NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kyle Larson after he used a racial slur during an "iRacing" virtual race on Sunday. He appeared to lose communication with his spotter during the event, which was not part of the Pro Series Invitational. "You can't hear me?" Larson asked prior to using the N-word.
"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. "Our member guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base." NASCAR had originally released a statement acknowledging awareness of Larson's language and said that more information was being gathered. Shortly thereafter, the organization officially announced the indefinite suspension.
"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 in a statement. "As of this moment, we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all appropriate parties."
The 27-year-old Larson was in the final season of his contract with Ganassi Racing and was expected to be a top free agent. He was seventh in the points standings prior to the season's postponement due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Larson has accumulated six career Cup wins and finished a career-best sixth in the standings in the 2019 season.
Following Larson using the slur during the discussion, several fellow drivers reacted in the chat. "Kyle, you're talking to everyone, bud," one said. Another confirmed that they had heard the slur. An unidentified person also said, "don't say anything" in reference to the slur.
Larson later released a statement on Monday morning, apologizing for his use of the word. He said that he had made a mistake and that there was no excuse for what he said. Larson also said that he was not raised this way and the damage is "unrepairable."
Per ESPN, Larson is half-Japanese. His grandparents spent time in an internment camp in California during World War II. Larson started in short-track racing but moved into NASCAR through its "Drive for Diversity" program. Larson is currently the only driver of Japanese descent to win a major NASCAR race.
NASCAR previously suspended Xfinity Series driver Jeremy Clements in 2013 for using the same word while speaking to a reporter. Clements said that this term was used during an unrecorded discussion about racing with an MTV reporter. He was later reinstated after completing a sensitivity training course and still competes.