After youth dominated the floor in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, it wound up being a battle of veterans at the DBOX 100 at the Milwaukee Mile. In the end, it was Michael Conti piloting his No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to victory lane for the first win of his final season and his 14th career win in the Coke Series overall.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe it,” an emotional Conti said post-race. “It gets harder and harder to be good in this series as you get older. The preparation going to this was second to none.”
Though happy to win and all but assure himself of a playoff spot early in the season, Conti made it clear that he is not satisfied.
“Eyes forward, focus forward,” Conti said. “I’ve got a helluva team, I’ve got a helluva group. I’ve got support like I’d never thought I had.”
Conti, the 2014 Coke Series champion, held off 2020 series champ Nick Ottinger for a .283-second margin of victory. Garrett Manes rallied in his No. 12 fgrACCEL eRacing Ford from deep in the field to finish third, Malik Ray drove his No. 7 Jim Beaver eSports Ford to fourth, and Graham Bowlin in the No. 48 Charlotte Phoenix Toyota completed the top five.
The race started out clean with a green flag run that spanned the opening 44 laps. Starting from the pole, Ottinger asserted himself by taking and maintaining the top spot in his No. 25 William Byron eSports Chevrolet. The one-groove Milwaukee Mile made for difficult passing, as drivers in the 39-car field fought for room in the preferred bottom lane.
The tone of the race would take a dramatic turn with the first yellow flag coming out on lap 44 after contact between Collin Bowden in the No. 69 and Michael Cosey Jr. in the No. 38 that sent Bowden spinning turn two. Ottinger would hold the lead on the ensuing pit stops under caution.
As the old racing adage goes, cautions breed cautions, and that is exactly what happened with eight caution flags over the next 46 laps. Of note, Timmy Holmes would be knocked out of the race after wrecking to bring out the second caution on lap 47, relegating him to dead last in the final running order.
Ottinger would finally lose his grip on the lead on lap 63 when Ray edged out in front of him just as the fifth caution came out for an incident involving Jimmy Mullis in the No. 46.
The biggest wreck came with 25 laps to go when a stack-up at the exit of turn two collected several cars, most notably the No. 41 of Dylan Duval, the No. 2 of Corey Vincent, and the No. 97 of Matt Bussa.
On the ensuing restart, Conti would take the lead and ultimately never relinquish it, fending off Ottinger on the final restart with five laps to go and pulling away by a few car lengths to earn the first win of his final season.
Though he did not win the race, Ray performed well enough to become the new series points leader after two races. Ray has a two-point edge over Ottinger and is three points ahead of Conti.
ODDS AND ENDS
- Paint Scheme of the Race: Series Jordy Lopez, Jr., impressed in his No. 3 Team Dillon Management Chevrolet, running third. He also looked good doing it in this sharp Coca-Cola paint scheme. Lopez Jr. would wind up 11th at the finish.
- This was the Coke Series’ first-ever race at the Milwaukee Mile.
- Other notable finishers include defending series champion Casey Kirwan in sixth, last week’s winner Tucker Minter in 16th, and Steven Wilson had an underwhelming day in his No. 10 Stewart Haas eRacing Ford, falling all the way to 36th.
The next race will take place in two weeks (March 14) at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coverage will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET on Twitch.tv/iRacing, YouTube.com/iRacing, and eNASCAR.com.
About the author
Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Richmond. He is a high school history teacher and cross country/track & field coach for his day job.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.