Legends are a big part of...
Legends are a big part of the weekly racing series at Lowe's Motor Speedway during the summer.
Here's a little racing quiz. What do NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Atwood, and both Kurt and Kyle Busch have in common? How about the offspring of Rusty and Mike Wallace, Steve Grissom, and Mark Martin? The answer? The down-scaled, vintage-bodied Legends Cars.
These motorcycle-engine-powered, fiberglass-bodied machines provide outstanding experience in order to move up to the next level. With sophisticated suspension systems, Legends drivers learn to set up their cars and then make corrections in order to obtain an optimum-performing race car.
Because of escalating costs, it's been estimated that 30-40 percent of the race cars in North America today are not in competition. And when it's possible to get into a Legends car for only $11,500 (that's for a turnkey car), you can understand why over 3,000 of these race cars have been sold since 1992.
The motivation behind the creation of the Legends Cars was simple: Build a car that would sell for under $13,000, race only on small tracks, be able to be towed by a light pickup on an open trailer, have low maintenance costs, and make it simple enough that a mechanic wouldn't have to be hired. With the Legends Cars, all those goals were accomplished.
Lowe's Motor Speedway President and General Manager H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler developed the Legends Cars back in the early 1990s. "We first looked at the Dwarf cars and liked their size," says Wheeler. "We wanted our cars to be able to run on quarter-mile tracks. But the biggest reason for the success of this class was that we were able to build the cars on an assembly line. It's really worked out well."
The vintage look of a Legends...
The vintage look of a Legends Car is part of its appeal.
Unlike other types of racing machines, the Legends are built by a single manufacturer, 600 Racing, in Harrisburg, North Carolina. The company produces the cars in a 46-employee complex approximately five minutes from Lowe's Motor Speed- way. The national governing body for the cars is INEX. Annually, in all, there are over 2,000 sanctioned races run on dirt and paved tracks, in addition to paved road courses.
National-level racing is also accomplished on a number of NASCAR and Indy Car tracks, such as Lowe's, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Kentucky, and Infineon, among others.
These cars do not become obsolete when they get a few years on them. In fact, for the starting Legends driver, buying a used car can reduce the cost even more, with a car a year or two old going for about $8,000 or less. A vast majority of all the Legends Cars produced are still doing their thing on the racetrack.
The "Legend" in the name comes from the body styles, brands, and models that are available, including the '34 Ford Coupe and Sedan; '34 Chevy Coupe; '37 Ford, Chevy, and Dodge Sedans; and '40 Ford Coupe and Sedan. These were the models that were used during those years, and these 5/8-scale machines look exactly like the real items that ran so long ago. Stand back and you'll think you're stepping back in time about six decades.
All models run on exactly the same chassis and can be bought from a number of authorized dealers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Many of these dealers have a driving school in conjunction with their operations.
Also the same in all cars is the 1250cc sealed Yamaha Blitz 4 powerplant, capable of 132 hp, and providing a very high horsepower-to-weight ratio. On the straightaways of quarter-mile racetracks, speeds of over 70 mph have been recorded.
With big-car characteristics,...
With big-car characteristics, Legends are a good place to groom young racers. Courtesy of 600 Racing
With all participants having basically the same power, and nobody allowed to tune for greater power in the sealed engines, it makes for equal and exciting competition. The cars weigh 1,080 pounds each with a wheelbase of 73 inches and a 60-inch width.
We're talking one high-tech little race car, starting with the full-size stock car-type suspension system. Bilstein shocks are part of coilover units that can be adjusted for driver preference. Stopping power is significant with the carbon metallic brake pads that are available.
With the BFGoodrich spec tires being only 7 inches wide, instead of the monstrously-wide tires on other types of race cars, the driver becomes a major player in the control of these machines.
In the cockpit, it's also possible to acquire real racing-style gauges with both oil-pressure and temperature gauges as well as a memory tach available. A five-point harness belt system makes this a very safe machine for drivers of any age. Other excellent safety-oriented options are a remote fire system and a battery kill switch kit. Finally, there's the diamondback seat, which comes stock in all cars, offered in sizes 16-20 inches. Not only is it made of a better material, but it comes with rib protection on both sides.
Yamaha motorcycle engines...
Yamaha motorcycle engines power Legends Cars.
In addition, there's a rock-solid full-tube frame with an integral rollcage. During the fabrication process, extra bars and welds have been added to make it sturdy as a rock. There have been many occasions when Legends Cars have flipped or rolled and continued right on racing.
The fiberglass bodies are also very strong, super-sharp in appearance, and can be easily and quickly repaired. Although white is the basic factory color for the cars, they can be painted in a number of different colors. And it's not only the body that receives paint on these cars; the chassis, bumpers,A-arms, and all other components are electrostatically painted. Also, if you want your car to be a one-of-a-kind looker, you can get a custom paint scheme.
An area where 600 Racing strives to keep the competition equal is in the different divisions. The class in which a driver competes depends on the age or experience of the driver. There's the Golden Masters Division for drivers over 50; the Masters Division for those over 40; the Pro Division for approved drivers of the required skill level and level of experience; the Semi-Pro Division in the novice class for drivers who are new to the sport or have been inactive for a while; and the Young Lions Division for drivers between 14 and 16, or as young as 12 with prior experience in Bandoleros.
A recently added rule requires that drivers starting out in these divisions be 14 years old. There is no age limit, however, with an 80-year-old driver competing in a Legends car, according to a 600 Racing employee. So, unlike a number of the mini-sized race car series, this can be a lifelong avocation.