KNOXVILLE, Iowa—Michael Annett will finally live out a childhood dream at Knoxville Raceway this Friday.
In other words, he'll finally be driving at the Sprint Car Capital of the World--just not in a sprint car.
In Friday night's Corn Belt 150 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Annett, 35, will drive the No. 02 Chevrolet for Young’s Motorsports carrying an iconic black and gold livery honoring his late father Harrold’s TMC Transportation. Harrold Annett provided sprinters for Mike Brooks, Bob East and Sammy Swindell, who piloted the No. 1 TMC car. The elder Annett was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame at Knoxville in 2007. He passed away in March.
Michael Annett, a Des Moines driver, who competes full-time for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, grew up in a family that supported open-wheel racing. His first trip to the half-mile track came in 1986 when he was just three years old.
Yet when Annett began his motorsports career, his mother refused to let him run a sprint car—but she never said anything about a truck.
“The second I heard the truck series was going to Knoxville, I did everything possible to make sure I could be a part of this,” Annett told RacinBoys.com. “It was definitely pretty cool. It’s hard to put into words. When you’re there as a little kid, and you’re just watching guys make laps, it was something I always dreamed about, but my mom said, ‘No way in hell are you going to drive a sprint car!’
“I never thought I’d get the chance to run at Knoxville, so when this became an opportunity, I had to be a part of it.”
To have the privilege of making laps around the iconic venue on Thursday was a dream finally realized by Annett—one he feels his father would have supported wholeheartedly.
“He’s right there with me,” Annett said. “I know this probably sounds corny, but yesterday, to finally live out a dream was pretty cool. I’ve sat in the grandstands. I’ve sat with him in the Hall of Fame. As soon as they opened it, my dad bought a suite and we were there every weekend. At that point, I was playing hockey and never thought I’d be racing there.
“Let me try to explain this. He wanted me to race, but he didn’t want to have to deal with my mom. So I always felt like he felt bad for me, knowing that it was something I always wanted to do. By the time I turned 19, we were finally able to talk my mom into it. I could definitely tell that he realized it was something I wanted to do, and the fact that it’s a place that means so much to our family and I finally get to turn laps there, he’d be really excited—and probably my biggest critic as well.”
Although Annett was finally allowed to run stock cars, he’s still a bit jealous watching of the guys that compete full-time in the World of Outlaws and All-Star Circuit of Champions. Like many race fans who can’t get enough of dirt track racing, Annett subscribes to Dirtvision and FloRacing, not only for the entertainment value but to monitor the latest talent coming up the pipeline.
For a kid who grew up at dirt tracks, the advantage gained by drivers running open-wheel to hone their craft is not lost on Annett.
“Obviously there’s (Kyle) Larson and (Christopher) Bell. Jeff Gordon and (Tony) Stewart, they’re the O.G.’s—but for sure, there’s a craft to being good on dirt,” Annett said. “And I guess that’s why I wasn’t any good at it yesterday (laughs), but I’ll have 150 laps to figure it out tonight.”
Annett’s last race in a truck on dirt was at Eldora Speedway in 2014. He has nine starts in the Camping World Truck Series with a career-best second-place finish at Kentucky in 2008. Annett will have veteran truck crew chief Eddie Troconis calling the shots in the Corn Belt 150 on Friday.
“The truck was better than the driver,” Annett said. “The speed wasn’t what we were looking for but I’m not worried about tonight. My plan to kind of catfish around the bottom is still going to work. So I’m not worried about it one bit.”
As soon as the race ends, Annett will hustle to the Victory Air charter waiting to take crews back to Charlotte. He and the other Xfinity Series drivers have to board another plane at 6:30 on Saturday morning for Atlanta Motor Speedway for his day job behind the wheel of the No. 1 Pilot/Flying J Chevy.
“I feel like we have unfinished business at Atlanta,” said Annett who came from 27th to finish seventh at the 1.5-mile track in March. “We should have been a lot better than we were earlier this year. We did our homework and I feel we’ll be a lot stronger when we go back. We let the track get away from us and got behind by about the second stage. We know what we did wrong.
“I’ve been itching to get back there. It’s a place that I enjoy, and we could have been a lot better than we were.”