Jerry Markland/Getty Images
NASCAR star Denny Hamlin said he believes Monster Energy Cup Series drivers are “underpaid” and should receive salaries closer to NBA and NFL athletes.
On Wednesday, Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com noted NASCAR competitors receive “typically seven-figure” deals and Hamlin thinks that falls short based on several factors.
“We’re way underpaid as race car drivers,” he said. “There’s no doubt, doing what we do, the schedule that we have and the danger that we incur every single week, NASCAR drivers should be making NBA, NFL money.”
Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes reported in February that Hamlin ranked third among NASCAR drivers in overall earnings for 2016 at $15.2 million behind only Jimmie Johnson ($21.8 million) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($21.1). Those figures include bonuses and endorsements, though—not just base salaries.
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has the highest base salary in the NBA at $34.7 million, according to Spotrac. Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the NFL at $23.9 million.
Hamlin, whom TheRichest projects has a net worth of $30 million, said he’s more worried about drivers lower on the earnings scale than himself, per Pockrass.
“I’m sure this will be in some headline somewhere where Denny says drivers aren’t paid enough, but I’m basing it off all other sports,” he said. “I’m not including myself. I’m including the back half of the field—those drivers are risking the same amount I am and they should be paid a hell of a lot more.”
He also discussed a potential solution: “There’s got to be a reset, and it doesn’t come from the drivers. It comes from NASCAR helping the teams survive on a better basis. … There just has to be different revenue-sharing.”
In May, Pockrass commented on the sport’s attendance woes, which have been harder to track since NASCAR stopped giving official reports, according to lost track revenue.
“The publicly operated tracks have lost 52.7 percent in admissions revenue over the past nine years. In the same time in regular-season attendance, the NFL has seen a 2 percent gain, the NBA and NHL are flat and baseball is down 8 percent,” he wrote. “NASCAR also battles something other sports don’t—a significant part of the foundation that created passion (a society with manufacturer loyalty that loved cars) continues to disintegrate. The passion for the home team in other sports doesn’t wane as much.”
Ken Fang of Awful Announcing pointed out the television numbers have also struggled, as multiple races have posted “record lows in both ratings and viewership” this season.