Kyle Larson will return to NASCAR next year with Hendrick Motorsports after signing a multi-year deal with the team for 2021 and beyond.
The 28-year-old will drive the no5 car which will return in place of the no88 as current driver Alex Bowman shifts across to the no48, taking over from the retiring seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson.
Larson was dropped by Chip Ganassi Racing and suspended by NASCAR earlier this year after using a racial slur during an official iRacing event over lockdown in April, with several sponsors including McDonalds, Credit One Bank and Chevrolet terminating their deals with the driver in response.
Since then, NASCAR imposed a number of sanctions alongside his suspension from the series, including a sensitivity training course which Larson has since completed. Earlier this month the stock car series approved his request to be reinstated and with it, become eligible to drive in the 2021 season.
“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.”
Johnson’s current crew chief Cliff Daniels will move across from the 48 team to become crew chief for the no5 car, which was last run by Hendrick back in 2017 when it was driven by Kasey Kahne.
There has been no announcement from Hendrick Motorsports of any sponsors that will appear on the no5 car next year, but team owner Rick Hendrick says he is confident Larson’s work away from the track during his suspension will ease any doubts partners may have.
“Kyle is unquestionably one of the most talented race car drivers in the world,” Hendrick said.
“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.”
With Larson’s deal confirmed, Hendrick Motorsports’ line-up for the 2021 season is completed with Larson alongside Bowman in the no48, Chase Elliott in the no9 car and William Byron in the no24.