NASCAR is a multi-million dollar industry and the drivers are very well paid. Not only are they required to travel across the country for 38 weeks, but they also have offseason and sponsorship obligations. Given the amount of time they spend working, you may wonder how much NASCAR drivers make.
NASCAR drivers make anywhere from $200,000 to $15 million or more per year. Each driver has their own unique contract that determines how much they make per race, from any bonuses, and through sponsorships. The highest paid NASCAR driver is Kyle Busch, who earns $16.9 million per season.
Below, we will go into more detail about how much NASCAR drivers make, discussing how much they earn per race, from sponsorships, and from race winnings. We will also explore which drivers earn the most money, and who earns the least, along with the highest-paid drivers in the sport’s history.
NASCAR Driver Salaries
|Kyle Busch||$16.9 million|
|Denny Hamlin||$13.1 million|
|Kevin Harvick||$10.9 million|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10.4 million|
|Brad Keselowski||$9.4 million|
|Joey Logano||$9 million|
|Kyle Larson||$8 million|
|Chase Elliott||$8 million|
|Kurt Busch||$7.5 million|
|Daniel Suarez||$4.5 million|
|Alex Bowman||$4.5 million|
|Michael McDowell||$3.7 million|
|Austin Dillon||$3.5 million|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$3 million|
|Aric Almirola||$2.5 million|
|Erik Jones||$2.3 million|
|Bubba Wallace||$2.2 million|
|Ross Chastain||$2.1 million|
|Ryan Blaney||$1.9 million|
|William Byron||$1.85 million|
|Chris Buescher||$1.5 million|
|Tyler Reddick||$1.3 million|
|Chase Briscoe||$1.2 million|
How Much Do NASCAR Drivers Make Per Race?
NASCAR drivers make between $5,000 and $100,000 per race. The amount of money NASCAR drivers make per race varies depending on several factors. Each driver has a unique contract, and the numbers in these contracts are rarely disclosed.
Each race has a purse, which accounts for a specific dollar amount split between each of the competing drivers. Before NASCAR unveiled its chartered system, they revealed how much money each driver won for each race. Since NASCAR introduced the chartered system in 2016, these numbers are no longer public.
The Total Purse
Today, we only know about the overall purse per event. So if the event is going on at the Phoenix Raceway, NASCAR will often release a number the day before the race of the total purse, which is usually between $7 million and $14 million. Smaller tracks tend to have small purses, and bigger events, like the Daytona 500 have the largest purses.
One other factor to note is that race winnings, before they go to the driver, will go to the team first. This factor was also new to the chartered system. Once the team collects their share of the money, they will split the remainder with the driver, which is likely outlined in the terms of that driver’s contract. This means NASCAR drivers don’t keep all the prize money.
Average Earnings Per NASCAR Race
By using the salaries in the table above, and dividing it by 36 points-paying races per NASCAR season, we can determine that the average amount a NASCAR driver makes per race is between $5,500 for Corey LaJoie and $470,000 for Kyle Busch.
How Much Do NASCAR Drivers Earn Per Year?
Most full-time NASCAR drivers earn between $200,000 and $17 million per year, with most earning less than $10 million per season. Driver experience, team funding, and performance will all dictate how much a NASCAR driver earns per year.
NASCAR teams vary in value, and the richer teams will always attract the better drivers because they can afford to pay them a higher salary. Further, the larger teams can also afford better mechanics, specialists, and a better pit crew. Teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing, for example, will pay their drivers between $5 million and perhaps as much as $17 million per season.
Other teams, like Kaulig Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, will likely never afford what the powerhouses like Hendrick, Stewart-Haas, Joe Gibbs, and Team Penske can afford.
Driver experience matters, along with past performances and even driver loyalty. Drivers who have been around longer will naturally earn more money, as will drivers who perform well on the track even if they have not reached that same level of experience. On the other hand, less experienced and less successful drivers racing for smaller teams will earn less.
Who Is The Highest Paid NASCAR Driver?
The highest paid NASCAR driver is Kyle Busch, who earned $16.9 million in 2022. These numbers have come from earnings reports pertaining to Busch’s contract and potential sponsors. With sponsorship money and merchandise royalties included, Busch likely earned closer to $19 million in 2022.
