DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Who wins what amount of money from competing in a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race can seem like a complicated process -- with the most compelling question being how a driver that finishes far back can win more money than a driver that finishes in the top 10?
An example would be the 2002 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson won $49,550 for his sixth place finish, while Jeff Gordon won $90,753 -- the fifth highest payout in the race -- for his 36th place result.
The biggest reason for the money disparity is in the bonus programs that Gordon, as the defending champion and driving for one of the leading winners in the series, Hendrick Motorsports, is eligible for more special award plans than a newer team, such as Johnson's first-year operation, is.
As convoluted as it seems, the process is actually fairly simple and is regulated by the entry blanks that the NASCAR Competition Department issues in advance of each event.
Each race carries a purse figure, or its "posted awards."
The purse is comprised of a number of segments, including the racing purse; television awards; car owner special award plans, including the Winner's Circle Program; and a list of qualifying and special awards that may or may not be paid depending on the eligibility of the driver finishing in the appropriate position.
The racing purse breakdown designates a set amount for positions 1-43 that decreases on a sliding scale. "Television Awards" are also posted for each position, using the same sliding scale from first to 43rd.
NASCAR Nextel Cup team owners may participate in special award plans, such as "Plan 1," which allows for a set figure for each owner. Car owners participating in Plan 1c win money for their finishing position in relation to the other owners in the plan, again on a decreasing scale.
Those owners participating in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Car/Champion Owner Program are also entitled to additional awards, per the regulations of the program.
Among the largest special awards at each race are the NASCAR Nextel Leader Bonus, Time Trial Awards and the Gatorade Front Runner Award.
The Nextel Leader Bonus is a modern day version of "Studebaker money." The money is available to the race winner IF he is also leading the Nextel Cup standings after the event. If the winner is not the point leader, the money -- which accrues at the rate of $10,000 per event -- is not paid.
The Gatorade Front Runner Award, $10,000, goes to the driver that leads the most laps in the race, regardless of finishing position.
Most of the other manufacturers' and special award prizes are contingent on using the products and displaying uniform patches or decals.
At certain events special prizes are awarded to the leader of each lap in the race.
These days, about 75 percent of the posted awards are paid after each event, per the official NASCAR race report. The balance of the posted awards is the "Manufacturer's Point Fund Awards," a prorated share of nearly $15 million in manufacturer and sponsor funds that are distributed at the end of the season.
While a certain portion of each purse is guaranteed to be paid after the event, some of the cash is what formerly was referred to as Studebaker money, placed in the purse simply for appearance sake.
The term refers to money offered on a purse, say "$10,000 to the winner if he is driving a Studebaker." The $10,000 would be reflected in the total posted awards, making them more impressive, but the chance of a Studebaker winning would be miniscule.