How much do NASCAR drivers make? There are few sporting events with the history and longevity of auto racing. From chariots to high powered machines, mankind has been racing each other since virtually the dawn of time.
One of the premier racing leagues and a staple in American culture is NASCAR. Currently in its 75th season, NASCAR has become a staple in American culture and shows no signs of slowing down.
With the glory of winning races and driving some of the highest powered cars known to man also comes big pay days! However, from pit crew, to travel, to the actual car itself, funding a NASCAR team definitely isn’t cheap.
What is NASCAR?
NASCAR, which stands for the ‘National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing’ is a reputable sanctioning company worth over $100 million that allows drivers and teams to join different race competitions as they ensure their safety. Becoming a NASCAR driver is often a difficult and long process that requires enrolling in race school, earning competition license, having a profound understanding of a car’s system and all the ways it works.
But once a driver steps over to the green side, salaries and earnings can be very promising, depending on position, experience, education and other variables like making themselves marketable.
How Much Do NASCAR Drivers Make?
First and foremost, NASCAR drivers are paid a base salary from their teams that can vary anywhere from $50,000 for developmental drivers to $10 million for acclaimed drivers like Brad Keselowski or Kasey Kahne.
Secondly, drivers can make insane prize money from winning races. The higher they rank, the more money they get to take home. For example, in 2022 some reports indicate that the 2022 purse for the league’s most prominent race, the Daytona 500, is $23.6 million.
That’s quite a huge amount of money, keeping in mind that the winner does not keep the entire purse for himself; he must pay his employees, the car owners and sponsors, who are entitled to some of the payouts. Through the purse split, however, the winner can still take home $47,500 a race, on average, while the loser can make close to $8,500. That’s just prize money.
Last but not least, there is endorsement money and licensing, which adds to the equation as well but very much depends on the driver, his public image and his sponsors. Even some of the most inexperienced drivers with salaries close to $500,000 can make up to $1 million every year alone in endorsements.
According to several reports, the average Nascar Driver in the US makes $112,038 annually.
Who Is The Highest Paid NASCAR Driver?
The highest paid NASCAR driver is Kyle Busch, who earned $16.9 million in 2022. These numbers have come from earnings reports pertaining to Busch’s contract and potential sponsors. With sponsorship money and merchandise royalties included, Busch likely earned closer to $19 million in 2022.
Busch drove for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2022, one of the most valuable teams in NASCAR. Busch has also won two NASCAR Cup Series Championships, and he has 60 career Cup Series wins to his name. This kind of performance, combined with the resources JGR has at their disposal, allow him to earn the highest salary in NASCAR.
He also became the highest-paid driver when he entered his mid-30s. At one time, being in one’s mid-30s often meant they were a relatively young driver, but in today’s NASCAR, a driver in their mid-30s is nearly always a seasoned veteran.
When you look at the other drivers earning a top salary in NASCAR, you will discover that it is common for older drivers to earn the most. After Busch and Hamlin we have Kevin Harvick, the oldest driver on the grid. All of the top 5 highest paid NASCAR drivers are over the age of 37.
Who Is The Lowest Paid NASCAR Driver?
The lowest-paid full-time NASCAR driver is Corey LaJoie, whose salary sat at $200,000 in 2022. LaJoie, despite being 31 years old, has only spent a few seasons in NASCAR. LaJoie also raced for Spire Motorsports, a relatively small Cup Series team.
He has also never won a race, never won a pole, and posted just five finishes in the top 10. LaJoie’s lower pay was no outlier, as other low-paid drivers like Anthony Alfredo, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Timmy Hill, drivers with limited success at the Cup Series level, were also making under seven figures.
These lower-paid drivers, however, are often in “prove-it mode.” Therefore, you will often see them signing nothing more than one or, at most, two-year deals with a smaller team. This allows drivers making less money to, if they perform well, either get a quick increase in pay or, if their current team cannot afford them, they can move to race for a team that can.
Other drivers who grace the lower rungs of NASCAR salaries also may not drive in all 36 events, but are instead part-time drivers driving for non-chartered teams. These teams simply can’t afford to pay the salaries of the bigger organizations.
The 5 Highest Paid NASCAR Drivers Ever
Dale Earnhardt Jr – $300 Million
The top spot goes to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who made $300 million during his NASCAR career. While Earnhardt Jr never won a NASCAR Cup title and has just 26 wins to his name, being the son of a NASCAR legend certainly helped, and he was one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers from the moment he stepped into a Cup Series car.
Jeff Gordon – $150 Million
Jeff Gordon comes in second at $150. Gordon won the Daytona 500 three times and four Cup Series championships. When he entered NASCAR, he was unusually young for his time, being just 21 years old when he made his debut in 1992. Gordon raced full-time until 2015, before running in a handful of races in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr in 2016.
Jimmie Johnson – $120 Million
Jimmie Johnson takes third at $120 million. Johnson won seven NASCAR Cups before his initial retirement following the 2020 season. He is one of two drivers who may end up climbing this list since he joined up with Petty GMS Motorsports for the 2023 season, where he will race in a part-time schedule. So far, he has won 83 races.
Tony Stewart – $90+ Million
Tony Stewart clocks in fourth, having earned between $90 million and $100 million throughout his Cup Series career. Stewart won three Cup Series championships and tacked on 49 wins in a Cup Series career that spanned from 1999 to 2016. He drove for Joe Gibbs Racing before becoming a co-owner/driver in 2009.
Kevin Harvick – $70+ Million
Kevin Harvick takes fifth place in the all-time rankings, having earned between $70 and $90 million throughout a Cup Series career that started in 2001. Harvick also has a chance to climb another rung, as he is the last remaining full-time driver on this list. He won his first and only NASCAR Cup championship in 2014, and so far, has 60 wins to his name.
How much money does a NASCAR driver make per race?
Through the purse split, however, the winner can still take home $47,500 a race, on average, while the loser can make close to $8,500. That’s just prize money.
How much does a NASCAR driver make annually?
Nascar Drivers make the most in San Francisco, CA at $169,353, averaging total compensation 51% greater than the US average.
How much does a NASCAR car cost?
For a complete NASCAR race car, which includes the engine, tires, chassis, wheels, brakes, bumpers, and additional parts, costs can range between $200,000 and $600,000.
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