By Dan Anderson and Speedway Illustrated staff
Looking to break into racing without breaking your wallet? There are plenty of choices.
For those who are about to venture from the grandstand into a race car there are several ways to start racing.
• There are essentially two types of entry-level race cars. Some, like Allison Legacy cars, Xcel Modifieds, Legend cars, and Bandoleros are purpose built race cars built using required components with specific dimensions. The car often remains the same, but divisions are split based on talent and success.
• Other divisions are factory-built cars for highway use that have been modified for racing. Cars for the most entry level types of divisions like this tend to be front-wheel drive four-cylinder ones. These cars allow varying degrees of freedom regarding components and dimensions. Your first race in one of these cars might be against someone who has been winning with the same car for a dozen years.
• You’ll always find people who take whatever division they’re in too seriously. They know the risk of putting a car on the track. Like the old saying goes: Any wreck is at least 50% of each driver’s fault for being out there in the first place. Even so, always try to respect someone’s investment of time and money. And, remember that drivers get hurt at every level, so never retaliate with a car.
• Mini stock classes, like Hornets, have been created with the intent to have fun in an absolute stock front wheel drive car that’s had a roll bar installed.
• Classes like these often race for trophies only.
• To keep expenses down on classes of this type, a claim rule may be in place. A claimer rule means that a component, from a shock to the engine to the entire car can be purchased for a predetermined amount by anyone qualified by the rules. In some classes, the entire car can be claimed in an exchange for $500-$700. The person making the claim may be required to race in the division regularly, he or she may or may not be required finish in a particular position or even race in the class. Know the rules before you go.
• The difference between do-it-yourself and spec cars is easily seen when comparing a dwarf car to a Legends car. While the cars look similar, construction design for dwarf car is left to its builder while Legends cars are relatively identical since they are built in the same factory.
• If there’s something magic to you about the sight of a big American stock car sliding on narrow tires with a small block V8 roaring under the hood and your greatest motivation is just to be out there in the noise and dust and thrills, consider finding a street or hobby stock at your local track.
• There are many entry level classes that use similar components to headlining ones. For instance, IMCA’S Sport Mod uses many of the same parts that their regular modifieds use. Consider a class like this if you know where you want to move up to one day because you’ll be able to bring a lot of your parts with you.
• A decent used entry-level car (for a racing division, not an enduro-type class) can usually be had for as little as $2500 with the motor. After the initial expense, you’ll discover that the old saying about racing being expensive is actually a great misunderstanding: it’s really only as expensive as you make it.
• If you insist on titanium bumpers because they help your effort to win hobby stock races, and you wouldn’t go on the track without every opportunity to do so, then racing will be expensive. If you want to compete for the thrill and pride that comes with being a racer no matter the division, no matter the results, you can keep yourself financially in check.
• There is more opportunity to spend more than you could and less than you should with a rules-based car at your local track. A rules-based car means the promoter or sanctioning body has come up with a set of guidelines that cars in the division must fall under. They vary from smoke-bellowing four cylinder clunkers to ultra-sleek late models and modifieds.
• You’ll find guys who’ve been racing in each class for years. They have refined the rule package and spent more than you dreamed on their cars. If they can buy four tires a night (typically in the range of $80-$95 per), they’ll often be doing it. If you can accept the reality that experienced guys have resources that you initially won’t and have a long-term goal of eventually racing them for the win, you can get up to speed at your own pace and within your means.
• Please review our site for personal, shop, and towing safety precautions. Contact us directly or use any of the manufacturers and sanctioning bodies that have pledged to answer your questions in a no-pressure-for-sales environment that is without judgment for your lack of knowledge. This is not intended as a complete listing, but is designed to help you develop a working understanding of how to look out for yourself.
• All safety gear must be applied properly or it can’t work. A firesuit doused with gasoline won’t help, unsteady jackstands will fall, and a welding helmet that is up won’t protect your vision.
• Be around racing long enough and you’ll know someone whose had a car fall on them in the shop or at the track. Always use properly positioned (steady and sturdy placement) jackstands. Always announce, “Clear!” or “Fingers and Toes” when lowering a car off the stands.
• Many roll bars are 1 ½”, but the majority 1 ¾” diameter. Be sure the car has good welds
• Never underestimate the potential for injury in any class.