Race Weekend Central

Waid’s World: Larson Has Triumphantly Risen From What Could Have Been Career End

Kyle Larson has become something of a phenomenon. But then, you probably already knew that.

Unquestionably, he’s the hottest driver in NASCAR Cup racing this season. He just won his third consecutive race of the year at Nashville – on the heels of victories at Charlotte and Sonoma – and has compiled four wins in 17 races to go along with 10 top-five finishes and 12 among the top 10. He’s second in the point standings.

Those are impressive season credentials, but Larson’s portfolio is enhanced by the fact he can – and does – win in any car and on any circuit he chooses.

If I chose to catalog the number of races Larson has won and where he won them, we would be here all night. Suffice to say his victories have come on the Xfinity, Camping World Trucks, World of Outlaws, K&N Pro West, K&N Pro East circuits – in addition to the 24 Hours of Daytona and others.

He’s done it all since 2012, when he was a tender 20 years old.

Race fans have noticed. Social media is filled with messages of praise and recognition. Some have proclaimed Larson the best driver of his generation and perhaps one of the best in NASCAR history.

It’s a little early for that last one. But Larson has plenty of time to make it so.

Larson’s full-time Cup career began with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. His first victory came in the summer of 2016 at Michigan. He won five more times before 2021 and has won 10 times in his career.

That career was nearly derailed in April of 2020.

In a widely publicized incident – which received media attention far beyond the motorsports realm – Larson was suspended by both his team and NASCAR for using a racial slur.

Larson used the word amidst his participation in an iRacing event – which, as I understand, is “virtual” competition that came to the front amid the Covid-19 lockdowns. Larson thought he had lost communication.

Larson lost support of multiple corporations, including McDonald’s, Credit One Bank and Chevrolet. The day after CGR enforced the suspension, it fired him. Matt Kenseth took over for the remainder of the season.

Additionally, NASCAR ruled that Larson must complete sensitivity training before he would be allowed to race again.

Think about it for a moment. Here’s a rising star in racing who loses his opportunity to compete, his financial backers, his job and who must submit to sensitivity training – an embarrassment – with no guarantee he will ever race again.

It makes for a very grim future.

There was a time in NASCAR that if Larson used that slur no one would have cared. It was spoken routinely in sport born in the South and dominated by whites, most of whom hailed from small, rural towns.

As an aside, the fact that Wendell Scott established a career in NASCAR during this time speaks volumes about what he endured to do so.

When it comes to diversity, NASCAR has lagged. Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA, for example, have long outstripped the sanctioning body when it comes a racial mix of competitors.

That’s not entirely NASCAR’s fault – not by any means. But you can be assured it knows the problem and had done much to reverse it over the last several years. And it has made great strides.

Additionally, we live in a racially charged era beset by challenge, distrust and hard opinions and actions. That’s not news to you.

But over the years all of this has bought keen attention toward the law, rights and human dignity. That’s one reason the slur Larson used is considered reprehensible and when used in an open setting, repercussions follow.

Larson knew that. After the penalties were administered, he said he had no excuse for what he said and apologized to everyone, especially members of the African American community.

Larson also said he wasn’t raised that way.

At the time, I had to believe him. Larson’s mother is Japanese. At the outbreak of World War II, his grandparents endured the clearly prejudicial act of being taken from their home and interred, along with so many other Japanese Americans, in a camp.

With such family heritage, I seriously doubt Larson knew nothing about racial slurs. He couldn’t have been raised without knowing the pain they can cause.

But he can make a mistake – and he did.

Not only did he make up for it through sensitivity training, but he did also more. Multiple reports revealed he participated in classes to learn about the African American community and visited Minnesota shortly after George Floyd was killed.

He also said many members of the NASCAR community kept in touch with him during his rehabilitation, which provided him hope his career could be saved.

In October 2020 NASCAR re-instated Larson, saying he could return to racing effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Later in October Hendrick Motorsports – an organization with a proven eye for talent – announced that Larson would join the team’s roster of drivers in 2021.

Incidentally, Hendrick drivers have won nearly half of the races this year.

And Larson paves the way.

Nice comeback, I’d say, for a driver who might well have thought his career was over because he said the wrong thing at the wrong time.







About the author

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in  journalism since 1972, when he began his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. He has spent over 40 years in motorsports journalism, first with the Roanoke Times-World News and later as publisher and vice president for NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated.

Steve has won numerous state sports writing awards and several more from the National Motorsports Press Association for his motorsports coverage, feature and column writing.  For several years, Steve was a regular on “NASCAR This Morning” on FOX Sports Net and he is the co-author, with Tom Higgins, of the biography “Junior Johnson: Brave In Life.”

