Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon Represent NASCAR on SI.com's Fortunate 50 List

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IJanuary 25, 2010

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 20:  Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (1L), driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2L), driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, Mark Martin (2R), driver of the #5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon (1R), driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, pose during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at Hendrick Motorsports, on January 20, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Two of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers have scored the honor of making SI.com's Fortunate 50 list.

Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon have both been named to the top 50 highest earning athletes list by Sports Illustrated this year.

Dale Jr. was ranked 11th in the list of top athlete earners, holding on to the same spot as last year in spite of the economic downturn. Earnhardt, Jr. earned $4,611,290 in salary and winnings, while bringing in $22 million in endorsements.

Teammate Jeff Gordon was ranked 21st this year, including earnings of $5,944,140 in salary and winnings and $15 million in endorsements. Gordon, however, lost ground in the earnings rankings, falling from the rank of 14th last year to the 21st position this year.

Sports Illustrated has compiled its Fortunate 50 list for the past six years. For the first time in the history of the list, however, the average earnings of those on the list fell to $23.6 million, down an average of $1.5 million per athlete.

SI.com explained the falloff as due primarily to lowered earnings for the top two athletes, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woods, ranked No. 1, and fellow golfer Phil Mickelson, ranked No. 2 in the earnings list, held their positions in spite of the economic downturn, as well as the current drama in the personal and professional life of Woods.

This marks the first time in three years that Woods' earnings have fallen below the $100 million mark. His earnings were primarily impacted by his rehabbing from knee surgery as well as the downturn in corporate backing, primarily the auto industry, that occurred in the 2009 golf season.

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On the flip side, SI.com compared these athletes with those on the International 20 list, where earnings of the non-American athletes hit an all-time high of $29.5 million, actually slightly up from last year. The gains were primarily attributed to increased earnings by athletes in soccer and Formula 1.

The SI.com Fortunate 50 list was based solely on salary, winnings, bonuses, endorsements, and appearance fees. Information was reportedly gathered from players' associations, tour records, agents, and news reports.

This year, the SI.com Fortunate 50 list included 14 major leaguers, nine football players, three golfers, and two NASCAR drivers. The top 25 athletes, including Earnhardt, Jr. and Gordon, are as follows:

1.   Tiger Woods

2.   Phil Mickelson

3.   LeBron James

4.   Alex Rodriguez

5.   Shaquille O'Neal

6.   Kevin Garnett

7.   Kobe Bryant

8.   Allen Iverson

9.   Derek Jeter

10.  Peyton Manning

11.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

12.  Dwyane Wade

13.  Dwight Howard

14.  Mark Teixeira

15.  Tracy McGrady

16.  Tim Duncan

17.  Stephon Marbury

18.  CC Sabathia

19.  Jason Kidd

20.  Jermaine O'Neal

21.  Jeff Gordon

22.  Steve Francis

23.  Vince Carter

24.  Paul Pierce

25.  Carmelo Anthony

For more information about the Sports Illustrated Fortunate 50 list, read more here.