Running as high as ninth in the running order, Michael Annett, driving the No. 7 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet SS for Tommy Baldwin Racing, finished 37th in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut. The late charge to the front - he held a top-10 position in the Daytona 500 with less than 50 laps to go - ended when the Rookie of the Year candidate was caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 162.
Annett's maiden 500 attempt was highlighted by day-long improvement.
As Annett, who started 36th, wheeled his way around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway prior to the first green flag, he told the crew over the radio how much he appreciated their efforts. "I just want to thank everyone for all of their hard work in the offseason," Annett said. "Being in this race proves the great job we've done. Let's have some fun today."
Crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion also gave the crew some encouraging words. "Keep it smooth," said Manion. "Michael, you know what to do. Everybody have fun today."
On lap five through 20, Annett moved up and stayed in the mid-20's of the running order when the caution flag flew on lap 22 for debris on the track. Manion called the TBR No. 7 onto pit lane, allowing the Pilot Flying J pit crew to put on two right-side tires and filled his Chevrolet SS with fuel. Annett drove out of the pits in the 22nd-place position.
On lap 31, the caution flag flew once again and Annett was called to pit road for two more tires and fuel. As he exited pit road, rain began to fall. The rain ensued for several minutes until NASCAR officials suspended the race under a red flag on lap 37, which lasted for more than six hours.
When the race resumed under the bright lights and evening skies, it was a whole new ballgame. The temperature was much cooler and the track was much quicker than its earlier iteration. Annett took the green flag in the 26th-place position. He endured some raucous green-flag racing and recovered from a spin on the rain-drenched pit road entrance on lap 115. The race ran free of caution as cars raced tightly and in a three-wide formation until a 13-car pileup on lap 145 brought out the caution flag.
As the field thinned, Annett was called in for a pit stop on lap 150, radioing in that, "The car is good. We just need to clean the grill. There's a lot of grass on the track." He entered the pits in the 14th-placeposition when the pit crew changed four tires and filled the tank with fuel, moving him to 11th in the running order.
The race restarted on lap 156 and the cars charged in a two-by-two formation, only inches away from each other, for 16 more laps when an 11-car wreck was triggered, which collected Annett. As heavy damage was sustained, Manion ordered the car back to the garage. The Pilot Flying J crew worked feverishly to repair the damage and get Annett back on the track to finish the race. As the race drew close to a conclusion, Manion made the call to the crew over the radio that the car was irreparable. They retired from the race on lap 180 of 200 and registered a 37th-place finish.
Rising Star PR