Kyle Larson’s name has been popping up across Silly season for a few months now. Could he return to NASCAR? More importantly – has he deserved his chance to clean up his name, and reputation in the NASCAR community?
After penning a personal letter on his website, Larson made his first television interview appearance on CBS This Morning.
For the first time, we're hearing from @NASCAR driver Kyle Larson after he was fired in April for using a racial slur during a virtual racing event.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 16, 2020
“I know deep down, I am not a racist,” Larson told CBS’s James Brown. “I said a racist word, and I can fully understand people would label me as a racist.”
Earlier this year in April, Larson was caught on a open microphone using a racial slur on an iRacing event that ultimately cost him his job as the driver of the No. 42 Camaro for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The 28-year-old gave his reasoning for calling his friend, who is caucasian, “the n word”.
I had raced with him (his iRacing spotter) in Australia and the group that we were with kind of uses the word..casually as greeting,” Larson explained. “I didn’t use it in a way to degrade or insult anyone.”
Brown asked Larson how he expects if the word was used as a greeting, how people are not expected to take some form of offense to it.
“It’s not my word to use,” Larson said. “I need to get it out of my vocabulary and I have.I guess I didn’t think of how it took African-Americans and, probably in their thoughts, took them back to slavery and things like that and injustice and stuff that they had to work so hard to overcome.”
For years, Larson has been involved with the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia – founded my Michelle and Anthony Martin. The organization is designed to connect young people of color to the world of motorsport.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Kyle face-to-face after it happened,” Michelle told CBS This Morning. “One of the things in looking in his eyes for the sincerity was ‘Are you sorry you got caught’ or ‘ Are you really sorry that this happened.'”
Kyle was also a member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity, a development program to attract minority racers including gender, and minority. He is arguably one of the most successful drivers to come out of the program.
Jysir Fish, an 18-year-old, graduate of the Urban Youth Racing School. He looks up to Larson and recently met him over the summer to address the issue.
“For somebody like him to say that, was nothing less than heartbreaking.” Fish said. “For him to speak to me, it gave me more reassurance that I can still look up to him and trust him.”
Brown later pressed on Larson on how people should believe that the 28-year-old is truly a changed man.
“I understand people who might not know me, if they might not believe it or think I’m just checking the box,” he said. “I feel like I’ve definitely grown more over these last six months, than the 28 years I’ve been alive.”
When talking about his future in NASCAR, Brown proposed that if NASCAR prevents him from competing, if it would be a “too steep of a price.”
“I don’t think it would be too steep of a price to pay,” Larson said. “You know, what I said was extremely hurtful, and I would fully understand if I was never allowed to race in another NASCAR race again. But I hope that I will get that opportunity with them. With that platform, I feel like I can do some good things.”
As far as his racing future in NASCAR, Larson has been heavily tied to a potential fourth ride at Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman moving to the No. 48 team in 2021.
In September, Larson visited the Urban Youth Racing School with NASCAR President Steve Phelps as well as Chevrolet Executive Jim Campbell per Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern.
Larson has yet to reapply for reinstatement as of this publishing, and remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR.