Starting deep in the field, Annett and the No. 43 Pilot Flying J team had one goal in mind, to finish fifth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings. Annett began the race with a seven-point advantage over sixth-place Justin Allgaier. To accomplish his goal of finishing the season in the top five in points, and therefore earning a spot on the post-season banquet stage, Annett had to keep Allgaier in his sights throughout the race. And that’s exactly what he did, finishing the 200-lap event with a six-point advantage over Allgaier.
After starting the 300-mile event at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the 32nd position, Annett knew he had some ground to make up on Allgaier, who started near the front of the field. On a mission, Annett quickly made his way toward the front and was scored in 17th by Lap 30. Clicking off lap times as fast as the leader, Annett continued to move forward until having to make a routine green-flag pit stop at Lap 49. Pleased with how the car was handling, crew chief Philippe Lopez called for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. When the remainder of the field had cycled through green-flag stops, Annett was running in 15th.
The first caution flag of the day flew on Lap 67 for an accident in Turn 4 and Annett keyed the mic to let his crew know he was a bit loose. Running in 14th, Annett elected to come into the pits, this time for four tires, fuel and to reverse the air pressure adjustment made on the previous stop. Several cars elected to make two-tire stops and the Pilot Flying J Ford restarted in 16th.
Shortly after pitting, Annett continued to gain ground on Allgaier and was running in 13th when the third caution flag of the day flew at Lap 96. Before bringing the No. 43 machine into the pits, Annett communicated to his team that he needed more side bite upon acceleration. The Richard Petty Motorsports crew added four 12-lap scuffed tires, fuel and a trackbar adjustment. The stop gained Annett one position on pit road and he restarted in 12th.
Several laps into his fourth green-flag run of the day, Annett began to lose grip and started to slide back several positions to be scored in 18th at Lap 112. Though he was running in 18th, Allgaier was only running one position ahead of the No. 43 in 17th. The long green-flag run coupled with an ill-handling race car caused Annett to fall a lap down to the leaders at Lap 152. Luckily the caution flag flew just 24 laps later, allowing him to take the “wave around” on Lap 176, putting him back on the lead lap still one spot behind Allgaier.
A late-race caution on Lap 182 gave Annett the opportunity to come into the pits one final time for four fresh tires and fuel. The fast stop by the No. 43 crew gained Annett three positions on pit road and he restarted in 14th ahead of Allgaier. With only 15 laps remaining, Annett knew he needed to either stay ahead of or within six places of the No. 31 to maintain his position of fifth in the series point standings.
Held up in lapped traffic on the restart, Allgaier was able to pass the Pilot Flying J Ford, but Annett stayed tight to his bumper. The pair methodically moved through lapped traffic for the remaining 10 laps, with Annett working his way to 12th by Lap 197, still one position behind Allgaier. Knowing he was in place to capture fifth in the points, Annett remained calm for the final three laps and maintained his position of 12th when he took the checkered flag to end the 2012 season.
Annett’s 12th-place effort secured his fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, Annett’s highest points finish of his career.
Annett’s Thoughts after the Race: “We started off as one of the fastest cars on the track, but starting 32nd didn’t help us at all. That’s the second week in a row we put on tires and it felt like we made 50 different changes. We didn’t really have the car we needed until the second-to-last stop and then we put on tires there at the end and had only one goal – and that was to keep the 31 in our sights. We went car for car all the way through there and came home. I don’t know where we even finished, but I know we’re going to get on the banquet stage.
“I wish the season wasn’t over. We started off probably a little slow after only putting our team together a month before the season started. The way we improved at about the halfway mark is a testament to how hard these guys were working and what they’re capable of. Like I said earlier, I wish the season wasn’t over because I think we’re just now hitting our stride.
“I’m really just looking forward to next season. Now it’s time to go win races. We’ve proven this year we can run top five, and we’ve proven we can run top 10 easily. Next year it’s time to we start bringing home trophies.”