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Instead of taking blame, France blames Earnhardt

Brian France and Mike Helton refuse to take blame for NASCAR's downfall

So, after much tap dancing and tango, and after much soft shoe and spin, NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France admitted that, yes, the sport's TV ratings are down. But there's a real good reason: Dale Jr. had a bad year.

Talk about putting the weight and the burden for carrying the sport on one guy among 43 who race for their daily bread 38 weekends a year, and ignoring the obvious — which we'll get to in a moment.

Here's what Sir Brian, speaking to a Reuters media forum in New York on Thursday, had to say about Dale Jr. and the roughly 13 percent fall in ratings: "It would have helped if he (Dale Jr.) would have been competitive. He didn't win an event, and he certainly didn't make our playoffs. And that's unhelpful if you're trying to build ratings."

So there you have it, and Junior, if there were any doubts about your standing in the sport, the boss dispelled them, but at the same time sent a message that should resound from sea to shining sea: Get on the stick, son.

The sport depends on you.

Never mind that Jimmie Johnson won consecutive championships for the first time since Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in 1997-98, and Johnson won 10 races, including four straight down the stretch of the playoff to reduce Gordon's remarkable year to dust.

Obviously, it's all about the Earnhardts.

After giving Johnson his props — "Jimmie's in the early stages of what may be a dynasty," France said. "He's back-to-back champion in the stiffest of competition" — France just as quickly yanked the rug out from under the Hendrick Motorsports ace:

"But has he gotten to the status of Dale Earnhardt Sr.?" France asked. "Of course not. It takes a long time, and your personality has to come out there, too." News-Press

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