Michael Annett started the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the 13th position and shortly after the drop of the green flag the caution flew on Lap 2 for water on the track. At the conclusion of the lengthy cleanup Annett restarted in 15th on Lap 10. After running several laps under green flag conditions, Annett relayed to crew chief Philippe Lopez that the Pilot Flying J Cheez-It Ford was tight exiting the corners.
Annett maintained his position inside the top 15 until Lopez called him into the pits on Lap 57 for four tires, fuel and a trackbar adjustment. A long green-flag run coupled with a tight-handling race car caused Annett to fall one lap down to the leaders, and when the remainder of the field had cycled through green-flag pit stops Annett was scored in 18th position. By Lap 78 the driver of the No. 43 Ford had worked his way back inside the top-15, though he communicated to his crew he was lacking rear grip.
The caution flag flew for the second time on Lap 84 and Lopez called Annett into the pits for four tires, fuel, and trackbar and air pressure adjustments in an attempt to give the Pilot Flying J Cheez-It Ford more rear grip. The quick pit stop by the Richard Petty Motorsports crew allowed Annett to gain one position and he restarted 14th, the second car to be scored a lap down to the leader.
Annett was on a mission to get back on the lead lap, and shortly after the restart he gained one spot, putting him in the “Lucky Dog” position should the caution flag be displayed. As luck would have it, the yellow flew just a few laps later and Annett was credited with the “Lucky Dog.” Though he was back on the lead lap, Annett suffered minor damage to his left front bumper during the incident on Lap 92, requiring him to make a trip down pit road for four tires and repairs to the front of his No. 43 machine.
Restarting in 13th, the driver quickly relayed to his crew he was again tight on exit of the corners and he still needed more rear grip. Annett continued to run in 13th until making his fourth and final trip down pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment on Lap 133. Immediately after the pit stop, Lopez communicated to his driver that he needed to save fuel as it looked like they may be a lap or two short if the remainder of the race were to be run under green-flag conditions.
In an attempt to save fuel, Annett again fell a lap down to the leaders in the late stages of the race and was running in the 14th position at Lap 165. Though he was running a lap down, both crew chief and spotter communicated to Annett that all of the leaders would eventually have to make a pit stop for fuel.
With just 20 laps remaining, the leaders began to pit and Annett was eventually scored back on the lead lap after the cars in front of him peeled off to go down pit road. At Lap 191 Annett had gained three spots and was running in the 11th position, with Lopez still reiterating the importance of saving fuel.
The fuel strategy call proved to be fruitful as Annett was able to gain another position in the final nine laps and crossed the finish line in the 10th spot. Friday night’s top-10 finish marked Annett’s seventh-consecutive finish of 10th or better and his 15th top-10 of the season.
The stellar performance also allowed Annett to gain one position in the championship point standings. The driver of the No. 43 now sits in fifth spot heading into Kansas next weekend, an achievement he and his team have been working toward since moving into the sixth position after Daytona in July. Only four races remain on the Nationwide schedule and if Annett can maintain his position in the top-five, he will secure a spot on stage in Miami, Fla., for the season-ending NASCAR Nationwide Series Awards Ceremony. It would also mark Annett’s best finish in the point standings to date.
Annett’s Thoughts after the Race: “That was probably the ugliest top-10 we have had all year, but I’ll take it. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough fuel to make it to the end, but my crew chief, Philippe (Lopez), made a great fuel strategy call and we were able to come home with a 10th-place finish. We struggled with the handling of the Pilot Flying J Cheez-It Ford all night, but the fuel strategy call allowed us to gain some valuable championship points. I hated to see Justin (Allgaier) have problems early in the race, but I knew if we could salvage a good finish that’s all we needed to do to pass him for fifth in the points. I knew I needed to drive a smart race and look at the big picture at Charlotte. We have been working for months, chipping away little by little to get inside the top-five, and we finally did that Friday. I’m just happy for my whole No. 43 team. It really feels good to achieve what we did Friday night under the lights at Charlotte.”