On the morning of Saturday, 14th January, the 2014 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Champion Michael Conti (JR Motorsports) announced that his time competing at the top level of eNASCAR competition would be coming to a close.
“Still, my desire and motivation to compete and win are as strong as ever, and now with the end in sight, there’s truly no time to waste,” Conti noted in his farewell letter.
Well, consider time unwasted, as Conti rolled into virtual victory lane on Tuesday night (28th February) as a winner at The Milwaukee Mile. Taking the lead from Malik Ray (Jim Beaver Esports) with 20 laps to go, Conti held off his Team Conti teammate Nick Ottinger (William Byron Esports) in the closing laps for the win.
Tuesday marked Conti’s 14th career series victory, the fourth most all-time behind Ray Alfalla, Ottinger and Ryan Luza (XSET). Similar to last season, Conti took the win in the second race of the season, which all but locks him into the 2023 Playoffs.
“This is a retirement tour. This is the end,” Conti reiterated to Blake McCandless in the eNASCAR post-race show. “To win race number two is not what I expected to happen, and honestly I couldn’t have wished it to be any different. I’m pumped to go into the remainder of the season.”
He’ll need to stay in the Top 20 and among the Top 9 in points of those with a win in the Regular Season to be sure. Conti joins Tucker Minter (Team Dillon Esports) as the lone winners on the season through two races. Malik Ray leads the points by two over Ottinger heading to Atlanta.
CONTI: “IT’S BEEN A DREAM COME TRUE”
Conti had to win it starting from the 10th starting spot. As many expected, track position was tough to come by throughout the inaugural virtual visit to The Milwaukee Mile.
While the first half of the race ran caution-free, Conti was only able to move up four spots into sixth. Conti told Traxion.GG post-race that if that first caution didn’t come out when it did, he was likely going to start falling back through the field due to his tire degradation.
Following a slew of cautions, it was about being in the correct lane for the restarts. By lap 57, Conti made his way into fourth, and on the next restart, he was in third. There was a moment – lap 72 – where he was covering off the corner and got a bit sideways due to contact with the car behind. eDriver 8 was able to save it and keep his chances at winning alive.
On the next restart, Conti was right behind Malik for the top spot. Race Control had decided to make the restarts single file at that point, and when Malik was asked about the change, the leader at that time said “it hurts me a lot, I feel like I’m going to get punted.”
Sure enough, Malik took a defensive line into Turn 1 expecting a possible bump and run. It didn’t come, as Conti sailed it off on the outside, establishing the lead before the middle of the corner. Once he had the lead, Conti wasn’t challenged for the rest of the night.
CONTI: “EVERYTHING WAS SCIENCED-OUT” – TEAM CONTI CAME PREPARED
On the pole for the inaugural Milwaukee event was the 2020 Series Champion Nick Ottinger. There were a lot of unknowns heading into this race, especially for the fact that there would be no stacking of any official races beforehand like most weeks.
Team Conti came with a fast piece, though, and it allowed a front row lockout by William Byron Esports and the Team Conti duo of Ottinger and Matt Bussa. The fourth Team Conti member, a new member to the squad this year in Jimmy Mullis (Rise Esports) was subjected to starting back in 25th.
Mullis, however, was one of the few able to make moves through the show, and with the amount of incidents he wound up in, he sure did have to move from the back up the grid often. Mullis was the hard charger before the caution. After multiple spins, he still managed a 19th place effort.
Bussa would not be so lucky. After holding on to a Top 10 through the first 75 percent of the race, his night became unwound when he was collected in a multicar incident at lap 76. He was able to recover to finish 25th, but it wasn’t indicative of the speed the whole team had.
YELLOW FEVER AND A COUPLE OF BUMP AND RUNS
One of the reasons Ottinger wasn’t able to go flag-to-flag was because of the onslaught of cautions in the midsection of the race. It got bad enough that Race Control made restarts single file, which ended up working out to only have one caution in the final 20 laps, as opposed to the seven in the previous 35.
Malik Ray was slicing and dicing his way to the front. On lap 62, he was on Ottinger’s bumper. He sent it in and moved the No. 25 out of the groove, taking the preferred inside line. Another caution flew and the No. 7 was listed as the leader at the time.
Of course, Conti did make the eventual move to the lead around Malik, but in the closing laps, Ottinger returned the favor. Malik would eventually slide back to fourth, behind FGR Accel eRacing’s Garrett Manes, but he’ll leave the 1.015-mile oval event as the driver with the most points so far.
