Originally written September 02, 2012 on Start 'N' Park Blog:
Michael Annett started the NRA American Warrior 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway from the 14th position and shortly after the drop of the green flag an accident in Turn 2 brought out the first caution of the day on Lap 4. Having only run a few laps on his tires, Annett relayed to his No. 43 crew that his Pilot Flying J Old Wisconsin Ford was very loose all the way around the race track. Restarting in 14th on Lap 9, the caution flag again flew on Lap 12, this time for oil on the track. Still fighting a loose race car, Crew Chief Philippe Lopez told his driver to stay out and work with the track conditions until they made their first scheduled pit stop of the night. Annett maintained his position inside the top 15, until Lopez called him into the pits on Lap 49 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Pitting ahead of the leaders, Annett restarted in 14th, one lap down. By Lap 59 he had driven to the 12th spot and was working to put himself in position to be the “Lucky Dog,” so he could gain his lap back should the caution flag be displayed. The caution flew for the third time on Lap 66 and Annett was the second car a lap down, just barely missing his chance to be scored back on the lead lap. The leaders elected not to come down pit road under caution, putting nearly the entire field a lap down. With nothing to lose, Lopez called Annett into the pits for four tires, fuel and an array of chassis adjustments in an attempt to help the car’s handling. Restarting in 15th on Lap 72, Annett quickly worked his way up to 11th by Lap 83, but was still a lap down to the leader. A caution for debris in Turn 2 on Lap 84 allowed the leader to finally come down pit road, and Annett received the wave-around by virtue of staying out. Restarting on the lead lap in the 10th position, Annett was able to gain one spot before the caution flag was again displayed. Annett quickly keyed the mic and told his crew that the car was better after the changes made on the previous pit stop, but he was still loose through the middle of the corners. Lopez elected for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments, to see if he could improve upon the changes made earlier in the evening. Shortly after the race went back to green, the yellow flag was displayed again on Lap 119 for an accident in Turn 2. Having just pitted nine laps prior, Annett was instructed to stay on track and by doing so restarted in the second position on Lap 126. Shortly after the green flag was display Kevin Harvick dove to the inside of Annett, taking the field three-wide into Turn 2. Caught in the middle with nowhere to go, Annett slipped back to ninth before he was able to find a hole and slip back in line with the rest of the field. Continuing to run inside the top 10, Annett communicated to his team that the Pilot Flying J Old Wisconsin machine was a bit tight on entry into the corners and loose on exit. With his driver’s lap times slowing, Lopez elected to have Annett pit early for fresh tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment on Lap 161. Off-sequence with the leader, Annett again found himself a lap down, but knew it was only a matter of time before the frontrunners would begin to pit as well. Running in ninth one lap down, Annett was in position to receive the “Lucky Dog” should the caution come out. As luck would have it, the yellow flag flew on Lap 184 and Annett was able to gain his lap back for the green-flag restart on Lap 187. Cautions bred cautions all night, and this time was no different as the eighth and final yellow flag was displayed on Lap 189 for a multi-car accident. The clean-up took longer than expected, turning the yellow flag period into red. The red flag was displayed for just over three minutes before the field got the command to restart their engines. With only four laps to go, Annett restarted in the eighth position. Shortly after the restart the driver of the No. 43 keyed the radio to let his team know he thought he had a tire going down. With two laps remaining, Annett was able to ease his car to the checkered flag without having to pit and crossed the finish line in the 10th position. Annett’s 10th-place finish marks his 10th top-10 finish this season. The Iowa native sits in the sixth spot in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings heading into Richmond next weekend. Annett’s Thoughts after the Race: “That was an eventful race. We were loose all night and trying to use different lines to get the Pilot Flying J Old Wisconsin Ford to handle better. That’s one of the advantages to Atlanta – we aren’t stuck in just one racing groove. We’ll take a top-10 finish, but we were hoping for better coming into the night. At the end I thought I had a tire going down, so I just nursed it to the finish line. We’ve got to get back to getting top-five finishes like we were last month, so we’ll keep our heads up and dig hard going into Richmond next weekend.”
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