In recent years, Nascar drivers have experienced decreasing salaries because of sponsors committing less financially. However, for stars in the sport, salaries are bigger than ever. The ten highest-paid drivers had a cumulative income of $170 million last year, including salaries, endorsements, winnings and licensing. Teams are searching for high profile drivers that consistently end up in the winner’s circle, hoping to attract sponsors.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the highest-paid driver for the last six years, earning $25.6 million in 2013. His licensing income is down, as he made $30 million five years ago, but he still holds the sport’s biggest licensing and endorsement income. The Army National Guard spent $30 million in 2013 to sponsor Earnhardt’s No. 88 car in 20 races, meaning that his car carries the most expensive real estate in the sport-
As for the theory of advertisers being drawn to someone in “the winner’s circle,” Earnhardt has made the Chase three years in a row, finishing fifth in the year-end standing last year. In October, Earnhardt became the 34th driver to make the 500 career Sprint Cup Starts. He was also voted Nascar’s most popular driver by fans for the 11th year in a row.
Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt’s teammate, was the second highest-paid driver last year, earning $24.8 million. Johnson was America’s most influential athlete in 2011 and 2012 based on data from Nielsen and E-poll. The total amount of prize money Johnson received last, $14.7 million, was twice as much as what Earnhardt received, but his endorsement and licensing income are still considerably lower than Earnhardt’s.
Even the ninth highest-paid driver, Danica Patrick, earned $13.5 million last year. While she may not be the sport’s top driver, she is still one of Nascar’s biggest draws, holding more than ten personal endorsement partners, including Coca-Cola. She has also appeared in a record 13 Super Bowl commercials and her merchandise is Nascar’s sixth bestseller for officially licensed sports merchandise.
For more information about Nascar’s highest paid drivers please visit http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2014/02/20/nascars-highest-paid-drivers-2014/.