The NASCAR world has no shortage of big personalities, and Kyle Busch leads the pack. But even his superstar status comes with limits compared to the top drivers of the past. That happens to include the not-so-distant past.
While there has been massive growth in the space, there seems to be a cap on just how much an individual driver is worth. Busch comes from a family with deep roots in stock car racing, with a paycheck to match. Yet it still doesn’t compare to the scale that a longtime driver from another of NASCAR’s most notable families used to earn on.
Kyle Busch earned his spot as the highest-paid current NASCAR driver
Busch currently competes in the NASCAR Cup Series full time, under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner. He also moonlights in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports. That effort is something of a passion project, where he also manages a few other drivers.
Stock car racing continues to be his big moneymaker. Ranker reports that he currently is the top paid full-time driver. He earned that status thanks to winning the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series and also winning the 2015 and 2019 Cup Series championships.
So how much is it worth to be a decorated, headline-grabbing NASCAR driver these days? Salary Sport reports that the Joe Gibbs Racing crown jewel earns just under $17 million a year for his trouble. That puts him well above the next well-compensated driver, Denny Hamlin, who pulls in $13 million a year. Busch likely enjoys the fact that he makes well more than the $9 million his bitter rival Joey Logano earns yearly.
Busch makes a ton of money, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. made way more
An annual $17 million is eye-watering levels of money to rake in. But even that number doesn’t come close to what the previous generation of drivers could make at their height. Consider a superstar driver, who spent years driving part-time like Earnhardt Jr. According to Bleacher Report, his yearly take maxed out at just under $26 million a year.
Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon all made millions more, in fact. Name recognition was a huge part of the equation. Earnhardt Jr. was well-liked, and most importantly, hugely popular. Even in the midst of a massive losing streak, he earned more than ever thanks to his cultural cache. A Sportskeeda report estimates his net worth at $400 million.
Earnhardt Jr. puts his NASCAR earnings to work in retirement
So what does a retired NASCAR driver like Earnhardt Jr. do with his enormous wealth? The answer is not particularly surprising for anyone who followed his career. The Make-A-Wish all-star continues to put his time and money into charity works.
Sure, he lives on a huge property that might as well be a small town. The scale of his wealth makes that possible without as much as a second thought. He marked his retirement by donating $88,000 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. From there, he turned his Dale Jr. Foundation work into a full-time concern.
The foundation kicked into a higher gear during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, it consists of smaller fundraisers to raise awareness. The former NASCAR star tends to instead do more with direct donations from his own wealth. The worldwide emergency changed things. In 2020, they raised $1 million in donations. The next year, they did 10 times that amount. One can only hope that Busch takes a similar route once his NASCAR career winds down.