Have you ever played a certain video game (particularly a sports game) for years and decided to start experimenting with weird ideas in order to keep it fresh?

Yeah, this is that.

NASCAR Thunder 2004 is one of my favorite games of all time; heck, it’s easily my favorite NASCAR game and top two favorite racer (behind Burnout 2). With one of the best licensed soundtracks out there and an entertaining racing product (and some hard-ass challenges/career mode), it’s no surprise that it still holds up as one of the most beloved by NASCAR fans even after over 16 years since its release.

But like any game, once you’ve experienced everything multiple times, you try to find ways to shake things up. After falling back in love with it while on a nostalgia trip, I decided to start up a little Season Mode… with a twist.


If you’ve known me long enough, you know I’m a huge Stadium Super Truck fan. To spice up this Season, rather than follow the usual Winston Cup points system and fixed schedule, why not combine the two series into one? The racing, drivers, and tracks will all be NASCAR, but this championship will use the points system and weekend format from SST.

It’d be easy to just simulate all 36 races and do the math from there, but I want to actually play the game as well. As such, I’ll be controlling my own custom driver, though I won’t include myself in the results and standings. Instead, I’ll bump every driver’s start/finish up by one; for example, if I finish second, third will be second and fourth is third. In other words, there will technically be 42 cars in this field. Sure, there will likely be events like me dumping a guy if he becomes a rival or sharing draft with someone to get them to the front so this won’t be a completely hands-free simulation, but that’s beside the point.

Schedule

In SST, a race weekend consists of two rounds (usually one on Saturday and another on Sunday), with qualifying held on Friday. The overall weekend winner is whoever has the best points days across the two rounds.

Yes, NASCAR doesn’t have doubleheaders, let alone in 2003. But since this is a video game, we’ll be throwing all logic out the window. While this schedule will also be 36 races like in real life, it will feature 20 tracks, all of which have two dates back-to-back similar to what the Cup Series will be doing for Pocono in 2020. If the game has both a day and night setting for a track, the first will be a night event and the second in the day (think Saturday night and Sunday morning).

In the true road racing spirit, all but six tracks are road courses (a litany of real-life tracks, infield courses, and fantasy tracks); the exceptions are Daytona, Daytona Beach, Tiburon, and the trio of short tracks. It’s a NASCAR fan’s wet dream. That’s right, fuck your cookie-cutters!

With all of these in mind, here’s what the schedule looks like:

  1. Daytona International Speedway
  2. Daytona International Speedway
  3. Daytona Beach Speedway
  4. Daytona Beach Speedway
  5. Daytona International Speedway Infield
  6. Daytona International Speedway Infield
  7. Homestead-Miami Speedway Infield
  8. Homestead-Miami Speedway Infield
  9. Pocono Raceway Infield
  10. Pocono Raceway Infield
  11. Watkins Glen International
  12. Watkins Glen International
  13. New York Metro Speedway
  14. New York Metro Speedway
  15. Martinsville Speedway
  16. Martinsville Speedway
  17. Richmond International Raceway
  18. Richmond International Raceway
  19. Bristol Motor Speedway
  20. Bristol Motor Speedway
  21. Texas Motor Speedway Infield
  22. Texas Motor Speedway Infield
  23. Devil’s Canyon Speedway
  24. Devil’s Canyon Speedway
  25. Phoenix International Raceway Infield
  26. Phoenix International Raceway Infield
  27. Dockside International Raceway
  28. Dockside International Raceway
  29. Infineon Raceway
  30. Infineon Raceway
  31. Sawmill Speedway
  32. Sawmill Speedway
  33. Talladega Superspeedway Infield
  34. Talladega Superspeedway Infield
  35. Tiburon Superspeedway
  36. Tiburon Superspeedway

Simple enough, right?

Points

In SST, the field is inverted after qualifying and Race #1, with the fastest qualifier earning a bonus point. The top 15 receives points (1st gets 25, 15th gets 6), with further bonuses being available for how many trucks one passes and three additional points for leading the most laps. If used, heat races also give out points.

For points, I decided to expand the top 15 to top 20; SST usually doesn’t draw that many trucks in a field in the first place while NASCAR has way more, so it makes sense to increase points chances (20 is also a nice round number). With just the top half of the results getting points (similar to F1 with just the top 10), it’s a good way to get some interesting points battles.

Of course, the Cup Series doesn’t have heat races outside of the Twins/Duels at Daytona, so the heat format won’t be used outside of those. The fastest qualifier and most laps led bonuses will remain intact, but I won’t use the extra points for cars passed since I’d rather not go through all 42 (since my guy is not included) drivers to allocate points. Since we’re doing two races “per weekend”, this also means two qualifying sessions in lieu of a field invert like in SST, so that’s an extra way for drivers to earn a pretty bonus point.

Anyway, the points convention will remain the same as they are in SST:

  1. 25 points
  2. 22 points
  3. 20 points
  4. 18 points
  5. 16 points
  6. 15 points
  7. 14 points
  8. 13 points
  9. 12 points
  10. 11 points
  11. 10 points
  12. 9 points
  13. 8 points
  14. 7 points
  15. 6 points
  16. 5 points
  17. 4 points
  18. 3 points
  19. 2 points
  20. 1 point

I’ll probably skip the overall weekend winner since I don’t think there are any points incentives for the overall winner and my hands are going to be pretty full just doing the regular standings. I’m too stupid to figure out spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel, so everything will be done by hand unless I get the hang of that.

And no, there will not be a playoff format. Calculating this points system is already hard enough.


May the best driver win? Probably not going to be Robby Gordon even if I’m basing this whole idea on his series’ points system, but hey, stranger things have happened in video games.

Hopefully this lasts a bit longer than my Madden World League that for like three weeks.