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« Fantasy picks and race winner for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix | Main | NASCAR and every other sport could learn from Supercross »

Is Junior really worthy of being the highest paid driver?

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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Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “Is Junior really worthy of being the highest paid driver?”

  1. Russ Edwards Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Those merchandise sales are what will keep him at HMS. As mentioned profitability is much more important than simple race wins.
    Besides in some perverse way the longer his losing streak gets the more valuable he may become. Up to a point.

  2. Ed Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I don’t get it. Where is the story in this Richard? Who cares? He is highly paid because of his ability to sell trinkets and his ability to drive up front. End of story. No debate.

    Is the typical American CEO worth his or her pay? Or a baseball star? Or an entertainer? This isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. No one cares is he worth it. I care that gas is $3.50 a gallon and I might not make it to the next race. I care that hotels gouge consumers during race week. Why would I care if a driver makes good money? They can die young doing it too.

  3. KyBu fan Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Ed, exactly when does he drive up front?

  4. Ginger Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Ditto to what Ed said. And Richard just for the record, Jr is valuable to you to. Your columns are possible because of the demand or lack thereof. If this column had been about any other driver I would not have read it. Dale Jr is an asset for all who have a financial state in Nascar, so remember that when you write about him again.

  5. Richard Allen Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Kinda thought that’s what I said in the last two paragraphs.

  6. jerseygirl Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 10:53 am

    and as usual, all the jr fans jump to his defense!

  7. RoyMullins Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    As a journalist its Richard’s job to report to and engage readers based on both factual and opinionated material without bias.

    Just because Dale Jr is the most popular driver doesn’t mean he is above criticism by media members.

    Anyone not looking through Earnhardt sunglasses realizes Richard brings up some valid points.

    The instant I saw these salaries posted by Forbes and saw where Earnhardt makes more than a five time champion I had to laugh.

    Good article.

  8. JCalz Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Like the Kyle Busch fan asked, when does this guy ever run up front, at least in recent memory? He’s becoming a punch line and Junior fans can’t or are unwilling to see that…

  9. Geedng Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I am no Jr. fan,but I ask you,are you worthy of writting a
    artical like thise?This works both ways you know.

  10. Liz Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Just think if Jr. would win races this year. His sales in merchandise would go skyrocketing. Imagine that!!! I would just love it.

  11. Steve Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Richard isn’t stupid. He has Gordon and Johnson to win championships for him and Jr to sell merchandise. He is living in the perfect Nascar world.

  12. Diane Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Guess the sales and fans of #88 answered this question long time ago. We like driver #88 for lots of different reasons.
    If others want to change #1 driver in the sport then support your driver.

  13. aginn Says:
    February 25th, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I like jr. for a number of reasons. Just today on another article on Jayski they were talking about how Jr and Harvick are the only 2 drivers to help Sam Ard out with his medical bills. That alone tells me a great deal about his ” worth ” to me. Do you suppose kybu or montoya would do that? Hell no. Give me Jr at the back of the pack any day rather than a Kyle Busch at the front intentionally wrecking people with no penalty.

  14. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    February 26th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Rich, I beg for mercy when Jr is scaring away the fans money, Danicamania is stale and Katie Sized and the Kyle I Wanted All Along Was Petty. Jr is a capitol like Hannah, and we know there are folks running late models who will be the Fireworks Show Without Katy Perry. I would live with Jr in Nationwide or Late Model instead of being his Sister’s Keeper.