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Spotlight: Annett out to make most of second career, second chance

September 21, 2011, Joe Menzer,

Annett out to make most of second career in racing, second chance at RWR

There was a time in his life when Michael Annett dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player.

When he realized he was spending far more time in the penalty box than scoring goals on the ice, however, he knew he had to have a fallback plan. Having attended a sprint-car race within days of his birth in 1986 and with his family having previously owned a World of Outlaws team, becoming a professional race car driver seemed a viable option.

Michael Annett

Season breakdown
 Before ViersAfter Viers
Fin. 11-1524
Fin. 16-2075
Best Finish13*6*
Worst Fin.^2420

"We've had a lot of good runs lately -- and every time we come back to the track, we see the gains that we've made. ... Our team is probably the best it's been all year."


Asked recently about leading the league in penalty minutes when he was 16 years old and a junior in high school, playing AAA hockey for prestigious Team Illinois, Annett shrugged.

"I wasn't the most skilled guy on the team, by far, and I knew that. I did lot better job when I didn't have the puck on my stick and I was playing defense -- but I also was really small so I had to find different ways to make myself known and make myself part of the game," said Annett, who now drives the No. 62 Toyota in the Nationwide Series for Rusty Wallace Racing. "I always tried to make sure when I took a penalty that it wasn't a tripping penalty or any type of penalty where it put our team at a disadvantage. It was more like if someone takes a shot at your goalie, you go after him."

Annett said he has been far less aggressive in his three seasons as a full-time Nationwide driver.

"I definitely don't think I'm an overly aggressive driver on the track," Annett said. "If I know my car isn't up to where it needs to be to make a certain move on the track, I don't try to force it. I wait and wait until I feel the situation is right.

"One thing I've learned this year is that when you do get in the top 10, you have to take a lot more chances. If you don't, you can fall back outside the top 10 in a lap or two. So once you get up there, the races are a whole lot different from first through 10th than they are 11th through 20th or 21st through 30th, and so on. It's a good thing that I've been in situations where I've been able to learn those differences there."

Annett heads into the next Nationwide event at Dover on Oct. 1 sitting 10th in the point standings. Although he'd like to be higher, he's pleased to at least be in the top 10 after a slow start to his season.

"Our season definitely started off in the slowest way possible -- with a wreck and finishing 38th [in the season opener] at Daytona," Annett said. "We needed to bounce back those next four or five races and get those points back, kind of like Elliott Sadler did, but we didn't do that. We just had a bunch of 15th to 18th [-place finishes] and just got ourselves way behind.

"It wasn't like just our intermediate or our short-track program was struggling. It was everything. Then we made a chance to the team, moving Rick Viers to crew chief. It's not like we changed the cars that much, but it was like right then everyone's attitude started to change and we went on a real good string of good top-10 runs."

Annett said he is enjoying driving for Wallace, the legendary former driver-turned-owner. Annett drove for Germain Racing his first two full-time Nationwide seasons after making one start for it in 2008.

"It's just been a huge opportunity. I think it's one of the premier teams in the Nationwide garage for sure," Annett said. "I mean, we know we're at a disadvantage, just being two Nationwide teams who aren't affiliated with any Cup team. But I think we do a very good job -- and Rusty definitely gives us everything we need. He goes to the track planning to win races. I think that's all you can ask for as a driver."

Annett said he also appreciated the fact that Wallace stood by him when Annett was arrested in early February, just before the opening of the season, for driving while intoxicated, texting while driving, failure to reduce speed and resisting an officer. Annett pled guilty to the driving while impaired charge in March and, although the other charges were dropped, was given a suspended jail sentence of 120 days. He also was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation, 48 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $200 fine.

Wallace said he did not take the transgression lightly and kept Annett on only after making it clear that Annett would have to adhere to a no-alcohol policy. Annett, then 24 and now 25 years old, also was placed on probation by NASCAR for the 2011 season.

"It definitely was huge that he stuck by me. It made me realize that he definitely wants me to be a part of this deal," Annett said of Wallace. "It would have been real easy to get rid of me and move onto someone else.

"The way he responded meant a lot. I was in the wrong and I had something to prove to him. I wanted to remain a part of this race team, and he was willing to give me a chance to let me show it. It was a huge deal for me that he was gracious enough to let me stay and drive for him."

Annett also said he has learned from the incident.

"I definitely have learned from it," he said. "You see things in the paper now where other people have made the same mistake and they have a lot worse consequences -- not necessarily what they've done to themselves, but what they've done to other people. It definitely was a huge wake-up call for me and I'm glad it came at age 25 so I can make changes that will help me later in life. I can make a change and become a better person for it."

Meanwhile, he added that he is working hard to help his Nationwide team become the best that it can be.

"It's not like we still can't improve. We know there are still areas where we need to improve," Annett said. "But we've had a lot of good runs lately -- and every time we come back to the track, we see the gains that we've made. There's still room for improvement, but our team is probably the best it's been all year."