After a few years of decline NASCAR is starting to recover.
NASCAR is the biggest sport circus (you might also call it a series) in the U.S. From this week and for the next 10 months, teams, drivers, sponsors, TV crews and fans will be rushing all over the US to attend the 36 round Cup series and its second tier league, Nationwide. The sport is ranked second only to the NFL in TV ratings and its current 8-year rights pact with a few broadcasting organizations is worth $4.5 billion. Additionally, drivers can also make millions of dollars a year.
Dale Eanrhardt Jr. earned $28 million last year, Jeff Gordon $24 million and Tony Stewart $22 million; most of their income coming from merchandise and endorsement contracts, and the rest from prize money. Combined earnings of NASCAR's top 20 drivers are higher than those of their F1 counterparts, who in some cases fork out millions of dollars in order to secure a seat. Hendrick Motorsports is the most valuable team in the paddock and according to forbes.com is worth $350 million, more than most of the F1 teams. Last year it made $13.5 million in profits.
The team's value has not changed since last year and is linked to its success with 10 Cup titles in the last 17 years. In second place comes Roush Fenway Racing at $185 million, with profits of $6.8 million. 2012 is not going to be easy for the team because by the end of last season it had lost all of its primary sponsors. The team's value sank by 17 percent and this year it will run only 3 full-time cars. Joe Gibbs Racing is valued at $155 million after it made an $8 million profit last year, followed by Richard Cildress Racing valued at $147 million with a profit of $8.3 million.
Gibbs, who led the Washington Red Skins to three Super Bowl victories, also won three Cup titles. Stewart Haas Racing captures 5th place with a valuation of $108 million thanks, amongst others factors, to Danica Patrick joining the team. Penske Racing, maybe the oldest racing organization in the states, is valued at $98 million after registering a $4.6 million profit last year, at the end of which the team fired Kurt Busch for confrontations with reporters. Michael Waltrip Racing was ranked 7th, valued at $90 million with a $2 million profit, while the Earnhardt Ganassi team completes the top 8, valued at $76 million with a $3.4 million profit.
During the last five years NASCAR fans deserted the tribunes and TV screens, and ticket sales and ratings sagged. Sponsors were also hard to come by and others hard to retain, even for a smaller income. This situation is starting to reverse and with the slow but steady economic recovery in America, NASCAR's financial fundamentals are in better shape now along with better prospects for a new prosperous period.