*2012 Ride:* No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Mustang
*2012 Primary Sponsors:* Pilot Travel Centers/Flying J (30 races), Northland Oil/1-800-The-Lost (Iowa, August), Old Wisconsin (Atlanta), EFS (Kansas, October)
*2012 Owner:* Richard Petty (listed in the owner points standings as Sandra Turner, due to the team acquiring the 2011 owner points from Turner Motorsports’ No. 32 team)
*2012 Crew Chief:* Philippe Lopez
*Stats:* 33 starts, 0 wins, 6 top 5s, 17 top 10s, 0 poles, 5th in points.
*Best Finish:* 3rd – twice (Daytona – July & Dover – September).
*Average Finish:* 11.2.
*Team Ranking: 1st* of 1. Richard Petty Motorsports fielded only one car in the Nationwide Series in 2012.
*High Point:* For Annett and RPM, the best portion of their season was the entire month of September. In the four races run, Annett had two top-5 and four top-10 finishes, including one of his third-place results (Dover). This doesn’t include multiple appearances in the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash mini-program in the middle of the season, recognition both driver and team should be proud of. Annett also won the $100,000 bonus for his fifth-place finish in the Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
*Low Point:* Annett’s season was very consistent. However, if one aspect stands out as being deficient, it was his exploits on “the twisties.” In a year in which he posted a career-high 17 top-10 finishes, Annett failed to finish that high in any of the three road races. His best effort was an 11th at Watkins Glen, which could be considered the easiest of the three road courses to race at. Montreal and Road America were another story altogether. Those two events happened to be a couple of Annett’s worst races of the year.
At Road America, Annett qualified well and ran in the top 15 most of the race. However, he lost all but fourth gear in his transmission with 14 laps to go. With multiple first and second gear corners, Annett simply couldn’t keep pace and dropped to the rear of the lead lap. The transmission finally petered out for good on Lap 49 after an off-course excursion, putting Annett inside the garage with a 26th-place result. In Montreal, Annett had engine issues from nearly the start of the race, but these were alleviated by plug wire changes. After getting a Lucky Dog, Annett then wrecked shortly after a restart, forcing the team behind the wall for repairs. After returning to the race, Annett could only work his way back up to 28th.
*Summary:* For Michael Annett, 2012 started out with a huge question mark. Despite having sponsorship, he didn’t have a team to race for until January, when his program with Richard Petty Motorsports was put together. Petty hadn’t owned a full-time team in the Nationwide Series since the 1990s and had only done a one-off in 2011 (that resulted in a win for Marcos Ambrose in Montreal). To lock Annett into the first five races of 2012, the team acquired the 2011 owner points of Turner Motorsports’ No. 32. From there, the first few weeks of the season were spent learning the Nationwide car and gaining chemistry.
Aside from being eliminated in late-race wrecks at both Daytona and Talladega, Annett was generally a quiet contender for top-15 finishes early in the season. After a fourth-place result at Kentucky in June, it was like a switch was flipped. From that point on, Annett was a constant threat for top 10s and even the occasional top 5. After years of being “just another young gun with sponsorship” on the Nationwide circuit, Annett took a clear step forward in his development.
*2013 Outlook:* In an offseason that has most teams scrambling for funding, Annett’s No. 43 team is already solid for the upcoming season. Annett will be back in the car full-time, still armed with sponsorship from Pilot Travel Centers/Flying J. Expect an Iowa-specific backer (Ex: Northland Oil) on the car in at least one of the races at Iowa Speedway as well. Crew chief Philippe Lopez will also return to the top of the pit box, meaning everything is in place for Annett to (at least) equal 2012’s performance.
*2011 Frontstretch.com Grade:* N/A.
*2012 Grade:* A-.