Driver Kyle Larson said in a television interview that he has "definitely grown more in these last six months than the 28 years I've been alive" -- the time since he uttered a racist slur that got him suspended from NASCAR and fired from his racing team.
Larson used the word in a livestream broadcast of an iRacing event on April 12 and hasn't raced on the NASCAR Cup Series since. NBC Sports reported Friday that he has applied for reinstatement.
He addressed the issue in an interview that aired Friday on "CBS This Morning."
"I know deep down I'm not a racist," Larson, 28, said. "I said a racist word and I can fully understand why people would label me a racist."
Larson said he and his group of friends had used the word casually "as a greeting" and he was trying to speak with one of those friends on the livestream when it came out of his mouth.
"I didn't use it in a way to, you know, degrade or you know, insult anyone," Larson told CBS. "I know it's not my word to use. So, you know, I need to get it out of my vocabulary, and I have."
He continued: "I guess I didn't think of how it took African Americans, probably in their thoughts, took them back to, you know, slavery and things like that and injustice and stuff that they have had to work, you know, so hard to overcome."
Larson, who is part Japanese, graduated to NASCAR through a program called "Drive for Diversity." His grandparents spent time in an internment camp in California in World War II.
Larson was in his seventh season on the NASCAR circuit at the time of his suspension. He has six career Cup wins and was sixth in the final standings in 2019.
He drove the No. 42 Camaro and was in the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Since his suspension, Larson has completed sensitivity training. He's driven in some World of Outlaws events, and in May, he won the World of Outlaws Sprint Car race in Pevely, Mo.
--Field Level Media