Kyle Larson Fallout
Updated: Apr 17
Episode Transcript Below
Welcome to GRID Tonight, my name is Joe Samaniego, thank you for joining us.
Today is Thursday, April 16, 2020.
We start with the very serious topic of the fallout from Kyle Larson's comments made Sunday during the Monza Madness race. Since then Kyle Larson lost his job with Chip Ganassi Racing and multiple sponsors. While his 2020 Cup season will likely not continue on, there is still the chance to rebuild and earn a second opportunity to race in the cup series.
This all started Sunday evening when Kyle Larson was participating in a iRacing event when he said a racial slur. For the remainder of Sunday no comment was made by Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing, NASCAR, or any sponsors. The audio/video clip did circulate around social media till late in the evening which may explain why no comment was made Sunday.
Monday was a different story when NASCAR released a statement that it was investigating the issue. Shortly later Chip Ganassi Racing announced Kyle Larson was suspended without pay while it worked through the situation with all appropriate parties. This is significant because Chip Ganassi Racing employs Kyle Larson and holds many sponsorship deals with the team and Kyle. Without sponsorship any driver will be out of a ride and this was an effort for Chip Ganassi Racing to salvage agreements with the sponsors involved with them and Kyle Larson.
NASCAR released a second statement that Kyle Larson has been suspended indefinitely as he violated Sections 12.1 (General Procedures) and 12.8 (NASCAR Member Conduct Guidelines) of the official Rule Book. Larson must also attend sensitivity training as directed by NASCAR.
Following the two suspensions Kyle Larson posted a video apologizing for using the racial slur and taking full responsibility for his actions. No explanation was given on why he used the word, but acknowledged his wrongdoing and was sorry for using the word.
Then followed the news of sponsors suspending or terminating it’s relationship with Kyle Larson. The three most notable were Chevrolet, Credit One, and McDonalds. Both Chevrolet and Credit One issued a statement denouncing Kyle’s comment, later announcing terminated their sponsorship with Kyle. McDonalds issued a statement that it was no longer sponsoring Kyle but sticking with Chip Ganassi Racing. While more sponsors terminated or suspended relations with Kyle it appears Chip Ganassi Racing will still have sponsors on the 42 car for the next driver.
Prior to Sunday’s incident Kyle Larson had good relations with fans, sponsors, and had a very positive reputation as a friendly and approachable guy. This added to the shock felt across the racing industry as Kyle is a graduate of the Driver 4 Diversity program and a rising star in NASCAR only at the age of 27. Some even considered him a possible replacement for Jimmie Johnson as this was Kyle’s last season with Chip Ganassi Racing current contract. That all changed Tuesday morning.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced Tuesday morning that after careful consideration it has ended it’s relationship with Kyle Larson. The statement also said “As we continued to evaluate the situation with all the relevant parties, it became obvious that this was the only appropriate course of action to take.”
Chip Ganassi Racing is a large entity with teams in IndyCar and NASCAR and a diverse group of drivers. This includes greats such as Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi, Juan Montoya, Sterling Marlin, and Scott Dixion to name a few. While Kyle has brought 6 wins during his tenure with Chip Ganassi Racing, he’s still one employee of a large company and his actions brought nothing but loss of time, money, and resources. All during a period where all teams are on shaky financial grounds with the current halt in racing.
With his firing Kyle can still attend the sensitivity training ordered by NASCAR and ask for his suspension to be lifted. So there is still the opportunity to race in the Cup series or any NASCAR National series again. The only similar case that set some precedence in Xfinity driver Jermy Clements who used the same word to a reporter off camera in 2013. He was suspended indefinitely and returned after completing the sensitivity training and recently won at Road America Xfinity Series race. While similar there still major differences mainly the public nature of Kyle’s incident, his relationship with a major team, and Cup series star sponsored by some of the most wealthy sponsors in the series.
In his seven full seasons in Cup Series Kyle Larson has 6 wins, 56 top 5, and 101 top 10s. He has 1 top 5, 3 top 10s in the 4 races ran so far this season. Towards the end we’ll touch on Kyle and the responsibilities of a professional race car driver.
