Kyle Larson is returning to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021 with Hendrick Motorsports, the parties announced on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old was sospeso from the series and fired from his spot at Chip Ganassi Racing after he was heard using a racial slur during the broadcast of an online simulation race on April 12.
Larson, who is Japanese American, has spent the months since completing NASCAR’s sensitivity training program and meeting with Black leaders in what he said was an effort to educate himself about the challenges faced by the African American community and the harm his language caused. He has been competing in the World of Outlaws sprint car series in a car he owns during his absence from NASCAR.
“Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world,” Hendrick Motorsports said in a press release on the announcement.
“I’m confident about what’s in his heart and his desire to be a champion in all aspects of his life and career. Kyle has done important work over the past six months, and Hendrick Motorsports is going to support those continued efforts.”
“Mr. Hendrick is one of the people who extended a hand to me over the past six months,” Larson said in the release.
“Our initial conversations were not about racing. He cares about me as a person and wants to see me succeed beyond driving. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the commitment, the faith and the confidence from him and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports.”
Larson’s contract with Ganassi was set to expire at the end of the 2020 season and, prior to his suspension, Hendrick was considered one of the top contenders to sign him as a free agent. Larson’s Chevrolet Camaro will use the No. 5, which the team hasn’t featured in its four-car lineup since 2017. It will replace the No. 88 macchina, which is currently driven by Alex Bowman, who will take over the retiring Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car next year.
Terms of Larson’s multi-year contract and sponsors for his car were not announced.