NASCAR prize money typically doesn't go right into the driver's pocket. Money earned from each race needs to be reinvested in the team in order to make it to the next race. If a driver isn't winning, or at least placing high in the standings, not only will the team miss out on valuable prize money, but the odds of securing a lucrative sponsorship deal go down and the odds of going bankrupt go up.
As you may already know, the top NASCAR drivers can make a lot of money. In fact, you've probably seen a few NASCAR drivers on MTV Cribs and maybe even spotted a few others staring back at you from a Coca-Cola machine or a motor oil ad. In the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the top drivers earned as much as $8 million. This may sound like a sport filled with easy money, and for some, it is; however, you have to remember that these are the top performing drivers in the series. Not everyone makes that kind of money.
There are some drivers in the NASCAR series that don't go home every night to a mattress stuffed with money. In fact, the lowest-ranked drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, Eric McClure and Jacques Villeneuve, only earned $22,988 and $22,863 respectively during the 2008 racing season [source: NASCAR.com]. To put these figures into the proper perspective, if you translated their 2008 racing earnings into a 40-hour work week, based on a 52-week year; those two drivers would be making approximately $11 per hour.
The fact of the matter is, while the top earners are in the minority, so are the bottom earners. Of the 76 drivers in the 2008 Sprint Cup Series, all but 11 earned more than $100,000. And 46 of the 76 drivers earned more than a million dollars. So while the top earners are miles ahead of the bottom earners (sometimes literally), the majority of the pack is bunched together right in the middle -- and making a pretty good living, too.
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