Saturday the stars of IndyCar plus Australian SuperCar Scott McLaughlin and NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. participated in the Chevrolet 275 race at Michigan Speedway on IRacing. The GRID had been posting throwback races leading up to the event skipping the 1996 US 500 which had the notorious pre-start crash. It was skipped since it wasn’t the traditional 11 or 12 round of the season. Ironically, the IRacing event had the same start as a bunch of cars were involved in the early crash.
Once the race got going in turned into a typical Michigan race coming down to fuel mileage. Simon Pagenou won the race but the battle was for second between Dale Earnhardt Jr and Scott McLaughlin, Scott took second and Dale Jr third. Worth noting Scott McLaughlin currently leads the GRID Ranking and World Motorsport League.
Dorna Sports announced the option of running two races on one weekend will not be considered as an option to run the minimum number of events to crown a world champion in MotoGP. The FIM has declined to release a new calendar as the situation is still ever changing and the next race scheduled for MotoGP is June 21 in Germany.
The French Grand Prix became the latest event to be likely postponed after the President of France Emmanuel Macron announced no public gatherings till mid July. This is a huge blow to the F1 season as there was a plan for the European events to take place first and Paul Ricard having multiple layouts if more than one race was to take place. If postponed it will be the 10 race to be postponed and the next race appears to be the Austrain GP on July 5.
We are less than 25 days away from the next scheduled NASCAR race at Martinsville. NASCAR still hasn’t announced any plans for the Martinsville race if it’ll be run with no crowd on site or not. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @GRIDRating and @GRID_WML. Also be sure to follow our friends at World Racing Media as they host Below the Yellow Line every Monday 7PM eastern, 4 Pacific, 3 Alaska.
A friendly reminder you can goto GRIDRanking.com to see when the next race date for each series is, as well as the history of the GRID Ranking and World Motorsports League.
The Race Car Driver
The Kyle Larson incident is a reminder of the key responsibilities race car drivers inherited with their role as a professional athlete and public figure. While a race car driver is not an elected official who is criticized or praised for policy making, a race car driver is a professional athlete and fans look up to them and their actions. Their actions influence fans and business for their sponsors, a crucial part of their work responsibilities.
Anytime a racecar driver is out in public, he or she is recognized by fans and can influence fans with their actions intentionally or unintentionally. They still have sponsorship commitments they must be mindful of when out in public.
Kyle Larson's actions not only shattered his image, but betrayed the trust placed in him, and hurt many fans who did nothing wrong. His statement really hurt a segment of fans that have heard that word used against them and their family and friends in a hateful manner. His actions may drive some fans away from NASCAR. Kyle brought negative attention to NASCAR, his employer Chip Ganassi Racing, and his sponsors.
Kyle Larson did apologize for his comment, saying it's not reflective of his character nor his views. Which raises the question: why did he say it in the first place? At the end the responsibility falls on him, the race car driver, and he must live with the consequences of his actions which includes losing his position as a race car driver.
His actions are detrimental to a sport struggling before the global halt in racing activities. His actions didn’t help NASCAR, didn’t help any teams efforts in recruiting sponsors, and has no place in the racing industry. This warrants the loss of his opportunity to be a race car driver in a fiercely competitive industry.
The racecar driver is more than racing a car once a week, it's a public figure that has the responsibility to bring fans, attract sponsors, and represent the sport in a professional manner. This responsibility is required on and off the track whenever in the public eye. Anytime hateful language is used by any member of the racing community it tarnishes the reputation of auto racing, and what he did was inexcusably wrong.
There's no place for such behavior, and no one is to blame except Kyle Larson. In time a second chance will arise for Kyle, he may never fully earn the trust and respect from everyone, but that is a journey he must now go on to rebuild his career. Only the best earn the opportunity to be a race car driver, Kyle lost it for now, but with hard work he may earn another opportunity.
My name is Joe Samaniego, thank you for watching. We leave you with a quote from Sir Sterling Moss who passed away this past weekend. Till next time.
“I can’t think of any life, for any young man, that’s better than being a professional racing driver.”