Annett Experiences Cup Learning Curve
CONCORD, N.C. – Humbling. That is the word Michael Annett used to describe his first few months in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Annett made the move up to Sprint Cup during the off-season when he joined Tommy Baldwin Racing to drive the No. 7 Chevrolet SS, replacing Dave Blaney in that ride. He one of seven drivers in a stacked rookie class this year in Sprint Cup that also includes Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon.
Previously, Annett drove in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Richard Petty Motorsports. He said getting used to the change in expectations was initially a tough pill to swallow.
“The whole season has been very humbling. I think the past two years with RPM each week we went to the race track we felt like we had a chance to win races,” Annett said. “That is always your main goal as a race car driver, but you have to manage expectations and set goals you can reach. I think humbling is the best word for it.”
Success has been hard to come by, but for his Tommy Baldwin Racing team little steps are just as important as big ones. While many didn’t expect much from Annett and company, the team has been taking small steps towards becoming more competitive.
A perfect example is last week at Kansas Speedway. Despite being caught up in an accident not of his making early in the race, Annett was able to rebound and finish 25th. While some might call 25th a disappointing finish, Annett and TBR consider it a solid day’s work.
“A top-25 is the goal,” Annett said. “As a race car driver I never thought I’d get excited about finishing 25th, but to hear the tone in Bono’s (Manion, crew chief) voice and just to see the guys after the race with the top-25 finish, the excitement that you get from that, it is totally different from what I’m used to. But headed to the airport and on the plane home, you get that good feeling. We went there, we had a goal and we exceeded it.”
In addition to the top 25 finish at Kansas, Annett has turned in two other solid performances this year at Auto Club Speedway in California (19th) and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (16th).
“This is a totally different ballgame and a totally different world,” Annett said. “But when you meet those goals that we have set out I think it is almost even more special.”
Annett admitted the team has been lacking in the speed department, but said he is confident the speed will come as he learns more about the car and what it takes to go fast.
“I think the biggest thing for me is when we start races or we finish practice I think the car is handling as good as it needs to. But then you get in the race and you see a good handling car and the speed they have,” Annett said. “Today, we kept hearing the phrase ‘just lacking a little bit of speed’ and I think we’re in that same boat. We need some more speed.
“Obviously there are still just things as a rookie that I need to learn about what the feel is (to go fast). If it is to be more on the edge, to be a little freer, to let the more be happier to gain that speed. It is stuff like that that I think throughout this whole year we’re going to keep learning,” Annett said.