Daytona 500: Kyle Larson Speaks Out on Suspension Ahead of NASCAR Return

by Charles Craighill

In the past 20 months, NASCAR has experienced some of the biggest strides towards racial justice the sport has ever seen. With Bubba Wallace leading the charge, many drivers and teams have made their voices heard. This started around the George Floyd protests when many professional athletes began using their platforms for protest. While this has done incredible things for the sport, it has also brought reckoning to some racers.

This includes Kyle Larson, who NASCAR suspended after he used a racial slur while playing a live video game. After the incident, he was immediately dropped by his racing team and quickly lost all of his sponsors. This happened back in April of 2020, but NASCAR reinstated Larson just ahead of the Daytona 500 race today.

Several other incidents regarding racism in NASCAR occurred over the course of the last racing season. For instance, Bubba Wallace brought to light the allowance of the Confederate Flag at NASCAR races. He then helped remove that allowance. Later in the season, another incident arose where Wallace found a noose hanging from his garage. However, this incident was determined not a hate crime.

Kyle Larson Speaks Out About NASCAR Reinstatement

Ahead of the huge NASCAR Daytona 500 race, Kyle Larson spoke out about the fateful incident. In an interview with Emmanuel Acho on NASCAR RaceDay, Larson addressed those events and their consequences. Not only did he give his apology, but he recognized what it meant for the sport overall.

“I would say that I didn’t realize when heard by a black person took them back to those thoughts of slavery and injustice. I didn’t really open my eyes to that,” Kyle Larson said on NASCAR RaceDay. “And I am definitely sorry for saying that word. Maybe being around a small group and allowing that word… I knew better than to say something like that.”

He also addressed the question of apology in this interview on NASCAR RaceDay. As Morgan Wallen discussed earlier this week in his statement, there is a difference between being sorry for saying the word and being sorry for getting caught. Wallen found himself in a similar situation earlier this year. Kyle Larson shared some similar sentiments.

“I’ve never once felt that everything happened to me or anything that’s happened to me shouldn’t have been done.”

“In a way, yes,” Larson said. “I think you can be sorry you got caught but I let down so many people and a race of people it makes me feel terrible. I’m not the type of person to want to hurt anyone… I want it to be real and want to be a better role model for others.”

Kyle Larson on the Direction of the Sport

Given the direction NASCAR has taken this past year, Larson feels that he certainly does have the opportunity to become a better role model. In the interview, he spoke about what role racism plays in the sport.

“Not at all in NASCAR,” Larson said. “I think racing, in general, has had that reputation but I don’t believe that to be true. In the last ten months, we’ve seen a lot of change in the right direction and I want to be a part of that.”