Offended easily? Don't read any further!
Today there are 2 main routes to racing: Straight to Racing or Track Days to Racing.
Up until the late 90's the only choice you really had to go racing was to.....well.....GO RACING! There are 3 main levels of Racing: Amateur, Expert, and Pro. There are also 3 main ways Racing organizations are divided: Regional (mainly Amateur/Expert racing), National (mainly Pro, but there are Expert and even some Amateur races available at this level in certain race org's), then World (these are the best of the best Pro's who race World Superbike and/or MotoGP). The traditional way new racers have got into roadracing sportbikes was to take a 1 day 'New Racer Licensing School' that is generally held in conjunction with an actual race event, this familiarizes you with how a race event operates (the rules, tech inspection, on track sessions, etc.). If you pass that 1 day school (which mainly means don't crash and don't be an idiot) than you are issued a certificate which allows you to buy an Amateur Racing license (generally the certificate is good for 12 months from when you got it). In the race organization that I Regionally race with (CCS - Championship Cup Series) you can take your school on Saturday and if you pass be racing the next day as an Amateur. You then race against other Amateurs till you reach a level of achievement that you advance to the Expert ranks - generally if you earn a certain amount of points in a season or win a championship in a specific class you will automatically be advanced to Expert the next season. Some people only do 1 season as an Amateur, at the opposite extreme some people will never go Expert due to not racing enough or for a variety of other reasons. Once you go Expert you can race at that level for your entire career without ever being forced to go Pro.
Track Days are still relatively new, the oldest have only been around since the end of the 90's. Track Days were brought about by people who were looking to make money by providing a way for people who don't want to race (or were too afraid to try) to be able to get on a race track. In an age where many people are buying race bikes (sportbikes) for street use, this went over well and provided those people a way to go fast in a controlled environment. This led to somewhat of a complicated issue when Track Day organizations started promoting themselves as a 'stepping stone' to racing, yet ironically almost none of them are certified (or even seek to be certified) as a 'new racer licensing school'. The big issue here is that Track Days are NOT RACING and the insurance companies who cover the Track Day org's are the ones who ultimately make the 'safety' rules. Almost all Track Days very specifically state in their rules that "racing is not allowed" at their venues and that cetain 'safety' rules are to be followed by all participants. These safety rules include passing restrictions based on the group your riding in (groups are generally divided based on track experience), for example you may not be able to pass on anything other than a straight with at least 6' between you and the rider being passed in the beginner group. In the upper most group it will depend greatly on the individual org your riding with, some will 'allow' passing anywhere on the track, but still maintain that certain amounts of space be between you and the motorcycle being passed - other Track Day org's I've heard of are basically uncontrolled in the upper group and allow almost anything (contrary to what their insurance companies require).
Track Day org's have people who work for them, many are called 'control riders' or 'coaches', these people in almost all cases recieve compensation for doing what they do at their respective Track Days. These 'coaches' are usually either people who have done a number of Track Days themselves or may possibly be a racer (Amateur, Expert, or Pro). The compensation these people recieve varies based on what org they are riding with and who they know, some will just get free track time at that org's Track Days, others I've heard of even get race tires at greatly reduced prices (or for free) along with monetary reinbursement, and/or etc. The reason I'm telling you this is because of something I heard along time ago, "Always follow the money" whenever your considering someones advice. What this means is that almost all suggestions have a monetary basis somewhere, for example I try and get people to go Racing instead of doing Track Days because it helps to build the Racing community, creates even more competition, and ultimately creates a person who's far more confident in themself. Most Track Day org's will NEVER be encouraging you to advance on to Racing (unless the specific individual 'coach' your dealing with is doing it on their own) because it's not in the monatary best interest of the Track Day org to send it's revenue paying customers elsewhere.
