NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Michael Annett had never competed in a race at the uniquely shaped Pocono Raceway prior to Sunday, but that didn't deter his ability to race and finish well; he scored a 20th-place finish against a 43-car field. The result sufficed as his third-best finish of the 2014 season.
Annett started 30th and maintained that spot, while fighting a too-tight handling condition, until the first pit stop on lap 27. Shortly after that initial stop, he experienced a vibration and returned to pit road on lap 33 to swap out tires, which fixed the issue.
Around lap 40, Annett began to find speed. Ripping off his fastest laps of the race to that point, he moved ahead in the running order at a steady pace, climbing as high as 23rd before a series of pit stops on laps 73 and 81. He broke into the top 10 - and eventually took the lead - during a green-flag pit cycle, before pitting on lap 112. That stop proved to be crucial, as the Pilot Flying J pit crew filled Annett's Chevrolet SS to the brim with fuel. The goal, according to crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion, was to stretch fuel mileage as much as possible in anticipation of a late-race run.
Manion's gamble was executed when, on lap 118, they elected to keep Annett on the track during a caution-flag period, moving him to 16th in the running order. He went on to pick off three more positions before relinquishing his spot to pit on lap 133. He rejoined the race, and drove to the finish from the 24th-place spot.
Weaving through traffic and dodging an accident that took out two top competitors, Annett moved to 15th prior to the final restart. The car in front of him braked when the No. 22 car lost power, causing a domino effect that slowed Annett at the start of the race-ending run. He rebounded, moving from 21st to 20th, where he'd finish on the lead lap.
MICHAEL ANNETT QUOTE:
"I feel like we proved ourselves. TBR brought a good car and I listened to Tommy's advice on how to get around this place - this was my first race here - and 'Bono' made some great pit calls today. We were good enough to fend off a lot of cars. Between Dover and today, we've had two races in a row where I feel like we've made serious strides."
Rising Star PR