Financially speaking, being a NASCAR start and park driver might not be so bad after all.
We all know that it takes a rocket science degree to completely understand how NASCAR drivers get paid. Factoring in race finishes, prestige of the race, sponsorship, and endorsement deals, there are numerous ways that a driver gets paid.
But one of those factors is not laps run. Whether a driver completes every lap of the scheduled distance or just 10 laps, he will still walk away with a hefty sum.
So, using driver earnings through the first 29 races of the season, I have compiled a list of the top 15 earners, based on how much money they have made for each lap they have run.
And the results would indicate that while winning races may be more glamorous, being a start and park driver not only means less work time, but more money for the little time you are on track.
Note that the following list only contains drivers who currently rank in the top 50 of NASCAR's drivers points standings.
Coming in at No. 15 is Jeff Gordon. The four-time series champion has made $557.42 for each lap he has completed this season.
While Gordon has yet to find victory lane this season, he ranks third in laps run, having completed 8,625 of the 8,643 total laps turned this year. Only Matt Kenseth (8,635) and Jeff Burton (8,632) have finished more laps than Gordon.
While Denny Hamlin has six wins compared to Gordon's zero, each of his laps are only worth pennies more than Gordon's. Hamlin has made $557.84 for each lap he has run this season.
Hamlin is currently tied for the series lead in wins, and ranks third in laps led on the season, but each circuit he has been on track has caused his bank account to grow at a lesser rate than 13 other drivers.
For every lap he has run this season, Mike Bliss has pocketed $605.99. Bliss has competed in only 14 events this season, but he has really made his time on track count.
He has only finished five of the 14 events he has qualified for and been in the cars of five different owners. Though being predominantly a start and park driver, Bliss has taken advantage of his opportunities to run full events. He has posted two top-10 finishes in the five races in which he was running at the finish.
Love him, or hate him, Kyle Busch knows how to make the most of his track time. Busch has amassed $616.99 for each Cup Series lap he has run this season.
While Busch continues to make history in the Nationwide Series, his Cup season has been successful as well. He is currently tied for third in the series with wins, and ranks second in number of laps led this year.
He also ranks fourth in average finish, with a 12.4, which would be even better if not for a recent run-in with David Reutimann.
Kevin Harvick was the runaway point leader before the points reset at the start of the Chase. For his troubles, Harvick has netted $662.93 per lap.
Harvick is tied for third with Kyle Busch with three wins apiece, and he leads the series in average finish at 9.6. Harvick, however, only ranks 13th in laps led, but has been able to make plenty of money consistently running in the top 10.
While Harvick only ranks 11th in laps completed this season, he ranks No. 1 in top 10s, having claimed 19 of them.
Although currently out of a Sprint Cup ride, Max Papis was able to make the most of his time. Papis banked $669.72 for each lap he completed.
Papis spent the first half of his season driving the Germain Racing's No. 13 Geico Toyota. He qualified for 18 of the 23 events he was entered in, and was running at the finish in seven of them.
Papis has shown that if given the proper equipment he has the talent to get the job done. In the Nationwide race in Montreal, driving Kevin Harvick's No. 33 he earned a runner-up finish, and was inches away from the victory.
Jamie McMurray, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 champion, has made $694.71 for each lap he has run this season. Winning the two biggest races of the year does nothing to hurt one's bank account.
Although he missed the Chase, McMurray has had one of the better seasons in recent memory. If you polled the garage and asked each driver which race they would like to win, the popular answers would be the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. And McMurray has won them both this season.
To go along with his two career-defining wins, McMurray also leads the series in poles this year, and has the eighth best average starting position.
Kurt Busch ranks fifth in the series in total earnings this season. That translates to Busch making $699.95 for each lap run this season. Busch's total earnings are inflated by his win in the All-Star race, which, while counting towards the driver's earnings does not count on the lap ticker.
Aside from the All-Star victory, the 2004 Sprint Cup Champion has won two points counting races, to go along with being fifth on the laps lead leaderboard, and is in a four-way tie for second with 16 top-10 finishes.
While the elder Busch brother may not get all the headlines as his younger brother, he currently sits ahead of Kyle in the standings, and has made more money per lap than the younger Busch.
