The Frontstretch: Michael Annett Driver Diary: Indy, Home to Iowa, and Fan Safety First by Michael Annett -- Thursday August 9, 2012

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When you’re growing up, as a little kid the two racetracks you always hear about and think about are Daytona and Indianapolis, the Brickyard. Those are the two tracks you always dream about racing on. I was really looking forward to making my first laps at the Brickyard. You hear so many things about the track, so many characteristics and all the history. I’ve been to a couple of Indy 500s and been a part of it and the atmosphere of what the whole track brings. I was really looking forward to being there and making laps and being part of the inaugural race. It was a lot of fun. Different from any other track we go to. Probably one of the most difficult tracks I’ve been to, not only making laps by yourself but then when you add 42 other cars it gets really difficult. It’s fun because as a race car driver, that’s what we enjoy is challenges and learning something new and the Brickyard obviously was that.

But, my favorite race track we go to, or went to, was Raceway Park. I hated not being able to race there this year, but also enjoyed going to the Brickyard. The best of both worlds would be to be able to go to Indianapolis twice and do both. Hopefully down the road they find a way to put it in the schedule to go back to Raceway Park because honestly I’ve raced there in late models, Silver Crown cars, trucks, Nationwide, everything, and it just puts on some of the best racing of the year. The way the track is, you have the complete bottom or running up by the wall. It was really cool to be at the Brickyard but I’d like at some point to get ORP back on the schedule.

Michael Annett looks forward to visiting his home track in Iowa, where family and friends always give him a warm welcome.

I love going to Iowa. I grew up 30 minutes down the road and while I was still playing hockey we’d drive up and down I-80 and we saw them start to move some dirt, and saw the grandstands going up, and the lights. We really saw the place come to be and the late model race I was in, the first year the track was open, I think it was the second race ever held there so I’ve kind of grown up in the sport as the track has. I look forward to going back there and I have so many friends and family that show up to the race with all their support and it’s just a hometown crowd. It’s the biggest ovation I ever get at driver intros so that part is always fun and then we had a good run on top of it and a really good race car. We missed out on another $100,000 by about 10 car lengths to the No. 12 car. It was just a really good weekend.

When I was sitting on the plane after the race the crew chief came over and told me about the penalty. At that point he really didn’t know what happened but we’re running some new things on the front end of our cars, a new package that we’re still trying to learn the characteristics of how it changes throughout the race and things that can happen. We missed our heights just a little bit for Iowa. When something like that happens it could be a really ill handling car. You’re putting bunch of rounds in the car trying to get a better attitude and move some wedge around and that’s when you miss your heights.

We went back and looked at our notes and NASCAR looked at their notes because each official knows what changes you made every pit stop and they felt we weren’t trying to do anything. It’s just a racing deal and we’ve seen it happen quite a bit this year, more than in the past. We fell victim to it, we know the mistake we made and it’s not going to happen again. Luckily we’re pretty comfortable where we are in points. We didn’t lose any positions to the guy behind us and I think we can make up six points (the amount of the penalty) and the rest we need to get in the top five pretty quick.

We’re all saddened by what happened at Pocono this past week. There’ve been times I’ve been at Talladega the past two years actually and we had tornado sirens and storms coming through. Myself and some of the other drivers started looking around at where we were going to go if a tornado started coming over the hill. It’s definitely something that needs to be looked at, some shelters and make sure when fans walk in to the facility they know exactly where to go if something like that does happen. NASCAR waits until the rain actually gets there because, obviously fan safety comes first, but as soon as they make a bad call and send everybody to shelter and rain never even comes, the following Monday they’re going to get ridiculed all over the place. It’s a two way street, but safety comes first over the show, so that’s something to look at.

It just seems like with our sport, this is what happens, especially on the safety side. Every time a driver gets hurt or killed, we go back and look at it and figure out how to make it better and how to make sure it never happens again with our race cars and with the safety equipment we wear. It’s going to be the same way with what happened at Pocono and making sure it never happens again.

Watkins Glen where we are racing this week is probably my favorite road course to go to. It combines some slow corners and some really fast corners. I think the “Bus Stop” there is one of the most fun things we do throughout the year, trying to see who can get through there the smoothest and the fastest. You go through there and drop your left sides off on the first left hand turn in and then you drop your right sides off coming out of it. It’s fun and you’re shooting rooster tails trying to get the guy behind you busted so stuff like that is really fun.

We saw the big wreck at the end of the Cup race there last year and they made a lot of safety improvements and took a lot of the sharp angles out, put some SAFER barriers in. I also heard that they’ve done some things with the curbing to make it smoother and not so abrupt so I think that’s going to really increase the speed and the lap times there. I’m looking forward to seeing all the changes they made and getting back to trying to get in that road racing groove. We struggled a little at Road America so we have some improvements to make and hopefully from the first lap there to the last lap we stay on track. That seems to be the key in the Nationwide Series. If you just stay on track you’re going to get a good finish and take care of your car and keep fenders on it, so that’s going to be our goal this weekend.

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