By admin | February 24, 2011
By Richard Allen
What’s the most important thing for a race car driver, winning races or moving merchandise? According to a recent piece in Forbes Magazine, it must be moving merchandise because Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was reported to have received the biggest paycheck among NASCAR drivers in 2010 at over $29 million.
Accounting for as much as 1/3 of all NASCAR licensed merchandise sales, Junior rakes in a bundle for NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and himself. And all of that coming from a driver who has not won a Sprint Cup race since 2008 and has failed to make the Chase for the Championship in each of the past two seasons.
So then, what is it that makes a driver valuable to the organization he drives for? What is it that makes a driver valuable to the sport itself?
There could be quite a list presented here of drivers whose racing achievements over recent years are more noteworthy than those of Earnhardt. Yet, Junior makes more money than any of these. For example, five time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is third on the earnings list after having pocketed $24 million in 2010. Obviously, there is no comparison between the two drivers’ accomplishments over the past five years.
Is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. worth more than Jimmie Johnson? Well, when on-track results are the only factor in the equation the answer is no. But there is sometimes more to an employee’s worth than one phase of his/her job.
Ultimately, Junior and Johnson work for a company whose goal is to not only win races and championships, but also to remain profitable. While race results certainly contribute to that corporate profitability, it is not the only factor. The sale of T-shirts, hats, die cast cars, etc. account for a great deal of income for drivers, teams and NASCAR. Junior is the clear leader when it comes to that category.
While being the leader on the track is seemingly the ultimate goal of any driver, being the leader in the souvenir trailer lot may provide for a more luxurious lifestyle.
One of the most common arguments between Junior fans and non-Junior fans is that of his talent, or lack thereof, and whether he rates the attention he gets. While in a perfect world, NASCAR’s most popular figure would at the same time be one of its most productive drivers on the track. In this instance, that is not the case. However, in the grand scheme of things when it comes to whether he is worth what he makes, his on-track performance is secondary to his marketability.
The bottom line is that Earnhardt generates capital for his company. Ultimately, that is the purpose of just about every employee everywhere.
So, is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. worthy of being the highest paid driver in NASCAR? His on-track performance says he is not even close. But his appeal to fans and his marketability say yes. Whether it be his last name, his personality or any other factor, Junior is a valuable asset. Based on his salary, he is apparently the most valuable asset in NASCAR.
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