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4 Burning Questions: End of the Rainbow for Kyle Larson?

Has Kyle Larson changed?

Kyle Larson has finally given an on-record interview concerning NASCAR and his time since departing from the sport.

In it, conducted by the AP’s Jenna Fryer, Larson revealed that he had spent a substantial amount of time learning about the history of the great racial divide in this country. He had been in Minnesota before and then following the death of George Floyd, even visiting the site of the incident, among other things.

For the first stop on the apology tour, it was pretty good. It was a fairly interesting account, and ultimately, I do think Larson is being genuine in the article.

For the most part, that is. I don’t buy his claim, “That’s not a word that I had ever used,” concerning the N-word. He said it way too casually in April on a simple mic check for me to personally believe him there. It’s harder to believe in when he also says in the interview, “I never really realized how privileged I was in the way I grew up.”

But as far as celebrity public rehab stories, and with nothing coming out about any other major racial incidents involving Larson when the fruit was ripe for one, I don’t think he’s racist or was knowingly racist.

Now, should he have been welcomed back so quickly with open arms by World of Outlaws? Absolutely not, and it’s clear WoO doesn’t care about anything outside of its little dirt track bubble.

What would Larson have to do to get back to NASCAR?

There will be two huge hurdles that Larson will need to cross in order to come back. The first will be getting approved by NASCAR to return.

Months ago, I’d have said getting approved would be the easier of the two hurdles. NASCAR wasn’t going to open its arms a week later for Larson, but after a couple of months, he probably would have gotten approved to come back if this happened a decade ago.

Then Floyd died and the biggest civil rights call to (largely nonviolent) arms moment in 50 years happened. Now NASCAR’s in a horrible spot to allow Larson to be back, especially with the spotlight being thrust on Bubba Wallace. Larson is going to need a total endorsement from Wallace to even think about coming back, and even if he gets one, NASCAR does not want the skeletons in its closet to come out yet again this summer.

The next hurdle is finding a team. It would be incredibly stupid for Larson to come back to NASCAR only to drive for a back-marker team. The one thing the bulk of people agree on with Larson, regardless of where they stand on this issue, is that he can wheel a racecar. Winning a bunch of races on the World of Outlaws tour is a good way to keep that perception. Bringing a Spire Motorsports car home 30th every week would ruin that perception.

Tony Stewart told SiriusXM he thinks NASCAR should allow Larson to race again. It has always been crystal clear that Stewart has wanted Larson to drive for him at the NASCAR Cup Series level and was probably going to make a push for the young driver in free agency prior to the racial slur.

The problem with hiring Larson right now, of course, is that he is an automatic turn-off for Madison Avenue. He’d need to be supported either by self-sponsoring (which he probably doesn’t have the money for) or by an internal sponsor. Like Haas Automation.

But it isn’t that simple with Stewart-Haas Racing. Haas is already sponsoring Cole Custer out of pocket, and Custer isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Kevin Harvick. Aric Almirola has done great things this summer, and even though sponsor Smithfield was hit hard by COVID-19, it’s hard to say he’s really in that much danger right now.

Clint Bowyer seems fairly vulnerable. But Bowyer is also significantly more marketable than Larson and isn’t that bad a driver. And finally, if all else fails, SHR already has Chase Briscoe burning a hole in its Xfinity Series pocket and is more than ready to take over a seat if need be. It’s not impossible to believe Larson could drive for SHR, especially with a co-owner that likes him as much as Stewart. But it’s hard to see Haas gold at the end of the rainbow for Larson for the 2021 season.

Who will drink some milk on Sunday?

The 104th Indianapolis 500 will finally be contested this weekend.

The event, traditionally run on Memorial Day weekend, will be the first 500 not held in the month of May. It will also be the first not held in front of fans, with COVID-19 putting heavy restrictions on new track and NTT IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske’s first 500.

The big story these past two weeks has been just how much better the Hondas are compared to the Chevrolets. Marco Andretti, the Kyle Petty of the Andretti family, won the pole for this year’s event, the first for the family since grandfather Mario’s third and final pole in 1987.

IndyCar was able to get 33 starters in the field this year despite everything going wrong in the world. Tony Kanaan will be racing in what was planned to be his final Indy 500, as will be Fernando Alonso, prior to his returning to the Formula 1 circuit in 2021.

One new thing to IndyCar this season that will probably be a story to watch on Sunday will be the new overhead visors on the cars. This has made the series much safer on ovals such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has had problems with a lack of air flow for the driver. This has made the cockpits significantly hotter in the series this year and may be a big factor on a hot and muggy August day in Indianapolis.

