When you think of some of the highest-paid athletes in the world, NASCAR drivers aren’t usually some of the first name to cross your mind. However, some of the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series make a decent amount annually compared to other sports.
In the world of NASCAR, money reigns supreme. The teams with the most money are usually the teams putting together the best on-track performance. Money also reigns supreme in NASCAR when it comes to sponsorship. The more successful a team is, the easier it is for them to obtain and maintain sponsorship. When a driver is winning races and championships, sponsors will be more apt to throw more money there way.
In NASCAR, a driver earns money from their sponsor, the contract they have in place with their team and race earnings, which is based on where they finish in the race. Heading into the 2017 season, these 12 drivers were the highest-paid drivers in NASCAR based on what they earned in total for the 2016 season (salary information courtesy of Forbes.com). Some of the drivers listed below are no longer running in the NASCAR Cup Series, which means that this list will change heading into the 2018 season.
NASCAR’s Highest-Paid Drivers
- Jimmie Johnson – $21.8 million
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. – $21.1 million
- Denny Hamlin – $15.2 million
- Kyle Busch – $15.0 million
- Kevin Harvick – $13.9 million
- Carl Edwards – $12.3 million
- Danica Patrick – $12.2 million
- Tony Stewart – $12.0 million
- Matt Kenseth – $11.5 million
- Joey Logano – $11.0 million
- Kasey Kahne – $10.8 million
- Brad Keselowski – $10.8 million
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been on the top of this list for the last few seasons. However, he missed the second half of the 2016 season due to concussion-like symptoms and as a result he fell a spot on the list. Winning the championship in 2016 most likely helped Johnson thrust to the top of the list as well. Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson rival some other names in other sports with their 2016 salaries being north of $21 million.
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One of the surprises on the list is the difference from 2nd to 3rd as nearly $6 million separates Earnhardt Jr. and Hamlin. Conversely, just over $4 million separates 3rd from 12th. Another surprise on the list is the salary of Danica Patrick. Making north of $12 million isn’t bad for a driver who has never won in NASCAR. It’s worth noting that $5 million of Patrick’s salary comes via endorsements and licensing. That is tied for second (with Jimmie Johnson) amongst all of the drivers on this list. The driver who ranks highest in the endorsements and licensing area is Dale Earnhardt Jr., with $8 million of his salary coming from that area.