By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
It was a long time coming for Kyle Larson. After nearly a year away from competing he got chance to get back on the racetrack and compete.
Last April Larson used a racial slur while participating in an on-line race where he used the N-word for all the world to hear. That resulted in a near year-long suspension by NASCAR. In his fourth race since returning he won last week at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was Rick Hendrick who took a chance and put him in a car and on his team. He was that confident Larson had some good racing in him.
He was hired by Hendrick Motorsports and showed his appreciation. “I like to thank Mr. H for believing in me,” he said after the race.
After taking the checkered flag he did some burnouts in celebration of his seventh career win and first since 2019.
While over visiting fans he was congratulated by Brad Keseloswski (Ford) who finished second.
“He covered a lot of space in all four lanes,” said Keseloswski. ‘He’s a great guy and he’s gone through a lot over the last year.”
Hendrick was surprised by the win figuring it would take more time for him to adapt to his new crew chief (Cliff Daniels)-giving them a chance to build rhythm in the Chevrolet. Because of pandemic protocols there is no practice, the 28year-old had to learn in real time.
“I really didn’t expect this to come this quick,” said Hendrick. “I really thought it would take time to jell. He’s a champion really and I’m so lucky to have him.”
Kyle Bush (Toyota), Danny Hamlin (Toyota) and Ryan Blaney (Ford) round out the top five in Las Vegas.
“This was a tough race,” said Bush afterwards. “The way things have gone this season this is a good building block , I wish we could have gotten a little more speed.”
This was Hamlin’s third top five and Keseloswski’s second top five finish of the season.
Bubba Wallace (Toyota) was another competitor to congratulate Larson immediately after the race. NASCAR’s only Black fulltime driver finished 28thafter spending several minutes during a pit-stop due to a major oil leak.
He picked up nine Cup series points on the day and has 76 for the season in 20 place. Teammate Danny Hamlin is in first with 187 and Keseloswski’s is in second with 149.
Wallace sent a message on his twitter page that stated: “Growing pains we’ll continue fighting learning, adapting. Proud of this team and the progress we made throughout the race. Somethings are just out of your control.”
Larson who is half-Japanese is the only Asian-American to drive full-time at NASCAR and is the first Drive for Diversity graduate to win a Cup series race. He also serves as a mentor in the program.
NASCAR heads to Phoenix this weekend.
David Moody summed up things with a tweet: “Kyle Larson is a perfect walking, talking example of manning up taking personal responsibility, cleaning up your own mess and oh yea ungodly talent behind the wheel of a race car.”