One of the benefits of racing Quarter Midgets is that it's still a family sport, untainted by the upper divisions of racing. Kids learn the basics of racing and how to race correctly. You must be between the ages of 5 and 16 to compete in most sanctions. Quarter Midget tracks are very similar ovals of either dirt or asphalt. Each track is usually a part of a regional club that works with other tracks to provide fair and competitive racing.

A new turnkey Quarter Midget is $5,000, while a decent used one will be in the range of $3,500.

The cars are built so that talent will prevail more than equipment. The cars teach young drivers not only to drive but also about chassis setup and chassis dynamics. You'll see youngsters leaning as far as they can to the left to provide their car with that little bit of left-side weight to help the car handle.-J.G.

The Upside: Low cost, and fun for the entire family.

The Downside: The cars are intended for children or teenagers because of the age limit and size of the vehicle.

Quarter Midgets of America

With their full-bodied design and 570cc Briggs & Stratton Vanguard engines producing in the neighborhood of 30 hp, Bandoleros offer an excellent means for youngsters to develop driving skills. Ideally, a fledgling racer has experience in either Karts or Quarter Midgets before climbing into a Bandolero, but INEX allows drivers to compete as young as 8 years old, and teenagers and older competitors have been known to have a blast in these cars.

A centrifugal clutch eliminates the need to shift gears, so it's all about mashing the gas, turning the wheel, and learning to apply the left foot-brake. Young drivers have the opportunity to not only learn to drive but also to maintain and prepare the car for competition. These little cars offer the chance to learn spring selection, tire wear, and other racing variables. They're an excellent vehicle to get into for a season or two and develop the skills necessary for moving into a Legends Car, especially considering that the cars often compete on the same tracks.

Bandoleros are nearly 11 feet long so you'll likely need a small trailer for towing to races.

Expect to pay $7,000 for a new Bandolero, but that price may be slightly higher by the time you read this, and then you'll need support equipment to race a full season. Used cars, with equipment, can be found for as low as $4,500 or as much as $9,000, depending on equipment. -Larry Cothren

The Upside: These cars are neat little burners for driver development. They look cool, they're relatively easy to maintain, and a used Bandolero and equipment can be purchased for a reasonable cost.

The Downside: Bandoleros are not toys. Crash one and-like any form of race vehicle-they're going to cost you money, especially considering 600 Racing's control of the hardware. And the cockpit is cramped for all but small adults.

600 Racing

Thunder Roadsters
These cars were designed with a nod toward the open-wheel cars of the '50s. With an open cockpit and long 96-inch wheelbase, Thunder Roadsters are a different animal, measuring over 14 feet from nose to tail. Like the Legends, they're powered by 1,250cc sealed Yamaha engines. But with the longer wheelbase and a higher weight of 1,500 pounds, including the driver, they're more stable than the Legends.

The cars have a five-speed sequential transmission. They also have an adjustable rear Panhard bar and adjustable rear pinion angle.

In recent years, 600 Racing has added a fendered version of the Thunder Roadster, making the cars eligible for competition under the SCCA sanction. Beginning this year, all new Thunder Roadsters have fenders, and the cars are being run on tracks as long as 1.5 miles.

Expect to pay $13,995 for a new Thunder Roadster. That's for a water-cooled version with the new body style. Used cars run around $10,000.-L.C.