NASCAR, like all lucrative businesses, does not just earn money from ticket sales and concessions. Instead, NASCAR makes money through a complex system involving a few corporate entities. To find out how much money NASCAR makes a year, you need to consider its many income streams.
NASCAR likely makes anywhere from $310-365 million per year, but this varies with factors pertaining to ticket, concession, and merchandise sales, along with TV revenue and corporate revenue. Since NASCAR is a private corporation racing at private venues, the exact numbers are hard to find.
Below, we will reveal how much money NASCAR makes per year by exploring all of its income streams and how they mutually benefit financially. We will also talk about NASCAR’s annual income and how much money NASCAR makes per race.
How Does NASCAR Make Money?
NASCAR makes money through ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales, sanctioning fees, sponsorships, and TV partners. NASCAR benefits from both earning and investing money, which allows them to earn profits and grow as a business entity.
If you have ever enrolled in a sports management or a sports business class, you know that NASCAR and other sports leagues like it have a rather complicated business structure. You will also know that NASCAR doesn’t make money with one single income stream. Very few successful enterprises do, and NASCAR earns money from multiple streams.
In each of the above aspects, NASCAR believes it is better off earning money for the entertainment services it provides while a NASCAR fan believes they are better off spending money on tickets, concessions, and merchandise.
In this case, it is no different than basic economics in which a merchant selling a good or service believes it is better off earning a profit at X amount to provide the service or sell the product. So, in this case, the merchant is NASCAR. The consumer is the one that believes they are better off receiving the product or service.
In NASCAR, the consumer is the fan who wants to pay for a ticket (ticket sales), eat their favorite foods while they do so (concessions), and wear apparel featuring their favorite driver (merchandise). While the money NASCAR earns on concessions is not disclosed, we do have some information on how much they earn per year with merchandise, and it is something we will touch on later.
How Corporate Sponsors Benefit
NASCAR as a sanctioning body has all kinds of sponsors. If you look at each NASCAR race on the circuit, you’ll see that many of them have a corporation named for the event. For example, in 2022, the spring Auto Club race was called the WSE Power 400, and the spring Talladega race was the GEICO 500.
Corporate sponsors pay hundreds of thousands for their name to be attached to NASCAR. These sponsors benefit because they are betting on the possibility that the thousands attending the race and millions tuning in will invest in their product or services, which will make up for the money spent as a corporate sponsor for the event.
NASCAR earns cash through the money the sponsor pays for the event’s naming rights. In the end, both NASCAR and the sponsor look to benefit. NASCAR does so through the price tag it charges the sponsor, and the sponsor looks to earn a decent return on investment (ROI). If the sponsor does not meet the expected ROI, they will probably take their naming rights elsewhere.
How TV Networks Benefit
For maximum exposure, NASCAR must be on major TV networks, and they need to draw in fans. So, it is vital that NASCAR constantly puts on an entertaining product so executives at Fox, NBC, and other prospective networks continue their working agreement with them. If NASCAR fails to bring in ratings, networks will look elsewhere. If fans aren’t tuning in, the networks aren’t making money.
The more viewers NASCAR attracts, the more money these television networks earn. There are more eyes viewing commercials from companies who purchase ad space during a NASCAR event. The more eyes on the ads, the more likely it is for those companies paying for ad space to continue working with the network.
The Iron Triangle
NASCAR’s revenue streams come from what you can dub as an “iron triangle.” One corner of the triangle comprises NASCAR’s income from ticket sales, concessions, sanctioning fees, merchandise, and other NASCAR-related goods like streaming. This personifies NASCAR’s direct revenue.
Another corner comes from its corporate sponsors. When NASCAR says something like “Brought to you by Michelin,” this is the corporate sponsor paying to attach their brand to the race.
Finally, depending on the language of their contract with the network, NASCAR will earn a cut of the television revenue from the network based on money earned from the ads as they pertain to overall ratings.
NASCAR’s Annual Revenue
A Note On Our Figures
NASCAR likely has other streams of revenue, such as from concessions, that we simply cannot provide figures for, as NASCAR would never need to share them publicly. We also don’t know what NASCAR makes from its other investments, so our figures and the table above purely contain estimates based on the figures we do have access to from previous year.
It Varies From Year To Year
NASCAR’s annual revenue varies depending on how much they earn from ticket sales, streaming services, merchandise sales, concessions, sanctioning fees, sponsorship, and TV revenue. So, NASCAR’s annual revenue in 2017 may drastically differ from revenue earned in 2021. We also need to account for unforeseen events outside of NASCAR’s control like the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the purposes of this section, we will explore numbers from the 2018 NASCAR season. The year began with the Daytona 500 on February 18th (February 11th if you count the Clash at Daytona) and ended at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 11th.
