Michael Annett Darlington Recap

Michael Annett was solid all day long at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, racing to a 10th-place finish in the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines to kick off Labor Day weekend.

Driving a special paint scheme dedicated to celebrating the foundation and history of primary sponsor Pilot Flying J, Annett steered the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to his second top-10 run in the last three races and best of his career at fabled Darlington. His previous best at Darlington, 11th, came back in 2010, and the Iowa native was seventh at Bristol two weeks ago.

After qualifying a sturdy 15th, Annett spent the 45-lap Stage One maintaining track position. With five laps remaining in Stage One, he was 12th and running laps two-tenths faster than the leaders. He finished 12th in the stage, brought his white-and-yellow Chevrolet to pit road for four tires, fuel and no adjustments after reporting that he was loose on the initial takeoff in Turn 2, neutral most everywhere else. As the run went on, he got tighter at the exit of Turn 2, but his car got stronger as the laps ticked past.

In Stage Two, Annett held his own and ended up 14th as several cars had taken tires and passed back up through the field. On his pit stop at the end of Stage Two, his pit crew earned several spots on the transfer, adding fuel and four tires. Annett lined up ninth for the final stage.

Despite Chase Elliott getting past on lap 104 to boot Annett from the top 10, the driver reported that the handling changes made on the stop had improved the side-bite and forward drive all the way around the 1.366-mile oval. By lap 116, he was eighth and stayed in the top 10 through lap 132, when JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, who was rallying through the field after a pit penalty, passed him. That left Annett to battle with Daniel Hemric for the 10th spot, which Annett took with eight laps remaining.

Over the remaining distance, Annett ran in the tire tracks of ninth-place Ty Dillon. When the checkered flag waved, Annett was two-tenths of a second behind Dillon, cutting more than half a second off the deficit during that time. With two races remaining before the cutoff for the NXS Playoffs, 13th-place Annett trails 12th place by 54 points.

Michael Annett Quote: “I wish we had more laps here, the way our Pilot Flying J Chevrolet came in on the long runs. It was a good day in the points for us too, and that’s what matters. We started off free on the initial start and on all the restarts, but about 10 laps in, it would come to me and we could gain spots. The longer we ran the better we got, and the rest of the guys I was racing fell off a lot faster than we did. The pit crew did a great job, and so did (crew chief) Travis Mack. We need every point we can get to make the Playoffs.”

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