CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NASCAR star Kyle Larson was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and without pay by Chip Ganassi Racing on Monday for using a racial slur on a live stream during a virtual race.
Larson was competing in an iRacing event Sunday night when he appeared to lose communication on his headset with his spotter. During a check of his microphone, he said, “You can’t hear me?” That was followed by the N-word.
“We are extremely disappointed by what Kyle said last night during an iRacing Event. The words that he chose to use are offensive and unacceptable,” Chip Ganassi Racing said. “As of this moment we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all appropriate parties.”
Larson is half Japanese — his grandparents spent time in an interment camp in California during World War II — and he 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.
There may still be ramifications from Larson’s sponsors, which include McDonalds, Credit One Bank and Chevrolet, but NASCAR and Ganassi were quick to act.
“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 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.”
Larson released an apology video on Instagram, saying that "last night I made a mistake and said a word that should never, ever be said. You know, there's no excuse for that. I wasn't raised like that. You know, it's just an awful thing to say and I feel very sorry for my family, friends, partners, the NASCAR community, and especially the African-American community. I understand that the damage is probably unrepairable and I own up for that. I just wanted to let you all know how sorry I am so I hope that everyone is staying safe during these crazy times."
NASCAR in 2013 suspended Xfinity Series driver Jeremy Clements for using the same word Larson used while Clements was speaking to a reporter. Clements was reinstated after completing a sensitivity training course and still competes.
Larson is the second driver in a week to draw scrutiny while using the online racing platform to fill time during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bubba Wallace one week earlier “rage quit” an official NASCAR iRacing event televised live nationally, and his sponsor fired him immediately. Wallace had been wrecked, and, fed up, quit the game and admitted it was out of anger on Twitter. Blue-Emu, a topical pain reliever who had sponsored Wallace for the virtual race and has an association with him for real, replied to the tweet firing Wallace.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.