It doesn’t matter how many times Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart will win Sprint Cup titles – the face of the sport is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who continues to be the biggest earner in NASCAR, way ahead of Endorsements queen Danica Patrick as well, regardless of how well (or not) he preforms on the track.
Brad Keselowski – $11.4 Million
In 2012, Keselowski joined Bobby Labonte as the only NASCAR drivers to have won a championship in both the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series. The 29 year-old, driving for the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, racing for Penske racing, earned $10 million via winnings and salary.
Kasey Kahne – $12 Million
Kahne if the fourth best-paid driver among the four Hendricks driver, although he did finish… fourth in last season’s Sprint Cup Standings. He drives the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Group/Quaker State Chevrolet SS, making $11 million off of salary and winnings.
Kyle Busch – $12.5 Million
Despite never finishing better than 5th, managing 13th place last year, there are those who think it’s time he wins the big one in 2013. Busch made $9.6 million of his earnings through salary and winnings, and he’s also ranked fifth in 2012 for licensed merchandise sales, according to Fanatics.com.
Danica Patrick – $12.9 Million
Patrick still seems to be learning the ropes in the Sprint Cup, but that isn’t stopping her from being possibly the most marketable face on the circuit. The Go Daddy girl has 15 personal sponsors including: Coca-Cola, Nationwide, Tissot and Sega, bringing her about 50% of her earnings.
Kevin Harvick – $13 Million
Harvick drives the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SSfor Richard Childress Racing, but will be moving on to Stewart-Haas in 2014. He has two third place finishes in the Sprint Cup (2010-2011), and makes $11.5 million in salary and winnings.
Carl Edwards – $13.7 Million
Edwards’ best finish in the Sprint Cup is second, twice (2008, 2011), including that tiebreaker against Tony Stewart. He missed the chase in 2012, but he ended a 70-race win-less streak Phoenix International Raceway (above) in Nascar’s second race of the 2013 season. Only $1.5 million of his earnings come from endorsements and licensing.
Jeff Gordon – $18.1 Million
Gordon hasn’t won the title since 2001 (his fourth), but is doing alright business-wise: Gordon, along with Rick Hendrick, are the co-owners of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, driven by Jimmie Johnson, who won five consecutive Cup championships from 2006 to 2010. Gordon also has an equity stake in his own No. 24 team. He makes $5.5 million from endorsements and licensing, including being the face of the new DVX sports sunglasses sold exclusively at Wal-Mart.
Tony Stewart – $18.7 Million
Stewart ranked second in merchandise sales for the second straight year in 2012. Being a team owner (Stewart-Haas), he has eschewed some personal sponsorship agreements for team deals. He makes $6 million a year from licensing and endorsements.
Jimmie Johnson – $23.1 Million
Johnson is the heavy betting favorite to win the sixth Sprint Cup title, narrowly missing it last year. He currently drives the No. 48Lowe’s Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. rimary sponsor Lowe’s recently signed an extension with Hendrick Motorsports through 2015 when Johnson’s contract expires. Personal sponsors include: Gatorade, Chevy and Tylenol, making $6.7 million away from the circuit.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – $25.9 Million
Still the most popular driver in NASCAR, 10 years in a row, managing to break a 143-race winless streak in June at the Michigan International Speedway, finishing 12th overall in 2012. He also owns JR Motorsports, competing in the Nationwide series. Earnhardt makes more than 50% of his earnings from licensing and endorsements.