Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – On an afternoon that saw tactics outweigh bravado, Michael Annett found victory lane for the first time in his XFINITY Series career. Though no bold moves were made on the final lap, for Annett the race win still came down to a matter of inches on pit lane.
Annett has had a spotted NASCAR career to this point. Self-admittedly, Annett has struggled for the past few years to put together a winning combination that could allow him to contend for wins and championships. Annett says there was a definitive turning point, and that he’s not the same racer, or man that he was a year ago.
“I think last year. Missing the playoffs. Being with this team and this organization knowing the equipment I was in, missing the playoffs was just unacceptable.” Annett said. “ I got asked earlier what the spark was. I think it was the second that checkered flag dropped at Vegas and the playoffs started and we weren’t in them.”
Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t just happy for his team’s victory. It was deeper than that. The pairing of Crew Chief Travis Mack and Annett was an important one personally for Earnhardt Jr.
“Michael’s not the same person that we hired.” Earnhardt said. “The guy that you’ll see when he comes into victory lane, obviously he’s had a hell of a transition over the last hour but he’s changed a lot in the last several months to work with him. I’d imagine that when you drive and you’re relegated to the back of the field regardless of your efforts in and out of the car, it’s got to be extremely frustrating and you sort of get programmed t approach your job a certain way and we’ve had t try to convince Michael I think to change his approach and his mentality toward racing. Encourage him to believe in his potential and reignite his passion and enjoyment for driving.”
“When Travis became available, I thought as soon as I heard the news that he was available that we needed him to Crew Chief for Michael because I know Travis’s mentality his personality his fire and his drive is exactly what would ignite Michael’s passion and drive and desire.”
Crew Chief Travis Mack was also welcomed to victory lane for the first time in his XFINITY career. His outlook was much like Annett’s. Struggling for multiple seasons, Mack’s focus on turning his career and Annett’s around was the only goal.
“I felt like the teenager that kinda ran away from home a little bit.” Mack said. “I realized it wasn’t better out there so I came back to the Hendrick family, Jr. Motorsports and when Dale called me and had me come in I was super excited. I’ve been on board ever since. Just the welcoming arms back at Jr. Motorsports, it’s like a family. They brought me right in and they respected what I had to say and the things I was doing to work with them. Working side by side with those guys…”
The NASCAR XFINITY Series heads next to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Rinnai 250 on February 23rd.