Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Cup Series win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was another step forward on the road to redemption.
He competed in only four races last year after his use of a racial slur during an iRacing event led to an indefinite suspension by NASCAR. A week later he was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing.
Larson was immediately contrite, telling the Associated Press, “I was just ignorant and immature. I didn’t understand the negativity and hurt that comes with that word.”
He completed the NASCAR mandated sensitivity training as well as taking further steps to better understand the implications of what he said and how they related to racial injustice in society.
In October of last year, he signed with Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR announced that Larson had been reinstated in January 2021.
While some may have questioned Rick Hendrick’s decision to give Larson a second chance, Hendrick never doubted Larson’s potential. Fast forward to the fourth race of the season and Larson has already made it to victory lane. Hendrick was, however, surprised at how rapidly the team has come together.
“I didn’t really expect for it to come this quick because I just thought it would take “more time to gel. But our cars are fast. He’s a champion really. I’m so lucky to have him. Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) is just a great young man. To win in the fourth race, especially when you don’t have any practice, you just show up and race, it’s really been awesome.
“I think they’re going to have a lot of success together this year,” Hendrick reiterated. “If you look back at the road course he had a shot to win that. If you show up and you run well, that’s half the battle. Nobody doubts Kyle’s ability.”
What made the victory at Las Vegas even more poignant is that Larson was driving the No. 5 Chevrolet with a paint scheme that was evocative of the car driven by Hendrick’s late son, Ricky.
“My wife and I were watching. Hendrick said. “It was emotional. It was joy. It was so many things. I love those colors. When we were going to be on the car, I mean, I wanted to run that paint scheme with that number. That meant a ton to me today and to my family just to honor our son. I love the paint scheme anyway. But Kyle made us proud today.”
Hendrick went on to express his faith in Hendrick Motorsports, crediting Larson with bringing a new intensity to the organization.
“I think the energy that he has brought to our company, along with the energy to see all the cars run as good as they’re running, that has got the whole organization on their toes. It just looks like at every race we’re in we’ve got cars in there that can win it. That’s what you want. You want an opportunity to win.
“I just feel like the chemistry is so good right now,” Hendrick said. “I don’t know if I ever remember it being any better across the board with all four cars. Two cars sometimes, then one car winning them all. But now we’ve got a really good balance.
“Everybody’s excited. I’m excited.”
If Hendrick’s enthusiasm is any indication of what is to come, Hendrick Motorsports could very well be in contention for another championship title this November.