Michael Annett Kentucky Race Report

The key word for Michael Annett’s 16th-place finish in Saturday’s Alsco 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Kentucky Speedway was perseverance. From being peripherally involved in a crash as the initial green flag waved to start the 300-mile event to an unplanned pit stop for a vibration, Annett and his Pilot Flying J Chevrolet Camaro faced myriad obstacles throughout, but were in the mix for a top-10 finish on the final restart of the day.

Starting the race, which was delayed by rain Friday night, from the 23rd position, Annett was in the same line as Brandon Jones, Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed when those three stacked up in front of him on the initial start. Jones and Gaughan collided in the middle of the track as Annett tried to thread his way through the carnage. He nearly made it, but Gaughan’s wounded car slewed left at the last moment and raked the right-side door and rear quarterpanel of Annett’s No. 5. He pitted for repairs and crew chief Jason Stockert sent him back out 37th for the restart.

Gaughan slapped the wall off Turn 2 on the first lap back to green, giving Annett and the team a moment to catch their breath and come down for some additional body work from car chief Jonathan Davis. He was 34th for the next restart, at lap 15 and raced up to 26th in 11 laps before the competition caution waved on lap 25. Annett reported that he was tight in traffic, but OK when in clean air despite the right-side damage. Coming down pit road for the third time, Stockert added fuel and made a track-bar adjustment to help his tight condition at both ends of the repaved, reconfigured 1.5-mile oval. He restarted 20th and finished 24th at the end of Stage 1.

Pitting yet again, this time for four tires, fuel and an air pressure change, Annett hustled the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Camaro off 27th on the Stage 2 green and improved six spots by lap 62, when he reported to Stockert that he had a loose wheel. He brought the car to pit road and got tires, losing a lap in the process, and once he got back out he lost another as the leaders caught up rather quickly. From there, it was a strategy game of getting back on the lead lap before the end of the event.

He got one back at the end of Stage 2 by taking the wave-around, then pitted a lap later after Paul Menard pounded the Turn 2 wall to bring out the caution. Getting four tires and fuel put him back out 26th, in prime position to get back to the free-pass position, six spots ahead of him in 20th. Annett was sitting 21st when the caution waved again on lap 130, one spot off the free pass. Stockert made the call to stay out and take the wave-around again to get back on the lead circuit, and that put Annett 21st for the restart on lap 137.

Annett kept trying to make up ground on the cars ahead, spending the next 30 laps in the 22nd position. Stockert planned to bring Annett in for fuel and tires at lap 172, but Ray Black Jr.’s spin on lap 168 gave him the option of coming in under caution instead. Getting tires and fuel to the end, Annett rejoined the race in 16th spot. With 28 laps remaining, Annett fired off 16th and three laps later he was 12th, the farthest forward he had been all day. As the race wound down, Annett fought for every position but wound up 16th at the end.
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Kyle Busch won the race, followed by Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon. Joey Logano was sixth, followed by JRM’s William Byron and Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick. Annett’s finish moved him back into the top 10 in NASCAR Xfinity Series points, just four points out of ninth.

Michael Annett, driver No. 5 Pilot Flying J team: “That was an adventure. I was almost out of that crash at the beginning of the race but got hit at the last minute, and the Pilot Flying J team fixed it quickly and we were able to stay on the lead lap. When we got back to racing, the car got tight from the center off at both ends, and Jason (Stockert) and the team made good adjustments. We just battled today. At the end, we were close to the top 10, which would have been awesome, but there were a lot of guys with more tires coming from the back. It was a tough day, but we finished top-16 and got back to 10th in the points. That’s important as the races tick away.” 

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