NASCAR's Kyle Larson Says He Was 'Ignorant,' 'Immature' for Using N-Word

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2020, file photo, Kyle Larson gets ready to climb into his car to practice for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Kyle Larson used a racial slur on a live stream Sunday. April 12, 2020, during a virtual race — the second driver in a week to draw scrutiny while using the online racing platform to fill time during the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo/Terry Renna, File)
Terry Renna/Associated Press

In April, NASCAR's Kyle Larson called his spotter the N-word to get his attention during an iRacing Series event, believing his mic was muted. It wasn't, and Larson was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR, fired by Chip Ganassi Racing and lost a number of sponsorships.

On Wednesday, he applied for reinstatement, per Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, with NASCAR reviewing that request. He also spoke with Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press about using the racial slur:

"I was just ignorant. And immature. I didn't understand the negativity and hurt that comes with that word. 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."

Tiffani Ashley Bell @tiffani

@jdanton @virtualstatman Exactly. The n-word is not akin to profanity that can be just brushed off. As a Black motorsport fan, it’s great to see NASCAR take that seriously. It is in the same category of behavior that allowed Spaniards to show up in 2008 in blackface to provoke Lewis in F1. Do better.

Phil Spain @philenespanol

The worst part of the Kyle Larson situation is as an African American fan of NASCAR, fans have pretty much been the exact opposite of what happened tonight... I’ve been a fan since ‘97 and been to a bunch of races since ‘04 and never once did I feel out of place.

In April, NASCAR's only Black driver, Bubba Watson, said in a tweet that "what Larson said was wrong, whether in private or public" but added that Larson personally apologized to him and that he believes Larson deserves a second chance:

Bubba Wallace @BubbaWallace


Tony Stewart also said Wednesday he believes NASCAR should reinstate Larson and that he's served his punishment:

Matt Mayer @MatthewMayerCBS

"I think it's time for NASCAR to get off their ass and do the right thing." Tony Stewart says Kyle Larson has paid his penalty and wants to see him back in the Cup Series. https://t.co/uQi0dTgDsm

As for what team might consider Larson moving forward, Richard Petty Motorsports owner Andrew Murstein said the team might consider Larson if Wallace—who has been offered a partial ownership stake in the team as an incentive to remain—leaves this offseason. 

"I would have a heart to heart with Kyle Larson to see if he's worthy of a second chance," Murstein told David Smith of Forbes. "But the hope is that we end up with Bubba."

Larson has completed required sensitivity training as a part of the reinstatement program, worked with a number of foundations—including The Tony Senneh Foundation which works to empower and develop youth in Minneapolis—during his suspension and hired a personal diversity coach as he looks to grow from his use of a racial slur. 

"I just felt like there was more that I needed to do—and I wanted to show through actions that I am a better person than I was before," he added. "The sensitivity training was great but I felt like it was just a starting point to what else I needed to do."