Daytona 500: Kyle Larson Sounds Off After Top-10 Finish in NASCAR Return

by Josh Lanier

Kyle Larson didn’t show any signs that he’d slowed down Sunday when he made his NASCAR return at the Daytona 500. The Hendrick Motorsport driver finished 10th in his first race since April.

Larson’s return after nearly a year in exile after being caught using a racial slur was one of the biggest storylines before the season. And even though he hasn’t raced in 10 months, he performed well. Despite spinning out on the last lap, he still finished in the top 10. Though he was on pace to finish higher.

“All-in-all a good day. I thought we were in an OK spot there at the end to get a top-five, if not, maybe a win if things worked out down the backstretch and through three and four,” he said, according to NBC Sports. “They all kind of started crashing in front of me. I almost made it through; I think I barely clipped (Brad Keselowski) and then kind of slid all the way through three and four. Thought I might save it, couldn’t save it and started spinning. Lost some spots, but it was still a top-10.

“… We finished top-10 in the Duel; got some points there. We were top-10 in both stages, so not a bad day for us. Would have liked to have been a little bit better, but anytime you can see the checkered flag, somewhat, at Daytona is always a good day. We’ll come back here next week and have some fun on the Road Course.”

Michael McDowell won the race — his first Cup Series victory. Keselowski and Joey Logano crashed on the final lap while jockeying for the lead. McDowell edged out defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott going into the final turn when officials raised the yellow flag.

Kyle Larson Addresses Suspension Ahead of Daytona 500

NASCAR suspended Kyle Larson indefinitely without pay in April of 2020 after he used a racial slur during a virtual race. He reportedly did not realize his audio was streaming on Twitch for thousands of viewers to hear, according to TMZ Sports. Several sponsors dropped him and Chip Ganassi Racing fired him from their team.

NASCAR reinstated him in October, and Hendrick picked him up. Last month, he announced that NationsGuard is sponsoring him.

In an interview with Emmanuel Acho on NASCAR RaceDay, Larson addressed his suspension and its cause.

“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,” Larson said. “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.”

Larson apologized and said he can only move forward from the incident. Though he said he’s changed, and he promised fans to prove it.

“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.”