An accident near the end of the Nationwide Series race at Daytona on Saturday afternoon has left Richard Petty Motorsport driver Michael Annett with chest injuries ruling him out of competition for the immediate future.
Annett was involved in an accident near the end of the season opener, after his car made contact with that of Austin Dillon and spun both of them into the wall. As well as a head-on impact with the SAFER barrier, Annett's car was also hit multiple times by the oncoming traffic that was unable to avoid the incident.
In total, 13 cars became involved in the wreck on lap 116 of the 120-lap race, which caused racing to be suspended for 20 minutes under a red flag while the track was cleaned up. All the drivers involved were examined in the in-field care centre at Daytona International Speedway, and Annett was the only one with injuries requiring him to be dispatched to the nearby Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
The 26-year-old spent the night in hospital and was discharged in the morning, but the RPM team press release on Tuesday revealed that the driver's injuries were more serious than originally thought and that he had sustained a fracture and dislocation of his sternum in the original impact.
Annett will require corrective surgery as a result of the injuries, and was scheduled for an immediate operation back home in Charlotte, N.C. on Wednesday.
In the meantime, Annett will not be able to drive competitively, and RPM have announced that their Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola will be taking Annett's place at this weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway, putting an end to Annett's run of 139 consecutive Nationwide series starts.
Given the seriousness of Annett's injuries, it's unlikely that he will be back in the series for some weeks, but RPM have not currently decided who will take over the #43 car beyond Phoenix. It's unknown just how long Annett will have to sit out the season, but it certainly puts paid to any hopes that he had of competing for the this year's Nationwide title or even improving on his fifth place finish in the standings in 2012.
Annett's accident was unconnected to the major accident that happened half an hour later after the red flag had been withdrawn and racing resumed. That saw a collision between Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski at the finish line, which ended up sending Kyle Larson's car into the catchfence through which debris managed to penetrate and injure 28 spectators in the grandstand, although no drivers were hurt.