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Crew chief change energizes Michael Annett's Rusty Wallace Racing team

Michael Annett
Michael Annett

By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

Michael Annett is a big believer in momentum. He should be, for he and his No. 62 Rusty Wallace Racing team are on quite a roll.

Annett has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five NASCAR Nationwide Series race, all with new crew chief Rick Viers. Annett ended up seventh in the last race at Kentucky Speedway, and he heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Saturday's New England 200 tied for ninth in the Nationwide points standings.

"We definitely have some momentum going right now," Annett said. "Things are just really starting to click. ... All year, the guys have known that that's what we're capable of running, and that we can do this week in and week out. We just needed to get one (top-10) under our belt, and we knew more would come. They just keep coming."

Annett's move to RWR for 2011 didn't start out as planned, as his best finish in the season's first 12 races was 13th, twice, with Jason Overstreet as crew chief. Viers took over as crew chief in late May at Charlotte, and in his second race with the team, Annett posted his best finish, ninth at Chicagoland.

Annett said Viers didn't immediately come into the RWR shop and start changing setups on the cars, noting that Viers didn't have any experience with the new Nationwide Series chassis. But Viers brought something more important.

"He came in the door with a new attitude, very, very confident," Annett said. "We sat down, and he said, 'All right, we need to be here in points by this date, this race. We can get to here.' He just looked at where we were and where we wanted to be, and there was no doubt in his mind that that was where we were going to end up. That was a breath of fresh air for me and made me excited."

Annett believes RWR can take the next step, too, battling for top-five finishes and, eventually, victories. It won't be easy, as teams like Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Turner Motorsports all have multiple cars that compete for top 10s.

"There's just so many good cars," Annett said. "It just needs to be your weekend right now. We know we don't have a Cup affiliate and it's just Steven (Wallace) and I, and every time we go into a weekend, we've got a huge battle ahead of us.

"If we keep running top 10, we're going to keep moving further up the pack. We'll be there for chances at the top five. You get one of those under our belt, we'll figure out what we need to do for that. If you start running top five consistently, you'll start battling for wins."

See what momentum will do?

Fast facts
New England 200
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Loudon, N.H.
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN, 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Radio: PRN/Sirius-XM Ch. 90
Track layout: 1.058-mile oval
Race distance: 200 laps/211.6 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 10:35 a.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Kyle Busch
2010 polesitter: Brad Keselowski
Points standings: 1. Elliott Sadler, 641; 2. Reed Sorenson, 637; 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 614; 4. Justin Allgaier, 598; 5. Jason Leffler, 568; 6. Aric Almirola, 553; 7. Kenny Wallace, 532; 8. Steve Wallace, 490; 9. Michael Annett, 483; 10. Brian Scott, 483.