Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 10/24/14

Michael Annett started the Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway from the fifth spot – his best start of the season.  With a fourth-place finish earned at the 1.5-mile oval earlier in the year, Annett and his Pilot Flying J team had the notes and the track record to aim for another top-five run.

The No. 43 Ford started off the race being loose into the corners and tight on exit, causing Annett to lose a few spots on the leaderboard in the early laps. Though his car was not handling quite to his liking, Annett still maintained his position inside the top 10.  A competition caution, due to heavy rains at the speedway the previous night, gave the team the chance to bring their car to pit road on Lap 30.  Crew chief Philippe Lopez ordered a two-tire stop with an air-pressure adjustment to help Annett through the turns.  With most of the frontrunners making two-tire stops also, Annett restarted seventh.

The driver of the No. 43 relayed that the handling of his Ford Mustang improved over the course of the initial 30-lap run, giving the team reason to hope for more long green-flag periods throughout the race.  The middle portion of the race provided just that, giving Annett several long runs where he consistently recorded the fastest laps on the track.  At the half-way mark, he was running seventh and running faster than the cars ahead of him.  But he was still asking for help getting his Pilot Flying J Ford through the turns, especially Turn 3.

With about 60 laps remaining, cars began peeling off for final pit stops.  Still running in the top 10, Annett stayed out on track long enough to take the lead and collect a bonus point before bringing his car to pit road for a final round of adjustments.  The team gave their driver four fresh tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments to make a final run at the top five.  Annett had only returned to the track for about 10 laps when the yellow flag flew for the sixth and final time of the race.  Under caution, Annett told Lopez that the car’s handling had “come in” quicker than it had on previous runs.

Staying out for the duration of the yellow flag, Annett was in the fifth position when the race returned to green with 34 laps to go.  But, unfortunately, the improved handling of the car that he reported before the caution flag did not continue.  Annett relayed that his Pilot Flying J Ford was now tight in the turns and he slipped back two spots to seventh position with 20 laps to go.  He worked hard to push back up toward the top five but was not able to make up the distance in the few laps remaining.  He crossed the finish line in seventh for his 13th top-10 finish of the season.

Annett maintains his position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, and sits in sixth spot heading into next weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “This was another solid weekend for our Pilot Flying J team.  We’ve worked hard at improving our qualifying effort and that’s really showing these last couple weeks.  We had a fast car today.  There were a bunch of times during the race that Philippe (Lopez) said ‘fastest lap on the board,’ but the handling of the car was just a tick off and that kept us from using that speed to push to the front.  Still, if you’d told us at the beginning of the year that we’d have more than a dozen top-10s by the middle of September, I think we’d be happy to take that.  This team has come a long way since February and I still think we can get to Victory Lane before the year is over.”

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