Surprisingly, NASCAR drivers make more money than players in any organized professional sport except the NBA. The typical driver makes over $1.5 million a year. As we explain below, that $1.5 million is only salary.

NASCAR drivers also make money from winnings, endorsements and merchandise money. In fact, the middle-of-the-road NASCAR driver makes more from race winnings than from salary at over $2.5 million a year. Factoring that in makes NASCAR drivers the highest paid of any televised competitive sport. That’s in terms of typical drivers. The top drivers in the sport don’t do as well when they’re compared to other sports. NASCAR’s top money maker is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In 2015 he made nearly $15 million in salary and winnings, plus another $9 million from endorsement deals for a total of almost $24 million. Compare that to a big NBA star like LeBron James. James makes over $23 million in salary, plus an estimated $25 million a year from endorsement deals. That’s a total of $25 million. So while the typical NASCAR driver makes more money than players in other sports, the same can’t be said for the top earners.

How Much Money NASCAR Drivers Make

The typical NASCAR driver makes $5 million a year from all sources. That includes race winnings, salary, merchandise royalties and endorsements. The median salary alone for NASCAR is $1.5 million. “Median” means that half the drivers in the sport make more than that and half make less. Looking at the highest paid driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rules the field with $23.6 million in total earnings for 2015. $14.6 million of that money comes directly from salary and winnings, with the rest from endorsements. The highest paid female driver is Danica Patrick. She earned a total of $13.8 million from all sources in 2015. One surprising thing about her is that she’s on the bottom end of the top ten highest paid NASCAR drivers with $7.8 million in salary in winnings, but she more than makes up for it with endorsement deals of $6 million a year total. It seems Patrick is valued more highly by fans and sponsors than she is by her team at Stewart-Haas Racing.

How Much Money NASCAR Drivers Make
Typical NASCAR driver pay (all sources) $5,091,586
Typical NASCAR driver salary $1,542,062
Highest paid NASCAR driver (Salary & winnings, Dale Earnhardt Jr.) $14,600,000
Highest paid male NASCAR driver (Overall earnings, Dale Earnhardt Jr.) $23,600,000
Highest paid female NASCAR driver (Danica Patrick) $13,800,000

Typical NASCAR Driver Money by Year

How much money NASCAR drivers makeThe table below shows median NASCAR pay by year. Why “median” instead of “average?” Averages fall prey to being bent out of shape by the biggest numbers in the field. In other words, in a group of ten people were nine make $60,000 a year and one is LeBron James, the average salary would be $2.3 million while the median is a far more descriptive $60,000. The table below shows the change of a few median numbers over time. The first column contains driver salary. The base salary of the run-of-the-mill NASCAR driver in 2006 was an impressive $917,669. It has grown by an impressive 68% since then to $1.54 million. That alone would be impressive, but there are also race winnings to consider. NASCAR money is handled something like golf money. Each race has a certain pool of money that gets divided up depending how each driver finishes. For instance, Kevin Harvick finished second in the Daytona 500 in 2015, giving him $1,157,195 in prize money for the event. Joey Logano finished first and got a higher $1,586,503. Clint Bowyer finished 7th and got $437,178, and so on. The typical NASCAR driver scored $2.57 million in race winnings in 2015. Adding up median salary, race winnings and endorsement money puts the median NASCAR driver’s total pay up over $5 million per year.

How Much Money NASCAR Drivers Make by Year
Year Typical NASCAR Driver Salary Median NASCAR Driver Race Winnings Median NASCAR Driver Total Earnings
2006 $917,669 $1,529,449 $3,053,008
2007 $1,331,745 $2,219,575 $4,310,235
2008 $1,305,778 $2,176,297 $4,248,085
2009 $1,521,002 $2,535,004 $4,910,295
2010 $1,135,040 $1,891,733 $3,769,771
2011 $973,615 $1,622,692 $3,303,730
2012 $1,436,848 $2,394,746 $4,712,571
2013 $1,299,746 $2,166,243 $4,321,368
2014 $1,930,539 $3,217,565 $6,234,854
2015 $1,542,062 $2,570,104 $5,091,586

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