02/16 17:57 CST Michael Annett wins Xfinity Series opener at Daytona
Michael Annett wins Xfinity Series opener at Daytona
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) --- Michael Annett stretched the Speedweeks streak of
first-time winners to three with a victory Saturday in the Xfinity Series
season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Annett won for the first time at NASCAR's national level, a career that spans
345 races in three series. He gave JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
his sister and sister and Rick Hendrick, its fourth in five years at Daytona
"A lot of people have been down on Michael Annett for a while now," Earnhardt
He likened Annett's opportunity driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for JRM, a
competitive Xfinity Series team, to when the late Dale Earnhardt gave Michael
Waltrip a ride in 2001. It was Waltrip's first ride in a car capable of winning
and he ended an 462-losing streak by winning the Daytona 500 in his debut race
for Dale Earnhardt Inc.
"It reminds me of an Earnhardt giving a Michael a chance years ago to show his
potential," Earnhardt Jr. said about Annett's victory.
Annett followed Austin Hill, winner of the Truck Series opener, and Harrison
Burton, winner of the ARCA opener, as first-time winners this week. The Daytona
500 is Sunday.
Allgaier finished second for a 1-2 Chevrolet finish but didn't have an
opportunity to pass Annett for the lead. The racing was largely single-file and
strung out, the opposite of Friday night's crash-marred Truck Series race.
Drivers on Saturday found it difficult to mount a passing attempt so they
mostly stayed in line.
"I was disappointed I couldn't make a run but a great way to start the season,
come out of here second with some points," said Allgaier, who praised Annett
for earning the victory.
"He has tried so hard and the effort and time he's put in into it."
Brandon Jones was third in Toyota's debut of the Supra in the Xfinity Series.
Ryan Sieg was fourth in a Chevrolet, followed by Austin Cindric in a Ford for
Annett has longtime sponsorship from Pilot Flying J and has taken it to various
teams trying to find a competitive ride. He ran three full seasons in the Cup
Series but didn't score a single top-10 finish in 109 career starts. So Annett
in 2017 stepped down to the Xfinity Series and spent the last two years driving
for JR Motorsports.
"This is amazing --- eight years in the series," Annett said while crediting
his team for sticking with him "through the hard times when everyone counts me
out. Our slogan this year is 'One team, one dream, one goal.'"
Earnhardt Jr. credited crew chief Travis Mack with guiding Annett's team. Mack
had previously worked at Hendrick Motorsports but moved to a crew chief job at
Leavine Family Racing that lasted just aa few months last season. When Mack
became available, JRM grabbed him.
"I knew I needed him here with Michael Annett. That combination would be great
--- so we're seeing the results of that," Earnhardt said. "I'm extremely happy
for Travis Mack. It's been a tough road for him, equally tough road for Michael
Annett. It's been a day of redemption for both of those guys."
Jeffrey Earnhardt led 29 laps and finished 15th in his debut for Joe Gibbs
Racing. Jeffrey Earnhardt has taken a new approach to his career and has
decided to run a partial scheduled with a winning team rather than a full year
with a smaller team.
Jeffrey Earnhardt raced with a tribute helmet to his grandfather, the late
Earnhardt Sr., that showed a shirtless Earnhardt Sr. on a horse. He said his
lack of experience leading races played a factor Saturday.
"Just lack of experience. I'll get better at it," Jeffrey Earnhardt said. "This
was the first time to actually get to race upfront like that. It was a lot of
fun. Hopefully we continue to grow this program and grow myself as a driver. We
won't let them get away from us anymore."
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