Race Summary: Michael Annett started the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway from the eighth position, his best starting position this season. At the drop of the green flag Annett slipped back a few positions and immediately communicated to crew chief Philippe Lopez that his Pilot Flying J Ford was loose. As the field began to spread out, Annett was able to settle into his preferred line around the track and by Lap 33 he had worked his way back up to eighth.
A caution at Lap 40 allowed Lopez to call his driver into the pits for four fresh tires, fuel and trackbar and air pressure adjustments in an attempt to improve the No. 43’s loose condition. Restarting in eighth, Annett was logging lap times comparable to the leader and methodically began to work his way toward the front of the field. Though he was still struggling with a loose race car, Annett was scored in the sixth position when routine green-flag pit stops began to take place at Lap 90.
Staying out a lap longer than the leaders during green-flag stops, Annett was credited with leading Lap 97, and gained a valuable bonus point in the championship standings. After leading, the driver of the No. 43 came down pit road for four tires, fuel, and wedge and air pressure adjustments. Shortly after pitting, Annett relayed to his team that the Pilot Flying J Ford was handling much better after the changes made on the previous stop, and the improvement showed as Annett was continuously running lap times faster than any other car on the track. Running in the sixth position at Lap 114, Lopez relayed lap times over the team radio and told Annett he was gaining on the cars ahead of him.
Twenty-five laps past the half-way mark of the race, the caution flag flew for the fourth time and Annett reported his No. 43 Ford was handling better, but was still just a tick loose on entry into the corners. Coming into the pits on Lap 126, Lopez called for four tires, fuel and a minor wedge adjustment to the left rear in an attempt to tighten up Annett’s race car. Restarting in sixth, Annett had slipped back to the ninth position by Lap 131, and he quickly let his crew know that he did not like the wedge adjustment and he wanted to go back to the way the car was on the previous run.
Running in eighth, the team’s next pit stop came under caution at Lap 167 and the crew was able to readjust the left-rear wedge to try and help the car to handle more like it did earlier in the race. Several cars elected to take only two tires under caution, while Annett elected to take four and he restarted in the 10th spot.
With 25 laps remaining, Annett knew he had a fast Pilot Flying J Ford and was determined to improve his position before the end of the race.
Again running lap times as fast as the leaders, Annett was able to methodically move through the field, picking off one car at a time for position. When the checkered flag flew Annett had driven his way to the seventh position and collected his fourth-consecutive top-10 finish.
Annett’s seventh-place effort marks his 12th 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 Kentucky Speedway.
Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “It was a good day all around for our Pilot Flying J team. We had our best qualifying result of the season earlier in the day and ended up with another top-10 finish when it was all said and done. My team worked really hard this weekend to give me a great car, and I couldn’t have accomplished what I did today without them. We have struggled with our qualifying efforts this season, so it was great to get a starting position near the front. The closer to the front we can start, the less ground we have to make up during the race. We had a solid car all day and never really fell out of the top-10. Those green flag runs in the middle portion of the race got the field so spread out, it made it really hard for us to gain any ground even though we were running lap times faster than the leader. I think we had a car capable of a top-five finish, but we just ran out of laps there at the end. All in all it was a good day for the No. 43 team and I’m really looking forward to going to Kentucky, another 1.5-mile track next weekend.”
Source: Richard Petty Motorsports