News & Analysis

Performance Racing Industry Poll Shows

Drag Racing Growth


Words by Todd Silvey

Images courtesy Performance Racing Industry magazine

As the new survey taken from the motorsports industry leaders is published, we look at the trends from the past decade.


Drag racing is growing; drag racing is dying. Whatever you read or hear from the armchair quarterbacks of the sport, the statistics don’t lie. What prompted the interest into researching this topic was the latest poll by the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) published in their house trade publication. Each year, the PRI staff asks relevant questions about the status of motor-sports as a whole.


“Our polls provide great insight into what's going on right now but also where performance business trends stand,” Peter MacGillivray, Publisher of the PRI magazine says. “I love it - I think it's one of the best things we do. I think it's important to get an accurate reflection of the markets that are out there today. The data we can give our readers make the survey that much more valuable. It also gives them better information to go on when making decisions as far as products to stock and customers that they can reach out to and try to capture.”

This is an approximate comparison between the 2008 and 2018 stats. The PRI industry voters are now allowed in the 2018 poll to vote for multiple versions of racing which tallies the results to above 100 percent mark for each category. Some quick math shows that drag racing and street/strip consumerism has overtaken the other segments by a general 19 percent over the decade. The visual bar charts illustrate the difference best.


Outside of the detailed charts and graphs related to the PRI polls is a very generalized poll question that asks what genre of performance makes up your customer base? As memory serves me, there is a stark contrast from previous years that prompted me to correlate the polls related to the sport of drag racing.


Digging through my master stack of PRI magazine back issues, I wanted to make a decade-long comparison between 2018 and 2008. Of course, as luck would have it, my meticulous storage of racing magazines (all 580 linear feet of shelving space) came up short on that one specific issue. Once in contact with MacGillivray, the PRI staff was able to send me electronic pages of the decade-old survey.


“I think it's important to get an accurate reflection of the markets that are out there today,” MacGillivray continues. “Beyond the general statistics, we want to provide industry-oriented readers knowledge when making decisions as far as products to stock and customers that they can reach out to and try to capture.”


It is those general questions asked by PRI such as: How is the sport of drag racing doing? In 2008, the PRI poll asked how you would describe your customer base? The answer was 38 percent (the largest percentile) attributed to drag racing while stock car racing made up 22 percent and street/strip customers made up 18 percent.


It is difficult to make a direct comparison because, over the years, the poll had changed parameters. What was the census in 2008 that divided the customer base by six options (drag racing, street/strip, stock car, road racing, open wheel, and other) has expanded now to 12 choices (drag racing, street/strip, stock car, modifieds, dirt late model, road racing, open wheel short track, pulling, off-road, marine, karting, and other.)

Connecting some additional facts from the decades include a notable similarity between the industry poll that shows the same 45 percent optimism in going sales and a reasonable indifference between equal and slowing gross sales volumes.


Jump ahead to 2018, and the poll numbers don’t lie that the past decade of drag racing has experienced growth. The eye-opener is in the street/strip category, which has soared to the number one statistic made up of 40 percent of the overall market share, with general drag racing making up 36 percent while stock car racing dropped to number three at 16 percent.


“I think it's important to get an accurate reflection of the markets as they change over the years,” MacGillivray explains. “I think that the more distinction that we can make between performance classifications, the better data we can give our readers.”


For the sake of argument within the “similar but different” polls, my direct comparison between the decades combines street/strip and drag racing as a general genre and the current three stock car categories into one that matches the 2008 poll. These illustrated charts may look confusing because, in 2008, the tables derived market share that added up to 100 percent of the votes. In 2018, the polls allowed you to check multiple boxes which display percentages far over 100 percent.

Another interesting observation in the polls pertains to what kind of businesses make of the motorsports industry overall. Racing engine builders have decreased by 5 percent over the years while fabricators, installers and “tuners” have taken a rise.


Some pecking on the calculator brought the 2018 poll to a simple conversion. Our direct comparison now indicates that the drag racing/street/strip poll percentile moved from 56 percent of the industry customer base up to approximately 64 percent. The biggest “downer” over the years has been the stock car racing category that has moved from 22 percent to about 18 percent of consumer purchases.


Another significant change in the world of motorsports is the explosion of social media. Make sure to check out some of the statistical graphics here that address those trends.


Many of today’s “armchair quarterbacks” on social forums title drag racing as a dying sport. Next time you hear or read such naysayers, recite these statistics from a leading motorsports industry publication polls that do not lie. 


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