NASCAR driver suspended for racial slur during virtual race

NASCAR suspended the driver Kyle Larson indefinitely on Monday after he used a racial slur during a livestream of a virtual car race.

Larson appeared to be having trouble with his microphone during the virtual race on Sunday, and said "You can't hear me?" and then the N-word.

Another voice then said, "Kyle, you're talking to everyone, bud." Others commented, "Yep, we heard that" and "Yikes."

Larson apologised on Monday: "Hey I just want to say I'm sorry. Last night I made a mistake and said the word that should never, ever be said. There's no excuse for that."

"I understand the damage is probably unrepairable and I own up to that."

In suspending Larson, the racing organisation said he had violated guidelines for its members.

"NASCAR has made diversity and inclusion a priority and will not tolerate the type of language used by Kyle Larson during Sunday's iRacing event," NASCAR said in a statement. "Our member conduct guidelines are clear in this regard, and we will enforce these guidelines to maintain an inclusive environment for our entire industry and fan base."

Earlier in the day, Larson's team, Chip Ganassi Racing, had suspended him without pay.

"We are extremely disappointed by what Kyle said last night during an iRacing Event," the team said in a statement. "As of this moment we are suspending Kyle without pay while we work through this situation with all appropriate parties."

Many NASCAR drivers have been participating in virtual races while the season is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race on Sunday was on a simulation of the Monza circuit in Italy.

The streams include the audio from the drivers, and their banter and commentary is considered part of the fun.

Larson, 27, has been driving on the top NASCAR circuit since 2014 and has six wins. Last year he placed sixth in the standings, his highest finish.

Larson is part white and part Japanese, and was involved in NASCAR's "Drive for Diversity" program, which seeks to bring minorities and women into the sport, whose drivers, team owners, crews and fans are largely white.

In 2013, the NASCAR driver Jeremy Clements was suspended after using a racial slur in an interview. He sat out two races.

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