Kyle Larson has been suspended by Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR after using a racist slur Sunday night during a livestream of a virtual race.
Soon after the suspensions were announced Monday morning, Larson tweeted a video apology.
“I just want to say I’m sorry,” he said. “Last night I made a mistake and said the word that should never, ever be said. And 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. But I just want to let you all know how sorry I am.”
Larson, who finished a career-best sixth place in the NASCAR Cup standings last year, was trying to establish communication with his spotter during the iRacing event. Apparently unaware that his conversation was being picked up on the Twitch broadcast, Larson addressed his team member, who is white, using the N-word after asking, “You can’t hear me?”
Everyone, including the viewers, could hear Larson.
“Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud,” one driver responded.
Another said, “Yup, we heard that.”
And another commented, “Oh, damn! He did not just say that.”
His racing team heard as well.
“We are extremely disappointed by what Kyle said last night during an iRacing Event,” Ganassi Racing said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Larson is in the final year of his contract with Ganassi.
NASCAR also suspended Larson indefinitely and instructed him to take part in sensitivity training.
“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,” the organization said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Driver Jeremy Clements was suspended by NASCAR in 2013 for using the same word while talking to a reporter. He was reinstated after completing a sensitivity training course.
NASCAR suspended its season in March because of the coronavirus outbreak and embraced iRacing as a way for many drivers to continue to compete for fun and for fans to continue to engage with the sport.
As late as Saturday evening, Larson appeared to be unsure if he would participate in the Easter Sunday event.
I don’t really ever remember confirming but if I’m not busy with the family I might try and get on— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) April 12, 2020
“If I’m not busy with the family I might try and get on,” Larson tweeted.