Behind the Shadowy Billion-Dollar Payouts of F1, NASCAR, and IndyCar
We take an in-depth look at who makes the money—and how much—in the world’s top-tier racing series.
GETTY / Scott Dixon is rumored to be the highest-paid IndyCar driver, earning around $2-3 million per year.
If you want to make a small fortune in auto racing, start with a huge fortune. That old saying is more relevant than ever. The finances behind high-stakes, competitive motorsports are ruthless—even more so than in any other mainstream sport.
The variables behind how teams, drivers, and sanctioning bodies like IndyCar, NASCAR, and F1 make their money aren’t only wildly complex, but they can also change frequently, depending on evolving business needs, market conditions, and any number of other factors. Plus, the principals are deeply secretive, with most members of the racing fraternity unwilling to discuss contracts, salaries, or sponsorship deals.
Racing is a performance business. Only the best, the fastest, and the smartest can survive for long. The historical, decades-long losses sustained by, say, the Cleveland Browns, would never fly in motorsports. Whether open-wheel or stock cars, the basic rules of capitalism are applied with neither mercy nor sentiment: a team with top-10 overhead can’t finish outside the top 10 and expect prime sponsors and drivers to stick around. The flashy decals will stop arriving and the talent will jump ship. And once that happens, it’s game over.