For Some Veteran Stars, NASCAR’s Appeal Is Fading

He added: “We go 38 weeks now, with really intense competition. It’s almost nonstop.”

Off the monitor, the preferred drivers, like Johnson, are additionally swamped with commitments to sponsors, the press and social media. The scramble for sponsor cash has develop into nearly as intense because the racing on the monitor; dropping deep-pocketed longtime backers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, DuPont, GoDaddy and Budweiser dented the earnings potential for stars like Stewart, Johnson, Gordon, Patrick and Earnhardt Jr.

For midlevel racers, in Earnhardt’s estimation, the earnings hit has been worse — as much as 90 p.c.

Gordon acknowledged that some drivers would moderately retire than “take a step back” in what they’re paid.

“I assure you, though, there are still guys being paid tens of millions to drive these cars,” Gordon stated. A choose group, to make sure, that may embrace Harvick, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. He added, “Talent still matters.”

But there isn’t any scarcity of up-and-coming abilities hankering to drive for a fraction of the earlier going price.

Johnson stated, “When I started out, I would have driven for free; in fact, I would have paid to have that ride I got.”

Ominously, wrecks are a rising concern — not just for the ruinous financial toll on financially challenged groups, but in addition for the bodily toll on drivers. It’s the period of the multicar crash, the Big One, when NASCAR’s close-quarters racing can lead to chain-reaction melees.

Repeated head accidents induced Earnhardt Jr. to step again after 18 Cup seasons. Patrick estimated she had “more than a dozen concussions” in her crash-plagued profession; diminishing outcomes additionally price her sponsorship. Gordon, who retired at 44, stated worsening again ache helped push him into the Fox Sports broadcast sales space.

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