Year Over Year, JRM’s No. 1 Team Made Massive Improvement

Ron Lemasters | 11/20/2019

Michael Annett News Pilot Flying J Travis Mack XFINITY Series

Based on raw numbers alone, the amount of improvement in Michael Annett and the No. 1 Pilot Flying J team in 2019 is...remarkable.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 20, 2019) – Just looking at raw numbers, the amount of improvement in JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Pilot Flying J team is...remarkable.

In 2018, driver Michael Annett and the rest of the No. 1 team earned three top-10 finishes in 33 starts, led nine laps and finished 14th in points, missing the NASCAR Playoffs.

In the first four races of 2019, Annett eclipsed those marks in top-10 finishes and laps led, and six races into the season, he already had more top-fives than he had in 2017 and 2018 combined. He also earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in the opening race at Daytona.

Annett set career-best totals in top 10s (19) and laps led (94, 67 better than his previous NXS career total), nearly doubled his total of career top-five finishes and won the pole at Talladega, his first in the NXS. He was running at the finish in 31 of the 33 races, and the only two he didn’t finish were at Daytona in the summer and Talladega. In both races, he was crashed out while running in the top five.

That’s how much better the first full season was with Annett behind the wheel and Travis Mack atop the pit box as crew chief. The team—Annett, Mack, car chief Jonathan Davis, race engineer Kevin Walter, engineer Eric Long, front-end mechanic Richie Snyder, underneath mechanic Brian Gainey and engine tuner Keith Matthews—bought into the mantra that Mack and Annett set prior to the season opener and parleyed that into a monster of a season.

A closer look at the numbers reveals a massive uptick in performance between the two seasons. In 2018, Annett averaged 17.5 for starting position and 18.6 per finish. In 2019, those improved to 12.8 (-4.7) and 10.0 (-8.6), respectively. He led 85 more laps, too, more than half (45) coming on the way to victory at Daytona.

The goals set for 2019 were to win a race, make the playoffs and contend for a title. Check, check and check, if you’re scoring at home.

“We checked all the boxes this year,” Mack said. “We just didn’t make it to Homestead to compete for the championship. Next year, we’ll check all those boxes and make it to the Championship 4 at ISM Raceway and contend for the championship.”

So, what was the biggest difference in the tale of two seasons? Mack took over as crew chief with 10 races left in the 2018 season and engineered two of the team’s three top-10 finishes. In the offseason, he and Annett forged a routine that included morning workouts and team-building, along with a focus on improving over the previous season and hitting their goals.

It worked.

“Everybody bought in this year,” Mack said. “We went to Daytona with the confidence that we could win the race and prove to everybody that we could do it. We did it. We put our mind to it and did what we really thought we could do.

“Next year, I feel like we can go out—I’d love to win at Daytona again—and get multiple wins before we get to the playoffs, and hopefully we are in better points position. It will be a little easier on us that way.”

His team—including the pit crew, which spent Sunday’s pitting the No. 37 for JTG Daugherty Racing—rose to the challenge, and Mack sees no signs of any kind of let-up for 2020.

“The team is really clicking together. Starting out the year, we were kind of new, and we got our win early, but toward the end of the year I think we were really a good team, clicking on all cylinders, even our pit crew. We’ll be even stronger next year, right out of the box.”

Mack’s first full season on the box was, thanks to the season-opening victory, marked by a penchant for rolling the dice. Going off-script was a feature, not a bug, and having a victory in hand with 25 races to go for more made that more apparent.

“We made some right calls this year,” he said. “We kind of went out on a limb and had a chance to win a few races. Take away those top three (Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell) and we would have won a lot more races than just the one. Next year, those guys are gone and I feel like we can get multiple wins in 2020, doing the same things we did this year.

“Having the win early kind of put us in the position to where we could go for wins and do everything we could to get the best finish we could. We weren’t scared to go against the mold and not follow everyone else’s lead. We just went down our own path and did our own thing. We do the same thing with setups, and we’ll see how it works out. If it doesn’t, we’re all still behind each other 100 percent.”

Satisfaction for a job well-done doesn’t mean that Mack is sitting around on his and his team’s laurels. That is hardly the case.

“We need to have better short-run speed and restarts,” he said. “We’ve seen the potential of what Michael can do behind the wheel, and he’s going to work on his stuff some more this offseason and he’s going to come back next year even better yet.

“We just need to keep getting better in every area to beat those guys we were running against this year.” 

XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Ford EcoBoost 300

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 11/16/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick (P)40400
2Cole Custer (P)4035-5
3Christopher Bell (P)4032-8
4Justin Allgaier (P)4023-17
5Chase Briscoe #2302-1738
6Austin Cindric2294-1746
7John Hunter Nemechek #2253-1787
8Noah Gragson #2246-1794
9Michael Annett2239-1801