By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
A stage one strategy call by crew chief Travis Mack increased Michael Annett’s points cushion in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
After Annett hovered just inside the top-10 in stage one of the Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway, Mack opted to bring the No. 1 Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet Camaro SS to pit road under caution on lap 61. As one of three that pitted, the JR Motorsports driver came to life in the final nine laps of the stage.
Annett restarted outside the top-10 and within a lap had climbed to ninth. He made quick work of fellow playoff drivers Justin Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek, and Justin Haley. On the final lap of the stage, Annett battled his JRM teammate Noah Gragson and Cole Custer.
The trio took the green and white checkered flag three-wide with Annett in fourth. The gamble netted the Daytona winner seven points with his pre-caution position, 10th, going to Allgaier. Annett went on to finish stage two in fourth and the race in ninth.
The strategy call by Mack increased the cushion Annett has on the cutoff for the Round of Eight from five-points to 18-points over Brandon Jones.
The gamble almost backfired as Annett initially missed his pit stall. Luckily, with just two other cars pitting, he simply stopped on pit road. A heads-up crew member immediately signaled for Annett to re-adjust in the pit box as he was over the line. That saved him from a costly one-lap penalty had he pitted outside the box.
The ninth-place finish is Annett’s 16th top-10 this season and the 60th of his Xfinity Series career. He is now one top-10 from matching his career-high of 17 which came in 2012 during his tenure with Richard Petty Motorsports.