Fans at a race track are there for the thrill of watching cars speed by at seemingly impossible speeds and to catch a glimpse of the new rockstar drivers. While some may complain at the cost of a ticket to attend the race, most don’t give a second thought to how expensive it is to keep a single race team running from week to week.
The short answer: the average NASCAR team spends $400,000 a week. For Formula 1, it can cost as much as $50 million to field a team for a season.
While an F1 car can cost $7 million out of the box and NASCAR’s base price is $100,000, it is the cost of an engine and upkeep that plays a factor on a weekly basis. In NASCAR a car can go through one or more engines in a single event at $100,000 each. Smaller teams try to use the same engine for two or three races. any engines are leased and require paying for an engine specialist.
The other big investment is the driver. Top NASCAR teams will provide a salary to elite drivers combined with a commission based on winnings. Smaller teams forego the salary and simply give the driver 50 percent of his/her winnings. This means that losing drivers on small teams go home with next to nothing while top drivers make as much as $185,00 a week during the season. For F1 drivers, the salary is usually a seasonal figure, with the top drivers pulling contracts worth as much as $13-$15 million.
Payroll for other team members such as mechanics, engineers, pit crew, truck driver, PR team, etc., generally averages $83,000 week. Smaller teams will cut those expenses by having one person do two or even three jobs and having fewer positions for non-driving areas such as PR and finance.
Travel and hotel expenses are part of the financial picture. Whether NASCAR teams have a private plane for transport or fly commercially, the average cost is about $500 a person. Rental cars in each town combined with paying for around ten hotel rooms will vary from city to city but are usually high due to the premium rates charged during race weeks.
While the average car needs about $50,000 a week in parts like axles, suspension, drive shafts, bearing, gears, and even bolts and nuts, tires alone are about $2,000 a set plus disposal fees for all the ones they use up.
Insurance and sanctioning fees can add up, and when combined with money for meals (whether purchased or produced by a team chef) make up another $18,500.