Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet drove to a solid fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, battling for the lead in the final laps. It was the second top-five finish in three races for the team to start the season and propelled him to fifth place in the series point standings. By virtue of his season-opening victory at Daytona, Annett is already locked into the NXS Playoffs.

For the second straight week, qualifying was cancelled by rain and the field was set on 2018 car-owner points, which meant Annett would start the race from 16th spot. Annett wasted little time moving forward in the 45-lap Stage One, gaining 10 spots in the first 24 laps to run sixth. After swapping sixth place for a few laps, Annett settled down and charged on, eventually passing JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier for that spot with eight laps remaining, to lock up the position and earn five valuable stage points.

After pitting for four tires and fuel, Annett started Stage Two in sixth place. Early in the run, Austin Cindric got loose off Turn 2 and spun, directly in front of Annett and teammate Noah Gragson, which caused Annett to drop to 11th in the order. After shaking off the close call, Annett restarted ninth and wound up finishing Stage Two in eighth position, adding more stage points to his total.

Pitting again for four more tires and fuel, with no adjustments, Annett headed back out in fifth place for the restart. On the green flag, Annett got caught on the low line and dropped to 10th before climbing back to seventh as the run went on. Annett told crew chief Travis Mack that the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was still free, as it had been all day, and was not tightening up. He pitted on lap 148 for tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment and was the last car on the lead lap with 30 laps remaining in the race. As the laps wound down, Annett fell a lap down to leader and eventual winner Kyle Busch on lap 175, but maintained his track position for the free pass.

A caution flag on lap 187 put Annett and the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet back on the lead lap, though he had to wait until the lead-lap cars pitted to get service for the dash to the checkered. Once on pit road, Mack and the crew put on another set of tires, added fuel and made wedge and air-pressure adjustments to gear their driver up for the run to the finish. Annett rolled off seventh on the restart, but action stopped soon after the green went in the air for a grinding crash in Turn 3. That put the race into overtime.

The first overtime saw Annett maintain position as the battle raged at the front of the field. That battle ended with a multi-car crash in Turns 3 and 4 that eliminated front-runners Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and JRM teammate Zane Smith, among others. When the track was ready to go green again, Annett lined up fourth for the final restart, directly behind Busch. As the field flowed toward Turn 1, Annett edged to third place and pushed Busch down the backstretch to Turn 3. Battling with John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Dillon and Gragson, Annett lost out on a last-lap, last-corner lunge from Gragson to end up fifth at the checkered flag.

 

Michael Annett Quote: “It’s really exciting and it is just the confidence that we talked about coming out of Daytona and what that would do. It was a really strong day; we didn’t fall into the top five, we were top-10 all day. We earned a lot of segment points today, too. It was a lot of fun knowing that 1.5-mile tracks are the majority of our schedule and we had a really strong Pilot Flying J Chevrolet today. Just an awesome job all day by our Pilot Flying J team. We had good speed, Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) and the rest of the team had it dialed in. On two of our three pit stops today, we didn’t make any changes, just tires and fuel. It’s been a great start to the year so far.”

 

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