Four-time Sprint Cup series champion Jeff Gordon announced on Thursday that he would be retiring from NASCAR's top circuit at the end of the 2015 season. He would end his career after 23 full-time seasons, while his rise as a superstar matched the massive growth in popularity for the overall sport itself. The simplest way to look at it is through the lens of on-track prize winnings.
When Gordon competed in his first race in Atlanta in November 1992, the winner that day took home a relatively measly $93,600. The entire total payout for that race, for ALL drivers combined, was just $641,000.
That pales in comparison to the numbers seen in NASCAR's most recent race, the 2014 season-finale two months ago at Homestead. In that race, the winning car by itself took home nearly $350,000, while the entire field was paid almost $5 million. That's an average growth rate of ten percent per year—better than the stock market's performance during that time.