The last time Pro caliber sim racers visited the virtual Watkins Glen, Michael Conti drove to one of three victories in his NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series championship run. He dominated, leading 47 of 50 laps, in an effort that seemed unmatchable. But Tuesday when the NASCAR iRacing Pro Series hit the track, Conti’s rate of 94% laps-led was eclipsed. That’s because series rookie Teemu Iivonen started on pole, jumped out to a big lead (4+ seconds on Lap 10) and went on to lead 44 laps – only yielding the top spot on Lap 22, during a round of pit stops. For those keeping score, that’s 44 out of 45 laps or roughly 98%.
Q: Did you know coming in to that one that you’d be leading all the laps except for the lap you pitted?
A: I wouldn’t say so. I knew we would have to react to someone trying to short-pit behind us, so I was already prepared to give-up a few laps.
Q: You have the Glen listed as one of your favorite iRacing tracks. How fitting was it to get your first win in this year’s Pro Series at that track?
A: Yeah it’s a real treat. I love that place, especially with high downforce cars like the F1, and while the formula cars requires more precision to be fast, the Gen6-beast is a bit more technical since you have to actually control what you do with your right foot and can’t rely as much on downforce.
Q: You have had some success (top five at Texas, P8 at Homestead), but also had a rough day (as did most of the competitors) at Phoenix, finishing 34th. Do you feel like the win will propel you to be a constant threat to win in the remainder of the NiPS season?
A: There’s so many good drivers in this year’s Oval Pro Series, any one of the current front runners are a threat to take the dub. Compared to those guys I’m not even close to as experienced with this being my maiden full year in NASCAR. I would not see myself as a constant threat, but with more hard work and experience I expect to be there in the future.
“With this being my maiden full year in NASCAR, I would not see myself as a constant threat, but with more hard work and experience I expect to be there in the future.”
Q: How is the preparation different going into a road course race, as opposed to an oval race in the Gen 6 car?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s so much different. Personally I take the same approach to both road and ovals, though qualifying is a bit more important at road because we don’t have any cautions and it’s hard to pass in these cars if two drivers are about the same pace, while on the oval you can use yellows and strategy to move yourself towards the front.
Q: Do you feel that this win puts you in a great spot to be in the top 30 by the end of the season? (you sit 10th despite missing Auto Club)
A: Prior to California I was still going for a top five overall, but by missing that race, my “gaol” (internal pro series joke) is now of course to just make the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series and join the rest of my teammates there.
Q: Should you make it into the NPAS, do you feel like you can run strong enough to not have to compete for a spot through the Pro Series?
A: Umm… (Kimi Räikkönen face) yes.