Michael Annett’s first race in the No. 1 Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association Chevrolet was definitely one to remember.

Switching car numbers for the 2019 season, from No. 5 to No. 1, Annett came to Daytona International Speedway on Saturday with the idea of racing well and near the front in the season-opening NASCAR Racing Experience 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He did just that, winning the 120-lap event over JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier. It was the first victory for Annett in the series and came in his 230th NXS start. His best finish previously was a second-place run in 2017 on the road course at Road America.

The day started out with a third-place run in qualifying, which was his best career NXS start as well, and just got better from there. On the initial start, Annett moved his black-and-red Chevrolet to the front row after polesitter Tyler Reddick was forced to start from the back due to a tire change. Annett fired off well, but the top line was the place to be and he faded to eighth at the end of the first lap. Rejoining the top line, Annett rode to the end of Stage One in 13th place. On his pit stop, Annett took four tires and fuel on his Chevrolet Camaro SS with no adjustments, and gained four spots on the exchange. However, an uncontrolled tire during the stop caused him to drop to 30th for the restart.

Unperturbed, Annett started the long road back to the front and climbed to 19th in two laps and was 11th with 10 to go in the 30-lap Stage Two. A last-lap scramble saw Annett gain two more spots and he finished Stage Two in ninth, earning stage points for the first time this season. It also set up the series of events that eventually got him to Victory Lane.

Crew chief Travis Mack called his driver to pit road for right-side tires and fuel, with no adjustments, and he came off pit road fifth for the final 60-lap run to the checkered flag. A penalty ahead of him put him fourth for the restart, and after a brief drop to sixth, he was fourth on lap 72 when the caution waved for debris. Mack called Annett down pit road again a lap later for fuel only, and sent his driver back out with instructions to save fuel. It would be the final stop for Annett and the No. 1 team until the car rolled into Victory Lane.

Starting second with Brandon Brown on the point, Annett ran second for two laps before sweeping to the lead on lap 76, the first time Annett had led an NXS race at Daytona. Keeping his Chevrolet on the top groove, Annett led the field through another caution for a spin on the backstretch five laps later, and held serve on the ensuing restart despite a brief surge by Christopher Bell. Allgaier had lined up in second spot and Annett maintained his perch at the head of the pack for the next 37 laps. Allgaier and other in the pack worked to mount a charge at Annett, but none struck home and the 32-year-old Iowa native crossed the line .116 seconds ahead of Allgaier.

His 45 laps led set a career high for Annett in a single race, and the victory was JRM’s 45th as a team and sixth at Daytona International Speedway, all by different drivers. Annett is the fifth driver to earn his first victory with JRM, and it is the first triumph for JRM’s No. 1 Chevrolet since Elliott Sadler won at Kentucky Speedway in 2016. For Pilot Flying J, it was the company’s first victory with JRM and the car featured a paint scheme promoting the American Heart Association’s “Life is Why We Give™” campaign. The victory also puts Annett and his No. 1 team into the NXS Playoffs later this season.

 

Michael Annett Quote: “This is amazing. I couldn’t have done this without these (No. 1 team) guys. They stuck with me through the hard times, when everybody counted us out. They worked their tails off on this American Heart Association/Pilot Flying J Chevrolet. We got the No. 1 team in Victory Lane this year, and our slogan is ‘One Team, One Dream One Goal.’ This was one of them, so we’re starting off good. I was waiting for that second line to get formed, and I know they tried, but it just wasn’t there. When it hadn’t formed with about three laps to go, I knew they weren’t going to have enough steam to get us. I started worrying about my teammate. If you’re going to have someone back there, I knew Justin (Allgaier) was going to be the best one. He’s aggressive, I knew he was going to push hard but I knew he was going to go for it. We had to keep him in our mirror and keep the gap right. Jason (spotter Jason Jarrett) did a great job on the roof, for sure.”

 

About Pilot Flying J: Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America, is committed to connecting people and places with comfort, care and a smile at every stop. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, Pilot Flying J has more than 750 retail locations in 44 states, Roadside assistance available at over 145 locations nationwide and growing as part of its Truck Care program, 44 Goodyear Commercial Tire and Service Centers, and 34 Boss Shops. The Pilot Flying J network provides drivers with access to more than 72,000 parking spaces for trucks with Prime Parking at more than 400 locations, 5,200 deluxe showers and more than 6,200 diesel lanes with 5,200 offering Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) at the pump. Pilot Flying J is currently ranked No. 15 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies. Visit www.pilotflyingj.com for more information.