Chip Ganassi Racing has suspended Kyle Larson without pay after Larson said a racial slur during an iRacing event broadcast on NASCAR’s website Sunday night. NASCAR later announced its own suspension.
Larson, 27, was competing with more than 60 other drivers in the virtual race. In multiple streams of the race you can hear the slur said by Larson, as iRacing identifies where the audio is coming from on the public driver conversation channel. Larson’s driver ID appeared on screen on the streams of the race as the slur was said.
It appears that the word was intended for a private conversation. In the clip below you can hear someone tell “Kyle” that he is on a public channel and not a private channel. The video contains the slur.
“We are extremely disappointed by what Kyle said last night during an iRacing event,” CGR said in its statement. “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.”
NASCAR announced its own suspension for Larson later Monday morning, citing sections 12.1 (General Procedures) and 12.8 (NASCAR Member Conduct Guidelines) of its rule book. Section 12.8.1.e of the rule book says a fine and/or indefinite suspension or termination could occur when:
Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.
NASCAR also said that Larson must attend sensitivity training in the future.
“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,” a NASCAR statement read. “Our Member Conduct 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 drivers have been racing virtually ever since the coronavirus pandemic halted the real racing season in mid-March. Sunday night’s race at the virtual Monza oval in Italy was organized by fellow NASCAR driver Landon Cassill and featured drivers from across all of NASCAR’s series. The conversation on the chat sidebar next to the race broadcast was heavily centered around the slur that emanated from Larson.
iRacing even said Larson had been suspended.
The Cup Series season is tentatively set to begin again on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway but that date could be adjusted based on how the pandemic affects the United States in the next six weeks.
Larson’s contract is up at the end of the season
Larson is sponsored by McDonald’s and Credit One Bank while driving for CGR and is widely considered one of the best drivers in the series under the age of 30. He’s set to be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season and has been the most coveted driver in what could be an active free-agent market. Hendrick Motorsports needs to replace Jimmie Johnson and both Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske could have rides available.
A Japanese-American, Larson became the first driver from NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity initiative to win a Cup Series race when he won at Michigan in 2016. NASCAR started the program in 2004 as a way to get more female and non-white drivers into the predominantly white and male stock car racing ranks.
Larson is in his seventh full-time Cup Series season and has six wins at NASCAR’s top level. He was sixth in the points standings in 2019 and has finished in the top 10 in each of the last four seasons. Larson has three top-10 finishes and is seventh in the standings through the first four races of NASCAR’s coronavirus-halted 2020 season.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.