Racing-industry employment is being recognized, like never before, as a viable profession and numerous schools have begun to teach the art of building, racing, and maintaining a race car, as well as man-aging motorsports companies. That is good news for those who wish to pursue a career in motorsports.

There are many four-year colleges around the country who offer advanced motorsports programs with degrees ranging from a bachelor's up to a doctorate. We decided to concentrate on the two-year degreed and instructional schools that offer an option for those who might not be interested in a full four-year program. There is no reason why a graduate of one of these two-year programs cannot later enroll in a four-year college and go on to earn a higher degree at such colleges as Clemson or Virginia Tech.

Young racers, as well as veterans, can now enroll in a post-high school program to learn about advanced technology and construction skills and walk away with a diploma, certificate, or a degree. Stock car racing as a sport and a business is becoming very big in this country. Failing to recognize it as a viable industry is not doing justice to the amount of interest, money, and manpower involved.

North Carolina is widely accepted as the center of professional stock car racing. It is home to most Winston Cup teams, as well as many other professional teams associated with the Busch Series, Craftsman Trucks, and the Hooters ProCup Series, in addition to many regional racers.

It was surprising to learn that the U.S. Department of Labor legally recognizes motorsports, specifi-cally stock car racing, as an industry with a separate category for the purpose of keeping track of the numbers of employees involved, including salaries. This can be a huge benefit to the industry when it comes to pursuing, among other things, consideration for state funding for school programs, national and state funding for scholarship programs, and student loans and aid. Go to http://www.osha.gov/cgi-bin/sic/sicser2?7948 to see the listing for stock car racing employment.

The North Carolina Motorsports Association, with Richard Petty acting as its chairman, has pushed for reform in the way the Department of Labor categorizes this industry. They are currently helping fund a census to determine an accurate measure of the number of participants in the motorsports industry. Government estimates are extremely low and need to be revised.

The NCMA's membership includes businesses, individuals, institutions, and agencies that derive any part of their livelihood from motor racing and related activities. As is expected, their focus is on improving the benefits for the affected stock car racing businesses and educational possibilities in North Carolina, but any gains they make with the Department of Labor will benefit the entire industry related to stock car racing across the nation. That state will become a role model for programs in other states where motorsports is a viable and growing industry, as it is in North Carolina.

What needs to be understood by our legislature is that when you add up the total number of people directly or indirectly involved in motorsports, it includes not only auto racing, but also boat, aviation, and motorcycle racing. If you count the numbers of paid team mem-bers, employees of racing-related businesses, as well as track and sanctioning body employees, the numbers are estimated to reach well over a half million employees. That is definitely an industry that is apart and unique from any other.