Highest-paid driver tops $32 million

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Jeff Gordon continued to be the highest-paid driver in NASCAR last year, according to Forbes magazine, barely beating new Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr .

Gordon reportedly earned $32 million -- $15 million in salary and race winnings; $17 million in endorsements and royalties -- to beat Earnhardt's $31 million.

Jimmie Johnson was ranked third at $23 million, followed by Tony Stewart at $19 million and Kasey Kahne at $14 million.

The magazine also ranked teams by their worth. As expected, Hendrick Motorsports, which fields cars for Gordon, Earnhardt, Johnson and Casey Mears , topped the list at $335 million.

Roush Fenway Racing, which has Greg Biffle , Carl Edwards , Matt Kenseth , Jamie McMurray and David Ragan in its fold, was second at $313 million, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing at $184 million, Gillett Evernham Motorsports at $150 million and Richard Childress Racing at $130 million.

SHUT UP AND DRIVE: Stewart didn't complain about the racing last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, but his displeasure was apparent during his post-race remarks.

Despite finishing fifth, he wasn't happy that race winner Earnhardt Jr. was allowed to speed past the pace car during a late-race caution to build up momentum, then coast with the engine off to save gas. NASCAR prohibits passing the pace car and mandates everyone run a constant speed during a caution period.

But after Friday's meeting with NASCAR president Mike Helton , Stewart wasn't sure if he was allowed to say anything.

"I don't know what we're allowed to say or not," he said. "I'm just thankful we're allowed to be here. It's just a privilege for us to be here, and according to Friday, we've all got it a lot better than a lot of us think.

"We're not supposed to have opinions now. We've all got it made here. We've all got it great. At least that is what we've been told."

NASCAR held a closed-door meeting with drivers and car owners to tell them to tone down their complaints about the new Car of Tomorrow -- and the lack of competitive racing that comes with it.

PIT STOPS: Stewart's share of Sunday's purse was about $54,795 and all of it went to the American Red Cross's flood relief effort near his hometown of Columbus, Ind. ... It's official: NASCAR chairman Brian France said last Saturday the Kentucky Speedway won't get a Sprint Cup Series racing date next year ... Clint Bowyer , David Ragan , David Reutimann , Marcos Ambrose and Carl Edwards will do double-duty this week -- each racing Saturday night in the Nationwide Series at Milwaukee and Sunday at Sonoma, Calif., in Sprint Cup.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com


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