Hockey and auto racing are two completely different sports. One is played on ice where speed on skates is required while controlling a puck down the sheet. The other is speed at a whole other level, driving 180 mph on a weekly bases.
You don’t hear about many hockey players making a switch to drive stock cars, but NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Michael Annett has made that switch and proved to be pretty good at both.
Annett, driver of the No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota, was born in Des Moines, Iowa and quickly became a rising star on the ice. Hockey scouts were raving over Annett and he was signed to his first junior hockey gig when he was 16, playing for Team Illinois, a tier one AAA team based in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Annett would lead the team to the 2002 Calgary Mac’s AAA Hockey Tournament Championship.
In 2003 he led the league in penalty minutes and even played against Pittsburgh Penguins captain and 2009 Stanley Cup Champion Sydney Crosby in the national championship that year.
Annett would be catch of the eyes of the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League. The USHL is one of the top junior hockey leagues in the United States and is full of potential future college and pro hockey players.
He played in 100 regular season games in his USHL career with eight career assists and 89 penalty minutes for the former defenseman. Annett was also named 2004 USHL Most Improved Player.
At the end of the 2005 season, Annett decided not to go into college hockey, but instead to follow his passion for racing. He would go from the ice into a stock car in the now defunct American Speed Association (ASA).
"It (racing) was a life-long dream of mine. I made my decision towards the end of the 2005 season," Annett said to the Black Hawks' website on Feb. 11. "I felt like I reached all of my hockey goals and my best opportunity was to pursue other goals. I had the support needed to pursue racing, so that is the choice I made."
Annett's family has long been into racing as his dad owned three time World of Outlaws Champion Sammy Swindell's car. So racing was natural for Annett.
He started in the ASA Late Model Series/Northern Division and had an average finish of 14.7 with three top fives, finishing eighth in the championship standings with no wins and a best finish of fourth in 2006. He also finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year Standings.
Annett would compete in one ASA race in 2007, finishing 21st at Indianapolis Raceway Park, but his career was moving fast as two months after his IRP race, he would find himself piloting a ARCA Re/Max Series car at Iowa Speedway in 2007. Annett made his presence felt as he won the pole for his first ARCA start. He would lead eight laps and finish third.
Annett would run at Nashville Superspeedway and Gateway International Raceway finishing eighth and sixth, respectively, until Oct. 5, 2007 at Talladega Superspeedway, when he would win his first ARCA race. He dominated the event, leading 75 laps on his way to his first career victory.
He then caught the eye of owner Bill Davis, who would enter Annett in ARCA and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races in 2008.
He would start the 2008 ARCA season with a win at Daytona and had an average finish of 9.3 in five races last season. He made his Truck Series debut at the Milwaukee Mile on Jun. 20, 2008, finishing sixth. Annett had an average finish of 13.5 in eight truck races in 2008, with one top five and two top 10 finishes.
Another team would see something in Annett, but this time it was a NASCAR Nationwide Series team. Germain Racing signed Annett to run the full 2009 Nationwide Series schedule and he made his Nationwide Series debut in the 2008 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished 36th after being involved in a wrek.
Annett has struggled in 2009 as he only has two top 15 finishes this season and currently sits 16th in Nationwide Series points. However, he recorded his first ever top 10 finish last Saturday, finishing seventh in the Mejier 300 at Kentucky.
We’ll see if Annett can find success in the Nationwide Series and maybe someday be a contender for the championship and get a Sprint Cup ride.
We’ve seen some athletes play two sports like Bo Jackson and Deon Sanders with baseball and football. Some college athletes have played multiple sports, but going from hockey to racing is not the same as baseball to football. Annett has shown it was a smooth transition for him.
This article was also featured on Michael Annett's website.