DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It took him eight years, but it was well worth the wait.
Michael Annett held off his teammate, Justin Allgaier, to get to the checkered flag first and score the win in Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
It gives the Des Moines, Iowa driver his first win in 230 starts in the series, and it gives JR Motorsports their fifth overall Daytona victory.
“Eight years in the (Xfinity) Series – this is amazing,” Annett said. “I couldn’t have done it without these guys – they’ve stuck with me through the hard times when everyone counted us out. They’re the reason I’m getting to drive this car and I think we showed it today, they worked their tails off today. Our slogan this year was ‘one team, one dream, one goal’ and this was one of them, so we’re starting off the year good.”
In a race that ran mostly incident free, Annett took the lead off of a fast pit stop during a debris caution on lap 75, and would pace the field for the rest of the 120 lap event.
Allgaier waited until the final lap to try to make a move, but found himself blocked each time by his teammate.
Annett said he was waiting for the second line to form up.
“I was waiting for the second line to get formed and I know they tried but it just wasn’t there,” Annett said. “When they had that second line formed with about three to go I knew they weren’t going to have enough steam to get us, I was just worried about my teammate – if you’re going to have someone back there, I knew Justin (Allgaier) was going to be the best one. I knew he was going to push hard and I knew he was going to go for it so we just had to keep him in our mirror.”
In the end, Allgaier he had to settle for second.
“I followed Michael here a few years ago in an ARCA race – I couldn’t beat him then and I couldn’t do it today,” said Allgaier. “We tried really hard there at the end. Hats off to everybody back at JR Motorsports – all four of our Chevy Camaros were strong today. To see Michael get his first win – he’s tried so hard and to see the effort and time he’s put into it, especially in the off-season, it was really cool.”
Atlanta, Georgia’s Brandon Jones in third, and leaves Daytona as the series points leader.
“I mean, you could just tell everybody was so scared to get out of line there and then lose the pack,” Jones said. “Me and Justin (Allgaier) just talked after the race and we thought that that 1 (Annett), whenever he tried to swing that block, that was going to be the ticket to get by him. Just not enough momentum. Just very hard to get going there, but the Supra looked great on the race track for the debut of it. Juniper was back on the car for us this weekend, so I can’t complain. We had a great day. It was a great start to the year.”
Tucker, Georgia’s Ryan Sieg came home in fourth, with Austin Cindric in fifth.
Christopher Bell, Jeff Green, John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott rounded out the top ten.
Jeffery Earnhardt, grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Sr., finished 15th in his first outing for Joe Gibbs Racing after starting on the outside pole and leading for the majority of the first segment of the race.
“We didn’t lead enough,” said Earnhardt, who paced the field for 29 laps. “We didn’t lead the last one and that’s the most important one. We made adjustments because I felt like I was complaining about it being too free and we ended up getting it too tight there and we just struggled a little bit after that. Man, I was getting my butt kicked on everyone side drafting. Just lack of experience. I’ll get better at it.”
The race was slowed only once for an on track incident. That came on lap 79 when Ray Black Jr. spun on the backstretch.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski continued to have hard luck during SpeedWeeks. The roof hatch on the top of his No. 12 Ford came loose early in the going. After losing a lap to repair it, the hatch lid would come loose again. Eventually, it flew off of the car completely, leading to a debris caution.
Keselowski would park the car, credited with a 37th place finish.
“I felt like I was back in the ‘50’s running a convertible here on the beach,” Keselowski said. “That was interesting. The roof, escape hatch, whatever it is called looks like there was a defect from the factory on the body and just nothing we could do. The guys tried to fix it but it is in a spot where you can’t get to it and work on it. It is made the way it is made. We are stuck. It is one of those things outside your control and sometimes that is just how things go.”
In a race notorious for mayhem, the race was only slowed by on track cautions twice – four, counting the end of segment cautions – and 35 of the 38 starters were still on track at the end.
“I felt like the race today was fairly calm, which I was really surprised about,” Allgaier said. “I feel like the cars were stable enough that I felt like guys were going to be able to move around a lot more and unfortunately we just weren’t able to. We’ll go back to the drawing board, and I’m sure when we get to Talladega with this package, we’ll be crazy again.”
Check back for further updates on this story.