Michael Annett Charlotte Recap

Michael Annett entered the final two laps of Saturday’s Alsco 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a chance to earn his best finish of the 2018 season. He did, but contact on the final restart took four spots off where he might have wound up. Annett drove the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to 12th in the rain-delayed event, resetting his best finish for the season from 13th, which he accomplished on another 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Annett’s situation looked very good on the next-to-last restart with 14 laps remaining. He was 12th at that point, on lap 186, and over the next four laps he’d advanced four spots to eighth. He was holding off a group behind him that included Kyle Busch and was close enough to challenge for seventh when the yellow came out again with two laps to go for debris. That set up the final restart, where contact from rookie Kaz Grala punted Annett to the middle lane rather than the preferred higher line in Turn 1.

Annett started the race 25th and was 20th at the end of the 45-lap Stage One, battling the bumps and a tight condition on his No. 5 Chevrolet. On the pit stop at the break, crew chief Jason Stockert put on four tires, added fuel and made air-pressure adjustments to help his driver. The Pilot Flying J pit crew gained three spots on the exchange and sent Annett back out in 17th place. Those changes made the car a bit too loose for Annett to move it forward, and Stockert brought him down pit road under caution at lap 78, before Stage Two ended, to make chassis adjustments. Pitting at the end of Stage Two after finishing 22nd, Stockert added wedge, four tires and fuel for the final stage.

Annett restarted the final stage in 21st, and made up five spots on the first lap of green-flag racing. Five laps later, under another caution, Annett told Stockert that the changes had produced a “happy medium” for him in terms of handling, having cleared up the handling issues at both ends. On lap 126, the yellow waved for a brief rain shower and Annett came down pit road again on lap 128 for tires and fuel, picking up four spots in the process to run 13th. After a solid restart, Annett was up to 11th on lap 131 and was 16th when the caution waved again for a crash on the backstretch at lap 146. A quick dash pit-ward for fuel gained four more spots and put him back in 12th for the restart at lap 152.

Another yellow—there were 13 in the race—on lap 157 saw Stockert call Annett down pit lane for the team’s final set of tires and more adjustments on lap 159. On the ensuing restart, Annett dodged a bullet on the backstretch when Dylan Lupton and Ty Majeski crashed on the backstretch, narrowly missing his car as they spun toward the wall. On lap 172, a short time later, the rains came and stopped the race for 61 minutes. The green flag waved with 24 laps remaining, and Annett was running a solid 15th when JRM teammate Justin Allgaier got turned into the wall on lap 181. Annett told Stockert the car was the best it had been all weekend, and then set about proving it. Restarting 12th with 14 laps remaining, Annett raced up to eighth and was looking for more when the debris caution changed the tempo of the race against the Pilot Flying J team.

Annett’s finish served to advance him one spot in the point standings to 13th, just 20 points out of the top 12 for NXS Playoff inclusion.

Michael Annett Quote: “I got a shot from behind on the last restart and almost got turned. I didn’t want to go to the middle, but I really didn’t have a choice after that. We had a chance to finish eighth, and I think we would have done at least that well had I not gotten moved to the middle. The Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was the best it was all weekend after the rain, and we were stronger when we needed to be, which was at the end of the race. We picked up in the points, and that’s always a good thing. Great job by (crew chief) Jason Stockert and our entire team today.”

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