The Earnhardt Name Remains a NASCAR Merchandise Goldmine
Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. remain two of the most powerful names in NASCAR merchandise. It’s been nearly 23 years since Earnhardt Sr. was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500 and six years since Earnhardt Jr. retired from full-time competition. That has done little to curb the sales of Earnhardt-branded merchandise for members of Junior Nation and fans of The Intimidator.
Both Earnhardts landed in the top-15 drivers with the most “trackside” merchandise sales in 2023, per Sports Business Journal. Earnhardt Jr. lands at No. 10 with his late father at No. 12. Put in perspective, Earnhardt Jr. merchandise bested the sales of some of the sport’s current biggest names, including William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman.
NASCAR-branded merchandise led the field, understandably so when you consider that includes race-specific products. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Chase Elliott placed second ahead of teammate Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Ross Chastain, 2023 champion Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano round out the top 10. While these drivers are still at the pinnacle of the sport and in their heydays, they are still only slightly more popular at the trackside shops than an Earnhardt.
Lionel, which has an exclusive license with NASCAR to produce diecast cars, released its best-selling diecasts of 2023 Dec. 19. Unsurprisingly, both Earnhardts were in the top 10.
Earnhardt Jr.’s Bass Pro Shops late model diecast, which he raced at the 2022 South Carolina 400 at Florence Speedway, was No. 9 on the list. A 25th anniversary diecast of Earnhardt Sr.’s 1998 Daytona 500 win placed fifth for most sales. All 1/24-scale versions of the diecast sold out.
The top-selling diecast of the year is even related, in a roundabout way, to an Earnhardt. Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 Busch Beer car, which he raced at the North Wilkesboro All-Star Race, is a throwback to the scheme Harvick ran in his debut season in 2001 following Earnhardt’s death.
This year marks the third straight season an Earnhardt Jr. diecast has been among the best-selling cars of the year. His No. 8 United for America Xfinity Series diecast was the No. 5 best-seller in 2021. His Sun Drop late model car was the fourth best seller of 2022.
This would undoubtedly please the late Earnhardt. He started numerous business ventures during his career, including Sports Image, which sold his branded merchandise. Earnhardt sold the company for $30 million. Sports Image reported about $44 million in sales in 1997 before it was acquired. This was in addition to a myriad of partnerships Earnhardt had with companies like Remington Rifles and Coca-Cola.
Don Hawk, former president of Dale Earnhardt Inc., told NBC Sports Earnhardt had a keen business savvy, particularly for someone with an eight-grade education.
“The minute the helmet was hung up and Monday morning came, it was, ‘How many dollars of souvenirs did we sell?,” Hawk told NBC Sports. “What was our gross profit, revenues and expenses? What did we net?’ And he started doing that with endorsements, sponsorships and spokesmanships.”
And over two decades after his death, the Earnhardt name is still raking in the merchandise revenue.