Michael Annett started the U.S. Cellular 250 in the 17th position. In addition to continuing his hot streak of impressive finishes, Annett was looking to claim a second-consecutive $100,000 bonus in Nationwide’s Dash 4 Cash program. The team brought a fast Northland Oil Ford Mustang to Iowa, using a similar set-up that was used on their previous visit to the venue when the car had shown good speed.
After taking the green flag Saturday night, it only took Annett 12 laps around the .875-mile track to advance into the top 10, and his only concern with the handling of his No. 43 machine was that it was a bit free on entry and exit. Because rainstorms had washed off the rubbered-up track earlier in the day, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for Lap 50. At that time, Crew Chief Philippe Lopez brought Annett to pit road for four tires, fuel, and air-pressure and track bar adjustments.
Back on track in the 13th position, Annett reported back to Lopez that the adjustments had made his car “a tick tight.” When the next caution came out on Lap 89, the team pitted again, reversing some of the previous changes. The crew also changed right-side tires only – a strategic call by Lopez to give them a boost in track position. The moved allowed Annett to restart sixth and never drop out of the top 10 again.
It was in the middle portion of the 250-lap race that Annett began to repeatedly hear from both his crew chief and his spotter that he was logging really fast lap times. By Lap 138, he was in the top five, having climbed two positions over 85 laps on only two new tires.
The third yellow flag of the night flew on Lap 172 with the No. 43 team in fourth position. Annett had told Lopez that he was just a bit free, so on their third and final stop of the day, the crew made additional chassis and air-pressure adjustments, put on four fresh tires and filled the tank with fuel. Annett took the final green-flag restart in sixth position with 73 laps to go, with his sights set on another top-five and possibly a win. He was also running second in contention for the evening’s Dash 4 Cash prize, trailing only Sam Hornish Jr.
The remaining 73 laps ran caution-free, with Annett running some of the fastest laps of the race. His car stayed consistent over the course of a long run and he pushed hard to get close to Hornish. He gained two more positions on the leaderboard as the laps wound down, but couldn’t quite get close enough to Hornish to overtake him and swipe the Dash 4 Cash winnings. He crossed the finish line in fourth place, his fourth top-10 finish in the past six races.
Annett remains sixth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings as the team heads to Watkins Glen next week.
Annett’s Thoughts after the Race: “We worked hard all day, starting 17th and making our way into the top 10 in about 10 or 12 laps. The No. 43 Northland Oil team did a great job tweaking the car to keep it competitive all night. We didn’t pick up the $100,000 in the Dash 4 Cash program this week, but it still felt good to get that check last week and just be a part of that great program. We keep knocking on the door with these top-fives and I think we’re pretty close to Victory Lane.
“I also want to mention that it felt good to use some space on our car to draw some attention to the two missing girls from here in Iowa. We hope it does some good and that they’ll be home safe soon.”
Race Notes: Michael Annett finished tonight’s 218.75-mile race in fourth place, a career best at Iowa Speedway for the Des Moines native.
Annett’s fourth-place finish marked his fourth top-five finish in the last six races.
Annett maintains his position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings and sits in sixth spot heading into Watkins Glen next weekend.