J.J. Yeley has banked $708.72 for each circuit he has completed this season. Spending most of his time driving for Dusty Whitney's underfunded car, with a few races for Tommy Baldwin, Yeley has been predominantly a start-and-park driver.
Yeley has qualified for 12 races this season, and has been forced to park it in nine of those events. In the three races in which he has run to the finish, Yeley has a season-best finish of 19th at Daytona in July.
And while Yeley only sits at No. 46 in drivers points, he is able to make the most of his limited time on the track, as only six drivers make more per lap than he does.
Jimmie Johnson may be well on his way to a record fifth consecutive Sprint Cup Series Championship. And he will be laughing all the way to the bank in doing so. Johnson is making $722.89 per lap in 2010.
Johnson currently ranks first in the point standings, as well as in average starting position. On top of that, Johnson has led the most laps this season, and is tied for the series lead with six victories.
While Johnson trails Jamie McMurray by a mere $30,000 for the overall lead in earnings this season, he trails five other drivers in terms of making the most for his time spent on track.
Dave Blaney has been on the track this season for only 2,214 laps, and he has parlayed that into $799.71, for each trip across the start/finish line.
Blaney spent the first half of the season in a start and park role for Prism Motorsports. After leaving that ride, he has been splitting his time with Front Row Motorsports and Tommy Baldwin Racing. After being asked to start-and-park in 16 of his 17 races with Prism Motorsports, Blaney has had opportunities to compete in his recent endeavours.
In his five starts driving for the other two teams, Blaney has been running at the finish in four of them and scored a season-best finish of 24th driving for Bob Jenkins' Front Row Motorsports.
Landon Cassill has qualified for 10 of 11 races attempted, doing start-and-park for three different teams. For his minimal time on track of 985 laps, Cassill has pocketed $802.00 for each circuit.
Splitting time between the cars owned by James Finch, Kevin Buckler, and Larry Gunselman, Landon Cassill has done the start-and-park gig in nine of his 10 starts.
In the one event he was given the opportunity to finish what he started, Cassill posted a season-best finish of 33rd driving the No. 71. While probably not the way he wanted to start his Cup career, Cassill has made a lucrative living at riding around.
While the highlight of 2010 for Boris Said is his Nationwide Series win in Montreal driving for RAB Racing, it has also been financially profitable for Said on the Cup side.
Said has competed in only six Sprint Cup events this year, and has completed 917 laps amounting to $806.43 per completed lap. Said began the season as the primary driver for Bill Jenkins start up team. He ran only four races before being replaced by David Stremme.
Said returned to drive for Jenkins at Sonoma, and then was tabbed by Red Bull Racing to drive Brian Vickers' 83 car at Watkins Glen. So, while the full-time Cup ride for Said didn't quite materialize, he certainly made his limited time on the track count.
Joe Nemechek, although primarily a start-and-park driver, has seemingly done the most with the least. While Nemechek does not have the funds to run full races, to his credit, he more often than not is able to get his single car operation into the fields.
For his efforts, Nemechek has qualified for 26 out of 29 events, but has only been able to run just 1,764 laps, which has translated to Nemechek making an amazing $1,230.84 per completed lap.
Nemechek has failed to be running at the finish in each of the 26 races that he has qualified for, but for the time he has been able to spend on the track has been well worth it, as his lap value is only surpassed by one driver.
When it comes to making the most money for your time, Michael McDowell reigns supreme. McDowell has only completed 1,135 laps on the season in 21 starts which translates to a staggering $1,575.77 per lap run.
McDowell spent the first two thirds of the season driving for Prism Motorsports, before continuing his start and park duties for Dusty Whitney and his No. 46 car. McDowell has not completed a race this season, yet he has been able to pocket the most cash for his time on the track this season.
Some other notable drivers who did not make the top 15, and what they take home per lap run. The drivers rank is in parenthesis.
Tony Stewart (16) - $544.91 per lap
Carl Edwards (17) - $534.42 per lap
Kasey Kahne (19) - $531.13 per lap
Matt Kenseth (22) - $519.13 per lap
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (30) - $461.74 per lap
Mark Martin (33) - $425.31
And coming in 50th out of 50 is David Stremme, who makes $298.10 per lap run this season.