No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang
• Michael Annett finished tonight’s 250-mile race in third place, marking his career best finish
• Annett’s top-three finish makes him eligible for the Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash program in New Hampshire
• Annett gained one spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings and sits in 6th position heading into Loudon next weekend
Race Summary: Michael Annett started the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona International Speedway from the 17th position. At the drop of the green flag, Annett was shuffled out of line and slipped back to the 23rd position, before he could find an opening and get back in line with the rest of the 43-car field. Once Annett was able to get back in the draft, he steadily improved his position and was running in 13th when the first caution flag of the day flew on Lap 9. Prior to coming into the pits, Annett relayed to the crew his Pilot Flying J Ford was fast and he was happy with the handling. Crew Chief Philippe Lopez called for fuel only on the first stop of the day and Annett left the pits in the 7th spot.
Continuing to run inside the top-10, Annett keyed the mic on Lap 20 and communicated to Lopez and crew his No. 43 machine needed to be a tick tighter. The second caution flag of the day flew on Lap 42 allowing Lopez to call Annett into the pits for four fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure and wedge adjustment in hopes of tightening up the Pilot Flying J Ford. Coming into the pits in the 17th position, Annett’s Richard Petty Motorsports crew made a lightning-quick stop and he restarted in 16th.
The changes made on the previous stop seemed to improve the handling of the No. 43, and Annett had worked his way back inside the top-10 at Lap 60. Just seven laps later, Annett was an innocent victim of “The Big One” and sustained considerable right-side damage in the 14-car accident. Luckily, the damage to the Pilot Flying J machine wasn’t substantial enough to take the car to the garage and the No.43 pit crew went to work on pit road making repairs. Lopez called Annett into the pits two times during the third caution of the night for four fresh tires, fuel and repairs to the right front fender. Though Annett was on pit road multiple times, the crew was able to keep him on the lead Lap and he restarted in 14th on Lap 73.
Cautions tend to breed more cautions, and tonight’s 101-lap event was no different. The yellow flag flew again on Lap 78 and this time Lopez elected to bring Annett onto pit road for what would be his final stop of the evening. The crew opted for two right-side tires, fuel and added some tape to the right front fender to make sure everything was secure for the remaining 20 laps of the event. Though his car was damaged, Annett was able to drive toward the front of the field with the help of Kyle Busch, his drafting partner, and was running in the third spot on Lap 92 .
On Lap 98 the caution flag flew for the sixth and final time, setting the race up to end under green-white-checkered flag conditions. Though Annett was running up front, the caution caused him to lose his drafting partner Kyle Busch, as Busch was running several laps down and had to restart in the back of the pack.
Annett lined up behind Austin Dillon for the remaining two-lap shootout, and the pair were running fifth and sixth respectively when they took the white flag, signaling one lap remaining. Not content with settling for anything less than a top-five finish, Annett powered his way to the inside line coming off of Turn 4 and drove to the third position as he took the checkered flag.
Annett’s third-place effort marks his career best finish, and also makes him eligible for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash next weekend. The top-four finishers to receive NASCAR Nationwide Series championship driver points Friday night at Daytona are now qualified for the first Dash 4 Cash race at New Hampshire. The highest finisher of those four drivers at Loudon will win the $100,000 award payout and automatically qualify for the next event at Chicagoland.
Friday night’s stellar finish also allowed Annett to gain one position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, and he sits in sixth spot heading into next weekend’s race in Loudon.
Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “It was a lot of fun out there at the end of the race tonight, you just have to be patient with these things at the beginning. Every time we come to the superspeedways I tell people I don’t want anybody on my bumper until the last five laps or I’m not going to touch anybody the last five. It’s nerve-racking because we’re race car drivers. We want to drive up front. We want to lead those laps. It looks like a lot of fun, but as long as we’re bringing home top fives and we’re able to roll in here with a third-place finish, this is awesome, this is what these guys deserve. They did a heck of a repair job on the car for the hit we took in ‘The Big One’ there in the middle, and the car still finished top five, so that’s awesome and a testament to my Pilot Flying J crew. We got a great finish and now I’m in the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash, which is awesome.”