Michael Annett started the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway from the 18th position and quickly gained two spots in just the first two laps of the race to be scored in 16th coming to the stripe. Running on a green race track due to all the rubber being washed off in an earlier rain storm, Annett was able to avoid three early cautions that fell within the first 34 laps of the 250-lap race. Just after the third caution flag flew, Annett was still running in the 16th position when he keyed the mic to let Crew Chief Philippe Lopez know that his Pilot Flying J Ford was a tick tight.
Another caution on Lap 46 allowed Lopez to call his driver into the pits, and the Richard Petty Motorsports crew bolted on right-side tires, added fuel and made air pressure and track bar adjustments in an attempt free up the No. 43 machine. The two-tire stop allowed Annett to gain two positions in the pits, and he restarted in 14th on Lap 53. Shortly after the green flag dropped, Annett slid back several positions and relayed to the crew he did not like the changes made on the initial stop and that the car was still tight in the center of the corners.
Continuing to run near the top-15, Annett was called into the pits for a second and final time when the caution flag waved again on Lap 115. This time, Lopez and crew elected for four fresh tires, fuel and another track bar and air pressure adjustment. Annett restarted in the 16th position and by Lap 146 had gained two spots and was running in 14th. Concentrating on his driving, Annett was all quiet on the radio until the seventh caution of the night on Lap 173, when Lopez asked him how his car was handling. The driver of the No. 43 communicated to the crew that his car was very neutral and he didn’t want any chassis adjustments made to the car. With just over 75 laps remaining, Lopez decided that track position was more important than pitting for fresh tires and elected to keep Annett on track under caution. The decision not to pit paid off and Annett restarted in 10th on Lap 180.
Pleased with how his car was handling, Annett never fell outside the top-10 and was scored in ninth place with just 10 laps remaining. Knowing it was go time, Annett fought hard until the final caution flag of the night flew on Lap 244. When the debris had been cleared Annett was left with only two laps to try and gain on the leader. Driving the wheels off of his Pilot Flying J Ford, Annett was able to gain another spot to come home with an eighth-place finish.
Annett’s eighth-place finish marks his ninth top-10 finish this season. The Iowa native sits in the sixth spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings heading into Atlanta next weekend.
Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “It was a long one tonight. We still need to qualify better so we don’t have to work so hard to move forward, but we had a good strategy and took two tires there and then took four the next time. We stayed out for about 150 laps, but started out too tight. Philippe (Lopez) made some good adjustments, and I think there were times when we were the fastest car on the track. We just really needed the top groove. That was huge for us. I think that was how everybody was, because whoever could get to the top first definitely had the advantage. I knew coming down to the last restart we were at a little bit of a disadvantage. We came out eighth, so we’ll take that and take a top 10 after last weekend.”