Conti, Davies Set for ’20 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series Season Opener

Ron Lemasters | 2/10/2020

Brad Davies iRacing Michael Conti News TrueTimber WR1 Sim Chassis

The 2020 iRacing Series season gets underway tomorrow night at Daytona International Speedway and Brad Davies and Michael Conti are ready to roll.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 10, 2020) – New sponsors and renewed competitive fire are the two main topics of conversation when one takes into account that JR Motorsports will embark on its second full season of competition in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series tomorrow night. The opening race is at Daytona International Speedway and will be broadcast at 9 p.m. ET on Twitch and iRacing’s Facebook page and several other streaming outlets. The final six races this season will also be telecast by NBC Sports Network.

Drivers Michael Conti (No. 8 WR1 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1) and Brad Davies (No. 88 TrueTimber® Camo Chevrolet Camaro ZL1) will return to the virtual cockpits again this season after contending for the series championship in 2019’s inaugural season. The teammates will pursue the lion’s share of the $300,000 payout, which will see $100,000 go to the winner at the end of the season.

Conti narrowly missed the Championship 4 in 2019 despite finishing a close second in the cutoff race at the virtual Charlotte Roval in September. Always a threat on road courses, Conti needed to overcome a 17-point deficit in the final race before the title-deciding effort, and he came one spot short of punching his ticket. Eventual winner Bobby Zalenski was too good on the short run to allow Conti a chance at a late comeback, and the 22-year-old New Jersey native fell eight points shy of a berth in the Championship 4. He eventually ended the season seventh in points.

See Also: NASCAR.com iRacing Power Rankings: Daytona

A past champion of the series, Conti has been a mainstay in the ranks as a full-time driver since 2012, making 133 career starts (he ran a partial schedule in 2011). In those starts, Conti has nine victories and 13 poles to go with 47 top-five and 72 top-10 finishes.

Davies, a perennial contender in the top eNASCAR series, also narrowly missed the playoffs but was a contender in the remaining races, finishing a rising 12th at the Roval and eventually placing 16th in series points at the end of the year.

Davies ranks second all-time in series starts with 159 and finished runner-up in the inaugural 2010 season points behind the champion, Richard Towler. Six victories and nine poles go hand-in-hand with 33 top-five and 54 top-10 finishes for the Florida native.

Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s roots as an iRacing sim driver go back to the very beginning of the NASCAR series. In fact, the first recorded race in what is now the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series took place in 2010 at the virtual Daytona oval, and not only was the 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver in it, he won it. The 12th-place finisher that day was none other than Davies, so there’s a strong theme of JRM involvement from the get-go here.

It always helps when your boss is a big fan of what you do, and both Davies and Conti know theirs has been there and done that in sim racing.

“It means a lot,” Davies said of Earnhardt Jr.’s support. “I have raced with him in the past, and he has raced in the series the first year. He knows what it takes to get there. To have his support is hard to put into words. It’s so cool to have the boss man support us like he does, trying to find sponsors, promoting the series on social media and getting so many people involved, bringing in more members to iRacing. The amount of exposure we get from having someone like him involved means everything.”

Both drivers are eager to get the season under way, especially with the changes they’ll have to engineer around.

“I’m excited to get the season started,” Davies said. “I’ve seen my car for this year and it has orange and black, typical JRM colors, and it’s exciting to have camo on the side this year. I’m glad to have TrueTimber’s support this year. There are a lot of changes to the cars for us, specifically the tire model. It’s going to throw some people for a loop, I think, and setups are going to be a little different than they were last year. That will even the playoff field for a little while at least until everyone figures out the setups. I’m looking forward to that, especially since it will shake the field up to start the season.”

Conti has already spent much time crafting a philosophy for his WR1 Chevrolet in terms of setups, he said. “After a complete rework of our cars and the thought process behind our setup building, I'm feeling really confident about our chances in 2020,” he said. “With a new sponsor in WR1 Sim Chassis, and the complete and unwavering support from Dale Jr. and all of JR Motorsports, mediocrity will simply not do.”

One of the nagging setup questions that plagued the two-car JRM team in 2019 was intermediate tracks. The new specs allow for some creativity in that regard, Davies said. As in years past, Davies and a group of trusted friends will be the brain trust on his No. 88 TrueTimber® Camo Camaro.

“Daytona is the first track, and the second is Auto Club Speedway,” Davies said. “We struggled on intermediates last year and it will be a good test. Setups being different to start with, we don’t know what that will entail. What worked last year may not work this year and guys that ran really well last year might not run that well this year. We don’t know yet.

“At this level, it is mostly setup. Everyone at this level has the capacity to drive at the highest level. There’s no one in the series lacking for driving talent. It comes down to the engineering and how to set the cars up.”

Expectations are always high prior to the opening race. Conti said that the usual suspects deserve respect, but it’s really anyone’s ball game.

“(Defending champ) Zack Novak will definitely be on everyone's radar, but I think there are quite a few drivers that have a legitimate shot at the title this year,” he said. “2020 will be a year of old-school vs. new-school. You have a relative newcomer, Keegan Leahy, who has the set the world on fire the last two years. But then you have a lot of the guys from earlier in the decade that are making a return to the series (including John Gorlinsky, Jeremy Allen and Bob Bryant). With how equal the cars are, it's really anyone's championship this year. It'll be all about getting ahead early.”

Davies was of much the same mind. “The same guys we compete against are going to be tough again, but we won’t know who that is until the setups get worked out,” he said. ”You may see some guys not at the top of the series running well and you might see some of the new guys that came up from the pro series that didn’t run at all last year run well to start the season. I think the cream will eventually rise to the top again.

“I think a couple of wins would be a successful season for me, because I haven’t won in a couple of years in the series,” Davies continued. “I have six wins in the series, but to get seven and eight would be tremendous. Finishing in the top 10 at the end of the year would be outstanding as well. If both Michael (Conti) and I finish top-10, we’re pretty much locked in to being the best team out there. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

The addition of Coca-Cola as the series sponsor has created a lot of buzz, and the increased purse has jacked up that buzz to a fever pitch.

“We had some flashes of brilliance last year, but with everything that's on the line this year, to compete for a championship, we'll have to step up our game big time,” Conti said. “Everyone wanted to win the title before, but when you throw in a $300,000 purse and the exposure that Coca Cola and NBC will bring us this, we all want to be at the center of attention. I expect the intensity to ramp up, tempers to flare, and feelings to get hurt. There will be a lot more take than give, I guarantee it." 

Davies has been part of the iRacing series almost from the beginning, and the new sponsor is a huge step forward, he said. “It’s a great thing. Everyone knows who Coca-Cola is, and it goes to show how big iRacing has become. The last couple of years, everything has grown so much, so much effort has been put into sponsorship and real racing teams involved. This is the most exciting start of the season that I’ve ever been a part of, really.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • August 15 03:00 PM ET
    UNOH 188 Daytona Road Course
  • August 22 04:00 PM ET
    Drydene 200Dover International Speedway
  • August 23 12:30 PM ET
    Drydene 200Dover International Speedway
  • August 28 07:30 PM ET
    Wawa 250Daytona International Speedway
  • September 5 04:00 PM ET
    Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200Darlington Raceway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Henry 180

Road America | 8/8/2020
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Austin Cindric7710
2Chase Briscoe760-11
3Ross Chastain708-63
4Noah Gragson697-74
5Justin Haley636-135
6Harrison Burton #608-163
7Justin Allgaier598-173
8Michael Annett543-228