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These NASCAR Drivers Make the Big Bucks
As the 2015 season is set to begin at the Daytona 500, here’s a look at the top-earning NASCAR drivers last year--and the sponsors that invest heavily in the sport.
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Daytona 500, NASCAR

The list of NASCAR’s top earners is dominated by Hendrick Motorsports, whose four drivers all rank in the top 10. According to Forbes, Hendrick is the most valuable NASCAR team with an estimated worth of $350 million.

Total earnings include each driver’s base salary, race winnings, licensing royalties and endorsements.

NASCAR

Kasey Kahne

10. Kasey Kahne

Earnings: $11.9 million

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Forbes estimates that Kahne, the 2004 Rookie of the Year, earned $10.4 million in salary and winnings last year. Endorsements accounted for another $1.5 million. The primary sponsor for Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet is Farmers Insurance.

NASCAR

Carl Edwards

9. Carl Edwards

Earnings: $13.5 million

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Edwards moved to the Joe Gibbs family for the 2015 season, closing an 11-year career with Roush Fenway Racing. Forbes says he was No. 10 in merchandise sales last year, and Edwards earned $1.2 million from licensing and endorsements.

NASCAR

Danica Patrick, NASCAR

8. Danica Patrick

Earnings: $13.8 million

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Patrick made headlines when she won the pole position at the 2013 Daytona 500. She ultimately placed 27th overall in her rookie season. In 2014, she finished 28th in the Sprint Cup standings. But Patrick earns a spot among NASCAR’s top earners thanks to a big boost from endorsements. Approximately $6 million of Patrick’s earnings comes from merchandise and sponsorship deals. She trails just two other drivers in that category.

NASCAR

Kyle Busch, NASCAR

7. Kyle Busch

Earnings: $14.3 million

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch and M&M’s extended their deals with Joe Gibbs through the 2017 season. Busch, who was sixth in merchandise sales in 2014, earned an extra $1.5 million on top of his $12.8 million in salary.

NASCAR

Tony Stewart, nascar driver

6. Tony Stewart

Earnings: $14.4 million

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

A strong sponsor portfolio boosts Stewart’s earnings by $4 million. Last season, the 43-year-old driver failed to win a Sprint Cup race for the first time in 15 years. Stewart didn’t participate in three races after the death of Kevin Ward, who died after being struck by Stewart’s car during a local dirt-track race.

Stewart and business partner Gene Haas own their namesake racing team, which won the Owner Championship last year. Kevin Harvick, Stewart’s teammate, won the 2014 Sprint Cup title.

Reuters

Denny Hamlin

5. Denny Hamlin

Earnings: $15.2 million

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Over the past six seasons, Hamlin has driven his No. 11 Toyota to more wins than any other Cup driver except Jimmie Johnson. A big sponsorship from FedEx contributes to Hamlin’s $2 million in licensing and endorsement earnings. Hamlin also has deals with Coca-Cola and Nike’s Jordan Brand. He became the first NASCAR driver to sign with Jordan in 2011.

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Kevin Harvick

4. Kevin Harvick

Earnings: $15.5 million

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Harvick was a big winner in 2014. He won five races and his first Cup championship, all in his debut year with Stewart-Haas. The win lifted Harvick from ninth place to fourth in merchandise sales, helping the 39-year-old earn $2.5 million in licensing and sponsor revenue. According to Forbes, Harvick split $5.7 million in NASCAR bonuses tied to his championship.

NASCAR

Jeff Gordon, Nascar

3. Jeff Gordon

Earnings: $18.6 million

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Gordon sent a shockwave through NASCAR in January when he announced his pending retirement. The four-time NASCAR champion, who holds third place in career wins, plans to stop racing full-time after the 2015 season. Last year, Gordon accumulated $4.5 million in sponsor earnings along with $14.1 million in salary and winnings. He kicked off 2015 by taking the Daytona 500 pole.

Gordon, 43, is widely credited with giving NASCAR broader appeal. Like Harvick, Gordon hails from California.

Reuters

Jimmy Johnson

2. Jimmie Johnson

Earnings: $22.5 million

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Johnson is another member of the Hendrick powerhouse. He won five consecutive Cup titles from 2006 to 2010, followed by another championship in 2013. The triathlete is reportedly working on an extension that would keep him at Hendrick beyond 2015, the last year of his current deal. The top sponsor of his No. 48 Chevrolet, home-improvement retailer Lowe’s, is signed through 2017.

Johnson is also sponsored by Gatorade and other brands, and his merchandise is a big seller. Licensing and endorsements comprised $6.5 million of Johnson’s 2014 earnings.

NASCAR

Dale Earnhardt Jr

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnings: $23.8 million

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Earnhardt edges his teammate Jimmie Johnson to take the top spot among NASCAR’s highest-paid drivers. As the most popular NASCAR drive for 12 years running, “Dale Junior” raked in $9 million from endorsements and licensing deals. His personal sponsors include eBay and Wrangler. This year, Nationwide insurance replaces the National Guard on Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet.

Earnhardt has a variety of business ventures such as General Motors dealerships in partnership with Rick Hendrick. Earnhardt also partnered with Hendrick to launch JR Motorsports, which fields several drivers in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series.

NASCAR

These NASCAR Drivers Make the Big Bucks

As the 2015 season is set to begin at the Daytona 500, here’s a look at the top-earning NASCAR drivers last year--and the sponsors that invest heavily in the sport.

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