Kyle Larson is officially eligible to return to the Cup Series for the 2021 season. NASCAR has reinstated the former driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro following a lengthy suspension due to his use of a racial slur. Now Larson can sign with any team that will give him a seat.
NASCAR officially made the decision to reinstate Larson on Monday afternoon and dropped the news with a statement on social media. "NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport," the sanctioning body said in a statement. "Kyle Larson has fulfilled the requirements set by NASCAR, and has taken several voluntary measures, to better educate himself so that he can use his platform to help bridge the divide in our country. Larson’s indefinite suspension has been lifted. Under the terms of his reinstatement, he will be cleared to return to all NASCAR racing activities effective January 1, 2021."
Under the terms of his reinstatement, Larson will have to take part in several speaking engagements, which are spaced out from the present into 2023. He will share his experiences with NASCAR’s weekly series, e-sports and dirt-racing communities. Larson will also have to take further training and engagement classes through 2023. Another requirement is that he will have to continue working with the Urban Youth Racing School (UYRS) and Rev Racing while providing coaching and mentorship for younger drivers.
Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal originally reported that the 28-year-old driver had applied for reinstatement on Oct. 16. Racing's sanctioning body did not make an immediate decision at the time, instead opting to conduct internal discussions about Larson while also having conversations with him. Larson also had to complete the required sensitivity training after using the N-word during a virtual race.
In addition to completing the training, Larson hired a diversity coach, Doug Harris of The Kaleidoscope Group. He spent time working in the Minneapolis community, taking part in food drives, and toured Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee's community center in St. Louis. He remained away from the Cup Series while continuing to educate himself on racial issues, only taking part in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series events.
"Since April, I've done a lot of reflecting. I realized how little I really knew about the African-American experience in this country and racism in general," Larson said in a long post on his website. "Educating myself is something I should've done a long time ago, because it would've made me a better person – the kind of person who doesn't casually throw around an awful, racist word. The kind who makes an effort to understand the hate and oppression it symbolizes and the depth of pain it has caused Black people throughout history and still to this day. It was past time for me to shut up, listen and learn."0comments
With his reinstatement official, Larson now can focus on finding a new team for the 2021 season. Chip Ganassi Racing is not an option due to the team bringing Ross Chastain to the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro. Similarly, Joe Gibbs Racing has a full roster after replacing Erik Jones with Christopher Bell. There are two primary options in Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing due to both teams seemingly having an open seat.
Clint Bowyer will leave the No. 14 SHR Ford Mustang after announcing his retirement while Alex Bowman will switch from the No. 88 HMS Chevrolet Camaro to the No. 48. The No. 88 is currently empty, and Larson could become the team's fourth driver.