Michael Annett winning at Daytona, after going winless in nearly 230 career Xfinity Series starts, to begin 2019 was an accomplishment.
But what’s been an even more impressive accomplishment thus far? Scoring three more top 10s in the six races since, sitting fourth in points and a prime contender to make noise in the Xfinity playoffs. After a disastrous 2018 that saw Annett miss the playoffs despite driving for a powerhouse organization that won the title, 2019 has the former hockey player as competitive in a stock car as he ever has been.
“It’s not surprising, I always knew we were capable of doing it,” says Annett of his team’s hot start. “I’m just impressed with the hard work the guys have put in, the excitement around the shop and that we’ve kept replicating it, wanting more and knowing there’s a heck of a lot more to get, more top fives and contending for wins.”
Crew chief Travis Mack has rightfully been credited for the turnaround with JR Motorsports’ No. 1 car, and according to the driver, he may well be the sole reason for it.
“The confidence he brings, everybody was starting to buy in last season, [but] it grew during the offseason” said Annett of Mack’s impact on the JR Motorsports garage. “His excitement going into Daytona, knowing what we were capable of, and then leaving there with that trophy… that was contagious.”
The contagion Annett described has led not just to better results on the track, but allowed him to become a more integral part of the JRM organization.
“We’re not only running stronger in the races, we’re running stronger in practice and higher on the timing charts,” said Annett of his team. “I think our notes are more important after a practice, between practices, for the other engineers to [ask] you know, what’s the No. 1 team doing?
“I kinda felt like we weren’t adding to the team, and to be a four-car team and now doing your part… this just makes our notebook that much thicker. Everything is pulling from each car now rather than us going and asking a lot from the other teams.”
The improvement was evident again in Friday practices at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Though Annett failed to crack the top 10 in either session, his results over the course of the afternoon (a 14th place average between the two sessions) were better than he’s posted at Bristol than any other start he’s made since joining JRM.
That’s not to say that Annett has broken all his old habits. When asked about the youth and experience in his garage, Annett made it clear that his first visit after practice would be to established teammate Justin Allgaier. And his reason why echoed a lot of what teammate Zane Smith had to say about the senior No. 7 at JR Motorsports back in Las Vegas last month.
“Justin is the first one I’m going to go to when I get out of the car because we all know how good he is here [at Bristol]. And he’s really open to help.”
“He wants to go out and beat you knowing he’s beaten the best you you can be. That’s just how it works across our drivers, crew chiefs and teams.
The best you Michael Annett can be in 2019 may well prove stout competition for Allgiaer.
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