Busch drove for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2022, one of the most valuable teams in NASCAR. Busch has also won two NASCAR Cup Series Championships, and he has 60 career Cup Series wins to his name. This kind of performance, combined with the resources JGR has at their disposal, allow him to earn the highest salary in NASCAR.
He also became the highest-paid driver when he entered his mid-30s. At one time, being in one’s mid-30s often meant they were a relatively young driver, but in today’s NASCAR, a driver in their mid-30s is nearly always a seasoned veteran.
When you look at the other drivers earning a top salary in NASCAR, you will discover that it is common for older drivers to earn the most. After Busch and Hamlin we have Kevin Harvick, the oldest driver on the grid. All of the top 5 highest paid NASCAR drivers are over the age of 37.
Who Is The Lowest Paid NASCAR Driver?
The lowest-paid full-time NASCAR driver is Corey LaJoie, whose salary sat at $200,000 in 2022. LaJoie, despite being 31 years old, has only spent a few seasons in NASCAR. LaJoie also raced for Spire Motorsports, a relatively small Cup Series team.
He has also never won a race, never won a pole, and posted just five finishes in the top 10. LaJoie’s lower pay was no outlier, as other low-paid drivers like Anthony Alfredo, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Timmy Hill, drivers with limited success at the Cup Series level, were also making under seven figures.
These lower-paid drivers, however, are often in “prove-it mode.” Therefore, you will often see them signing nothing more than one or, at most, two-year deals with a smaller team. This allows drivers making less money to, if they perform well, either get a quick increase in pay or, if their current team cannot afford them, they can move to race for a team that can.
Other drivers who grace the lower rungs of NASCAR salaries also may not drive in all 36 events, but are instead part-time drivers driving for non-chartered teams. These teams simply can’t afford to pay the salaries of the bigger organizations.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR drivers make between $200,000 and $17 million per year
• Drivers earn money based on their experience, performance, team loyalty and sponsorships
• The highest paid NASCAR driver on the current grid is Kyle Busch, whose salary was about $17 million in 2022
The 5 Highest Paid NASCAR Drivers Ever
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr – $300 Million
The top spot goes to Dale Earnhardt Jr, who made $300 million during his NASCAR career. While Earnhardt Jr never won a NASCAR Cup title and has just 26 wins to his name, being the son of a NASCAR legend certainly helped, and he was one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers from the moment he stepped into a Cup Series car.
2. Jeff Gordon – $150 Million
Jeff Gordon comes in second at $150. Gordon won the Daytona 500 three times and four Cup Series championships. When he entered NASCAR, he was unusually young for his time, being just 21 years old when he made his debut in 1992. Gordon raced full-time until 2015, before running in a handful of races in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr in 2016.
3. Jimmie Johnson – $120 Million
Jimmie Johnson takes third at $120 million. Johnson won seven NASCAR Cups before his initial retirement following the 2020 season. He is one of two drivers who may end up climbing this list since he joined up with Petty GMS Motorsports for the 2023 season, where he will race in a part-time schedule. So far, he has won 83 races.
4. Tony Stewart – $90+ Million
Tony Stewart clocks in fourth, having earned between $90 million and $100 million throughout his Cup Series career. Stewart won three Cup Series championships and tacked on 49 wins in a Cup Series career that spanned from 1999 to 2016. He drove for Joe Gibbs Racing before becoming a co-owner/driver in 2009.
5. Kevin Harvick – $70+ Million
Kevin Harvick takes fifth place in the all-time rankings, having earned between $70 and $90 million throughout a Cup Series career that started in 2001. Harvick also has a chance to climb another rung, as he is the last remaining full-time driver on this list. He won his first and only NASCAR Cup championship in 2014, and so far, has 60 wins to his name.
You may cross some rankings that will go beyond what we have listed above and rank Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress at the Number 1 and Number 2 spots. These rankings, however, will depict the highest earners in NASCAR history, not necessarily as drivers, even if both Hendrick and Childress did try their hands as drivers.
We’ve also only considered earnings directly related to NASCAR in our list above, rather than including other ventures that may contribute to the larger net worths you see on other lists like this.
