Fourteen years after it’s release, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is still regarded as one of the greatest auto racing simulations ever made. First arriving on store shelves in February of 2003, and easily establishing itself as the magnum opus of Papyrus, the landmark PC racing sim was the culmination of what many regard as a historic period of time for motorsports enthusiasts. Out of the box, not only was a fantastic reproduction of American Stock Car Racing, NASCAR 2003 became a cult hit among many current Sprint Cup drivers, and the enormous modding scene essentially turned the racing simulator into one giant encyclopedia of American motor racing – and then some.
However, the modding community surrounding NASCAR 2003 has traditionally been limited to cosmetic changes. Liveries replicating current and historical oval racing series always been popular downloads, but those looking to get more out of NASCAR 2003 were locked to just four types of vehicle behavior. The team over at Project Wildfire eventually released semi-official Craftsman Truck, Busch Grand National, and Trans-Am physics packages to be used with third party 3D models, but as NASCAR evolved as a sport in the years following the game’s release, NASCAR 2003 began to show its age. The game may include the cars, tracks, and drivers from the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season, but the rules package and vehicle physics have been set firmly in February of 2003. The pack still races back to the start finish line upon the caution flag being displayed, the first car not on the lead lap does not receive a free pass, and race restarts are still single-file affairs. As certain teams like Hendrick Motorspots have able to extract over a thousand horsepower from the mighty V8’s powering their Chevrolet entries, the Winston Cup engines seen in NASCAR 2003 were putting out a substantially smaller number.
In short, the game’s popularity has been slowly dwindling, as each year brings new changes to the sport that NASCAR 2003 simply can’t replicate.
Avid NASCAR Racing 2003 Season community member Kyle Westwood is hoping to change all of that. Kyle has created an online petition over at change.org asking for iRacing.com – the current owners of the NASCAR 2003 source code – to consider releasing the source code in order to prolong the life of the game. On paper, Kyle’s argument makes sense: Many sim racers still enjoy NASCAR Racing 2003 Season due to the sheer quality of the title, and there is tangible evidence that simply putting NASCAR 2003 into the closet and reluctantly moving to the iRacing.com software is not worth the hefty price of admission. The modding community want a collective shot at updating fundamental areas of the game, such as the tire model, force feedback effects, and officiating rules.
Unfortunately, Kyle and his crew are in for an uphill battle. iRacing have made it very clear that they’ve felt threatened by NASCAR 2003 modding community, and specifically secured the rights to NASCAR 2003′s source code in order to force people to upgrade to iRacing. Multiple legal battles against several community members have produced comical nuggets of information, indicating iRacing fears their product would lose popularity if their core group of users had not been forced to abandon NASCAR 2003.
While it’s highly unlikely that this campaign will succeed or even register on iRacing’s radar, it’s nice to see that there are a surprisingly large amount of people still actively carrying the NASCAR 2003 flag into 2016.