Forbes magazine ranks Earnhardt Jr. as the highest-paid driver in NASCAR at $25.9 million. The number is based on a $12.9 million salary and earnings, plus another $13 million in endorsements. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson is second at $23 million, with $16.3 million in winnings.
Forbes magazine notes that while Earnhardt's licensing income is down, he still generated the most licensing dollars in the sport last year.
"His endorsement income is tops as well, thanks to personal deals with Chevy, Goody's, Nationwide, Wrangler and more," Forbes reported. "His latest deal is a partnership with Minnesota snack company KLN Family Brands to form Dale Jr. Foods. Last month, they introduced four Dale Jr. flavors of potato chips: Crispy Original, Carolina Barbecue, Creole & Green Onion and Zesty Jalapeno."
Patrick spikes interest
Say what you will about Danica Patrick, the polarizing queen of NASCAR moves the needle when it comes to interest in NASCAR.
Danica notched 971 million impressions on Twitter during an eight-day span highlighted by her historical run at the pole position in the Daytona 500. Repucom, a global company with an office in Charlotte, tracked Patrick's social-media prowess during that time.
"It's staggering," Repucom vice president Peter Laatz told USA TODAY Sports. "That's a really good thing for the sport, and it's great for her and great for her sponsors. We thought last year was a big deal until we looked at the numbers from this year."
By contrast, Carl Edwards had 15 million impressions during the same timeframe last year. Repucom also estimated that Patrick's primary sponsor, GoDaddy, received 1,203 seconds of on-screen branding during the race. That was the equivalent to $2.9 million in media value.
Despite her sonic boom in cyberspace, Patrick has struggled considerably since finishing eighth at Daytona, including a 28th-place finish at Bristol.
"There are a lot of things that I have to work on at this point in time," Patrick said after the race in Bristol. "For us, the most important thing is to find a decent balance to start off the race so that we don't drop back."