second stage got under way, Annett began moving forward, rising to 13th by lap 31. Following the ebb and flow of the two-line draft, Annett ran in the middle of the top 20 until lap 46, when he started to move up rapidly. One lap later, Annett worked his way back into the top 10 and was sixth on lap 49 before falling back to ninth under the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage Two. The result added two valuable stage points to his total for the day. Under yellow, Annett told Bumgarner that the chassis changes on the Stage One pit stop made the handling “10 times better,” and that he needed a little more of the same on the Stage Two stop to keep moving forward. On pit road, Bumgarner and the Pilot Flying J crew changed two tires, filled the car full of fuel and sent their driver back out in 12th place for the final stage. Final Stage: When the green flag waved on the final stage at lap 56, Annett followed the same pattern as in the first two, staying with his line and moving forward. Strategy was in play in terms of fuel windows and the looming rain storm in the area. Bumgarner called Annett to pit road on lap 69 for fuel only and sent him back out in 34th position. As the rest of the field made their stops, Annett cycled out in 15th when the caution waved at lap 77 for a flat tire and spin by JRM teammate Josh Berry. Inside his fuel window and with rain approaching, Annett resumed the race in 10th position. Riding the high line off Turn 2 on lap 86, the car driven by Joe Graf Jr. cut a tire down at the bottom of the track and slid high, tapping the left rear fender of Annett’s car and sending him into a spin. While no other cars impacted the spinning Pilot Flying J myRewardsPlus™ Chevrolet, the left rear tire went down. Once stopped, Annett tried to re-fire his machine and had some difficulty doing so, costing him time. Getting it fired, he rolled around to pit lane to the attention of his crew. The left rear shock had broken in the melee and it cost the team two laps to get it fixed. Annett rejoined the field and was set to take the green flag at lap 90 when the rains came, ending the race. Jeb Burton won the race, followed by Austin Cindric, AJ Allmendinger, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg. JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson was sixth and collected his second straight Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus, with Brandon Brown, Justin Haley, Myatt Snider and Harrison Burton the remainder of the top 10.
“I don’t really know what happened back there (in Turn 2). I saw him (the 07 car) coming and moved up, but he just caught the left rear enough to spin me out. It didn’t really do anything to the car, but I had trouble getting it to start. Then we got to pit road and found that the left rear shock was broken. It’s a shame. We had a good strategy, had laps to go and we were looking for another good finish here. It’s a shame. Mike (Bumgarner) and the team did a good job getting us back on track.” - Michael Annett