After a tough week for JR Motorsports and the No. 5 team following the loss of mechanic Adam Wright in a car crash one week ago, Michael Annett helped the healing process as he brought home his best finish of the season with a runner-up finish in Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America.
“First off, we had a guardian angel riding with us this whole weekend,” said Annett. “Lost not only a great friend, great guy, and a great mechanic. Adam Wright, we lost him Sunday night. Just want to say hi to Pete and Terry back home. He was with us every lap we turned this weekend. It was hard to fill the void that Adam left because he did the work of so many and kept everybody’s spirits up the whole weekend and at the shop as well. He was riding with us the whole weekend.”
Annett had gathered three top-10 finishes in the first 22 races of the season, but had not been able to break through for a top-five before Road America. Starting the day in 17th place after qualifying was rained out, he would have his work cut out for him.
Stage one was a bit rough for Annett and the No. 5 team as he fell as far back as 27th at one point after pitting under caution, but found himself in 16th when the green-checkered flag flew to end the stage on lap 10.
When the majority of the field pitted under the stage break, Annett was one of a handful that stayed out, advancing him up to fifth for the start of the second stage. Despite the track position advantage when the green flag flew, the fresher tires behind Annett would prove to be overwhelming as he dropped further back in the field as the stage played out, finishing the stage back in 13th.
Annett would climb all the way to second place with 15 laps to go in the race and took over the lead when leader Jeremy Clements pitted with nine laps to go.
Even with the lead in hand, Annett was still short of being able to make it to the end without a pit stop, so he headed to pit road for his final round of service two laps later.
After his pit stop, Annett still resided in the top-five, passing teammate William Byron for fourth, and then moving up to third with two laps to go. At that point, it looked like Annett would be locked into a third-place finish if nothing changed over the final two circuits.
However, as is the case with road course racing in NASCAR, something is bound to happen and shake things up and that’s exactly what happened.
As Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft were fighting for the lead heading toward the white flag, the two drivers would get together and both cars spun. Though Clements was able to get re-fired and took off with the lead and the eventual win, Tifft took a little bit longer to get going, allowing Annett to get past him on the final lap to move into second.
The runner-up finish for Annett is his best finish ever in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and first top-five since 2013.
With three races to go in the regular season, Annett sits 11th in points, holding an 11-point advantage over 13th place in the race to make the playoffs.
“We missed it by one to get him a win, but these guys at JR Motorsports gave me a great car,” Annett added. “Learned all day, hadn’t been here in five years, so I guess that’s why they called the fuel strategy or tire strategy. Just a great weekend for everybody. Hendrick Engines back home, All State Parts and Service Group coming on board this weekend up here in Wisconsin. Great run for us and just hope Adam knows this one was for him and we miss him.”