Michael Annett Richmond Race Report

The important thing about Michael Annett’s 15th-place finish in Friday night’s Virginia529 College Savings 250 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Richmond Raceway was that he and his No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet finished ahead of both his main rivals for the final spots in the playoff standings. The Iowa native ended the day still in the 11th spot, a single point up on Brendan Gaughan and 26 ahead of the 13th-place driver, Dakoda Armstrong, with but a single race to go until the playoff field is set.

Annett was in position to put more distance between himself and his playoff rivals in the final segment of the race, but a fierce battle for position with Tyler Reddick slowed his efforts, and the two went a lap down with 34 laps remaining in the 250-lap event. It took another 14 laps for Annett to finally put Reddick behind him, and by then any chance at the free pass was long gone. The needed caution flag did not come, however, and he was closing on 14th-place Cole Custer when the checkered flag finally waved.
After starting 18th, Annett spent Stage One feeling out the track and setting himself up for Stage Two and the end of the race. He was running 16th on lap 53 when the first caution of the night came out, and reported that he was happy with the way his Camaro was turning in the center, but needed more forward drive to gain spots. That turned out to be a theme for the night. As cars ahead of him pitted, he rose to 12th, but fell back to 16th before his car came in, and he rallied back to 14th at stage end. Crew chief Jason Stockert told Annett he was going to take “a bit of a swing” with his adjustments to wedge and air pressure on the pit stop to help the drive off. The No. 5 crew got Annett out in 12th, setting him up for a solid start in Stage Two.

Unfortunately, Gaughan had gambled by taking fresh tires on the lap-53 caution and earned five stage points, tightening an already thin margin between the two. As Stage Two started, Annett stayed right where he was with new tires, dropping back a couple of spots as the race flowed on. With his car’s long-run tendencies, he was 12th again by the end of the 75-lap stage and in good position to maintain his point advantage for the playoffs. He was three points ahead of Gaughan and 30 up on Armstrong with 100 laps of racing left. Stockert called for another four-tire stop with no adjustments and Annett returned to the track in 13th, confident that his Chevrolet’s long-run speed would be there when he needed it.

On lap 174, Reddick got past for 16th, and Annett dogged him for the next 42 laps trying to get back around. Reddick ran the high groove, which forced Annett to wear his tires out on the low groove, and it lasted until Annett got the room he needed to take the spot back on lap 230. Once past, Annett’s lap times improved by better than three tenths of a second, but it was too late to advance and he finished 15th.

Michael Annett, driver, No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet: “I was way too free that whole last run. I burned the right rear tire off the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet way earlier than in the first two stages, racing with the 42 (Reddick). I was under him, and I had a faster car than he did, but I couldn’t drive off where I needed to so I could get the spot. I was afraid it was going to turn us around, and we couldn’t afford that. We’ll take our points for 15th and go on to Chicago.”

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