NASCAR Heat 4

NASCAR Heat 4 review: More for fans to enjoy, control

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If in recent years you’ve longed for a NASCAR video game simulator that just had a little bit more of everything, that game will be available to you Friday.

It arrives with the fourth edition of the “NASCAR Heat” franchise from 704Games.

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The overhaul of the game is evident from the main menu screen, which is broken up into window-like boxes, and clearly felt in the gameplay itself.

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you fire up your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC to play the latest NASCAR game.

THE THRILL IS BACK

The best part about this revamped game is the enhanced racing physics, which the player has even more control over.

In the last edition of NASCAR Heat, overshooting a corner and sideswiping a CPU car would result in … a thud, mostly. It was very hard for any kind of crash – intentional or accidental – to develop.

But now, getting into a car’s left or right-rear quarter panel is more likely to result in a “will they or won’t they” situation, with you having to decide whether to step on the gas or hit the brakes not knowing whether the car will correct itself or go into a slide.

And you can make it easier or harder for that to happen.

704Games has added sliders in a settings menu which allow you to adjust a multitude of aspects to the physics and gameplay:

  • Player tire wear rate and grip falloff rate
  • Speed range between fastest and slowest AI drivers (“wide” for more separation and “narrow” for tighter field)
  • AI stability after making contact with the player
  • AI driver recovery ability
  • Closeness of field on restarts
  • AI mechanical failures
  • AI tire wear effect and fuel consumption

These adjustments are welcome. With that said, it took a lot of trial and error to find the settings that made racing for eighth entertaining, which is a fun sentence to write. Fun tracks to conduct those trials on are Darlington, Bristol, Dover and Charlotte.

Also, if you’re one of those who have no clue how to make adjustments to tire pressure, track bars or brake bias, 704Games has an easier option available.

At the menu you see in-between practice, qualifying and a race, the upper right-hand corner has a slider where you can simply adjust from “tight” to “loose.”

Further, AI cars are no longer glued to the inside line. You’ll see cars traverse the track all the way up to the wall. This makes coming up through the field a more challenging experience.

Though wrecks are more frequent now, as a player you still can’t DNF yourself in the middle of the race after a bad enough wreck to warrant it. You can go to the pits and be repaired like nothing happened. Sometimes you’ve had enough and you just want the race to end and move onto the next.

On the plus side, in career mode you can simulate races you don’t want to take part in.

NASCAR Heat 4

EASY ON THE EYES

NASCAR Heat 4 pops.

More care has been put into the visuals for this installment. The atmosphere at tracks, especially night races, is really striking. It’s even more apparent now that day will transition into night if you go with stage races.

At some tracks, like Darlington, the far end of the track always has a haze over it.

But in general, almost every aspect of what you see on the screen stands out more.

Two other things that caught my eye: Ryan Blaney’s stellar PPG paint scheme and Johnny Sauter’s “tenda” scheme in the Truck Series.

On Blaney’s car, the dripping paint aspect of it really sticks out.

As for Sauter’s, did you know there’s the outline of a horse on the side of Sauter’s truck (tenda is an Equine and Pet Care Products company)? I never noticed it through the first seven months of the season. But it’s there, clear as day in the game. I looked at pictures of the real car and was surprised to see it.

CAR COUNT

Speaking of paint schemes, there’s new ways to have more in your possession, including existing cars and your own creations.

Added to the usual “challenge” mode (watch out for the Sonoma Raceway “carousel” challenge) is being rewarded with the car from that challenge.

Oddly, this sometimes includes a “Victory Lane” version of the car, so you’ll be driving around the track with a confetti-covered vehicle.

The game creators have also heard cries for enhancements to the custom car builder.

While you unfortunately can’t paint a car at will any way you want, the game gives you significantly more tools to work with.

An addition to the game is the ability to use any number on your custom cars, on top of a wider variety of paint scheme templates and a handful of number fonts.

While I’m not a fan of the number font designs, it’s nice to have more choices, which is the overarching theme of most of new tweaks with NH4.

The combination of new numbers, scheme templates and enhanced color selection allowed me to accidentally back into creating a close imitation of one of Ron Hornaday Jr.’s old NAPA schemes from the Truck Series.

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • A little thing I appreciate is a change to Bristol Motor Speedway. The track has been using a traction compound on the inside lane of its corners for the last few years, but that had been missing from NASCAR Heat’s version of the track. Now, there is a layer of grip present there that makes getting through each turn more manageable.
  • In single season mode you can now create custom seasons via track order.
  • The track map on the HUD display is one of those additions that took way too long to be introduced.
  • When qualifying, a timer is present on the screen now to help give an indication of how you’re doing.
  • You’re still unable to watch a replay until after the race. So you’ll have no idea what caused a caution until then if you weren’t involved directly.
  • The only options you can change during a race are driving aids.
  • Drafting works! Especially at superspeedways. You can even hear the wind change as you drift in and out of the wake of cars in front of you.
  • If your tire wear gets to a certain point, you’ll be in danger of outright spinning on a restart if you’re not careful. Took me by surprise.

Hailie Deegan on IMSA debut: ‘I’m not mad. I’m gaining experience’

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The first day of Hailie Deegan’s foray into sports car racing was one with mixed results.

Deegan and teammate, NASCAR Xfinity driver Chase Briscoe, finished 43rd of 51 teams that were entered in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway.

Deegan ran as high as 15th before the car experienced mechanical issues roughly three hours into the four-hour event, and it was brought in to be worked on for the remaining time.

