Michael Annett finished today’s 300-mile race in fifth place, his best career finish at Chicagoland Speedway
Annett’s fifth-place finish is his third top-five finish for Richard Petty Motorsports this season and his third in the last four races
Annett maintained his rank in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings and sits in sixth position heading into Indianapolis next weekend
Race Summary: Michael Annett started the STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway from the 14th position. By the second lap, he was already communicating to crew chief Philippe Lopez that his Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang was very loose. The team’s first pit stop was still a long way’s away, so Annett spent the first stint of his race trying to find the best line around the track to suit his car’s handling. He quickly found some success, logging solid lap times and passing three cars to reach the 11th position by his first pit stop of the afternoon.
Lopez called Annett down pit road on Lap 49 for a routine green-flag stop, where the team made a track bar adjustment, removed a rubber from the right rear, changed four tires and filled the car with fuel. Annett returned to the track in 13th position for the restart. The first caution flag of the day flew just a few laps later on Lap 51. Lopez kept his driver out on the track, allowing him to make his first push into the top 10, restarting eighth.
During his second green-flag run, Annett reported his No. 43 Ford was handling better in Turns 3 and 4, but still quite loose in Turns 1 and 2. With the field fairly spread out over the long run and Annett holding steady in ninth position, the driver of the Pilot Flying J machine was once again able to experiment with his line to find the path where his car was fastest. As Lopez relayed lap times over the team radio, he told Annett he was gaining on the cars ahead of him.
At the half-way mark of the 200-lap race, Annett was still in ninth and about ready to make his second green-flag pit stop of the race. Before he came into the pits, the Iowa native stayed on the track until each car ahead of him peeled off, allowing Annett to lead a lap and collect a bonus point. Coming down pit road on Lap 108, the Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang received four fresh tires, fuel and air-pressure and track bar adjustments in an effort to further tighten up the car. Annett returned to the track in the ninth position and, once again, the yellow flag flew shortly after his green-flag stop. He stayed on track to maintain his top-10 spot.
The team’s next two pit stops came under yellow-flag conditions, on Lap 128 and Lap 168, allowing the crew to make more extensive chassis adjustments to help tighten up the car to Annett’s liking. These changes helped set the car up for what was soon to be the most action-filled part of the race. After restarting on Lap 172 in the ninth position, Annett charged his way up to fourth over the next 20 laps. Then, with only six laps remaining in the scheduled 200 lap race, the caution flag came out for a multi-car accident on Lap 194. A lengthy clean-up set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish.
Restarting in fourth position, Annett battled the front-runners for the remaining two laps, and took the checkered flag in fifth position for his third top-five finish in his last four starts.
Sunday’s finish allowed Annett to maintain his position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, sitting in sixth spot heading into next weekend’s race in Indianapolis.
Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “We really just threw everything at it toward the end of the race, and our Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang really came to life. We drove up to fourth right before that last caution, so we knew we’d have something for the end. We just know that we need to be able to see the leader on these restarts at the end, and then we can come home with a top-five or even battle for a win. We’ve gotten some top-fives, now we just need to get to Victory Lane. A great job all weekend by my No. 43 team and we got another good finish to show for it.”