It wasn’t enough. On Monday Morning Kyle Larson released an “I’m sorry” statement after using the N word during an iRacing competition held on Easter Sunday. That this young man, of Japanese-American heritage (his mother is of Japanese descent) would have the audacity to use such language goes, yes, beyond the pale.
We have elevated race car drivers to the status of heroes in our community. As racers, we understand that the heat of the moment has a way of taking over. It takes a different sort to perform at the highest level of racing and to earn the ability to compete professionally.
As a prime example of out-of-control racers, the entire open-wheel career of Paul Tracy was laced with moments where one had to wonder what the heck he was thinking as Tracy heckled his competition, played with fans’ loyalty and behaved abysmally on the track. He won a championship in 2003 by then his storied competitors had removed themselves to the Indy Racing League.
Recently, NASCAR Cup racer Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, lost a sponsor by quitting in the middle of a NASCAR iRacing contest. We’ve all seen the fistfights in NASCAR and, occasionally INDYCAR that are nothing unusual, following on-track altercations.
But through it all none of the over-wrought competitors never used the language Kyle Larson let fly from his mouth this weekend.
“I want to say I’m sorry,” Larson said – on Twitter – in his official, stated apology. “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.”
Some fans have backed his apologetic play; another tweeted, “Kyle Larson just went from being sponsored by McDonald’s to working for McDonald’s at this point… “
Kyle Larson is an exceptional racecar driver in any type of car. He’s been great in all open-wheel competition; Larson has been in winning sports cars; he’s run at or near the front throughout his NASCAR Cup Series competition, all of it with the Chip Ganassi Racing Team.
The initial Ganassi team’s statement noted, “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. As of this moment we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all appropriate parties.”
Those appropriate parties appear to be the sanctioning body, NASCAR and the sponsors whose logos have graced the No. 42 Chevrolet. One such partner, Credit One Bank said its company “denounces the highly offensive language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday’s iRacing event. We support the quick actions taken by NASCAR and the Chip Ganassi Racing Team to suspend Kyle indefinitely.”
While many thought this storm blow over quickly after most people forgot what Bubba did just a week earlier, Chip Ganassi made the hard decision – or maybe it wasn’t too hard? – to release Larson on Tuesday.
“After much consideration, Chip Ganassi Racing has determined that it will end its relationship with driver Kyle Larson,” the team’s statement revealed. “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 one appropriate course of action to take.”
Will Kyle Larson’s open wheel entrants feel the same punishment is in order? Will Larson vanish from motorsports completely for his insensitivity? Words have their consequences.