Michael Annett cheering on former teammate in Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Long before Michael Annett sped around race tracks in NASCAR, he sped around skating rinks as a junior hockey league player.

His final season of competition came in the 2003-04 season with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.

You can watch the above video from 2015 for more on Annett’s hockey career.

While Annett’s life took him to auto racing, his captain that year stuck with hockey.

It’s worked out for Joe Pavelski.

After breaking into the National Hockey League in 2006, Pavelski is in his 13th season playing for San Jose Sharks and is captain of the team as it competes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pavelski and the Sharks are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven-games, first-round series against the Las Vegas Knights. Game 4 is set for 10:30 p.m. ET today on NBCSN.

“I watch it as much as I can,” Annett told NBC Sports of the playoffs. “Watching (Pavelski) captain the San Jose Sharks sharks now is pretty cool. They got to get their act together if they’re going to beat the Knights. They got to pick it up a little bit. The intensity of playoff hockey is so much fun. You usually wait 15 minutes for a goal or a big play and it seems like if you blink you’re going to miss something in the playoffs, it’s just so much fun to watch.”

The JR Motorsports driver said he and Pavelski were “real close” during their year playing for the Black Hawks in Iowa.

“You get those 30 guys from all over the country that you can find to play for one team for a season, you all grow really close like brothers,” Annett said. “I’m just really proud of him. I know what it takes, I know how many hot, little kids are hockey players and that’s what they dream of doing. To see him still doing it at the level he is as the captain of a team that’s made the playoffs (in all but one of Pavelski’s 13 seasons), just really proud of him.”

He was probably really proud of Pavelski last week when he accidentally scored a goal with his jaw in Game 1 and lost a couple of teeth in the process.

While they don’t talk by phone anymore, Annett and his former captain do keep in touch.

“It’s all through Instagram messages,” Annett said, noting Pavelski reached out to him after his first Xfinity win in February at Daytona. “When somebody does something pretty cool you reach out and tell him that ‘That was pretty awesome, I’m still following you.'”

Michael Annett celebrates his win at Daytona in February.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Annett is 15 years removed from his hockey days and 11 years into his full-time NASCAR career.

Does he miss his hockey days? Only when the Stanley Cup is at stake.

“I really don’t miss it until the playoffs come around to be honest with you,” Annett said. “It’s the hardest time when the hockey is just so exciting, it’s so intense. You remember that camaraderie you had with the guys and how much hard works goes into a playoff run. This is the toughest time to watch.”

Here’s tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff schedule.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets; 7 p.m. ET on CNBC

New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins; 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues; 9:30 p.m. ET on CNBC

San Jose Sharks at Las Vegas Knights; 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

and on Facebook

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)