The favorite this weekend is probably Scott Dixon. Dixon has been almost unstoppable this season in his quest for a record sixth series championship, absolutely dominating at the last high speed oval the series has gone to, Texas Motor Speedway.

Who can survive The Monster Mile?

Meanwhile, on the east coast, the NASCAR industry is finally about to take a big breath.

This weekend at Dover International Speedway will be the final scheduled Cup double-header weekend, and outside of an Xfinity double-header at Richmond Raceway next month, the last of the season for the three national touring series. 21 Cup races will have been contested in a little over three months once the checkered flag flies on Sunday, the most brutal stretch in modern era history. And the end of the season is thankfully in sight, with just one last race before the playoffs after this weekend.

But first, they have to get through Dover. The Monster Mile has become a fairly tame racetrack in recent years, with not a lot of lead changes in green flag conditions outside of pit cycles. What’s going to be hard this weekend, though, will be the drivers just getting through both races, which total 624 scheduled laps/miles.

Dover is one of the smaller tracks on the schedule (no, it isn’t a short track), but it’s also one of the fastest feeling. The track feels like a roller coaster for drivers, thanks to its smooth concrete surface. The amount of G-forces being generated by these cars just makes them exhausting to drive, with a few drivers needing medical attention after prior Dover races. And now, instead of 400 miles, these guys have 624 miles in two days. Add that in with the heat, and it might not be a great sight on pit road after the race on Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr., at his home racetrack, is going to have the edge this weekend. This is thanks to his recent success at Dover itself (with just one finish outside of the top five since 2016), his conditioning, and the fact he can lay it all out as a virtue of being locked in to the playoffs.

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Jake

1. Yes, he has “changed”. He will say all of the right things whether they are meant or not and that is what will dictate his future, not his true feelings/intentions/etc.

2. I imagine a publicized convo with Bubba and 1 selfie later would be all it takes so that Nascar PR is happy. Also, take your head out of the sand by calling the riots, I mean protests non-violent.

If Tony Stewart can commit manslaughter and not be exiled, Larson can return and will be in a Cup ride next season. In a top ride? No. He will be on a bit of a rehab tour similar to Kurt Busch after Penske.

Donald

What a dumb f__k? Anyone that runs out in front of a racecar shows their lack of brain power and any person thinking that is the drivers fault probably thinks the tail wags the dog!
Now, since Kyle has given up his freedom of speech. I request that every song that uses the offensive “N” word must be burned and the user must pay back all the money gained from the use!

bob

I am sure this comment, while its the truth, is yet to be seen. The BLM is a joke. It does not stand for justice of our black citizens. Its a money machine for the democrats. Along with them supporting the riots.

I just find it difficult to hold Larson to what seems to be a career ending sentence for saying what seems to be the worst thing a person can say, n*****! However, if people really find it offensive, then why do black folks call each other n*****s all the time? And why do they use the word in their rap songs? People take no offense to that. But if a person bluts it out in a heated moment he is declared the scum of the earth. While all races can get along just fine with each other, i think its the government that uses all races of people if it helps them politically without caring about the damage it leaves in its wake. Just look how the democrats treated George Floyd! While his death was very tragic and should have bever happened. George Floyd was nothing more than a thug a criminal who should have been in prison for his crimes. But the democrats presented his family with an American flag as if he had done something great.

Steve

Jeremy Clemens said the N–word at a NASCAR event and got a 2 week suspension from NASCAR he is white, Larson says the N-word at a non NASCAR event and he is kicked out of NASCAR he is not white, That is all that needs to be said,

Mack

Well Said Sir…

kb

STEVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He is half NOT JAPANESE! So what is your point? His punishment from NASCAR should be half “kicked out of NASCAR”? GOOD FREAKING GRIEF!!!! Take it up with the sponsors and Chip, doufus! OMG!!!!!

Matt

This country is entirely to sensitive wen it come to all this shit! Wake up everybody is talking like that. U hear it come out of a celebrities mouth and omg he is racist! Get a grip on reality ppl

Harold Hitchcock

Dave Chappelle made a career out of that word, ice T, ice cube, all use it liberally, and he gets suspended for saying it in a NON NASCAR event, fact of the matter is if bubba Wallace was not driving it would have been a nonissue

Connie

I totally agree sir. Well said

Jo

I’ve said from the beginning that Larson’s biggest hurdle would be sponsorship. The big name sponsors he had like Target and McDonald’s will avoid him like a COVID-19 outbreak. Without a big money sponsor, he’s not going to get a top ride.

