The sport has contended with steady declines in attendance and television ratings in recent years, while earnings for NASCAR’s top 10 highest-paid stars have declined 36 percent, according to Forbes. The trend prompted NASCAR officials to take action last May with the $2 billion purchase of 12 racetracks from the International Speedway Corporation, in an apparent bid to gain more control over an event schedule that critics have deemed too rigorous.
While NASCAR has lacked a true crossover marketing star since Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement in 2017, the sport’s list of top-earning drivers is full of familiar faces. FOX Business breaks down the highest-paid stars below, according to Forbes’ annual calculations.
2018 earnings: $17.5 million
A seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Johnson is arguably the sport’s most recognizable active driver. He is also the circuit’s only driver with an annual salary of at least $10 million, according to Forbes. Johnson’s car is sponsored by Ally Financial. He has endorsement deals with Gatorade and Chevrolet.
2018 earnings: $15.8 million
Busch, 34, has 55 career wins in the NASCAR’s main circuit and more than 200 career wins overall. He has several corporate partners, including Toyota, M&Ms, Skittles, Pedigree and Interstate Batteries, and is known as “Rowdy” to his fans.
2018 earnings: $14.2 million
Hamlin, 38, drives the No. 11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing and has twice won the prestigious Daytona 500. His sponsors include FedEx, Toyota, Coca-Cola and Nike’s Jordan Brand.
2018 earnings: $13.1 million
A fixture in the NASCAR Cup Series for nearly two decades, Harvick has finished in the top 10 in more than 350 races and regularly competes for the championship. He has endorsement deals with Busch Beer, Jimmy John’s and Outback Steakhouse, among other companies.
2018 earnings: $11 million
The 29-year-old Connecticut native established himself as a bona fide star in the sport by winning the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Logano’s deep stable of corporate partners includes Ford, Autotrader, Coca-Cola, AAA and Planet Fitness.