NASCAR, or the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, is the largest sanctioning body for stock car racing in the United States. It is behind large racing series such as the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. Over 1,500 races are held in more than 100 tracks in 39 states and Canada. Races are also held in Australia, Japan and Mexico.
The sport has southern roots, which is why most of the teams are based in North Carolina. It is popular, however, all over the country. In terms of television ratings, only the National Football League has a higher ranking among professional sports franchises. It also has 17 of the top 20 most attended single day sport events in the world. Merchandise turnover amounts to over $3 billion every year.
It is big business, and the stars of the show are well compensated as a result. The stars are the people behind the wheel of the car. Here is a list of the top 10 highest paid NASCAR drivers.
10 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $28 million
He drives the number 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series. He also drives the number 88 Chevrolet Camaro for his own team, JR Motorsports, in the Nationwide Series. His dad is the Hall-of-Famer, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. But he certainly already has made a name for himself. He has won the Most Popular Driver award for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012. He has recorded 19 wins, 11 poles and 182 top 10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series. He also has 23 wins, 10 poles and 79 top 10 finishes in the Nationwide Cup. His last victory was in the 2012 Quicken Loans 400 in Michigan. Earnhardt’s total net worth is $300 million.
9 Jeff Gordon - $24 million
He drives the number 24 for Hendrick Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series. He has equity in the said team and he also co-owns with Rick Hendrick the number 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson. He has won the Sprint Cup Series four times and the prestigious Daytona 500 three times. He has 87 wins, 72 poles and 414 top 10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series. He also has five wins, 12 poles and 32 top 10 finishes in the Nationwide Cup Series.
8 Tony Stewart - $22 million
Generally considered as one of the finest racers of his generation, Stewart has won titles in almost all levels, from midget, sprint, USAC Silver Crown, stock cars and Indycars. He owns and drives the number 14 Chevrolet Impala in the Sprint Cup Series. He has recorded 47 wins, 14 poles and 282 top 10 finishes in the Sprint Cup; 10 wins, six poles and 40 top tens in the Nationwide Cup; two wins and five poles in the Camping World Truck.
7 Jimmie Johnson - $21 million
He drives the number 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. He is the only driver to win five consecutive series championships, winning from 2006 to 2010. He has been awarded “Driver of the Year’ four times. He has recorded 60 wins, 29 poles and 248 top 10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series, as well as one win, two poles and 24 top 10 finishes in the Nationwide Cup Series. He was also the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 2009.
6 Carl Edwards - $15.5 million
Carl Edwards drives the number 99 Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. In 2007, he emerged as the champion of the Busch Series, the precursor of the current Nationwide Series. He also finished in a tie with Tony Stewart for the most points in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series, but ended up in second place after losing the tiebreaker. His record in the Sprint Cup is 19 wins, 11 poles and 157 top 10s. In the Nationwide Cup, he has 38 wins, 27 poles and 174 top 10s. He has also participated in the Camping World Truck, recording six wins, 14 poles and 35 top 10s.
5 Kevin Harvick - $14 million
He drives the number 29 Chevrolet SS for Richard Childress Racing. He will be driving for Stewart-Haas starting 2014. His wins-poles-top 10s in the Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World Truck are 19-5-188, 39-24-211 and 14-4-61, respectively.
4 Kyle Busch - $14 million
He holds the modern era record for most number of wins across the three series in one season, recording 24 victories in 2010. He is also the first driver to win in all three series in the same weekend. He has the most number of Nationwide Cup victories. His wins-poles-top 10s are 24-10-141, 51-26-163 and 30-12-81 in the Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World Truck, respectively. He drives the number 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing in Sprint and number 54 Toyota Camry in the Nationwide for his own team.
3 Danica Patrick - $12 million
She used to be open-wheeled, winning a race in the Indycar series and finishing third in the Indianapolis 500. She transferred to NASCAR in 2012, participating in the Nationwide Series where she had one pole and seven top ten finishes. She will be joining the Sprint Cup next season, driving the number 10 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. She will also be maintaining a limited participation in the Nationwide Series.
2 Matt Kenseth - $11.5 million
He used to be with Roush Fenway Racing before transferring to Joe Gibbs Racing where he will drive the number 20 Toyota Camry. He won the Sprint Cup when it was still known as the Winston Cup in 2003. His wins-poles-top 10s are 24-8-228 and 26-16-168 for the Sprint and Nationwide.
1 Kasey Kahne - $11 million
He drives the number 5 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports in Sprint and the number 5 Chevrolet Camaro for JR Motorsports in Nationwide. His wins-poles-top 10s are 14-26-121, 7-9-72 and 4-0-5 in the Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World Truck, respectively.