Racecar driver Kyle Larson is taking responsibility for using an "extremely hurtful" word during a virtual NASCAR race in April, and assuring that he has "definitely grown" since being suspended.
In his first TV interview since his suspension, Larson sat down with CBS News' James Brown to discuss what he took away from the incident and his hopes for a second chance at the sport.
"I know deep down I’m not a racist," Larson, 28, explained. "I said a racist word and I can fully understand why people would label me a racist."
Larson was participating in an iRacing match-up with 61 other racers when he used the n-word while speaking on his headset.
The moment was captured and re-shared on Twitter, with other people heard reacting to the comment during the stream, saying, “Kyle, you’re talking to everyone, bud,” “Yep, we heard that,” and “Yikes.”
Asked why Larson used the racial slur when speaking to his spotter, who is also white, the driver said he had raced with that friend in Australia and their group had "used the word casually, as a greeting."
"I didn’t use it in a way to, you know, degrade or you know, insult anyone," Larson continued. "I know it's not my word to use. So, you know, I need to get it out of my vocabulary, and I have."
Following the incident, Larson was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR and lost his sponsors. He was also fired from Chip Ganassi Racing.
Larson previously released an apology letter earlier this month.
In the CBS interview, the driver admitted that he didn't fully think about how his word choice would come off to others.
"I guess I didn't think of how it took African Americans, probably in their thoughts, took them back to, you know, slavery and things like that and injustice and stuff that they have had to work, you know, so hard to overcome," he told Brown in the interview.
Larson said while he understands some people may not believe that he sees the severity of the situation, he feels that he's "definitely grown more in these last six months than the 28 years I’ve been alive."
Looking forward, the driver said in the CBS interview he hopes to have the chance to race again, though he "would fully understand" if he's not welcomed back.
"What I said was extremely hurtful … but I hope I will get that opportunity to race with them, with that platform I think I could, you know, do some good things," he said.
Following the interview, Brown told CBS' Gayle King that he believes Larson is being truthful in his apology and is "the real deal."
"He has really owned the problem, he’s embraced it, he is looking to make positive changes," Brown explained, noting that Larson has gone through sensitivity training and diversity and inclusion training, among other things.
"He's made all the right moves," Brown added. "At the end of the day it's whether or not there's a heart change — I discern it."
Larson, who shares two children with his wife Katelyn, drove the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, and he won the 2019 All-Star Race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.
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