during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 19, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A big NASCAR name wants drivers to be paid more -- a lot more


Denny Hamlin is in the process of competing for a championship, but he still has something else on his mind: money.

Hamlin was at a charity event on Wednesday morning for FedEx's International Walk to School Day, and he discussed how he believes that NASCAR's revenue distribution model should be shifted where drivers are compensated more.

The current model, which began in 2001, is set up to where tracks receive 65 percent of the rights fees revenue, teams get 25 percent and NASCAR gets 10 percent. NASCAR has a 10-year deal with NBC and Fox that's worth an estimated $8 billion, and the sport is in year 3 of the deal.

Racing teams, such as Joe Gibbs Racing where Hamlin competes, have a budget that's more than $100 million. Hamlin believes driver salaries should be higher since the TV deal is worth so much.

"The pie has to be shifted for sure," Hamlin said. "The TV dollars coming into NASCAR is higher than it's ever been, but we're seeing fewer and fewer teams, and it just can't survive. So it economically doesn't make sense. The pie, the amount of TV money that the race teams share, has to go up, in my opinion."

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Hamlin even said he believes NASCAR drivers are underpaid when asked if decreasing driver salaries can help address financial issues with each team.

"You've got the wrong guy to ask me on that, because I think we're way underpaid on that as race car drivers," Hamlin said. "That's a fact. I think there's no doubt doing what we do, the schedule we have, the danger we incur every single week, NASCAR drivers should be making NBA, NFL money.

"I really, truly believe that. But it can not come out of the owners' pockets."

One solution would be a redistribution where tracks receive less of the money and teams are paid more. He said if tracks are going to continue to make that much money, they need to improve conditions at each tracks to accommodate both drivers and fans.

Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both think the younger generation of drivers will make less than they did based on how the financial distribution is trending.

It's hard to imagine NASCAR drivers ever making as much as NBA or NFL players, but it will be interesting to see how NASCAR and track officials respond to Hamlin's comments.

(h/t NBC Sports)