They look like miniature Nextel Cup cars, they're super-quick around short oval tracks, and a turnkey machine costs only $16,800. These compact racers are called Allison Legacy race cars, and they run in eight regions across the country, as well as in a National Touring Series.

With a famous NASCAR racing name like Allison in their title, the cars quickly grab attention. The sons of former Winston Cup driver Donnie Allison, brother of Bobby, first conceived and built the cars. The Allison trio of Kenny, Ronald, and Donald designed a 3/4 stock car model and introduced their design in 1996. Interest in the concept swelled, and the first season of competition for the cars was in 1998.

"We've owned several race cars, and we knew what was involved with the costs," says Kenny Allison. "We wanted to give people a quality product at a decent cost and also have decent maintenance costs. Also, we wanted to give the fans in the stands something that they could really relate to."

All racing with these cars is done on pavement tracks up to 5/8 mile in length. The cars are 5 feet wide, have an 80-inch wheelbase, are 3 1/2 feet tall, and use 13-inch wheels. They weigh only 1,450 pounds dry. The bodies are fabricated completely of fiberglass, and are available in both Ford Thunderbird and Chevy Monte Carlo designs, with Ford Taurus and Dodge Intrepid designs expected to be available in the future.

Power comes from a sealed Mazda 2200cc spec engine capable of about 120 hp. In addition, there's a five-speed transmission and a 4.11:1 quick-change rearend. Driving is aided by an adjustable three-link rear suspension, coilover shocks, and rack-and-pinion steering. On most tracks that they run, the Allison Legacy cars usually are only 1 to 1.5 seconds slower than the feature class.

The Allison Legacy Series has evolved each year since its inaugural season in 1998. For the '04 season, the Allison Legacy National Touring Series features about 20 races from Florida to Michigan, and from Virginia to California, with 13 races in conjunction with USAR Hooters ProCup events.

The current Regional Legacy Series consists of the following: Allison Legacy West, Grand Lakes Legacy Series, Pennsylvania Legacy Series, Lake Erie Legacy Series, Texas Legacy Series, Lonestar Legacy, Allison Legacy of Southern California, and the Maine Legacy Series. The last series on this list will introduce Canadian Legacy racing with racing in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

The National Touring Series is run out of the North Carolina Allison Brothers Shop. In all, these groups have about 250 cars and run about 150 races.

A pair of races for both the National and Regional Series are the Little Dawg 150 at Wiscasset (ME) Raceway, along with the first Uncle Bob Harmon 300 at Montgomery (AL) Motor Speedway.

With the goal of staying up to date, the group has some impressive members on its board of advisors. Included are NASCAR's Bill France, Robert Yates, Ricky Rudd, and Ken Schrader.

This racing is done completely by part-time drivers who are old enough to hold full-time jobs. There are also a number of female drivers in the Legacy Series, including several who are very competitive. Many drivers are financing their teams out of their own pockets. Therefore, it is important to keep the costs down.

To accomplish that goal, the rules do not make older cars obsolete, and tires can be run for up to a half-dozen races. The fact that the engine is sealed prevents teams from adding high-performance (and high-cost) aftermarket pieces.

"These Mazda engines and Goodyear tires on the cars have a great track record of longevity, although some drivers think they should have new tires more frequently to run up front," says Pat Allison, spokesperson for the series.

This might not be full-size Late Model Stock racing, but it comes close to providing the same on-track thrills and competition. With the Allison Legacy cars doing their thing for about one-fourth of the money required for the Super Late Model Stock cars, the series is providing a ton of racing excitement for the dollar.

Consider, too, that if a series is measured by the caliber of its former drivers, then the Allison Legacy Series gets an A+. To date, Nextel Cup rookie Brian Vickers, Goody's Dash rookie Mark Howard, Southern All Stars driver Chase Miller, Craftsman Truck driver Jon Wood, and numerous others are included among former Allison Legacy drivers. Several have advanced to Hooters ProCup, ASA, Goody's Dash, and other series.

There are a number of Allison Legacy dealers throughout the country. They can be located on the Web site: www.allisonlegacy.com. Contact The Allison Brothers Legacy Race Series at: 79520 Statesville Blvd., Salisbury, NC 28147; 704/278-0174; racecars@mindspring.com.