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Postcard from Las Vegas: Where’s all the money going?

Lights Go Off In Las Vegas For 2011 Earth Hour

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 26: A view of the Las Vegas Strip seen before Earth Hour from the House of Blues Foundation Room inside the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino March 26, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hotel-casinos in Las Vegas turned off marquees and non-essential exterior lighting to participate in Earth Hour, a global initiative by the World Wildlife Fund to focus attention on the threat of climate change. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Money was on my mind en route to Las Vegas for NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion’s Week.

It wasn’t my money I was thinking about - I don’t feel the need to contribute to Vegas’ extravagance - but it was of NASCAR competitors.

While NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs and others are well paid compared to many people, drivers, you might say, are underpaid.

This week the Boston Red Sox signed David Price to a seven-year, $217-million contract. That’s more than $30 million a year for a Major League Baseball pitcher - someone who plays only once every fifth game.

Consider that the highest paid NASCAR driver in 2014, according to Forbes, was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Forbes estimated his salary, winnings and endorsements at $23.8 million, ranking 55th on a list of the 100 highest paid athletes.

Jimmie Johnson was the only other Sprint Cup driver on the Forbes list (No. 61) at an estimated $22.5 million. The list featured eight NBA players and five NFL players with estimated earnings of $25 million or more in 2014.

A question often raised is if NASCAR drivers are underpaid because they face the threat of serious injury or death every time they compete.

Admittedly, if that was the case, bullfighters and downhill skiers would be among the richest athletes, along with drivers.

Instead, expect to see more headlines of $200 million contracts in Major League Baseball and eye-popping totals in other sports. Such deals are as gaudy as the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

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