What has sadly happened nowdays is this trend for people to go to Track Days "Just to get a little bit of track time before I go racing" which leads to "I need to get fast enough so I'm not the last Amateur in my 1st race" which eventually leads to "I need to be fast enough so when I go racing I can finish in the Top 5" which leads to "I need to be doing lap times fast enough that when I go Amateur racing I have a chance at winning my 1st race". This is a perpetual never ending cycle that I've seen SOOOOOOO many people do, the feeling of 'never being good enough to even start racing' is so common amongst Track Day regulars it's crazy! I have seen multiple people who have literally 100's of Track Days under their belts before they have gone racing (if they ever go at all), some do well as a new Amateur racer, others don't. The Track Day companies seem to have this mentality brain washed into it's participants that the only way to go Racing is of course to do Track Days 1st - LOTS and LOTS of expensive Track Days. What they don't tell you is that many people who develop an ability to do a certain lap time at Track Days have never developed the ability to pass in actual Racing conditions - doing a certain lap time is one thing, doing it in an actual race is another. A very common thing I've witnessed is Track Day riders who go Racing and end up crashing fairly soon and getting hurt because they always had that 'safety zone' around them when passing other riders at Track days then got in an actual Race situation and 'froze' when encountering close passing.
People need to realize that your individual Track Day experience will depend GREATLY on the Track Day org your riding with, who the actual 'coaches' are that your recieving instruction from, and the rules of that org. There is no 'standard' for Track Day org's, what you will be taught at each one will most likely vary, trying to figure out what information is correct and what is wrong can be very difficult. I have alot of trouble with Track Day 'coaches' who have never even raced before teaching a student anything that will be a basis for them to go racing, how can they teach something they've never even done themself? The best situation is to have an actual race instructor (who is probably an Expert or Pro Racer - former racer - or knowledgable instructor/researcher in the field) teaching people what they need to know when it comes to racing, not some random Track Day 'coach' who's experience may be very limited. I understand that the 'coaches' are just trying to help, but they very well may unknowingly be doing damage to that persons learning curve by giving them bad foundations of advice. And so people understand that I'm not coming from a view point of just being a Track Day hater or something, I've been asked to be a 'coach' before and I turned it down because I didn't agree with a number of the 'safety' rules and techiniques being taught. Working for an actual technique and/or race oriented school would be a different situation that I would actually do.
In my opinion if your looking to get on a track to just have some fun then more power to you, do Track Days forever and have a blast! But, if your truely serious about Racing then I would limit Track Days to nothing more than a 'familiarization' to the track at most (probably not more than several days). I (and a number of other racers) believe someone looking to get into racing should INVEST their money elsewhere, like actual SCHOOLS where they have highly structured programs for advancing your abilities. Trying to 're-learn' something over a developed bad habit is much harder than learning the correct technique from the beginning. I would also suggest that if you have sportbike experience on the road and feel good riding at speed and cornering that you go racing very early in your on-track 'career' instead of getting stuck in the Track Day rut of "I'm not good enough yet". The sad thing is that there are going to be some Amateur racers out there that have done endless amounts of Track Days and can go pretty fast, yet their experience in close passing is probably limited and can be very questionable and flat out dangerous! I personally was almost taken out 4 times by the same Amatuer racer in 1 individual race late this season because their passing ability flat out sucked! (but they were on a faster bike and could pass me on the straights) I later found out they were a fast Track Day rider who had just recently gone racing, how ironic, speed without passing ability - a very dangerous combination!
Actually racing to develop your speed helps you to develop your passing abilities at the same time. I highly encourage new racers to start at the back of the grid and work their way forward if possible during the race, this way your not going to get stuffed by the really fast guys in the 1st lap and you'll be moving forward instead of backwards. As you get faster you'll encounter more and more difficult racers to pass, this is priceless experience that your not going to get at a Track Day that requires 6' passing safety zones around other riders. I personally went straight into racing without ever having been on a roadrace track prior to that, I invested in myself my entire 1st season by always starting at the back of the grid and working my way as far forward as I could - that process led to me being a front runner the next season. I would find it extremely hard to believe that a person who goes the Track Day to Racing route would have near the ability of someone who spent the same amount of time actually Racing - that something to think about and consider.
If you have more questions just ask. Make sure and remember, "Follow the money" when considering advice.