Michael Conti was hoping it wasn’t, but preparing for if it was, the final win of his eNASCAR career. The 2014 series champion and longtime Jr Motorsports staple in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series won Tuesday night’s race from the virtual Milwaukee Mile but before the season, he announced that 2023 would be his final year in the series.
“Coming into this year I knew that we put the prep in, I knew that we had the right people here in the right places,” Conti said. “You just never really know what’s going on around you, especially without having A-Opens and things to see where you stack up.
“It’s super special because for all I know, this could be it. Obviously, I hope it’s not because I want to keep winning. I want to make the final four and finish it off like we should have last year. It’s awesome to be 12 seasons into this with the best of the best on the service in the world and still have the pace to go up there and get it done.”
One of the longest-tenured drivers in the series, Conti began competing at the highest level of sim racing at the age of 14.
Nick Ottinger finished second and had a front-row seat to Conti’s win. The pair have collaborated for many years on car setups and Conti’s long career is matched only by that of his longtime friend and fellow series champion.
“Oh, yes man,” Ottinger said when he was asked if he would miss his friend’s presence in the series. “I love racing with him. He’s obviously a really good friend of mine, and a true friend at that. You have your racing friends on track but we’re still competitors on the track, too. I think that was proven tonight – if I could have gotten to his bumper in three and four he would’ve expected the bumper being used.
“He would’ve done the same thing to me, even though he did a little bit in the middle of the race tonight. I’ll miss him for sure, but he’ll still be around. He’s one of the top guys you will ever find in this series that we race in and just overall outside the sim too. You can’t ask for a better friend, better competitor, and better individual to represent his team and be partnered with.”
Conti had similarly kind words to share about his friendship with Ottinger.
“Nick is more than a teammate,” he said “I think anybody that follows the series knows this by now, he’s a friend, a really, really good friend. If there’s anybody on the track that I would want, beside me behind me, whatever have you, it’s Nick.
“He is so fast, frustratingly fast, when you’re a half a tenth off of him in qualifying all day long, and you can’t figure it out. You’ve got his set up, you’ve got his telemetry, you’ve got his replay, you’re looking, looking, looking, and you can’t do it. But he pushes me to be better. I think I push him to be better in certain areas.
“We’re the two old guys now so it’s good to still put it to these rookies and show them that it’s not as easy as they think it is when they get to Coke, it’s a totally different world and we showed it again tonight.”