Annett allowed to race at Daytona despite DWI
Team owner Rusty Wallace says he believes that Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett does not have a drinking problem and made a mistake when he ran into the back of another car and recorded a blood alcohol content of 0.32, which led to him being charged with driving while impaired.
Among the sanctions Wallace has imposed on his 24-year-old Rusty Wallace Racing driver is that he cannot drink alcohol at all and will not get another chance beyond the one given him following his arrest Sunday morning.
Annett will be allowed to race in the season-opening Nationwide race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR put Annett on probation Friday and will require him to be evaluated by a certified substance abuse professional at NASCAR’s discretion as well as be subject to random alcohol and drug testing.
“I’m confident that he doesn’t have a problem,” Wallace said in an interview Friday. “I’m confident that we’re doing enough things to help him through it. We’ve put him on a zero-tolerance, no alcohol at all and there’s no second chance if something goes wrong.
“For a second time, he won’t be in the car, I’ll tell you that. But I don’t think it will happen. … I’m not going to sit here and say he’s got a problem because if he’s got a problem, then a lot of people have a problem.”
Wallace insists that he is taking the situation seriously even though Annett was not suspended by the team.
“It’s real serious to me what happened,” Wallace said. “We’re doing the right things with Michael. NASCAR trusts we’re doing the right things. It’s some alcohol awareness, it’s some community service, he’s at that race shop at 7 a.m. every morning. We’ve got him polishing the freaking drive shafts because I’m pissed at him.
“We’ve got him doing the right things. He’s very hurt and very embarrassed.”
Having driven for Germain Racing the last two years, Annett brought the Pilot Travel Centers sponsorship to RWR. Wallace said without Annett, there is no sponsor and no car. RWR fields Toyotas for Annett and Steve Wallace, Rusty’s son.
“I have 65 employees and 65 families that are affected by this,” Wallace said. “The last thing I’m going to do is put everybody out of work because I’ve got to park the car now. Pilot Travel Centers is sponsoring his car because they love Michael, and he’s been a great kid for me.
“It’s not that he needs help. He just made a huge mistake. … I’m not going to have to let an entire team go because one man made one mistake. We’re going to address the one mistake that man made and keep everybody else employed and we’re going to go racing.”
Wallace still has a personal services contract with Miller Lite, which makes him sensitive to alcohol-related offenses. He said Annett went to the North Carolina mountains Saturday and then came back to the Charlotte area and partied until early Sunday morning.
“They came back, partied and had a good time and they hung one on and they hung it on too hard – big-time too hard. … He was outside the box,” Wallace said. “Whether he had one beer or 10 beers or whatever the number was, that was an isolated incident that I know of.”