Dale Earnhardt Sr & Richard Petty
Many NASCAR fans believe Dale Earnhardt Sr earned more money than any other driver because he revolutionized the way drivers earned money beyond just sponsorships, contracts, and race winnings. Because he was the first known driver to trademark his name and earn cash flows through merchandise sales, Earnhardt Sr made more money than any other driver of his day, at $70 million.
Richard Petty is in the conversation with Earnhardt Sr as the best driver in NASCAR history, and his 200 career wins is a record that will likely never be broken. But Petty raced during an era where merchandising was fairly limited, but he still earned an overall income that was between $65 and $70 million. Petty had longevity going for him, with a career that spanned for 35 seasons.
The main reason you don’t see Earnhardt Sr or Petty gracing the Top 5 is the fact that the contracts, sponsorship deals, and winnings were smaller in their day. NASCAR’s fan base at the time was predominantly in the Southeastern United States, and this limited visibility. Most race tracks were also located in small towns, with bare bones tracks that provided lesser seating.
Today, NASCAR races in both small and large markets, making annual and sometimes bi-annual trips to Las Vegas, Fort Worth, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Miami, Kansas City, and Fontana, to name a few. These larger markets attracted more fans, visibility for the sport, and by extension, more money and fame for drivers who raced after the days of Earnhardt Sr and Petty.
Do NASCAR Drivers Keep The Prize Money?
NASCAR drivers do not keep all of their prize money. The NASCAR team always gets the winnings first, then the driver will get a cut of those winnings. NASCAR teams need to continually fund their cars, and while big-time sponsorships will help pay the bills, it isn’t always enough, especially for smaller race teams who may have a smaller number of sponsors or less-valuable sponsors than the bigger teams.
To ensure the cars are ready and able to get to the site of the next event, teams have no choice but to keep some of the money. Remember, it often costs at least $10 million per season to run a Cup Series team, and there are hidden maintenance and replacement costs, plus the fact that the teams need to be able to haul the cars to the site of each race from their shops in North Carolina.
How Much Do NASCAR Drivers Earn In Sponsorships?
NASCAR drivers can earn anywhere from a few thousand dollars to almost $2 million in sponsorships per year. How much they earn from sponsors depends on the sponsor themselves, the driver’s performance, popularity, marketability, and their level of experience.
Part of the reason NASCAR drivers earn so much from sponsors is that they are required to make appearances on behalf of their respective sponsorships multiple times during the weekend of the race, and even in the morning or the early afternoon on race day. Drivers will also make appearances during offseason events, and may even star in commercials.
For example, some drivers may be contractually required to show up and speak at a meeting featuring staff from the company sponsoring them. They will then be paid in accordance with these appearances, and generally the more they do for the sponsor, the more they’ll earn in return.
How Much Sponsors Pay Drivers
While the numbers are often not made public, the range that drivers earn from those sponsors hover between 10% and 30% of their overall salary. However, you can find estimates from the money earned via sponsorships for the big-name drivers, and these are often the same drivers that earn the highest salaries.
How Much NASCAR Drivers Make From Sponsors
|Driver||Team||Salary||Earnings From Sponsorships|
|Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||$16.9 million||$1.7 million|
|Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||$13.1 million||$1.5 million|
|Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||$10.9 million||$1.5 million|
|Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||$10.4 million||$1.1 million|
|Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||$9.4 million||$1.1 million|
The table above reveals striking similarities to the data we outlined earlier. Joe Gibbs Racing is one of the largest NASCAR teams in the Cup Series, and three of their drivers not only earn the highest salaries in NASCAR, but also the most from sponsorships as well.
Each driver listed above (minus Kyle Busch) are also in their 40s, so they all have 10-plus seasons of experience, and 20-plus seasons in Kevin Harvick’s case. Each driver often wins multiple races per season, and Denny Hamlin is the only driver listed above that has not yet won a NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
NASCAR drivers generally make between around $200,000 and $10 million per year, but a few drivers earn more than this. Kyle Busch was the highest paid NASCAR driver in 2022, earning a salary of just under $17 million. Drivers also earn money from race winnings and from sponsorships.