Easter Sunday was a rough one for NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet. Larson was participating in an iRacing event when he uttered a racial slur that was unknowingly played over the driver radio. The event was streamed online by a number of drivers in the field. It appeared the slur was meant for Larson’s crew chief and spotter. Unfortunately for Larson, he could be heard by the other drivers in the field at the time.
The next morning was certainly unpleasant for the 27-year-old. The day began with Larson posting a video to his social media accounts where he apologized for his actions. Despite the apology, Larson’s sponsors began to quickly jump ship. McDonald’s, Credit One Bank, Chevrolet and Clover all announced they would be terminating their relationship with Larson given the scandal.
— Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) April 13, 2020
With the news of numerous sponsors leaving the driver, Larson’s employer was forced to join sponsors in terminating their own relationship with Larson. On Tuesday, Chip Ganassi Racing announced they would not be retaining him.
NASCAR has also taken action by suspending Larson indefinitely. He will be required to complete a sensitivity training course before he will be considered for reinstatement.
With the news of Larson’s removal from the #42 car, Chip Ganassi is now in the process of finding a replacement to fill in for Larson for the remainder of the season. With the season on hold due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic, Ganassi has ample time to make a decision on who will fill the seat.
Here are some of the candidates that could possibly replace Larson for the remainder of the season:
This is by far the most likely option to replace Larson in the #42. Ross Chastain has shown in the past year that he certainly doesn’t lack the talent needed to compete in the cup series. In fact, Chastain is currently filling in for Ryan Newman who is out indefinitely due to an injury sustained during the first race of the season.
Chastain was set to drive for Chip Ganassi in the Xfinity series before legal issues with primary sponsor, DC Solar, forced him to look for a ride elsewhere. He also drove for Spire Motorsports in the Daytona 500 in a car provided by Chip Ganassi Racing. Chastain was considered a favorite to take over Larson’s ride in the event the team was unable to negotiate a new contract. Clearly, there are connections between Chastain and Ganassi that make this a likely replacement option.
The idea that the former Chip Ganassi driver may replace Larson in the #42 may seem far fetched. However, the pieces fit, and this may be a good option for a racing team that is looking to save face after this unfortunate situation. For one, as the former driver of the Ganassi #1 car, McMurray has extensive connections with the team. McMurray also has connections with the sponsors that fled Larson after the news of his slur broke. In fact, McMurray’s sponsors went to Larson after he was forced out of full-time racing.
It is important to note that McMurray has not officially retired from NASCAR at this point. He was forced out of the 1-car after Kurt Busch was brought onto the team. McMurray drove for Spire Motorsports, a team affiliated with Ganassi, in the 2019 Daytona 500. Although McMurray seems content with his new role as an analyst for Fox NASCAR, he should not be counted out as an option to fill in for the remainder of the season.
Noah Gragson is currently driving the #9 car for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity series. While it is unlikely he will replace Larson, it is certainly a possibility that Chip Ganassi should consider.
Gragson is now in his second full-time season in the Xfinity Series. He has finished in the top 10 in an impressive 70 percent of his starts. Gragson is likely to make the jump to the Cup Series in the next few years. Now would be a good time for Ganassi to lock down such a talented driver. He is already in the Chevy camp which is certainly preferred for a potential Larson replacement. Of course, the barrier to this option remains Gragson’s contract with JR Motorsports to compete this season in the Xfinity Series.
Featured Image courtesy of mrn.com
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