In 2003, EA SPORTS released NASCAR Thunder 2004, which is considered by most to be the best NASCAR game made by EA SPORTS. It featured new modes, a new "Grudge and Alliances" system that allowed for you to become friends or enemies with on-track competitors, and offered arguably the best Artificial Intelligence of the franchise. It features a staggering 65 events on both real world and special fantasy tracks as well as 12 road courses (both real-life and fantasy tracks). It featured a full field of 43 drivers (both real-world and fantasy) along with special, unlockable paint schemes for each driver's car.
NASCAR Thunder 2004 came with many different modes, all that allowed for the player to try out the different aspects of NASCAR and to take the racing online against other gamers on EA Sports' online servers. Below are the modes and a brief description of each one:
You work your way through 20 consecutive seasons. During this time, you try to obtain the best crew, sign the top sponsors, and incorporate the best racing technology. To sign the top sponsor, buy new engines, chassis, body and build up your R&D (research and development). Can you take your humble team and reach the pinnacle of NASCAR success?
The goal of season mode is to accumulate enough points to clutch the NASCAR championship. To do this, you do not need to win every race. Instead, you finish in a good position in almost every race.
In this mode you learn secrets and driver tips on each of the tracks from top NASCAR drivers. This is essentially practice mode in race now, except you are unable to experiment with the car setup.
In this mode you relive me of the greatest and most exhilarating moments of NASCAR races from 2001/2002 and 1st part of 2003. If the player complete the challenges, he or she will earn Thunder Plates which unlock paint schemes, tracks, and drivers. Michael Waltrip, driver of the #15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, will be the commentator for all of the challenges but one, which is commentated by Steve Park, driver of the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet and teammate to Micheal Waltrip. Michael even commentates himself in one challenge. To find out what plates you can get from all of the challenges, look under "Thunder Plates". The challenges are played on all difficulty levels. Can you enter the shoes of one of NASCAR's drivers and relive their greatest moments or even change history?
This interesting mode allows the gamer to partake in various mini-games that hone your driving skills. It features mini-games that specialize in drafting, passing, blocking, and time trials around the Bristol Motor Speedway and other racetracks.
Grudges and Alliances
A new addition to the features of the NASCAR Thunder franchise, Grudges and Alliances allows for the gamer to build positive or negative relationships with fellow drivers on the track. Work together with a driver in a helpful manner and he will turn a favorable eye towards you, he might even make it easier for you to pass him and even block for you. Get on a driver's bad side by slamming into them or wrecking them without cause, and you can expect them to block you, harass you on the track, and even go out of their way to crash you, even if it ends their race in the process. Choose carefully...winning a race or coming home last could come down to who your friends are and where your enemies are on the track.
Tracks (Real World and Fantasy)
Listed below are both the real-world tracks and all of the special fantasy tracks that can be unlocked in NASCAR Thunder 2004 by unlocking Thunder Plates or completing specific challenges in-game.
Real World Tracks:
- California Speedway
- Las Vegas Motor Speedway
- Texas Motor Speedway
- Lowe's Motor Speedway
- Talladega SuperSpeedway
- Darlington Raceway
- North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham)
- Kansas Speedway
- Phoenix International Raceway
- Watkin's Glen International Raceway
- Infineon Raceway
- Daytona International Speedway
- Bristol Motor Speedway
- New Hampshire Speedway
- Homestead-Miami Speedway
- Atlanta Motor Speedway
- Chicagoland Speedway
- Dover International Raceway
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- Martinsville Speedway
- Michigan International Speedway
- Pocono Raceway
- Richmond International Raceway
- Tiburon SuperSpeedway
- Sawmill Raceway
- Homestead-Miami Speedway (2002 Version: Original Version)
- Daytona Beach
- Dockside International Speedway
- Devil's Canyon Speedway
- New York Metro Speedway
- Talladega SuperSpeedway(Night)
- Darlington Raceway (Night)
- California Speedway (Night)
- North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham: Night)
- Daytona International Speedway (Infield Road Course)
- Talladega Superspeedway (Infield Road Course Night)
- Pocono Raceway (Infield Road Course)
- Homestead-Miami Speedway (Infield Road Course)
- Phoenix International Raceway (infield Road Course)
- Texas Motor Speedway (Infield Road Course)