[media-credit name=”Gary Buchanan” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]With his fifth consecutive top-10 finish under his belt as of Kentucky Speedway last weekend, Michael Annett has been very pleased with the consistency of his No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang in the Nationwide Series.
But the young up-and-coming racer also wishes that he could start the season all over again and really compete for that coveted championship with all the momentum he has gained since the start of the season.
“I’ve never run this consistently well so the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how much it takes to win the championship,” Annett said. “It really can be won or lost at Daytona, the first race of the year because if you do have an issue, it takes awhile to bounce back.”
“Now, it’s like I wish I could start the season all over again because I’d be right there with them.”
Although he may wish that he could go back in time, Annett acknowledged that he is most pleased with the progress the team has made and with all the top-10 runs. But he also longs for even more performance and would especially like to get to Victory Lane.
“I think we’re definitely excited with the consistency we’ve had, especially with it being top-10 runs,” Annett said. “But we’re actually to the point now where we’re not satisfied with top-10s and are looking for those top-fives and knocking on the door for that first win.”
“I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do here, especially the second half of the season and now we’re disappointed with a seventh place finish like last weekend.”
Annett acknowledged that his good runs have bred a bit of confidence, so much so that he feels that he can get one more spot in the point standings.
“I think the confidence is there now,” Annett said. “It started with the first time we went to Kentucky early in the season and we just had a really good run there.”
“I knew each time we unloaded, I knew we’d have cars capable of being up front,” Annett continued. “And the more I’ve run in the top-10, I’ve learned a lot more.”
“I’ve learned how difficult it is to take a seventh place car and make it a third place car.”
“Consistency is great, especially since we’re trying to chase down the No. 51 for fifth in points,” Annett said. “The past few weeks, we’ve gained on him, but if we could move those top-10s to top-fives, we could speed up that process of running them down.”
“We keep chipping away at the fifth place in points and that would definitely feel like a championship for us,” Annett continued. “You just have to have a perfect day to win one of these races.”
“I think we’re really close right now and it will just be one of those days where we have a top-three car and hopefully make it a winning race car.”
For Annett, winning will require a perfect mix of mental fortitude, as well as a great handling car.
“Racing really is mental, probably 40% mental and 60% car,” Annett said. “There are times you can get so frustrated and lose time on the race track and the next lap, you make up time.”
“The car didn’t change but the mentality of the driver did,” Annett continued. “It’s how you bring it back so if you can maintain consistency, that’s your job.”
Annett admits that he, like many other drivers including Cup driver Denny Hamlin, has consulted with a sports psychologist. And he also admits to being just a tad bit superstitious as well.
“I’ve done some things like sports psychologists and the biggest thing you learn is that if you do lose focus, there are things you can do to get you back on track and back where you need to be,” Annett said. “Confidence comes with success obviously. Once you get it, it’s hard for other guys to take it away from you.”
“I’m very superstitious actually,” Annett continued. “Not a whole lot to do with racing, but more just stuff in general.”
“I don’t think superstition changes anything because I have the same routine every race and sometimes we finish 28th and sometime we finish third. And I didn’t do anything different.”
“I think that’s more just stuff in your head that in the long run doesn’t change anything.”
Whether confidence or superstition, Annett also credits his good runs to the alliance that his single car team at Richard Petty Motorsports has with the Roush Fenway organization.
“We have a really good alliance with Roush Fenway, just like our Cup program,” Annett said. “The engineers meet and we share all of our information.”
“There is a lot of communication there,” Annett continued. “I know for a fact we wouldn’t be where we are without this support.”
“That has been a key attribute. You can have an alliance but if you don’t use it, it does not lead to success,” Annett said. “I think we do a pretty good job of it.”
Annett is definitely wishing for a good run this weekend at Dover, a place that he has deemed “just fun to come to.”
“There’s nowhere else like it,” Annett said of the Monster Mile.”You try to say it’s like Bristol but the sensation in the car and what you go through in the corner here is completely different.”
“Obviously, they look a bit alike and you can take some things that you learned at Bristol and apply them at Dover,” Annett continued. “But I think the biggest thing we fight here is how hard the car lands in the corners.”
“That dropping sensation; this is the only place you feel that,” Annett said. “That’s the first thing we fight and start off working on that landing.”
“You’re never going to get a whole lap here comfortable for the driver,” Annett continued. “It’s just getting it comfortable enough so the driver can drive it consistently.”
In addition to the Roush Fenway alliance, Annett also counts himself among the fortunate who have a ride lined up for next year.
“I’m going to definitely be back in this car running for a championship,” Annett said. “When this season ends, I’m going to be really disappointed because we’ve had some of the best momentum in the garage right now.”
“It’s going to be a long off-season and I’ll be itching to get back to Daytona in February,” Annett continued. “And, if things work out, maybe I’ll get a handful of Cup races, but we’ll definitely be focused on that Nationwide championship for the upcoming year.”