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2020 TReSports ePreview: JR Motorsports

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the fourth installment of the 2020 TReSports ePreview! The 2020 eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series kicks off on February 11th, 2020, at the virtual Daytona International Speedway. The goal is to have a preview for each team out before that date.

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Michael Conti and Brad Davies both return to JR Motorsports in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series in 2020. Logo from JR Motorsports, numbers from Big Evil Racing + Designs.

One of the most recognized names in not only NASCAR, but all of motorsports, is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Earnhardt, Jr… well lets just say that his story to this point has been told countless times, and the tale continues to grow as he continues to involve himself all over the motorsports world.

After retiring from full-time racing in 2017, Earnhardt, Jr.’s current day job is working in the broadcast booth for the NASCAR Cup Series broadcasts on NBC Sports.

On top of that, Earnhardt, Jr. is a co-owner of JR Motorsports, which is primarily an organization that competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

A more interesting note on Earnhardt, Jr. is that he is a sim racer. He’s been doing so competitively, as well as for fun, for decades alongside his real life driving duties.

In fact, the first officially recorded race in the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series has an interesting detail. That race was won by none other than Earnhardt, Jr. at the virtual Daytona International Speedway in 2010.

So when the first twelve teams were announced for the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing draft, it was no surprise that JR Motorsports was part of the list taking part in said draft.

 

With the third overall pick, JR Motorsports selected the 2014 eNASCAR iRacing World Champion, Michael Conti, to pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet.

No change there for 2020, as Conti will return to the same ride, already with a new sponsor in tow for the season – Chad Wheeler’s WR1 Sim Chassis.

“We had a really good year with JRM (JR Motorsports) last year,” Conti said. “They made me feel really welcome as well. They supported us a ton on social media, posting a bunch about the races. Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) got really involved too.

“Being paired up with the Most Popular Driver in the series and with the best Xfinity Series team in the series was a no-brainer to come back for me, personally.”

Conti has been in the series full-time since 2012, and has made 133 career starts since 2011.

The former series champion has nine career wins on his resumé, along with 13 career pole positions.

On top of those accolades, Conti also has accumulated 47 career Top 5 finishes and 72 career Top 10 finishes.

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Michael Conti (8) leads Keegan Leahy (62) and Nick Ottinger (47) through the turns at Sonoma Raceway on June 11th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

With their second pick in the 2019 eNASCAR iRacing draft, it was like it was meant to be for the 22nd overall pick, Brad Davies, driver of the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet.

Davies has been sim racing since before the eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series came to existence – in fact, that first official series race in which his team owner, Earnhardt, Jr. won at Daytona, Davies was also in the field, and brought home a twelfth place finish.

With the second most starts in the series at 161, Davies has done more than most ever have or will. Davies finished second in the overall standings in the inaugural season, only finishing behind the champion that season, Richard Towler.

Davies has collected six career victories and nine career pole positions during his time in the series. He also has amassed 33 career Top 5 finishes and 54 career Top 10 finishes.

The most interesting thing about the Davies / JRM union is that the relationship already existed before the 2019 draft. As I touched on in my “Media Days” in Charlotte recap, Davies was and still is employed by JR Motorsports in real life.

The team not only drafted a solid pick at 22, but also a driver they already knew of that would be able to produce results for them on and off the track.

“Conti and I have built a good personal relationship over the years, even going back before the whole team got involved in eSports,” Davies said. “We’ve worked together going back two or three years now, had a good relationship, shared a lot of information, worked on setups together, that sort of thing.

“I think that played a big role in it, and once we did draft Conti, I think JR Motorsports, the higher ups, were really happy with Conti and myself.”

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Michael Conti puts two tires up in the air at the Charlotte ROVAL on September 24th, 2019. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.


2019 JR MOTORSPORTS RECAP

The season started of strong for the JR Motorsports duo at Daytona International Speedway. A pair of Top 10 finishes for the team set the expectations high, with Conti crossing the line in seventh while Davies was right behind in eighth.

Conti continued his momentum through the first quarter of the season, following up with an eighth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, eighth at Auto Club Speedway, and the team’s first Top 5 finish of the season at Texas Motor Speedway.

Davies, on the other hand, hit a slight bump in the road, with a pair of finishes outside the Top 30 following Daytona. The ship was righted with a 14th place effort at Texas, in which he followed up with a seventh place effort at Richmond Raceway and a fourth place result at Talladega Superspeedway.

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As Nick Ottinger (47) crosses the line to take the victory at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23rd, 2019, Brad Davies slides across the line for a fourth place finish. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

From there, the season started to unravel for Davies, as he failed to crack the Top 10 for the remainder of the season. Fortunately, Davies was able to get enough points to stay in the Top 20, and finished 16th overall in the driver’s standings.

Conti, on the other hand, began his run towards a chance at a second championship. In the remaining six races of the regular season, Conti collected a second place finish at Sonoma Raceway, a fifth place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, and three more Top 10 finishes in the next four races.

The effort was enough to place Conti in the playoffs in 2019, but his playoff run wasn’t what he had hoped for. After a disappointing 30th place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was win or elimination at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

Bobby Zalenski, who also won at Sonoma earlier in the season, was untouchable once more on the road course event, and Conti had to settle for a second place at the ROVAL.

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Brad Davies sits on pit road at Pocono Raceway on July 23rd, 2019 plagued with engine issues. Photo by Justin Melillo / TRE via iRacing.com.

Conti wound up with a seventh place finish in the driver’s standings at season end without any victories on the year, and looking forward to 2020, he’s looking for more.

“We didn’t run as well as we needed to in 2019,” Conti said. “We struggled on the intermediates. We really couldn’t figure out the package. We got better at times, but never really got our arms wrapped around it.

“A big focus for us is to get our arms wrapped around this new tire model, and get out there and start running Top 5 again and have Top 5 speed. Don’t take a tenth place car and finish fifth with it, take a fifth place car and try to win with it, or take a winning car and win with it. Dominate.

“We know that the people on our team are capable of putting cars on the track that can do that… Anything short of wins this year will be a disappointment.”

Davies echoed his teammate, saying that adaptability is not only key to success in the future, but the key to why both have stayed in the series as long as they have.

“Like Conti said, we were a little bit behind all year long, we kind of caught up at certain places, but then they (the competition) would find something else, and we just felt like we were missing a little bit throughout the season… you have to be able to adapt.”

***

The eNASCAR iRacing World Championship Series season begins at Daytona International Speedway on February 11th, 2020. The race is expected to be streamed live on iRacing’s Twitch stream, with the start time usually at 9:00 pm ET.

Look for ePreview #5 soon!

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Justin Melillo View All

Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com

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