Rocket Racing Setups has been filled with nothing but pride ever since Coke Series Driver Michael Conti joined our family as a driver, coach, and builder. Little did we know he would go on to bring home a phenomenal win in the first points race of the iRacing Coke Series at Daytona International Speedway. Michael has already proven that he is a championship level contender by claiming the 2014 championship when he was only 17 years old and has a good chance of bringing home the title this year.
On Michael Conti’s 5th birthday, his parents purchased NASCAR Racing Season: 2002 for the PC. This game was key in his journey that would one day lead to him working for one of his childhood heroes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. It is pretty ironic that this game was made by a lot of the crew that would one day go on to work on one of the best sims on the market, iRacing.
Dale Jr. mentioned iRacing during a Cup practice broadcast in mid-2009 and claimed that it was the most realistic racing experience out there without stepping into a real racecar and the young impressionable Michael Conti just happened to be watching that day.
Michael scoured the internet for information and videos that showcased how accurate the simulator represented the real thing and quickly learned that Dale Jr. was not exaggerating in the least. Once Michael made the jump to iRacing he realized that it was a whole different beast. His many years of playing racing games on PC and Playstation did little to prepare him for just how difficult something so realistic could be. ” Starting out in Rookie Legends, I quickly realized that I had a lot of growing left to do as a driver. My pace was lacking, my race craft left a lot to be desired. Heck, it was just difficult getting around the track.” It took him a solid 6 months driving that car for him to truly be competitive.
One thing that Michael did have over a lot of the other drivers was that he had been adjusting and tweaking setups in racing games since he was five. He and his father had a journal filled with various setups for NR2002 so years later when he took the plunge into iRacing, he knew how most of the adjustments would affect the handling of his race car.
After a few years of growing as a driver, Michael at age 14 made it into the top level of iRacing. Three seasons later, he claimed the 2014 championship. We asked him what he felt at the time of winning that championship. He had this to say. ” Winning the championship in 2014 was life-changing for me. I was 17 years old, still in high school, and at the time, and still relatively new to the Coke Series. Looking back on it though, I don’t think I truly realized just how special what I had accomplished was in the moment, it’s easy to take things for granted, and I definitely think I let the magnitude of what I had just pulled off get overshadowed by the pressure that I faced at the time. Going up against Ray Alfalla, who was winning everything at that time, and beating him was no small feat.”
A lot of opportunities came from his success such as starring in a Yahoo Auto documentary, driving a US Legends Car at Southern National in 2015, and becoming an ambassador for Richmond Raceway in 2018. We can’t forget that in 2019, Michael was invited to join JR Motorsports to drive in the Coke Series for his long-time hero, Dale Jr.
After several years of experience in iRacing we asked Michael how he felt the competition compares with when he won his championship and he had this to say. ” I definitely think the series is more competitive than it’s ever been. Drivers are spending more time than they ever have to find every last thousandth they can seek out of a setup. Teams are becoming more robust, filling out rosters with members that fill the roles of crew chief, engineer, spotter, etc. Let’s not forget the money has increased tenfold since I won the championship in 2014 as well.”
Michael has shown that he is still capable of capturing a championship by finishing 3rd in the points last year and now winning at Daytona. JR Motorsports and WR1 Sim Chassis have a lot of work to do if they want that #8 team to stay at the top of the series but us at Rocket Racing Setups have a good feeling that this won’t be the last time we will see Michael Conti in victory lane. We definitely want to thank Michael for graciously answering every question that we threw at him. We wish Michael the best of luck in the rest of the 2021 Coca Cola Season!