Ratings are down for NASCAR, attendance has plummeted, and the sport's most-popular driver is retiring at the end of the year. Even with all of this bad news piling up, NASCAR's Chairman and CEO Brian France says fans have nothing to worry about, but some racing analysts aren't buying what France is selling.
Every week during the racing season on ESPN.com, four of the network's analysts share their opinions on various topics regarding the sport. This week, one of the questions focused on the current health of NASCAR and whether they agreed with France's opinion that there's nothing for fans to worry about.
While ESPN analyst Ricky Craven gave a safe answer, basically saying that he hopes France is right. Others analysts were a bit more blunt.
"Sure, I'm concerned as long as I keep looking at the empty seats, TV ratings and mainstream exposure/acceptance of what's going on. Having the head of NASCAR tell you he'll continue to make good decisions doesn't exactly inspire confidence," said Matt Willis, who works for ESPN Stats & Information. "If my quarterback has thrown three interceptions, but tells me not to worry because he'll keep making good throws, I'm not exactly buying it. Instead, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for NASCAR czar (or NASCZAR). Running on a party ticket of weeknight races, shorter seasons and, sure, why not, Figure 8 Racing?!?"
Sure, the last part was silly, but he does have a point about the empty seats. That's because NASCAR has experienced a 53% drop in admissions revenue over the last nine years, according to ESPN.
Bob Pockrass of ESPN.com took the sarcasm to another level with his answer.
"I'm going to go through my daughter's library of children's books to see if I can find a copy of "The Emperor's New Clothes," he said.
If you're unfamiliar with "The Emperor's New Clothes," it's a short tale about a vain king who is tricked by two con artists into buying invisible clothes. The men tell the king the clothing is invisible to people who are unfit for their jobs or otherwise incompetent. While nobody sees any clothing, they won't admit to it at of fear of someone calling them incompetent, so they all play along until a child points out that the king is walking around without any clothes on.
Video: Brian France says fans should not be worried about NASCAR's future