Kyle Larson reinstated by NASCAR after suspension for using racial slur

In a statement to the Associated Press, Larson said, “The work I’ve done over the past six months has influenced me a lot. I will take this opportunity and look forward to the future. “

With NASCAR and much of the sports world on hold in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, Larson attended an iRacing event that was broadcast live when he said the N-word. The reaction was quick: Larson was suspended the next day and released by Chip Ganassi Racing a day later.

Larson, who is half-Japanese and who advanced his racing career through NASCAR’s diversity program, apologized at the time and then set out to reckon with his new reality. He returned to sprint racing and returned to Philadelphia’s Urban Youth Racing School with a view to making amends, which is helping bring Black and other minorities the world of motorsport. Through previous visits to the school, Larson had made contact with a black student, Jysir Fisher, and even invited Fisher to a NASCAR race last year, which Larson ultimately won.

In an essay that Larson posted on his website this month, he said he had “spoken on difficult subjects for over two hours” with Fisher and the student’s mother, and personally apologized to the duo and the founders of the racing school. Who are black.

“I’ve been thinking a lot since April. I realized how little I really knew about the African American experience in this country and about racism in general, ”wrote Larson in his essay. “I should have educated myself a long time ago because it would have made me a better person – one who didn’t casually throw around a terrible, racist word. The kind that seeks to understand the hatred and oppression it symbolizes and the depth of pain it has caused blacks throughout history and to this day. It was time for me to shut up, listen, and learn. “

On a segment aired on CBS This Morning this week, Fisher said, “As an African American, a lot of people see me as that word, and for someone like him it was nothing short of heartbreaking. And so that he could talk to me, it made me feel more confident that I can still look up to him and trust him. “

Larson’s other efforts included hiring a personal diversity trainer and reaching out to two retired African American athletes, former Olympic star Jackie Joyner-Kersee and former soccer player Tony Sanneh, who run foundations to improve the lives of young people at risk in urban areas.

“I take my job very seriously and made it clear that I wasn’t here for a dog-and-pony show where he shows up and writes a check, and we’re doing a photo op,” Sanneh told Associated Press in August . “But we took 20 pallets of groceries on 100 degree days and sorted them for hours to distribute them to a number of 400 cars. He was very much here to listen, to learn, and it was about growing personally. “

Larson went to Sanneh’s Minneapolis Foundation before the May assassination of George Floyd sparked a massive national response. He returned to visit Floyd’s place of death with former World Cup competitor and two-time MLS cup winner at DC United.

Larson has reportedly been linked to Hendrick Motorsports. One potential problem is that the team has ties to Chevrolet, which Larson dropped in April. However, the company signaled a possible willingness to renew its relationship by saying in a statement Monday, “Chevrolet fully supports NASCAR’s efforts to create an inclusive environment for all racing, fans wholeheartedly. Since Kyle Larson met the criteria for his return to the series, we support NASCAR’s decision. “

A six-time winner of the Cup Series, Larson was viewed by many as a rising star on the racetrack before his suspension. NASCAR said the terms for his reinstatement include awareness training and speaking engagements through 2023, as well as continuing to work with the Urban Youth Racing School and other initiatives to promote diversity.