The 5 Highest-Paid NASCAR Drivers in 2016

Dale Earnhardt Jr. stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Whether you’re a fan of NASCAR or not, it’s impossible to say that drivers aren’t putting their lives on the line each and every time they take their cars out onto the track. The overwhelming evidence is in the horrific accidents the sport has seen throughout its history. As a result, it should come as no surprise that, when you take into consideration the dangers associated with the race itself and the loyalty of the sport’s fanbase, the top drivers make serious bank. Last year represented a perfect example of that.

According to Forbes, not only did 13 drivers make over $10 million courtesy of salaries, bonuses, endorsements, and a share of winnings and licensing, but these same individuals combined to make $198 million in total earnings during the 2015 season. That’s a lot of doughnuts worth of cash. Of course, as it always is in pro sports, some individuals made more than the rest. With that in mind, here’s a look at the five highest-paid NASCAR drivers in 2016.

5. Denny Hamlin

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2016 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

 Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2016 | Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Total earnings: $15.1 million

Denny Hamlin had a banner year in 2015, pulling in $15.1 million in total earnings. While $13.1 million was a result of salary and winnings, Hamlin was able to earn $2 million in endorsements and licensing thanks to his sponsorship deals with companies like Denny’s Restaurants (obviously), Toyota, Coca-Cola, Greenbrier resort, and Nike’s Jordan brand. Clearly this is what happens when one finishes in the top two in seven consecutive races during the 2014-15 Nascar seasons.

4. Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick during a practice for the Daytona 500

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Total earnings: $15.5 million

While Kevin Harvick earned a combined $12 million from his salary and winnings, according to Forbes, the $11.7 million he made in winnings alone happened to be the most in the sport in 2015. On top of that, Harvick pulled in $3.5 million in endorsements and licensing thanks to an impressive list of sponsors that include Chevrolet, Budweiser, Bad Boy Buggies, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Morton Buildings, Wiley X sunglasses, Cessna and Greenlee. With $15.5 million in total earnings, Harvick ended 2015 as the fourth highest-paid driver in Nascar.

3. Jeff Gordon

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 27:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 27: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

Total earnings: $21.6 million

In 2015, Jeff Gordon’s final season on the track, the superstar made $14.6 million in winnings and salaries, while pulling in an additional $7 million from his licensing and endorsement deals. Gordon’s $21.6 million in total earnings made him Nascar’s third highest-paid driver in 2015.

2. Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson during a practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400

Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Total earnings: $22.2 million

If there’s one thing you can expect from Jimmie Johnson, it’s that the Lowe’s No. 48 car is going to win. A lot. In 2015, the six-time Nascar Sprint Cup champion earned $16.4 million in winnings and salary money, which also paved the way for him to take home $5.8 million through endorsements and licensing deals. While Johnson’s $22.2 million in total earnings was only second among Nascar drivers in 2015, we’d be crazy to associate a haul like that with a losing season.

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 09: (L-R) Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite/Luke Bryan Ford, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, talk behind stage prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2015 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowsk, Luke Bryan Ford, Martin Truex Jr., and Dale Earnhardt Jr., (R) talk behind stage prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 | Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Total earnings: $23.5 million

For the eighth consecutive year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was Nascar’s highest-paid driver. According to Forbes, while Earnhardt took home an impressive $15 million in salary and winnings in 2015, his endorsement deals are what distinguish him from the pack. Thanks to sponsorships with big brands like Nationwide, Taxslayer, Axalta ,Wrangler, Goody’s, and Chevrolet, Earnhardt pulled in $8.5 million from endorsements and licensing, taking his total haul in 2015 to $23.5 million. It’s no wonder that he was voted Nascar’s highest-paid driver for the 13th straight season.

Information courtesy of Forbes.com.

To see Forbes’ complete list of “Nascar’s Highest-Paid Drivers 2016,” check out the gallery starting here.

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