Now that you know how the money is distributed, we can talk about just how much is at stake. There are 36 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, with more than $4 million in prize money for the taking at each race. Some races offer drivers a chance at a portion of more than $6 million in prize money.
The bonus money to be paid out for leading laps, best strategic moves and best lap times depends on the race and the sponsor; however, you should note that these awards start around $5,000 and move up from there. While the exact amount of prize money a winning driver will take home for any given race cannot be determined prior to the actual race -- mainly because no one can predict who will win each of the bonuses -- we can look back at a few recent NASCAR races as an example.
For instance, at the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in April of 2008, driver Jimmie Johnson won the race and took home $262,111 -- the winner's share of the purse as well as a bonus for the best strategic call and some contingency money. The last place finisher, Ryan Newman, took home $110,718 thanks to bonuses and the different team payout systems. Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the other hand, came in 7th place, but only took home $99,125 [source: Sports Club Stats]. At the 2008 Ford 400, no driver took home less than $60,000, while Carl Edwards drove away with the race victory and $365,225 [source: The Inside Groove].
Keep reading to find out how all this money translates into a living for the best NASCAR drivers -- and the rest of the NASCAR drivers, too.