Michael Annett and the No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers team finished 18th in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Chicagoland Speedway. With few cautions early in the race, Annett went one lap down to the leaders early. The team rallied the rest of the race to gain their lap back and crossed the finish line 18th.
Annett started the 200-lap race from the 15th position, but he struggled with the handling of the No. 43 Ford from the beginning. He reported to Crew Chief Philippe Lopez very early in the race that the car was tight. By the first caution on Lap 25, Annett was in the 20th position. He radioed that the car wasn't too far off, but that he couldn't get it to go anywhere in the middle of the corners. Lopez called for four tires, a trackbar and air pressure adjustments. Annett restarted 24th on Lap 29.
The team was able to gain a few position over the long green flag run, but still battled with the handling of the Pilot Travel Centers Ford. The long run allowed the leaders to catch the field and Annett went one lap down on Lap 67. Lopez called the No. 43 Ford to pit road for a green flag pit stop on Lap 83. The Pilot Travel Centers crew changed four tires and made air pressure and wedge adjustments. Once green flag stops cycled through, Annett was running in the 21st position, one lap down.
With only 12 cars on the lead lap, the second caution of the day came on Lap 108. Annett reported that the handling of the car was similar to where they struggled in Atlanta and the No. 43 Ford was free in the corners. Lopez called for four tires, more air pressure and trackbar adjustments. Annett restarted 22nd on Lap 113.
Annett battled for the Lucky Dog position shortly after the restart, but was never able to catch the break he needed. The No. 43 Ford was running in the 16th position, and about to make a pit stop, when the caution came for an accident in Turn Four on Lap 159. Annett came down pit road for four tires and a trackbar adjustment. He restarted in the 17th position and again in the Lucky Dog spot on Lap 164.
A stroke of luck found the Pilot Travel Centers team when the caution came out just two laps after the restart, putting Annett back on the lead lap as the Lucky Dog. The No. 43 Ford stayed on the track and restarted in the same position, 17th, on Lap 170.
The caution flag waved two more times, but Lopez kept the No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers on the track. With the best set of tires left in the race already on the car, the cautions allowed Annett to gain some track position. He restarted 14th for the last restart of the race on Lap 187.
With 36 laps on his tires, Annett battled hard for track position until taking the checkered flag in the 18th position.
"We were hoping that our troubles in Atlanta wouldn't follow us to Chicago, but that seemed to be the case today. We've been trying some new set-ups and it's making it hard for us to get the response we need from the car during the race. We've got our short track program down, but we just need to get our mile-and-a-half program back to where it was last year. We're headed to another mile-and-a-half track next week too. Hopefully we can use our notes from Atlanta and Chicago and work throughout the weekend to get the Pilot Flying J Ford a better finish next weekend."
The NNS team at Richard Petty Motorsports will return to action at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, September 21st. The Kentucky 300 will be televised live on ESPNNews.
About Richard Petty Motorsports:
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force and STP and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Stanley and DEWALT. In addition, Michael Annett wheels the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.
-Richard Petty Motorsports PR