Earlier this week, I was drinking coffee and checking out social media, and I almost choked when I came across an quote made by Denny Hamlin to ESPN.
Denny was quoted as saying that “We’re way underpaid as race car drivers. There’s no doubt, doing what we do, with the schedule that we have and the danger that we incur every single week … NASCAR drivers should be making NBA, NFL money.”
That was a shock t read. I surely wasn’t expecting him to have said what he said.
But I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I thought, “Maybe he has a point.”
So, I decided to look into the salaries of NFL players and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to see exactly what Denny was griping about.
First off, let’s make sure we are comparing apples to apples. The NFL reports declining viewership, as does NASCAR.
The last TV numbers released for NASCAR shows that the Oct. 1 race at Dover had a 1.3 share, which was a fairly substantial drop down from a 1.6 share in 2016.
During NASCAR’s heyday in the mid-2000s, NASCAR’s Dover races regularly had a 4 share or better … but to be fair, those were in the days when races were traditionally on broadcast (big FOX and big NBC) television every week.
Last week’s Monday Night Football went on to score a 5.1 rating among adults 18-49, with 13.7 million viewers, winning the night among cable and broadcasters. It was a decline, but not the free fall NASCAR is experiencing.
One thing that should be obvious is that the NFL and NASCAR are both businesses. They exist to turn
a profit. Both of these businesses rely on advertising and contracts with the major networks to make their dollars.
NASCAR teams in particular rely on sponsorship (Advertising) dollars to pay the bills … as well as the drivers. If there is not as many people watching the sport, there is less exposure for the advertiser.
Simple economics dictate that less viewers and fans devalues the sport, and the advertisers pay less money to the teams for their sponsorship. This is one reason you see multiple sponsors during the season on your favorite driver’s car.
Let’s take a look at salaries of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. According to Forbes, the top drivers
collectively made $198 million in 2016 between their salaries, winnings and endorsements.
The top paid drivers were Dale Earnhardt Jr at $23.5 million, Jimmie Johnson at $22.2 million, Kevin Harvick at
$15.5 million and Hamlin himself at $15.1 million.
Now, lets look at NFL players. According to NFL.com, this year Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford will rake in $27 million. Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will make $25 million, while Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck will see a cool $24.6 million and Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals will make 24.5 million.
Considering that according to Statista.com ,the average length of a NFL players career is just 3.3 years, and per the book Economics of Competitive Sports, NASCAR drivers average a 4.7 year-career, the pay seems comparable for top tier athletes of each sport.
So Denny, here’s a news flash for you … you already make NFL-level money. At the very least, you surely make way more than most people reading this article.
My thoughts to Denny? Suck it up big boy, because I don’t feel a bit sorry for you.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Andy DeLay is a career law enforcement officer for Clearwater, Florida who carries a passion for motorsports at both the local and national levels. He is an avid iRacer who also spends time away from the virtual circuit at local tracks.
In addition, DeLay is a host of the long-time Burning Rubber Radio Show on the Performance Motorsports Network, the wireless mobile radio affiliate of Race Chaser Online, as well as an onsite reporter for PMN in various capacities.
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