As the 2023 eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series champion, Steven Wilson of Stewart-Haas Racing reflects on his championship win and the season as a whole. Wilson takes us through his experiences at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte and Phoenix Raceway, as well as his journey throughout the year.
The year 2023 holds a special place in my heart. It all began with media day in Charlotte, where I had the chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. Representing Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing for the second year in a row was an honor I truly cherished.
In terms of performance, I didn’t make much noise during the season. I had two top 10 finishes in the first nine races, with an exciting win at the Superspeedway in Atlanta. However, it seemed like replicating the success of the previous season was a challenge. My confidence grew after the victory in Atlanta, securing my spot in the playoffs. Although I was hovering around the top 20 cutoff for a while, things started to trend upwards as we got closer to the playoffs, especially after switching to the Norse Force Racing team.
The team change seemed to have a positive impact on my performance. I had a strong run at Darlington and was consistently improving. Three out of the next four races resulted in top 10 finishes, with Gateway and New Hampshire being particularly challenging tracks for me. These successes gave me the confidence I needed to believe in my playoff aspirations.
Entering the playoffs, I understood that winning a race was crucial to secure a spot in the Championship 4. I had to balance between going for a win and maintaining consistent top 5 finishes. Michigan proved to be an unpredictable race, but I managed to finish in second place. Dover showcased my speed and resulted in another second-place finish. Phoenix, where I suffered last year, started off rough with an early crash, but smart strategy and a solid performance allowed me to secure a 5th place finish and a spot in the finale based on points.
In the Championship 4, I was the only returning driver from the previous year. This added pressure to prove myself and perform well at Homestead, a track where I had previously won. My teammate Donovan Strauss and I qualified in second place, setting the stage for an intense race. I managed to lead for the entire race, bringing home the championship title. The joy of celebrating with my family and the presence of NASCAR and Coca-Cola representatives made it all the more special, despite the mishap during the trophy lifting.
To commemorate the victory, I embarked on a weekend trip to Phoenix for the NASCAR Championship weekend. Thanks to iRacing, NASCAR, and Coca-Cola, I had the opportunity to witness the three races and share the experience with friends. The pre-race stage introduction and the presentation of the championship check added to the excitement and marked the perfect end to an incredible year.
I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who supported me throughout this journey, including SHR, Smithfield, my NFR teammates, spotter David Schildhouse, and all the organizations involved in putting together this series. Thank you for allowing me to fulfill my dream and become a champion.