NASCAR'S only African-American driver thinks Kyle Larson deserves second chance

The Charlotte Observer (TNS)
Bubba Wallace

Four days after Kyle Larson dropped a racial slur during an iRacing event that cost him his sponsors, his job with Chip Ganassi Racing and likely future employment opportunities, Bubba Wallace offered his commentary on the situation.

Wallace, driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Petty Motorsports, is the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s top series. In a statement Wallace posted on Twitter on Thursday, he recognized his unique place in the sport.

“As much as I didn’t want to be involved, I was from the very beginning,” Wallace’s statement began. “There is a part of my background that feels attacked and hurt, and the other part feels confused and angry.”

In four paragraphs, Wallace condemned Larson’s use of the word, saying, “What Larson said was wrong, whether in private or public. There is no grey area.”

He also said there was an opportunity for forgiveness and an avenue for the sport to move forward. Wallace said that within five minutes of the incident, Larson texted him and that the two had a FaceTime conversation the next day in which Larson offered a “sincere” apology.

Kyle Larson

“I told him, it was too easy for him to use the word and that he has to do better and get it out of his vocabulary,” Wallace said in the statement. “There is no place for that word in this world. I am not mad at him, and I believe that he, along with most people, deserve second chances, and deserve space to improve.”

“I do wish him and his family nothing but the best,” the statement continued. “And I am more than willing to work with him to address diversity and inclusion in our sport.”

Wallace was the first African-American driver to compete in NASCAR’s Cup Series at the 2018 Daytona 500 since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott first broke that racial barrier in 1969. Wallace was the first African-American driver to compete full-time in the Cup Series since 1971 and has been an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sport.

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“NASCAR has been doing what it can to get away from the ‘racist and redneck sport’ labels,” Wallace said in the statement. “Diversity and inclusion is a main priority for the sport across every team, every car, every crew member and employee. With that said, it hurts to see the African-American community immediately throw NASCAR under the bus with the ‘I’m not shocked it’s NASCAR.’”

“NASCAR has been, and will be way better than how we’ve been represented in the last couple of weeks,” the statement continued. “As the person that arguably has the biggest voice on this topic in our sport, it’s tough for me to speak to because I didn’t imagine us being here.”

“Can we all do a better job with inclusion? Absolutely, it’s a worldwide problem, not just in our sport. We as humans can always do better,” the statement said.

Wallace also said that he would expect NASCAR to hold him to the same standards if he were to use the word.

“I think everyone can learn something from what has happened these past few weeks,” Wallace wrote in closing. “I am looking forward to getting the season back underway and continue our momentum!”