Over the nine months of action, NASCAR earned $660 million via television revenue. NASCAR, however, earned just 10% of that revenue, with the teams taking 25% while the tracks earned 65%. That said, their take home money was just $66 million.
In that same season, NASCAR earned $193.6 million in ticket revenue. Combined with the $660 million earned through TV revenue, NASCAR earned $853.6 million from two of their three corners on their iron triangle, but as a business only took home just under $260 million.
Corporate Sponsorship Revenue
This is the area where things are less clear, since NASCAR rarely discloses these numbers. We must also realize that this income comes from multiple revenue streams depending on the overall number of corporations sponsoring NASCAR. To at least get an estimate with corporate sponsorship revenue from one stream, we need to flash back to 2016.
We know that NASCAR earned between $50 and $75 million from Sprint that season when the top tier was called the Sprint Cup Series. When 2020 rolled around, the series was rebranded as the NASCAR Cup Series with four primary sponsorships for the overall umbrella.
While it is safe to assume NASCAR has earned between eight and nine figures per season in naming rights from its four sponsors, we do not know how much corporate sponsors pay for the naming rights to a race. Since NASCAR is a private company racing on private tracks, they do not need to disclose those numbers.
Merchandise Sales Mystery
While 2018 numbers were not possible to find, we do know that, in 2017, there was a major media frenzy regarding NASCAR merchandise sales. That season, most NASCAR drivers did not earn over six figures in merchandise sales.
NASCAR struck a 10-year deal with Fanatics, a deal that gave 75% of all merchandise sales to the sports apparel company, while the track hosting the event for the weekend received 15% of sales. 9% went to the team (3% to the driver), and just 1% went to NASCAR. With these numbers, NASCAR likely still makes a few million dollars per year from merchandise sales.
KEY POINTS• It’s tough to find numbers for NASCAR’s revenue
• We can estimate it to be around $310-365 million per year
• This takes into account their share of the TV rights, merchandise sales, ticket sales and sponsorship revenue
• This does not account for any other revenue streams NASCAR may have
How Much Money Does NASCAR Make Per Race?
NASCAR’s likely makes about $9-10 million per race, based on total annual revenues of about $310-365 million. However, you can assume that major events like the Daytona 500 will bring in far more revenue than less high-profile events, and so the variance between races will be large.
We only have a limited number of sources to work with regarding numbers taken from the 2018 NASCAR season, the most recent year where NASCAR’s numbers were known to be released. However, we do have two NASCAR tracks with 2021 numbers: Dover and Nashville. At the time, they were still publicly traded and obligated to release numbers. We will explore them first.
Per Race Revenue In Ticket Sales: Dover And Nashville
Since Dover Motorsports Inc. is the only publicly traded NASCAR track on the circuit today, it provides us with a most recent estimate of annual revenue NASCAR makes in ticket sales. Before November 2021, Dover Motorsports owned two tracks: Nashville Superspeedway and Dover International Speedway.
Note that the COVID-19 pandemic did skew the numbers at Dover since restrictions only allowed a max capacity of 20,000 fans as opposed to the usual 60,000. This put a substantial dent in ticket sales.
In 2021, revenue made in ticket sales from both races combined sat at $5,786,000. When broken down into an average number per event, we would get $2.893 million from both tracks. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number sits below average from 2018 figures.
Therefore, the small sample size of numbers above would most accurately reflect 2021 and only 2021. To gain a more accurate assumption of how much money NASCAR makes per race, we can break down the larger sample size shown in 2018.
The 2018 Estimate
We can also use the $193.6 million in total ticket revenue in 2018 and divide that number by 39, which includes 36 points-paying events, the Clash, the All-Star race, and the Daytona 500 Duels (the two Duels take place on the same day, so we’re counting them as one race). The $193.6 estimate above would give us an average of $4.96 million in ticket sales alone per race.
It is important to note that these are just averages and by no means should they be taken to be understood that NASCAR literally earns $4.96 million in ticket sales from every race, as the 2021 figures from Dover and Nashville have shown. Further, NASCAR attendance steadily dropped before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the number was probably lower in 2019 than the $4.96 million shown above.
Revenue Earned From Television
We know that NASCAR earned $66 million from television revenue in 2018 figures. This, when divided by 39 total races (36 points-paying and three non-points races), means NASCAR earns a total of $1.7 million per race via TV revenue. This number is counting only NASCAR’s share of the TV revenue, which is reported to be 10%.
In terms of ticket sales and TV revenue, NASCAR likely makes about $6.7 million per race
NASCAR likely makes about $310-365 million per year. The money NASCAR makes per year depends on TV revenue, ticket and merchandise sales, and corporate sponsors. NASCAR is a private company that operates mainly at private tracks, and they don’t have to disclose their figures.
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