Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Volunteered to Take a 7-Figure Pay Cut

In the late 2000s, world markets experienced what became known as the Great Recession. Millions lost their jobs based upon the Housing Market collapse and other factors. In order to keep this from happening to those close to him, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. made an unexpected move by offering to take a pay cut.

According to an interview with team owner Rick Hendrick on the Dale Jr. Download podcast on NBCSN, Earnhardt explained that he had made a call and offered to give up $1 million of his salary to keep others employed. The racing team members of Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR were in danger of losing their jobs, but Earnhardt wanted to do what he could to keep them employed.

"I don't remember what was going on in the sport but everybody was a little nervous and I called him one time and told him to take a million dollars off my salary if he needed to," Earnhardt said.

This move caught Hendrick off-guard. He had never gotten an offer like that, and he believed that it said far more about Earnhardt. The racer did add that at the time of the recession he already had more than enough money.

"I was shocked," Hendrick said. "That just shows you the character that he has and his relationship with people."

To his point, Earnhardt retired at the end of the 2017 season as a very wealthy man. According to Forbes, he was walking away from NASCAR with more than $400 million in career earnings. This included a stretch of time from 2008-2015 in which he was the highest-paid driver in the sport. When he joined Hendrick's team, Earnhardt's annual salary topped $30 million. In the grand scheme of things, losing $1 million to keep others employed did not make a massive dent in his bank account.

Interestingly enough, the pair never revealed during the conversation if Hendrick had taken Earnhardt up on his offer to reduce the salary. What they did reveal, however, was that the previous contract negotiations were marked by another odd request from the racer.


As Hendrick was working to bring Earnhardt to the racing team, there was one request made. Earnhardt wanted to change the paint on car's side skirts. These panels that hang near the ground were black, but he wanted them painted red to match the rest of the car.

"I drive the car, I want the dang thing to look good," Earnhardt said. "I never understood drivers that don't care about what their car looks like."