Earnings have been excluded from stat sheets and left in mystery; 7-time NASCAR champion fills in the gaps
TV revenue is a large portion of NASCAR money. That revenue pays the sanctioning body, the teams and the tracks as well. Drivers have previously stated that 65% of that revenue goes to the tracks, 25% goes to the teams and 10% goes to NASCAR itself.
At the end of the 2015 season, NASCAR stopped releasing race earnings. Prior, that data showed how much a team was paid for their results on the race track, outside of sponsorship income.
Between 2001 and 2015, Johnson’s race earnings totaled $150,926,713. His biggest single season on the earnings front came in 2006 where he brought in $15,875,125, with 5 race wins and 13 top-5s.
For comparison, five wins and 14 top-5s in 2015 brought just $8,152,877. From 2006 to 2015, the race earnings revenue dropped by about 50%.
Jimmie Johnson is a driven that saw the highs and the lows of NASCAR. Since 2015, public data isn’t available to show the current trends of race earnings. However, since 2015, Jimmie Johnson thinks that it’s fallen another 50%.
Jimmie Johnson talks race earnings falling 50%
“NASCAR’s been going through quite a bit of change,” Jimmie Johnson told Graham Bensinger.
“The playoffs have changed a couple of times. The rules continue to change. And a lot of that is to help the bottom line.”
“Ultimately, the bottom line has moved so much because the way fans consume our sport, has changed a lot, in the last 15 years or more.”
“I would say, through earnings and potential for a team, it’s been down 50%. For a driver contract, from 2015 to where it is now, it’s probably half, even for the top drivers.”
“What starts that process is the tune in numbers. Tune in numbers drive the sponsorship numbers. That obviously drives the purse and certainly the money on a given car that the driver shares.”
Jimmie Johnson talks retirement
Following the 2020 season, Jimmie Johnson retired from racing full-time at the NASCAR Cup Series level after 20 years in the division. The decline in earnings may have played a small role in Johnson’s decision to retire.
“It might weigh on it some. I was very aware of my investments and what they earn in a year. Even at 50%, there’s no way those investments are going to come close to that.”
“I always knew it was my greatest source of income.”
“A top driver and a 50% reduction, it’s still a big number. As the sport has been evolving, on a downturn and actually now, I believe it is ticking up.”
“But, on that downturn, the guys on the bottom side, I’ve heard rumors where these drivers can’t afford permanent or temporary insurance. Which is just kind of standard issue in this sport with so much risk.”
“You hear drivers, ‘I can’t afford it. I’m not going to do it.’ “
For 2021, Johnson has taken on a new discipline. He’s currently running a part-time Indycar Series schedule. He’s recently been approved to run the Indy 500 oval.
If Jimmie Johnson was in charge?
As a hypothetical, what if Jimmie Johnson was in charge of the sport? What changes would he make?
“I’ve always felt there’s just too much racing, in NASCAR,” Johnson explained.
“That’s my opinion and I’ve had that conversation with executives at NASCAR. Reducing the schedule to 25-28 races, I think would be the ideal way to go about it.”
Johnson is a 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. He’s tied for the most all-time with Dale Eanrhardt and Richard Petty.