Former NASCAR driver Kyle Larson has asked for permission to reenter the series after being suspended earlier this year for using a racial slur during an online virtual race while the Cup Series was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 28-year-old Japanese-American was overheard saying “you can’t hear me? Hey, n----r,” not realizing he was speaking over the livestream broadcast of the event.
Motorsport.com first reported that Larson had filed for reinstatement this week, but NASCAR said the matter is currently under review and that he remains suspended. Larson was making an estimated $9 to $10 million annually at Chip Ganassi Racing and was expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents for 2021.
Shortly after the April incident, Larson completed sensitivity training and was reinstated to the World of Outlaws sprint car series, in which he owns a team and also competes as a driver, winning several races including last Saturday’s event in Knoxville, Iowa.
“I was just ignorant. And immature. I didn't understand the negativity and hurt that comes with that word,” Larson told the Associated Press this week. “That's not a word that I had ever used. I grew up in Northern California, all I ever did was race and that's all I was focused on. There’s probably a lot of real-life experiences I didn’t get to have and I was just ignorant to how hurtful that word is.”
Larson has hired a personal diversity coach and has quietly been involved in charitable efforts in Minneapolis and St. Louis aimed at underprivileged communities.
“I never really realized how privileged I was in the way I grew up,” Larson said. “I never had to really worry about anything and I guess I was naive. I didn't have a full understanding that there are people struggling with different things on a daily basis. It was very impactful, very moving.”
He also made a visit to the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia, which helps minorities get into auto racing, that he had previously worked with.
“Kyle made it his business to come here to this school and apologize. He didn’t want to do it by telephone. He wanted to do it face-to-face,” Martin told AP.
Several NASCAR stars, including Tony Stewart and Bubba Wallace, have said that Larson deserves a second chance. Wallace is currently considering an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the car vacated by Larson next season.
“I made a mistake and I'm paying for it and I accept that,” Larson said. “NASCAR is where I always wanted to be and I do believe I proved I can compete at the Cup level. I'd like to get back there and we'll see if there's a way. All I can do is continue to improve myself and let my actions show who I truly am.”