Michael Annett, 24 year old driver of the no.62 Toyota for Rusty Wallace Racing in the Nationwide Series, was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning for Driving Under the Influence among other offences in Mooresville, North Carolina.
At approximately 1.20am Annett’s Toyota Tundra was seen to collide with the rear of a car stopped at a red light. The accident was witnessed by a police officer who saw that Annett was using his mobile to send a text or email at the time of the crash. When the officer approached Annett he noticed the driver putting breath freshening mints into his mouth. He was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.32, four times the permitted limit in North Carolina of 0.08. Annett has also been charged with resisting arrest.
Rusty Wallace Racing have declared they will enforce sanctions, saying in a statement, “Rusty Wallace Racing does not condone, nor tolerate, substance abuse by any of its employees. In line with this, RWR is currently working with Michael to develop a package of sanctions which will address this issue. Among these will be successful completion of a comprehensive alcohol awareness program, a zero tolerance policy towards alcohol use, a year-long community service program and additional internal sanctions.”
NASCAR have been in touch with Rusty Wallace Racing but will not be issuing any sanctions of their own until such time as they have the full facts concerning the incident.
Annett issued his own statement of contrition, “I am deeply remorseful for my actions and my extreme lack of judgment. I let down my team, my sponsors, my fans and my family; I sincerely apologize to everyone that I hurt. This was truly a life-changing moment for me. Despite all of the negativity that will undoubtedly arise from it, I'm going to strive to use this incident as the impetus to make a lot of positive changes in my life.”
Whilst most reporters and people involved in NASCAR racing appear to be just quoting the facts as they have been given and are assuming that the law and NASCAR will deal with the transgression as they deem appropriate veteran sports journalist Jim Utter who writes about NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer seemed to be demanding a far tougher and more immediate response from NASCAR and the team, implying that Annett has a serious problem of alcohol abuse. Maybe he does, but equally it may have been an isolated if reprehensible incident.
In response to Rusty Wallace Racing stating that as far as they were concerned Annett would still be taking part in the Nationwide Series first race of the season on February 11th at Daytona, Utter had this to say in his Lucky Dog blog, “Are you kidding me? The LAST thing I want to be assured of is that Annett is going to get behind the wheel of another car, this time going 200 mph. Where is the perspective? The common sense? This young man has a problem that goes far beyond this accident. Get him help. It’s not enough that he’s sorry for what he did. He needs to think about everything that could have happened, but luckily didn’t. Sometimes getting right back in the car is not the most important thing.”
Last year Annett finished in the top ten twice, led for seven laps during the season and finished in thirteenth place in the table. With Rusty Wallace Racing’s support there is no reason why he shouldn’t have another reasonably successful season in 2011.