Michael Annett started the Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway from the 17th position. Annett had momentum from the drop of the green flag and gained seven spots in just the first five laps, to be scored in the 10th position. At Lap 33 the Pilot Flying J Ford had moved up to ninth when the caution flag flew for a spinning car in Turn 2.
Annett communicated to his crew under caution that the No. 43 was running well and he didn’t want any changes made. Only halfway into a normal tire run, crew chief Philippe Lopez elected to bring his driver into the pits for only right-side tires and fuel. Several other cars elected to only take gas, and Annett restarted in the 12th position on Lap 37.
Running lap times comparable to the leader, Annett again quickly made his way back toward the front of the field and was scored in eighth just five laps into the third green-flag run of the day. The caution flag was displayed a third time at Lap 70 and Annett brought his Pilot Flying J Ford to pit road for left-side tires and fuel only. A quick stop by the crew, coupled with other cars taking four tires, allowed Annett to gain several positions on pit road and restart in fourth.
Shortly after the drop of the green flag, Annett relayed to his crew that he didn’t like the set of left-side tires and he was having trouble getting the car to roll though the center of the corners. As the run went on, the car’s handling progressively got worse, and he had slipped back to the 13th position by Lap 116. Luckily a caution at Lap 121 allowed Annett to bring the Pilot Flying J Ford to pit road for a new set of four tires and a full load of fuel. The stop would allow the No. 43 to make it to the end of the race on fuel without having to come down pit road again. Multiple cars elected to only take two tires and Annett restarted 18th.
With four fresh tires, Annett methodically began to make his way through the field and when the caution flag flew for the sixth time at Lap 147 he was scored in 15th. Having pitted just 26 laps prior, Lopez elected not to bring his driver down pit road, and by virtue of staying out Annett gained six positions to restart ninth.
The last 50 laps of the race saw two additional cautions and one red flag for multiple accidents. Annett was able to survive the on-track melee and emerge unscathed setting up for the final green-white-checkered restart on Lap 202 in seventh. Restarting in the preferred inside line, Annett was able to maintain his seventh-place position for the remaining two laps to come home with his 17th top-10 finish of the season.
Annett’s top-10 finish allows him to maintain his fifth-place position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings heading into the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Annett’s Thoughts after the Race: “That’s typical Phoenix racing, crazy at the end. All in all it was good day for the Pilot Flying J Ford team. The car started off great and our first run was probably the best our Ford Mustang was all day. We put on two right-side tires and that made it a little too tight, but we were still making up ground on the leader. We did left sides only in the spring here and that brought the car to life and it was the best the car was all night, so we tried that on our next stop. I don’t know if it was a bad set of tires or just the wrong setup to try it, because the car was horrible our next green-flag run. We lost a lot of time there, but then we got a chance to come in and put four new tires on and start all over. That new set put the car’s handling right back to where it was at the beginning. Track position was obviously huge. We stayed out that last caution and some guys came in, so that put us in the top 10 for those crazy restarts at the end. We gained some points on the No. 31 (Justin Allgaier), so we’re going into Homestead with a little advantage. We just need to finish the year off strong like we’ve done the whole second half of the season and we’ll be in good shape to make the top five.”