By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A mild manner day by Michael Annett was solid enough to escape Saturday’s User Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway with the eighth and final playoff spot.
Annett, who entered Dover 11 points ahead of the cutoff line, only had one objective to focus and that’s beating John Hunter Nemechek, who was the only threat of possibly knocking him out of the championship hunt.
In the first two stages, Annett finished 10th and ninth respectively. Nemechek on the other hand, took ninth and seventh but not good enough to knock Annett out of the eighth playoff spot.
A key role of Annett’s consistency that got him into the Round of 8 was the out of the box calls and lack of pit stop mistakes led by crew chief Travis Mack.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Annett said. “To come from the back today is the testament of the car they gave me. We did some strategy that put us out front. That’s two in these playoffs that Travis has done that’s off the wall a little bit and just put us in great position. I was trying to do my high school math out there. I think I had to beat the 23 by eight in that last segment.”
Mack’s brilliance certainly showed in the closing stages when Nemechek pitted on Lap 176 before a spin by Dillon Bassett brought out the caution. Annett had stayed out up to that point which proved to pay dividends and was put in excellent position of perhaps scoring a top-three result.
The Des Moines, Iowa native felt the strategy by Mack and his entire No. 1 TMC Transportation Chevrolet Camaro wasn’t the end-all-be-all that got him in the playoffs.
However, when Nemechek pitted, it was smooth sailing from there with a minor catch. That’s not making a driver error that could’ve eliminated him from the race and playoffs.
“The strategy helped, but I don’t think we needed it. I saw him pit, so I knew we were good at that point,” Annett said. “It was a lot of fun, but I didn’t want to do anything stupid coming down into the corner. You see a lot of guys getting loose here underneath guys. Especially, when you’re going for a win when you do things that you normally don’t do.”
Annett’s bid for a sixth top-five wasn’t meant to be as with seven laps to go, he spun his tires while restarting third. Cole Custer ended up scoring his seventh win of the season while Annett finished sixth and beat Nemechek for the final playoff spot by 10 points.
Not only his championship trail will continue heading into Kansas Speedway October 19, Annett also scored his 17th top-10 finish, equaling his career-high from 2012.
“I knew Cole would be tough on that restart. I wanted to hang tough and bring it home,” Annett on his approach of finishing the race. “That’s what these guys deserve. My best playoff run so far since we started these playoffs. I’m looking forward to it because we have a lot of good track ahead of us.”
Annett will be seeded seventh with 3009 points. He trails Austin Cindric, who currently holds the coveted fourth and final spot, by eight points.