The recent announcement that Matt Kenseth will replace Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi for the remaining 2020 season comes as a shock to me. Both drivers have been on the blacklist by NASCAR during their careers. NASCAR and Ganassi Racing remove Larson from the car for a controversial slur that he made during a race and fills the seat with a driver that has taken another driver out, which ruined the said drivers’ chances of getting into the Chase during the 2015 season.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) November 1, 2017
Blacklist Driver #1: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth became a NASCAR blacklist driver after the incident with Joey Logano at Martinsville during the 2015 season. NASCAR decides to suspend him for two weeks.
Kenseth “eliminated the No. 22 car’s opportunity to continue to compete in the race,” Steve O’Donnell Executive VP of NASCAR said. “Additionally, we factored aspects of safety into our decision, and also the fact that the new Chase elimination format puts a premium on each and every race. These actions have no place in NASCAR.”said after announcing Kenseth’ penalty after incident
Amazingly, in the aftermath of the penalties a long-standing sponsor of Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing, Dollar General decides that they are going to remove their sponsorship and go in a different direction…hmm. Their statements never said it was because of the incident, but the timing of the pullout leaves the team with 30 races to fill in the schedule. Actions unlike a long-standing sponsor looking to leave on good terms.
After struggling to find sponsors and dig out of the hole that he dug from his actions with Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth calls it quits from full-time racing in 2017.
Blacklist Driver #2: Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson joined NASCAR’s blacklist drivers after he used a racial slur live on television. Thinking he was on a private line during an iRacing event, Larson got himself in a lot of hot water. The racial slur is known to be offensive by many.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) April 16, 2020
NASCAR suspends Larson indefinitely. Additionally, Larson lost his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet’s support, and his title sponsor.
NASCAR states how it came to the conclusion to suspend Larson.
Section 12.8.1.e in the NASCAR Rule Book states:
“Member actions that could result in a fine and/or indefinite suspension, or termination:
- Public statement and/or communication 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.”
Larson offers his most heartfelt apology. He is still suspended for the time being at least.
Tie Goes to Kenseth
So, to be honest with you I know why NASCAR has to take such drastic measures and mark Larson’s actions as unacceptable, but let’s weigh the actions of these two drivers.
Both performed an intentional action. Kenseth’s actions harm another’s chances at making the Chase and took him out for two weeks, but was largely marked a “racing deal.” Larson’s actions were done on purpose but really were meant to be a joke that was taken as a huge mistake and he was removed indefinitely.
Kenseth is being allowed on the track for something that actually happened on the track. If he can be trusted again, I feel that eventually Larson will be trusted again as well. Time will tell how Larson will get back to racing, but I feel that he will be given another chance should he complete his behavioral training.
I feel that both blacklist drivers messed up, but I also feel that both should be given another chance. Kenseth’s second chance was determined by his track record of being a low key driver (aside from the on-track incident, which was out of character for him) and the fact that he already has won a Championship. I do feel this was a good move and Kenseth’s consistency will be good for this situation, but I still think that this decision was odd at the same time because both drivers have taken their turn in NASCAR’s penalty box.
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