On Friday, fans were perplexed when Michael Annett was replaced at the last minute by Chris Windom for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Knoxville Raceway in his native Iowa. A day later, the move received justificiation as it turned out Annett had suffered a leg injury that will also force him out of the seat for the Xfinity Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Austin Dillon will replace him in the #1 JR Motorsports car.
With less than an hour before the Xfinity Series’ Credit Karma Money 250, Annett pulled himself from the driver’s seat due to his injury; specifics of the ailment, such as when it occurred and if it will impact his schedule, were not disclosed beyond it happening to the leg. The injury forced him to abort the Knoxville Truck start, which would have been his first in the series since 2014, after only participating in practice.
As there was not much time before the green flag, JR Motorsports approached Jordan Anderson and B.J. McLeod—both owner/drivers at the track to oversee their respective teams—before deciding on Dillon. Incidentally, Anderson’s driver Josh Berry is a JRM part-timer who has subtitute experience for Justin Haley at Dover in May, and he also filled in for Kris Wright at the Atlanta Truck event in March. Such a process is not as simple as picking the most qualified driver as a team also has to ensure the replacement can fit into the original person’s seat.
Dillon, a Cup Series driver running his main series’ race on Sunday, is the 2013 Xfinity champion. It will be his first Xfinity oval race since Indianapolis in 2019, though he has only raced sporadically in the series since 2018. He has top tens in all three starts at Atlanta, with the most recent being an eighth in 2017.
“We were calling and scrambling and I’m gonna tell you right now: if I had my helmet and my HANS device, I would have left you in a New York Minute, Rick (Allen),” said JRM owner and NBC commentator Dale Earnhardt Jr. “We went through a bunch of different drivers and reaching out to everybody, scrambling to try to find out who was even here who could do the job. A lot of the Cup guys don’t come in until tomorrow[.]”
Had either been selected, Anderson and McLeod would have easily received their best ride to date. According to Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic, McLeod said it was “a dream just to be considered.”
While Annett will likely receive a waiver to remain eligible for the playoffs, missing the Atlanta race will leave him in a more precarious position to make the postseason. After seventeen races, he is currently tenth in points with 67 points on twelfth-placed Brandon Brown who sits on the cut-off line. Annett was coming off his best finish of the season at Road America last Saturday, where he finished third.
The #1 was set to start sixth, but the driver change means Dillon will begin the day at the back.