Denny Hamlin took to Twitter on the Monday following the GIECO 500 at Talladega to complain about Kyle Larson’s move in the trioval. The Chevy driver had moved to the outside, into Kurt Busch, sending Busch into the wall and collecting Bubba Wallace. Both Kurt and Bubba drive for Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing team. Hamlin himself finished eighteenth.
The Tweet itself was a clip from the popular cartoon family guy, referencing an Asian woman cutting across a highway without signaling, with Larson’s name added on top of the driver. Larson’s mother is Asian-American. Hamlin typed: “I leave this here without comment.”
The two drivers are friends, and FOX has reported that Hamlin lets Larson use his jet to get from dirt races to NASCAR events during the season. Hamlin also laughed with Larson in his camper when Larson jokingly asked NBC’s Marty Snider whether his question about video games was “an Asian joke” during a rain-delay interview.
Seven hours after posting the clip, Hamlin took the Tweet down and published an apology after it garnered backlash.
I took down a post I made earlier today after reading some of the comments. It was a poor choice of memes and I saw how it was offensive. It came across totally wrong. I apologize.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) April 26, 2022
On Tuesday, a NASCAR spokesperson said the sport had reached out to the Denny Hamlin and told the driver he must begin sensitivity training by the end of the week. The decision was made citing rule 4.3.e, which says drivers “shall not make…a public statement…that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition,” and rule 4.4.e, which details penalties for doing so.
Toyota, the company Hamlin drives for and fields in his 23XI team, released a statement that said: “We have spoken with Denny Hamlin regarding his tweet from yesterday. Toyota supports NASCAR’s decision to mandate sensitivity training for Denny and we will all move forward to together.”
Larson isn’t the only driver to go through sensitivity training recently. At Martinsville in 2021, NASCAR said Kyle Busch “used a term that disparages those with intellectual disabilities’ when blasting rival driver Brad Keselowski for an on-track incident” and was required to complete training before the start of this season.
More famously, Kyle Larson was sentenced to sensitivity training, suspended from the sport, and lost his ride and sponsors after using a racial slur during virtual competition on iRacing in the early days of the pandemic. He returned to the sport in 2021 to win the championship.
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