DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell — Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
A season of changes.
Michael Annett is anticipating a hefty turnaround for his HScott Motorsports No. 46 Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet SS team this season, starting with Sunday’s 58th Annual Daytona 500, the season-opening race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, Annett comes off a sophomore season where he recorded a career-best finish of 13th in ‘The Great American Race’ last February, but went on to finish a dismal 36th in the championship standings after 26 finishes outside the top-30.
This season however, Annett looks out into the horizon, and sees change — and a lot of it.
Following the unfortunate 2015 performance, the three-year driver now sits with a Charter spot on the Sprint Cup grid — leased from Jay Robinson’s Premium Motorsports team on a one-year contract that locks him into all 36 races this season — and carries with him a newfound sense of relief going into ‘The World Center of Racing’ this weekend.
“My whole offseason was wondering if the Charter system was even going to come into place,” Annett said. “At times, we did not think it was going to happen, then it was going to happen. Having a full-time sponsor, it makes it hard going to them and telling them we might not make the biggest race of the season (the Daytona 500).”
Annett, particularly, did not want to end up in this same predicament as last season, where he had to focus a lot of energy on the Can-Am Duels. This go-round, he is able to breathe easier and direct his attention more heavily towards Sunday’s 500-mile race.
“Last year, we were totally focused on the Duels because we had to finish top-15 to make the . So this season, (with being guaranteed a spot in the field), we can really think about Sunday more than Thursday.”
While there is ample room for improvement — and improvement will be needed to back up the changes being made at HScott Motorsports — Annett and his team are both looking forward to seeing the adjustments they have made so far and monitoring their results.
Right now, the expectations are set at trying to notch top-25 finishes each week, according to Annett.
“I think, realistically, we are looking at that top-25 week-in and week-out,” Annett expressed. “Looking at where we ran last season, I know we can do that. When we put a car together (the way I like it), we were right in that 20th to 25th range.”
A big part to Annett believing that is possible is due to the additional preparation time his team has put into getting off on the right foot at the start of the 2016 season, compared to last year.
“I think, just going into this season, we are a lot more prepared,” he explained. “Last season, we put the team together in about a month; didn’t have a crew chief till three weeks before Daytona. We underperformed last season, to my standards. We had a lot of adversity. I think this season is going to be totally different and I am excited for it.”
Additionally, HScott Motorsports also bolstered their talent lineup, adding long-time Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer to the team to replace the outgoing Justin Allgaier. Bowyer needed a stop-gap home on his way to Stewart Haas Racing in 2017, after MWR shut down at the end of the year, while Allgaier will compete in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports this season.
As far as working with Bowyer, however? Annett said the contact has been limited, to date.
“We have not had a whole lot of relationship yet, to be honest,” Annett said of his teammate Bowyer. “The way the offseason has been, I have not seen him a whole lot. We had a whole team lunch the other day and I got to talk to him a little bit. But I hope to lean on him (this season).”
“Clint has seen it all, done it all, and he has won races, so hopefully those debriefs after practice I can ask questions and he can answer them. I think Clint being a veteran is going to help me and help the No. 46 team altogether.”
Annett’s opening opportunity to see the team changes play out will be Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, when the Daytona 500 takes the green flag live on FOX, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
For more information on HScott Motorsports, visit them on the web at www.hscottmotorsports.com.
About the Writer
Marshall Gabell is the Mid-Atlantic Correspondent for Race Chaser Online, and was also formerly the public relations director for NASCAR Next member Austin Hill. Gabell is currently attending Stephen Decatur High School in Ocean City, Md., completing his sophomore year. He is just 15 years old.
Email Marshall at: [email protected]
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