American automobile racing has a century-long history of grass-roots invention. Its history begins with the American-European rivalry that characterized early auto racing and progresses to uniquely American forms of racing. Some forms of racing are dominated by big budgets and sophisticated engineering. Others are enjoyed by people of modest means with little formal engineering education.
The business side of racing shows the changing role of marketing and consumerism and the rise of the sponsored professional racing team. Alternative competitions, such as those inspired by the energy shortages of the 1980s, highlight other kinds of engineering ingenuity. Finally, American racing includes the evolution of the racing athlete from the demanding skills of a bicyclist to the endurance tests of modern automobile racing.