Michael Annett, No. 43 Pilot Flying J M&M’S® Snack Mix Ford Mustang
• Michael Annett finished tonight’s 250-mile race in sixth place, marking his fourth top-10 finish in five races.
• Annett was the Nationwide Series Dash 4 Cash winner with his sixth-place effort and took home the $100,000 cash bonus on Saturday.
• By virtue of his Dash 4 Cash win this weekend in Indy, Annett is automatically eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus next weekend in Iowa.
• Annett maintains his position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings and sits in sixth spot heading into Iowa next weekend.
Race Summary: Michael Annett started the Inaugural Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the 21st position. At the drop of the green flag, Annett quickly gained one position, and by Lap 10 he was running in 18th. Having never turned laps under race conditions at the famed Brickyard, Annett spent the first few laps learning how his Pilot Flying J M&M’S® Snack Mix Ford would handle on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Just prior to the competition yellow on Lap 15, Annett relayed to his crew that the No. 43 machine was neutral and he had no complaints.
Only having 15 laps on the tires, Crew Chief Philippe Lopez took a gamble that track position would prove to be more valuable than four fresh tires, and elected to add right-side tires and fuel only on the initial stop of the day. The gamble paid off and Annett was able to gain sixth positions on pit road and restarted in 12th on Lap 21.
Continuing to run inside the top-15, Annett keyed the mic on Lap 40 and communicated to Lopez and crew that he was still testing the track and handling of his car, but overall he was happy with how his No. 43 Pilot Flying J M&M’S® Snack Mix Ford was driving. The second caution flag of the day flew on Lap 41, and this time Lopez called Annett into the pits for four fresh tires and fuel. Annett restarted in 13th on Lap 47. Struggling on the restart, the Iowa native slipped back to 15th, before driving his way back to 13th at Lap 54.
Annett remained in the 13th position when the third caution flag of the day flew for debris on the track at Lap 64. With passing under green-flag conditions proving to be difficult in the first half of the 100-lap race, Lopez knew track position would be key, and again elected to only take right-side tires and fuel during Annett’s third and final stop of the day. The two-tire call allowed Annett to gain 11 positions on pit road and he restarted in second.
Falling back several positions on the restart, Annett was able to slide back in line in the fifth spot on Lap 69. The driver of the iconic No.43 remained inside the top-10 and was running in eighth when the caution flag flew for an accident that occurred in front of him. Annett was able to avoid the accident and restarted in seventh.
Just two laps after the restart, the caution flag flew for the fifth and final time on Lap 80. Having enough fuel to go the remaining 20 laps, Annett elected not pit and again restarted seventh. Quickly passing three cars on the restart, Annett was running in fourth on Lap 82. With just 13 laps remaining, Annett had settled into the sixth spot and he was the leading contender for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 payout. Knowing the cash bonus was within reach, Annett was able to hold off a hard-charging Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who was his closest Dash 4 Cash competitor, racing just two positions behind. Stenhouse was never able to close the gap, and Annett came home in the sixth position collecting the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash award.
Annett’s sixth-place effort marks his fourth top-10 finish in the previous five races, and also makes him eligible for the NASCAR Nationwide Series final Dash 4 Cash payout next weekend in Iowa.
The Iowa native will head to his home track next weekend in the sixth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings.
Annett’s Thoughts After the Race: “This is awesome. We have a new branding partner with M&M’S® Brand Snack Mix on our Pilot Flying J Ford this weekend and this is the Brickyard. We aren’t kissing any bricks today, but we have a big cardboard check that we can lay our lips on. This was fun. I was so confused this morning. I just wanted to drop the rag and figure it out as we went. About 20 laps in I realized what we needed to get through the field and we had a heck of a strategy that got us in the right place at the right time. I can’t thank Nationwide Insurance enough. Everyone at Pilot Flying J that have been with us from the beginning, this is the kind of stuff they deserve. The look on the faces of the guys is just awesome. We did everything right today. We didn’t have a winning race car, but that is what makes the Dash 4 Cash that much cooler. The sixth-place car can be racing for something. Ricky was two cars behind me the last 10 laps and I knew he was coming quick. That was the hardest I have driven in a long time for a sixth-place finish. We have something to hang up in the shop now.”
Source: Richard Petty Motorsport