Forbes names highest paid drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the highest-paid driver in the sport for the fifth straight year with total earnings of $25.9 million in 2012 by our [Forbes] count. We estimate that Earnhardt earned $12.9 million in combined salary and his share of prize money, which is split with Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt signed a contract extension with Hendrick in 2011 that will keep him part of NASCAR's most valuable team through at least 2017. But what really separates Earnhardt from the rest of NASCAR's top drivers is his off-the-track earnings, which were $13 million last year. While Earnhardt's licensing income is down like all drivers (some as much as 80%), he still generated the most licensing dollars in the sport last year.
Another Hendrick driver, Jimmie Johnson, ranks #2 with earnings of $23 million. In fact, all four Hendrick drivers are among the 10 highest paid with Jeff Gordon #4 ($18 million) and Kasey Kahne at #9 ($12 million). Johnson barely missed his sixth Sprint Cup title in 2012, but it was still a banner year on the track, as he earned a NASCAR-high $8.1 million in race winnings for the #48 car. His "Special Awards" and Sprint Cup bonuses added another $2.3 million.
Danica Patrick, ranks #7 with earnings of $12.9 million in 2012. Her merchandise was NASCAR's ninth best seller in 2012, according to Fanatics.com, one of the largest online retailers of officially licensed sports merchandise. But that ranking will jump this year, as she only raced in 10 Sprint Cup races last year and will be running a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2013 for the first time. More at Forbes
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