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Forbes says Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR's highest-paid driver

March 24, 2010 |  3:47 pm

Dale Earnhardt Jr.not only is NASCAR's most popular driver, he's also its highest paid, according to a Forbes magazine estimate released Wednesday.

Earnhardt earned $30 million last year in salary, purses, endorsements and licensing income, while four-time champion Jeff Gordon was second at $27 million and Jimmie Johnson -- who has won the last four consecutive Sprint Cup Series titles -- was third at $23 million, Forbes estimated.

All three drive for Hendrick Motorsports, which not surprisingly was ranked by Forbes as the most valuable team in NASCAR at $350 million. Roush Fenway Racing was a distant second in value at $238 million and Richard Childress Racing third at $153 million.

Earnhardt’s popularity clearly has powered his income via endorsements and licensing, because the son of the late seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt has struggled on the track. The younger Earnhardt, 35, hasn’t won a points-paying Cup race since mid-2008.

--Jim Peltz

Photo: NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. before practice Feb. 20 at the Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images