As is the case with in many professional sports, there is really no such thing as “average” in the realm of drag racing salaries. The career itself is anything but average, with drivers competing in commercially sanctioned drag races across the country. A driver's success on the track creates a massive influence on earnings. First-hand examples from professionals help paint a picture of an extremely broad salary range.
In a 2008 “Ebony” magazine article, leading National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) stock drag racer Tom Hammonds estimated the average salary of a successful professional drag racer at about $150,000 per year. Adjusted for 2011 inflation rates, that comes to about $158,000 annually. In 2007, DragList journalist Steve Klemetti collected a sampling over 350 professional drag racers. The majority of pro racers — those with average performance records — reported annual earnings in the $20,000 to $40,000 range.
Earnings reported on DragStrip's 2007 list exhibited a staggering range, starting as low as $250 and reaching as high as $1.08 million. Of the 359 drag racers that reported salaries, 16 percent earned over $100,000, 5 percent earned between $50,000 and $100,000, 6 percent earned between $30,000 and $50,000 and 12 percent earned between $20,000 and $30,000.
Expenses and Considerations
From the February through November racing season, a drag racing team pays around $50,000 for each pit crew member, plus travel expenses, entry fees, maintenance fees and equipment fees, all of which can affect a racer's salary. The salary of a professional drag racer depends not only on his success on the strip, but also on valuable company sponsorships.
Despite the six-figure earnings of some pro drag racers, the big money in the sport lies in the sanctioning bodies, such as the NHRA. Despite nosediving profits, NHRA managers made an average of $140,000 in 2007, or about $153,000 adjusted for 2011 inflation. At the top of the heap, the president of the NHRA made $707,000 that same year. In 2011, that would amount to $772,478.