Kyle Larson will return to the NASCAR Cup Series next year in the No. 5 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports, the organization announced Wednesday.
Having lost his ride at Chip Ganassi Racing in April after using a racial slur during a non-NASCAR virtual racing competition, Larson was cleared to return to the series following completion of sensitivity-training requirements mandated by the sanctioning body.
Larson has spent the bulk of 2020 compiling the most impressive dirt-track record in the history of the sport, winning roughly 50 percent of his combined starts in sprint cars, midgets, USAC Silver Crown cars and even a dirt late model.
Larson has signed a multi-year contract with Hendrick, the team said.
“Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “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.”
The 28-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., is half Japanese, was a product of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity program and is the only Asian-American regularly competing in NASCAR racing. Larson made his first Cup Series start in 2013 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and won his first Cup race in 2016 at Michigan in his 99th start.
All told, Larson accumulated six victories and eight poles in six full seasons with Ganassi. At Hendrick Motorsports, he will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet, last piloted in the series by Kasey Kahne in 2017.
“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 joins the organization as seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson retires from full-time NASCAR competition to run a 13-race schedule in the IndyCar Series with Chip Ganassi Racing next year. Larson joins HMS teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron. At the start of the 2021 season, their average age will be 26.