* Hendrick Motorsports most valuable team at $350 mln
* Hendrick stars Earnhardt, Gordon, Johnson top earners
* Forbes sees top drivers' pay continuing to drop in 2010
By Phil Wahba
NEW YORK, March 24 The superstar Hendrick
Motorsports stock car team has held its value in the face of
falling attendance and sponsorship spending that has hurt the
fortunes of NASCAR overall.
The team, which boasts the three top-earning drivers --
Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson -- is once
again ranked as the most valuable in NASCAR, according to an
annual list released on Wednesday by Forbes magazine.
Forbes said Hendrick was worth $350 million, holding steady
from last year, and nearly 50 percent more than runner-up Roush
Fenway Racing, one of the many teams whose value declined.
Last year was difficult for NASCAR, one of the most popular
U.S. sports with an estimated 75 million fans, as corporate
sponsorship cutbacks forced many teams to cut jobs and in some
cases merge to survive.
The average value of a NASCAR team fell to $143 million,
down 10 percent from 2008, according to Forbes.
The business magazine said attendance at NASCAR events fell
17 percent in 2009 from a year earlier.
That drop has hurt race track owners such as International
Speedway Corp (ISCA.O), which have responded by cutting prices
on tickets, concessions and merchandise.
NASCAR has also struggled to keep the attention of
television viewers. The average number of viewers for its top
Sprint Cup racing season slid more than 11 percent to about 7
million last year, according to Nielsen Co.
Still, some drivers fared very well. Earnhardt earned $30
million in 2009, followed by Gordon with $27 million and
Johnson, winner of the Sprint Cup title four years running,
with $23 million.
Even though those three earned paydays to make anyone
envious, the top 10 drivers on average earned 6 percent less in
in 2009 and Forbes said their winnings should fall further this
To see more details on Forbes' ranking, please visit
(Reporting by Phil Wahba; additional reporting by Ben