Kyle Larson has earned his first NASCAR Cup race victory since being reinstated after his suspension for using a racial slur, for which he later apologized.
Back in April, during a livestream virtual race broadcast to viewers on Twitch and eNASCAR.com, Larson, 28, was heard using the N-word while attempting to figure out his microphone. NASCAR quickly suspended the driver, saying in a statement at the time that it "will not tolerate the type of language" he used.
Then in October, NASCAR reinstated Larson, announcing in a statement that he was cleared to return to the circuit for the 2021 season. Larson was fired from Chip Ganassi Racing, and he was told to attend sensitivity training, which he reflected on in an apology letter published earlier in October.
According to the Associated Press, Rick Hendrick took on the driver when no other teams would, and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Larson won his first NASCAR Cup race since returning from suspension. According to the outlet, Larson said afterward that he "didn't know if I'd ever have an opportunity to win a NASCAR race again."
"That was awesome! Thank you to the entire @teamhendrick organization. I know how much this 5 means to Mr. H and I'm grateful to be apart of it," he wrote on Instagram, Sunday.
NASCAR's only Black driver in the Cup series, Bubba Wallace, issued his support of Larson after the victory, tweeting, "Proud and happy for @KyleLarsonRacin Told him way to keep his head thru it all! We all knew it was a matter of time.. Nice dub young money." Wallace previously condemned Larson's use of the slur but said he deserved a second chance.
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In his apology letter, Larson shared how he worked on himself during his suspension from the sport.
"Since April, I've done a lot of reflecting. I realized how little I really knew about the African American experience in this country and racism in general," Larson explained on his website. "Educating myself is something I should've done a long time ago, because it would've made me a better person — the kind of person who doesn't casually throw around an awful, racist word."
"The kind who makes an effort to understand the hate and oppression it symbolizes and the depth of pain it has caused Black people throughout history and still to this day," he added. "It was past time for me to shut up, listen and learn."
In their statement about his reinstatement, NASCAR said Larson will participate in "several" speaking engagements through 2023 to share his experience. He will also continue to take training and engagement classes while serving as a mentor with the Urban Youth Racing School (UYRS) and Rev Racing.
"NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport," the statement read. "Kyle Larson has fulfilled the requirements set by NASCAR, and has taken several voluntary measures, to better educate himself so that he can use his platform to help bridge the divide in our country."
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