CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR on Monday cleared Kyle Larson to return in 2021, ending his long suspension for using a racial slur while playing a video racing game.
Larson was suspended in April after he used the n-word while playing an online racing game in which viewers could follow along. He was dropped by his sponsors and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing.
Larson, who is half-Japanese, spent the last six months immersed in diversity programs that helped him gain an understanding of racial injustice. He did not apply for reinstatement until last week.
“The work I’ve done over the last six months has had a major impact on me. I will make the most of this opportunity and look forward to the future,” Larson said.
Larson has spent significant time with retired soccer star Tony Sanneh, whose foundation works on youth development and empowerment in the Minneapolis area. Larson also met with former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee and visited her foundation in East St. Louis, and also spoke with Max Siegel, the CEO of USA Track & Field who also runs a NASCAR-sanctioned team that is part of the stock car series’ diversity program.
Larson continued work he’d already been doing with the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia. The nonprofit helps minorities advance in motorsports and Jysir Fisher, one of its students, had celebrated with Larson in victory lane following a win in Delaware last October.
He put the work in unpublicized in an effort to prove his motives were sincere.
“NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport. 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,” NASCAR said in a statement.