In January 2014, Steve was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame. And in 2019 he was presented the Squier-Hall Award by the NASCAR Hall of Fame for lifetime excellence in motorsports journalism. In addition to writing for Frontstretch, Steve is also the co-host of The Scene Vault Podcast.

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Seriously, anther bandwagon jumper? Career total of 10 wins and Larson is now in the same conversation as Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson? He’s not even the best wheelman on the track RIGHT NOW. That status goes to Kyle Busch.

When he gets walled at Phoenix, will you be crying about that like all the media shills?


lololol squeal like a ?


Time for your bedtime meds, Matt-ilda! Be sure to kiss your Yung Money blow-up doll.

Where do you think I am now? For you, it must be like playing Where’s Waldo?

LMAO, biatch!

Last edited 2 years ago by jobe
Bill B

Agree that we need another KL story like we need another hole in our heads but I will point out that nowhere was “Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson” mentioned in the article. Likewise, the author points out that for those that already have him pegged as ” one of the best in NASCAR history” that “It’s a little early for that…”.

Or did you just see another chance to profess your hate for KL and took it. May I suggest in the future your comment just be “I hate KL” or “KL sucks” instead of making up stuff that isn’t there. It will save everyone time and you will still get your point across. We get it, you hate Kyle Larson.


Yeah, I do hate KL. And I wish one of his “teammates” had the balls to move the 5 car out of the way and into the wall. But they’ve been conned into being “nice guys” per the phony HMS image.

Rick Coltman

Once again a brain dead reporter brings up the past as if we haven’t heard this crap before. On May 9 of this year we had to read and suffer though a different reporter’s comments on Kyle Larson’s use of the “N – word” as if we hadn’t heard it before . I replied then in the article ( Forget and Forgive) and yet again, the dead horse is being beat, again, by yet another reporter that just can’t get over this issue.

Kyle Larson has more then made up for his error, or mental fart as most of us would refer to it , but you guys just can’t get past it Get over it ! Most of us couldn’t give a shit what he said one year ago. It means nothing to us really. People like you who keep dragging this up, are basically brain dead and have a need to over state issues that have no bearing on what is taking place TODAY.

In your article you have no less then 20 paragraphs of what? A history lesson on Kyle Larson’s life and times. What kind of crap is that? It is just filler so you can make a living, slamming others, and better yet sprinkle in some praise to make yourself look good while your at it .

Kyle Larson is an exciting driver to watch when he is racing. The fact is, the whole team he drives with are exciting to watch. Comparisons with other drivers of old will always be there. As these guys were the HEROS of the past in this sport, this applies to all sports in general, and comparisons will be made and talked about even after he retires and some young driver will challenge his records if he gets there. That’s what sports are all about.

So in short your article was a B.S. history lesson that was a waste of time for all of your readers, as it basically said NOTHING new and nothing that we already didn’t know.

Thank you Rick Coltman.


HMS as a group is not exciting to watch. The three “teammates” to the 5 car don’t have the balls to race Larson hard. They’re too busy protecting their “image” to bother with racing.

Mr Yeppers

Kinda difficult to race him hard when he’s always in front of them pulling away

Carl D.

Kyle Larson is on one of the hottest streaks NASCAR has seen in a long time. If you guys are tired of hearing about it on a racing website, here’s some more bad news… chances are, it’s just getting started.


But fortunately for him, it will all come to nothing when he has a problem at Phoenix. This year, of all years, I love the Playoff format!

Anyway, sportswriters talking about the hot streak is OK with me. But making Larson out to be some kind of hero who has come back from horrendous adversity is pure nonsense. He had this ride in his back pocket from the moment he was fired from Ganassi.


You need to take an Internet break and take your dog Kybu for a long walk.

Bill B

At least I’m an equal opportunity complainer. It doesn’t matter who the media harps on, whether I like the driver or not, there is a point that you have to remind them not to keep reporting on the low hanging fruit. My view of KL is positive and I am amazed at how hot he is right now and would be fine if it continued, but to write that many stories about one topic (whether it’s BLM or Larson or Bubba or whatever else is flavor of the week) is piling on at best or lazy at worst.




For the most parts I have always rooted against HMS, but I have to give it up to “Mr. H”. He quickly hired and sponsored Kyle Larson seeing him for his driving talent and not his vocal skills. CGR equipment was holding back Larson. Most of the cup drivers rate Larson as one of the best “Wheel Men” around. To have this respect and regard from his counterparts far outweighs the hate of a few fans.

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