By Jeff O'Brien

Hendrick Motorsports signed its first two sponsors for Kyle Larson, a promising sign as the driver attempts to rebuild his image after his use of a racial slur derailed his promising career.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 12: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, speaks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Inc., a machine tool maker, and heavy-duty truck manufacturer Freightliner will be the primary sponsors of Larson’s new No. 5 Chevrolet for two races each in 2021. Both companies, existing Hendrick partners, will also be full-time associate sponsors for Larson.

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Rick Hendrick signed Larson late last year in an attempt to give Larson a second chance. The driver was expected to be NASCAR’s top 2020 free agent but lost his job and all his sponsors after Larson used a racial slur while racing online in April.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 11: Team owner, Rick Hendrick stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2018 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Larson was suspended the remainder of the NASCAR season but used the time educating himself on racial justice, volunteering with various causes, and rebuilding his career.

Hendrick is willing to fund Larson himself but believes companies will realign with the driver once he’s shown he grew from his error. He said the team will show its appreciation to Cincinnati and Freightliner “with high performance on and off the racetrack.”

“NASCAR has tremendous momentum going into 2021, and Kyle and the No. 5 crew will certainly be one of the most exciting teams to watch this year,” the team owner said.

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DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Cincinnati joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2019 with a 10-year agreement and is the “Official Metal Fabrication and Additive Equipment Provider” of the organization. Freightliner has been a Hendrick partner since 2004, has a contract through 2023 but will be a primary sponsor for the first time in the deal with Larson.

Hendrick did not designate which races the partners will be featured on the car in Tuesday’s sponsorship announcement. NationsGuard, a Hendrick Automotive company, will be featured on Larson’s car the first three races of the season, including the Feb. 14 Daytona 500.

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