NASCAR is far and away the most popular form of auto racing in North America, with huge prizes to match its millions of loyal viewers. The money making up each race's purse is generated from a number of sources. Part of the purse comes from Fox and ESPN, the two big television rights-holders of NASCAR events in the United States. The sponsors for races will also contribute a large portion of the money that goes to the winners.
Certain races will see bonus money given out to drivers based on factors like the position in which they finish and specific contingencies that are met. For instance, some races will give out extra money to the driver with the fastest lap or the driver who led the most laps during the race. The special awards that are given out in NASCAR races can be worth upwards of $5,000, but it's always the winner of a race that will go home with the most money.
Coming in first place in a NASCAR race can yield extremely high pay checks. However, not all drivers are so lucky. The bottom five drivers in a typical 43-car race will only receive $4,000 in purse money for a race, for instance. This is actually a decline of about a thousand dollars from what was awarded to the back of the pack in recent years. The large discrepancy in winnings ensures a high level of competition during races.
This listing of the top purses for NASCAR races as of the 2013 season covers the total amount of prize money that is given out to all drivers in a race. The desire to qualify for some of these races and the prestige that comes with a podium finish often adds to the values of these purses which have the biggest potential payouts these drivers will see all year.
10 Fedex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks - $5,934,999
The Dover International Speedway has developed a strong history for being one of the trickiest courses in the Sprint Cup series. The Monster Mile is very tight in its design and requires drivers to be aware of what's around them at all times. This is why the Fedex 400, a race that doubles as a charity benefit, has a purse of nearly $6 million. Tony Stewart got $318,000 for winning the 2013 edition of this race. Also, Denny Hamlin won $118,000 despite finishing in 34th because he not only had the pole position but also the fastest lap. He would have had a chance at a bigger pay check were it not for an accident near the end of the race that set him back.
9 Geico 400 - $6,100,486
With their cute little gecko and charming caveman mascots, Geico can apparently afford to advertise just about anywhere they want. It's really no surprise that the company sponsors this race at the Chicagoland Speedway. In fact, the $6.1 million first prize for 2013 is a big change over the purses from prior years. Past title sponsors like LifeLock.com, USG Sheetrock and Tropicana were not as generous in their sponsorship dollars as Geico is. The purse for the 2002 edition was $4.5 million, moving up to $5.1 million the next year and has been in the $6 million range since 2006. The large size of the Chicago market and the race's notability for being the first Chase race of the year certainly helps.
8 Aaron's 499 - $6,129,824
The Aaron's 499 is actually a 500 mile race. Its name is a heavy-handed reflection of how Aaron's offers many lease-to-own products at rates of $99 per month. This race at the famed Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama is noted for being a real challenge as the track is 2.66 miles in length, making it the longest oval track on the Sprint Cup circuit. The race has a total purse of around $6.1 million and is one many NASCAR fans look forward to. In 2013, David Ragan won $373,108 for his first-place finish while David Gilliand got $235,153 for finishing second.
7 AdvoCare 500 (Atlanta) - $6,253,987
AdvoCare sponsors two races in the Sprint Cup each year, one in November in Phoenix and one on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. The one at the Atlanta Motor Speedway is the larger of the two with a total purse worth $6.25 million. This was the final race of the season until 2002 and has become a popular primetime race with a large television audience thanks to the event being held on a holiday weekend. The race's purse was valued at $2.9 million back in 2000 but has grown considerably and has been worth at least $6 million since 2006.
6 Coke Zero 400 - $6,297,729
The Coke Zero 400 is nowhere near as big as the Daytona 500, the other race held at the Daytona International Speedway each year, nor is it as high-profile as Coca-Cola's other big sponsored race, the Coca-Cola 600. Still, the fact that this race is held at the famed racetrack and is sponsored by a company that's become the official soft drink brand of NASCAR has helped secure big dollars behind it. The race has held a purse of $6 million or more since 2006. Ironically, the race used to be called the Pepsi 400. Pepsi upped the purse total from $4.5 million in 2002 to $5.8 million in 2004, but it wasn't enough as the company lost its naming rights to Coca-Cola a few years later.
5 Kobalt Tools 400 - $6,439,381
The Kobalt Tools 400 is held each year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and covers an intense oval that's 1.5 miles in length. The race itself has a total purse value of around $6.4 million each year. Matt Kenseth came in first place winning $403,466 in 2013. Meanwhile, Ryan Newman drove away with $118,000 even though he finished 38th due to an engine failure in the late stage of the race. His winnings came mostly from the fact that he finished a respectable 14th in qualifying. Meanwhile, Michael McDowell got half that total for dropping out after 21 laps and starting at the 39th position. This is another sign of how qualifying can be critical factor in determining what NASCAR drivers take home at the end of the race.
4 Coca-Cola 600 - $6,611,706
The Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is held on Memorial Day weekend and lasts much longer than most other NASCAR races. This night race has become a very popular event and has practically taken over the Indianapolis 500 in terms of being the biggest auto race on Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It's huge total purse is reflective of its increasing popularity. The $6.6 million purse from the 2013 edition of this race is an increase over the $6.54 offered in 2012 and is well over the $5.4 million given out in 2003. The race has consistently offered up prize money around the $6.5 million mark since 2006 and has become a high-demand event every year.
3 AAA Texas 500 - $7,039,782
It only makes sense that a prominent motorist organization would end up sponsoring a NASCAR race. The AAA Texas 500 in Fort Worth is held in the later part of the season on a wide oval that's 1.5 miles in length. This race is not to be confused with the NRA 500 which takes place in April and was often referred to as the Texas 500 due to controversy over the NRA sponsoring this race just months after the Sandy Hook shootings. The $7 million purse has been heavily maintained for much of the past decade but it peaked at $7.3 million in 2008 and 2009. Dickies was the race sponsor at the time and had a slightly larger amount of money to offer drivers.
2 Crown Royal Presents the (name) 400 at the Brickyard - $9,265,009
Formerly known as the Brickyard 400, this race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is named each year in honor of a member of the American armed forces. The prominence of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track also known for hosting the IRL's Indianapolis 500 each year, makes this a very popular race among NASCAR fans. The challenge of the 2.5-mile oval also adds to the impressive quality of the race. Ryan Newman won $423,033 during the 2013 edition and Jimmie Johnson finished second but got a handsome bonus for leading more laps than anyone else, giving him $379,736. Kevin Harvick finished in 19th but he still passed the $200,000 mark for actually leading a few laps.
1 Daytona 500 - $19.3 million
The Great American Race kicks off the NASCAR season and has been heralded for being the most prestigious race of the year. As a result, the Daytona 500 has by far the largest purse of all races in NASCAR. The $19.3 million purse from the 2013 edition of the race was the highest purse total in NASCAR history. While Jimmie Johnson got $1,525,275 for winning in 2013, the highest payout in race history was for 2012 winner Matt Kenseth. He got $1,589,387 primarily because he was at a better starting position than Johnson was the year after. The last place driver in 2013, Joe Nemechek, got $264,354 for his involvement in the race. Not a bad payday for finishing dead last.