Deegan and Briscoe were in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford GT4, which ran a total of 86 laps. One other NASCAR driver, Xfinity pilot Austin Cindric, was teamed with Seb Priaulx in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford Mustang GT4, and together they finished 45th, completing 78 laps.

One other name of note was IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who finished 28th (completed 107 laps).

The fastest team in the field was Dylan Murry, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Jim Cox, who collectively ran the entire 110 laps.

While her team continued to work on the car in the garage, Deegan visited the infield media center to speak about her first race experience in an IMSA sports car.

I feel like I just gained a lot of experience,” Deegan said. “I’m here to gain experience after that three-day road test, coming here and practicing for two days.

“I just feel like I know a lot more about racing than I did before. And that’s why I’m here and supposed to be doing.”

The biggest challenge, Deegan said, was the large number of cars she had to compete against.

“The traffic is a little difficult to deal with; it’s not bad, though,” Deegan said. “It makes it fun. It makes it interesting. You constantly have to be on your toes.

“What I like about sports car racing is how many of the points you have to remember in your head. You get a little distracted for a second, and the next thing you know, you overdrive the corner that kind of laps into the next corner.

“So there’s constantly so much going on, you have to be on top of your game.”

While she would have liked to have more time on track had it not been for the mechanical issue, Deegan was philosophical about how the day played out.

“I’m not mad, I’m gaining experience,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”

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DC Solar founders to plead guilty to charges related to $1 billion Ponzi scheme

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Thirteen months after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service raided the headquarters of DC Solar and the home of its founders, Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, the couple has entered plea agreements related to a $1 billion Ponzi scheme, the impact of which saw Chip Ganassi Racing close its Xfinity Series program in 2019.

Jeff Carpoff has agreed to plead guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering while Paulette Carpoff will plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy and money laundering.

According to the plea agreements filed with the Eastern District of California, the government will recommend an initial sentence of 30 years in prison for Jeff Carpoff and 15 years for Paulette Carpoff prior to any co-operation they provide with the case.

The agreement outlines a Ponzi scheme that operated from March 2011 to December 2018, ending with the raids on the Carpoff’s residence in Martinez, California, and DC Solar’s headquarters in Benicia, California.

DC Solar was a company that built and leased solar energy equipment and also sponsored Chip Ganassi Racing in the Cup and Xfinity Series. It was the primary or co-primary sponsor for Kyle Larson in 16 Cup races and for three races with Jamie McMurray in 2018. It also sponsored 10 Xfinity races with Ganassi and announced in November 2018 it would sponsor Ross Chastain’s full-time ride in 2019.

It also sponsored Xfinity Series races in 2018 at Phoenix Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the infield “FanGrounds” at Richmond Raceway.

In the wake of the raids and the company filing for bankruptcy in January 2019, CGR was forced to close its Xfinity operation.

During the nearly eight-year scheme, the plea agreement says the Carpoffs used the money generated from it to buy their NASCAR sponsorships, 150 luxury and collectible vehicles and luxury real estate in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, the Caribbean and Mexico.

They also purchased a suite at a professional football stadium, a subscription private jet service, the Martinez (California) Clippers minor league baseball team and a 2018 performance by an internationally known rapper at a company holiday party.

Funds were also used to make illicit payments to their co-conspirators and others.

As part of their respective plea agreements, the Carpoffs have agreed to pay restitution to their victims, totaling between $800 million and $1.6 billion.

Jim France bullish on the future: ‘We’re getting some momentum back’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In a rare interview Friday, NASCAR CEO and chairman Jim France said he’s bullish about the momentum of his racing series, particularly since last year’s ISC merger.

“Very much so,” France said when asked if he’s looking forward to the return of stock cars to Daytona International Speedway next month for Speedweeks. The Daytona 500 will kick off the Cup Series season Feb. 16.

“We’re coming off of a very good year I felt like last year where we’re really getting some momentum back,” France said. “It’s exciting now going into this coming year.”

Much of the focus has been on the discussions around a possible revamping of the 2021 schedule.

“(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps is working diligently on that,” France said with a laugh. “There’ll be announcements coming in the not-too-distant future.”

France said last year’s merger of NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., which had been publicly traded before the deal, provides more flexibility on the schedule.

“It makes a big difference,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to respond quicker to the changing environment out here with the economy and all the things that are going on that impact motorsports. It was a major big step that we needed to make probably for quite a while.”

France spoke with a small group of reporters after a major news conference at Daytona involving the IMSA Series that will create a bridge for the premier sports car classes at Daytona and Le Mans.

“The way I view it is if you ever catch the Ferrari vs. Ford movie where the cars went back and forth with Le Mans, that’s the era that we’re getting ready to enter into here is my optimistic hope,” said France, who is also the chairman of IMSA.

Kaz Grala returning to Richard Childress Racing for select Xfinity races

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Kaz Grala will return to compete for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series this year in select races, the team announced Friday.

Grala, 21, will be one of three drivers to pilot the No. 21 Chevrolet during the full season, joining Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo.

Grala made five starts in the No. 21 in 2019, earning a best result of fifth at Road America.

“I learned a lot as a driver working with RCR last year, so I feel confident that our existing chemistry as a team will lead to even better results in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season,” Grala said in a press release. “RCR’s Xfinity Series program is top-notch, and with the No. 21 car running all year, I am excited to be a part of the team chasing yet another owner’s championship. I’m very grateful to Richard Childress for giving me this opportunity to further my career.”

No sponsors were part of the announcement.

“Kaz showed quite a bit of speed and promise in the No. 21 car last year for RCR,” Richard Childress said in a press release. “I’m confident the results will show in 2020, especially after a year under his belt in our proven Xfinity program.”