Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet started well and ended well on Saturday, posting his third top-10 finish in the season’s first four races with an eighth-place run in the iK9 Service Dog 200 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at ISM Raceway. The finish saw Annett move up one place in the series point standings to fourth, 22 points out of the lead. Of course, Annett is already qualified for the NXS Playoffs after winning the season opener at Daytona.

Annett qualified his No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro in the fifth position, his second top-five starting spot of the season (he was third at Daytona), and stayed in the top seven over the first half of the 45-lap Stage One. A caution on lap 33 for an incident off Turn 4 slowed the field for the first time, and crew chief Travis Mack kept Annett on the track during the caution period. Annett told Mack that his car was just starting to build to the tight side when the yellow waved. Several other cars ahead of him pitted, and Annett took the green flag with five laps remaining in Stage One from second position. In a mad scramble for stage points, Annett tangled with Justin Haley, who made contact on the left side. That put Annett in a bind with traffic closing, and he finished Stage One in fourth spot, which earned him seven stage points.

After pitting for four tires and fuel with no adjustments, Annett fired off from 13th spot and stayed there for most of the 45-lap run, closing Stage Two by passing John Hunter Nemechek for 12th with 12 laps remaining. He ended the stage in a battle with Brandon Jones, but wound up 12th at the green-and-white checkered flag. Annett told Mack that the car was loose early in the run, but the front got tighter much more quickly, chattering the right rear tire on the free roll in the corners and killing his entry into Turns 3 and 4. Mack responded with wedge and air-pressure adjustments on the pit stop, along with four more tires and fuel. The Pilot Flying J pit crew gained their driver three spots on the exchange, sending Annett back out in ninth spot for the run to the checkered flag.

When the green flag waved to start the race, Annett dropped a spot to 10th, but was back to ninth just three laps later. He stayed there until lap 130, when Stephen Leicht’s blown engine brought out the caution flag again. The resulting smoke show also caught out point leader Christopher Bell and second-place Justin Allgaier. Bell drove into the billowing smoke from the engine failure and clouted the outside wall, ending his day. Allgaier sustained damage as well and faded to 14th at the finish. Annett, meanwhile, was dealing with the same tightness that had hindered his Stage Two run and Mack elected to bring him down pit road for further adjustments as well as his last remaining set of tires and fuel.

The Pilot Flying J crew held serve on the stop and sent their driver back out for the final 58 laps in ninth place. A penalty ahead of him allowed Annett to move up to seventh by the time the green flag waved for the final time, and Annett dodged a major bullet on the restart when Cole Custer got loose just ahead of him and nearly spun. Annett missed the wayward machine and continued on, locking up in a battle with Jones and Chase Briscoe that went on until the checkered flag. Custer recovered enough to drive back around, and Briscoe closed well, getting around both Annett and Jones. That left Annett in eighth place at the checkered flag, right on Jones’ rear bumper.

 

Michael Annett Quote: “That was another good run for us in the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet. We had a really good battle there at the end with the 19 car (Brandon Jones) and that’s the kind of thing we are going to build on going forward. We moved up a spot in the points, which is a good thing, and our crew guys had a great day on pit road. We’re looking forward to next week in California, kind of riding some good momentum.”

 

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