National Sports Briefs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE– In a world of million-dollar motorhomes, private jets and McMansions on nearby Lake Norman, it’s hard to argue NASCAR drivers are underpaid.

But all that wealth can’t hide this fact: No major league takes a more hands-off approach toward its competitors’ future than NASCAR.

“You really have to plan for things you don’t think are going to happen,” said veteran Jeff Burton, who cautions fellow drivers to spend, save and invest conservatively because a career-ending injury could lurk around the next turn.

“You have to paint a worst-case scenario,” he said.

At a time when nearly every other major sport has some sort of pension program for athletes past and present, NASCAR does nothing.

Drivers are beginning to wonder why.

“It doesn’t mean that we need to be paid more in salary,” said Tony Stewart, a two-time Cup champion. “But it’d be nice to see them take care of us after we race, or take care of the ones that came up before.”

In a sport that celebrates rugged individualism and personal responsibility, drivers are on their own to prepare for life after racing.

NASCAR vice president of communications Jim Hunter said that because NASCAR is not structured like other sports, it isn’t fair to make a direct comparison on pension plans.

“We are not like other sports,” Hunter said. “The drivers are not employees of NASCAR. They’re independent contractors.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

GREENSBORO — The ACC will hold its championship game in Jacksonville, Fla., for the third straight season after the league extended its agreement with the city Tuesday.

The extension is for one year only, opening the door for other cities to bid on the game beginning in 2008. Jeff Beaver, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Commission, said that city still wants the game.

* EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti has agreed to a five-year contract extension.

DUNK JUDGES

NEW YORK — Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins lead four former champions who will serve as judges for the slam dunk competition during All-Star weekend. They will be joined by Hall of Famer Julius Erving and two other champs who will play in the All-Star game: Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter.

New York guard Nate Robinson will try to defend his title in the Feb. 17 event in Las Vegas. Orlando

All-Star Dwight Howard, Chicago rookie Tyrus Thomas and Boston’s Gerald Green round out the field.

TENNIS

BOSTON — The last time Pete Sampras played competitive tennis in Boston, his doubles team notched the only victory for the United States in the Davis Cup quarterfinals against Australia in 1999.

The winner of a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles returns in three months for his first tournament since 2002 when he participates in the Outback Champions Series at Boston University from May 2-6. He wants to see how he feels there before committing to any of the other five tournaments in the series for players older than 30.

BASEBALL

* PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks and outfielder Eric Byrnes agreed to a $4,575,000, one-year contract Tuesday, avoiding arbitration.

* CINCINNATI — Right-hander Aaron Harang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $36.5 million, four-year contract Tuesday that made him the Cincinnati Reds’ highest-paid pitcher.

NHL TRADE

NEW YORK — Sean Avery, the NHL’s most-penalized players, was traded to the New York Rangers, sending forward Jason Ward to the Los Angeles Kings.

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