NASCAR is going to require all teams to take sensitivity training before the 2021 season
Kyle Larson entered the 2020 season in a contract year. He was also one of the hottest drivers in the sport.
In April, he used a racial slur while attempting to reach his personal iRacing spotter on a private audio channel. The audio was accidentally sent to the public channel of the sim racing game.
Thousands heard Larson use the word. Within hours, he was trending on twitter. Within a day, he was suspended by both Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR. Soon after, he was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing.
The NASCAR driver listed both of his North Carolina homes and returned home to California. Unsure of his future, Larson also returned to the dirt tracks, where he quickly began to dominate.
At the same time, Larson was on a learning journey. He met with many groups, all across the country, to educate himself on systemic racism.
Part of Larson’s suspension required him to take a sensitivity training class, we he took within weeks of the suspension. However, Larson was not cleared to return to NASCAR until October. The suspension wont be officially lifted until January 1, 2021.
Additionally, Larson has a new ride. He’ll pilot the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports in 2021. As of now, the car remains without sponsorship.
In other similar cases, NASCAR members that have been suspended have returned much quicker. Why did Larson’s case take so long?
NASCAR president Steve Phelps discusses Kyle Larson’s journey back to the sport
“It’s a good case study moving forward. Part of the case study is that there is subjectivity that comes with it. There isn’t a hard and fast ruling,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps stated to Bob Pockrass in a zoom conference.
“Yes, Kyle did take sensitivity training that we had mandated he do, early on. Then, he went above and beyond. Because, that’s what he thought he needed to do, for himself.”
“His road back, I think it was an incredible journey, for him. It’s heartwarming to hear him talk about what that journey looked like.”
“Each case is going to be looked at on a case by case basis. Kyle didn’t ask for reinstatement, early on. In the Fall, he did ask for reinstatement because he felt his journey was complete. And we agreed with him.”
“He went above and beyond. I think he was humbled by the whole experience. I’m proud of the job that he did.”
NASCAR changes moving forward?
In 2020, NASCAR took a stand to make changes. The cars were brought to a stop ahead of the green flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Phelps then spoke over the driver audio channels stating “NASCAR needed to do better.”
For 2021, NASCAR has more developments in the pipeline.
“Will you continue to see results and actions from NASCAR? The answer is yes,” Steve Phelps stated.
“In this area, we’ve broken it down into three specific buckets. One, is what we’re going to do internally. The middle bucket is what we’re going to do from an industry wide standpoint. Third, what are the partnerships that we’re going to do externally.”
“Internally, we have done things. We have a diversity council and employee resource groups that we’ve put together. We also have a drive to make sure that we are hiring diverse people. That’s a stated goal for us as well.”
“As part of our procurement, we’re making sure we’re having minority vendors. So, that all internal.”
“External, is what are we going to do as an industry? One of the things we’re going to do is we’re going to mandate that everyone take sensitivity training and unconscious bias training.”
“So, before the 500, all the race teams and everyone affiliated with this sport is going to do that.”
Phelps added, “We are a sport about action. We are going to continue to be. It’s an important journey for us. I’m excited about what the future holds there.”