You must remember Kyle Larson, the NASCAR driver who used the n-word on a racing stream in April, was subsequently dropped from Chip Ganassi Racing, and lately has been on a redemption tour? Well, today it was announced that Larson will be back in NASCAR for 2021.
Hendrick Motorsports said that he’ll drive the No. 5 car and that they had signed Larson to a multi-year contract. This had been previously rumored but Hendrick’s announcement today makes it official.
From Hendrick’s website:
“Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “He has championship-level ability and will be a significant addition to our on-track program. More importantly, I have full confidence that he understands our expectations and will be a tremendous ambassador for our team, our partners and NASCAR. Kyle and I have had many, many conversations leading up to today’s announcement. I’m confident about what’s in his heart and his desire to be a champion in all aspects of his life and career. Kyle has done important work over the past six months, and Hendrick Motorsports is going to support those continued efforts.”
Thus spoke Larson:
“Hendrick Motorsports is a championship organization that has set a high bar for performance and for how its drivers represent the team and its partners,” Larson said. “My goal is to win races, be a great teammate, continue my personal efforts to grow, and hold myself to that high standard personally and professionally. Making the absolute most of this platform and the opportunity in front of me is my focus. I know what’s expected of me and what I expect of myself, on and off the track.
“Mr. Hendrick is one of the people who extended a hand to me over the past six months. Our initial conversations were not about racing. He cares about me as a person and wants to see me succeed beyond driving. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the commitment, the faith and the confidence from him and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports.”
No. 5 is Hendrick Motorsports’ original number from when the team started in 1984, driven then by Geoff Bodine, which means that this amounts to a fairly plum gig on one of the best teams in NASCAR. Larson and Rick Hendrick also went on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s podcast to explain themselves:
Does Kyle Larson deserve a second chance as a person? Sure! I don’t know that he deserves a second chance as a NASCAR driver, however, since there are many drivers out there who would love to have a seat in NASCAR who are also capable of not using the n-word. The fact that he got six months off and then signed with a better NASCAR team is not, in other words, terribly encouraging, though I’m excited for everyone to talk about Kyle Larson’s personal growth or whatever next season. Kyle Larson, who is a grown-ass man, is still growing.