After claiming his 12th win in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series at Las Vegas on Tuesday night, Michael Conti declared that he is the best he has been in five years as he comes to grips with the Next Gen car.
“I’ve spent over a year now with this car and talking to people before the season even started, I said, ‘I feel like I’ve got an advantage with this,’ Conti said. “I’ve got way more track time; I’ve got more familiarity with the garage and the new options that we can adjust with now. I feel like personally, I am the best I’ve been in more than four or five years.”
Conti is one of the most experienced drivers in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, having been a part of the championship since 2011 and winning the title in 2014. Early previews would suggest that drivers like Conti and four-time series champion Ray Alfalla will again be serious contenders with the Next Gen car.
The previous generation of car did not suit Conti’s style, nor did it suit Alfalla’s style as the 26-time race winner had to regain his spot in the series after failing to finish in the top 20 in 2019. Alfalla finished Tuesday’s race from Las Vegas in 12th but ran as high as third.
“The pace that I’ve got the level of comfort that I have, I did not have that with the Gen Six toward the end,” Conti explained. “Once we went high downforce low power in that car I was out to lunch.
“We were consistent. We made the playoffs, but I was just hanging on trying to get lucky wins and get good breaks but tonight was a completely different story. We qualified up front, ran up front, and got around Nick (Ottinger) early on which I didn’t expect that at all.
“I thought it was going to be a game of just protecting him and making sure we didn’t do anything to mess up our races together but quickly I knew I had something and then even that last run, pulling away was pretty crazy with how much draft we had.”
Between the opening round of the season at Dayt ona and Tuesday’s race at Las Vegas, Conti had quite a busy schedule. The 24-year-old Hendrick Automotive Group employee moved into a house on his own for the first time which meant that 12 hours of practice and over 1,000 laps needed to be concentrated into one week.
Despite the time crunch, Conti said that he could not recall a time when his team put more effort into preparing for a race.
“We spent a lot of time on this car this week. I cannot remember a race where I spent more time on the car consistently throughout the two-week period than this last test cycle and that was with moving into a brand-new place,” he said.
“The first week of this two-week test cycle, I was still moving things around and the rig really wasn’t set up so for me personally 10 to 12 hours, over 1000 laps of practice was concentrated to a week.”
Nick Ottinger, Micheal Conti’s teammate at Team Conti eSports and William Byron eSports driver, finished the race in second. Charlotte Phoenix driver Graham Bowlin beat XSET’s Ryan Michael Luza by 0.006s to finish in third.
Conti moved into the points lead with this win. Femi Olatunbosun, who won at Daytona, dropped to second and his six points behind Conti. Two top-10 finishes for Garrett Manes have him in third.
The next round of the season is on March 15 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Whether the drivers will be racing on the old version of Atlanta or one that reflects the reprofiling made over the winter was not yet known to the public.