Tony Stewart’s comments about Kyle Larson needing to be reinstated by NASCAR have fired back up the rumors of Larson driving for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Ever since Kyle Larson was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing back in April due to the fact that he lost multiple sponsors after using a racial slur during a virtual NASCAR race on iRacing, Stewart-Haas Racing has been rumored to be his most likely landing spot, should he ever make a return to the Cup Series.
Now those rumors have begun heating up yet again.
Larson completely sensitivity training, which NASCAR required him to complete before being reinstated, shortly after the incident, but he has still not been reinstated.
The 28-year-old Elk Grove, California native reportedly needs to request to be reinstated in order for NASCAR to move forward with that process, and he has not yet done so.
Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Tony Stewart has been very outspoken about the need for Larson to be allowed to return to NASCAR and for there to be an opportunity for him to do so. Here is what he had to say about the matter on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio just a few weeks ago.
“I feel like it’s time to get Kyle back in the sport. I think he’s paid his dues. I think he served his penalty as far as society is concerned. I think it’s time for NASCAR to let the kid have an opportunity to get back to where he belongs and that’s behind (the wheel) of a stock car.”
Will Stewart-Haas Racing be the team to give him that opportunity once he is officially eligible to continue driving?
Larson had been linked to a seat at the four-car Ford team even before the incident. He entered the 2020 season in a contract year, and Stewart has always been fond of his abilities; both drivers have illustrious dirt track racing backgrounds.
After announcing late in the 2015 season that the 2016 season would be his last season as a full-time driver, Stewart even tried to sign Larson to drive the #14 Chevrolet-turned-Ford for the 2017 season, but he was unable to do so due to Larson’s contract with Chip Ganassi Racing at the time.
He ended up signing Clint Bowyer.
But now Stewart-Haas Racing have not confirmed their entire driver lineup for next season. Aric Almirola re-signed with the team earlier this week, joining Kevin Harvick and Cole Custer under contract for 2021, but Bowyer is still in a contract year.
It is worth noting that Stewart-Haas Racing have altered their driver lineup after each of the last four seasons.
Stewart added that he feels like Stewart-Haas Racing aren’t necessarily in a position where they would need to bring Larson on board, especially with Chase Briscoe lurking at the organization’s Xfinity Series team and with the possibility of Briscoe leaving the team for a better opportunity if he doesn’t get promoted.
However, he did not rule it out.
“I think Chase has done such a great job with us. We have four great drivers in Cup cars now. We got Chase in an Xfinity car and definitely feel like that he’s getting himself into a position to where he’s going to be [in] a Cup car very soon as well. We’ve got a full stable right now and I like the group of guys we’ve got, it’s just a matter of making sure we give them everything they need to get the job done.”
Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli reiterated that sentiment, just before Almirola’s new deal was confirmed.
But if Kyle Larson officially becomes available, would Tony Stewart really pass him up, especially with multiple open seats to fill? Don’t bet on it.