NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 places including United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. It’s a big-money sport. While there is a lot of money in the sport, not every driver is making the same amount and not every team is worth the same amount.
To race at incredibly high speeds, knowing the possibility of being involved in a life-threatening wreck each and every time you step onto the track, takes serious guts. We certainly don’t have the courage for it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been the biggest personality in NASCAR for more than a decade. But concussion symptoms caused Earnhardt to miss the final 18 races of the 2016 season and the prize money that comes with it, ending his run as NASCAR’s top-earner.
The earnings for each driver factors in their base salaries with their teams as well as earnings from race purses and sponsorship deals. Here, DSport presents 10 drivers who earned the most in 2017.
Jimmie Johnson ($21.8 million)
Jimmie Johnson surpassed Earnhardt Jr. to be the NASCAR’s highest-paid driver in 2016 after he clinched his record-tying seventh Cup championship with a win at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final race of the season. Johnson earned $21.8 million by Forbes’ count from salary, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing.
Johnson an American professional stock car racing driver and a seven-time champion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has earned more money in 2016 than any other driver in the series. Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team earned a $1.9 million Sprint Cup bonus.
Also thanks to deals with brands like Chevrolet, Seiko, and Gatorade, netted $5 million in endorsement and licensing money. With $21.8 million in total earnings, Johnson is officially the one to beat.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($21.2 million)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire at the conclusion of the 2017 NASCAR season. He’s been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 straights years. His popularity and iconic last name have padded his bank account.
But after staying on the top of the NASCAR’s highest earners list for the eight consecutive years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally dropped a peg to No. 2. Of course, that doesn’t mean the popular driver wasn’t still rolling in cash. He sold more merchandise than any other driver, took home $8 million in endorsements, and secured $13.1 million in salary and winnings and netted more than $21.1 million in total earnings in 2016.
Denny Hamlin ($15.2 million)
He currently competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, and part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving the No. 20 Camry for JGR.
Constantly, Hamlin has proved himself a force to be reckoned with. Last season, aside from finishing first in the closest Daytona 500 ever, Hamlin was able to pull in $13.4 million in winnings and salary. Thanks to sponsorship deals with everyone from Coca-Cola to Nike’s Jordan Brand, Hamlin also secured $1.8 million in endorsement money, giving him $15.2 million in total earnings for the year.
Kyle Busch ($15 million)
Kyle Busch currently drives the No. 18 Toyota Camry in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the No. 18 Camry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch is easily one of the biggest names in the sport. In 2016, the man who sold the fourth most merchandise in racing raked in $1.5 million in endorsement money and another $13.5 million in salary and winnings. At just 31 years old, don’t be surprised to see Busch’s continual presence on this particular list.
Kevin Harvick ($13.9 million)
Kevin Harvick currently competes full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing and part-time in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 41 Ford Mustang for SHR.
Harvick’s productive 2016 season made him one of the five highest-paid drivers in the sport. He took home $3 million in endorsements and collected $10.9 million in salary and winnings, giving him $13.9 million in total earnings for the year.
Carl Edwards ($12.3 million)
Carl Edwards shocked the NASCAR world when he walked away from the sport back in January. Aside from earning $1.3 million in endorsements, Edwards collected $11 million in salary and winnings, giving him $12.3 million in total earnings during the 2016 season. According to Forbes, Edwards turns in his keys having secured more than $130 million throughout his 13-year racing career.
Danica Patrick ($12.2 million)
Danica Sue Patrick an American professional stock car racing driver, model, and advertising spokeswoman. She is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing—her win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300 is the only women’s victory in an Indy Car Series race and her third place in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 is the highest finish there ever by a woman.
While the superstar took home $7.2 million in salary and winnings in 2016, it’s the $5 million she earned in endorsement money that confirms she’s one of the most important players in the sport.
Tony Stewart ($12 million)
Tony Stewart walked away from NASCAR following the 2016 season and he did so as on of the sports’ top-earners. Stewart definitely made the most of his final season on the track. In 2016, the three-time Cup champion raced to $9.7 million in salary and winnings, earned $2.3 million in endorsement money, and breezed to a respectable $12.0 million in total earnings.
Matt Kenseth ($11.5 million)
After his teammate Carl Edwards announced his retirement before the start of the 2017 season, Matt Kenseth was hit with a flurry of questions about his NASCAR career. The driver of the No. 20 machine made it clear that he sees himself racing for the foreseeable future, which is great news for all of his fans.
Kenseth may be in his 40s, but he still knows how to get the job done. He proved this emphatically in 2016, taking home $1.3 million in endorsements along with $10.2 million in salary and winnings. With $11.5 million in total earnings, Kenseth comfortably secured ninth place on this fairly prestigious list of drivers.
Joey Logano ($11 million)
Joey Logano did not win as many races in 2016 as his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski did but that didn’t stop him from ranking higher than him on this list.
Logano was an absolute beast on the track in 2016. The 26-year-old won four races, pulled in $9.7 million in salary and winnings, and finished in second place in the Cup standings. Thanks to an additional $1.3 million in endorsements, courtesy of deals with companies like GoPro, Seiko, Wheels Up, and Coca-Cola, Logano raked in $11.0 million in total earnings during the 2016 season.