Larson was removed from the NASCAR Cup Series circuit after using a racial slur during a virtual race in April.
In a statement from Zack Albert of NASCAR.com, series officials have said that Kyle Larson has applied for reinstatement back onto the circuit. Larson has been suspended since April after using a racial slur during an event on the iRacing racing simulator.
While NASCAR drivers ran virtual races during the COVID-19-induced pause in the spring, Larson, attempting to address his spotter, said over his radio “You can’t hear me? Hey, n*****.” He was originally suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and later outright fired by Chip Ganassi Racing, having driven the team’s No. 42 Chevrolet over the last seven seasons.
After apologizing, Larson remained silent on social media for about six months. He later released an essay on his official site earlier this month and spoke about the incident publicly for the first time on Friday in an interview with James Brown on CBS This Morning.
“It’s not my word to use. I need to get it out of my vocabulary, and I have,” Larson said in his interview with Brown, seen above. “I understand (that) people who might not know me, if they might not believe and think that I’m just checking a box. I feel like I’ve definitely grown more in these last six months than I have in the 28 years I’ve been alive.”
Brown always interviews representatives from the Urban Youth Racing School, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that, according to their statement, “provide(s) urban youth with exposure to an educational initiative that will engage them in STEM in a more holistic way by teaching them how to think critically and independently through preparing them to embrace the depths of all academic subjects for obtaining the skills necessary for successful STEM careers”. Larson had been involved with UYRS prior to the iRacing incident.
“This is the Kyle that I know. This is the Kyle who said this. Now, which one is real?” UYRS co-founder Michelle Martin asks. Asked by Brown why she supported Larson, publicly, Martin says “I had the opportunity to meet with Kyle face-to-face after it happened. One of the things in looking in his eyes for the sincerity was ‘are you sorry that you got caught, or are you really sorry that this happened?’. With our very first conversation, post-the-n-word situation, (present) was the fact that he wanted to learn.”
In his letter, Larson said he completed the NASCAR-mandated sensitivity training but sought to “do some work on (his) own”. Larson hired a diversity coach and later volunteered at a memorial for George Floyd, an African-American man who was killed by Minneapolis police brutality. He also mentions conversations with numerous Black athletes, including former fellow NASCAR competitor Bubba Wallace.
Should he be reinstated, several rumors have linked Larson to a ride at Hendrick Motorsports. Former NASCAR Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart expressed interest in bringing Larson into his Stewart-Haas Racing team.
“I feel like itâ€™s time to get Kyle back in the sport,â€ Stewart said in an August interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. â€œI think heâ€™s paid his dues. I think he served his penalty as far as society is concerned. I think itâ€™s time for NASCAR to let the kid have an opportunity to get back to where he belongs and thatâ€™s behind (the wheel) of a stock car.”
As the United States undergoes a period of reckoning in dealing with systemic racism, NASCAR has made changes to help all fans feel more welcome at their venues. In June, the series banned displays of the Confederate flag, labeling that their prescience “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry”.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags