NASCAR’s Highest-Earning Drivers


According to, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled in a cool $35 million in 2008, or roughly $5 million more than Jeff Gordon, NASCAR’s second-highest earner.

Forbes estimates that only between eight and 31 percent of a driver’s earnings is a result of performance, i.e., wins … which is a really good thing for Junior, since he’s won three whole races in the last four years. And, really, the fact is the guy is a marketer’s wet dream, seemingly able to say and do damn near anything he wants without fear of any lasting repercussions or damage to an associated brand. Just imagine the outcry that would’ve followed Tony Stewart had he been the driver who had blasted track owners last week instead of Junior.

The winless-in-2008 Gordon and his people are reknowned for their business acumen, which is the likely explanation for his lofty ranking. But, most interesting to me is the driver who comes third: Jimmie Johnson. That Johnson’s notoriously-bland personality is, as yet, still more powerful than his unsurpassed performance says a great deal. And while I would never cry for a guy who pulled in a reported $23 million last year, it does make you wonder what he might’ve earned if he just had, you know, a personality …