If you’re a NASCAR fan, watching races on TV, you’ve probably noticed more empty seats than usual–even at traditionally sold out venues like Bristol, Martinsville and Darlington.

It’s no accident. Since 2009, an independent study done by Public Notice with help from Race Fans 4 Freedom says track attendance has dropped below 4 million, and it’s happened in correlation with the unemployment rate skyrocketing. While there has been some slippage in the sport, it was still considered very healthy until around 2008-2009. When the economy began to tank, and the unemployment rates began to climb to record highs, NASCAR attendance and sponsor money dropped.