NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is the last great NASCAR racing simulator made. Period. It is such the Holy Grail of stock car simulations that copies still go on eBay for well over $200, and that is long after the Papyrus/Sierra multiplayer racing lobbies were closed down. It has been previously covered here on this blog when I was running a championship exactly two years ago this month.
The quality of the title is readily apparent as I successfully installed it on my Windows 7 machine without a single issue: no run in a compatibility mode, no run as administrator mumbo jumbo, nothing. The game installed, ran the graphics program and all I had to do was the set the resolution to my default desktop as everything else was maxed by the system. To run this game on extreme graphics settings and still pull in 140+ frames per second is just sick.
I was so into this game back in the day that I ran my own racing league, F.A.S.T. (Formula Auto Stock Team) where the races were run and points were awarded based on Formula One results back in the early 2000’s. I owned a TSW2 custom made steering wheel and was able to burn around most any track with little effort on the hardest of hardcore settings.
Fast forward to today and that wheel is long gone (a long story not fit for this blog). I am racing with a Logitech dual action controller which requires some assists to be enabled in order to make it around the track in simulation mode. With the advanced wheel I used to have I could run the AI at 101% difficulty and still beat the snot out of them at the faster tracks.
For this effort (which is an exploration of whether I am going to start afresh with a new career to follow the Cup schedule) I pick car # 01 that was run by Jerry Nadeau, the U.S. Army Pontiac Grand Prix. These are the stock car sets that shipped with the game and if I get into a career I will download the most recent set from one of several racing web sites that still provide mods for this game.
The race weekend settings are Simulation, 2X Pit Stop Frequency, 92% AI strength, Yellow Flags and Realistic weather.
Countless hours were burned in the last decade perfecting my own setups, but all of that information is long gone as it applied to the TSW2. For this testing session I am running with the stock “Fast” setup for the practice and race sessions.
On lap three of practice I slip past Jeff Burton in the # 31 Cingular Wireless Chevy.
This is typical drafting at Daytona on the backstretch with Kyle Petty out in front.
Practice did not go all that well with freight trains of cars passing me while I slipped towards the bottom of the standings.
Somehow in the last two laps I burst into the top 25 standings in the practice run after a decent couple of laps drafting a pack.
NASCAR 2003 has the best replay system of any racing video game I have come across with the ability to record the entire race weekend lap for lap from the first practice lap to the last lap of the race with zero impact on game performance.
These are my lap times for the practice session and wide gaps can be attributed to drafting and being out of the draft.
The right front tire is taking the punishment of the 11 lap run (at 2X tire wear so it is effectively 22 laps). The high temp is 215 on the inside shoulder of the tire at 57.0 psi. Adjustments to camber and caster can make someone lighting fast or a ten lap wonder after they blow their tires depending on how well the setup is modified to the individual racer.
46.316 is semi-acceptable to me given what I am dealing with in the gamepad controller. I am satisfied that I did not spin out the car or wreck during practice.
I would post a qualifying time of 47.621 which was good enough to put me in 20th position, however I aborted the run and started from the rear in 43rd place.
Waiting on the backstretch for the pace car to lead the pack around to the green flag.
On lap five I am running in 41st position with 26 laps remaining.
On lap ten I am up to 27th position and my hands are cramping really bad having been out of practice for two years. I pause the game and stop the Fraps screen shots from continuing.
That was a mistake as after I resumed racing I was trying to hit the hotkey to enable Fraps again after realizing I had failed to start it again once I had resumed racing. I made it up to 10th position by lap 16 before I wiped out trying to enable a screen capture utility.
I used to participate in 25% race length league events and had to sit for hours at a time as you cannot pause a multiplayer game, so this 13 minute pain fest was a sobering wakeup call to getting back into this game after so much time off.
My current records with the new game installation: 46.316 overall best time.
This was a lot of fun to play again and I am very glad that the game could come into the Windows 7 environment without much of the issues that surround games that are installed on operating systems that did not exist (or were even being thought of) when the game was first released.