Larson Returns to NASCAR Cup with Rick Hendrick

Matt Weaver
·3 min read
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

From Autoweek

  • Kyle Larson will drive the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports in 2021.

  • The team will be spearheaded by crew chief Cliff Daniels.

  • Larson has been suspended since April for using a racial slur.

Kyle Larson will return to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021 and the opportunity will come with one of the most successful organizations in the history of the discipline.

Hendrick Motorsports.

Larson will drive the No. 5 for the 12-time Cup Series championship winning organization -- a number that returns to the rotation for the first time since 2017. The car is the renumbered No. 88 but is actually the current No. 48 team spearheaded by crew chief Cliff Daniels.

Larson returns to NASCAR following a summer of rehabilitating his image after using a racial slur during an iRacing event on April 12.

He was suspended by NASCAR on April 13 and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing on April 14. Larson was required to attend sensitivity training before he could apply for reinstatement. He completed the formal training by May 6 but took extra steps to express remorse and better understand the impact of his words.

In May, Larson began to work with the Sanneh Foundation in Minnesota, an urban youth foundation founded by former professional footballer Tony Sanneh. Larson posted a lengthy essay to his website on Oct. 4 that detailed his personal growth.

"Hendrick Motorsports is a championship organization that has set a high bar for performance and for how its drivers represent the team and its partners," Larson said. "My goal is to win races, be a great teammate, continue my personal efforts to grow, and hold myself to that high standard personally and professionally. Making the absolute most of this platform and the opportunity in front of me is my focus. I know what’s expected of me and what I expect of myself, on and off the track.

"Mr. Hendrick is one of the people who extended a hand to me over the past six months. Our initial conversations were not about racing. He cares about me as a person and wants to see me succeed beyond driving. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the commitment, the faith and the confidence from him and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports."

Larson has been part of the Cup Series roster since 2013 and earned 2014 rookie of the year honors in his first full-time season.

In 223 starts at NASCAR’s highest level, he has posted 101 top-10s and four playoff appearances. He won the All-Star Race in 2019 and has won numerous dirt events during his career, including the 2020 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

He spent his exile racing a variety of dirt sprint cars, midgets and late models, where he has won 42 times in 82 appearances.

"Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world," said Rick Hendrick, in a press release. "He has championship-level ability and will be a significant addition to our on-track program. More importantly, I have full confidence that he understands our expectations and will be a tremendous ambassador for our team, our partners and NASCAR. Kyle and I have had many, many conversations leading up to today’s announcement. I’m confident about what’s in his heart and his desire to be a champion in all aspects of his life and career.

"Kyle has done important work over the past six months, and Hendrick Motorsports is going to support those continued efforts."

Larson is 28 and reduces the average Hendrick Motorsports driver age to 26 next season. Larson, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Wiliam Byron have combined for 18 Cup Series points races and14 playoff berths.

"I’m excited about our roster of young talent," Hendrick said. "We have a team that is built to win races and compete for championships for years to come."

Larson’s No. 5 team does not yet have any announced sponsorship alignments.