Barring any last-second health issues, Larson will be back behind the wheel at the 2021 Daytona 500. Larson missed most of last season after using a racial slur during an iRacing event.
Now, Larson is ready to resume his career — and his new boss, Rick Hendrick, is defending Larson’s return to the racetrack.
Kyle Larson served a suspension last year for using a slur
When the 2020 Cup Series season began, Kyle Larson was a trendy choice to win his first title.
Larson, 28, totaled six victories and 101 top-10 finishes in his first eight seasons at the Cup Series level. He only participated in four races — and posted top-10 finishes in three of them — before his season ended.
Chip Ganassi Racing and NASCAR suspended Larson without pay in April following his use of a racial slur. CGR fired Larson later that month.
Larson, who apologized for his language after the suspension, signed with Hendrick Motorsports for the 2021 season.
Larson is back for the 2021 Cup Series season
In October 2020, NASCAR announced that Kyle Larson could return to racing for the 2021 season.
Several days after NASCAR’s announcement, Larson signed a multi-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports. Larson will race in the No. 5 car this season.
According to Odds Shark, Larson has +1600 odds to win the 2021 Daytona 500. Larson is just ahead of Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr., and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all of whom are at +1700.
Denny Hamlin, who won Daytona in 2019 and 2020, leads all racers with +700 odds.
Rick Hendrick came to Kyle Larson’s defense in a big way
RELATED: What Is Rick Hendrick’s Net Worth?
Rick Hendrick knows that Kyle Larson’s return to the Cup Series is a controversial one, especially after the accountability revolution that impacted all parts of life in 2020.
That isn’t stopping Hendrick from defending Larson ahead of Daytona. According to Autosport, Hendrick believes Larson showed his true character in the weeks and months after the suspension.
“He didn’t tuck his head and he started doing things that nobody asked him to,” Hendrick said. “He did what he had to do for NASCAR, but he went way over that.”
Hendrick then elaborated on how hard Larson worked to get back to the Cup Series level.
“A lot of people do things, and they say: ‘I’m sorry’, but that’s it. They just say: ‘I’m sorry’ and go right on running their life and that is all they have to do. This guy did 10 times that. He has created an image and things in that community that people really respect him, so I guess the answer to the riddle is, I was part of it, but Kyle’s heart and Kyle’s desire got him back.”
Larson will start the 2021 Daytona 500 in 13th-place. It will be interesting to see how much, if at all, Larson’s return to racing is covered before and during the race itself.