Thursday, Dec 08

Michael Annett entered this season as an underdog. Annett, 28, is the oldest of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year class in 2014, but he also has the most experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.

After starting out his career with Germain Racing, Annett landed at Richard Petty Motorsports after a year with Rusty Wallace Incorporated.  It was at RPM where Annett started to contend for top-10s on a weekly basis, and arguably ran better than the equipment he was in. Last year, however, Annett suffered a major setback as he was severely injured in the season-opener at Daytona – sidelining him for nine races.

Annett came back, but did not run as strong as 2012 – earning just four top-10s in 25 races. Though he never truly contended for wins in the Nationwide Series, Annett showed that it was time to make the jump to the sport’s top-tier division, and that he did.

This year, Annett has been racing with Tommy Baldwin Racing – a team that started in 2009 as a start and park organization that was trying to piece together the right sponsorship package. Now that the team has grown, it was all but perfect timing for Annett.

Through 15 races in 2014, Annett has outrun the drivers he needs to outrun. No, he has not been stunning, but he has surely done better than initially thought. With his sponsor, Pilot/Flying J, following him to the Sprint Cup Series, he has the financial backing that might enable him to join a more established team in the future. But for now – the Iowa native is in the perfect setting where he doesn’t have to worry about having more pressure than needed along with unrealistic expectations.

However, the No. 7 team has begun to gain momentum. Tommy Baldwin Racing expanded their alliance with Richard Childress Racing over the off-season. No, it is not as heavy of an alliance compared to the likes of Furniture Row Racing and Germain Racing, but it is a partnership that has begun to help this underdog team.

Annett has three lead lap finishes this year. Although it doesn’t seem like a lot, all of those have been recorded at larger tracks – something that has been a weak point for this small team in the past. Over the past two weeks, Annett finished 20th and 21st, respectively. There is still room for improvement, but TBR has come a long way in a short time this year after running multiple laps down every single race to start the year. And so far this season, Annett has run slightly better than Dave Blaney did in the same car last year, as well as out running his teammate, Reed Sorenson. 

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