The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has addressed a big storyline from the past week. Denny Hamlin has responded to NASCAR sending him to mandatory sensitivity training due to a now-deleted tweet about Kyle Larson.
Hamlin met with media members at Dover Motor Speedway on April 30. He explained that he respects the decision of NASCAR and that he and Larson have talked about the meme, which featured a female Asian driver causing a wreck in an episode of “Family Guy.” Hamlin also noted that he has put in time and effort to educate himself in recent years.
“I respect their decision. I understand where they’re at with it,” Hamlin told media members, quote courtesy of FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “I’ve done my own sensitivity training. I did diversity training on my own when I started this race team. I went with the best in the country and spent time with them and I understand it all. I didn’t think this fell into that category, but certainly, I understand their decision and it is what it is.”
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Hamlin Confirmed He Did Not Create the Meme
Hamlin tweeted out the meme after Larson’s move at Talladega Superspeedway sent Kurt Busch into the wall. However, he was not the creator. One of Hamlin’s acquaintances sent it to him.
Hamlin explained that he saw the meme, which Dank NASCAR Memes originally created, and thought that it “was hilarious.” He said that he noticed only the driving. Though Hamlin added that he understands how some people can find the meme offensive.
“I saw the correlation in the driving. That was it,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t even think twice about the other (racial implications), which is — that’s the insensitive part, right? Whoever created it put I guess his name in front of a woman who’s speaking Asian. I guess you’re making fun of that.”
Larson Was Not offended By the Tweet
Hamlin was not the only driver that weighed in about the now-infamous meme. Larson also spoke to media members and provided his opinion. He explained that he wasn’t offended by the tweet making fun of his move at Talladega. Though Larson also noted that Hamlin now understands how one tweet could offend “millions of other people.”
“NASCAR did what they had to do, and I appreciate Denny going through the steps to learn from that,” Larson said. “Obviously, it was just poor judgment on his part, and I think being in the position that we’re in, you have to be very careful with what you put out into the public. I know he’ll learn a lot from it here in these next couple weeks, and I think we’re all just ready to move past it and get back focused on racing.”
Larson knows the consequences of a public mistake. He used a racial slur during an iRacing event in April 2020. NASCAR indefinitely suspended him, he lost his seat at Chip Ganassi Racing, and he missed the final 32 races of the Cup Series season.
Larson spent his time away from the track putting in work to educate himself and rebuild relationships before ultimately returning to the Cup Series in 2021. He joined Hendrick Motorsports and won the Cup Series championship.