Amid dirt track domination, Kyle Larson comments on interest for a return to NASCAR following months of racial education
Back in April, Kyle Larson used the n-word while attempting to reach his person spotter on a private audio channel during an online race. Instead, the wrong push of a button sent the audio to the public channel.
Thousands of jaws dropped to the floor as the race was being broadcast live on the internet. Within hours, Larson was trending on twitter. Within days, the 28-year-old was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing and suspended by NASCAR.
Related: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson drops N-word (Video)
Soon after, Larson listed both North Carolina homes. One of which was currently in development. Now, he’s returned to his home state of California.
However, he’s not there very often. Larson has set out on world domination. He’s won well over 30 dirt sprint car events including the $50,000 to win race at Knoxville Raceway last weekend.
The driver has deactivated all of his social media accounts. And he’s done very few interviews since using the racial slur. This week, Larson sat down to discuss and reflect on the life changing event.
Related: NASCAR suspends Kyle Larson following racial slur during iRacing event
Larson comments after using racial slur
“I was just ignorant. And immature. I didn’t understand the negativity and hurt that comes with that word,” Kyle Larson told The Associated Press this week.
“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.”
Part of Larson’s NASCAR penalty was that the driver would need to complete sensitivity training before a possible return. He took the course immediately.
But he didn’t stop there. Larson connected with former soccer star Tony Sanneh who runs a Minneapolis foundation. Larson visited the city, weeks before the death of George Floyd.
“I take my work very seriously and made it clear I was not here for any dog and pony show where he shows up and writes a check and we do a photo op,” Sanneh told AP.
He added, “But we were taking 20 pallets of food on 100 degree days and sorting them for hours to distribute to a line of 400 cars. He was very much here to listen, to learn and this was about him growing personally.”
Weeks after the death of Floyd, Larson returned. Sanneh then took Larson to the site where Floyd was killed while in police custody.
“I never really realized how privileged I was in the way I grew up,” Larson said. “I never had to really worry about anything and I guess I was naive.
He added, I didn’t have a full understanding that there are people struggling with different things on a daily basis. It was very impactful, very moving.”
Related: NASCAR’s only African-American driver comments on Kyle Larson’s n-word usage
What else has Larson been doing?
Sanneh then connected Larson with Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She runs a foundation in East St. Louis.
Larson comes from half Japanese background. He climbed the ranks through the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program. The young NASCAR star also worked with the Urban Youth Racing School in Pennsylvania and he went to visit them.
Jysir Fisher is one of the students who also sat in victory lane with Larson last year. Larson discussed his use of the word with the founder Anthony Martin.
“Kyle made it his business to come here to this school and apologize. He didn’t want to do it by telephone. He wanted to do it face-to-face,” Martin told AP. “That had a strong effect on Jysir. His favorite driver is still Kyle Larson.”
“Kids make mistakes,” Martin said. “Do I think that Kyle was ever a racist? Absolutely not.”
Beyond that, Larson hired a personal diversity coach, Doug Harris. Harris is the CEO of The Kaleidoscope Group which specializes in inclusion consulting.
Larson said, “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.”
Return to NASCAR?
Earlier this week, Tony Stewart stated that NASCAR needed to “get off their ass” and reinstate Kyle Larson.
Related: Tony Stewart encourages NASCAR to lift ban on Kyle Larson
However, Larson stated he has not yet requested NASCAR reinstatement.
“I made a mistake and I’m paying for it and I accept that,” Larson said.
“NASCAR is where I always wanted to be and I do believe I proved I can compete at the Cup level. I’d like to get back there and we’ll see if there’s a way.”
“All I can do is continue to improve myself and let my actions show who I truly am,” Larson concluded.
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