NASCAR Driver Suspended for Uttering Slur

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

American stock car driver and World of Outlaws Sprint car team owner Kyle Larson was caught uttering a racial slur via a hot mic on Easter Sunday. Larson (#42 in the the NASCAR Cup Series) was participating in an online racing event with other professional drivers, streamed via Twitch and eNASCAR, where he suffered a virtual off. Afterward, it seemed like he was having a difficult time with his headset or internet connection. Larson clearly asks whether or not another driver can hear him before casually tossing in America’s least-favorite racial slur, apparently unaware that he was broadcasting on an open channel.

As you might imagine, the response was swift and savage. By Monday, Chip Ganassi Racing had announced it was suspending Larson without pay while it investigates the situation. NASCAR said it would look into the matter before it decides how to act.

The driver issued a public apology shortly after news of his suspension broke.

“Last night I made a mistake and said the word that should never ever be said and there’s no excuse for that,” Larson said in a video. “I wasn’t raised that way and 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.”

Meanwhile, the media seems torn on how severe the punishment should be. While we’re not sure how relevant this should be, Larson is the first NASCAR driver of Japanese ancestry and was part of the organization’s “Drive for Diversity” initiative. Started in 2004, the program was designed by NASCAR marketing executives to attract minority fans and drivers to the sport. Kyle Larson is arguably Drive for Diversity’s biggest success story. In fact, he’s praised it numerous times for helping him get where he is today.

That has left many concerned that penalizing him sends the wrong message, though we would argue that this entire issue could be simplified by having a clear regulatory standard within the sport. If someone breaks an established rule, ramifications should probably be independent of their ethnicity. However, considering Conor Daly lost a sponsorship deal over his father’s racial insensitivities in 2018, we imagine race teams will continue doing whatever they want to best maintain their public image. Ironically, Daly was in communication with Larson when the impetus for the scandal took place (bad language ahead).

“Hey, you can’t hear me?” Larson asked on Sunday. “Hey, nigger.”

For a moment, you can hear a couple drivers chuckle as they realize he had mistakenly broadcast on an open channel. After an brief silence, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Anthony Alfredo responded with “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud.”

After a bit more chatter, Daly can be heard saying “yikes” to nobody in particular.

Well, @KyleLarsonRacin apparently dropping an n-bomb could be the biggest story in sports this weekend.

— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) April 13, 2020

[Image: NASCAR]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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