Coming into the 2017 NASCAR season there was a bit of a shakeup in regards to NASCAR’s highest paid driver.
Carl Edwards ($12.3 million)
Carl Edwards shocked the NASCAR world when he walked away from the sport back in January. Edwards said the he felt the time was right, he wanted to spend time with those that he loved, his health was intact and he wanted to walk away on his own terms.
Since that announcement there have been plenty of rumors out there about Edwards. Some have linked him to running for US Senate while others suggest that he will be back in NASCAR with Team Penske in 2018. Thus far all of those rumors seem to only be rumors as Edwards has given no indication that he isn’t happy in retirement.
Kevin Harvick ($13.9 million)
Kevin Harvick has been fast since moving to SHR back in 2014. After winning a championship in 2014, he has been in the mix to win another in both 2015 and 2016. SHR moving from Chevy to Ford had some wondering if it would impact the speed that we have grown accustomed to seeing from Harvick.
Harvick was one of the fastest cars for the entire time the Cup Series was in Daytona. Although he finished outside of the top-20 in the Daytona 500 (he was in a wreck) it doesn’t change how impressive his car looked early on in the race. Harvick is primed to compete for his second title this season and if speedweeks is any indication, the No. 4 machine as a Ford is still going to be freaky fast in 2017.
Kyle Busch ($15 million)
The 2015 NASCAR champion is firmly inside of the top-five on this list as he looks for his second championship in 2017.
Busch was one of several drivers involved in wrecks at Daytona but his wreck was actually triggered by his own car. Busch lost a tire getting into a turn and that caused his No. 18 machine to spin and take out some other good cars as well as his own. Following the incident Busch was not too pleased with Goodyear and he alluded to the No. 18 machine seemingly always having tire issues at Daytona.
Denny Hamlin ($15.2 million)
Denny Hamlin being the highest-earning driver of the JGR bunch is a bit surprising as some might have pegged that honor for Kyle Busch.
Hamlin came into the 2017 season looking to defend his 2016 Daytona 500 victory. Although Hamlin fell short of that, the No. 11 team was still impressive during speedweeks and should have plenty of opportunities to win during the 2017 season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($21.2 million)
Being second on this list is not something that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is accustomed to but this is what happens when you miss 18 races in 2016.
The good news for Earnhardt Jr. is that he is back and despite being in a wreck in the Daytona 500, he still feels great and looks to have himself a good season in 2017. At one point there was concern that Earnhardt Jr. might not come back to racing. After all, when he originally went out with concussion-like symptoms it was expected he would miss a few races. Once those few races turned into 18, there was without question cause for concern.
Jimmie Johnson ($21.8 million)
Isn’t being the champ great?
Jimmie Johnson won his record-tying seventh NASCAR title in 2016 and he also earned more money in 2016 than any other driver in the series. All in all it was a pretty awesome season for Johnson.
In 2017 Johnson and his fans are looking for even more.
Johnson is automatically a favorite to contend for a championship this season. Should Johnson win back-to-back titles it would be the second time in his career that he has done that and it would be a record-breaking eighth championship for he and Chad Knaus.