Tony Stewart Defends Kyle Larson, Says NASCAR Should Reinstate Him

Reports surfaced on Monday saying that exiled NASCAR driver Kyle Larson is drawing interest ahead of free agency. Stewart-Haas Racing was one of the names listed in a report by Forbes, and now co-owner Tony Stewart has publicly voiced his support. He said that NASCAR needs to give Larson another opportunity after indefinitely suspending him for using a racial slur during a virtual race.

Speaking with CBS Sports, "Smoke" faced questions about two upcoming free agents. The interviewer asked if the longtime driver-turned-owner would pick Larson or fellow driver Erik Jones for the future, as well as which would provide the best opportunity to win. Stewart quickly made it clear that Larson is the best option due to the kid being "hot in NASCAR" and dominating in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series. He also had strong words for racing's governing body.

"NASCAR has gotta get off their a— and do the right thing and give this kid an opportunity to get back in a car," Stewart said. "I think he's paid his penalty and he's served the penalty long enough where you know we've had similar instances in the sport that have happened and the penalties didn't last as near as long as this has lasted with Kyle. It's changed Kyle's world.

"It turned everything upside down and not only did it affect him, it affected his family and a lot of other people that didn't deserve to be affected. So I think it's been long enough. I think it's time for NASCAR to get off their a— and to do the right thing and allow him to come back to the series now."

With Stewart publicly voicing his support for Larson, there will now be even more questions about his team. Stewart-Haas has a stable of four cars, three of which are claimed for 2021. Kevin Harvick will return to the No. 4 Ford Mustang, Aric Almirola will be back in the No. 10 and rookie Cole Custer will continue his Cup Series career in the No. 41. The No. 14, on the other hand, could be available. Clint Bowyer is currently driving the iconic Ford Mustang, but there is no guarantee that he returns to Stewart-Haas for another season. If he departs, an opportunity could potentially surface for Larson.

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Of course, Stewart does have an up-and-coming driver rising in the ranks of the Xfinity Series that could also leap the No. 14. Chase Briscoe drives the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang and has drawn considerable attention for his performance in 2020. He has won six races and finished in the top-5 a total of 12 times.

"I'm very impressed with what [Briscoe's] done this year so far, and you know obviously we're working him through our system," Stewart said. "I'm proud of him, we're going to keep developing him." Smoke also said that Briscoe provides some pressure for the drivers currently in the Cup Series.