Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson acknowledges learning hard lessons, gaining perspective in heartfelt essay

Kyle Larson released an essay on his personal website Sunday evening, taking accountability for his use of a racial slur nearly six months ago and illustrating the steps he has taken to become more educated about civil-rights issues.

The essay, titled “Kyle Larson: My Lessons Learned,” is among his first public comments since his indefinite suspension from NASCAR and his dismissal by Chip Ganassi Racing. He also spoke to The Associated Press on Aug. 19 about his efforts to heal the damage caused by his use of the slur over a public communications channel in an April 12 iRacing event.

“Anger came at me from all angles,” Larson wrote. “Being labeled a racist has hurt the most, but I brought that on myself. What I didn’t expect, though, were all the people who, despite their disappointment in what I did, made the choice to not give up on me. It motivates me to repay their faith by working harder, not giving up on myself, and making sure something positive comes from the harm I caused.”

Larson has not been reinstated by NASCAR officials, who have required him to complete sensitivity training as a condition for his return to competition.

MORE: Full essay by Kyle Larson

In his essay, Larson said he had worked with former pro soccer standout Tony Sanneh and Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee to learn about the mission of their foundations within the Black community. He said he also traveled to Minneapolis with Sanneh to see the impact of racial injustice in the area surrounding the memorial for George Floyd. Larson also said he had hired a diversity coach, Doug Harris of The Kaleidoscope Group, who has raised his awareness about racial inequality with an approach lacking in sugar-coating.

In the racing community, Larson said he also connected with Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone Black driver in the Cup Series, drag-racer J.R. Todd and former sports-car great Willy T. Ribbs to have conversations about their experience as minority drivers who navigated their way into big-time motorsports. Those also included no-nonsense conversations with Mike Metcalf, an African-American athlete who has been a key member of Ganassi’s close-knit pit crew.

“I’ve received a lot of straight talk from Mike and others since April,” Larson wrote. “But what gives me hope and humbles me is how so many people have opened their doors to lift up someone who probably doesn’t deserve it and to share perspectives I should’ve sought on my own a long time ago.”

Larson closed his essay by saying an important part of his journey forward will be about healing and making his family proud of him, acknowledging what he does will be more crucial than what he says.

“I want them to know that words do matter. Apologizing for your mistakes matters. Accountability matters. Forgiveness matters. Treating others with respect matters,” Larson wrote. “I will not stop listening and learning, but for me now, it’s about action – doing the right things, being a part of the solution and writing a new chapter that my children will be proud to read.”

MORE: Full essay by Kyle Larson