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Drivers Supplement Their Income With Deals

September 01, 2004|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

Purse money, guaranteed salaries and bonuses represent only part of the income for NASCAR drivers and teams.

Endorsements, personal-service contracts and licensed merchandise sales can more than double a year's earnings.

In 2002, it was estimated that NASCAR-related items -- caps, shirts, jackets, die-cast car replicas, golf balls, wallpaper, video games, even furniture -- sold for more than $2 billion.

"And about half of that went to the No. 8," only half-jokingly said D.J. Kazmierczak, vice president of Camp & Associates, a North Carolina collectibles marketing firm. "Him and his dad are the hottest items around. They drive the market."

That would be Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, and his late father, the seven-time Cup champion who was killed in a racing accident Feb. 18, 2001, during the Daytona 500.

Before Earnhardt Jr. had driven a Winston Cup race, he was given a $50-million personal services contract with Anheuser-Busch to carry Budweiser colors for five years.

All the top drivers, not only in the Nextel Cup but also in the Busch series, have merchandise deals. There is no unified shared pool, such as baseball and football players have. And although NASCAR does not enter into the negotiations, it affixes its logo on the merchandise and gets a percentage of the take, the driver and car owner dividing up the rest.

Die-cast race cars are the most popular. They have become such desired collectibles that some teams often change the color schemes of their cars, providing another item for collectors to buy.

Merchandise sales are so brisk in midseason that hurry-up products hit the market at racetracks. It takes about six months to make a die-cast model and get it on the market, so Kazmierczak's company has introduced a series of coins with likenesses of all the leading drivers.

"We can get a coin on the market in 30 days, so if a popular driver changes teams or changes his uniform, or even his cap, we can get the new look on the market in a hurry," he said.

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