Last week Richard Petty Motorsports announced it's regular driver in the Nationwide Series, Michael Annett, would be sidelined for some time due to a wreck in the season-opening event at Daytona. Now, not only do they know approximately how long he will be out, but also who will be filling the void for that time.
RPM officials have tabbed Reed Sorenson to take over the No. 43 Ford Mustang in the Nationwide Series, beginning with this weekend's event at Las Vegas.
Despite the opportunity, Sorenson feels bad that Annett will be out of action for a while, but is happy about the path he's going on with healing.
"It's an unfortunate situation for the team and Michael," Sorenson said. "I have been to the hospital to see him, and he will be fine, but it's going to take some time to heal. As a friend for a long time, my initial reaction was concern. I'm glad that he's recovering now."
In the opening race of the year, Annett suffered a head-on collision during a multi-car wreck. He was complaining of pain and was taken to the local hospital for evaluation. It was determined last week that he suffered both a broken and dislocated sternum. He had surgery in Charlotte, NC, last week, where surgeons used a combination of screws and metal plate to return his sternum to the correct position.
On average, healing for such an injury is approximately two months, so Annett could be back in May, but team members are hoping for a faster recovery.
"It's an unfortunate situation to have to deal with," said Sammy Johns, director of operations at RPM. "We had a lot of momentum from last year, and we want to make sure we don't lose that, and give Michael the best situation possible when he returns."
Last year, Annett had a great year, finishing fifth in the points, including 17 top-10 finishes, and was hoping to continue momentum into this season.
Sorenson last won in the Nationwide Series at Road America in 2011, but has since only made eight starts. However, he feels that the opportunity is right for him to do well, but most importantly do his fellow competitor and friend proud.
"It was very unexpected to get the opportunity to step in," Sorenson said. "The best part is that my friend, Michael, will be cheering for me and the whole 43 Pilot Flying J team. I talked to him about it, and he really wants to see me do well. This is a big deal for me, and I am going to make the most of it."
Annett's name will remain above the door despite a different driver at the wheel. For RPM, their focus has changed due to a difference in the driver. But, they still feel there is a lot to contend for this year.
“We’re going to do the best we can to keep this race team as strong as we can for him, so when he comes back, we can pick that back up,” Johns said. “Hopefully, we can still go after an owner’s championship, and he can be a big part of that. So that’s our goal.
"The main focus is to keep this team at the level Michael’s had it at, so when he gets back we can still be contending for wins and that owner’s championship.”