In the opening round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs on Friday night at Richmond Raceway, Michael Annett worked his plan to perfection, scoring 14 points in the first two stages and driving the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet to his 16th top-10 finish of the season in the Go Bowling 250. That advanced Annett to sixth place in series points and more importantly, the steady, solid opening-round run put some distance between himself and the cutoff to the Round of 8.

Starting 10th, Annett wasted no time moving forward at the initial green flag. By the time the field flashed under the flag stand for the first time, Annett was all the way up to seventh and he stayed in the top nine for the first 51 laps, when the initial caution flag of the race came out. Following the restart, another quick caution flag gave crew chief Travis Mack the chance to make a move by calling Annett to pit road at lap 62 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Entering pit road, Annett missed his pit stall and was forced to maneuver into it. The Pilot Flying J team handled the mishap with aplomb, and Annett went back out in 17th position with 12 laps left in Stage One.

With those fresher tires, Annett stormed toward the front when the green flag waved on lap 67, moving up four spots on the first green-flag lap and gaining four more over the next two to run ninth with six laps left in the 75-lap stage. Over the final few circuits, Annett blasted all the way to fourth place at the green-checkered, earning seven stage points in the process. On the break, Mack wasn’t done making moves. In an effort to maintain track position, he brought Annett down pit road again on the stage break and put on another set of sticker tires, saving the eight-lap scuffs for a possible stop late in the race.

As Stage Two got under way at lap 83, Annett rolled off sixth and stayed in the top eight for the first 10 laps before picking off Brandon Jones for seventh. Fifteen laps later he was sixth and chased down Chase Briscoe for fifth place on lap 129 when the latter slid up a groove in Turn 2. Annett kept coming and reeled in Austin Cindric for fourth with 11 laps remaining in the stage, finishing there and adding another seven points to his total for the night. Annett told Mack that his turn-in was good the entire run, but he was losing drive off over the final 25 laps. Mack responded with four more tires, fuel and another chassis adjustment.

Starting the final stage from seventh, Annett dropped to ninth in the first few laps after Harrison Burton got by and stayed there until lap 195, when JRM teammate Zane Smith caught him off Turn 2. Over the final 55 laps, Annett remained in 10th place as his car tightened up, but with just 10 laps remaining in a caution-free final stage, Annett passed Ryan Sieg for ninth and finished there at the checkered flag, earning 42 points on the night. The result puts Annett and the No. 1 team 18 points above the cut line for the Round of 8 with two races remaining in the Round of 12.

 

Michael Annett Quote: “That’s a really great way to start the playoffs. It’s all about total points, and we gained a lot in the stages, which is the key to advancing to the Round of 8. This Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was really handling well in the stages, and we could gain spots on the long run as well as gaining 13 positions in eight laps at the end of Stage One thanks to a great call from Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) to come and get tires. On the last run, we were just a tick too tight in the center the whole way. It was a good night and we’re in good shape heading to the Roval next week.”

 

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.