Race car driving used to be the preserve of the upper classes, at least in the United Kingdom. In the U.S., NASCAR driving has always been more accessible, and drivers have come from all backgrounds. With racers like Lewis Hamilton, F1 became more popular and has entered the mainstream. And with F1 being held all over the world now, motorcar racing as a sport has also held the imagination of the general public.
11. Danica Patrick
Net Worth: $60 million
Danica Sue Patrick dropped out of high school to go to the United Kingdom to pursue her career in karting, where she competed in Formula Vauxhall and Formula Ford before going back to the United States.
She first drove in the Indycar series with Rahal Letterman Racing in 2005 and took three pole positions for her rookie season. She was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series. She improved over the next two years with Rahal Letterman Racing in 2006 and later Andretti Green Racing in 2007. From there, she continued to improve and in the Indianapolis 500, she finished her career-high to secure the third position, which was also the best performance for any woman driver.
Patrick began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2010. In the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011, she finished fourth, her best performance in NASCAR racing. She placed a career-high tenth in the 2012 season standings and was the second woman to clinch a pole position in the Nationwide Series after Shawna Robinson in 1994. Patrick started in the Sprint Cup Series (now NASCAR Cup Series) in 2012. She became the first woman to win a Cup Series pole position by setting the fastest qualifying lap for the 2013 Daytona 500, finishing in eighth position.
She retired officially after competing at the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indianapolis 500.
Off-track, Patrick has appeared in numerous TV shows and even made her acting debut in 2010 in an episode of a CSI” NY where she played a race car driver suspected of murder. In 2018, she was the first woman to host the ESPY Awards, and in 2019, she started a weekly podcast called Pretty Intense where she discusses success and spirituality with her guests. Patrick has also written a book called Pretty Intense released in 2017, after a documentary about her professional and personal life was aired in the same year.
As of 2021, Patrick is estimated to have a net worth of $60 million. In 2012, the year she retired professionally, her total earning was $12.2 million and she took home some $7.2 million.
10. David Coulthard
Net Worth: $80 million
David Coulthard is former racing driver from Scotland, who after his retirement became a presenter, commentator and journalist for the sports.
Popularly known as ‘DC’, David competed in 15 seasons of Formula One from1994 to 2008. He won 13 Grand Prix victories and 62 podium finishes. At the 2001 championships, he was runner-up, driving for McLaren.
Coulthard began karting at the age of eleven. In 1989, Coulthard made the transition from karting to car racing. He had early successes in the British Formula Ford Championship and the Formula 3000 series before progressing to Formula One championships. He first drove in Formula One with Williams in the 1994 season succeeding the late Ayrton Senna. The next year, he won the Grand Prix for the first time in Portugal, and then for the 1996 season, he drove for McLaren. After winning two races in the 1997 season, he was placed 3rd in the World Drivers’ Championship in the 1998 season.
He won five races throughout 1999 and 2000 before losing the top spot to Michael Schumacher in the Drivers’ Championship to in 2001. He achieved two more victories in 2002 and 2003 before leaving for McLaren at the end of 2004. In 2005, he moved to Red Bull and secured their first podium a year later. Coulthard retired from Formula One racing at the end of 2008.
After retiring from Formula One, Coulthard continued working with Red Bull as a consultant and became a BBC commentator and pundit for their coverage of Formula One. He returned to active motorsports in 2010, joining Mücke Motorsport in DTM, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (German Touring Car Masters) and retired again at the end of 2012.
Coulthard has also participated in the Race of Champions, finishing runner-up in the Drivers’ Cup in 2008, and winning the competition in 2014 and 2018. Since 2016 he has worked as a commentator and analyst for Channel 4.
In 2019 he was elected president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (owner of Silverstone Circuit).
As of 2021, David Coulthard is estimated to have a net worth of $80 million. The year David retired from Formula One racing his earnings from Red Bull was about $6.5 million. Some of his wealth came from the sale of Columbus Hotel in Monaco that he co-owned which went for GBP 30 million.
9. Tony Stewart
Net Worth: $90 million
Anthony Wayne Stewart is a current owner of a NASCAR team and a semi-retired professional stock car racing driver. When he was active, he has been a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, winning titles in 2002, 2005, and 2011. As a team owner, he has won NASCAR Cup titles in 2011 with himself and in 2014 with Kevin Harvick as drivers. In the 2014 Championship, he drove No. 14 sprint car in which he suffered a broken leg before in 2013.
