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NASCAR makes current-gen console debut this fall with NASCAR Heat Evolution

Makers of old NASCAR Heat series reunite to bring motorsports to Xbox One, PS4

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Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Stock car racing returns to consoles in September in a dedicated, fully licensed video game, NASCAR Heat Evolution, made by the same people behind the well remembered NASCAR Heat series from nearly 15 years ago.

NASCAR Heat Evolution will launch Sept. 13 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. The team involved in making it, Dusenberry-Martin Racing of Charlotte, N.C., and Monster Games of Northfield, Minn., collaborated on NASCAR Heat, which released in 2000 and 2002 for several platforms.

Soon after, Electronic Arts acquired an exclusive license to make video games for the racing series, but abandoned it in 2009. Since then, stock car racing has made cameo appearances in sim racing franchises like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, and in a recent series developed by Eutechnyx, half-heartedly published by Activision and Deep Silver.

NASCAR Heat Evolution will mark stock car racing's debut on current generation consoles. Though an independent entity, Dusenberry-Martin Racing is, effectively, an in-house video game label for NASCAR itself, working out of the racing series' Charlotte headquarters.

Tom Dusenberry, the publisher's chief executive, was the founder and former president of Hasbro Interactive, publisher of the first NASCAR Heat. Ed Martin, DMR's other namesake, worked on the original NASCAR Heat games and was director of EA Sports' NASCAR series for four years before jumping to the same gig with Eutechnyx.  Richard Garcia, the president of Monster Games and lead developer for Nascar Heat Evolution also worked on the original titles from 2000 and 2001.

Dusenberry's son, Matt, is also part of the operation. He was a late-model stock car driver and formerly the chief of staff for 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski's racing team.

DMR acquired the NASCAR license early last year; that deal runs through 2020, a news release said. Mobile titles are also in the works, though today's NASCAR Heat announcement concerns only consoles and PC.

NASCAR Heat Evolution follows a series of five games made by Eutechnyx from 2011 to 2015, ambitious efforts that were critically panned for their technical difficulty and esoteric appeal. Dusenberry-Martin took over the publishing of last year's NASCAR '15 while acknowledging it was mainly a reconditioned version of its predecessor. NASCAR Heat Evolution is going to be different, DMR vows. It's a ground-up rebuild, and Monster Games has been on the case for the past two years.

DMR says NASCAR Heat Evolution will "dynamically adapt" to racers of all skill levels and will feature all of the series' top drivers, with fully branded cars and racing teams in an authentic career mode touring all of stock car motorsports' top venues.

NASCAR Heat Evolution will name a cover star after the coming Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. tomorrow. DMR will pick the best-finishing Toyota driver in that race to star on the box shot. That means the candidates are Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr., who finished 1-2 at the 2016 Daytona 500 (pictured above); 2015 Sprint Cup series champion Kyle Busch; two-time Daytona champion Matt Kenseth; and 2015 Coca-Cola 600 winner Carl Edwards.

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