“As much as I didn’t want to be involved, I was from the very beginning,” Wallace said. “There is a part of my background that feels attacked and hurt, and the other part feels confused and angry.”
Wallace denounced Larson’s actions, saying there was “no grey area” and that it was wrong. But he added that Larson reached out immediately afterward and that when the two connected, the apology was “sincere.”
“His emotions and pride were shattered,” Wallace said.
Ultimately, Wallace said, Larson has lessons to learn but deserves a second chance.
“I told him it was too easy for him to use the word and that he has to do better and get it out of his vocabulary,” Wallace added. “There is no place for that word in this world. I am not mad at him, and I believe that he, along with most people deserve second chances, and deserve space to improve.”
In its statement announcing Larson’s indefinite suspension, NASCAR talked about its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in what is widely considered a white sport.
“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,” the statement read.
Wallace said that slur is something that “brings back many terrible memories for people.”
“NASCAR has been doing what it can to get away from the ‘racist and redneck sport’ labels,” Wallace said. “Diversity and inclusion is a main priority for the sport across every team, every car, every crew member and employee.”
Larson’s comments and subsequent punishment drew reaction across the sport. Joey Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champion, was one of the first major names to give his thoughts Tuesday.
“You’re representing your own brand, whether it’s the Joey Logano brand or whatever it is,” he told NBC Sports. “You always have to be on. Someone always has that camera phone. Someone always has the ability to show what you’re doing. … And you always have to think of: What is my brand? And what do I want it to be? How do I want to be represented?”
Logano went on to say there was no place for Larson’s comments, in racing or beyond.
“I hate to see that happen to Kyle,” Logano said. “I feel for him and his family. Obviously, a huge adjustment from what it was two days ago. But things like that are not accepted in our society, and they shouldn’t be.”