A "late model car" is a car which has been recently designed or manufactured, often the latest model. (An "early model car" or "classic car" is a car old enough to be of historical interest; there is no usual intermediate term.) The term is broadly used in car racing, and often appears in common use, as in: "The officer was driving an unmarked, late model sedan."
The precise definition of "late model" varies.
Late model race cars are the highest class of local stock car racing vehicles at many race tracks in the United States and Canada. Some regional and lower national-level series race in late models. Varieties of late models (ranked from highest vehicle performance to lowest) include Super Late Models, Late Models, and Limited Late Models. Some series require crate motors to be utilized by racecars under their sanction. Vehicles raced on dirt are significantly different from vehicles raced on asphalt.
Asphalt late model racing is an extremely common stepping stone for drivers who race in regional and national touring series including NASCAR. Racers of both dirt and asphalt Late Models have won the national championship of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Almost every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver raced in the class while progressing their career, and many crew chiefs have also developed through this level. Many often run in Late Model classes during off-weeks or special races, while some drivers who did not advance through this level (such as Juan Pablo Montoya) have since raced a Late Model. For example, in 2007, Montoya raced the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway, a charity event with NASCAR Sprint Cup and other notable drivers.
Late Model-type cars are also prevalent as a form of cost-cutting in road racing. As many of these oval cars can be adjusted to become road race cars (weight balance changes), SCCA has listed them in the GT America category, and with the affordability of a Late Model Stock Car in the category ($30,000 cars with specification engines, and frequently purchased used NASCAR wheels), these cars are prevalent in club racing.
United States national touring series
- American Speed Association
- CRA Super Series
- USARacing ProCup Series
- ASA Late Model Series
- American Canadian Tour
- National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, a United States hall of fame for dirt track late model racers
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