One of the biggest decisions that Sports video game companies have is to choose someone to represent the sport as whole. They want to make sure they can grab the attention of the fanbase to buy their game and have a face on the cover that everyone recognizes.
Over the years there has been an underlining curse that has come into the industry that reflects on the team/driver that gets to be on the cover of a sports video game. The curse is that whoever was on the cover for that year’s game, they do not perform that well in the season.
Darian begins the video with opening up to talk about the curse that sports fans carry when a team gets on the cover of that year’s current video game installment. It has spread across the MLB, NFL, and even NASCAR has gotten infected with this curse. Over the history of NASCAR drivers on video game covers, there have been mixed results on the curse taking effect or not. This video just focuses on those that did have a bad season the same year their face was on the cover of that year’s game.
First up is Bill Elliott’s NASCAR Challenge that was released on the Microsoft MS-DOS in 1990 and then the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. Bill Elliott was the first NASCAR driver to have his face on a NASCAR video game. The 1990 NASCAR season for Bill Elliott wasn’t up to normal standards compared to his previous seasons in the No. 9 Thunderbird. In the ’90 & ’91 seasons Bill went from 4th to 11th in the standings. The No. 9 team ended their 1991 season with the tragic passing of one of their crew members.
Former NASCAR driver, Kyle Petty, had his own video game in 1995 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System called Kyle Petty’s No Fear Racing. There was a Japanese version of the game called Circuit USA, but the only difference was it didn’t have Kyle Petty’s name on it. He did get his 8th win at Dover, which would be his last at that track. Other than that, he struggled in the 1995 Winston Cup Series with that win at Dover being his only top 5 that season. He also scored five top 10s and had 10 DNF’s. His average finish was 25.6 and he finished 30th in the Cup standings.
NASCAR Thunder 2003 was EA Sport’s sixth installment of the NASCAR Racing Series. It was released in September 2003 for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles. At the time NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on the cover of the game. Dale Jr. was on a roller coaster start to the 2003 Cup season with three finishes outside the top 15, and then went on a charge that took him from 25th in points to 5th after nine races in the season. He was doing well up until his violent wreck at Fontana which gave him his first concussion.
At the time it was unknown that Dale Jr. had a concussion because he kept it to himself for about a month and a half. This caused his performance to decline, and he fell to 17th in the standings by the summertime. Everyone was shocked when Dale Jr revealed to the world that he had been racing with a severe concussion during an interview with USA Today.
Kevin Harvick was on the cover for EA’s NASCAR 2005 Chase for the Cup that released in late 2004. Harvick looked to be a championship contender in the field, but his own on track antics had a bigger spotlight than his good performance in the 2004 season. He was known as a bit of a hothead, and he had a few run ins with multiple drivers during the season that caused a lot of talk around the sport.
During the fall Bristol race, Harvick had a strange series of events happen. He reported that his arms were asleep and the next caution he was replaced by Kyle Petty to finish the race. Harvick misses the chase and he loses seven spots in the standings.
EA’s ninth installment of the series, NASCAR 06 Total Team Control, had two drivers on the cover of the game of Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson & Jeff Gordon. Darian walks us through on which one of them gets the curse. In the prologue of the game Johnson and Gordon are bump drafting at Daytona trying to pass DEI teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip. Johnson wrecks and you have to race as Jeff Gordon to get the win and then from there you get into the actual game.
Darian goes to say that Johnson’s sacrifice gives the curse to Jeff Gordon. Gordon started the season with 3 wins, but his performance declined once it got to the summer part of the season. He had lots of mechanical failures, mistakes and wrecks that had him outside the chase in the fall.
Elliott Sadler with his colorful M&M’s sponsor at the time was on the cover of EA NASCAR 07. This one leaves the fans in question on why Sadler was picked for the cover. He has 3 NASCAR Cup victories, made the chase in 2004, and has very good stats in the Xfinity Series. His performance was not good in the 2007 Cup season, with what many presume to him racing past his prime and bad management at Robert Yates. By the time the game came out, Elliot Sadler was with a new team driving the No. 19 Dodge.
NASCAR 09 was the final installment of the series by EA Sports and Jeff Gordon was back on the cover. Gordon’s season on paper doesn’t look bad, but by his standards they were lack luster. He also suffered back problems after a vicious crash on the back stretch of Las Vegas which added to the mediocre performance. He made the chase that season but did not have the same spark that he did in 2007.
NASCAR The Game Inside Line did a fan vote for their driver cover in 2012 and it’s to no surprise that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the vote. Dale Jr. started the season strong and broke his long-awaited winless streak in the spring race at Michigan. After his win his performance became mediocre, and he eventually would get sidelined due to suffering a concussion from a massive wreck at Talladega. He missed the end of the season and finished dead last in the chase.
Tony Stewart was on the cover of Eutechnyx’s NASCAR 14. A lot of die-hard fans know of the tragic events that happened and there are articles on the situation, but Darian doesn’t get into much detail. On top of that Stewart’s performance wasn’t well at all during the 2014 season.
Last on the list is NASCAR Heat Evolution that was the first installment of the Monster Games Heat Series in 2016 and Carl Edwards is on the cover. Carl Edwards lost the championship after looking like he had it won, and he retires from the sport the following off season.
The curse has been in NASCAR for almost as long as they have been releasing video games. It was as just as common for a driver to get the curse as them avoiding it as NASCAR released games throughout the years. Darian gives us the best examples in this video on who got hit the worst of the cover curse from the earliest installments to the most recent driver.