Michael Annett set a personal record for top-10 finishes in a season on Saturday with his sixth-place run in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, but he really wanted to finish one position higher and earn another top-five result in his No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet. Annett finished fifth in the first race on the 1.5-mile quad-oval earlier this season. The top-10 run was Annett’s 20th in 31 races, one better than the 19 he posted in 2019, and he gained a position to 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series points as well.
Stage One Finish: Annett started the 200-lap event from the 10th position and focused on moving forward from the drop of the green flag. Over the first 10 laps, Annett had advanced to eighth position and was running there when the first caution flag of the day waved for a spin in Turn 4. Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that his Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was a tick loose on entry to the corners at both ends of the track. When the green flag replaced the yellow, Annett began to climb the order again, taking sixth place from Austin Cindric at lap 16.
When the competition caution waved at lap 20, Annett stayed on track. On the ensuing restart, Annett was caught up among cars that had pitted for fresh tires and dropped to ninth by lap 29. As the tires equaled out, Annett began to move back up the standings. When the caution waved again at lap 41, Annett was seventh. With five laps remaining in Stage One, Mack called Annett down pit road for four tires and fuel, sending his driver back out in 17th position. Taking the green flag for the two-lap shootout, Annett climbed six spots to finish 11th. Having stopped just before the end of the stage, Annett was able to stay on the track and gain positions.
Stage Two Finish: Thanks to making his stop early, Annett advanced to second for the start of Stage Two. As the field raced into Turn 1, Annett lost two positions on the initial rush before settling in to run fourth and staying there for most of the next 35 laps, losing a position to fifth once, to Anthony Alfredo, and then getting back around the young driver for fourth with nine laps remaining in the second 45-lap stage. When the green-checkered flag waved to end it, Annett earned seven valuable points for the No. 1 team in their chase for their end-of-season points position. Under the caution, Annett came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment to help his handling for the 110-lap final segment. The Pilot Flying J pit crew held serve on the stop and Annett would start the final segment from fifth position.
Final Stage: The final stage saw Annett settle out in fifth place in the initial running, but the handle got worse just a couple of laps into it. Telling Mack he was just hanging on at the exits of the corners, Annett dropped to seventh at lap 103 and to 10th a few laps later. A caution for Harrison Burton’s spin waved two laps after, which allowed Annett to pit for fuel, tires and another chassis adjustment. Returning to the track in 16th position, Annett wasted little time moving toward the front. He gained five positions to 11th in just six laps and rode at the cusp of the top 10 until lap 128, when he swept into 10th place. Five laps after that, the caution waved again for an accident, and Mack dialed up some strategy by bringing his driver in for left-side tires and a full load of fuel, with instructions to save all he could. That gained track position as well, with Annett exiting pit road in third position and inside his pit window to the end.
On the restart, Annett dropped five positions in the first few laps as his car went loose almost immediately. Settling into 10th place, Annett stayed in contact until the caution waved again at lap 157. Mack again called for Annett to hit pit road for fuel only. That resulted in Annett starting the race from the front row at lap 163. A crash at lap 170 allowed Annett to put his last set of fresh Goodyear tires on for the 25-lap run to the finish. On the restart, contact among the leaders happened directly in front of Annett as the field powered down the backstretch, and the Iowa native managed to avoid all contact with any of them. He gained seven positions in the dust-up and would start the final 16-lap run to the checkered flag from eighth. Annett needed just one lap to break into the top five before ultimately bringing the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet home sixth at the checkered flag.
“It was a good run all day for this Pilot Flying J Chevrolet, we set a record for most top-10 finishes in a season, but I really wanted that top-five finish. I just couldn’t take off like I needed to at times, and over that last run the bump started to mess us up handling-wise. We had good strategy again, thanks to Travis Mack and our No. 1 team. We fought hard all day long.” - Michael Annett