Who are the highest-paid players in Sprint Cup? Here are the hard numbers according to Forbes magazine, and they make for interesting reading. -Hendrick Motorsports photo
Forbes has published its annual survey of NASCAR salaries and revenues, and it’s worth a good look. While the trend continues downward in recent years, according to the magazine, some drivers and teams at the sharp end of the grid continue to command big bucks. Here are the top five drivers in earnings for 2013:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Total Earnings $25.6 million; Salary/winnings $14.6 million + Licensing/endorsements $11 million
2. Jimmie Johnson — Total Earnings $24.8 million; Salary/winnings $18.3 million + Licensing/endorsements $6.5 million
3. Jeff Gordon — Total Earnings $18.2 million; Salary/winnings $13.2 million + Licensing/endorsements $5 million
4. Tony Stewart — Total Earnings: $17.3 million; Salary/winnings $11.3 million + Licensing/endorsements $6 million
5. Kyle Busch — Total Earnings: $15.8 million; Salary/winnings $12.8 million + Licensing/endorsements: $3 million
Some will be surprised that Danica Patrick ranked “only” no. 9 on the Forbes list at $13.5 million, while others might be dismayed at her big payday, since she has yet to win a Sprint Cup race. However, her $6.5 million in licensing and endorsement income was greater than all other drivers except the top two, Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson. In NASCAR today, marketability equals revenue. And in that department, Danica easily pulls her weight.
-Mike Meadows photo for ISC
It’s also worth noting that Hendrick Motorsport drivers swept the top three positions, and all four made the top 10 (Kasey Kahne was tenth at $12.6 million). Driver earning power is key to another valuation in the Forbes survey, total team value. In the magazine’s estimation, Hendrick Motorsports is worth $349 million, more than twice the value of any other Sprint Cup team.
In comparison, Joe Gibbs Racing ranks No. 2 at $171 million, while Roush Fenway Racing is No. 3 at $157 million. Stewart-Haas made the greatest leap this year to no. 4 at $148 million, largely by expanding from three to four cars and by signing two valuable drivers , Kevin Harvick (no. 7 on the Forbes list) and Kurt Busch.
“The value of a Nascar team is largely tied up in its sponsorship commitments,” according to Forbes. And as we have seen, sponsor value is in no small part based on the star power and earning potential of the drivers. With over $100 million in sponsor income, we can expect the Hendrick crew to run at the front of the pack again this season, both on the race track and in the financial statements.
-HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevy Racing