Throughout his racing career, Stewart has won racing titles in Indy, midget, sprint, and USAC Silver Crown cars. He is the only driver in history to win a championship in both IndyCar and NASCAR.
Stewart’s last race was in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (now known as the NASCAR Cup Series) during the 2016 season, driving the No. 14 Chevrolet SS for his own team, Stewart-Haas Racing, under crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. From 1999 to 2008, he drove the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car, under crew chief Greg Zipadelli with The Home Depot as the primary sponsor. While driving for car owner Joe Gibbs, Stewart won two Cup Series championships in 2002 and 2005.
On May 22, 2019, Stewart was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Stewart has also worked in television, notably, as a guest analyst for Turner Sports on one NASCAR Busch Series race per year, making the distinction of a current driver doing commentary for a race. He has also appeared in various commercials, like, for Subway and also for Toyota. In the movie industry, Stewart appeared along with other NASCAR drivers in the 2005 film Herbie: Fully Loaded.
As of 2021, Tony Stewart, nicknamed Smoke, is thought to have a personal wealth of some $90 million. He reportedly made about $130 million from his racing career.
8. Jenson Button
Net Worth: $150 million
Jenson Button started karting at only 8 years of age. As with all British racers who progressed to Formula One, he raced at the British Formula Ford Championship and the British Formula 3 Championship before going on to the Grand Prix. Button won his first Grand Prix in Hungary in 2006.
In the 2009 season, Button drove for Brawn GP, which was the restructured Honda with which he drove under BAR from 2003 to 2005. BAR was a Formula One constructor that competed in the sport from 1999 to 2005. It became Honda in 2005.
In the 2010 season, Button moved to McLaren where he partnered Lewis Hamilton. In the 2011 season, Button finished as runner-up. Since then Button had not had any victories with McLaren. His final F1 race was the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix where he took second place jointly with Michael Schumacher in the list of all-time F1 starts. From the 306 races that Button started, he won 15 and took 50 podium finishes.
Jenson Button is thought to have a net worth of $150 million as of 2021. In August of 2020, Button was reportedly selling his property at in LA for a posted price of $10 million. This is not the first time Button has bought and sold properties, having sold another property in Brentwood California for $6.2 million previously. Jenson Button is currently driving a Honda for Team Kunimitsu.
7. Jeff Gordon
Net Worth: $200 million
Widely regarded as one of the most influential drivers in NASCAR history, Jeff Gordon is said to have helped NASCAR racing reach mainstream popularity. In 1998, NASCAR named Gordon as one its 50 Greatest Drivers list. In 2008 in an article, ESPN’s Terry Blount ranked Gordon 10th in the 25 Greatest Drivers of All-Time. Foxsports.com named him as the fifth-best NASCAR driver of all time. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019. As of 2021, Gordon was considered the highest-paid NASCAR driver ever and the 18th highest-paid athlete of all-time with $515 million in career earnings according to Forbes.
Gordon began professional racing in the Busch Series with Hugh Connerty Racing, and then with Bill Davis Racing. He won three races and began racing full-time in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports in 1993. He is a four-time Cup Series champion, winning the title in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001. He was the youngest driver to win a NASCAR title, being 24 years old by the end of the 1995 season. He also won the Daytona 500 three times in 1997, 1999, and 2005. Gordon has completed three career Grand Slams and has won a total of sixteen Crown Jewel races (three Daytona 500s, four Talladega 500s, three Coca-Cola 600s, and six Southern 500s), both of which are all-time records.
He is third on the all-time Cup wins list with 93 career wins, has the most wins in NASCAR’s modern era (1972–present) and the most wins in one modern-era season, with 13 during the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
His last win for the NASCAR Cup Series was in the 2015 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville, and for the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the 2000 Miami 300 race at Homestead.
As of 2021, Jeff Gordon is thought to have built up a personal wealth of $200 million. During his career, he is estimated to have made $140 million from racing and have throughout his career made a total earnings of some $500 million in rewards and endorsement fees. In 2009, he was reported to have been the first NASCAR driver to make $100 million in career winnings.
