Column By: STEPHEN DURHAM / RPW – HILLSBORO, NH – It was a rather quiet season for Jake Matheson and his team in 2023, making one start on the season at Star Classic Weekend with the Granite State Pro Stock Series.
In previous seasons, Matheson was commonly seen competing on the Pro All Star Series throughout the year.
Matheson has already begun to plan for 2024, and is already getting into the competitive mindset by competing weekly this fall and winter online with iRacing.
“There was a plethora of different things this year that kept us from getting to the track for 90% of the year,” Matheson says, “don’t worry though, the 52m will be back running much more in 2024.”
For many racers around the United States, as temperatures get colder and the snow starts to fall, they start getting their cars ready for the following season. In their free-time, many racers also enjoy getting onto the best online racing simulator, with iRacing, just to keep that competitive edge during the off-season. Matheson has been on iRacing for just over a decade now.
“iRacing puts your brain through the same mental gymnastics as real life racing,” Matheson explains, “You have to plan out what you’re gonna do, how you’re gonna do it, and execute just as you would in person. I believe this is a great tool for real life racers as it can help you stay sharp where it matters.”
Before 2019, Matheson has been more a “casual racer” on iRacing, but then in 2019, began to compete for a team by the name of Nexxus eSports. The team has featured other New England native racers, such as Ryan Doucette. Matheson has competed with Nexxus in the Road to Pro Series that feeds into the top series of NASCAR iRacing, the Coke Series, and the eNASCAR Series as well. This fall though, Matheson is competing in his first NASCAR league fulltime.
“I’ve competed in a handful of leagues before, all short track stuff, the Allstar Racing Esports Association(AREA) League is the first NASCAR league I’ve competed in full time,” Matheson says, “it’s a very competitive league, with guys who race in some of the top leagues in iRacing like Jake Nichols, Seth Noell, James Scioly, and Beckner, you have to bring your A game week in, week out.”
Matheson has already picked off wins in the early season of the Cup Series with AREA, winning at Las Vegas and Phoenix, and sitting 4th in the standings of a very full and stacked field. Matheson knows though, its a different approach in iRacing compared to getting behind his super late model in real life when it comes to competition.
“Truthfully, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. iRacing lets you turn unlimited practice laps with no worries, whereas in real life, you get limited track time and for most people, only one car to work with” Matheson explains, “ Sim racers will find the limit through countless trial and error tests, but real life drivers can only get so close to said limit with what they have to work with.”
The Hillsboro, New Hampshire driver enjoys getting to race with different people from around the United States and even from other countries. He says he’s been able to make great friendships and bonds over the years.
“I have met countless people from all over through the community. Depending on the people you line yourself up with, it can either greatly help you or ruin your reputation’” Matheson says “I’ve been able to make some very good connections over the last few years and it has helped tremendously.”
There are current NASCAR drivers who have been common names to be found racing on iRacing, even creating a name for themselves through iRacing, like William Byron, Ty Majeski, and Rajah Caruth.
“I always enjoy racing those guys whenever I get the chance. Not just anyone can make the step from sim to real life as smoothly as them, Matheson says “It’ll always be cool to watch those guys race on the weekend then be able to hop in a random official race to compete with them on Monday.”
The AREA League runs three different series a week, with Cup Series on Mondays, the trucks on Tuesdays, and the Xfinity type cars on Thursdays. All races are broadcasted via Twitch each night to catch all the action live, to see if Jake Matheson can continue his strong run in his rookie season.