Strong track position and some late-race restart expertise helped NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Michael Annett finish 21st in his first career series start Sunday night at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After qualifying 25th, Annett kept a steady pace in his Pilot Flying J / St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Chevrolet SS while fighting a loose-handling condition that also saw the car over rotating in the center of turns. A caution on lap 39 allowed Annett's Tommy Baldwin Racing crew to make adjustments in the track bar and in the tires' air pressures. With the handling more neutralized, Annett began experimenting with different lines around the track, eventually settling on one that allowed him to pull away from marquee competitors.
A pair of closely placed pit stops on laps 117 and 130 kept Annett in 25th after crew chief Kevin Manion adjusted air pressures in anticipation of cooler track temperatures as nighttime skies emerged. Though the splitter on Annett's Chevrolet SS was hitting the track, he felt comfortable with the handling.
The driver's only real adversity came on lap 150, when one of Annett's contact lenses fell out of his eye. Though not a race-ending occurrence, the rookie completed the rest of the race with just one contact lens. It didn't affect his driving ability, as he passed his way to 23rd place and gained another spot, to 22nd, following a pit stop on lap 297.
The conclusion of the race was interrupted by two accidents across the final 10 laps. For Annett, the caution flags gave him opportunities to gain more positions. After getting shuffled to 24th, the final restart of the race provided a boost for the rookie, who overtook three competitors in the final two laps to finish 21st.
MICHAEL ANNETT QUOTE:
"Our speedway program has improved all year long, and tonight was a result of that. The car was certainly fast and those last few cautions let us pick off a few more positions on restarts. I'm proud of the TBR guys for their effort this weekend. It was a solid night for all of us."
Rising Star PR