One of the strengths of the racing industry is that the number of grassroots racers has always been far greater than most people can imagine. PRI magazine was the first to add up all the racers many years ago, and it served as a powerful tool for a lot of racing businesses to take to their bank or investors to prove that there's a heck of a lot more racers than the 33 at the Indy 500 or the 43 at the start of a NASCAR Cup race.
Our first figure was 400,000, including all open wheel, stock car, drag, off-road, road racing, autocross, vintage, Legend and everywhere else someone was running a car in a competitive event. It was a big ballpark figure, plus or minus 50,000, but we've never seen it called into doubt. As the racing industry grew, the number of racers had clearly grown, and we adjusted the figure to 450,000. At that point, we counted all the racers in all the sanctioning bodies and at all the 1,000 race tracks, and our figure still appeared to be accurate.
As I was proofing our January 2012 article on New Cylinder Heads For Drag Racing Applications, I read this comment by Rick Roberts, of the Edelbrock Corporation: "We recently gathered some information on the sportsman/bracket classes and concluded that there are 25,000 registered racers in those classes and probably another two or three times that many who are not registered.
"That's a bunch of engines," said Rick. Yes, indeed. And that's a bunch of parts from the racing industry every year to keep them competitive.
The point is that there are an incredible number of people who have made speed a part of their lives. It's their passion. Many of them are driving completely purpose-built cars from top to bottom. And they all want to run up front. There are hundreds of thousands of end-users for racing products of all kinds, and they'll do whatever it takes to win. That's the incredible source of energy that starts it all for the dynamic racing industry. It's why the racing industry is larger than most people outside of racing can imagine.