It’s a little like the star college quarterback, whose dad was also a star college quarterback. Yet father goes on to the NFL and has a Hall of Fame career, while the son, well; he has a great college career. Feel free to also use the names Kyle Petty and Steven Wallace here as well. Sure, there are exceptions. We are seeing that now with Chase Elliot and Ryan Blaney. But they are by far the exception to the rule of stock car greatness being passed on genetically.
But few of the “also ran offspring” come close to the scope and magnitude of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The (14) time winner of the sports “Most Popular Driver” award is doing his very best to prove once and for all that popularity is not predicated on talent.
One does not need to spend a whole lot of time on social media before one of the 3 or 88 faithful begins pounding their chests about his (2) championships as justification for his legacy. Really? They were in the step down league. Sort of like the AAA baseball World Series championship being compared to the MLB World Series Trophy, but I digress. They are also at the front of the line criticizing Kyle Busch for being childish and how Danica would never had made it without her looks. Furthering those points by saying Kyle should lose his sponsors and Danica should lose her ride because she is “over-rated”.
Which brings us to the meat of this. How do we quantify if someone is overrated?
Is it enough to say that since 2005 he has only had (2) seasons with 3 or more wins? That there was a span of 7 years where he only had (2) wins. That he currently makes about 23 million a year and has a driver rating of 73.88. Wait, that’s it! The NASCAR driver rating system. I have my answer!
Forbes Magazine was kind enough to post the 2014 top 10 driver salaries for NASCAR. There is another source that I used to correlate to the 2016 salaries here. After all, I would not want to go off all half-cocked when Millions of dollars are in questions. Both sources are very close to one another so I am going to assume they did their homework. The only question is that I cannot say for certain what these numbers include. In other words, are they simply the contract amount with the teams, or do they include endorsement deals. No way of knowing those details, but what I do know, is that the posted salaries, Loop Data and Driver Ratings are a very level playing field to compare apples to apples among those 10 drivers. So using my razor sharp intellect, and engineering degree, I set out to quantify overrated.
In a nut shell, I took the listed salary for 2016, double checked against the Forbes Salary, and then divided by that year’s driver rating. Now, in the case of “e”, I used his stats from 2015 because last year was not a complete year. I also broke it down by dividing their salary by the number of wins. Both of those statistics are visible on the chart below which is sorted by the $/DR stat, highest to lowest.
$242,018.54 per driver rating point. And assuming his salary is consistent for this season, with a current driver rating of 73.88, that number is about $320,000.00 per point. And throw in the cost of a couple of engines and transmissions. By way of comparison, Brad Keselowski, a true Cup Champion, comes in at less than half that amount with $116,044 and Kurt Busch, also a Champion, at $101,580. The only drivers even close to JR are the much maligned Danica Patrick and seven-time Cup Champion Jimmy Johnson. I think we can probably agree to leave Jimmy out of this. You agree? Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Harvick and Keselowski. All champs and all making less than JR (and Danica). Most making less than Kahne, McMurray and Hamlin as well. What the heck?
The beauty of our sport is that we can cheer for who we want to and for the reason we want to. But what gets really old is the idea that JR is some sort of great talent and having to hear about it ad nauseam from his JR Nation. Sure, be proud of your driver, buy all the sleeveless shirts and cozies you want, but for the sake of the religious symbol of your choosing, it is almost embarrassing to cling to (2) Xfinity Championships and the ghosts of days gone by. Oh, and the year he passed the pace car to win at Michigan, that was cheating. If Kyle Busch had done that, holy heck, Bud cans would still be raining on the track.
He can be water cooler Dale. That’s fine, but he like Kasey Kahne, have failed to produce with what is arguably the greatest team in NASCAR, and this false sense of him being one of the greats has to stop. Stop with the free pass. Be glad he brought millions to the sport, it may have died without him. Be glad that he is again healthy. Be glad that he, like Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip, will move on to the broadcast booth and have a good life. But please, stop with arguing Danica should lose her ride because she is overrated and stop worrying about the interviews Kyle does not do after finishing second place. (BTW.. where was your driver when Kyle finished second?). It is time to get real and be honest. He is a nice guy who drives racecars. And that is ok.
You can not like my opinion. But in reality, it is more than that. It is dollars and a NASCAR rating system. I did not make it up, I simply rolled the numbers for you to look at. If you have some other way of looking at this, using data and not feelings, let’s see it. Go ahead, change my mind