Learn about eNASCAR’s Nick Ottinger

Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN' THE TIRES / iRacing

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Similar to the stories of NASCAR’s real-life veterans, eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series driver Nick Ottinger comes from humble beginnings.

First Motorsports Interest

Like many within NASCAR, Ottinger’s family were a driving force in his interest in motorsports. The Claremont, N.C. native’s father competed at Hialeah Speedway when they lived in Florida. Despite having racing in his blood, the 25-year-old was unable to compete himself.

When Ottinger was born, the right side of his heart was too big. At just three-months-old, doctors needed to conduct an angioplasty to clear blocked arteries. In 2008, Ottinger had open heart surgery to replace his pulmonary valve. During his recovery, his brother gifted him a Sony PlayStation 3 and EA Sports’ NASCAR 09.

Ottinger explained that he didn’t understand the scope of the surgery until recovery:

“Back in 2008, my cardiologist wanted to move ahead and said I needed to have open heart surgery to replace my pulmonary valve with a pig valve. Being 13 years old at the time, I didn’t fully understand the scope of a surgery until the recuperating stages. Fast forward to the down time after the surgery, this is where my brother bought me a PS3 and a game called NASCAR 09.”

Today, Ottinger has an annual check-up with his cardiologist. That gift from his brother ultimately set him on his path towards iRacing and joining William Byron eSports.

(Photo courtesy of Nick Ottinger)

Journey to iRacing

The discovery of iRacing for Ottinger is similar to Dylan Duval who was recently included in this feature. The driver of the virtual No. 25 Logitech G Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was determined to follow his friend, rival, and future iRacing teammate, Michael Conti.

Conti, who now competes in the Coke Series for JR Motorsports, was in the same league as Ottinger on NASCAR 09. When Conti moved to iRacing, it prompted his competitor to make the same move.

Ottinger explained that in addition to following his competitor, iRacing’s plethora of content was also a driving factor:

“Mike mentioned to me one night that he found out about iRacing from a video of Dale Earnhardt Jr. running it and that they had many more racecars than NASCAR 09 did. At that time, that was a cool factor in moving to iRacing because they had so much more to offer in content, as well as the realistic factor of feeling like you’re sitting in a real racecar.”

The broad range of racecars, tracks, and racing series helped broaden Ottinger’s motorsports horizons. Previously focused primarily on NASCAR, he now attempts to catch broadcasts of various series including the Virgin Australia Supercar Series.

“I used to only be intrigued by NASCAR races,” explained Ottinger. “iRacing has a lot of different series on its platform. They really intrigued me when they announced a lot of road racing series and in that effect, I would make time to try and watch some Virgin Australia Supercar races, etc.”

(Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN’ THE TIRES / iRacing)

Coke Series Longevity

While the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series enjoys its’ 11th season of competition, Ottinger is in his ninth. With 15 wins, the William Byron eSports driver has been one of the most prolific, despite a lack of a championship. Since iRacing introduced their own playoff system, Ottinger has made the playoffs once in 2018. His best finish in the Coke Series points standings is third in 2013 and 2014.

Ottinger’s rookie season in the Coke Series was 2012. Back then, the series was open to both Coke Series drivers and iRacers that had been able to earn a Pro License through iRacing’s Pro Series. Ottinger had to qualify on time to guarantee a starting position.

Those early days, as Ottinger admitted, had a steep learning curve:

“I wouldn’t say I fast-tracked to the top series by no means, but it was a fast and steep learning curve. You really having to build working relationships with your friends and teammates. Initially, I did not get that within the first year of iRacing as that was a big trait I knew I needed to learn if I wanted to be successful in the top series.”

One sign of Ottinger’s longevity is his current 7,900 iRating (skill rating), which ranks him among the top-20 oval drivers on the subscription service. In 933 oval starts, he has a staggering 362 victories, 612 top-five finishes, and 340 pole positions. Ottinger’s consistency and talent have earned him his Coke Series staying power.

“I’ve been privileged enough to be in this series for almost nine full seasons. I have been super lucky to have the best crew chief in Matt Holden be with me every step up the way.

“Longevity is only sustainable if you have the willingness to evolve in many ways. Matt has been a great teammate and leader during my iRacing Coca-Cola Series tenure, and he is a big reason why I have had the success in this series. Racing is always evolving and to that point, so is our eSport.”

(Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN’ THE TIRES / iRacing)

No ‘I’ in Team

As Ottinger had explained, having working relationships with friends and teammates are key to his success on iRacing. He is a member of Team Conti, that includes his old friend and rival from NASCAR 09, Conti, Matt Bussa, and Logan Clampitt.

Each iRacer puts in numerous hours or setup work ahead of each race. That number varies depending on the track that the Coke Series is visiting. Road courses like Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International take more time than the ovals for example.

Ottinger explained that range of testing:

“It varies as some tracks require more testing time and that’s mainly because it takes longer to get around tracks like Sonoma, etc. In a typical two-week interval of testing, we put in anywhere from 10-25 hours of prep time for our Coca-Cola series events.”

Another factor in Ottinger’s drive for teamwork is an experience from the 2011 iRacing Pro Series. At Michigan International Speedway, he entered the race with no practice and no testing. Ottinger described the race as the worst of his career. He started and finished a distant 38th.

Ottinger was embarrassed by the result:

“My worst race is at one my absolute worst tracks statistically, Michigan. I unfortunately didn’t have time to practice or work on a setup leading up to Michigan in the Pro Series in 2011. I have never run so bad in my whole career, I ran 38th the whole race and finished in that exact spot. From that point forward I have always made time to work on driving and setups.”

On the flip side, Ottinger’s best race was the 2018 Coke Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. While in the lead, he was able to dictate who could and couldn’t get a run behind him.

Moving Forward

The 2020 Coke Series season has been up and down for Ottinger. He returned to victory lane at Dover International Speedway. However, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, connection issues derailed his race and cost the veteran eight laps. Currently, Ottinger sits eighth in the championship standings. This puts him 45-points ahead of the cutoff, held by Christian Challiner, to make the Coke Series in 2021. He is 58-points behind championship leader Ryan Luza.

(Photo by SETH EGGERT for KICKIN’ THE TIRES / iRacing)

Even with his up and down season so far, Ottinger focuses on the same advice he would give new iRacers:

“Don’t overreact to situations and just try and settle down to find how you need to approach iRacing. There is no need to be so worried about speed right out the gate. You want stability and consistency to help you learn each race and going out and wrecking will not help you or the other racers you’re competing against.

“Try and set some short-term goals that you can reach in each race, but also in how many races you do. Practice goes a long way; it has helped me in preparing for our races. Make friends and surround yourself with quality people that will help you become a solid sim-racer.”

Follow Ottinger’s Journey

Ottinger is very active on social media. In addition to helping his team owner William Byron in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, and competing in the Coke Series, he streams to Twitch, and is active on Instagram and Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: Learn about eNASCAR’s Nick Ottinger · Kickin’ The Tires – Dibbs Gaming

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