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, which often utilize GM 604 engines. Vehicles raced on dirt tracks are significantly different from vehicles raced on asphalt.
Super late models are the premier divisions of asphalt short track racing in the United States and Canada. They typically feature 600+ horse power engines under the hood of a custom built chassis weighing around 2,750 lbs. Most bodies are constructed from fiberglass and conform to the 2002 Approved Body Configuration agreement. This standard, along with the widespread use of this style of racecar, allows teams to not only compete at local tracks but also to travel throughout the country hitting major events nationwide.
Late model stock cars are a product of the Carolinas and are the premier class raced at local and regional tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. These purpose-built racecars weigh in around 3,100 pounds and utilize both factory-designed crate and custom-built racing engines. The power plants produce over 400 horsepower underneath a fiberglass body built to withstand the rigors of short track racing without the weight of stock body panels. Some of the larger late model stock car events include the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway, the Myrtle Beach 400 at Myrtle Beach Speedway, and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, a celebrity charity race held at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Virginia.
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-track cars can be adjusted to become road race cars with weight balance changes, the 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
- CRA Super Series
- CARS Late Model Tours
- ASA Late Model Series
- American Canadian Tour
- Southern Super Series
- National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame, a United States hall of fame for dirt track late model racers
- Huneycutt, Jeff. "Crate Late Model Setup - Crates On Dirt". Retrieved January 3, 2015.
- Bolles, Bob (February 2009). "Dirt Track Racing - Turning Asphalt To Dirt". Circle Track magazine. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- Schaefer, Paul. Where Stars Are Born: Celebrating 25 Years of NASCAR Weekly Racing. Coastal 181, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA, 2006.
- SCCA GT America rules
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