CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin knows NASCAR teams are struggling to find dollars, but when the suggestion that drivers should take pay cuts comes up, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will lobby that those who risk their lives don’t get paid enough.
Hamlin looks at the eight-figure and nine-figure deals that stars in other sports make and feels there’s a huge difference. NASCAR driver deals are typically seven figures.
“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.”
There is no mandatory pay scale for NASCAR drivers. When Landon Cassill drove for the underfunded BK Racing in 2013, his contract was based on his finishes with a minimum total of $500,000 for the year.
“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,” said Hamlin, who recently built a 31,300-square-foot home. “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.”
Drivers and teams have consistently wanted more money for NASCAR’s television deal (currently a 10-year deal that runs through 2024 at an average of $820 million a year) as NASCAR distributes 65 percent of the money to the tracks, 25 percent to the teams and keeps 10 percent.
Many of the big teams rely on sponsorship for more than 75 percent of their income.
“There’s got to be a reset, and it doesn’t come from the drivers,” Hamlin said. “It comes from NASCAR helping the teams survive on a better basis. … There just has to be different revenue-sharing.”