By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
After being suspended from NASCAR racing since April, one of the top drivers in stock car racing, Kyle Larson, has been reinstated by the sanctioning body and is eligible to compete across all racing series beginning in January 2021.
“NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport,” the sanctioning body said in an official statement. “Kyle Larson has fulfilled the requirements set by NASCAR, and has taken several voluntary measures, to better educate himself so that he can use his platform to help bridge the divide in our country. Larson’s indefinite suspension has been lifted. Under the terms of his reinstatement, he will be cleared to return to all NASCAR racing activities effective January 1, 2021.”
A NASCAR spokesperson said additional reinstatement terms include “several speaking engagements with our weekly series, eSports and dirt-racing communities. He will have to follow-up with RISE through 2023 and serve as a coach/mentor for the Urban Youth Racing School and Rev Racing.”
By reinstating him now, it allows Larson to seek new sponsorships and a possible ride for 2021. It is highly expected that he will drive for Rick Hendrick going forward.
“I’m truly grateful to everyone at NASCAR and appreciative of their process,” Larson stated Monday, after being cleared to resume racing. “The work I’ve done over the last six months has had a major impact on me. I will make the most of this opportunity and look forward to the future.”
Larson was originally suspended by NASCAR on April 13 and fired by his team, Chip Ganassi Racing, the following day for using a racial slur during an iRacing event. He was mandated to complete sensitivity training at NASCAR’s direction, but has taken further actions beyond that according to an interview with CBS This Morning last week and will have continued requirements to fulfill in order to keep his eligibility for next season. Shortly thereafter, he applied for reinstatement.
“I know deep down I’m not a racist,” he told CBS. “I said a racist word and I can fully understand why people would label me a racist.”
The six-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner shared an open letter on his website, KyleLarsonRacing.com. In it, he shared some of his lessons that he’s learned during his sensitivity training.
“I spoke with Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee and toured her community center in St. Louis,” shared Larson on his website. “I’ve had conversations with black athletes like Harold Varner III, racecar drivers like Bubba Wallace, J.R. Todd and Willy T. Ribbs, and corporate executives like Kevin Liles (formerly of Def Jam) and Perry Stuckey (of Eastman). We didn’t just talk about the black experience – we discussed the importance of having empathy and considering the struggles of people who don’t look like me.”
During his suspension with NASCAR, the World of Outlaws series allowed Larson to compete as a driver/owner, given a commitment to complete their sensitivity training within 30 days of his NASCAR suspension. The dirt racing series was on hold during the Coronavirus pandemic, but made it clear that Larson’s race team was not a part of his statements and would not receive any penalty when sanctioned events resumed.
“Given the nature of this infraction and Kyle’s already public apology,” stated the sprint car series back on April 14. “He will be required to complete a sensitivity training course within 30 days of the date of the infraction,” the World of Outlaws wrote in a statement. “Kyle is an important and visible stakeholder in the World of Outlaws community as both driver and team owner.”
During the pandemic, Larson lost many sponsors on top of his suspension and firing from CGR. Two stood by his side, willing to give the talented driver a second chance, and shared their statements through Twitter: Plan B Sales and Finley Farms. Since then, he has gone on to put on some of recent history’s best numbers in dirt with a series-best 12 wins in the World of Outlaws, as well as this Sunday in USAC’s Silver Crown’s Bettenhausen 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. But Larson knows it’s more than just his sponsors and his performance but also his relationships where he needs to regain traction for his career.
“I want (my kids) to know that words do matter,” he said. “Apologizing for your mistakes matters. Accountability matters. Forgiveness matters. Treating others with respect matters. I will not stop listening and learning, but for me now, it’s about action – doing the right things, being a part of the solution and writing a new chapter that my children will be proud to read.”