By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – It may have taken 22 races, but Michael Annett finally earned his first Top-10 finish of 2018. The JR Motorsports drivers’ journey to that Top-10 finish in the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway was a wild one.
A caution with 40 laps to go gave Annett the free pass. The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver used that to put his No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet Camaro SS back on the lead lap. With just 11 other cars on the lead lap, and numerous lapped cars between them an Annett, it appeared to be an uphill battle. Late-race attrition and overtime gave allowed him to beat and bang with Chase Elliott, and teammates Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick before taking the checkered flag in seventh.
Annett started at a disadvantage, spinning in qualifying. While the team was forced to make repairs, the No. 5 team relinquished their 22nd starting spot. As a result of starting last, the veteran driver was one of the many drivers that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch put a lap down. Bad luck for Busch proved to be good luck for Annett as he moved back onto the lead lap via the free pass, as known as the lucky dog.
“A lot of luck,” Annett admitted that is what he needed. “Started with me screwing up in qualifying. I jumped the cushion and had to start in the back, put us in a hole. To do this from the back, knowing I made it that hard. I knew I had to get lucky with lucky dogs tonight, and I got two of them. Everything just fell our way.
“My new crew chief, Travis Mack, called a great race. (Kevin) Hamlin, my spotter, at one of the toughest places to spot, was really aggressive. That’s just the way we’re going to be the rest of the season. We have to get as many points as possible.”
A month ago, JRM made a crew chief change for Annett. As Jason Stockert was moved elsewhere in the organization, Travis Mack, the former car chief for team co-owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. assumed the role. Annett admitted to Motorsports Tribune that the improved results was validation.
“Yeah, it just decided to take until the Bristol night race to get it,” Annett joked. “That part is definitely not what we had in store for the season. As long as we finish of the season right, starting with the new crew chief the past couple of races. If we don’t finish in the Playoffs, which we don’t plan on not making it, we’ll have a ton of momentum going into 2019.”
Annett remains 13th in the Championship Points Standings, 373-Points behind Points Leader Christopher Bell. He is also 42-Points behind the cutoff for the Playoffs, held by Ross Chastain, with just four races remaining in the regular season.