NASCAR ’14 released just in time for Daytona 500, puts gamers in middle of action

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If phoning someone is the next best thing to being there, then playing NASCAR ’14 is the next best thing to banging fenders with the likes of Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and the rest of NASCAR’s stars.

For the first time in its history, Eutechnyx released its latest edition of the NASCAR video game franchise prior to the season, on Tuesday, available on Xbox 360, PlayStation and PC (via Steam).

“With the Daytona 500 only a week away, the level of anticipation for the 2014 NASCAR season is reaching its climax with teams, drivers and fans,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR Vice President of licensing and consumer products. “We are equally as excited about the launch of NASCAR ’14, as it brings our sport into the homes of gaming enthusiasts across the country.”

Among highlights and/or improvements for the new edition are new online leagues, skill-based matchmaking gameplay, improved single-player AI (artificial intelligence), a career mode to work your way up through various levels of NASCAR racing, and a soon-to-be free patch to align NASCAR ’14 with the new Sprint Cup Chase rules and updated driver roster.

But perhaps the best innovation of all is the ability to go back to races last year, replay them and then put yourself behind the wheel of the car your favorite driver pilots.

“My favorite feature is the NASCAR Challenges,” Ed Martin, Executive Vice President of Eutechnyx, makers of NASCAR ’14.  “We take the telemetry data from the real race – data that the race teams don’t even have access to – and we recreate the greatest, most controversial and most pivotal moments from every race. We then drop the player into that moment in time.

“So instead of hopping on Twitter or Facebook or the radio and talking about ‘so-and-so should have done THIS and he would have won…’ well, now all of us armchair quarterbacks can go out and literally try it ourselves.”

Fans heading to Daytona International Speedway will be able to see the game in action – and four lucky fans will be chosen to race against 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Miss Sprint Cup on DIS’s 42-foot Jumbotron this Friday at 3:30 pm ET.

Chosen by more than 700,000 fans in a vote, three-time Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart is featured on the game box’s cover.

The suggested price is about the same as a good ticket to a Sprint Cup race, $49.99.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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