Michael Annett had his patriotically-painted No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet in the top three with 13 laps remaining on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, solidly in the mix to repeat his NASCAR Xfinity Series victory from February. Unfortunately, on his way down the backstretch directly behind leader Tyler Reddick, the repeat bid came to an end in a multi-car crash.

In the high line off Turn 2, second-place runner Justin Haley slipped to the inside of Reddick about halfway down the backstretch. Annett tried to follow Haley, but was unable to make the move quickly enough. The side-draft had slowed Reddick’s car enough to where Annett popped the rear bumper of the No. 2 machine, which slowed Annett’s machine slightly. Christopher Bell, directly behind Annett, had no place to go and turned the Iowa driver into the outside wall in front of the majority of the field.

Up to that point, the race had gone according to plan for Annett and crew chief Travis Mack. Starting third, Annett had run no worse than fourth over the first 16 laps of the opening 30-lap Stage One, leading lap six, before getting suckered by the middle lane and falling back to 12th. He was back to fifth just prior to the first caution flag on lap 24, and Mack brought his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Annett had said his car was edgy in traffic and needed to be tightened up. He exited pit road in 16th spot and finished Stage One in 17th, but had already made his stop and started fourth in the 30-lap Stage Two.

As Stage Two broke, Annett advanced to second spot behind A.J. Allmendinger and rode the high line until lap 42, when the lines split apart and he dropped to seventh. Three laps later, Reddick’s flat tire caused another caution and slowed the field. When the green flag waved with 10 laps to go in the stage, Annett was fifth on the inside line and kept coming, getting to third with nine laps remaining. Trailing Allmendinger and Ross Chastain, Annett worked his way past Chastain and held off JRM teammate Justin Allgaier on the final lap to finish second in Stage Two.

After Annett asked for the car to be tightened up a little more so that he could be aggressive in traffic, Mack brought him down for right-side tires, fuel and another wedge adjustment and sent him back out in eighth position for the final 35 laps. In the scramble for position on the green flag, Annett rose to fifth place in the initial rush and was running eighth on lap 74 when an 11-car melee erupted down the backstretch to bring out the caution flag. After the cleanup, the green came back out with 21 laps remaining, and Annett used the top line to advance four spots at the end of the first lap. The field bobbed and weaved and Annett was running third off Turn 2 on lap 87 when the accident that caught him out occurred. His damaged Pilot Flying J Chevrolet wound up in the infield with extensive damage, and that ended the night for Annett in 26th place. His streak of top-10 finishes ended at six with the result.

 

Michael Annett Quote: “I got hit from behind, and there were a lot of blocks being thrown out there. That’s a shame for all the guys who work their tails off on this car. We got torn up at Talladega and they got it back together and had it just as fast. It was really strong. This was definitely a lot more eventful Daytona race than February, but it was a lot of fun while we were out there. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to race to the checkered, because I think we had a really good shot at it. We knew it was going to be like this; we don’t do very well sitting around waiting for stuff. The cooler temperatures gave us more grip, and guys were really aggressive. It’s amazing how quickly they can change lanes and stop the runs. It’s just unfortunate. I’d like to thank Pilot Flying J for everything they do and for the really cool paint scheme. It’s a shame we didn’t get a shot at it.”

 

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.