When Kyle Larson claimed his first NASCAR championship crown last month, his winner’s circle celebration featured two very special guests — Michelle and Anthony Martin.
The couple are co-founders of Philadelphia’s Urban Youth Racing School, an organization that connects young people of color with the racing industry. They remained steadfast in their support of Larson during his tumultuous title run.
“I am very lucky to have them in my life,” Larson told CBS News special correspondent James Brown.
In April 2020, Larson used the n-word while speaking with a White colleague on a headset during a live-streamed virtual race. Larson’s racing team fired him, sponsors dropped him, andBut after a tough conversation, the Martins stood by his side.
“He was the same kid that I met in 2017, who just happened to make a mistake. He needed help to understand what he really did,” Michelle Martin said. “He kind of, he lost everything in the span of 24 hours. So, when you think about that, and you think about second chances, and I think about the students that I have here.”
Since the school opened its doors in 1998, the Martins have used their love of motorsports to teach STEM skills and provide career guidance to young people in Philadelphia.
William Johnson is currently a student at the school and said that he was upset by what Larson said but has seen Larson make up for it.
“What Kyle did is he admitted he was wrong, he admitted to his mistakes, and he worked really hard to fix what he has done wrong,” Johnson said.
Larson said he’ll never use the word again and he has been a more focused racer since the incident. “I think I’ve grown up both on and off the racetrack from it all too,” he said.
Inspired by drivers like Jimmy Johnson, Larson said he wanted to give back to the community.
“Just doing good things in the community, doing good things off the racetrack, I think that’s what makes a true champion,” Larson said.
He did just that when he donated $100,000 to Philadelphia’s Urban Youth Racing School during a recent visit.
“You know, at the core, Kyle coming just really solidified what the rest of our relationship moving forward is going to look like. I think that when our students understand this story, and listen to this story, I really would want them to think, ‘Hey, you know what? One day somebody, if I merit it, somebody will give me a second chance,'” Michelle Martin said. “That’s what I hope that the kids took away from it today.”