CONCORD, N.C. — Less than 24 hours after using a racial slur during an iRacing stream, Kyle Larson now finds himself fighting for his NASCAR career.
The winner of six NASCAR Cup Series races for Chip Ganassi Racing, Larson was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR Monday and ordered to attend sensitivity classes after he was heard using a racial slur during Sunday’s Monza Madness iRacing stream.
“NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event,” NASCAR officials said in a statement. “Our Member Conduct Guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base.”
Chip Ganassi Racing also suspended the 27-year-old Larson indefinitely without pay. iRacing has also suspended Larson from using its service.
“We are extremely disappointed by what Kyle said last night during an iRacing event,” the team said in its statement. “The words that he chose to use are offensive and unacceptable. As of this moment we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all appropriate parties.”
That, however, is the tip of the iceberg.
Later in the day Monday, Chevrolet announced it was suspending its relationship with Larson due to the incident. Larson has driven a Chevrolet in each of his NASCAR National division starts in the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series.
Chevrolet also sponsors Kyle Larson Racing, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series team owned by Larson, through its Chevrolet Accessories brand.
“Chevrolet has suspended its relationship with Kyle Larson indefinitely, as we do not tolerate this behavior,” Chevrolet officials said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Larson and are prepared to take additional action.”
Lastly, Credit One Bank, McDonald’s and Clover/First Data each announced Monday that the companies were ending their respective sponsorships of Larson, effective immediately.
“We were extremely disappointed and appalled to hear about this incident,” McDonald’s USA officials said in a statement. “The comments made by Kyle Larson are insensitive, offensive and not reflective of our inclusive values and will not be tolerated. McDonald’s is taking immediate action to terminate the relationship with Larson.”
Originally Credit One Bank denounced Larson’s usage of a racial slur but did not end its relationship with the driver. That changed later Monday afternoon.
“As stated earlier, Credit One Bank denounces the highly offensive language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “In addition to the quick actions taken by NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing, Credit One Bank is terminating its sponsorship of Kyle Larson.”
Clover and First Data, both of which are owned by parent company Fiserv, were the last of Larson’s major NASCAR Cup Series sponsors to terminate their contract with him.
“We denounce the language used during Sunday’s iRacing event,” company officials said in a statement. “We support the actions taken today by NASCAR and the Chip Ganassi Racing Team, and are terminating our sponsorship of Kyle Larson.”
Lucas Oil, which sponsored Larson during his race-winning effort in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January, has suspended its sponsorship arrangement with him.
“Due to the offensive language used by NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson during Sunday night’s iRacing event, Lucas Oil is indefinitely suspending its sponsorship with him, effective immediately,” Lucas Oil officials said in a statement. “Lucas Oil has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of such harmful language and we stand by the actions taken by iRacing, NASCAR and the Chip Ganassi Racing team.”
One company, Plan B Sales, has stuck by Larson and company officials said in a statement Monday they would continue to support him.
“Although we do not condone or appreciate the slur Kyle used during his iRacing event last night, at the same time we know he is an awesome young man that made a mistake and we are going to stand behind him 100 percent and help any way we can,” company officials said in a statement Monday.
Larson released a statement Monday apologizing for using a racial slur, though he admitted the damage may have already been done.
“I want to say I’m sorry,” Larson said. “Last night I made a mistake and said the word that should never, ever, be said. There’s no excuse for that; I wasn’t raised that way. It’s just an awful thing to say. I feel very sorry for my family, my friends, my partners, the NASCAR community, and especially the African-American community. I understand the damage is probably unrepairable, and I own up to that. I want to let you all know how sorry I am. Finally, I just want to say that I hope everyone is staying safe during these crazy times. Thank you.”
NASCAR has a history of addressing situations like this harshly. In 2013, NASCAR suspended Xfinity Series driver Jeremy Clements after he used a racial slur during an interview. He missed two races and had to complete diversity training before being reinstated.
Larson advanced to the NASCAR Cup Series after taking part in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, where he claimed the ARCA Menards Series East (then NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) championship in 2012 driving for Rev Racing.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) April 13, 2020