Open Wheel drivers look like wankers in NASCAR

UPDATE All but one of the top 44 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series standings has earned at least $1 million this season, and that type of money certainly skews what’s considered a successful season — because even a millionaire-making season means nothing anymore.

Specifically, eight drivers have earned more than $1 million but less than $2 million this year, and most of them could be out of work before the next season begins. Some have already lost their jobs.

That group includes drivers such as J.J. Yeley ($1.8 million), Patrick Carpentier ($1.5), A.J. Allmendinger ($1.4), Kyle Petty ($1.0) and Dario Franchitti ($1.0).

Drivers atop the standings, those in contention for the series championship like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, have earned five times more than their soon-to-be-unemployed colleagues. With that success comes more support from sponsors and more money for their respective teams to continue their dominance as the rich get richer.

On a series that usually runs races in circles, it’s a fairly productive circle of success for those at the top.

08/28/08 Talk about ruining your racing career. Neither Patrick Carpentier, Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish, Jr., Michael McDowell, Regan Smith nor Jacques Villeneuve has scored a Top 10 finish this season. (Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose have finished as high as third, but they're limited part-timers and thus ineligible for the rookie award). If the trend holds, it would be the first rookie class in the sport's 60-year history to go without a Top-10. It's been so bad, only Hornish has attempted every race this season without being replaced.

With that type of track record, you can imagine job security might be a problem for this group — and it's getting worse. Villeneuve's team was shut down after only one race, and sponsorship concerns have left the careers of Carpentier, McDowell, Smith and Franchitti in doubt. Once Reed Sorenson announced Tuesday he's signed with Carpentier's No. 10 car for 2009, that left Hornish as the only full-time freshman guaranteed a ride next season. And with Hornish's return to the IRL as simple as a phone call away, it's not a stretch to predict that none of these guys will show up with a full-time ride at Daytona in February — which hasn't happened to a second-year class since 1992-93.

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