By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Editor
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR on Tuesday ordered Denny Hamlin to begin sensitivity training this week after posting an anti-Asian meme from the TV comedy “Family Guy” to criticize Kyle Larson’s conduct during the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway over the weekend.
Hamlin deleted the tweet on Monday evening and apologized.
“I have taken down a post I posted earlier today after reading some of the comments,” he wrote. “It was a bad choice of memes and I saw how offensive it was. It turned out to be totally wrong.
Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner who drives a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. He also owns 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan and drives two cars backed by the Japanese automaker – one driven by Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only top-level black driver.
Hamlin is also good friends with Larson, the defending Cup Series champion who was suspended by NASCAR most of the 2020 season for using a racial slur during an online race. He is half Japanese.
On Sunday at Talladega, Larson was second out of the final corner when he made his move for the win. He raced up the track several lanes in an aggressive move that crashed 23XI rider Kurt Busch – wreckage that also picked up Wallace.
In the meme, an Asian woman speaks in choppy English before crossing six lanes of traffic without warning, reflecting a racist stereotype about Asian drivers. It was long removed from the episode on all streaming platforms but the clip is still available on YouTube. Larson’s name was superimposed on the driver in the meme.
Hamlin’s tweet lasted nearly seven hours before deleting it just before midnight.
Toyota said in a statement that it supports NASCAR’s punishment of Hamlin.
“We spoke with Denny Hamlin about his tweet yesterday. Toyota supports NASCAR’s decision to require sensitivity training for Denny and we will all move forward together,” the automaker said.
NASCAR’s rulebook contains a section that states its members “shall not make or cause to be made any public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules or belittles another person based on their race, color, creed , national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age or disability”.
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