Kyle Larson, a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, has suspended without pay for using a racial slur during a Twitch stream while participating in a virtual iRacing competition.
The 27-year-old NASCAR driver has been criticized after using the offensive language during a broadcast, seemingly unaware that his radio was broadcasting to all drivers and viewers.
The American was participating in the Monza Madness iRacing event, featuring a number of top-class drivers across multiple disciplines.
Just after the race started, Larson asked whether fellow drivers could hear him or not, before dropping the racial slur on his April 12 stream.
With the communication picked up by everyone, the driver was quickly shot down. “Hey Kyle, you’re talking to everyone,” fellow NASCAR driver Anthony Alfredo responded.
The slur was not only heard on Larson’s stream, which has since been taken down from Twitch. It was picked up in other drivers’ broadcasts, including IndyCar driver Conor Daly. The moment, however, was not caught on the official stream, which was live on the eNASCAR site.
Unsurprisingly, Larson’s use of the racial slur did not remain unnoticed by his Chip Ganassi Racing team, who quickly moved to suspend the driver without pay in response to the incident.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the team wrote that they were “extremely disappointed by what Kyle said during an iRacing event,” prompting them to punish the driver with a suspension that will see him receive no salary from the organization.
“The words that he chose to use are offensive and unacceptable. As of this moment, we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all the appropriate parties.”
Statement regarding Kyle Larson: pic.twitter.com/s340nc7eN9
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) April 13, 2020
Kyle Larson is not the first NASCAR driver to be caught up in controversy since exhibition races have started up online. Bubba Wallace lost a sponsor after rage-quitting a virtual race, with the driver getting annoyed at crashing out.
That’s not to say the shift for all drivers over to iRacing has been bad. Racing superstars like Lando Norris of Formula 1 fame have made a name for themselves on Twitch as much as they do on the race track, attracting thousands of fans to their streams every day.
On top of that, race organizers have capitalized on the shift online by hosting exhibition races with their top talent. Formula 1, NASCAR, Australia’s V8 Supercars, and more are taking advantage of the opportunity, even having some of the races televised.
This is gonna be a hard one to stomach NASCAR fans. Extremely frustrated with Kyle Larson.
This is why fans can't have nice things. Some drivers are too stupid to speak without a script, as a result everyone is watered down. pic.twitter.com/BtBpByZbHO
— Eric Estepp (@EricEstepp17) April 13, 2020
Larson finished the race in 60th, 24 laps down in the 30-lap race. It is a possibility that the six-time NASCAR race winner pulled out early after using the slur, but that is unclear at the time of writing.