Denny Hamlin sees path back to NASCAR for Kyle Larson if he wants it

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Denny Hamlin says he sees a way for Kyle Larson to return to NASCAR provided Larson wants to do so.

Larson is without a Cup ride after Chip Ganassi Racing fired him April 14 for uttering a racial slur during an iRacing event. Larson has completed mandated sensitivity training, but he remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR. Larson apologized April 13 on social media for uttering the slur. He has not talked publicly since about any future plans.

Hamlin and Larson are friends. They flew together to Arizona ahead of the March 8 Phoenix Cup race and golfed together before that weekend. Larson is among those who has played in Hamlin’s golf league “The Golf Guys Tour.”

Asked after winning last weekend’s Pro Invitational Series if he thought Larson wanted to return to NASCAR, Hamlin said:

“I think he loves NASCAR. I think so much gets made about his love for dirt (racing). He’s got a love for dirt, there’s no question about it. I went to plenty of races with him last year on Saturdays, just some dirt races, got to watch how passionate he is about dirt.

“He also really likes Cup racing. I think if he wants to come back, there is a path for him back. He’s been doing all the right things as far as what I’ve heard.

“Obviously he put himself in a really bad spot saying something that was totally inappropriate. But, you know, people make mistakes. A lot of people make mistakes. Hopefully he’s back in Cup racing sooner than later.”

The 27-year-old Larson was in his seventh full-time season when he lost his ride. He won six Cup races at Chip Ganassi Racing and made the playoffs each of the past four seasons.

Larson returned to racing last Friday when he competed in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Invitational at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway that was held without fans. Larson finished 10th. David Gravel won. Carson Macedo finished 14th for Larson’s team.

Larson came through dirt track racing to NASCAR and continued to race on dirt during his Cup career. His agreement with Chip Ganassi Racing allowed him to run 25 dirt track events during the NASCAR season. He won his first Chili Bowl Nationals in January.