Earnhardt leads NASCAR drivers on Forbes World’s 100 highest paid athletes

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/TheDarkKnightRises/National Guard/ Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew chief Steve Letarte in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on June 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers made the list of Forbes World’s 100 highest paid athletes. NASCAR’s most popular driver for nearly a decade, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who broke a 143 race winless streak last Sunday at Michigan, comes in 23rd on the list with total earnings last year on $28.2 million.

According to Forbes, $13.2 million came from salary and winnings and $15 million came from endorsements. The total is down slightly from the $29 million Forbes said Earnhardt earned in 2010 and the $30 million he earned in 2009. In 2008, the year Earnhardt began with Hendrick Motorsports, he earned $35 million.

Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon isn’t even close to Earnhardt; Gordon is 42nd on the list with earnings last year of $23.6 million. A third member of the Hendrick stable, five time champion Jimmie Johnson, came in 53rd with 2011 earnings of $21.5 million. MORE>>>

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