NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, or NR2003 for short, is a computer racing simulator released in February 2003 by Papyrus for PC and Mac OS X. The game was the last to be released by the company before EA Sports bought the NASCAR license exclusively from 2004 to 2009 (parent company Sierra's successor company, Activision Blizzard, reacquired NASCAR rights in 2011, with NASCAR The Game: 2011). The game included all of the 2003 NASCAR season tracks and many of the drivers. The game box featured the cars of Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, with his temporary 2003 Goodwrench scheme dedicated to Dale Earnhardt, on the front cover.
This game features the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series roster in NASCAR Racing 2003 Season with three notable omissions: Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Sterling Marlin No. 40, Casey Mears No. 41, and Rookie of the Year Jamie McMurray No. 42. Fantasy drivers are also present, sponsored by fictional or Papyrus/Sierra sponsors, and these fantasy drivers appear to be the Papyrus/Sierra crew. Painters in the sim racing community also design and create fictional cars in addition to
recreating current paint schemes.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season features a dynamic physics model which makes cars react differently in a certain environment. After Papyrus released the first patch, the game was enabled to allow mods. Additional car mods, paint schemes and tracks can be added to the game. The game also features videos entitled driving lessons on how to play the game.
Papyrus decided that with EA's soon to be monopoly on NASCAR titles that they'd go out with a bang. So, on the same day Dale Earnhardt raced in his last career race in Homestead, on November 16, 2003, Papyrus released a 500-copy Collector's Edition, with a Dale Earnhardt poster included folded up in the game box and a Dale Earnhardt signature on the game disk.
As a final bonus to the Collector's Edition, certain game features that were removed due to EA's complaints were snuck into the game, including "Challenge Mode" which allowed players to play real life scenarios with real life drivers, the most popular of which was "Dale's Last Race" in which you as the player try to keep Dale in the lead and win the race. The last challenge of challenge mode, "Dale's Last Race", is known to be almost impossible due to the AI being programmed to be extremely aggressive. In the Collector's Edition, there are also small video clips of real life races when you select tracks like Daytona and Indianapolis.
The Collector's Edition led to a lawsuit from EA, for nearly $5 million. The lawsuit was won by EA in January of 2004, which ultimately led to the shutdown of Papyrus completely a few months later in May 2004.
NASCAR drivers Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. were noted players of the game, and many professional drivers used the game's online multiplayer mode to practice tracks before races. These included 2006 Rookie of the Year Denny Hamlin, who used the game to train for the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway, going on to win the race at a track notoriously tough for rookies.
At the end of March 2004, NR2003 was pulled from shelves when Electronic Arts acquired the exclusive NASCAR rights. In May 2004, Papyrus was shut down, and David Kaemmer bought the source code and assets a couple months later for his company FIRST, LLC where it became the base code for iRacing.com.
The game also maintains a very active modding community, and due to the scarcity and expense of physical copies, is very frequently pirated, and easily so.