6. Fernando Alonso
Net Worth: $240 million
Fernando Alonso Diaz won the F1 World Championship in 2005 and 2006 for the Renault team. He is also a champion of the 2018–19 FIA World Endurance Championship and a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 driving for Toyota. Alonso also won the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona with Wayne Taylor Racing.
Alonso began go-karting at the age of three. He went on to win in local and national championships before going on to car racing at age 17, where he won the Euro Open by Nissan in 1999 and came in fourth at the International Formula 3000 Championship of 2000.
He debuted in Formula One with Minardi in 2001 before joining Renault as a test driver for the 2002 season. In 2003, he was promoted to a race seat and Alonso went on to win two drivers’ championships in 2005 and 2006 from Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher, respectively. After finishing third with McLaren in 2007, he returned to Renault for 2008 and 2009 and won two races in the former year for fifth overall. Alonso started driving for Ferrari from 2010 to 2014, and finished runner-up to Sebastian Vettel three times in tightly contested title duels in 2010 and 2012 and again in 2013. A return to driving for McLaren from 2015 to 2018 produced no success for what was thought to be an uncompetitive car.
Overall Alonso won 32 Formula One races, 22 pole positions, and 1,899 points from 311 starts. He was the first Spanish Formula One driver to win the World Championship and was the youngest one and two-time drivers’ champion at the time of his successes and held the records of youngest pole position sitter and race winner.
Alonso has also competed in the Indycar Series, his last race was with the 2020 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis.
By the time his contract with Renault expires in 2022, Alonso is estimated to have made Euros 33 million. As of 2021, Fernando Alonso is estimated to have a net worth of about $240 million.
5. Richard Childress
Net Worth: $250 million
Richard Childress is a veteran NASCAR driver who is currently an owner of Richard Childress Racing.
Childress’ career in NASCAR’s top leagues was fortuitous when a drivers’ strike at Talladega Superspeedway resulted in NASCAR President William France Sr. looking for replacement drivers. Childress started his first race as a replacement. By 1971, Childress began racing on the top level as an independent driver, using the number 96. He changed to number 3 in 1976 as a tribute to Junior Johnson’s past as a driver. Although he never won as a driver, he nonetheless proved to be capable and consistent behind the wheel registering six top-5 finishes, seventy-six top-10 finishes, and five Top 10 point finishes, with a career-best ranking of fifth in 1975. He did, however, win the unofficial invitational Metrolina 200 in 1974.
After he retired in 1981, Childress hired Dale Earnhardt and put him behind his No. 3 car. After that Ricky Rudd was hired and gave Childress his first career victor in 1983 at Riverside. Earnhadt returned in 1984 and together with Childress they won the championships in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994. In the mid-1990s, Childress began expanding his racing empire, fielding entries in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. The team won the 1995 Craftsman Truck Series championship with driver Mike Skinner in the series’ first season. Childress then expanded to a two-car operation in what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, with driver Skinner driving the No. 31. In the first part of the 2000s, he expanded to three cars, with the No. 30 car driven by Jeff Green. Thereafter, as they say, the rest is history. Richard Childress Race (RCR) became the first team in NASCAR history to win all three of NASCAR’s national championship series. RCR also won the Busch Grand National Series Owner’s Championships in 2003 with Kevin Harvick and Johnny Sauter and in 2007 with Scott Wimmer and Jeff Burton. RCR won the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship, both with Childress’ grandson Austin Dillon driving the No. 3.
RCR made Richard Childress very rich indeed. As of 2021, Childress is estimated to be worth $250 million.
4. Lewis Hamilton
Net Worth: $285 million
Currently recognized as the greatest F1 driver of all time, Lewis Hamilton is a six-time F1 World Champion. He won his first World Drivers’ Championship with McLaren in 2008, drove for Mercedes in 2013 and won a further five titles. Hamilton’s six World Championship titles are the second-most of all time (one less than Michael Schumacher), while he holds the outright records for the most wins (93), pole positions (97), podium finishes (162), points finishes (226), career points (3713) and points in a season (413).
