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11/20 2018

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and other NASCAR stars reveal what they did with their first big paycheck

Sarah Berger | @sarahelizberger

Like many sports professionals, NASCAR drivers can make millions in prize money, salaries and endorsements. In fact, the organization’s 12 top-earning drivers made a collective $155 million in 2017, Forbes reports.

Here, NASCAR stars Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. reveal how they spent their first big paychecks to CNBC Make It.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana

Getty Images

Kyle Busch on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana

Kyle Busch is razor close to his 200th NASCAR win. With all that success comes a lot of money: Forbes names Busch as the third-highest paid NASCAR driver in 2018, pegging his total earnings at $14.7 million ($13.1 million from salary and winnings and $1.6 million from endorsements and licensing).

However, it wasn’t always that way.

“My first big paycheck wasn’t all that big,” Busch, 33, tellsCNBC Make It.

Busch felt like he had really made it when he was making around $65,000 to $75,000 driving a race car, he recalls.

“I had to go out and buy a truck. I needed to be able to get around town,” Busch, who’s currently on the Joe Gibbs Racing team, says. “So I went out and bought a…five-year-old used vehicle from Papa Joe Hendrick, who was one of my previous bosses.” (Hendrick is the late patriarch of Hendrick Motorsports.)

“Still have that truck today,” he adds. “It’s got some meaning to me, and love to keep that thing for the rest of my life.”

Joey Logano

Joey Logano

Sarah Crabill | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Joey Logano

Joey Logano of Team Penske is the ninth-highest paid NASCAR driver of 2018, according to Forbes, with $10.2 million in earnings ($8.6 million from salary and winnings and $1.6 million from endorsements and licensing).

Yet he’s prudent when it comes to money.

“Knowing me, I’d put [my first big paycheck] straight in the bank,” Logano, 28, tells CNBC Make It. “To me, I think you’ve got to build some kind of nest egg to feel comfortable.

“For a race car driver, you don’t know when this is going to end. I can run into a wall and break my legs, or maybe something worse, and that’s it, you know?”

And Logano points out that it’s not just race car drivers who should plan financially for the unexpected.

“It’s the same for anybody, no matter what your job is,” Logano says. “You can have everything figured out, and life changes you pretty quickly.

“Being appreciative of what you have and making sure you do the right things with your money, especially early in your career, I think really pays the dividend later on.”

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

Sarah Crabill | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing has a number of wins under his belt, and Forbes names him as the fifth highest-paid NASCAR driver of 2018, with a reported $13.8 million in earnings ($11.6 million from salary and winnings and $2.2 million in endorsements and licensing).

But before he was getting paid to drive fast cars, Harvick had to share a set of wheels.

“I didn’t have a car until I was like 19,” Harvick, now 42, tells CNBC Make It. “I shared it with my papa and my dad…my dad was a fireman, so he’d go to work, and on his work days, I got to drive the truck.”

By the time he was about 20 or 21, though, Harvick had earned enough money to buy his own truck. That purchase was something he says he will never forget.

“That was the first thing that I really splurged on,” Harvick recalls.

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. and Megyn Kelly on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NBC | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

Martin Truex Jr. and Megyn Kelly on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NASCAR star Martin Truex Jr., 38, was frugal with his early earnings.

“I can remember when I was younger, I would get paychecks and I would kind of like let them stack up in my drawer,” Truex tells CNBC Make It. “I was so proud of them, I didn’t even want to cash them or put them in the bank.”

While he was a super-saver, he admits now that it wasn’t the best strategy.

“My biggest mistake was holding on to them too long, because I was losing out on interest,” Truex says, referring to the money he could have made if he had invested his earnings.

“But aside from that, it’s been pretty smooth ever since.”

Indeed, Forbes reports Truex — who currently races for Furniture Row Racing — as earning $9.9 million, making him the 11th highest-paid NASCAR driver.