RACE 2 AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE – TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||10||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||100 LAPS||20||40|
|2||1||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||+0.282 secs||61||35|
|3||21||12||Garrett Manes||FGR Accel eRacing||+1.428 secs||0||34|
|4||9||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||+1.970 secs||18||33|
|5||8||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||+1.999 secs||0||32|
|6||6||95||Casey Kirwan||XSET||+2.097 secs||0||31|
|7||13||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||+2.205 secs||0||30|
|8||31||75||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||+2.333 secs||0||29|
|9||27||40||Dylan Ault||Letarte Esports||+2.786 secs||0||28|
|10||7||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart-Haas Esports||+2.900 secs||0||27|
PLAYOFF SEEDING AFTER RACE 2 AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE
|1||8||Michael Conti||JR Motorsports||65||WIN||1||1||1|
|2||33||Tucker Minter||Team Dillon Esports||61||WIN||1||1||1|
|3||7||Malik Ray||Jim Beaver Esports||68||+20||0||2||2|
|4||25||Nick Ottinger||William Byron Esports||66||+18||0||1||2|
|6||48||Graham A. Bowlin||Charlotte Phoenix||61||+13||0||1||2|
|7||75||Zack Novak||Rise Esports||53||+5||0||0||1|
|8||34||Allen Boes||Front Row Motorsports||51||+3||0||0||1|
|9||66||Tyler Garey||Kanaan Esports||50||+2||0||0||1|
|10||41||Dylan Duval||Stewart-Haas Esports||49||+1||0||0||1|
|11||38||Michael Cosey Jr||Front Row Motorsports||48||-1||0||1||1|
|12||18||Bobby Zalenski||Joe Gibbs Racing||44||-5||0||0||1|
TEAM STANDINGS AFTER RACE 2 AT THE MILWAUKEE MILE
|1||3 | 33||Team Dillon Esports||104||—||1||1||1|
|2||34 | 38||Front Row Motorsports||99||-5||0||1||2|
|3||4 | 95||XSET||96||-8||0||1||2|
|4||25 | 97||William Byron Esports||93||-11||0||1||2|
|5||8 | 88||JR Motorsports||91||-13||1||1||1|
|6||43 | 48||Charlotte Phoenix||84||-20||0||1||2|
|6||46 | 75||Rise Esports||84||-20||0||0||1|
|8||11 | 66||Kanaan Esports||83||-21||0||0||1|
|9||7 | 15||Jim Beaver Esports||78||-26||0||2||2|
|10||23 | 45||23XI Racing||70||-34||0||0||0|
- Eight cautions for 30 laps in 100 completed laps (no overtime)
- Four lead changes among four drivers (Ottinger, Conti, Ray, Honeycutt)
- Most laps led: No. 25 Nick Ottinger (61 laps led)
- Fastest lap: No. 8 Michael Conti (Lap 82, 29.517 secs)
- Hard charger: No. 75 Zack Novak (Started 31st, Finished 8th | +23 spots)
- Hard luck: No. 27 Cody Byus (Started 3rd, Finished 34th | -31 spots)
- Fewest incidents: No. 8 Michael Conti & No. 7 Malik Ray (0x)
- Most incidents: No. 42 Kollin Keister (28x)
- Rookie of the race: No. 3 Jordy Lopez Jr (11th place)
- Team of the race: No. 8 / No. 88 JR Motorsports (65 points)
- Winning Club: Carolina
UP NEXT: ATLANTA (SUPER) SPEEDWAY
Another superspeedway-style race is up next as the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway’s new configuration in two weeks. Malik Ray leads the points and Team Dillon Esports leads the Team Championship after two events.
Things kick off with the eNASCAR Countdown to Green, which begins at 8:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 a.m. GMT on Tuesday, 14th March. The race itself starts at 9:00 p.m. EDT / 2:00 a.m. GMT. Evan Posocco, Blake McCandless, Alan Cavanna, Camille Salazar Hadaway and James Pike are expected to be on the call.
The broadcast will be available at eNASCAR.com/live or on the iRacing social channels.
2023 ENASCAR COCA-COLA IRACING SERIES SCHEDULE
|3||14-Mar||Atlanta Motor Speedway||100|
|5||11-Apr||Autodromo Nazionale Monza||30|
|7||2-May||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||100|
|9||30-May||Charlotte Motor Speedway||100|
|10||13-Jun||World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway||120|
|11||27-Jun||Watkins Glen International||45|
|13||25-Jul||New Hampshire Motor Speedway||101|
|15 – PO1||15-Aug||Michigan International Speedway||60|
|16 – PO2||29-Aug||Dover Motor Speedway||120|
|17 – PO3||12-Sep||Phoenix Raceway||120|
|18 – C4||26-Sep||Homestead-Miami Speedway||100|