Although Hamilton has achieved all that he has in the world of F1 motorsport, Hamilton has been the subject of racist abuse by spectators, In 2008 at the Circuit de Catalunya, several Spanish spectators wore black paint and black wigs with t-shirts saying they were part of Hamilton’s family, Other media outlets have also been criticized for their sometimes racist undertones when reporting about Hamilton.
Following George Floyd’s death in May 2020, Hamilton blasted individuals in F1 for their silence, and following his comments on Instagram, several drivers released statements supporting Black Lives Matter.
Over the course of his career up till now, Hamilton has banked in about $500 million in career earnings, even surpassing Michael Schumacher.
Forbes estimated him to be making over $54 million as of May 2020, including $12 million from endorsements alone. As of 2021, Lewis Hamilton is estimated to have a net worth of $285 million.
3. Kimi Raikkonen
Net Worth: $300 million
Known for his reluctance for publicity, Kimi Räikkönen has won 21 Grands Prix, making him the most successful Finnish driver in terms of Formula One race wins, and is the only driver to win in the V10, V8 and the V6 turbo hybrid engine eras. After nine seasons racing in Formula One he left the sport to compete in the World Rally Championship in 2010 and 2011.
He returned to Formula One from 2012 onward driving for Lotus in 2012 and 2013, scoring the team’s only victories. In 2013, Kimi signed with Ferrari for two years and which was extended until the end of the 2018 season.
His first ever F1 win was at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix, and as at 2020, his overall position as an F1 driver was 16th.
For the 2020 season, Räikkönen remained at the Alfa Romeo Racing team but the team’s Ferrari-powered car proved to be one of the slowest cars at the start of the season. Still, at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix, Räikkönen broke the record for most starts in Formula One.
Kimi Räikkönen is reported to have a basic salary in 2020 of some $8.5 million and will make in endorsement fees another $1.5 million. As of 2021, his net worth is estimated to be $300 million.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Net Worth: $400 million
Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired from professional NASCAR racer and is currently an analyst for NASCAR on NBC, although he does compete part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving his No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro for his team JR Motorsports.
Racing is in his blood for he is the son of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He is also the grandson of NASCAR driver Ralph Earnhardt, the brother of Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, the half-brother of former driver Kerry Earnhardt, the uncle of driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, and the stepson of Teresa Earnhardt.
After driving the No. 8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI), his father’s team in the NASCAR Cup Series, for much of his early Cup career, he moved to Hendrick Motorsports to drive the No. 88 in 2008. He remained with HMS until his retirement as a full-time driver in 2017. Earnhardt retired with 26 wins in the Cup Series, a total that ranks him tied for 30th place in NASCAR history with Fred Lorenzen as of June 2020.
Throughout his career, Earnhardt Jr. was the 1998, 1999 Busch Series Champion, the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500 Winner, the 2000 Winston winner, the 2003, 2008 Budweiser Shootout Winner, the 2003, 2004, 2008, 2015, 2016 Can-Am Duel Winner, achieved 4 straight wins at Talladega Superspeedway from the fall of 2001 to Spring of 2003, and was a 5 time NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion as owner for 2004, 2005, 2014 2017 and 2018.
All of this has made him enormously wealthy. He was the highest-paid NASCAR driver back in 2017 earning $214 million and together with endorsement deals and pay as a broadcaster for NBC, he is thought to have a personal fortune of $400, as of 2021.
1. Michael Schumacher
Net Worth: $600 million
Michael Schumacher is still recovering from his 2013 skiing accident which left him with brain damage. In June of 2020, he is reportedly undergoing stem cell therapy, although this report is unconfirmed. After six years of being bed-ridden, Schumacher suffers, of course, from muscle atrophy and osteoporosis.
Schumacher during his active years even pipped Lewis Hamilton to have won the F1 Championship seven times, one more than Hamilton.
In total, he has had 91 wins, 155 podiums, 68 pole positions, and a career points of 1566. He has driven for Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, and Mercedes, when he had to retire.
With his earnings from racing and endorsement fees, and other ventures, Schumacher is estimated to have, as of 2021, a net worth of $600 million, although we are unable to assess what his accident has done in terms of depleting his wealth.
Schumacher and his younger brother, Ralf, are the only siblings to win races in Formula One, and they were the first brothers to finish first and second in the same race, a feat they repeated in four subsequent races.