Posted on September 19, 2012
And now, for something completely different!
You’ll notice that one game will be curiously absent from my Top 100 countdown. I’ve probably dedicated more hours to this series of games than I ever have to Mario or Zelda titles, and this one game was considered (until recently) to be the cream of the crop.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is the final NASCAR game released by Papyrus, the end of a long line of simulators dating back to 1994. At the time of its release, NR2003 was the most in-depth racing simulator on the market. You could tinker with every minute detail of the car, from shocks and springs, tire pressures, camber, gears, all the way to track bar adjustments and steering ratios. The game even had a great paint booth for cars, and if you were handy with Photoshop, schemes could get even more complex.
Driver Denny Hamlin was a Nextel Cup Series rookie in 2006, and a race at Pocono Raceway was looming on the horizon. Aside from the ARCA Series (which is not affiliated with NASCAR), there are no lower-tired divisions that run at that track, one of the most unique and difficult on the circuit. He had to learn the track, but with testing rules being strict at the time, options were limited.
Of course, he turned to NR2003. One virtual lap at a time, he learned every bump on the track, how the car would react to certain setups, what the tire wear might be like. No, he didn’t get a seat-of-the-pants feel for it (as in, he didn’t get to feel the G’s, the heat of the car, the smell of burning rubber, etc), but the feel of the gaming wheel in his hands told him much of what he needed to know.
He did pretty well for himself. In the June event at the Pennsylvania track, he won the pole position. Halfway through the race, a blown tire all but ended his chances at victory. He was mired back in the pack, but made a miraculous recovery and won the race by a mile. When the series came back to Pocono in July, Hamlin won the pole again, and won the race by an even bigger margin.
Hamlin credited his time with NR2003 as being the catalyst for his success at the track he’d never been on before that first practice session.
I had owned the original game way back in ’95 (what’s a “force feedback”???), then eventually got 1999 Season, and recieved NASCAR Racing 4 in 2001 as a graduation present. I felt like my skills had improved enough through the years, and I dabbled in racing online against random people from around the globe. Finding a tight-knit group that raced NR2003, and more importantly, raced clean and fair was hard to do; but I got lucky.
The main roadblock I had in joining online racing communities was the fact that I didn’t have high-speed internet at home. In July of 2005, that changed. Having gone to a local sim racing competition with a grand prize of a race trip to Loudon, New Hampshire (which I qualified for, but couldn’t compete in, due to a technicality), I heard about the New Brunswick Virual Racing League. I signed up immediately after getting high-speed, hastily downloaded a paint scheme among the tens of thousands that were posted online, and went racing ASAP.
I started my first race off pretty well, but the game ended up disqualifying me for driving in reverse to find my pit stall! 100% my fault! Rookie mistake!
Of course, I didn’t let that get me down. The group of competitors was so easy to get along with, and I found I was quite at home when 8:30 on Tuesday nights rolled around! We all got to know how we raced one another on the track, and I even managed to snag a couple victories in the latter part of that season.
I was lucky enough to win my fair share of races and season championships along the way before finally hanging up my sim racing gloves at the end of the 2010 NBVRL season. I’m not completely done, since I still feel the need for speed sometimes, and I’ll probably eventually get back into it.
So, pray tell… what does this have to do with the blog, aside from it (technically) being a video game?
Three of my fierce competitors over the years were Rejean Leblanc, Brent Roy (who now races weekly at Speedway 660) and Jared Meade. This trio of young drivers came together and formed Angry Angus Racing, one the first “organized” multi-car teams in NBVRL history. A virtual version of Hendrick Motorsports, if you will.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Jared had the great idea to incorporate his current online racing endeavour (a game called Live for Speed) as well as his professional real life go-karting career into a fund-raising effort for the CIBC’s Run for the Cure. The races Jared and Rejean participate in are broadcasted online, and their car will be coloured pink to promote the effort.
If Jared’s fund-raising goal of $1,000 is met, then not only will the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation recieve greatly appreciated funds, he will race a pink kart for the final race of his season!!
We’ve raced pretty hard back-and-forth online over the years, so for me to see him in a pink kart would be pretty awesome.
So please, go here and donate if you can. Everybody wins when Jared races in pink!!
Back to the countdown tomorrow!