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When the official results from a NASCAR national series race are released, it's accompanied with a dollar figure next to each driver's name.
It's usually a fairly obscure number, and oftentimes there will be drivers who appear to take home more prize money than others even if they finish lower.
The process for distributing the purse at a NASCAR event is complex.
'NASCAR is fortunate to have a strong foundation of partners that play a significant role in our sport, including financial support at each of the events as well as year-end awards,” NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy said in a statement. 'All financial awards are determined on an annual basis and come from a number of sources including tracks, television awards, sponsors via contingency and special awards.”
The purse is distributed differently at the various levels of NASCAR, according to the entry blanks provided by the sanctioning body.
The awards to drivers and teams are split into the racing purse, the television awards and the manufacturer contingency awards. For the Nationwide Series race this weekend at Iowa Speedway, there are $1,189,448 in posted awards.
The racing purse is on a sliding scale from $47,500 (to the winner) to $8,500 (40th), and the television awards on a sliding scale from $10,925 to $3,330. So, at minimum, the race winning team will take home $58,425. From there, manufacturer contingency awards are applied, depending on what decals cars are carrying. These are the decals on the door, just behind the front tire.
A sponsor like Mechanix Wear gloves offers $2,500 in total contingency awards - $1,050 if a car bearing their decal wins, $550 for fourth, $300 for 20th and $300 for 30th. If the winner (or fourth, 20th or 30th place finisher) doesn't have the decal, the money goes to the next highest finisher running that decal. Companies sponsor various positions in order to encourage more cars in the field to carry their decal.
The Cup Series has a similar formula, with a few added caveats and, obviously, much higher dollar amounts. The television awards - which were just renegotiated and will take effect in 2015 - are greatly increased. At Pocono, where there are $5,092,151 in posted awards, $121,425 out of the television contract goes to the winner.
In addition to the purse, television awards and contingency awards, there are three special programs that add a large amount of money. There's a special plan for championship-winning car owners ($492,000 total), a special plan for the top 30 in owner points from last season ($312,000) and the Victory Tour Program, which adds $130,000 total for race-winning teams based on last season.
Cedar Rapids native and NASCAR driver Landon Cassill said in addition to the deal with teams based on prize money, drivers are sometimes paid through sponsorship they provide. Cassill has different deals with JD Motorsports (Nationwide) and Hillman Racing (Cup), and said he negotiated his deals 'in the best interests of the team's overall revenue.”
He used Clint Bowyer and 5-Hour Energy as an example that's typically applied throughout the garage.
'You take a guy like Clint Bowyer, who provided the 5-Hour Energy sponsorship, if that sponsorship was worth $10 million, Clint probably took 10 percent, 15 percent of that,” Cassill said. 'You probably see drivers bring in anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the team's revenue, depending on the prize money and sponsorship they get.”
So depending on what a driver and team qualify for and where they finish, the awards are distributed based off that entry blank. The awards are given to the team owner, who divvies that up to his or her driver - depending on their contractual agreement - and the rest of the team (crew, parts, etc).
'When you see the prize money on TV, basically it's up to the team and the driver to negotiate how they split that up, and it's up to the team and the driver to negotiate any income on top of that,” Cassill said. 'Honestly, every deal is different. There's drivers in the Cup Series that make anywhere from five percent to 50 percent of the prize money. But the drivers who make 50 percent probably don't have any type of salary. There are drivers who make five percent who have some sort of salary.
'It just depends on the deal.”
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