Kyle Larson has been fired by Chip Ganassi Racing, a day after the majority of his sponsors dropped the driver for using a racial slur during a virtual race.
“After much consideration, Chip Ganassi Racing has determined that it will end its relationship with driver Kyle Larson,” Ganassi said. “As we said before, the comments that Kyle made were both offensive and unacceptable especially given the values of our organization. As we continued to evaluate the situation with all the relevant parties, it became obvious that this was the only appropriate course of action to take.”
The 27-year-old Larson had been preparing to test free agency for the first time in his short career and Ganassi was expected to find himself in a bidding war to keep the sprint car driver he had gambled on and developed into one of Nascar’s future stars.
The unraveling began on Sunday night when Larson was competing in one of the iRacing events drivers are playing during the stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Larson appeared to lose communication on his headset with his spotter. During a check of his microphone, he asked his spotter, “You can’t hear me?” He then used the n-word. The slur was directed at his spotter, who is white.
He was suspended without pay by Ganassi on Monday, then suspended indefinitely by Nascar. Larson, who is half Japanese, was ordered to complete sensitivity training.
His entire program fell apart as primary sponsors McDonalds and Credit One Bank pulled their funding. Chevrolet suspended its relationship with him, and all but one commercial partner denounced Larson’s comment and indicated they were ending their relationship.
Although Larson has just six wins in the Cup Series and his sixth-place finish in last year’s standings was a career-best, he was considered the future of Nascar. Fans loved his journey from sprint cars and the style of aggressive racing in the top lane against the wall he brought to Nascar. The married father of two young children has raced his entire life, all meticulously chronicled in thousands of videos and photographs his parents made to document his meteoric rise. Long before he got a shot in Nascar, he was lauded as a future superstar.
Larson apologized in a video posted on his social media accounts. “I made a mistake, said the word that should never, ever be said,” Larson said. “There is no excuse for that. I wasn’t raised that way. It is 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.”
Larson, whose grandparents spent time in an interment camp in California during the second world war, climbed from short-track racing into Nascar through its “Drive for Diversity” program. He is the only driver of Japanese descent to win a major Nascar race.