Kyle Larson earned his first win this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, completing a major step in his ongoing road to redemption.
A year ago, Larson wasn’t even sure he would be able to race again after saying a racial slur during an iRacing event. He was suspended by NASCAR indefinitely for the 2020 season and lost all his sponsorships and his place at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Larson proved he was still one of the best racers in the world by competing in multiple dirt racing events. He won over 50 percent of the races he competed in and also won his first Chili Bowl, which is the crown jewel of dirt track racing.
It was a difficult road back to driving in the NASCAR Cup Series for Larson. He worked hard to improve his image by working with NASCAR and apologizing to Bubba Wallace, the target of the racial slur.
There was a lot of speculation that despite all his efforts, Larson would never race in the Cup Series again.
However, team owner Rick Hendrick took a chance on Larson and put him in the #5 car for Hendrick Motorsports for the 2021 season. The decision was met with controversy, while also coming with no full-time sponsor for the car either.
Now, just four races into the season and after a strong start, Larson drove a superb race at Las Vegas and found himself taking home the checkered flag. Bubba Wallace was among one of the first drivers to congratulate Larson personally in victory lane, showing just how far he has come.
Larson’s win in only his fourth start for Hendrick Motorsports is the quickest in the team’s history, which included drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Even though Larson is doing as much as he can on the track as he is off the track to right his wrongs, there will still be those who will never forgive him. In the end, that can only be expected. What Larson did was unacceptable. However, Wallace has taken a major step and come through in supporting Larson. Wallace congratulating him in victory lane is a defining moment in Larson’s long road to redemption.
Larson has shown everyone with this win that he is going to be a major competitor this year to win the championship. Out of the four current winners and locks for the NASCAR playoffs, Larson is the favorite to win.
Larson has a long way to go still for his redemption story, but a win at Las Vegas is a clear step in the right direction and proves he’s a real contender this year. In addition, that one moment between him and Wallace in victory lane will down in NASCAR history.