New NASCAR game offers more reality

One minute, you’re the Daytona 500 winner; the next, you’re getting waxed in a video game by a pretty girl with a southern accent — while cameras are rolling.

Welcome to Trevor Bayne’s world.

Bayne might be NASCAR’s new flavor of the year, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect at everything.

He found that out the hard way Saturday morning when he was challenged to play NASCAR The Game 2011 by Miss Sprint Cup Paige Duke in a made-for-TV event at Auto Club Speedway.

Bayne chose to drive his No. 21 car in the video game; Duke picked Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet.

The game came to life quickly, with Duke wrecking during her practice round. But Bayne lightened the mood when he quipped: "You wanna know the cool thing about games? The reset buttons."

And then the youngest Daytona 500 winner in history lost. To a girl.

But gentleman that he is, Bayne, 20, graciously accepted defeat.

"I think the game is awesome," he said excitedly. "The graphics are really good on it. You actually have to drive it. You can’t just hold it wide open, you have to lift a little bit and wait to get on the gas, so it’s easy to lose control. I thought it was cool."

So what led to Duke’s victory over the budding NASCAR star?

"My little spotter was telling me to ‘Stay low, stay low,’ so I just followed his orders and I ended up beating him," Duke said.

Wait, there’s a video game on the market that actually offers direction?

There is, starting today, when NASCAR The Game 2011 is available at retail outlets.

Developed by Eutechnyx and distributed by Activision, NASCAR The Game 2011 simply does not look like a typical animated video game.

Skeptical? Try a one-minute preview that will get your heart pumping — and your head likely nodding in agreement with Eutechnyx North America President Ed Martin, who calls the new product "the most fun NASCAR game ever created."

Martin said his creative team took into account that most available motorsports video games have the same type of racing concept: "Every other motorsports game out there, it’s five to eight cars, and you’re kind of racing against the track and you’re seeing the beautiful scenery."

So Eutechnyx decided to take a different approach to NASCAR The Game 2011.

"NASCAR is about the excitement of pack racing," Martin said. "In NASCAR The Game 2011, you are one of 43 cars. We want you in that bee swarm of cars. You’re racing the pack primarily and the track secondarily. And that makes for not only a really unique experience but a fun experience."

And it is fun, not only for NASCAR fans but for any sports fan.

Because this game is jam-packed with all the excitement you’ll find at a NASCAR race: the jockeying for position, the radio chatter, the roar of the crowd, the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the stunningly realistic wrecks and, yes, even the spotter, who gives rapid-fire directions on how to avoid wrecks as well as suggesting pit strategies — and listen carefully, because that’s the voice of someone who knows the sport, Ty Norris, general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I don’t think you can get it any more realistic in video games," Bayne said. "I hope folks post pictures on Facebook and Twitter of my car in Victory Lane."

Part of why this game looks so real is because Eutechnyx developed each car’s characteristics based on its driver’s actual live loop data from the 2009 season, then created an artificial intelligence model for each vehicle.

So when you’re bump-drafting Dale Earnhardt Jr., you’re not just bump-drafting some car with a No. 88 on it, you’re bump-drafting Junior — and he will be reacting to your moves the same way he reacted during his 2009 races.

"The 42 cars you are racing against are exactly the virtual counterparts of the real-life guys,” Martin said. “There are certain guys who you’ll be able to intimidate; there’s certain guys who will take you out."

Like Bayne, Joey Logano gave the game a thumbs-up.

Excited that a NASCAR-based video game would soon be on the market, Logano said he had "a lot of fun playing it" and marveled over the "impressive graphics" when he gave it a test drive during the Bristol race weekend.

Logano chose to drive his No. 20 Home Depot car instead of competing against himself. But if he does race against the No. 20 in the future, he said, "Hopefully, I win."