Driver Kyle Larson was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR Monday for using a racial slur during the livestream broadcast of a virtual exhibition virtual race on Sunday night.
Larson, of Chip Ganassi Racing in NASCAR’s Cup Series, was competing in an iRacing event when he seemed to lose communication on his headset with his spotter. During the microphone check, Larson could be heard saying the slur. “You can’t hear me?” he said on the livestream. “Hey, (expletive).”
“Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud,” one driver replied. Another person said, “No way did that just happen.”
Larson was first suspended without pay Monday morning by Chip Ganassi Racing, which called the called his words “offensive and unacceptable,” before NASCAR also weighed in with its own punishment for violating its Member Conduct Guidelines. The 27-year-old was also ordered to attend sensitivity training.
“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,” the NASCAR statement said. “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.”
Larson issued an apology on Twitter on Monday, saying he was sorry, “especially (for) the African American community” and “understands the damage is probably unrepairable.”
Larson’s radio communication was broadcast to followers on Twitch, a gaming app, as well as to eNASCAR.com viewers. The other 61 drivers in the race were also on the virtual race session, which was not part of a NASCAR officially sanctioned event.
Shortly after the slur, users on the radio chat responded in disbelief and it didn’t take long for a replay of the incident to show up on social media.
Larson is half Japanese and is the only driver of Japanese descent to win a major NASCAR race. Through six full seasons as a full-time Cup Series driver, Larsons has earned six wins and 101 top-10 finishes.