NASCAR's Kyle Larson Speaks out About Racial Slur Incident: 'I Was Just Ignorant'

Kyle Larson knew he made a mistake and back in April. After saying the N-word during a NASCAR iRacing event, Larson took a ton of heat for fans and was suspended from NASCAR, then fired by Chip Ganassi Racing. It led to him leaving North Carolina to go back to his native California and figuring out his next move. In an interview with the Associated Press, Larson admitted he was living in a bubble for the majority of his life.

"I was just ignorant. And immature. I didn't understand the negativity and hurt that comes with that word," Larson said. "That's not a word that I had ever used. I grew up in Northern California, all I ever did was race and that’s all I was focused on. There's probably a lot of real-life experiences I didn’t get to have and I was just ignorant to how hurtful that word is."

This was the first interview for Larson since being fired by Chip Ganassi Racing on April 15. He then enrolled in sensitivity training and also connected with retired soccer player Tony Sanneh who had has a foundation that works on youth development and empowerment in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Larson visited Sanneh shortly before the death of George Floyd in the same area. A few weeks after the death of Floyd, Larson went back to Minneapolis to visit Sanneh. They got a chance to see the site where Floyd died and tour parts of the city that wad damaged after the protests and riots.

"I never really realized how privileged I was in the way I grew up," Larson said. "I never had to really worry about anything and I guess I was naive. I didn’t have a full understanding that there are people struggling with different things on a daily basis. It was very impactful, very moving."

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After Larson apologized for the racial slur, he got in contact with Bubba Wallace, who is the only full-time Black driver in NASCAR. Wallace said he and Larson had a good conversation about why the slur is hurtful.

"What Larson said was wrong, whether in private or public," Wallace said in a statement back in April. "There is no grey area. I saw the incident the night it happened and within 5 minutes Kyle texted me. He called me the next morning as well. Finally, I called him back with a FaceTime to talk 'face to face,' and we had a good conversation, his apology was sincere. His emotions and pride were shattered."