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The New Official NASCAR Game Is Not Looking Great

NASCAR 21: Ignition is Motorsport Games' first NASCAR title built on new tech, and early footage indicates it could use more work.

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There’s no editing here — the game just booted him into a pit stop out of nowhere while driving.
Gif: Schildhouse via Twitch

NASCAR 21: Ignition releases on October 28, and it’s a big deal for Motorsport Games, the newly minted publisher that has been inking licensing deals with racing series left and right and acquired rFactor developer Studio 397 earlier this year. NASCAR 21 is built on a wealth of technology new to the franchise — Unreal Engine 4 underpinned by Studio 397's rFactor physics. On paper, it should make for the most realistic, engaging NASCAR simulation yet. Unfortunately, things haven’t quite panned out that way.

Reviewers and influencers got their hands on the game this week, and early impressions have been discouraging. Davin, who streams under the name DriveThrough, noted in a Twitter thread that while NASCAR 21 looks stunning visually, it’s hindered by a number of shortcomings. The stages present in real NASCAR races aren’t yet in the game, for example. Davin also took issue with a general lack of caution flags, inconsistent corner-cutting stringency and the unhelpfulness of the AI spotter, among other things.


As disheartening as those faults are, they’re not terribly surprising for the first stab at an annual sports franchise built on a new engine. (Ask a soccer fan how eFootball has turned out.) I recall Codemasters’ first Formula 1 game on the Xbox 360 and PS3, which felt fine enough to drive, being plagued with a myriad of race logic glitches and the occasional pit stop snafu.

But F1 2010's pit stops had nothing on NASCAR 21's.

David Schildhouse, who streams on Twitch and works as a videographer for Rick Ware Racing, has also had the privilege of playing NASCAR 21 before the rest of us. And something happened to him while streaming a race at Talladega that I’ve never observed in any racing game ever.


Schildhouse took the lead entering the final lap, rounded the first turn and then was unceremoniously teleported to the pit lane along with the rest of the entire field, prompting a pit stop animation. And not just one pit stop animation, as you’ll see from the video. The animation looped repeatedly, as did various soundbites of the in-game spotter relaying that “the leader’s in the pits” — even though, you know, he was the leader.

It’s bad enough to have your race ruined with an impromptu, unplanned pit stop on the last lap. But once it was over, the car was still stuck there. And then the pit sequence happened two more times. And then it repeated again, now with the driver disturbingly floating in a seated position outside the car.

The pit stops looped for nine and a half hours. Schildhouse went to bed but left the stream running overnight. The next morning, peace mercifully arrived for the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Team crew when the game finally crashed.


Though exciting new glitches did later emerge:


Supposedly NASCAR 21 will get a day one patch when it releases next week. Then again it’s been reported by some early players, like streamer Gary Owen, that the build in reviewers’ hands already includes that patch. On Wednesday night the NASCAR 21 Twitter account published a message to fans, thanking them for their support and reaffirming that the dev team is listening to their feedback.


We’ve reached out to Motorsport Games for clarification on whether the day one patch is present in the current build, and will update this story with whatever we learn.

Update Oct. 22, 2021, 2:19 p.m. ET: Motorsport Games has provided the following statement in response to Jalopnik’s request for comment:

We are actively working on resolving the issues that have been reported by the community thus far. We hope to have our next patch live very soon, with additional fixes to follow.