The struggle was real — virtually — for Joey Logano in new video game


The struggle was real in a virtual way for Joey Logano, which was exactly what the Sprint Cup veteran was seeking.

In a recent night of playing NASCAR Heat Evolution, the video game released today, Logano couldn’t win as much as he tried at Martinsville Speedway in the game’s career mode.

Logano had a limited budget to optimize the parts on his car to go faster, and the game adapted to his ability, limiting him to a best of 10th at the 0.526-mile oval.

“I had a hell of a time,” Logano said with a laugh. “You had to make money to buy stuff to make the car better, and I didn’t have any money, so my car wasn’t very good. It was hard, and things like that are kind of fun to play.”

It was much different from the racing games Logano played (then in the guise of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24) as a whiz kid many years ago.

“I would stop for a lap and try to get them all ahead,” he said. “You don’t have to do that to make it a challenge.”

The key to making NASCAR Heat Evolution challenging without completely curtailing success is its adaptive AI feature, which allows the game to react to a player’s performance and customize the experience.

“As you get better at the game, it realizes that, and it adjusts automatically the strength of the competition, so that’s pretty cool,” Logano said. “Because you don’t want to finish 40th every time, but you also don’t want to win every time, too.”

Players also will have the option to customize setups and modify their cars with upgrades.

Logano is an investor in the game along with teammate Brad Keselowski, and they provided input on the development with a goal of balancing realism with rewarding entertainment value.

“It’s a fine line because you want the game to be fun, but you also want it to be challenging,” Logano said. “If you make it drive too much like a race car, not many people are going to be able to do it. You want it to be enjoyable but not so complicated that you have to be setting up your car and play it all the time to win. You want it to be challenging enough that people come back and get better, but you don’t want people to have to live it to be decent at it.”

The game, which is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, also will have an online playing feature that will permit a full field of 40 players remotely racing each other. Players can host private races or join existing events and control various factors such as laps, fuel, tire wear and number of entrants.

“I look at a video game like it’s the only way our fans are able to understand a little of what we feel because you can’t just go to your local sporting goods store and buy a race car like a baseball bat,” he said. “So the only way you can kind of get a feel for it is through video games. That’s still very different from what we do, but it’s kind of the closest thing to it.

“You can’t go drive your car down the highway at 150, or at least you’re not supposed to, so this is the best way to let fans try to experience what we feel.”


Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.