WJW Motorsports

What an absolute joke. The newly “woke” Kyle should solicit Roc Nation for sponsorship… After all – the NFL and all its mega-corporate sponsors are good to go with Jay-Z – and it’s not like Jay has made any money in his career off the use of the N-word… win/win.

Carl D.

While Larson may have sabotaged his career all by himself, he’s definitely going to need some help to get past the cancel-culture roadblock to his comeback. Owners, drivers, and former drivers will have to vouch for him. However…

Bubba Wallace is not the Nascar gatekeeper for racial behavior. Larson doesn’t need to kiss his… ring… to be allowed to race again. No, I don’t blame Bubba for the noose incident. That overreaction belongs to Nascar. Still, I find it ludicrous that anyone would suggest that Kyle needs Bubba’s blessing to be absolved of his racial sin.

One more thing… if you think the riots going on are non-violent and about George Floyd, you are either naive, uniformed, or a tool.

Carl D.

This was a comment, not a reply to WJW Motorsports.

Mike

Oh, the great scribe has spoken! Very disrespectful, disparaging remarks about the world of outlaws series. ” Little dirt track bubble” – you have no idea how much work & dedication, not to mention all of the personal sacrifice it takes to operate any race series/events. Larson doesn’t need the likes of you to guide him.

Harold Hitchcock

Well said, bubba Wallace singlehandedly tried to ruin NASCAR, in my humble opinion bubba should go race at his local track in the sportsman division and GET THE FUCK OUT FROM UNDER FOOT of the best drivers on the planet which he is definitely not, he’s not a victim and never was, he’s nothing more than a camera whore who’s had his 15 minutes of Fame, don’t go away mad bubba, just GO THE FUCK AWAY !!!!

Stebo

Damn Alfred, I meant Harold. Everyone driving in nascar is not that much better than Bubba. In other words you are saying Bubba should just get out of a white man’s sport!

John smith

KL sold out for the almighty dollar. He should have told NASCAR to pound sand and moved on. I will use any word anywhere anytime in front of anyone and If they don’t like it they can FO or bring it.

John

If NASCAR had to suspend all the drivers in the hall of fame that used that word, you could put a bowling alley in there. He’s being ‘tried’ like he was the Minneapolis police officer. He did what he was supposed to do. Took it seriously., let him try to find sponsorship.

Tim

If Bubba had used that word it would have been no harm no foul. Should he have used the word definitely not. The bigger picture is one of the best drivers to ever man a race car is out of NASCAR and its a shame.

Jon woods

Another no body giving his opinion!! Only started watching 15 yeats ago!! Kyle Larson should have never been suspended. Sorry its a word yes it shouldn’t have been said bit its not like he’s out there doing drugs and getting in the car. Its a stupid suspension and nascar is becoming a joke and this is from a fan and someone that used to work in the sport.

Casey

It time everyone grow up. Larson was picked off at the time. Very few of us can say we haven’t overreacted at least once in our lives.

Westrocker Crawford

Nope, no, no.

Howard 82j

I grew up with my ear glued to an old philco long lost names being screamed over the mic. I saw Foyt and his competitors at the fair grounds in Sacramento all bigger than life. Grew up to race super’s, flat bottoms, still have two winged cars in the shop, my son wheels. I saw Larson early on little tracks he came out of outlaw carts and never stopped. I saw him beat his future BIL Sweet off four in Tulare no wheels no wing front and rear gone. When he climbed out of the steam and smoke, I could only imagine him crawling out of a indy car. NASCAR bought him away of his destiny a world of hypocrites, looters, and lazy hand out folks kicked him to the curb. by the will of God he is reminding us of his skill with last lap passes. He does things in a sprint car that cannot be explained only relived over and over. If the racing world wants to see Larson race then put him in an indy car You won’t need TV just and old Philco and you will be drawn into the seat of his race car by the announcer. He is a great one and we deserve to see him in a real race car.

U64387

Well written article, although I disagree with the “indefinite” suspension NASCAR handed down to Larson. NASCAR could have set down a few other hurdles for Larson to jump over and just suspended for the rest of the season; they didn’t have to make it “indefinite”. Having said that, I believe one important “X” factor Mr. Finley forgot to mention, is that Stewart is a hard-head, like AJ Foyt. He knows talent and loves an underdog story (he hired Danica, didn’t he?). Danica was a marketing machine; we all know that. But, Larson was winning races at CGR before he self-destructed. With SHR equipment, he would be a perennial contender. He didn’t kill anybody, he didn’t steal any money, he didn’t sleep with anybody’s wife, he didn’t do anything unethical on the track…, he made a mistake with his words. That doesn’t merit a death knell from NASCAR.

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